Category Archives: Pastor’s Blog

Freedom Bound Together

This piece comes to you on the heels of a busy week here at PoP. We welcomed Katie Elkin, a young woman who participated in the ELCA’s ministry, Young Adults in Global Mission, and taught English with children in Madagascar for a year. We also greeted Dr. Dennis & Paula Lofstrum, who have given their lives to the health care of countless people in Tanzania. We listened as they shared some of their experiences and the progress of building that nation’s first pediatric hospital.

Then we hosted the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity time of worship with choirs of three congregations supporting our song and with the preaching of Kirk Smith, President of Religious Community Services. Among many words of encouragement, Kirk shared with us this reminder that he rooted in Romans 6 – “there is freedom in our unity in Jesus.”

The Romans passages tell of our being bound to our Lord’s death and resurrection through baptism’s waters. Normally, if we say we are bound to something, the connotation is that we are restricted in some way, prevented from what WE want to do. But bound together in our Lord, baptized and so forgiven, rooted in his mercy, we know a freedom that opens us to look with kindness, mercy, grace and understanding on those around us—whatever our differences might be.

We speak often in worship of this unity in our Lord and of our freedom. The Spirit draws us together and so empowers us to serve the Lord through others in far-flung places and with our own hands right here at home, next door, with neighbor and acquaintance.

And this month God blesses us with opportunities to celebrate this unity in other ways, like sharing “pork” cooked out at the park or breaking bread with “who knows” on our “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” night. Being bound together, free in Christ, brings times of celebration and laughter as well as serving.

Worship, learning, serving our Lord, giving outside ourselves, breaking bread—it’s all a part of being God’s own. There IS freedom in our unity in Jesus!

Festival Days Ring in the New Year!

Leave it to the Church to ring in the Church Year as only the Church can—with festival times to lift up the goodness of God for all!

Even as we enter into the new year, we find ourselves still walking in the season of Christmas. The twelve days stretch across the calendar’s page turn. Just think, even after the big ball drops in NYC, we Christians are still pondering and marveling at the work of a God who comes as a baby born in a barn.

Sunday, January 6 is the Epiphany of our Lord, marking the coming of the magi. They lay odd gifts before the Christ child and give his parents even more to wonder about. On this day we recall how the wise men came from afar – from countries whose cultures were far different from Jesus’ family. We learn yet again how the good news of this Child’s birth is meant to go all over the world, even as the magi returned to their homes “by a different road.”

This year we will celebrate the Epiphany in the morning at our usual worship times. But we will also observe the day as we have been doing so at PoP for many years. We call it the Feast of Lights. There will be costumed friends, inspiring music from our choir, scripture and prayers. We will also welcome the special music of our handbells, double bass and, yes, banjo.

The Feast of Lights will be on Sunday evening January 6 at 5PM.

But there is another festival of the year that meets us in January.

On Sunday, January 13 we observe the Baptism of our Lord. This very traditional time for baptizing is rooted in the story of our Lord’s own baptism by John in the Jordan River. There, from the waters where our Lord emerged, he began his ministry among us. In our Church Year observances, this Baptism of our Lord day pairs significantly with another day that…well, we’ll talk about that one later.

Blessed opportunities abound to serve our Lord, to worship with the sisters and brothers, to learn more about our Lord and his work in our lives, to walk together in the joy-filled confidence that we belong to a mighty God—a God who has gotten us this far and will see us through the new year, too.

A joyous new year, indeed!

A Good Opportunity

So, here’s a good opportunity. But when we think about it, we have opportunities available on a regular basis. An opportunity for what?

Inviting someone to be with us. Maybe it would be to join us at the park. Would they want to help with one of our Bethlehem booths? It could be an invitation to a very special night of Advent lessons and carols, followed by the sight of a young woman with live candles on her head!

What about a time away on Wednesdays in the Chapel – away from the season’s busy-ness for a brief reading, prayer, Advent song and Holy Communion?

Or even, especially Christmas Eve. To hear the story of God arriving to the fanfare of lowing barn animals and the murmur of shepherds who heard from angels.

Throughout this letter are opportunities for inviting, bringing a friend to experience God-with-us, God among us. Just invite. Let the Spirit do the rest.

Unexpected November

November is a month that always seems to slip in unexpectedly. Just when you’re starting to get used to the fact that there are pumpkins around and it’s supposed to be fall [even if it doesn’t feel so much like it] – WHAM – it is already November.

Already, because there’s something about November that makes you feel like you are on the top of a giant water park slide and about to go flying downhill toward the great unknown.

Our Church Year calendar even contributes to the rush. We begin with an observance of All Saints’ Sunday [November 4], a tradition of the Church that stretches back many centuries. We remember that we are all saints, set aside as God’s own in Christ Jesus, for serving in our Lord’s blessed work. We remember the saints of the Lord who have gone on before us to meet our Lord face to face – especially this past year – and give thanks to God for the new saints washed into the Church this year as well.

It is the last weeks of the Church Year. We’ll hear several passages in worship about the last days before our Lord returns. In the midst of it all comes a civic holiday when we will feast and worship – Thanksgiving. While we give thanks whenever we are together, the Church has surely supported our government’s leaders who have established a day for us to give thanks to the God who provides all.

Then suddenly it is the end – Christ the King – the last Sunday of the Church Year. In contrast to All Saints’ Day [November 1], Christ the King is a relative newcomer, only being around close to 100 years. We end the year pondering our Lord’s imminent and promised return, longing for his coming and hoping for the peace that only Christ Jesus can bring. We also pray that He would be “king” – that He would reign – in our lives even now.

Sure, November may come in its own November-ish way. But we praise our loving Lord that we may worship and serve in this season;  that we may lift up our friends to the north who still dig out from the storms  through our  prayers and gifts;  that we may remember and celebrate those God has given us to love; and that we may approach the Church Year’s end, living in Christ generously each day.

– Pr. Joe

Live Generously

“…do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share…take hold of the life that really is life.” – I Timothy 6

By the time you receive this newsletter, you will have seen at worship that our Live Generously stewardship emphasis has begun.

It was in the power of the Holy Spirit that Paul encouraged his brothers and sisters in Christ at the end of his letter to be generous and ready to share…to take hold of the life that really is life. And we know who the Author of this blessed life is – the Holy One who is most generous. The God who created you and me has given us all that we have and all that we are.

In the coming weeks we will discuss more what it means for you and me to Live Generously. We will even consider how the Spirit works to strengthen our faith and indeed change us, form us more into our Lord’s beloved people as we do so.

During our Sunday morning learning time from September 30 – October 14, join Pastors Adam and Joe in the COC. We will consider God’s generosity toward us, how we respond and the work of the Spirit in our hearts in every season.

Sunday, October 21 is our Consecration Day. In the coming weeks we will receive a letter containing an Estimate of Giving card and a Time/Talent summary.  We encourage you after prayerful thought to complete these items, as we all look to continue our ministries in our Lord in 2019. Bring them to worship on October 21, where we will present them to God, offer prayers of thanksgiving and seek God’s blessing.

What a blessing that we may turn aside and ponder aloud, and in our hearts, the abundant blessings of God!

Reformation Sunday: It’s Not for Everybody

For Lutheran Christians Reformation Day is October 31 [and you thought it was just for Spider boys and Frozen girls!]. It is the day Martin Luther nailed those theses to the parish door in Wittenberg and ignited what we call the Reformation in the Lord’s Church.

But not all groups of Christians observe this day. We Lutheran Christians, however, have for ages used the nearest Sunday to draw attention to this time and even use the same scripture passages each year as well. Jeremiah proclaiming how God will make with us a new covenant; Paul declaring that following the law doesn’t justify or make us right with God, grace does; our Lord stating that as we continue as his disciples, we will know the truth and the truth will make us free.

We need reminding of these things. In fact, isn’t that why we worship regularly in the first place? God is worthy of our worship, and you and I need to be reminded regularly what we believe and why.

Otherwise, this all too possessive world will take us captive, turn us in on ourselves, make us think we are at the center.

Our blessed Lord is always reaching out to us, reforming his church and seeking to form our hearts to his ways. Listen carefully during our Live Generously stewardship emphasis, and you will hear more of the changes the Spirit works in us as we Live in the freedom of a Generous God.

So, get ready for Sunday, October 28! Sure, a Reformation Sunday observance may be more of a Lutheran Christian tradition. But who could argue with roots that sink deeply into the rich soil of the gospel of a grace-giving God who sets us free to live in faith.

Tell It On Missouri – October Update

As we reported last month, documentation for the sign has been submitted to the City of Largo. At submission, however, we were given additional forms which required our contractor, Thomas Signs, to measure and take photographs of all signs on our property. We do not know the rational for such a request, but apparently it is a requirement.

Our contractor has been diligent in his work, and we await a day, we hope, in the near future when construction of the sign can begin. In the meantime, ministry in Christ at PoP continues by God’s grace!

Where have we been… Here we go!

We are stepping into September, the last third of 2018, and MY, how we have been places! Don’t believe it? Just ask our youth. At our Rally Day Sunday they told us of their moving experiences at the National Youth Gathering in Houston. Other younger friends had stories to tell about camp experiences at Luther Springs and Lutheridge.

We can also look back and see the 85+ children inspired at Vacation Bible School with the youth and adult leaders helping to guide the way. We see that Ruth’s Promise is now caring for our older friends two days per week and giving their loved ones a much-needed respite from the full-time attention they provide daily.

But now we have arrived on the front doorstep of autumn when it still feels LOTS like summer. The new Preschool year has begun with more children attending than ever before.

New learning opportunities for adults provide times of conversation and study. In fact, both Wednesdays and Sundays are beginning with discussions about how we welcome folk to our life together in Christ and how we talk about the faith.

Check this newsletter and a new publication in the Sunday morning kiosk for more descriptions of all our offerings this fall.

Often it seems we live in a culture that wants to pull us apart rather than draw us together. Yet, we are a people – the church – of the One who has “overcome the world” (John 16).  And, indeed, in Him we are one body.

What a blessed story to tell and gift to share with friends each day! Borrowing from the Ephesians passages that we heard in worship several weeks ago, hear again Paul’s encouragement that we make “the most of the time” as Jesus’ followers each day of our lives.

Live Generously

“…do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share…take hold of the life that really is life.” – I Timothy 6

Last month I was walking our dog in the early morning. For whatever reason I looked down and realized that I was wearing a Thrivent t-shirt.  You know the one. In stylized letters across the front, it says “Live Generously.”  And I thought “what a great way to think about Christian stewardship.”

Then again “live” sounds lots like “give,” which EVERYONE might take to be a not-so-subtle way of saying “give more,” during a stewardship emphasis.

Well, it is stewardship emphasis time, but “Live Generously” is a word of encouragement that goes much broader and deeper than financial giving.

Our loving and gracious Creator has so generously given us life. All that we have and are comes from the Lord our God. Since we have received such a generous outpouring of life in God’s grace, how then do we live generously? What does it look like from day to day? How might living generously change us?

“You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet.”Psalm 8:6

From the time God placed it all in our hands—hey, from the time our Lord gave us hands!—we have been stewards, caretakers, of God’s good gifts. All of life.

So, beginning Sunday, September 30, let’s turn aside for a while and ponder what it means to Live Generously in all that we do here at Prince of Peace and everywhere we go!

Tell It On Missouri Electronic Sign Moves Forward

We have received the funds needed to construct our electronic messaging sign on Missouri Avenue.

We have signed the contract with Thomas Signs and are now completing the paperwork necessary to submit the design to the city of Largo for permitting. At this time, we do not have a projected starting date for construction, but when we do, we will share it with everyone.

Thank you for your gifts toward this project. Our hope is that the sign will not only help our local friends to identify this place as Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, (it is surprising how many folks over the years have driven by and not realized we are “a church”), but we see the sign as a channel for communicating who we are and for sharing the ministries in our Lord that we are carrying out here.

From the very occasional newspaper ad to consistent daily word of mouth conversations, to our website and social media posts, we want to share with all how we believe our Lord is at work in and through us at PoP.