A Summer of Learning About the Kingdom of God

From Pastor Lamb
Those of us who are people of the Church
are now in the season of Pentecost. This is
a season of hearing the teachings of Jesus,
praying about them, discussing them,
sharing them, wondering about them,
singing about them, asking questions about
them, and living as if they were Important
to us. It’s good that this season is long!
In worship during July we will be reading
from the gospel according to Matthew,
from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome,
and from a few major Prophets. The
teachings of Jesus that will be looked at this
month will all involve his central theme: the
kingdom of God. (By the way: Matthew,
like other devout Jews of his time, felt that
God’s name was too special and sacred to
be used in common conversation, so he
often refers to the kingdom of God as the
kingdom of heaven; they mean the same
thing.)
The kingdom of God (or heaven) is
something you may have heard about but
thought it referred to what happens and
where we go after we die. It is much more
than that. In fact, Jesus seldom spoke of life
after death. The vast majority of his
teaching about the kingdom of God was
about what ”kingdom living” looks like
every day. We can hear this in the prayer
Jesus taught his disciples, in what we now
call the Lord’s Prayer: “God’s kingdom
come on earth as it is in heaven.”
We will hear this month how Jesus
compares the world around us to the
kingdom of God. As we listen to, pray
about, sing about, discuss, ponder, and
share this, maybe we will learn ways to
more fully live the kingdom life while still
living in this world, a world that looks at life
much differently.
We have much to learn. But we have a
teacher that is truly the best. Come and
see.
+ Pastor Lamb

Heritage Hymn Sunday, June 30

Heritage Hymn Sunday June 30
As part of the celebration of Summerfest, at St. James the hymns and liturgical music for Sunday, June 30, will all be “heritage” hymns. Heritage hymns are those that we still sing and have deep roots in the church. 10 or more heritage hymns will be scattered throughout the worship  service (though we won’t be singing all the verses).
In addition, the July 30 worship service will include the first of Pastor Lamb’s “Addressing Your Questions” sermons. The sermon will be about heaven: What’s it like? Who’s there? Who’s not there? What does the Bible say about it?
Spread the word about this special worship service at St. James at 10 AM July 30! As always snacks and conversation will follow worship.

Pastor Matt Lamb’s Message for June, 2017


From Pastor Lamb

As I prepared for a recent sermon, I was reading the Gospel according to John and realized that Jesus’ disciples, followers, and even his opponents asked Jesus a lot of questions.

 

As Jesus called his disciples, Nathaniel asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” When Jesus went to the temple and drove out money changers and animal sellers, the people asked him, “What sign can you show us we’re doing this?” When a leader of the Jews, Nicodemus, came to Jesus one night and heard Jesus talk about being born from above, he asked Jesus, “How can anyone be born after having grown old?” On the night Jesus would be betrayed and arrested, his disciple Peter asked him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Later that same night, Thomas asked him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

 

From these few examples it seems clear that those around Jesus, or those who came in contact with him, were eager to figure him out. Jesus clearly did not fit into any categories that they used to figure people out. Are we any different today? Does Jesus fit into our understanding of what we can expect from people? Does it make sense that Jesus could be God, also? Are we any closer to figuring out who Jesus was and is than the people who followed him, learned from him, saw him killed, and walked with him after he was raised from the dead? It seems natural for us to have a lot of questions about Jesus and about God. But where do we go with our questions?

 

While Jesus lived here, he was directly available to answer questions. But now we experience Jesus indirectly through the activity of the Holy Spirit within other people. That means Jesus is primarily available through others.  Is there a person you talk to about God? Is there a place you go where people are talking about God? Does God interest you to the point that you have questions?  Is it important to you that there be a people among whom God is discussed, sought after, and experienced?  If somebody close to you had a question about God would you feel comfortable answering it? Would you want to include others in answering the question? Do you know people or a person to whom you could ask your questions?

 

We are not the first to ask these questions. Ever since Jesus came among us these questions have been asked. And we read in the Gospel of John that Jesus was aware that we would have questions. He knew that we would continue searching to know him and to know God through him. So he set for us a way that we could remain connected with him, a way that allowed us not only to ask questions but to find some answers, too. That place is his body, the church.

 

Will you find all the answers to your questions at church? No. But you will find people like you who are eager to follow Christ through this world. You will find others asking questions like Where is Jesus going? How does Jesus get to know us so well? What does it mean that Jesus has given us new life? How does following Jesus make us different? What can we do to work with Jesus as he tries to love the world?

 

One thing about Jesus is clear: that no matter how many questions we have or how few answers we have, we will always have Jesus. And that is the truth.

 

I pray that we will find that truth together. See you in church.


 

Rating Jesus

Some would say that we have just finished celebrating the greatest single event of all human history, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Would you be among those who say this?

Certainly there is a lot of competition for the title “greatest single event.” Among the competitors would be events marking the discovery of important tools, things like the wheel, the lever, fire, the printing press, the computer, or the internet. They have certainly changed our lives. Some might say the establishment and practice of democracy in government. Other competitors may come from the field of medicine, including the discoveries that germs cause illness, the X-ray, or DNA molecules. The list could continue, and, in fact, if you asked 100 people to come up with their top ten most important events of all time, you would probably come up with 100 different lists.

And that’s the point. That’s why I asked if the resurrection of Jesus would top your list. Because what event is greatest or most important will vary from person to person depending on the effect that event has on their lives.

How has the life, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus affected you? Is it the railway upon which the train that is your life runs? Does it form the words you speak or the plans you make? Would it change your life to find out that Jesus was just another good teacher who didn’t have any special connection to God? Does Jesus, and the Way of hope and compassion that he opened to us, enter or shape your thinking more often, or more deeply, than anything else? Is Jesus the single most important event in your life?

I believe this is a good question for you and for the church. As we enter the seven-week season of Easter, I invite you to think about this question and answer it for yourself. Bring it with you to worship, talk about it with your family and friends, pray about it with God.

How does Jesus rate with us? Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

From Pastor Lamb

A Lenten Letter from Pastor Matt Lamb

From Pastor Lamb…

AND THE CHURCH SEASON TURNS

 

Lent means spring.  I’m all for that.  But, it’s also a little more than that, isn’t it?

Lent is a season observed by people in some churches, including most Lutherans.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (this year on March 1) and ends approximately six weeks later, just before Easter Sunday (April 16). Although the season of Lent spans forty-six days, we only count 40 as days of Lent because Sundays are not included (they are reserved for celebrating the resurrection of Jesus).  The 40-day length commemorates the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness in preparation for his public ministry.  On the first Sunday in Lent, the gospel reading is always an account of this story.

The early purpose of Lent (centuries ago) was to prepare followers of Jesus Christ for baptism on the eve of Easter at a worship service called the Easter Vigil. We don’t do this at St. James, but some Lutheran churches still do. Instead, we now use these days of Lent to focus our attention on our need for Jesus and his ministry of reconciliation.

As we begin the season by receiving ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday, we have the chance to humbly remind ourselves that we are limited people and we need God.  Throughout Lent we may be reminded that, left on our own, we tend to get further from God by making ourselves the center of life.  As we hear the scripture readings and sermons of Lent, we may find ourselves moved by God’s Spirit to turn toward God and then find that God has been turning toward us through Jesus. In the midst of this turning, we may discover (again) how space opens up in our spirits for the presence of Christ. In that space, we may find growing connections with God.  As our connection with God grows we may find our eyes and our energy turning less toward ourselves and more toward others. All of this is part of the work of reconciliation that God started in Jesus, that is continuing through the Church, and that we ponder during Lent. You can see how good this is, can’t you?

So, in this season we address questions like these: Where is God in our relationships? How does following Jesus help us to build stronger, life-expanding relationships and, in doing so, show others who God is?  How can we recognize the presence of Christ in our relationships? Are there relationships in our lives that need reconciliation?  What may lead us to better see others as children of God who are loved and cherished just as we are?

As we look at these questions, I pray that we will find ourselves growing closer to God, closer to each other, and more open to the presence and leadership of Christ.   I pray that our time in Lent feels like a season of growing hope and faith. I pray that it feels like spring in our spirits.

Blessed Lent!

Pastor Lamb

 

Holy Week 2017

 

HOLY WEEK 2017

St. James Lutheran Church, Rudyard, MI

 

Please make plans to worship during Holy Week. Our participation in worship honors God and supports those who gather with us.  These services honor and remember Jesus’ great acts of love for us and loudly speak the good news he brings.  Spread the Word!

 

Maundy Thursday

APRIL 13 – 7 PM

Jesus’ Last Supper with His Disciples

Light food and Holy Communion in Fellowship Hall

Solemn Stripping of the Altar in the Sanctuary

 

Good Friday

 APRIL 14 – 7 PM

The Crucifixion of Jesus

Service of Readings, Music, Shadows, and Candles

 

Easter Sunday

APRIL 16 – 10 AM

Worship and Celebration of the Resurrection!

Festive Procession, Joyful Music, Holy Communion,

Fellowship and Food!

FIRST COMMUNION INSTRUCTION OFFERED

 

 

Pastor Lamb will be offering First Communion instruction on         Saturday, March 25 AND/OR April 1 at 10 AM (depending on what fits schedules the best). This one-hour class is suitable for children and youth from pre-school through Grade 6 (ages 4-12 years).

 

Holy Communion is offered at St. James to anyone who desires to meet Christ or receive forgiveness in this community meal through the bread and wine, which is his body and blood that he gave and shed for us.  The instruction will focus on giving younger children a sense of belonging to this community.  An additional focus for the older youth will be more explanation of the source and promises of Holy Communion.  Parents or other guardians (at least one) are required to attend this session with their children.

 

Please let Pastor Lamb know if you are interested, what days work best for you, or if you have any questions.  First Communion will be offered to these young people at worship on Palm Sunday, April 9.

Lenten Story-Telling Suppers Series

Every Wednesday evening starting March 8 and ending on April 5, join us for the 2nd annual series  of Lenten suppers and stories of Jesus. Each evening begins at 6:00 PM with supper, a story and discussion, and concludes with dessert. This is an ecumenical event, so invite your friends and neighbors! Child-friendly!

The text for the first session is John 4:5-15.

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

What is Lent?

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.

Why Is There a Flannel Fiesta Sunday on February 26?

 

True faith in Christ will result in good deeds.

James 2:15-17 Suppose a brother or sister does not have any clothes or daily food and one of you tells them, “Go in peace! Stay warm and eat heartily.” If you do not provide for their bodily needs, what good does it do? In the same way, faith by itself, if it does not prove itself with actions, is dead.

 

James 2:26  A body that doesn’t breathe is dead. In the same way faith that does nothing is dead.

 

Join us on Sunday, February 26, 2017 for Flannel Fiesta Sunday at St. James. A long-standing tradition, we wear flannel (items of our choosing) to the service and have fun seeing what outfits our church family comes up with. In keeping with the Fiesta theme, because who doesn’t need a fiesta in February in the U.P., there will be worship music from the Mexican Christian tradition.

Following worship, we enjoy Mexican-style food and Lutheran fellowship! We have a pinata for the children, and music for all! Donations will go to the ELCA Good Gifts Fund, which supplies farm animals and other capacity-building supplies to those in need in many countries.