Letters from Pastor Anthony


Circle of Faith Parish Lead Pastor Rev. Anthony Christoffels

Circle of Faith Parish Lead Pastor
Rev. Anthony Christoffels


November 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on November 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

You may recall, back in August we celebrated Holy Communion every Sunday. We did this because the Gospel readings were focused on John 6 where Jesus continually brings up in different ways how he is the Bread of Life. Now what has come out of this is the question, “What really is Holy Communion?” Our Lutheran answer to this question is quite simple, Holy Communion is Jesus. We believe that Jesus is present “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. Therefore when you come to the altar to receive Holy Communion, you are physically and spiritually receive Christ.

Now Communion is also the forgiveness of our sins. When we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ, we are physically receiving the forgiveness of our sins. Communion is a spiritual meal that gives us nourishment for the week ahead.

At Waverly’s church council meeting in October, we had a discussion about what Holy Communion is and why it is important for our faith and our spiritual lives. By the end of the discussion, it was decided that at Waverly we will be celebrating Holy Communion every Sunday (not just the first and last Sunday of the month) beginning in November. We were led to make this decision because of how mobile people are now. People come to church when they can, but it does not always work out that they can come on a Communion Sunday. But if every Sunday is a Communion Sunday, then no matter when you come to church, there will be Jesus there for you, present in the bread and wine of the sacrament.

Celebrating Holy Communion every Sunday is not just something that our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters do – this is a Christian practice. Believe it or not, Lutherans used to celebrate Holy Communion every Sunday in Europe. When our ancestors immigrated to America, they established churches wherever they settled. Except, there were not enough pastors in the new land to serve all of these churches. So the pastors that did come to America were circuit riders. They were travel from church to church by horseback, preach and serve Communion, visit the sick, and then head on to the next church. Each church would only see their pastor and receive Communion about one day a month (if they were lucky). This pattern ended up continuing even after churches started having a pastor lead services every week.

Ultimately, Holy Communion is all about Jesus. We not only remember what Christ did for us by sacrificing himself on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, but this Holy Meal is exactly the nourishment that us sinful Christians need on a regular basis. When you come to our Lord’s table to receive the Sacrament of His own body and blood, trust that all of your sins are indeed forgiven and that Jesus goes with you as you go back into the world as a forgiven child of God!

In Christ,

Pastor Anthony

 

October 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Posted by on Sep 24, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on October 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Saved by Grace, Gathered in Faith, Called to Serve.” Where have you seen/heard that phrase before? Hopefully you said that is the mission statement for Circle of Faith. It is also the words that circle the cross in our Circle of Faith logo. Have you ever stopped to think about these three short phrases?

Saved by Grace

This line is first in our mission statement because, we are first and foremost saved by grace through the waters of our baptisms. We were saved before we could do anything to earn it. Grace simply means a free gift from God. Our       salvation, the eternal life that is promised to us is freely given not because of anything that we have or have not done,   but all because of what God has done through Jesus Christ in his crucifixion, death and resurrection. On Sunday,       October 4 the Gospel text from Mark 10:2-16 shows us exactly this grace. Jesus brings the little children to himself     and says, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” It is through the faith       of child that grace comes pouring in.

Gathered in Faith

This life is not always easy, and many of you know this all too well. From cancer and heart attacks, to accidents and alcohol/drug abuse – this life is challenging, difficult and feels nearly impossible at times. Even though we know that we have been saved by grace and carry with us the promises of the resurrection, we still often forget about these       promises and try to face this challenging life alone. This is why we Gathering in Faith. We gather with other believers, centered around God’s Word at the weekly worship services, around the altar for Holy Communion, during Bible     studies, and around the coffee table for socializing, support for one another and to grow in our relationships with each other and with God. On Sunday, October 11 the Gospel text from Mark 10:17-31 reminds us that one our own, it is     easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. For us, on our own, it is impossible to save ourselves and get into heaven, but for God, all things are possible. This is why we gather in faith, to support each other, pray for each other, and grow with each other.

Called to Serve

First we are saved by grace, not by any doing of our own. We then gather together in faith to be given the strength that we need to continue each week in this life. Then and only then are we able to do as Jesus commanded us, which was to go and serve our neighbors. As disciples of Jesus, members of God family, the body of Christ, we are called to serve others in Christ’s name. On Sunday, October 18 the Gospel text from Mark 10:35-45 gives us an example of what service in Christ’s name really looks like. It is not arguing amongst ourselves on who is the greatest, but rather following Jesus’ example that to be considered great means to actually be a servant to all.

And there you have it. We are Saved by Grace, Gathered in Faith, Called to Serve! I challenge you to continually   working on all three of these:

Saved by Grace: When you wake up in the morning, with your figure trace a cross on your forehead to remind yourself that you have been saved by God’ grace.

Gathered in Faith: Keep church as a priority in your life and in the life of your family. Gathering together in faith is key to our relationships with each other and with God.

Called to Serve: In your service to one another, do so with the intent of helping a fellow brother or sister in Christ, not to simply make yourself feel good or meet a requirement.

Circle of Faith, you have been SAVED BY GRACE so that you can be GATHERED IN FAITH in order that you listen to God in which you are CALLED TO SERVE.

 

In Christ,   Pastor Anthony

 

September 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on September 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The nights are getting longer. School supplies are on sale again. The fair is over. And it won’t be long before the crops begin turning colors. All of this can only mean one thing, the summer is quickly coming to a close, whether we are ready for it or not.

Looking back on our third summer together as Circle of Faith Parish, what a fantastic summer it has been. We consistently had 50-55 people (even other community members) turn out for our summer series “Mission on the Prairie.” Thank you to everyone who helped prepare/serve meals! We hope that this series was enjoyable for you, but that it also got you thinking. Thinking about your church, this parish, and the mission that God has for us in our little corner of Minnesota.

As we move into the new programmatic year, we will be focus on the Great Commission.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:19-20

In just those two verses Jesus says a lot, and luckily there is not enough room in this newsletter to talk about all of it in this article. But for what we will be focusing on this coming year, there are three main things that Jesus tells us our purpose as Christians and as the Body of Christ (the church) is to be.

“Go…and make disciples”

The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, is intended for everyone. Jesus wants us to not rest until everyone has been told that He went to the cross to forgive their sins all so that they may have life in his name.

“Teaching them”

But don’t forget about these new disciples that you have made. Now teach them. Help them grow in their relationship with God, strengthening their faith; so that they will put their trust in God alone rather than in the temporal things of this world.

“Obey everything I commanded you”

And what did Jesus command his disciples to do? “Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37, 39) Worship God, and serve your neighbor. That is what Jesus commanded his disciples to do.

So over the course of the next 9 to 10 months, we will be challenged to “go…and make disciples.” We also will be focusing on growing in our faith. And we will be working on worshiping God and serving our neighbors.

Blessings to you as you enjoy these last days of summer, and as you prepare for the upcoming school year, harvest, and autumn season.

In Christ,

Pastor Anthony

 

August 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Posted by on Aug 14, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on August 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

A couple months ago, I asked the Parish Council to think back to their earliest memory of Holy Communion. What is your earliest memory of Holy Communion? Mine is going early to church with my dad to watch him fill the communion cups with a little squirt bottle. I did not receive Holy Communion until my confirmation day. And I never knew at that age why this was so important, but I did know that it was something special.

So then I asked the Parish Council another question and I ask you this question, “What does Holy Communion mean to you? Why is it important to you?” Many of the answers that I heard were, “It is a Holy Meal.” “I am receiving the forgiveness of my sins.” “It spiritually nourishes me.” If you are thinking along the same lines, then I wonder what is so special about the first and the last Sundays of the month. What makes these particular Sundays more special than the rest of them? Going all the way back to the Early Church, it is a common understanding that every Sunday we celebrate Easter, the Resurrection of Our Lord. And as Carl writes in his article this month, we do celebrate not only the Resurrection of Our Lord every Sunday, but we also celebrate Holy Communion. This is a celebration, a Holy Meal, a time where heaven and earth come together, and an opportunity for us all to physically receive and inwardly digest the forgiveness of our sins.

For the whole month of August, we will be celebrating Holy Communion at all of our worship services, each week. Week after week in August, in the Gospel readings from John, Jesus continually refers to himself as the Bread of Life. The Bread of Life that nourishes us, feeds us, forgives us, and saves us. So it is most fitting for us during these coming weeks to celebrate with all of the saints who have gone before us and celebrate with all of our fellow members of the Body of Christ.

Come, join us in August as we celebrate the grace that God has given us through simple, everyday items like bread and wine. The picture of the chalice, wheat and grapes is a stained glass window in Trinity’s sanctuary. Come to the banquet, that foretaste of the feast to come

In Christ,

Pastor Anthony

 

 

 

July 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on July 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

With the typical decline in worship attendance during the summer months, I thought it might be helpful to share with you why going to church every week is important to me (and not just because it is my job). I grew up going to church every week without really knowing why we went. It was just what we did. Now today, many young people (and even older people) are so busy that they have to prioritize life, and things that don’t appear important get cut.

Let me ask you, what really matters when it comes to worship? Is it the start time, the day of the week, where you sit, or the type of music that is played? Or is it about Jesus and coming to hear the Word of God? Christian worship is not about making us feel good or satisfying our desire to hear a good hymn…it is all about Jesus. We come each week to worship to be reminded (because it is easy to forget) about the hope that we have through Jesus. Through Jesus (and the waters of baptism), we are promised that this life is not all there is – that even though we die, we will live. We have hope! We have a future with God! We also receive full and complete forgiveness of all of our sins when we come to worship. Guilt is a terrible thing to carry with us and when someone actually says that they forgive us, the guilt that we carry is finally removed. You can only carry so much guilt in your life until it becomes too burdensome to carry on. So we gather for worship to receive God’s forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We do so by following his commandment to eat and drink. When we eat and drink we physically receive God’s forgiveness and love; both of which are unconditional.

If someone sits in your pew, who cares. If the worship time gets changed at your church, who cares. If you worship on another day of the week, who cares. As long as you are hearing God’s Word proclaimed about the hope we having in Christ Jesus, and you are receiving God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of his body and blood, then it doesn’t matter when you worship, as long as you are worshipping. In the coming weeks, we will be talking more about the importance of worshipping and receiving communion. Until then, blessings to you in the days and weeks ahead as we enjoy the summer weather that God has given us!

In Christ,

Pastor Anthony

 

June 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Posted by on May 29, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on June 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wow! This last month has been a busy one, not just for the farmers who have been prepping and planting their fields. Not just for the teachers and educators who are wrapping up another academic year. But also for your pastors, organists, church custodians, funeral servers, church members, and the surrounding communities. At Circle of Faith alone, we have had 5 funerals in the last month, not to mention all of the other funerals that we have had throughout our communities this spring.

At some of the funerals that we had this month, you may have noticed that during the funeral service the caskets were covered in a giant white cloth that resembled a big white bedsheet. That cloth is called a funeral pall. We use a funeral pall during the service to remind the living that the loved one who has just died was bap-tized and claimed by God through the waters of baptism. At your baptism you were probably wearing white, symbolizing that you are both clothed in Christ and washed pure of your sins through the waters of baptism. Then at the end of your life, we cover you in white again to remind your loved ones that they don’t have to worry about you because God chose you when you were baptized, you were therefore clothed with Christ, and now that you are no longer living, they can trust that you are with God, resting in the arms of your savior.

So the next time that you are at a funeral and a funeral pall is used, remember that this is to remind you of their baptism and that they are in God’s everlasting care. For the sake of everyone involved, I do however hope and pray that our churches and communities get a break from funerals for a while.

In Christ,

Pastor Anthony

 

May 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on May 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This time last year, I believe there was still snow on the ground. But this year, the farmers are busy plant-ing, the final papers and exams are getting completed, and the lawn mowers are humming again. It is certainly a joyous time of year for us who live in the “frozen tundra” that is Minnesota. After long winters we look forward to spring coming.

With spring now upon us, we are coming to the end of our focus on Acts 2 and what those first disciples did as “the church.” We certainly worship and rejoice in what God has done through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. We pray for one another. We spend time together in fellowship. And we share with others. Jesus promises us that He goes with us wherever we go and is with us in our everyday lives inside and outside of the church. How many places do you think Jesus goes with us? And where? Why not find out for ourselves!

In a couple of weeks, everyone will be encouraged to take home a “Flat Jesus” (a piece of paper with a cartoon drawing of Jesus on it) and take “Jesus” with you wherever you go this summer. You can color “Flat Jesus”, laminate him, put him on a stick, or what-ever else that will make taking a picture while holding “Flat Jesus” easier. I challenge you to take at least 3 pictures this summer with “Flat Jesus” in the different places that you go. So if you go to the lake for a weekend, take a picture of you and “Flat Jesus” by the lake (or in the lake).

With at least 1 of these pictures, ask someone that you don’t know to take your picture. If they ask why you have a picture of Jesus with you, then you can tell them that your church is finding out how many places Jesus goes with us. That is one person to whom you have just witnessed the love of Jesus. After-wards, send your pictures to me via email, text, or postal mail and I will post them throughout the summer on our website, Facebook page, and newsletter. When you send them please caption them with where you are at/what you are doing.

I look forward to seeing the pictures and hearing the stories about all of your exciting adventures with Jesus and your families this summer!

In Christ,

Pastor Anthony

 

Summer Theology Series

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on Summer Theology Series

Does your church have more pews than people?

Do you wonder what God can do with a small church in rural America?

Come and Share Three Weeknights With:

the Concerned and Hopeful Christians living out on the prairie!

Circle of Faith Parish presents the 2nd Annual Summer Theology Series:

Mission on the Prairie

Circle of Faith Parish will be holding the 2nd Annual Summer Theology Series.  The dates and presenters for this summer are:

June 10 – Carl Rabbe

July 1 – Rev. Larry Strenge

August 12 – Rev. Dr. Alvin Luedke

 

More information will be posted soon on the presenters and the topics that they will be presenting and discussing with us.  Please join us this summer for our 2nd Annual Summer Theology Series.

April 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Posted by on Mar 27, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on April 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In last month’s article, I wrote about the 40 days of Lent as we had just begun this penitential season. Now we are coming to the end of these 40 days, which will indeed come to an end on Maundy Thursday. And before we begin the 50 days of Easter, which is what we look forward to in Lent, we first will go through a three day feast called the Triduum (meaning “The Three Days”). These three days are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. This is one worship service that is stretched over three days. We begin the Triduum with Maundy Thursday, where we recount and remember the command (or mandate) that Jesus gave his disciples, “Do this for the remembrance of me.” This service will be hosted by St. Peter beginning at 7:00 pm. Then on Good Friday we return to the church to continue the three day feast, and during this portion of the service we re-count and remember our Lord’s crucifixion and death. This service will be hosted by Waverly beginning at 7:00 pm. Then on Holy Saturday (the night before Easter) we return once again to the church to conclude the three day feast with the Easter Vigil. During this portion of the service, we retell the foundational stories of our faith in creative, dramatic ways. We also see, hear, and feel the transition from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, the transition from darkness to light, from death to life. We then finally conclude our three day feast with a festive reception to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. The Easter Vigil service will be hosted by Trinity beginning at 6:30 pm with a New Fire!

Holy Week is certainly an important time for us Christians. It is the week where we slow down and remember the road that our Savior took to the cross for the forgiveness of all of our sins. I highly encourage you to make the Triduum a priority this year (and every year). In order to fully see and experience the beauty of the three day feast, it is important to attend each day of the Three Days. If you can’t make all of the services, please come to the ones you can. Services like this only happen once a year. Plus, the Easter Vigil is unlike any other service that you have ever been to.

Blessings to you as we approach the holiest of weeks. The week were we come to worship, re-ceiving the full promise of forgiveness and absolution of our sins, and praise God for the sacrifice that He made on the cross through Jesus’s death and resurrection. Blessings to you and I look forward to seeing you at the Triduum, the three day feast of our Lord’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection.

In Christ,

Pastor Anthony

 

March 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Posted by on Mar 3, 2015 in Pastor Anthony Christoffels' Monthly Letters | Comments Off on March 2015 – Pastor Anthony’s Letter

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Well, the 40 days of Lent have begun. But what does the season of Lent even mean? When you hear that we are now in the season of Lent, do you think, “Oh, now I have church twice a week”? Or, “There’s food at church every Wednesday night in Lent.” Or I bet most of you are thinking the same thing I am, “After Lent comes Easter, which means that spring will soon be here!” All of these are true statements, but the main focus in Lent is on our sins, how we have fallen short of the glory of God, and our need for repentance and God’s forgiveness of all of our sins.

The number 40 is an important number throughout the Bible. The rains fell on the ark for 40 days. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses was with God on Mount Sinai for 40 days. God gave Nineveh 40 days to repent. Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days. And after the resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days on the earth before his ascension into heaven. You see, 40 is an important number. So for the 40 days of Lent we focus on our sins just as Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. Lent is a good time for all of us to evaluate our spiritual lives and work on strengthening and deepening our relationship with God. During Lent many people give up something, or fast. If that practice helps you grow your spiritual life, then please give something up for Lent, but if fasting is more of a pride thing (“Hey have pity on me, I’m not eating chocolate during Lent.”), then you probably shouldn’t give something up for Lent.

What if, instead you would focus these 40 days of Lent on strengthening our prayer life? Prayer is an  important part of our life in Christ. To learn more about prayer, you can read my Ash Wednesday sermon at www.therestfortheweary.wordpress.com. Prayer is our way to communicate with God. If we aren’t praying, we aren’t communicating with God. Going all the way back to the Early Church, the very first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) “The prayers” most likely means a form of memorized prayers, like how today most of us have the Lord’s Prayer memorized.

Prayer is an important practice and disciple for all of us to focus on. So whether you are giving something up for Lent or not, how about spending a little more time each day in prayer. You can always pray the Lord’s Prayer if you don’t know what to pray for. Otherwise an easy way to remember how to pray is by using your hand. Each finger represents people to pray for.

Thumb: Pray for those who are closest to you, your family and friends.

Index Finger: Pray for those who teach you, instruct you, and heal you.

Middle/Tallest Finger: Pray for our leaders, those who govern, and those who have authority.

Ring Finger: Pray for the weak, sick, and those plagued with problems.

Smallest Finger: Pray for yourself and the needs that you have.

In Christ, Pastor Anthony