Letters from Pastor Eric


Circle of Faith Associate Pastor Rev. Eric Midthun

Circle of Faith Associate Pastor
Rev. Eric Midthunf


November 2015 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

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

Dear friends,

I need some help.  We have started our fall tennis season…(I play on a men’s 55 and older team against other old men teams).  This week was our first match and I was paired up with a partner I had not been paired with before.  I have known him by name for at least 5 years.  We have been on the same team before and I have practiced with him a good number of times.  We had a good match.  Lost the first set, came back and won the second and then just barely lost in the deciding tiebreak.  Lots of fist bumps and “nice shot” and “good try”.  Afterward our captain said, “It was minister against minister…one of your opponents is also a minister.”  “Really” I said.  And then my partner looked at me and asked, “You’re a pastor?”

Now, we Christians are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people IN ORDER THAT WE MAY PROCLAIM THE MIGHTY ACTS OF HIM WHO CALLED US OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVLOUS LIGHT (I Peter 2).  I have obviously not been doing a very good job and need some help.  What should I be doing?  I don’t want to push my religion on any one.  And I don’t want people (especially my fellow tennis players) to think I’m some kind of religious nut.  And, I don’t want to come across as judgmental.  So I lay low.   I can proclaim the gospel in church and in bible studies and meetings and with my family but out there in the secular world I would rather just lay low.

What do you do?  How do you proclaim the mighty acts of God?

Sometimes when people know you have strong religious beliefs they get friendly but more often they start keeping their distance.  Lots of people get their ideas of what a Christian is through the mainstream media which tends to focus on the weird and spectacular and not necessarily what is true.  I do think we live in a time when it is not easy to be a witness.

What would perhaps be most helpful is some thought and discussion.  I hope this gets you thinking…maybe you have the answer for me.

In the meantime…Peter continued his thoughts on witnessing in the following chapter of the book of I Peter, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” (I Peter 3:15)  I guess that is a good place to start.  If someone does ask you why you have hope or why you go to church or why you pray or why you are a pastor you would at least have a reasonable answer…an explanation.

Your not very good witnessing pastor, Eric

 

September 2015 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

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

Friends in Christ,

Two years ago our three congregations, St. Peter, Trinity and Waverly, as the newly formed “Circle of Faith” parish spent a year around the theme of “Who are we?” We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. (I Peter 2:9) Then last year we focused on “What we do”, reflecting on the words; worship, pray, rejoice, share and fellowship. (Acts 2:41-47) This year we are going to take a closer look at what Jesus asked his disciples to do, which is what we are also asked to do because we are disciples.

Before Jesus went back to heaven he told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that he had commanded them. (Matthew 28:19-20) That is known as the “Great Commission”. We already started this with our “mission on the prairie” summer series that many of you attended. From Carl Rabbe I remember hearing how our mission begins in worship and then moves into witness and service in the world (“Go in peace, serve the Lord”), and I remember how the early Christians were known for taking care of orphans because that is one of the things that Jesus commanded. The Christians in Madagascar were also known for that. When twins were born the tradition was to leave one of them on an ant hill to die of exposure. The first president of the Malagasy Lutheran Church was one of those babies that had been taken off the ant hill and raised by a Christian family. From Pastor Larry Strenge, I remember Tootsie Rolls and how much more fun it is to give than receive and how our mission is not just overseas, but right next door and often accomplished through helping others in their time of need. From Dr. Alvin Luedke, I remember that our back yard is a mission field and that instead of looking at what we don’t have and being afraid of ‘the Giants’, we are simply called to try and see what God is doing and point it out to others.

This year we want to take a closer look at these things. How do we make disciples? How do we grow in our discipleship?

Blessings,     Pastor Eric

 

May 2015 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

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

This is our final time to reflect on these things that the first disciples did together after Jesus had ascended to heaven and left them with the Holy Spirit. (Their fellowship, breaking bread, praying, learning, sharing and praising.)

I try to imagine how they felt, and what they were thinking about. This was a whole new adventure for them. They did not have Jesus telling them where to go and what to do. A disciple is someone who follows and their leader was no longer with them. Now they were the leaders. It must have been quite a transition. I’m sure they felt a little lost. I’m sure they were unsure of themselves. They were building something that had no blue print (The Christian Church).

In some ways for us it is the complete opposite. In our first step of discipleship we inherit a whole institution with a structure and rules and buildings and people and traditions. We probably don’t feel as lost or unsure of ourselves as the first disciples did, but we have other challenges. We have this huge ship and a very small rudder and sometimes it seems like the wind is pretty strong and the waves are more like white caps. What should we do?

The same things that the disciples did: Having fellowship, breaking bread, praying, learning, sharing and praising. Because these keep us close to Jesus and to one another and to the goal of being God’s faithful people (The Christian Church). As we do these things, through us, God gets things done.

Pastor Eric

 

April 2015 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

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

We have been thinking about the things the early Christians did from Acts chapter 2. We thought about the sharing, the fellowship, the rejoicing and the praying. Now we think about worship: The first Christians spent much time at the temple, they broke bread and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.

Since we are in Lent and looking forward to Holy Week and Easter, I’ll share some thoughts about our worship during this time. The earliest writing we have in the New Testament are the letters of the apostle Paul. It is interesting that he did not write about any of the teachings of Jesus or the healings and miracles. The only words of Jesus that he shares are the words Jesus said at the last supper, the words of institution. Other than that he mostly just refers to the death and resurrection of Jesus and what that means for our lives. In a sense, for Paul, everything important for the Christian life is found in what we learn and celebrate from Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday.

So, this is a big deal. It reminds me that God has power over life and death. It reminds me that God uses death to bring life. It reminds me that God will bring me though death into life. This promise is made real every time I hear the story and every time I am given the body and blood of God’s very own son, Jesus. No matter how the powers of the world or of other spiritual forces try to destroy God and God’s love for me they will fail. The Holy Week worship journey brings me back home, year after year, to this foundation; my life in Christ. And yours too.

Eric Midthun

Associate Pastor, Circle of Faith Parish

 

March 2015 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

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

When Jesus began to teach the disciples how to pray he told them not to heap up empty phrases and use lots of words because God their father knows what they need. Then he taught them what we now call the ‘Lord’s Prayer’.

The phrases are short and simple. They are utilitarian. This prayer is not a fancy sports car or a large RV, it is a pickup. It gets you where you need to go with the stuff you need to take with you.

The first half is about God…God is our Dad, God is not just in this world, God is holy (different) and we ask that God’s world and will may be done in and around us. The second half is about us, our daily need for bread, our need for forgiveness, our need to forgive, our need to be helped in times of temptation and when evil is near.

It is interesting that the first in the list of our needs is, “Give us today our daily bread”. It is about the mundane everyday needs of our bodies. Martin Luther explains that daily bread means everything we need for this life such as food, clothing, home, property, work, income, a devoted family, orderly community, good government, favorable weather, peace, health, a good name, and true friends and neighbors. This is almost like the hinge between the two subjects of the prayer, the hinge between God and us.

I think it is at the center because when we pray for these things, we think about those who don’t have them. I think it is at the center because we learn that they are gifts from God. I think it is in the center because we learn to trust God as we receive these things. I think it is at the center because through these gifts we learn to be thankful to God and our neighbors. And that is the hinge between us and God…trust, thanksgiving and care for others.

Pastor Eric

Eric Midthun

Associate pastor, Circle of Faith Parish

 

February 2015 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

Posted by on Jan 30, 2015 in Pastor Eric Midthun's Monthly Letters | Comments Off on February 2015 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

The early followers of Jesus spent much time in the temple…praising God. (Acts 2:46-47)

This means that one of the things they were doing was praying. We have talked about sharing, rejoicing and fellowshipping, now we want to look at prayer.

God really wants us to pray. It is how we maintain a close relationship with God. And so a lot of our worship is prayer. And so we pray around our meals. And so we pray when we need help, and for our family and friends. And so we pray in the morning and we pray in the evening. James writes, “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them…” (James 5:13-14)

When my dad was getting quite weak from cancer people would come by and visit him. One time one of them was going to pray for him and he told my dad to sit down so he would not get too tired. My dad told him he was going to stay standing and that his friend should remember that God hears short prayers just as good as long ones. This reminds me of what Jesus said right before he taught the disciples how to pray, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8)

So we don’t need to pray long prayers listing all our needs and requests. On the other hand, Jesus would sometimes go off by himself to pray for hours at a time. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountain to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12) What sort of prayers was Jesus praying? Talking to God, thinking about God, listening to God, daydreaming? Probably all of these things. And, what it did was refresh him, strengthen him, guide him and motivate him. Our lives can be so full, and busy and complicated with so many distractions and commitments how can we possibly spend much time in prayer or even focus or concentrate for very long? And yet, if we don’t, how can we order and prioritize the complexity. How do we get refreshed and motivated? And where do we get guidance and strength?

Lately for my daily prayer time it has been helpful to focus in five areas: 1…confession. 2…people. 3…praise/thanks. 4…church/world. 5…listening in silence, picturing God in my mind, waiting for a word. Each day is different in terms of which subject takes up more of the time, and which subject I start with and end with. And yes, some days (many days) I forget and most days I don’t even make it to the end, but like I used to say to my kids, don’t be like me.

Pastor Eric

 

January 2015 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

Posted by on Dec 29, 2014 in Pastor Eric Midthun's Monthly Letters | Comments Off on January 2015 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

Dear Circle of Faith fellowship,

One of the things I really love about my life right now is that our children all live fairly close to us. We gather together for birthday parties and holidays and sometimes, just for fun when one comes over another one or two will come over as well. We catch up on news, we give each other advice, we eat, we play games, we laugh, we make fun of each other but we also support one another and learn from one another and help one another out. This is called fellowship and is sometimes devalued by our world, but it is very important for life. In fact, most of what people are doing on their phones and tablets is some type of fellowship.

Each phase of life has it’s unique experiences of fellowship; when you are a child, later in school, later again when you are a young adult and still later as you get older and older. They are all very important, much is accomplished through them.

Psalm 133 describes in visual images the beauty and blessing of good fellowship: “How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore.”

It is not surprising then that when the first followers of Jesus started the Church, they devoted themselves to fellowship. In fellowship they worshiped and planned and encouraged one another and helped one another.

If you ever wondered why church has so many meetings, now you know, it’s doing fellowship. Very im-portant! In fact, God is fellowship, the Son abiding in the Father and the Father in the Son and the Spirit in us and with us, which is the Spirit of the Son. So we have fellowship with God and with one another. We are not alone in this world.

So, at Circle of Faith we are going to spend a little time emphasizing this important aspect of our

Eric Midthun

Associate Pastor, Circle of Faith Parish

 

December 2014 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

Posted by on Nov 30, 2014 in Pastor Eric Midthun's Monthly Letters | Comments Off on December 2014 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

Dear fellow rejoicers,

We continue our emphasis on the theme, “What we do as Jesus’ followers.” We are looking at what the early Christians did from Acts 2. We focused on “sharing” because they shared. Now we focus on “rejoice”, because they rejoiced. Here is the NIV translation, “They … ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” (Acts 2:46 – 47)

I see some happy people in these verses. It seems like they were enjoying their time with one another as they praised God and shared the good news of Jesus. Their hearts were glad. When do you experience a glad heart? My Norwegian heritage allows me to experience a heart that fluctuates from the one extreme of “not too bad” all the way to the other extreme of “pretty good”. And, my heart feels “pretty good” on Sunday morning when I come to worship with you. Each of our Circle of Faith congregations has a kind of joy in it’s fellowship. People smile, people care for one another. Why? I think it is because like the early Christians we too gather to celebrate the great good news of Jesus. Jesus is right smack dab in the middle of it all. From our songs. to our readings, to our prayers, to our sharing, to our coffee to our connections outside of church.

Many of us have had the joy of the good news of Jesus since our baptism at a very young age and so we may sometimes take it a little bit for granted. We plod along in the routines of church chores and life chores and forget the extraordinary blessings of Jesus. This month we are reminded to rejoice. I hope it won’t be too much of a struggle. Remember how all the angels in heaven rejoiced when one lost sheep was found and how they rejoiced with the shepherds when Jesus was born. We do that too. It is important. Your rejoicing does a great deal for me and I know it does for others as well.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. Let your gentleness

be known to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5)

 

Pastor Eric

 

November 2014 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

Posted by on Oct 30, 2014 in Pastor Eric Midthun's Monthly Letters | Comments Off on November 2014 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

Sharing…

At it’s very beginning the Church was about sharing. That’s because Jesus emphasised it. And Je-sus was reasserting the value that God always emphasised which was that people were to look after one another and especially the strangers or foreigners that somehow ended up living with them because they were strangers and foreigners themselves at one time. And, they were to take care of the orphans and widows which is sort of the same thing.

Isn’t it great that this value is still at the core of who we are as St. Peter and Trinity and Waverly and as the Circle of Faith parish and as individual disciples. It shows that God’s Word has been pro-claimed and heard and followed, through the years, in our lives and communities. So we see peo-ple sharing their time and abilities to teach and learn and sing and clean and fix and think and plan and organize and read and play and prepare food and pray and help. And we see people sharing their money to be used for heating and seating and hearing and witnessing and feeding and wor-shiping and healing and helping.

This is light for the darkness that is in the world and in us and this is salt that gives life to what is lifeless around us.

Thanks for being that much needed salt and light,

Eric Midthun

Associate pastor, Circle of Faith Parish

 

October 2014 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

Posted by on Sep 29, 2014 in Pastor Eric Midthun's Monthly Letters | Comments Off on October 2014 – Pastor Eric’s Letter

Dear friends, “All day long the wicked covet, but the righteous give and do not hold back.” (Proverbs 21:26)

Sometimes it seems like there are two types of people. Some feel fortunate and are thankful and generous while others feel unfortunate and not thankful and covet what others have instead of being generous with what they have. What is the difference? The author of this proverb simply describes one as a righteous person and the other as wicked. Of course things are not that black and white, perhaps there is a continuum. I know for myself that I have both these tendencies and the difference is usually how grateful I am feeling.

In a sermon once I quoted Martin Luther where he said we should keep whatever we need to care for our   family and all the rest was to be given away, shared. The Ladies Aid at there meeting later that week vetoed the sermon because then no one would try to get ahead and work hard and try to be successful. They may have been right. In any case it is true that in our economic system, we are encouraged to be envious rather than generous because that will help the economy. So, it is tough to share. It takes some work to be able to resist all these messages.

But, sharing is at the core of our life together as God’s family. It is our ‘family values’. So, what are you     thankful for? What has been given to you?

Thanks, Pastor Eric