From the Pastor’s Heart Archive

From the Pastor’s Heart

Posted July 31, 2018 By admin

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink
his blood, you have no life in you. John 6:53

Each week, as a family of faith, we gather in worship around God’s Word and Sacraments. The Word is the gospel through which faith is passed along. The
Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are the means by which God imparts His grace through faith. Simply put, we receive the good news of Christ in our hearing, and then we receive the benefits of this good news through water, bread and wine connected to God’s promise of salvation.

As sinners, we are not worthy to gather in God’s house on our own. We do not deserve to come to His table of grace as a result of our own actions. Yet, thanks be to God, we are made worthy through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us through the blood of Christ, extends
forgiveness of sin and nourishes our faith through Christ’s very body and blood.
Realizing this, the hearts of Christians are filled with joy as we partake of this heavenly food. Still, there is a disturbing trend that has emerged within the Christian Church.

As congregations gather, we do so as people who have busy lives and full schedules. We are also a part of a society that seeks fulfillment in earthly endeavors. We compartmentalize nearly all aspects of life and fit those into convenient blocks so as one will not encroach upon another. When one activity spills over into the next, something must give, and so we move on. It even happens in worship on Sunday morning.

Over the years, I have noticed more and more
Christians leave worship immediately following their receiving Holy Communion. Other pastors have
encountered this same behavior. For me, this points to two things. The first is that worship was not the highest priority for the day. The second is that there is a lack of understanding of the Eucharistic movement in worship.
On the heels of our sermon series of the Ten
Commandments, we will recall that God said, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” God
provides one day in seven for His people to rest from their labors and to be refreshed by His Word of grace. As humans, we need this time apart from earthly demands. As sinners, we need this time for repentance, confession, absolution and renewal. To rest in the Word and promise of God is to forsake earthly timetables and gather with the faithful to be strengthened by God and through one another.

The Eucharistic movement within our
service beckons us to follow our Lord’s
invitation to the table and receive the feast of forgiveness and life. As invited guests, we should come with great reverence and respect for Christ our host. We enjoy the company of fellow Christians saved through the sacrifice of our Lord and
Savior, tasting His goodness and basking in His mercy and love. To suddenly get up from the table and leave before the meal has ended robs worshipers of hearing the blessing of Christ and the benediction (good words) our Lord rains over His
children. Just as we desire for guests at our table to remain and enjoy the benefits of our friendship, God enjoys the fellowship of His people as they remain until all are fed and blessed with His love.

The human may say these are just words, but the sinner longs to hear this blessing for it is music to a sin-sick soul. My prayer is that we all enjoy the meal of God’s grace together. Gathered as a family of faith, I pray we savor the joy of our life together and share in the blessing of our Lord’s love for His
children.

Grace to you and peace,

Pastor David Nuottila

From the Pastor’s Heart

Posted July 1, 2018 By admin

And [Jesus] said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:21-23

At the onset of my seminary instruction, I wasn’t accustomed to leading the liturgy during worship. I’ve never been a musician and to this day I do not read music or play any sort of instrument. Still, I dearly love leading the congregation through the sacred music of liturgy. Yet, in the beginning such was not the case.The first time I was scheduled to intone the liturgy, my supervising pastor suggested that I run through everything a few times with our music director. Since this particular congregation had lay members who served as assisting ministers, this was a normal occurrence, so off to the music director’s office I went.

Following a few vocal warm ups, the organist played the piano as I sang rather quietly through the six verses of Psalm 1. Truthfully, I needed to work at overcoming my self-perceived lack of ability. Tom helped build my confidence; he encouraged me and made me work through my fears. It wasn’t long until I rather robustly sang out the entire Kyrie and Hymn of Praise in the solitude of
his office. I was feeling much better about my task for the morning and decided to tackle the Psalm one more time before practice was over. After singing the Psalm one last time, my supervising pastor bolted into the room and asked if I would please turn off my wireless microphone. Little did I know that, for about fifteen minutes I had been serenading the group gathered for prayer in the
church Nave.

As I look back on this event, I realize, had I known the microphone was switched on I would not have made such a public display. Rather, I would have quickly switched it off and sheepishly got on with my practice. Instead, I was able to boldly share the good news of God’s saving grace. Even if my voice is not on par with those of qualified musicians and vocalists, there could be no denying that the power of God’s grace through his Son Jesus Christ was heard. Jesus asks his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?” Certainly not! God blesses the Church with the most precious treasure there is, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each baptized child of God is therefore called to give witness to the wonders of God’s mercy and grace by sharing this gift with the world. Within the baptismal rite of the Lutheran Church, we quote Jesus’ words when we exhort the newly baptized to “Let your light shine before others
so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

In a world fallen into sin and broken beyond human repair, the only hope for salvation comes through Christ and believing that through him, God indeed keeps his promises. Jesus of Nazareth is light and life for the world. Baptized into his death and resurrection, the light of Christ dwells within God’s people. Jesus calls each of his children to share their faith, to be of loving service to their neighbor and to proclaim the power of God’s saving grace. My prayer is that you won’t be timid in doing so. Be bold! Overcome the fears of speaking the truth of Jesus with others, realizing that you are enabled with the gift given through the Holy Spirit of God. If you don’t know how, or you feel you lack the ability, come see me and just as Tom helped me, I’ll help you work through your doubts. In Baptism, the light of your faith is ignited. Shine your light so that through the darkness of the world, all may finally see the glory of the Father and at last enter the gates of our eternal home.

Grace to you and peace,

Pastor David Nuottila

From the Pastor’s Heart

Posted June 1, 2018 By admin

Many folks express a common concern when it comes to church worship attendance. “How can we grow in number?” “What can we do to attract new members?” These are two frequently asked questions. They are very good questions, but it seems that so often we struggle with the answers. Could it be our focus is misplaced? Or Perhaps our definition of evangelism needs clarification. It could be our hopes and expectations are what need to be re-aligned rather than our focus on membership rolls.

It goes without saying that as we welcome visitors among us on Sunday morning, our worship is enhanced and we are glad they are here. Wouldn’t it be great if we saw several new faces among us each week? In that light, perhaps it’s time we roll up our sleeves and get back to the basics. After all, it’s not just that we want more people to worship with us. Rather, we have a wonderful gift that we are called to share; the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Before we can grow the church, we must first learn to grow as disciples. We must learn that living within our baptismal covenant with God means loving God with all our heart, and loving one another as we are loved. We need to come to the house of the Lord for worship, prayer and fellowship. Living together in Christ means enjoying the gifts we all bring to those gathered in this place and beyond. It means sharing our mutual joys and celebrations, grieving together in our losses, and experiencing life together. God calls his people to lives of faith, love and service towards their neighbors. These sound simple, but the reality is that most congregations struggle with the aspects of discipleship. Certainly, we have room for spiritual growth.

The life we present to the world makes a difference. All too often, the un-churched look upon Christians and see no appreciable difference in the way they live their lives. Too many Christians continue to live according to a worldly standard. Jesus, however, calls his disciples to live for God alone, loving and serving as Christ loved and served. The world is filled with people searching for hope, peace and love in their lives. Such hope is made sure and certain through Christ, and seen through the Church at worship, in the community and in the mission of God according to the gospel. Such hope is shared by those who know Christ as Lord and God. Such is the life Christians are called to live. In short, we need to study God’s Word earnestly and learn to apply it to every aspect of our lives.

Sharing faith and God’s love is what brings people into the community of believers. When the un-churched see the people of God living differently, they are provided a vision of hope for a life filled with God’s blessing. The real evidence that we are doing the work of evangelism comes when the life we live as Christians looks less like a fallen and broken world, and more like a community of faith, a com-munity inviting others to come and see the goodness of God.

The evangelizing Church is one that grows in faith and love. It is filled with disciples, not members. Growing together in faith and our calling as disciples will most certainly strengthen our ministries. My prayer is that we are faithful disciples, serving as Christ served. In order to do that, we must first grow in faith and learn to share our many blessings with others.

Grace and peace,

Pastor David Nuottila

From the Pastor’s Heart

Posted April 1, 2018 By admin

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Luke 24:5-6

Soon, our Lenten journey will reach its conclusion and our prayers for mercy and grace will again include resounding shouts of “Alleluia!” With the Easter celebration the church springs to new life in Christ. If you would like to get a jump start on the Easter season, read the events of Holy Week and then the first Easter. As I do this, a few words quickly come to mind.

The first word is “Surprise!” – Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, women went to Jesus’ tomb only to find the stone rolled away and his body
missing. Inside the tomb, the angel of the Lord told them that indeed, Christ has risen! Imagine their surprise when they witnessed this, and then saw Jesus very much alive. Imagine the surprise of the two disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus when they finally recognized the stranger was actually Jesus himself. How many times are we surprised to find Jesus in our midst? How many times have we experienced a moment of God’s grace and seen the face of our Lord through the actions of others? Easter is a time of such surprises and grace filled moments, especially as we seek to spread the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to the entire world.

Next is “Joy.” To say those who witnessed his resurrection were suddenly overcome with great Joy is perhaps the greatest understatement ever made. It is impossible for us to imagine the events of Holy Week with all of their extreme grief and sorrow. It would stand to
reason that we also could not imagine the joy the disciples and friends of Jesus felt once they realized he had been raised for the dead. The immense joy and power of Christ’s resurrection changed the lives of the disciples and followers of Jesus forever. Even though we too know the sorrow of death at the passing of a loved one, this same Easter joy is ours as well. The Easter celebration and the good news of Jesus’ resurrection give the church
reassurance that God has redeemed his people, and we are also changed forever. Saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus, we are inheritors of eternal life in God’s kingdom. The grave no longer has the final word. This is the good news to be shared.

The third word is “Renewal.” – On that first Easter Sunday, when it was evening, Jesus appeared to the remaining eleven and opened their hearts and minds to understand the scriptures. He empowered them to be witnesses to all that he had said and done. Suddenly, being fishers of men took on new meaning. During Easter, we too can renew our commitment to follow Christ. Easter is the perfect time to recommit ourselves for mission and ministry. It is a good time for those who have gotten out of the habit of weekly worship to once again join the Sunday assembly in praise and thanksgiving. Easter is also a great time to rededicate ourselves in our life of discipleship, to support the mission of the church, to give generously in ministry to those less fortunate, and to join the church in prayer for our world and all who are in need.

I look forward to sharing the joy of this Easter season with you. I also look forward to renewing our efforts to follow Christ to those places the Holy Spirit leads us. Who knows what blessings God has in store for us as we continue to share the good news? Who knows the joy we will find? The answers to these questions and many more will certainly be yet another Easter surprise.
Grace and peace,
Pastor David Nuottila

From the Pastor’s Heart

Posted February 26, 2018 By admin

[The LORD said] “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the
seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” Exodus 20:8-10

The world is a busy, noisy place filled with people at work and play. Our culture is one in which we try to fill every moment with the sights and sounds of modern day life. There is so much to choose from, so much to do, and so little time. The “other” gods of the world demand our precious time and we have to work longer and harder to make enough money to appease them.

The rhythm and pace of life today drives us to unhealthy habits of eating fast food (The defendant will rise), neglecting our families, (Guilty as charged), and not getting the rest needed to rejuvenate our bodies. (Bailiff, take him away!)

The world is so busy and distracted, that the voices of competition, success, selfishness, pride and pleasure deafen our ears while filling our hearts and minds with earthly troubles. But as God’s people grow quiet and still, we hear yet another voice. We hear that whispering voice that calls out to us. As we listen even closer, we hear the voice of God.

If we can only break out of the fast paced cycle of life set by “other gods” we will soon find that it is the one true God who truly establishes the rhythm of life. God blesses his people with all we need. He allows six days for work and gives the seventh for rest, worship, and prayer.

According to Luther’s Small Catechism, we are to fear, love, and trust in God, so that we may be rested and refreshed; not only by our taking time away from unnecessary work, but especially by gathering with the people of God to worship, pray, to hear God’s Word as it is preached and to receive the Sacrament of the Altar which is Holy Communion. Remembering the Sabbath begins with God’s people gathering as a community. We celebrate the love that God so freely gives to the world. Remembering the Sabbath day means we acknowledge God is the source of our very lives and livelihood. Keeping it holy means we gather with the saints for worship and thanksgiving.

As we consider this commandment, remember to pray for those who are under stress from overwork, sleepless nights, and driven by the urgency of a fallen and broken world. Pray for those who continually choose earthly pleasure over giving
thanks to the one who makes them possible. Pray for the ones who feel lost and have no one to turn to and for anyone who might feel abandoned, neglected or afraid. Pray for our church family, that we might continue to listen to God’s call for us as a community of believers who are working and living together in the peace of Christ. And finally, pray that for one day in seven, all may find peace and rest, so that we may also hear the whispering voice of God calling all people unto himself, that we may refresh ourselves by drinking from the living water of Christ Jesus, abiding in his Word and sharing the gospel wherever they may go.

Here in the midst of our Lenten journey, we have the opportunity to renew our commitment to striving toward keeping God’s Ten Commandments, especially toward our commitment to weekly worship and keeping the Sabbath holy. Let this be our prayer throughout these forty days.

Grace and peace,

     Pastor David Nuottila

From the Pastor’s Heart in December

Posted December 26, 2017 By admin

Just as the Apostle Paul greeted the church at Ephesus at the opening of his epistle letter to them, I greet you at the opening of our ministry together with his words as recorded in Holy Scripture; “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:2 As I begin this first epistle as it were, I would express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for the warm welcome which you have extended to my family and me.Coming to a new place is always filled with mysteries, questions and a good deal of excitement. In this move, I can certainly say that the one constant that has shined so brightly is the love of God in Christ Jesus. From the time the conversation began with the call team, all the way through to our first days here in Chapin, everyone has made Angela and I feel so welcome.Getting acquainted with my new surroundings, I have enjoyed exploring the halls and classrooms, taken quiet walks through the cemetery and reading a bit of the history of our church. I have also been working earnestly in learning your names and faces. I can’t promise I will have all of them committed to memory right away, but I do want to know who everyone is and how we are all connected in God’s family of faith. What strikes me most, in these early days together, is the family atmosphere of St. Jacob’s and the desire to grow in faith as disciples of our Lord Jesus. In the coming months, we will have much to do in the way of spiritual growth. As the Epiphany season progresses, we will have opportunities for Bible studies, confirmation classes and other times for fellowship. I look forward to participating in the men’s, women’s and Up and Going groups as I am able. I especially look forward to getting to know our young people and participating in the events planned for our youth. God has a mission for us all. It is my prayer that we all engage in this mission and find it to be faithful, fulfilling and enjoyable.
Beginning this new era in the life of St. Jacob’s, my prayer is that we continue to seek the love, guidance and assurance of the Holy Spirit. The very same love, guidance and assurance that brought us together is what will keep us faithful and strengthen us in our efforts to proclaim the gospel of Christ Jesus to those whom God places in our midst. I will also invite many of you to consider new ways of serving our Lord and his church. One of the hallmarks of discipleship is being willing to listen to the still, small voice of our heavenly Father as he comes to us in the quietest of moments and in surprisingly new ways, and responding to his invitation for ministry. The gospel texts throughout Epiphany provide us with a calling and a mission. From Andrew’s declaration to Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” to Philip’s inviting Nathanael to “come and see” Jesus is calling us to renew our commitment to be fishers of people. I can’t think of a better way to begin our new ministry together than to have the invitation of our Lord spelled out so clearly. As the old hymn says, “Let us ever walk with Jesus.” We have been called by God to continue the good works of Christ’s church in Chapin and throughout the world. I pray that as we begin this journey together that God will bless us with love and laughter in times of joy, with consolation and peace in times of sorrow, with resilience and determination in times of struggle, and with the understanding that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
In Christ,
Pastor David Nuottila