Growing Together in God's Word - Weekly Devotions

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Pentecost

Dear Friends,

This coming Sunday we celebrate the third great feast in our Christian calendar: Pentecost Sunday (Christmas and Easter would be the other two). I've seen many churches across the country gearing up to reopen just in time for this great celebration. Unfortunately, we won't have that opportunity. But I wonder, in this time of shelter in place, is celebrating Pentecost at a distance from one another a good reminder for us all?

Yes, I know that on that day of Pentecost in Acts 2, "they were all together". But what if, by the power of the Spirit we are still all together...even while living and worshipping apart? What if the coming of the Holy Spirit, as a gift to God's people, was meant for (among many other things!) such a time as this?

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther writes in his explanation of the third article of the Apostles' creed:

"I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith."

Even now, as each of us longs more and more to be together, to worship together, to hear God's Word together, and to receive Christ's body and blood together, we can still take great comfort that the Holy Spirit, who gathered us together in the first place, is keeping us together in Christ. Yes, the Holy Spirit is still at work in each of us and in the entire Christian Church as we continue to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and respond in prayer, praise, and love for our neighbors.

Rest assured that the St. Mark leadership and I are working on a reentry plan that will allow us to safely worship together, ensuring that the health of our congregation and the entire Sunnyvale community remains a priority. More than that, though, rest assured in the promises of God:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh...And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
(Joel 2:28, 32)

With you in Christ,

Pastor Nick

Planted Week 2

Dear St. Mark,

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues on, perhaps longer than many of us first imagined, it is easy to become discouraged and frustrated. Although it is the safe and responsible decision for the health of our community, the news this week that our county will extend the shelter in place order casts us deeper into the unknown. And the unknown is scary. Questions and concerns abound and, unfortunately, no answers or end dates appear on the horizon.

So to what, then, do we cling? What, then, can possibly give us hope or even the slightest bit of confidence at a time like this?

In Colossians 2:6 Paul exhorts us to be Rooted in Christ. To cling to Him. For in Christ, each of us has been delivered from sin and death. And in Christ, all sin and evil, all death and disease, has been disarmed and ultimately defeated. Paul continues in Colossians 2:9, "For in [Christ] the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority".

As we continue on in our Easter celebration, we are again reminded of Christ's ultimate victory over sin and death. But we are also reminded of how Jesus, God made flesh, dwells within us. We are Rooted in Christ, Christ is ever-present with us. And in Him we find our hope and confidence.

Therefore, may Christ Jesus, who has been raised from the dead, continue to hold you steady in His hands and give you comfort and peace.

In Christ,

Pastor Nick

Planted - Final Week

This coming Sunday, May 24, we wrap up our sermon series called "Planted". Over the past four weeks we have been focusing on our mission statement which reads: "Connecting People with the Vibrant Love of Jesus".

The big question we have tried to answer in this series is this: "What does our mission look like in the lives of real people?" So we have laid out a vision to answer just that. We are people who are:

Rooted in Christ
Growing Together in God's Word
Branching Out in Love to Our Community

So far we have talked about how this vision applies to each of us and our individual faith, but this Sunday we are going to take a look at how it impacts our ministry as a congregation.

The vision we have laid out gives us distinct areas to focus on - in fact, the most important areas to focus on: receiving God's gifts in worship (Rooted), being immersed in His Word (Growing), and loving our neighbors as ourselves (Branching Out). By focusing our time and energy on these areas of ministry we can continue grow as disciples of Jesus and invite others to experience the incredible love of Jesus too!

In Christ,

Pastor Nick

Planted

If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown me anything, it is the importance of roots. Roots are those beliefs, relationships, or activities which give us hope and confidence in crazy and chaotic times for they hold us steady and connect us to something greater than ourselves. Our roots define how we respond in difficult times and how we move forward together.

As a congregation, our roots are firmly planted in Jesus and His life, death and resurrection. In fact, St. Mark has chosen to articulate our mission statement in this way:

Connecting People to the Vibrant Love of Jesus”.

And, in light of this pandemic, being connected to the love of Jesus is more important than ever.

Over the next five week in a sermon series called PLANTED, I would like to explore how this mission is made manifest in the lives of people. Together we will see how we personally continue to be formed as disciples of Jesus and imagine how we will go with Jesus on his mission to, “...make disciples of all nations…”.

We will also form a common vision for ministry using an image from our region's agricultural history:

Rooted in Christ
Growing Together in God’s Word
Branching Out in Love to Our Community 

In Christ,

Pastor Nick

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