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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Monthly words from Pastor Tom

Thanksgiving is simply too late in the year perched as it is on the brink of December and breathing down the back of Christmas. It is too late to be a proper harvest festival and it is too early, really, to write about it in the November newsletter. Horticulturally speaking all is safely gathered in at least six weeks before we eat turkey unless you are a wild rice farmer or a Florida orange grower.

What I remember of Thanksgiving growing up is not the harvest, (I lived in the suburbs), but the ritual of family that seemed to offer a sense of belonging and community that is the stuff of which we yearn today.

The routine drive up North to my grandparents house was one I would sleep through until we came to the winding part of Highway 169 around the west side of Mille Lacs Lake. In November, Mille Lacs looked cold and gray. Soon the white caps would give way to a cold Canadian front and it would quickly turn solid and smooth for the fishing villages to appear and Grumpy Old Men would homestead for another winter. This year the Fish and Game are letting us catch five Northern Pike and One Walleye a day from our ice houses. There didn't seem to be a limit on fish when I was eleven but that is probably why there is limit on Mille Lacs today.

My grandparent's house had an upstairs which was unique to us rambler living suburban kids. There was an attic, a clothes chute, a basement, and a swinging door to the kitchen so there was always something for us to explore and hurt ourselves. We gathered to eat in the formal dining room that seemed to be able to expand with the number of leaves in the table. My grandfather would pray, but it wasn't "Come Lord Jesus" that I knew, so that prayer always derailed me for a second. And then with 'Amen' still hanging in the air, plates and platters and bowls and pitchers started coming at you from around the table.

There were mountains of mashed potatoes and squash, along with canned corn and the traditional bowl of perfectly cubed rutabaga's my grandfather had cut from his shop in the garage. My uncle would ask for the peanut butter and we would start eating. My grandmother would spend most of the meal in the kitchen refilling bowls and platters through the swinging door. If you didn't take 'thirds' from her, she would ask you why you didn't like it.

The afternoon was spent watching football on TV, napping, or worrying about the weather and the drive home. The younger children played on the landing on the stairs that went up to the bedrooms. There was conversation in the kitchen over dirty dishes spurred on by wine and schnapps. I would go outside in the front yard with a football and catch the winning touchdown for the Minnesota Gophers over and over until I got called in for turkey sandwiches and left over pumpkin pie.

The Thanksgiving meal was a cornucopia of memories.


The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give God thanks and praise.

The Great Thanksgiving.


See you in Church,

Pastor Tom

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Oatmeal Crisp Cookies

Rita Lundquist Recipe that was in the 1st East Union Cookbook.
By: Lois Scott

1 cup white sugar 2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup brown sugar 1 1/2 cup flour (I found I needed to add 1/4 cup more)
1/2 cup butter 1 tsp soda
1/2 cup shortening 1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs 3 cups oatmeal
1/2 lb. Spanish Salted Nuts

Cream sugars, butter, and shortening. Add eggs and vanilla-blend. Add sifted dry ingredients and beat. Add oat-meal and peanuts-mix well. Drop from tsp on greased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper). Bake at 350°.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as the Lord had said. The Lord did for Sarah what was promised. God made a covenant with Abraham and Sarah. It was a promise that she would became pregnant and bear a son in their old age. (Genesis 21:1-2)

But Isaac was not born nine months later. He was born 25 years later when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 95. (Genesis 17:17, 21:5)

Do the math. Twenty-five is a grace filled word that allows us to wait on God's promises. In twenty-five years Abraham's faith was stronger and he was ready to trust God wholeheartedly.

Twenty five years ago:
The Hubble Telescope went into orbit.
The World Health Organization removed 'homosexuality' from it's International Classification of Diseases.
Nickelodeon Studios debuted.
The Germans called it "die Wende" or "the turn". East & West Germany are reunited. October 3, 1990.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
The first Web Page was written.
Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands, and Dances With Wolves were released.
The first McDonald's opened in Moscow.
Jennifer Lawrence, Kristen Stewart and Emma Watson were all born.
Pearl Jam formed.
The underwater 'Chunnel' was completed between England and France.

This October, Andra and I will have been married 25 years. Like Abraham and Sarah it is a number that allows us to wait on God's promises. Andra has been my good partner. My life is so rich and blessed with her in it. We have five grandkids all becoming their own little people. We have three children doing good things in the world. Our trust and faith in each other is strong. We continue to live by the words written in Micah chapter 6. Words read at our wedding.

And what does the Lord require of you? To do Justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

I noticed Lands End has an on-line back-to-school backpack chart.

They list five levels for sizing your kids all done by height. They start at 3'and go to 4' 6" and up. There are packs with T-Rex on them, rainbow striped zebras, polka dots, plaids and fluorescent colors. There are camouflage packs and some that look like a carpet bagger from the post-civil war area in the south. There are backpacks that are solid colors, some that have footballs or soccer balls on them and others that even come with wheels.

There are some that are advertised to be feather light and some that hold laptops and other electronic devices. There are backpacks for pre-school and backpacks for campus life. Just about any pack is available with your initials embroidered on it. There are not as many cartoon characters or super heroes on the packs as one might expect.

It's a new school year. It's a new year of learning and volunteering. Four of our grand kids have trickled into the new school year each a week later than the next. August is still here but in California and Nevada all four of them have started school already. The 3rd and 4th graders started first in early August, then the preschooler, and then just a few days ago, our kindergartener. They all have new backpacks.

The bible mentions bags and totes a number of times. From Moses blessing baskets, to David's shepherd's bag, to Judas carrying his money purse as the disciple's treasurer. Ezekiel, Paul and Jeremiah all had to deal with carrying stuff. From leftovers, to figs, to five smooth stones, clothing, to lunches. Totes and bags were around in the ancient world.

On Sunday, September 20 at the 9am church service we will ask God to use our supplies and equipment, totes and backpacks to help the world. We will pray that we will keep God in the center in all that we do and learn.

All children are asked to bring their backpacks to church and we will bless them.

Pastor Tom

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Saturday, August 01, 2015

On the last Sunday in July I preached on the Feeding of the 5000. We even had a small skit during the children's sermon to emphasize the theme. It is an amazing story and it is found six times in the gospel readings. More than any other story in the bible. In John's version two weeks ago, Jesus sees the 5000 people coming over the mountain and he asks Philip where they can buy enough bread to feed all these people. Philip knows the disciples budget and he responds that it would take six months wages and they still might not have enough to buy bread for all these people. Then Andrew appears on the scene with a young child who has volunteered his five barley loaves and two fish. A small pittance for 5000 mouths but Jesus confidently and immediately invites the people to sit down in the grass. Jesus then takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and starts to distribute it to the multitude. He does the same for the fish.

There is an old theory that the reason they could feed 5000 people with only two fish was that the fish was lutefisk and most people simply said, "No thanks. I'm good. I'll get something to eat when I get home" One of the points in this story is that the child volunteered to help with the feeding. Volunteers are the backbone of the first century church and any small church for that matter. It is a fact that in any organization there is about 32% more work to do than there are people willing to do it. Volunteering can be frustrating in a small church. Sometimes there seems to be less money and fewer people to do the work every year. I know it gets difficult to supply volunteers to help with worship each week but that is usually in the summer when so many of us are gone. But we will need Confirmation and Sunday School teachers this fall and that is a big recruiting task. The choir and hand chimes will need participants. Many of the committees that keep things working will need more people to serve. Fall events like Rally Sunday, The Country Fare and the Chicken Dinner all will need volunteers.

Can you take it upon yourselves to volunteer this fall? Can you find a job and volunteer your gifts? There is a lot to do. The good news in the Feeding of the 5000 story is the happy ending. The multitudes were filled and satisfied, leftovers abounded and they took home 12 baskets of bread and fish.

Thanks for your commitment to East Union Lutheran Church.

Pastor Tom

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

From the Affirmation of Baptism ELW p. 234

Jessica was in my confirmation class at Good Samaritan Lutheran Church in 1996. She was in the same class as our daughter. Jessica had epilepsy. But it didn't seem to slow her down or limit her ability to be one of the gang in that class of eight. She was always in the thick of the group's games, discussions, giggling, talking and goofing around.

We had a retreat at our house her last year of confirmation and we watched the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments staring Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Ramses II. Filmed on location in Egypt, this was the last movie made by Cecil B. Demille. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film ever made. The movie is almost four hours long so we watched about 45 minutes at a time, breaking at the end of big scenes to eat, swim or discuss what had just happened in Moses life. We charted the names of lesser known characters. Who was Nefretiri or Sephora? Did they know Joshua was played by a young John Derek, Bo's husband? The movie goes from Moses as a baby being sent adrift in a basket on the river Nile to his death in the border mountians of the Promised Land.

Jessica loved the movie. After the retreat she asked if she could take it home and watch it again. Then she asked her parents for a copy of it for Christmas. I remember her telling me that she got a copy for Christmas and she was so excited.

I got an email on June 15th informing me that Jessica had just died in a car accident. She was 34. I am heart broken. As a baptized and confirmed child of God she lived under God's call, was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, nourished in the community of faith and lived wet and shined in the promises of baptism.

Sleep in heavenly peace, Jessica, sleep in heavenly peace.

Pastor Tom

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Monday, June 01, 2015

I walked across our cemetery the other day to go to Earl Olander's grave. It has yet to have a head stone but I knew it was his because there is yet no new sod to cover the dirt on the scared rectangle of ground. Once there, I stood in overwhelming sadness. There are not too many people that reach 90 years with whom we can say. "He died too young" or "He died too soon". Or" He should still be with us". But you can say those things about Earl.

Life is real and so is death and it comes at us hard some times. I am not going to try and rationalize with you that everything is going to be okay. The fact is that there are times when things are very clearly not okay, and this is one of them. That Earl died the way he did is not okay. Earl was murdered. He was the victim of an evil, brutal, sinful, commandment breaking act. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes was very much aware of the dark side of life. Listen to the language from chapter 3: kill, tear down, cry, grieve, turn away, lose, hate, and war. The author knew that there are times when people tear at one another, turn away from one another, reject one another and throw one another away. There are times when love turns to hate and something like war breaks out in people's homes and families. When laughter turns to crying, dancing turns to grief and, too often, violence rears its ugly head and there is killing, murder and aching loss.

How do we deal with that when it comes so close like this?

I can think of four things that we can do:

  • We can give heartfelt thanks for God's gift of Earl. We remember with joy and delight that there was also a time for Earl to be born. We're glad of that. I've heard people talk of Earl's simple, uncomplicated life. His generous nature. His independence. His quiet presence. All good. All joyful memories. The evil being suffered does not cancel out the good enjoyed. It makes the memories sweeter. Thank God for Earl.
  • Go back to the hard list from Ecclesiastes, which was read at Earl's funeral, and to honor our memory of Earl, we can commit to the work of planting good, healthy relationships with those we love. We can commit to do our part to heal, rebuild and mend. We can chose to love one another with the greatest kindness and respect.
  • Pray. Tragic and sudden death like this is a blunt reminder that we, too, are mortal. There is an ancient prayer in the Anglican Prayer Book called the Great Litany. Part of it goes like this: From earthquake and tempest; from drought, fire and flood, from civil strife and violence, from war and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared. Good Lord deliver us. We need to forgive those who trespass against us.
  • We each need to find a way to forgive Earl's attackers. Forgiving in no way gives credence to what they did. It does not make what they did to Earl acceptable, tolerable or unobjectionable. There is punishment in our society for what these men did. Our laws will take care of that. Mark's gospel says in chapter 11:25, "If I do not forgive, I cannot be at peace." Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. A life lived carrying around hatred is a burdensome life.

What many of us are going through right now feels too hard, too painful, and too dark. Can we ever be prepared for this sharp reminder of sudden death? Yes we can. By considering the example and teaching of another murder victim, Jesus Christ, who not long before he was killed said, "Don't be troubled. Trust God. Trust in me."

There is ugliness, pain, evil and hopelessness in the world. It doesn't mean we have to let our life be defined by them.

Give thanks for Earl.

Heal, rebuild and mend.



But I say to those who listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Luke 6: 27-28

Pastor Tom

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

In Alice in Wonderland the character most famous for appearing in the tea party scene in Lewis Carroll's classic story is a rabbit named March Hare.

Alice hypothesizes "The March Hare will be much the most interesting and perhaps as this is May it won't be raving mad - at least not so mad as it was in March." The March Hare feels compelled to always behave as though it is tea time because the Hatter supposedly 'murdered the time' whilst singing for the Queen of Hearts. Mad as a March Hare is a common British English phrase going back to 1546.

The March Equinox occurs when the sun shines directly on the equator making both day and night approximately 12 hours long. Easter is on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the March Equinox. Easter can be as early as March 22 and as late as April 25th. This year Easter is April 5th .

The March Equinox is Mother's Day for many Arab countries.

World Story Telling Day is on the March Equinox.

NCAA College basketball has a tournament to determine a National Champion and it is referred to as March Madness.

March comes from the Roman god of war. (Mars)

For many years, March being the start of spring was also the start of the New Year. The British used March 25 as the start of the New Year until 1752.

Dr. Seuss' (Ted Geisel) birthday is March 2nd . It is Read Across America Day.

St. Patrick is commemorated on March 17th .

The Girl Scouts of America and their cookies were founded in March.

The Beatles, Paul and John, were both married in March.

John Belushi died in March.

Most of Lent is scheduled this year in March.

I've got a birthday in March too.

March is my anniversary at East Union.

I start year five this March.

I am most grateful for March.

See you in church!

Pastor Tom

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

Lent and Spring Training are very much alike. Both start in February. This year Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on Feb 18 and catchers and pitchers report for the Twins on February 22. Baseball players use the six weeks of Spring Training to get in shape. They change their eating habits and exercise more. They hone their talents and gifts. They focus on fundamentals. Their life style becomes one of preparation and ritual, (fielding grounders over and over, practicing base stealing and the hit and run). Ernest Thayer said in his poem Casey at the Bat, that during these six weeks 'hope springs eternal in the human breasts.'

Similarly Christians use the six weeks of Lent to change their spiritual habits. They also hone their talents and gifts. It too is a season of preparation. In the first century, Lent was a time for people to prepare to be baptized. In Lent there is ritual too, (soup suppers, midweek worship, locked up Alleluias), and selfexamination and hope in the resurrection. Proverbs chapter 13 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick. But a long fulfilled hope is a tree of life."

To begin the season of Lent Christians have ash marked on their forehead to remind them that "they were dust and to dust they shall return." To begin the baseball season players experiment with bats made mostly from the ash tree and when the dust clears they have determined what length and weight of a bat they want to use for opening day.

Opening Day comes right around the time of Easter. The Twins play their first came of the season the day after Easter this year. So as baseball spends February and March preparing for Opening Day, Christians prepare for Lent, which is a word that means spring.

Lent: Spring Training for the soul.

Batter up!

Pastor Tom

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Thursday, January 01, 2015

I don't know a lot about the "Elf on a Shelf" business. I do know some families that have it as a part of their Christmas traditions. That being said, here's what I understand: You buy an Elf doll and you move it around to a new spot in the house each night. The "Elf" watches the kids all day and night and decides if they are "good" children or "bad" children and then tells Santa about. He's making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty or nice.

Now that Christmas has passed and emotions have settled down, can we take a closer look at this tradition?

Do we really want our children to feel that their actions are being watched by a little elf?

Do we want them to feel that they are being helicoptered day and night and that their behavior will indicate the type of Christmas morning they will have?

Do we want our kids to behave well because they are afraid?

Do we want our kids to be afraid to mess up?

Do we want our kids to believe that receiving gifts on Christmas is directly related to their behavior as observed by an elf whose sole job is to creep around judging you all day?

"So be careful kids, don't screw up or Santa will withhold his gifts from you and give them only to the "good" kids."

The truth be told, none of us are good. Trying to be good is a pursuit that ends only in failure and guilt. God hasn't called us to be "good". God has called us to love him and to love each other. This Elf on a Shelf thing preaches the complete opposite of the Christmas story.

Jesus came to save us. He came because we can't be good on our own. He came because we will always fail in our pursuit of "goodness".

Naughty and nice is the understanding many adults carry with them throughout life. They hope to be 'good enough' to make it to heaven.

In a 1961 hit song "Last Kiss" by Wayne Cochran, a girlfriend has been killed in a car accident and the boyfriend sings these lines, She's gone to heaven so I've got to be good So I can see my baby when I leave this world.

But you know what? God showers us with gifts regardless of our behavior. Regardless of our shortcomings. God loves us and sent his Son to save us from our lack of goodness. We can never earn God's gifts. We can never be good enough. So God justifies us and makes us good. It's called grace.

Maybe I'm thinking into this too much. But the Elf on the Shelf completely kills this message of grace. It makes for a performance based Christmas. A theology of good works that Luther abhorred.

Christmas is an opportunity to give gifts to our children regardless of their behavior. We give simply because we love them. Next year choose to purchase an advent wreath instead of an Elf.

2015...Another year of grace…

Pastor Tom

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