Evil Without Limitations

Ariana is a singer and lyricist who became famous through her acting on Nickelodeon. Her fans include young families and children. Often compared to Mariah Carey, her music is very popular world-wide and she is currently on a sold-out world tour which she suspended last evening following a terror attack at her concert in Manchester England.

This attack targeted young girls. I think of Immanuel’s middle school students and recent graduates…many of them would have loved to be at her concert just like the kids in Manchester England. Young people spending an evening watching a 21-year-old woman whom they watched on TV for years, perform music they admire. It all seemed so normal, innocent, and entertaining.

In an instant, everything turned and 21,000 concert goers experienced something that is expected only in the war zones of Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. There are sick people in this world who look at last evening’s concert as evil, unholy, and against their extreme religious views. I don’t even want to call it a religion. For me it is satanic hate, the darkest example of evil that is reserved only for those who absolutely reject everything that Christianity teaches. These evil people teach their own children to commit brutal murder, posting it on the internet for the world to see. Their children will not grow up healthy. What new acts of evil will they carry out as they follow their parents example?

Friday evening, I will be at Immanuel’s Graduation Ceremony. I thank God that their parents partnered with us and we have taught them well. They have a sense of absolutes, of right and wrong, of love to their neighbors, of forgiveness, faith and God’s never ending love for them. Their world is changing rapidly. Far too many of the changes are not good. Manchester reminds us all to draw ever closer to God.

I am not a global terrorism expert. I have read sections of the Quran, but I am not proficient on Islam. I am a simple parish pastor who wants to reassure people that God is still God. He has not abandoned us, nor will evil take away your faith!

Let’s pray together…

Lord God,
No one is unfamiliar to you
and you want all people to be saved and know the truth.
In your kindness, please watch over the victims of the Manchester attacks,
those who are caring for them,
those who lost loved ones,
those recovering from their injuries,
and those who witnessed unspeakable horrors.
Bring those who are guilty of terrorism to justice
and restore peace
as hate and anger is replaced with love and understanding.
Help us to remain steadfast.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesian 6:10 ff.

See you in church, and at graduation Friday night,
Pastor Tom

 

Kids

I love all the hats I wear, especially the ones that involve kids: dad, grandpa, pastor.  And this week in particular has been a good one for this pastor in terms of kids!

On Saturday, I was invited to pray with Immanuel Lutheran School 8th graders and their parents at the annual 8th grade banquet.

Sunday wouldn’t be Sunday without the Children’s Message during Immanuel’s 9:15 service.  Last Sunday was Pastor Warren’s turn.  I enjoyed that for sure.

On Monday, I had the privilege of attending a Court of Honor for Trail Life and American Heritage Girls.

Wednesday was great!  Our first graders, along with their teacher Mrs. Nordman, did a fantastic job of leading the school in chapel.

Later that afternoon, I also “helped” a few students do some prep work for Adventure Bible Camp June 19 – 23. BTW – ABC registration closes May 26th and classes are filling quickly.

Can you guess what we were making?  (“Coral” decorations befitting the Deep Sea Discovery theme.)

We held rehearsal for Sunday’s Rite of Confirmation service Wednesday night and took the opportunity to pose for a group photo.

And we’re not done yet!

Grace Space – May 21st at the 9:15 Service:  We’re trying something innovative for kids in worship this week. Contact Trephina Bedell at tbedell@ilcp.org if you’d like to know more.

 

The Rite of Confirmation will be held Sunday at 10:45 a.m. and I hope that you can join us.

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Immanuel Member Chooses to be a Pastor – After He Retires!

Bill Harder, at a Stronger Together Summit. I am truly excited because Bill has a passion to reach out to those without a relationship with Jesus Christ. He wants to begin new work in our community’s nursing homes and other care facilities where people may feel neglected and need God’s Word.

What is it that drives someone to become a pastor? Could it be the thrill of speaking before hundreds of people each week? Perhaps it the desire to be in long nightly or weekend meetings, or perhaps you like to work on holidays and weekends and truly prefer Mondays off. Perhaps you think wearing a robe in public is fashionable, or riding “shotgun” in a hearse as it winds its way through traffic will impress your neighbors.

Or perhaps you simply love God and feel called to serve him and your neighbor.

Bill Harder, a member of Immanuel, the husband of Marilyn, a Bible Study leader, and former elder will retire at the end of the summer. If his application is accepted, he will begin training for the pastoral ministry. Rather than moving to the seminary in St. Louis, Bill intends to enter the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program. This program allows Bill to stay in his Palatine home while he completes 16 courses over a four-year period including several on campus seminars.

If Bill’s plans develop as he expects, he will become a vicar (intern) at Immanuel. I’ll be his primary supervisor, meeting weekly with Bill to review his studies, assign him to various duties at Immanuel and support his mentoring. With training and supervision, he will be able to visit sick and homebound, teach added Bible classes, aid in worship, and in time perform all the tasks of a pastor.

I am truly excited because Bill has a passion to reach out to those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. He wants to begin new work in our community’s nursing homes and other care facilities where people may feel neglected and need God’s Word. He wants to be part of our Stronger Together campaign as we bring Christ to the community. He especially wants to begin new opportunities for men to know Christ. We have pews in the church, and desks in the school, to fill. I think Bill is being directed by God to help fill them.

After two years of successful course work and completing his vicarage, Bill will then become eligible to serve as a pastor at Immanuel. However, he will have an added two years of class work and supervision at Immanuel before he is eligible for ordination. The SMP program only allows the graduate to serve at the congregation where they have begun their course work and vicarage. He will be specifically trained for Immanuel. In time, the congregation of Immanuel will be asked to extend Bill a call as pastor.

What is Immanuel’s role? We will need to pray for Bill and Marilyn as they begin this new chapter of life. We will be walking alongside them each step of the way and watch Bill grow and mature as a pastor.

I step back for a moment and consider the sacrifice Bill and Marilyn are making. Instead of enjoying retirement in Florida or relaxing in Palatine, Bill is beginning a rigorous course of expensive studies and a new demanding career as he learns to be a pastor. There are no guarantees that Immanuel will call him when he is eligible.  However, I can guarantee that he will have abundant opportunities to share Christ.

 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-12

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

A Prayer for Mothers…

We pray for all mothers today...As I do every year in honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a prayer with you.

Mother’s Day should be one of the happiest, stress-free days of the year! It should be a day when children reach out to thank their moms with a special gift, a phone call or perhaps even a personal visit. It should be . . . but too often, it is not. I thank God for each mom who will enjoy Sunday, blessed with a gift, a phone call, or even a visit.  But I am all too aware that for many women, Mother’s Day is difficult.

I do not even remember where this prayer came from, or when I began to use it. It has been in my file for years. I do know that it has been included in the prayers offered on Mother’s Day at churches I have served for at least the last 20 years, and probably longer.  It is a prayer for all mothers and all would-be mothers.  It’s for those who have been denied the privilege of motherhood, as well as those mothers with children but who may feel neglected or troubled by other circumstances. It is not a long prayer, in fact, it is rather simple, and yet I think you will agree with me that it is very powerful. I offer these words for your prayerful consideration.

Dear Lord,

We pray for all mothers today:

For expectant mothers, especially those awaiting the birth of their first child;

For those who have young children and who get tired and harassed with so much to do;

For those who are anxious because their children are growing up and seem to be growing away from them;

For those who feel a sense of emptiness as their children marry and leave home;

For those who are elderly and may feel unwanted;

For those who have no husband to share their responsibilities – the widowed, the divorced and the unmarried mother.

We pray also for those who have been denied the privilege of motherhood and so desperately yearn for children to love and nurture.

Lastly, we pray for those closest to us; may we love and care for them as we ourselves have been loved and helped. We ask it for your love’s sake.

AMEN

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

A Prayer for 2017 Graduates

Tonight I have the wonderful privilege of praying with our 8th graders and their parents and teachers at the 8th Grade Banquet, an Immanuel tradition for many years. These incredible young men and women will graduate from Immanuel in less than two weeks – on Friday, May 26th at 7:00 p.m. I’d like to share the prayer with you now too so that we can partner in prayer for these young people… and for graduates all over the globe.

A Prayer for the Graduates

Heavenly Father, we thank you for Immanuel’s graduating students of 2017. We are so blessed to celebrate this milestone in their lives and look with great anticipation to many more occasions when we will celebrate their accomplishments in the future. You have watched over them throughout their lives and we pray that they in turn never be far from you. Give each of them direction, purpose, and perseverance as they enter their high school years. Bless them with clear minds that they move forward into the plans and purposes that you have for them. Grant them the wisdom that only you can give so they are filled with a rich measure of discernment as they face choices in the days and years ahead. Provide Christian teachers and examples for these graduates so they will have worthy mentors and models throughout their lives. May they always rise above ungodly behaviors and be bold in your Spirit wherever they study, work, and socialize. Finally, then we pray that you grant success for their efforts at every turn, and may they be eager to do good and walk away from evil all the days of their lives. Use them in mighty ways dear Lord.

In Jesus name, AMEN

See you in church, and at graduation,
Pastor Tom

Holy Church/School – Holey Roof!

Whenever you seek to do God’s will in your life, you can be assured that Satan is working to interfere. Immanuel’s Stronger Together Campaign is reaching its halfway mark. We have begun new and exciting work among young people and throughout our community. We are seeing unprecedented efforts to communicate the mission of our church and school. There is a new spirit in children’s ministry as we witness new people joining and so many children growing in faith. But Satan is never far away.

Recently Immanuel’s leadership learned that we are facing significant repairs on our campus. After a professional engineering firm conducted an extensive study of our buildings, we reviewed their report and were discouraged to learn that the entire roof has deteriorated and needs replacement ASAP. Not only is the roof in very poor condition, we have plumbing pipes throughout the building that need to be replaced before they break and cause a flood. Windows, doors and even the openings around the windows (lintels) need to be repaired or replaced. There is simply a lot of maintenance necessary so we can keep our campus viable and ready for the next generation.

Repairing and replacing the roof could cost up to $1,000,000. No homeowner ever wants to hear that they need a new roof over their home and it is the same for us at Immanuel. We have a large building that was built in four sections between 1957 and 1989. Even the roof over the “newest” building has outlived its expected lifespan. If we do not act soon to stop the water from penetrating into the building, more damage will occur and repairs will be even more costly.

We all know that Satan is at work in world. The Bible is our authority. We know that he will take any step to delay us or move us from our mission of reaching the community for Christ. Facing huge expenses like a roof replacement is just one example of how we can be distracted, and even preoccupied, with building repairs when people are all around us who still do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior.

So, what will do? Pray. Pray that we remain “Stronger Together,” with our eyes fixed on “Bringing Christ to the Community.” We will continue to tell the story of our school and the advantages of a Christian education at Immanuel Lutheran have for children, inviting parents to consider enrolling their children for the next school year. We will continue to reach out to the community for those who do not know Christ. We are not going to stop following our mission.

We are also going to find a way to pay for the necessary repairs. We only have a matter of weeks to gather enough money for the work that needs to be done this summer. We may be able to borrow some money, but that will of course need to be paid back and it will not cover the entire cost. Can you help? Are you able to make a gift for the roof replacement? Perhaps you can share the name of a foundation or another resource that will consider supporting the important work we do through our school. Let me know and I will follow-up.

However, we will not let Satan win. This is exactly the kind of battle he uses to distract us. We know his tactics, we know we are venerable and we also know that Jesus Christ has defeated Satan. We will be victorious in this battle.

Immanuel Information Meeting – Tuesday, May 16,  7:00-8:00 p.m.

We held a meeting to talk about the roofing issue, and much more, after the 10:45 service on Sunday.  And next Tuesday we’ll be holding another meeting to share information on the state of Immanuel’s facilities, and it’s specifically for Immanuel Lutheran school families.  Of course, everyone is welcome.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

 

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:18

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Happy Beltaine, Maypole, May Day, Haymarket, and Mayday!

You may think today is May 1st and you are correct, but it is so much more. It is also Beltaine, an ancient Celtic festival which marks the end of winter and the start of summer. In some parts of Britain, there will be lots of dancing women waving antlers to ancient pagan gods of fertility. I’m told the high point of the night is the burning of a custom-built, 30-foot high Wicker Man. Participants first write their hopes for the coming year on and stuff them inside the Wicker Man. Then the pagan watchers celebrate in the grisly ritual as fire consumes the Wicker Man, signaling the beginning of summer.

Over the years, diverse groups adapted the pagan celebration to their specific cultures and beliefs. Americans celebrate in a more secular manner with maypole dancing and wearing crowns of flowers. When I think of May Day, I see brightly colored twirling ribbons and promises of warm days ahead.

But that is not the whole story. May Day is also a day of protests and riots that traces its modern roots back to a world-changing explosion in Chicago.

On Tuesday May 4, 1886, a demonstration was ending at Haymarket Square in Chicago. Then someone tossed a dynamite bomb at police as they were encouraging people to go home for the evening. What began as a peaceful rally supporting workers striking for an 8-hour work day, erupted into a full riot. It included the death of seven police officers, four civilians, and scores of wounded. History tells us that this single event, more than any other, influenced labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world.

Since the Haymarket Riot was for worker rights, labor unions have marked May Day as International Workers’ Day. So, May Day has often been a day of protest for labor unions around the world. Some demonstrations turned violent, such as one in Turkey in 2014 and last year in Seattle. In a strange way, some of these demonstrations overlap with the more festive roots of May Day.

I don’t know what will happen today, May Day 2017, given the political climate and unrest in our country. It won’t surprise me if we see demonstrations, protests, and even violence.

So, we all have yet one more excuse to pray today. Wherever your day takes you — on the train, in your car, behind your desk, at Starbucks, in class — say a prayer for peace, understanding, and a little more faith!

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone” Hebrews 12:14a

Oh, one more item. We all know the “Mayday! Mayday!” distress call. Well it has nothing to do with May Day. “Mayday” the distress call is an Anglicization of the French m’aidez or m’aider, meaning ‘help me.’

Nothing wrong with a little French lesson to go along with the holiday’s history!

See you in church,
Pastor Tom

Tonight’s Meal

community-meal-teamHosting our first Community Meal last fall was so exciting! We’re hosting another one tonight and I’m just as excited, for some of the same reasons and for some new ones. We’re serving our community and we’re growing.  Pastor Warren and a very able team of volunteers built up a “routine” that works and they have it down, but are continuing to find new ways to make the meal special. They work so well together, yet new volunteers are welcomed and encouraged.  And this time we’re even offering a vegetarian option.  If you know Immanuel volunteer Tim Schmitt, a May 2015 Daily Herald Cook of the Week, you know that he loves to do food events. Tim created a menu that’s sure to impress. More on that here.

Pastor Warren, me, Mary Sandner, and Pastor Donald at the January Community Meal.

The Community Meal was founded in Barrington by Mary Sandner. Mary’s vision of providing for friends, families, and others in Barrington has now expanded to Palatine. Pastor Donald worked with Mary years ago and they reconnected last summer.  It’s great that this is Immanuel’s third time hosting the Community Meal and that many of you are getting the chance to meet, and volunteer with, Mary.  Many other sites host the Community Meal too – the list is on the Community Meal website – and I encourage you to visit one.

Immanuel’s intentional outreach to the community will continue to grow. As I often point out, the temptation is always to remain in one’s own comfort zone, in a setting that is very familiar and to simply let someone else help. However that isn’t what Christ had in mind when he said,

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me . . . Matthew 25:35

I hope you can join us tonight!  Simply for dinner or as a volunteer – either way is totally fine with me.  Details and sign up info can be found at Immanuelpalatine.org/community-meal.

See you in church, and tonight at dinner!
Pastor Tom

I Wrote A Letter…

I really don’t use snail mail all that much anymore. But here’s proof that I did this time. It’s that important…

Today I’m at the cancer clinic. Every four weeks I come here to receive Intravenous Immunoglobulin Therapy (IVIg).  I am not expecting anything out of the ordinary, though I’ve been surprised before – and often.  But I am expecting something totally out of the ordinary with Stronger Together.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a letter to members of Immanuel’s elected boards and to people who volunteered to lead our Stronger Together efforts.  I’d like to share that with you now. If you are not associated with Immanuel Lutheran Church, I think you’ll still get the message loud and clear and I pray you’ll find it useful.  If you do have ties to Immanuel, I’d like to extend an invitation for you to get involved. And I like to hear what you ALL think. So here it is…

Friends –

Mellow Lutheran Church is located near a series of stunning lakes and beautiful views. It’s my preferred vacation location and if retirement is in my future, maybe it will include a log cabin.

They’ve had one service on Sunday for as long as anyone can remember. Everyone not only has their favorite pews, they even have their “own” parking spaces. Pews and parking spaces are handed down through the family.  Those parking spaces are not your typical yellow striped spot on the blacktop. Rather, they are special places in the field across from the church able to accommodate a trailer for a boat or snowmobile.

Pastors tend to stay a long time at Mellow Lutheran Church In fact, the last three only left when they were carried out in a hardwood coffin.  When they need a new replacement pastor, men apply for the position. Everyone knows it is the best church to serve; there is ample fishing, hunting and hiking. Often the best place to visit with a member in the winter is in their ice house.

Mellow Lutheran Church does not have any issues. There has not been a sharp word of disagreement at a congregation meeting since there was that unfortunate minority movement that wanted to change the date for the annual Spaghetti Dinner. The date did not change and that family went to the Methodist church.

Mellow Lutheran Church also hasn’t added a new family since the church was remodeled after WWII.  They do not set an annual budget because they don’t want to offend anyone with the possibility of a deficit.  The organist keeps a close record of the hymns so they sing all the good ones regularly.  And every seven years, the men gather on a Saturday after the Super Bowl and before fishing season opens to paint all the interior walls. Flat white has been the color of choice even though there was that pastor years ago who suggested semi-gloss.

Well, Immanuel is a little different than Mellow Lutheran Church. We set budgets and run deficits. Some think we need to cut back on services and others disagree. We get confused sometimes about which color and texture paint to use, as well as which repair to the building comes first. We park wherever we want (except in my spot). Pastors and other workers have come and gone too frequently for some, yet others think they stay too long.

Immanuel has a deep passion to grow. We want all the desks filled in our school so that more children will learn about Jesus.  We want all the pews filled in the church (even if new people take “our” seat) so more people will hear the lifesaving message of Jesus Christ. We want our building to reflect the honor and respect due our Heavenly Father.  We want a strong spiritual and physical presence in our community. And we expect our pastors and teachers and everyone on staff to be dedicated servants at the top of their calling.

We know we are “Stronger Together.” So, at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday April 29 we will come together once again to pray and talk about why we do what we do at Immanuel. It sounds simple, but there are many voices and opinions that need to be heard. If you’d like to attend, please R.S.V.P. to Diana Broj. Please join me as together we “Grow the Community in Christ.”

See you in church, and in the community,
Pastor Tom

A Blessing from Immanuel’s 4th Graders

Special Olympics Global Messengers Kurt and Lisa Nobel gathered with Immanuel Lutheran School students for chapel Wednesday.

Holy Week and Easter Services can take their toll on a pastor and I’m certainly not immune.  And we had another worship service yesterday!  It was the usual weekly school chapel, except it wasn’t usual.

Immanuel’s 4th grade students led us in worship and they did it very well.  What a blessing to the whole school and one I enjoyed very much! Bible verses, song, and an offering, plus lots of standing and sitting back down…at the appropriate times of course.  Some of their parents were even able to attend this midday service, blessing them too.

The blessings didn’t stop when chapel ended. We were joined by Special Olympics Global Messengers Kurt and Lisa Nobel, who thanked Immanuel for supporting the Hospitality and Game Tent on Sunday.  They also stressed the importance of doing your best and supporting your teammates. More on that here…

See you in church and in the community!
Pastor Tom