I am so excited that I am this close to being your pastor. Yes, I know, it is not “official”…yet. I know that that is confusing because we have already had our call vote and I accepted the call. But, there are still some steps to complete.
I will begin my role as pastor officially on June 1st. That date is just a finite starting point so that I can work with Troy and the council, and with Helen, to get logistics up and running.
June 18th I will be ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Really, this is the “spiritual” start of my ordained ministry. After that date, I can finally say that I am a pastor and this process is done. I look forward to seeing you at St Mark’s Lutheran Church, Roanoke on June 18th at 11 am to celebrate my ordination.
Regardless of those dates and processes, what is at the core of this time is our relationship together. It is about our relationship with our God and what God has in store for us here at Trinity for the sake of the world.
We are all called to be ministers within the church of Jesus Christ. We are called to action through our baptisms. We are called to work within a broken world and proclaim that through Jesus Christ there is a new creation where wholeness exists once again.
God knows that we are in a time of hurt and tragedy. At the time of my writing this article, I am seeing that 21 people have been murdered in Uvalde, Texas. War continues to kill and destroy in Ukraine. Imperial aggression and expansion continues. Our Helping Hands line is as busy as ever because inflation, poverty, unemployment, and uncertainty continue to affect people in our community.
I have often thought to myself, “is this really what I want to walk into? Is this the world in which I am called to minister?”
Well, the answer is, yes! Yes, this is the world into which I am called. This is the world into which you are called as well. To be a part of the church of Jesus Christ means being a part of the world. Our ministry is driven by the suffering that exists in this world because we have faith in Jesus Christ who ministers to all people. Jesus ministered to those who suffered and gave powerful witness to those who lived in privilege or were ignorant of their abuses in this world. Jesus walked within the dimensions of society and this world because God willed that there be a new way. For us, a new way exists because Christ died and was risen. God gave life because there was suffering.
That’s the world in which we are called. Our start date ministry began a long time ago. For each of us, that ministry began at our baptisms when we died and rose again in Christ. For us collectively, it began whenever and however God decided that this world needed redemption and God’s people were chosen to live out God’s ministry.
So, on June 18th when I am ordained, join me in this ministry. May this time serve as an inspiration for us all. May we see that God is calling each and everyone of us. The journey does not begin now, it only continues. Thanks be to God!
Vicar (soon to be Pastor) Luke
Nearly two years have gone by since I first stepped foot into Trinity to lead worship with you as an intern. Well, technically I didn’t step foot into the building because we were worshiping outside on the lawn. Nevertheless, I stepped into a community that was experiencing a lot of change, and I connected well with that sense of anxiety, fear, hope, and longing.
Now, I write to you as your called pastor. Yes, I still have my ordination and installation ahead of me, both of which are necessary and make my role “official”, but our relationship as pastor and congregation begins now. The Holy Spirit is working among us and leading us forward as people of God, each with our responsibilities and callings. God’s presence among us has never been in doubt. I pray that our relationship will continue to grow and that God will faithfully be at the center of it all. I still have a sense of longing for what this community can be, while cherishing where it has been.
Jesus Christ says, “follow me” (John 21:19). Jesus told his disciples to follow him at the beginning of his ministry with them and the end. The story provides an important framework for us. We follow Jesus through the life-giving and healing events of our time and we continue following Jesus even after traumatic and death-dealing events. Through our lives we see Christ revealing his living self to us. We continue with who Jesus calls us to be, dead, then risen people of Christ.
As I begin my ministry with you as your called pastor I am filled with excitement and longing for a ministry that continues to hold at the center Jesus, who died and rose again. May we continue to learn and love as we witness and serve God.
At this time, pray for peace.
Peace is something that we long for each and every day. I especially enjoy the comfort and calm that peace can bring. Now that the weather is getting warmer and I can sit out on my porch once again, I have noticed that even with the children playing, the birds singing, and the cars rolling up and down my street, I can find inner calm.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone. Many in our world cannot find outer, or inner calm.
The people of Ukraine are not experiencing outer calm. They are not experiencing peace. Their country is ravaged by war and turmoil as Russia continues to attack. Medical centers, schools, theaters, and homes are destroyed. In war, the civilians suffer the most.
Over the past couple of weeks, it has dawned on me just how connected this congregation is to trauma. I know of several within our community who have experienced war firsthand as civilians. Some have had to flee their home countries and sought refuge elsewhere. Others, as children, experienced the trauma of bombings and the loss of family to war-time violence. Others have served in the military and therefore maintain connections with military organizations. Others are connected or know someone who has served.
This attack by Russia on Ukraine may have triggered this trauma once again. For those of you feeling traumatized by these attacks, you are not feeling inner calm.
Let us pray: O, Lord, walk with these people in this time as the worldwide sin of war affects them once again. They know how hard this is. Please answer their prayers. Please give us peace. We pray especially for the people of Ukraine. For all those who have to flee, walk with them. For all those who have had their homes destroyed, dwell with them. For all who make decisions, be their insight. Be the peace we desperately need. Bring inner calm to those who are struggling with trauma and anxiety due to this war. Bring outer calm to all places that continue to experience destruction. Great God, give us peace; give us grace for another day. Amen.
Grace and Peace to you from God and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Lent is upon us. Ash Wednesday begins on March 2nd, and so we begin the 40 days of reflection and action.
Lent is noticeable for its more somber tone. I understand how this can leave us feeling uninspired and even miserable. But I encourage us to look at why Lent exists at all. Why walk the path of Lent? What can we gain from a period of intentional reflection and action? I found that the answer lies within Scripture. The answers are found in the life and love of our God, most of all in Jesus Christ.
Lent can be challenging because we are called to see our own sin and see how this does not match the love that God shows for us. When we examine ourselves and our world, we find just too much uncertainty, chaos, frustration, and fear. We indeed find the things we have done, and the things we have left undone that contribute to these feelings. The things we do and the things we fail to do leave this world in desperate need of redemptive love. And that is where we find Jesus. We find Jesus walking alongside us in our journey, full of love and grace.
Lent is challenging then, because we are called to respond to our sin. We take individual and communal action to understand this world, and even relieve this world of its sin. Lent is found in our communal prayer together for this world and our action on behalf of it. Lent is about seeing the love of God despite the sin of this world. As the body of Christ, we gather together throughout Lent to form a movement of redemptive love for the world.
This Lenten season I invite you to join me in reflection and discernment as we look to the actions we can take on behalf of a bitter world. And so, we will look at the book of Acts. We will see how the world of the 1st century contains so much of what we see in our 21st century. Uncertainty, chaos, frustration, and fear. Join with me on this Lenten road as we see just how challenging, inspiring, and God-filled the Lenten journey of Acts was. Let’s see how our Lenten journey of action is often the same.
Trinity Family and Friends,
This time of year naturally causes us to look at our priorities and purpose for the coming year. I don’t think it is a coincidence that our biblical texts also point heavily towards the ministries and missions that biblical figures take, especially Jesus. These are indeed epiphanies for them and for us. They reveal how God is coming among us to do marvelous things.
I believe Trinity as a congregation is also taking on this ministry as well. Trinity is seeing an epiphany for itself. The congregation, through its leadership and partnerships, is exploring the ways God is working among us.
On January 22, 2022, your church council met to remind itself of its purpose, set its priorities, and review the ministry of Trinity Lutheran Church. The council, with the support of the congregation, witnessed Epiphany, God manifest among us.
Trinity’s purpose, its mission, remains as a loving, learning, witnessing community in response to the love of Christ. Trinity is because God is. Trinity acts in the world because God is revealed to us. We see our purpose through Christ. Because God acts and works among the world, we too act and live out our lives with purpose.
Our priorities, therefore, are to live out who God calls us to be. God calls us through our various gifts to be the presence of Christ in the world. Each and every one of us are called to do our part for the sake of God’s holy community, and for the sake of the beautiful creation God has given us.
At these important moments in our lives where we struggle with plagues of illness on a worldwide level, when political tension is high, and when our own communities very much need our love and support, we are called to show up in responsible and faithful ways. This is how the church functions, and frankly, it is how the world works. God’s mission is dependent on those who show up.
So, as we review our ministries and look towards the future, I encourage Trinity to show up. I encourage Trinity to be the blessing that it has been for the past 70+ years. Each of us has something to give, though the gifts vary. But each of these makes us who we are, and together we are the body of Christ.
I look forward to seeing how this Body of Christ works in the world this coming year. I continue to pray for each and everyone of you, and I ask for your prayers as well. The community is dependent on the participation and the welcome we give each other. Just as God comes and is made manifest among us in Jesus Christ, we too come together to present ourselves as the living Body of Christ in the world. Join us!
January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany is the true sense of the day. Recent memory has caused other thoughts and actions to prevail when we think of January 6. So, I hope all of us can continue to feel what it means for Epiphany to be with us in our lives. Epiphany, after all, is about God’s manifestation among us. When we think “God with us,” we think Epiphany.
Epiphany really is one of the shocking things when we think of the new year. When we look deeper into what Epiphany has to tell us, we see that it is new things. God is revealing something deeper to us. God is revealing Godself. God is bringing the newness of the year into action.
A colleague of mine recently mentioned that Epiphany is important because it has something more to tell us than Christmas. At Christmas, we are surrounded by the Gospel of Luke. Luke’s Gospel is miraculous. We get some of the most famous stories from it. We hear of the angel Gabriel coming to tell Mary the great news that she will bear the Christ-child. We hear of Mary and Joseph’s migration to Bethlehem and the subsequent birth of Jesus. The shepherds appear, the angels sing.
But the wise-men don’t show up. At least not in this Gospel.
Luke doesn’t tell the entire story. Luke’s account doesn’t mention the wisemen or the star for that matter. They are not part of that story.
Matthew holds that part of the story. The wisemen follow the star as foretold and make their way to Jesus’ house. The Wisemen don’t arrive at a stable and encounter Jesus in a manger. They witness Jesus after their long journey as they encounter the context of their time. And that context is that Jesus is born in the midst of people who want to kill him, in the midst of people who are threatened by his power.
What a powerful time for Jesus to come. Amid a lot of happenings, Jesus is present among us. That is what the wisemen felt. They understood God to be among them. With all of their existing wisdom as wisemen, they witnessed pure wisdom in Jesus Christ.
Trinity Family, go with this wisdom into your new year. Know that God is among you. God is walking with you. Jesus is providing a clear vision for us. Epiphany really is about God made manifest. Jesus is among us. We need no further vision than Jesus Christ. Epiphany is about new things happening among us because our focus is on Jesus Christ. We move from the thoughts of our hearts and ponder what it means for Christ to be in our hearts.
May the star continue to guide us to Christ. Blessed Epiphany; Happy New Year!
Trinity Family and Friends,
May the God of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love be with you this Advent Season and the joyous breakthrough God makes at Christmas comfort you. Christ is with us.
I have been working a lot with the theme “God with us, Us with God, God for our Future.” These words form a theme that developed spontaneously in one of our Vision Team meetings. During our discussion, we somehow heard these words breakthrough as something we can see and follow. For me, these words are not an end in and of themselves, but a constant and continuous work of God.
These words are not the entirety of our visioning process. They are not the solution to any problem we may perceive in our congregation. These words are not the end of our visioning process. But they are the end of God’s process. The most beautiful thing about God’s process is that it never ends. God never abandons us.
I understand that Advent can feel a lot like waiting around. Advent can feel passive, full of inaction. There is a desire to get to the end. Advent, however, is not about waiting for something to happen; Advent is about partnership with what is already happening. We know that Jesus Christ already lives among us, and so we live (and maybe for some, endure) this time of Advent to see what God can and will do next.
Advent can provide us with time to see the reasons for God’s action. Why does the world need hope, peace, joy, and love? Why does God need to come among us in Jesus Christ? Because we can do nothing without the help and grace of God. We cannot live the Christmas promise by ourselves. We cannot bring about that wondrous breakthrough of God’s love. We need God to come and save us. We need that vision of salvation and eternal promise.
So, Trinity Family, this Advent, I invite you to see what God can and will do next. See what God will do among us. This may take longer than four weeks. God knows it will take longer than that. God has been walking with us for a very long time. Know that there is hope, peace, joy, and love in what is to come. Sense those for yourself this Advent Season. And may the joys of Christ’s birth (God’s great breakthrough!) comfort you in the time ahead. God is with us, God has invited us in, God is our future!
Advent Blessings and Merry Christmas!
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Many of you heard me say repeatedly in the Spring – “when is it going to get warmer!” This seemed to be my refrain throughout the Spring. Now, I find myself saying “when is it going to get cooler.” I think this says a lot about me. I enjoy the change of seasons. Maybe it is my Pennsylvania roots that cause me to prefer drastic and dramatic changes in the environment around me. I love seeing the leaves change their colors in the fall and the growing greenness in the Spring. I also find comfort experiencing the fluctuation of temperatures. I know, not everybody feels the same about changing temperatures! I certainly know people who would prefer it to stay a certain way, all the time. I do not think that I necessarily look forward to a certain temperature. It is the longing for a new experience that causes me to want that change. It is the hope for what can be.
Trinity, we are looking forward to new things. We have partnered with REBOS, offering what was once our beloved Thrift Shop for new use. Already, groups are preparing to make use of that building. Our Vision Team, Council, and Call Committee continue to discern ways to be the Christ-centered church. I feel that we have lived into God’s hope for what can be.
That is the season I feel we are in. I think we are in a season of hope for what can be. We are seeing the change that God invites us into for the sake of living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
On Reformation Sunday, October 31, we see how God is continuously calling the church into reformation, always looking for the ways God is working among us our time. One week later is All Saints Sunday (November 7), and we will witness the transformative power God gives through salvation, redemption, and the promise of eternal life. We will see how God gave hope for what can be through the witness of the Saints. Then, if that is not enough, we will finish out November with the first Sunday in Advent! We will see how God is moving us forward into bold witness for the coming Kingdom.
We are changing seasons. We are seeing the changes that God causes in this world, while experiencing again and again the changes that are inevitable in our daily lives. Be alert, stay awake for the coming Kingdom. Luke 21:33 says “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Let us live into the ups and downs of the seasons and let us see what God does for us. Regardless of where we are in the season, God knows us and walks with us in the warmth and the cold. In Christ, we have hope for what can be.
Grace and Peace to you from God, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Whew! September has gone by. It is like the beginning of the program year is way past us. Just this past Sunday I was talking with some of you about how I was beginning to think about Advent. Talk about how quickly we are moving through these seasons. Yet, obviously, there is one season that seems to remain – COVID.
We return to this topic again, and again, because it is necessary. In some of my studies at seminary I have encountered a concept with theology that looks at the “signs of our times.” These are things that shape the present story.
For many over the years the signs were poverty, war, famine, genocide, inequality, injustice…
For us, while many of these wretched signs are still prevalent, COVID is the sign of our time. It is the sign of this season. We must look at this sign as a reality and work with and by our faith to resist it.
Therefore, I make a bold petition to each and everyone of you to be careful. Not only be CAREful for yourselves, but CARE for others. Do what is recommended, even if it brings a little discomfort for yourself. We indeed have freedom in Jesus Christ, but that freedom does not bring about independence for ourselves. It brings us into greater dependence on each other. For Jesus Christ comes in community among us. We cannot be this church alone. Our care must go out to each other.
Finally, I do not wish to part with these words without emboldening us to look to other signs in our community. The vision team is developing momentum once again to boldly see what Christ is doing in and around Trinity. In the next couple of months we are planning opportunities for re-engagement with this process. We need you. Read through the words from Terry Jones in this newsletter. Let’s listen to what Troy Kincer is telling us from his leadership perspective. In those words, we hear the need for you. We need you in this community. We feel God calling us to be a faith-seeking, joy-loving, hope-filling people with a common and mutual VISION.
Let’s look at the signs of our times, and see what God is doing with us. Let us know where you see God during these times.
Grace and Peace from God, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
I sure wasn’t joking when I said August was going to be a busy, busy time as we walk together on our Christ-sustained journey. As for me, I want to provide you with some of the stops I’ve been on on my journey. I just completed one of my classes at United Lutheran Seminary, and I am preparing to take some more during the semester. I continue to move forward with my candidacy process to become a Minister of Word and Sacrament (that’s a fancy phrase that means I’m working towards becoming a Pastor).
As we move into September we are working on celebrating “God’s Work, Our Hands” on September 12 and the Congregational Council is focused on providing a safe, healthy, faith-filled environment at Trinity. Our Spanish-speaking, Seventh Day Adventist siblings will gather once again on Saturdays beginning in September. Clearly, more and more is happening again for me and for Trinity. Perhaps a lot is happening for you too. Maybe you are joining ministry opportunities at Trinity or otherwise are finding yourself very, very busy. And through this journey, you may find yourself overwhelmed. Maybe there is a lot to handle.
We just finished the “Bread of Life” series in John. If you attended worship with us, or otherwise found yourself reflecting on the biblical passages we read on Sunday, you will find we talked a lot, and a lot, and a lot, about bread. We started with Jesus feeding the 5,000+ people, continued with Jesus saying he is the Bread of Life come down from heaven, and we finished with some followers deserting Jesus while the faithful disciples declared “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68).
I think we are called to focus during this time on that eternal life Jesus provides. Jesus is not merely providing us with our daily bread, Jesus is providing us with our eternal-life bread. Jesus is providing his very self for us, an ever ancient-ever new proclamation of God’s love for the world. That indeed is an eternal journey. It’s a journey that has already begun.
We do not just receive our daily bread during this life and then transition to receiving our eternal-life bread when we die. That’s not how God works. We are not merely people fed among the 5,000+, we are people that declare Jesus as the one to whom we go. We are longing for the true bread come down from heaven. Eternal life starts now for us. Eternal life is promised to us now. We can live within the full confidence of God’s grace now! We continue on God’s journey for the sake of this world.
God is emboldening us for mission. God has provided us with the bread we need for our eternal life journey. We are not to wait around because the end is far-off. We are to move now because God’s eternal work is now.
Continue on your journey with Jesus. Continue to see how God is acting in and among you. Continue to feel the presence of Christ with you in your daily life, even when it feels overwhelming. Your daily life is a part of that long journey with Jesus. May you be sustained for that journey as we look forward for what is to come.
Dear Trinity Family,
Things don’t always turn out the way we want. When I was preparing for these past couple of months, I pictured myself finishing a wonderful experience in Guatemala, followed by a relaxing and fun summer. Then I pictured a wonderful start to my year of internship as your Vicar. I thought I had a timeline worked out. I pictured leading worship in the building, in the wonderful space we all wish we could be in to worship. I thought things could be a bit more predictable. I had my expectations. Like all of you, my expectations were not met in the way I thought.
Some of us are preparing to return to school. Some of us are preparing for a return from summer, to begin anew the more intense times of work. Others are starting new ventures, like myself. This time of year is a normally a time of expected new beginnings, of renewal, of regrouping. Yet, we are not finding ourselves starting, renewing, or regrouping in the same way. Time can look very different; it certainly does for me. And space is not shared in the same way either.
Things don’t always turn out the way we want, or when we want. We are often not in control over our own time or our own space.
At this time, when we are distanced, we must work together to discern what God wants of us. This requires mutual cooperation, communication, and a sense of understanding. We can certainly work by our own rhythms of life but let us be mindful of who God is calling us to be. God has given us discerning hearts.
Our expectation can be in a God who loves us and who works in time in a way we cannot comprehend. Psalm 90 says “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.” God’s infinite love is calling us to be faithful to God, and God’s time.
Let us not try to rush or be hasty. Let us not try to overextend our capabilities. We can trust in God who is working in God’s own way, not our own. God will walk with us through this time of new beginnings, of new workings, of new ways of study. God is always working. God will always walk by our side. In Christ Jesus, we are promised grace sufficient to live life’s day. Let us trust in God’s unending promise. Let God’s time be ours.
Vicar Luke Swanson
Dear Church Family,
When I arrived in Roanoke, I was impressed by the awesome beauty of the mountains. Mountains have always impressed me. Of course, I am not new them. I am from Pennsylvania after all! I was also able to see the magnificent Andes Mountains when I served as a missionary in Argentina. Mountains form my first impression of the natural beauty around me. What amazes me about mountains is just how ancient they are, and they are still here!
As I begin this new chapter at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, I am reminded that we are rooted in an ancient way that brings us into an amazing relationship with God and our neighbor.
But even with our ancient faith God does not stop creating and moving mountains. God doesn’t stop us from moving growing closer together as a community of faith.
As I look at the mountains here in Roanoke, I am reminded of Jesus who “went up the mountain” (Matthew 5:1) at the beginning of his ministry to preach the Word of God. Jesus preached the age-old story of God’s promise to us. A promise of new life.
This year will be a time of new life for all of us. I pray that our time together will grow into bountiful and beautiful relationships where we all can feel the ancient story of God’s mission and our newness in God’s promise.
We have new life in Jesus, and like the mountains, this promise of new life stands the test of time. Our relationship with Jesus is both ancient and new. Let’s grow together in this new life.
At Trinity, I look forward to the witnessing the vision that it shares with the World. I look forward to the ministry that it does as it shares its space with neighbors and witnesses to the Gospel from 4040 Williamson Road. God won’t stop working through us. No separation keeps us from the Grace of God. Let the mountains remind us of this promise.
I look forward to our ministry together and God’s peace be with you.
Vicar Luke Swanson