Grace and Peace to you. I pray that everyone is having a wonderful summer with each and everyone of you receiving the sabbath rest you need. If excitement and adventure is what you need, then I pray you are able to get that. Have fun!
As the summer continues on, we enter a season of fellowship here at Trinity. By the time you have received this newsletter, we will have already celebrated together the recognition of my daughter, Anna Kate’s, baptism. Shortly after this newsletter is received our summer picnic will be upon us on August 13. From there, we will have a Sunday with our REBOS partners on August 27. I can’t tell you how excited and pleased I am to have so many fellowship events where we can get together, be together, get to know one another, and hopefully understand one another better. Be sure to sign up when asked. We strive to get an understanding of who is showing up to these events. There is also the ongoing need for helpers to set-up and clean-up.
God has called us together. Our fellowship is not only to get together and be together, enjoying one another’s company, but doing ministry together. Fellowship events should be a launching point for our ministry. In the same way we need people to come together to put these events into motion, we need this inspiration of service to see how we can go out and further our ministry. Coming together, we see who we are, what we can do, and how God is present in our ministry.
God has made so many promises for us and we can recognize those promises ever more powerfully when we are in community together. Whether that is worship, Sunday school, ministry projects, or fellowship, we see that God is always at the center of what we do. So in this summer season, see how God is ever present in your work, your play, and your fellowship. May it be with one another, with creation, and with God.
Summer blessings. May God go with you.
Grace and Peace to you from God, our Holy Parent, and Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.
A wonderful statue stands on our lawn here at Trinity Lutheran Church, 4040 Williamson Road. This wonderful creative work of art, called the Benediction Project, by Charlie Brouwer serves as a reminder for us all that we are blessed children of God, commanded to go forth and give the world a desperate message of hope, love, and life. The Benediction Project is traveling around the Roanoke Valley dwelling at various places of worship. As it dwells here at Trinity for several weeks, It reminds me of John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Within this wonderful cosmic story of Jesus Christ, John’s gospel tells us that John the Baptist went forth testifying to the brightness of God’s love. I see the Benediction Project doing just that.
The most famous benediction we have at Trinity is the one we say at the end of our worship. “May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord’s face shine on you and be gracious to you, may the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.” Benediction is a blessing. As the statue stands on our property with hands raised it gives a blessing to the community. I love how the statue is positioned and located. We are reminded that the statue does not face us in the building, but it faces Williamson Road and our community. We are called to stand behind the statue and give and be blessings to others,
My hope is that through this statue we are seen as a community of blessed people who seek to bless others. Our mission and ministry is to move and serve this community. I am ever appreciative for the artistic work Charlie has put into this project giving it life and movement for the Roanoke Area. As the statue dwells with us for these weeks, may it serve as a blessing here. And as it moves on and about, let us remember that God goes with us, wherever we go. God does not stay put!
Pentecost is an important Christian festival, and as a Lutheran Church we celebrate it yearly, always 50 days after Easter. But unlike a lot of our Christian festivals, this one does not have Jesus at the center. And by that I mean Jesus is not the person of the Trinity that is front and center. The God we witness on Pentecost is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is someone that we often avoid talking about. The Spirit can often make us feel uncomfortable because we can often associate it with people we find disturbing or uncomfortable. If I say someone is “filled with the Spirit” during worship, what comes to mind? Perhaps someone waving their hands. If we are honest with ourselves, Trinity Family, we are very much a hands by your side type of congregation. Spiritualism is often another area that we can find uncomfortable. Have you ever heard someone say “spiritual, not religious”? So often the Spirit can communicate, based on our own assumptions, something extra or even incomplete. Someone moving about during worship is too much, someone “spiritual, not religious” is too little.
But as Lutherans we believe that the Spirit moves among those whom she wishes. We do not have any control over the Holy Spirit. She will move because she is one with our Creator and our Redeemer. She is the one who calls us forth into our ministry, accompanied by the very God. When we listen to the Gospel and are called forth to move in this world, that is the Spirit speaking. Some of us respond in various ways, different from one another, yet in relationship with God.
In this season of Time after Pentecost, may we ever be mindful of how the Spirit is working among us. We may be taken in a visionary direction that is different, unfamiliar, or even uncomfortable.
Trinity has several projects and teams working on the visionary process. The Vision Team is looking to complete its work. We are working on discovering what the Helping Hands ministry has in store for the good of our community. We are looking at how our committee, task force, and working group structure can better help and reflect the needs, ministry, and vision of our congregation.
Visioning is not just an activity during transitions. The bulk of visioning takes place amid the daily life and workings of our congregation. Before, during, and after activities we are called to vision where God is calling us to next. We are called to evaluate, to see what went well and what needs to change. May we ever be mindful that God is calling us into this important work.
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
As you know, parenthood has taken over a lot of my life. But something is ahead of me, and more importantly my daughter Anna Kate. On May 14, Anna Kate will be baptized at St. Philip Lutheran Church and introduced into that community. Rest assured, however, she is invited through Baptism into the community of all the faithful and that includes you. Anna Kate is a member of the Body of Christ and a part of the Trinity Family.
To be honest, I have not arrived at a clear answer as to who is part of the Body of Christ. I trust that all the baptized people are part of that community. We often maintain such strict boundaries, however, and that is not helpful for the growth the church needs and sense of abundance it receives. Anna Kate is my reminder to me that although an infant, she is important. She stands out at Trinity because she looks so different as a baby compared to the, let’s be honest, typical person you see at Trinity. We can all come together, show up for the work of ministry, and love one another.
Among many inspiring ministry elements here at Trinity is the Faith and Arts team. What I love about Faith and Arts is that each member is important to the group. The team relies on each other to accomplish the work, but they don’t rely entirely on a particular person, save the grace and love of Jesus Christ. They are a Spirit-led, self-starting, active group. So, it is my hope that every member of Trinity shows up, engages in ministry, and relies on God’s grace. That is the call of the baptized and of the faithful. Love God, love your neighbor. Praise God, show up for someone else.
Trinity Family, we are not all the same, we are all different. Some of us on a Sunday morning are baptized, some of us aren’t. Some of us are as sure as can be about God, others may have hard doubts and even a lack of faith. But although small, many are showing up to do God’s work.
At baptism we are marked with the cross of Christ forever. We don’t carry the cross of Christ visible at all times on our foreheads. So much is shown through our love towards one another and in the community and work we share. So, Trinity Family, know that I am praying for you all in your individual calls, and I am eager to see how much loving, learning, and witnessing comes together as baptized and baptizing people.
Grace and Peace to you, Trinity Family.
I am incredibly grateful for the support, love, and enthusiasm you have shown me and my family. It is hard to believe at times that when I say family, it now means three people and a dog. My daughter Anna Kate is now two months old and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone.
This causes me to think of the time I have spent with you, my Trinity Family. Just as my personal family has grown and seen changes these past years, so too has our Trinity Family experienced change.
My experiences in life have taught me that we can never expect things to remain the same. When I traveled abroad it was evident that I was changing through my various experiences. What is most shocking, however, is that returning home I found things to have changed there as well. We can never expect things to remain the same.
Now that I have returned to full-time parish ministry with you, I am reminded of how much can change over six weeks. I see changes to the prayer list when I review the bulletin insert. I hear progress in music and worship when I practice with the choir. I see ministry opportunities growing and challenging when I prepare for council meetings.
As we look now towards Holy Week and Easter, look at the changes in your life. See how God is meeting you in those spaces, caring for you there, and walking with you to new life. As we move now from Lent to Holy to Easter, look at the ways you have returned you to the Lord your God, and look with hope to the miraculous wonders of Easter.
This month, Pastor Luke is out on paternity leave. He and his lovely wife Laura welcomed Anna Kate into the world in early February. Both are spending time supporting each other and getting to know their daughter. Welcome to the world and your Trinity Family Anna Kate!
The month of our daughter’s due date is finally here, February 21st! While Anna Kate’s actual birthdate is still a mystery, it is certainly a time of final preparation and anticipation for her arrival. I wanted to write an article about my upcoming leave as we move into this special season.
First, Pastor Laura and I wanted to give a heartfelt thankyou for all of your prayers, generosity, and excitement. As our family grows, we’re deeply grateful for the ways you have celebrated with us and supported us. Once Anna Kate arrives, I will send out a phone notification letting y’all know that she is here and you can share in our joy!
I will be away for a total of six weeks. However, these may not be six consecutive weeks. I will return to the office the Monday before Palm Sunday (March 27) to begin to fully prepare for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter. I will then be in the office through Easter Sunday, continue working that week, and then be away again to finish my leave. Please know that this really all depends on the baby’s actual birthdate. I do, however, commit to leading worship on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. Supply preachers are scheduled for the Sundays I will be away.
During the time I am away on parental leave, I will not be checking email and will not respond to work related calls or texts. Questions and concerns can be directed towards Troy Kincer, the council president or other members of the council. Pastoral Care providers will be available for any critical care emergency, or in the event of a death to which I would normally respond as the pastor of Trinity.
I know that many of you will want to reach out to me to congratulate me and my wife and celebrate with us. Please know that I cherish your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes, but I may not respond. I will be focused on my baby, and no doubt she will keep my hands full. I will do my best to get you pictures!
Both the Trinity and St. Philip communities have asked how they can be helpful during this time. We are grateful for your prayers for our family. Meals can also be a welcome support. Since there are two congregations to coordinate with, we have set up a meal train where people can sign up to bring meals. If you would like to sign up for that, the link is https://mealtrain.com/e3n76l I’ll also provide a paper sign-up.
I cannot express how excited, nervous, and anxious I am during this time. Thank you so much for all of the love and support you provide and the love you continue to show. We can’t wait to introduce Anna Kate to y’all. We know you will all help her grow in love and faith, teaching her the grace of God who created her. She’ll certainly be part of a loving, learning, witnessing community in response to the love of Christ.
It is my hope that your Christmas and New Years are as hope-filled and Christ-receiving as mine. Know that I received so much love and support from you this past year as my cup was filled once again by this new experience of being your pastor. This year held so many memories for me and we, together, were able to fill it with several new and traditional opportunities that expressed God’s love for one another and our community.
We still have growth ahead of us. In this new year I would like us to examine closely what our ministries are and how they can be planned, pruned, and planted for the growth of the church. I have been having ongoing conversations with ministry partners in the Williamson Road Ministerial Association and our Seventh Day Adventist siblings who use our building. Sometimes we feel that we have to go about this whole Jesus movement alone, but that is not how God meant it to be. What we can do is align ourselves and walk alongside those who are also called into this ministry.
It is my hope that ministries like Helping Hands can be something of a communal effort, rather than something Trinity handles alone. My hope is that our building is not only for our use, but for the communities. My hope is that I am not just a pastor for you, but a pastor for the entire church.
So, I resolve in this new year not to simply be who I want to be, but who God is calling me to be. God has called me to be your pastor, but also a disciple. I am called to lead and follow. And now, I am called not only to care for myself during my personal time, but also for a baby girl who will soon arrive. So, Trinity Family, I ask that you resolve to lead and follow, care for yourself and care for others, just as you receive for yourself and receive from others.
When this newsletter is sent out, it will still be Christmas. The 12 days are not merely days on a calendar or verses of a song; the 12 days of Christmas are a time for us to see how Christ’s birth carried a ministry of relationship and love forward. For us, this ministry continues into a new year. Take time this year to see where God is calling you to be. Plan for your future, prune what you need to, plant what gives you hope. I see us as a growing garden all rooted in a soil of love and grace that is God. So may God support you and love in this new year. May you have a sense of love and belonging now, and hope and joy for the future. Receive the very God. Merry Christmas!
Grace and Peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
When Dale presented us with our stewardship theme for Advent this year I couldn’t have been more excited. Hearing is something that is important for us as people of God because ultimately what we are about is receiving God’s Word in Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn’t come among us to simply be, but comes to communicate and show us something profound. Jesus shows us who God is by being the very God among us.
We should be careful, however, not to believe that because people cannot “hear,” they cannot listen. Listening is about understanding. We are called to understand who God is and what God is doing for us. As God’s created and loved people we are called to see who we are and what we are able and unable to do and see how God loves us with all of that, not despite it. God does not love deaf people in spite of this disability; God simply loves them. We are called to hear their stories just as they hear ours through visuals or other means depending on their abilities.
So, Trinity Family, what are your stories? What stories do you wish to tell for us to hear? This season of Advent we are called to look ahead and see where the story of God is leading us and God does not lead us without our stories.
As your pastor, it is part of my call to hear and listen to your stories and walk alongside them as they experience their own advent, their own revelation of what will be. If you are experiencing anything that requires pastoral care, you are invited to be bold and let me know. Often, I hear stories of happenings in our community, but they come to me in indirect ways. Although June Holden maintains the prayer list through her beautiful devotional, she receives that information from the prayer requests that I update and maintain. Feel free to reach out to me directly as that is the best way to let me know. Again, if you do hear of happenings and difficulties in the Trinity community, let me know. I can pray for you and walk alongside you during those times. Of course, your privacy remains should you wish not to share. God reaches us wherever we are. Our stories come together with God alongside us. So let’s listen to what God is doing and hear of God’s love together.
Grace and Peace to you from God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I want to update you on two plans that I am working towards. The first is that I will be teaching Sunday School once we finish with the book of Colossians. We should be wrapped up with Colossians on Sunday, October 30. I thank Bob and June for leading us through this book and offering a valuable discussion. The next book I would like to explore is Ephesians and I will be leading that discussion. Ephesians is a book that has some similarities with Colossians, so I think it is a fitting way to continue on with existing conversation and a way to look forward and further into God’s word. Come join us on November 6. Even if you haven’t participated in the past you are welcome!
After we study Ephesians I want to use one Sunday of Sunday School time to have some reflection time with you. I would like to hold a curriculum exploration session with y’all to discern what sort of topics you would like to discuss. More importantly, I want the time to be about questioning. What do you want to study? Where do you see your faith leading you? Who are you within this body of Christ? What is the body of Christ? You can probably see where I’m going with this. There is a lot before us that we can study together and one question leads to another.
I do want to hold onto the biblical basis for our study. After all, Scripture is the basis for what we do. There are ways, however, that we can look at other topics around us – liturgy, hymns, catechism, Luther, etc. – that have their basis in Scripture. Have you ever wondered why we do what we do on a Sunday morning? What is the Kyrie, Gloria, Hymn of Praise? Have you ever wondered what actually is in our hymnal? Bring these questions with you. Let’s explore together what we want to study.
My second endeavor is to resurrect a grief support group here at Trinity. I think this is an awesome way to support our community through grief. Now that we have had so much happening since March of 2020, maybe there is new grief that we need to process and share. My hope is that there will be hope within this group so we can look forward to healing. Care for the elderly is also one of the values that the Trinity congregation shared in past visioning processes. I think this can be a good way for us to live into our mission as the visioning process continues and we look to where God is leading Christ’s church in the future.
I will be holding the initial (resurrected) grief support group meeting on Wednesday, November 16 at 12:00 p.m. Feel free to bring your own lunch to the event. We can have lunch together and join in conversation. If you are interested in joining this group, feel free to contact me (540-366-9481). Please be on the lookout for a bulletin insert and other communications that can provide further details.
As always, may the grace of God go with you in all the ways you live out your faith.
Grace and Peace,
Grace and Peace to you from God who has given Trinity ministry for the past 75 years, from Jesus Christ whose saving work is the center of what we do, and the Holy Spirit who calls us forward in faith. Amen.
Wow! 75 years of ministry. This ministry could only have been accomplished by the saving work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the center of our ministry. We cannot be church without him. It was Jesus’ work that brought the community of Trinity together back in 1947, and it is his work that continues with us to this day. Christ’s saving work is what brings us together.
Some of you have memories of the first days, weeks, and years for this congregation. I am grateful that the work of the Holy Spirit continues with you to this day, and continues to bring you to our community of faith. Thank, thank you, thank you, for being both the energy that was and the energy that is still a part of this congregation.
And for those who are newer to this community (like me), may we look to the inspiration of those who came before and those who are still with us, and may we look always to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. May the Holy Spirit guide us from the path we have trodden to the path before us.
That path has changed over the past 75 years. Literally, the path where our church is located has changed. As we move about the Williamson Road neighborhood, we will see just how much has changed, and the church with it. I know that we can all feel anxious about this change. Change always means a loss. It can mean a loss of comfort, or it can mean a loss of pain. Either way, it is a loss of what we once knew.
But Trinity, I plead for the Holy Spirit to work through us, to let us know that Christ’s work is never a loss for us. Christ’s work is always loving and creative. The only thing that has to fear from Christ’s work is the devil and all the forces of evil that seek to destroy us. They cannot, because God loves us that much.
God is with us now on this 75th anniversary. God continues to work through and among us. The very act of putting this celebration together is testament to what God can do through our community of faith. So I thank all those who answered calls to participate in this celebration. I especially thank Deb Metcalf who led this event, the members of the planning team, and all those who took on responsibilities to lead us in our celebrations. It is none other than the Holy Spirit who worked through us to make this possible. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to continue in our ministry and our lives.
So, Trinity, you can see that the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – works in and among us always as we carry out ministry in their name. We, the congregation, at Trinity, are 75 years old. That’s 75 years of doing ministry within the eternal and expansive work of the very God, in whom we are baptized, and from whom we get our name – Trinity.
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, Trinity, it is finally time to write about what some of you have already heard. My wife and I are expecting our first child, a baby girl, in February 2023. It brings me so much joy to share this news with you. I know many of you have had this hope for me and my wife for some time now. As much as many of you have hoped, remember that this was first and foremost a decision made between me and my wife, and we asked our God to come alongside us for this joyful, yet challenging, task of parenthood. Now that our joy has been revealed and God is ever present with us, I now invite you into this mission and ministry of raising and nurturing our child.
I cannot help but look to my God and Christ’s church during this time. As your pastor and now as a growing parent, I am so thankful that God has the eternal experience of both. In Jesus Christ, our brother, God is present as the pastor who keeps us safe. God looks after us and finds us when we are lost. God is our eternal parent, who created us, provides for our every need, and lives in an abundant relationship with us.
And now the church, Trinity included, has the joy and privilege of pastoring and parenting a new child. Our child will have the opportunity to be a part of a wider community, both here at Trinity, and at St. Philip where my wife is pastor. We look forward to the opportunity to introduce her to both congregations. And she will be part of the communion of saints when she is baptized.
We know that you are eager to have her with you. As part of that, I look forward to asking for your help as we care for her and nurture her in faith together. I will need your help with that!
For now, know that our family here at Trinity is accompanied by our very God. God has never abandoned us or not been with us because our community looks different than it once did. We are the church together because no matter how we were, are, or will be – God is. God is among us and with us. God is our parent and our pastor. I hope we can be that for each other as well.
Trinity Family – Grace to you and peace from God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many of you are acutely aware of the financial burdens, uncertainty, scarcity, rising prices, etc. many are facing. You are likely feeling the effects of these situations yourself. These situations impact the people, our community, and we as the church are called to bear witness to this suffering and follow the teachings of Jesus to help and provide for those in need. For we worship a God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ and worked alongside the poor and the oppressed. Trinity is equipped to give witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ.
This July we made efforts to raise funds for Helping Hands. This campaign, however, is by no means over. It cannot possibly be over because Helping Hands is a prioritized ministry of this congregation. Therefore, I implore those who can to make continued commitments to the Helping Hands ministry. Faithful stewardship is about rising awareness and continued commitment to the needs of our community. God calls us to faithfully worship the God who has given us so much and to faithfully care for the world around us.
Trinity, we are blessed with a community that cares and responds to the needs of our community. In addition to our outward hospitality through Helping Hands we have developed a Transportation Assistance Program so that those struggling to find transportation to Sunday worship can be reimbursed if they access rides to church through the taxis service, UBER or LYFT. You will find information about that in this newsletter. I am thrilled that this community is responding in such a hospitable way. And I am thrilled that in the times that visitors and others are returning to our worship, the Trinity Family welcomes them back and welcomes them anew. I know this is part of your identity. I know this is something you know about yourself and your community. But, I want you to know how impactful this welcome is for our visitors, neighbors, and myself. I continue to learn from you.
You will notice that this is perhaps my first newsletter article in a while where I have not opened with an announcement about my call process, my ordination, or my installation, or anything else about me. That is because this has never been solely about me. It has been about me, you, the Trinity Family, all gathered around a Gospel of love, learning, and ministry.
Wherever you find yourself today, whether you are struggling or finding ways for praise, know that God loves you and has a message of hope for you. And know that this message of hope is ours to share with our community as we continue to extend a helping hand.
Grace and Peace to you from our God and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
On June 18th, 2022 the Trinity Family and others gathered with me to celebrate my ordination. On a day that could have been focused so heavily on myself (and it was!) I saw more clearly that the focus was on God. The focus was on God because so much of what we celebrated that day was on our community life together. So many people from Trinity joined in-person at St. Mark’s, and others have told me that they watched the livestream or went back and watched the recording. I myself had to go back and watch parts of the worship so that I could see for myself, and be reminded, what happened that day. God was among us and formed us further into community.
Among many inspiring moments, the most inspiring for me was seeing your faces in the congregation when Bishop Humphrey addressed you.
When asked whether you would support me, pray for me, and honor me for my work’s sake, you gave an enthusiastic “yes!”.
That’s what the church is about. It is about our communal response to God’s call. In the Road to Emmaus text that was so powerfully proclaimed to us by my wife, Pastor Laura, we read how Jesus walks with us to bring us to deeper understanding. We see how we are brought to deeper understanding through the breaking of the bread. That meal is a communal meal. We are brought into deeper understanding together.
We are not put on this journey alone. We have others to surround us and help us, to teach us and nourish us. On the road to Emmaus, one disciple walked alongside another and today we have a community here at Trinity to walk alongside each and everyone of us. Jesus walks with us along the way and by the grace of God provides us with a message of hope and the presence of resurrection.
As we move forward in our ministry together, I ask each and everyone of you to pray for each other. Give each other the message of hope. Be the presence of resurrection for each other. Tell each other what God has done for you!
As we go out and look for what ministry can look like together, know that ministry is not dependent on just my pastorship, but does depend entirely on Christ’s pastorship.
May God bless each and everyone of you in your life and ministry, and may God bless our Trinity Family.
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