Faith Lutheran Church

Pastor Zimmermann's Archived Messages

July 2019

Dear Friends,

At the beginning of my ministry, I began my newsletter cover-letters with the greeting printed above. I always felt, however, that I was assuming a lot in calling members of the congregation "friends."

More than 25 years ago, it was pointed out to me by a pastor and scholar whose opinion I valued highly, that pastors would do well to address their congregation as "brothers and sisters" rather than as "friends." In Christ, we are always sisters and brothers, although we may not be friends at any given time. Giving it some thought, I found this addressed the misgiving I had about the heading. Since that time I have opened my letters accordingly.

Now, I write what will be my last cover letter to you; quite possibly my last ever. It prompted me to pull out of my file the first such letter I ever wrote -- in July of 1983. It could well be argued that I am assuming even more in calling you friends now than I was then.

I commented to the members in that first letter that I recognized "how much I need your help." In thirty-five plus years of ministry, concluding with more than 10 years with you, with your help, I have learned much about being a pastor. Maybe the most valuable lesson you and all the parishioners who preceded you, have taught me, however, is how little I would always know about being a pastor and that I could never know enough to somehow deserve the call to the ordained ministry or to be the "perfect pastor." I learned early on that I had to keep learning. You are largely responsible for continuing to teach me this lesson.

Finally, that first letter included my thanking the members for "allowing me the opportunity to minister in the community." My friends, my sisters and brothers in Christ, there is nothing I need or desire to add to that as I say goodbye to you. Thank-you.

In Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

June 2019

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Nearly all, if not all of you, have already received a letter from me and many others of you will have heard by word-of-mouth: I have resigned as pastor of Faith Lutheran and will enter into retirement in July.

As I write this cover letter, I am aware that I have often given this space to stewardship in June as we prepare for a new fiscal year. I am also aware that the news of my leaving and "what next" kinds of questions might well be more central in your thoughts and concerns right now.

The facts are that (1) between now and mid-July we will have many opportunities to address my leaving and the issues related thereto; (2) since your thoughts might not be on Stewardship, there is all the more need for me to direct them there; and (3) these concerns are, in fact, strongly related.

Stewardship, I have reminded you before, is a form of thanksgiving, a way of giving thanks to God for all God has given us. In the months to come, your stewardship will make all the difference in the ongoing ministry of our congregation. Your willingness to share your time and talents, to participate in the life of God's church will be necessary for this congregation to remain active and vital. Your sharing of your treasures will be necessary to undergird and support our ministry in Christ's name.

Let us give thanks to God for the opportunities that lie before us and for the sure promise of God's presence throughout. I ask that you join me in giving thanks to God as well for the ministry we have shared in our years of partnership. We have accomplished much together. Now, with God's guidance, we follow diverging paths but still have much to accomplish in the name of our loving God.

In Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

May 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It was nineteen years ago now that I attended Worship Jubilee 2000, an event of our national church held in Chicago. I anticipated receiving primarily good, sound "hot-to" suggestions to enrich the worship life of my congregation.

That's not what I got. What I got was greater and far more valuable. What I got was inspirational and uplifting. What I got was enriching and renewing. In case you haven't figured it out--I am very glad I went! And all these years later, I still feel it's impact.

I heard many powerful and wonderful things said. I saw and worshipped in beautiful churches. I listened to and participated in some glorious singing. But none of that is the primary reason for the impact of the event. In that place, I was gathered with a host of others who had a powerful love of worship!

Shouldn't that be the case each Sunday? Now, before you get too upset with me, realize that I'm not saying that none of you love worship. It seems clear to me, however, that too many of us, too often, don't love worship enough. If we did, wouldn't more of us be there more often? Wouldn't we be more faithful in keeping our promise to bring our baptized children "to the word of God and the holy supper" or our own affirmation that we would "hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper," spoken at our confirmation? Wouldn't there be more enthusiastic singing? Wouldn't there be less watch watching? Wouldn't there be a greater overall mood of celebration and a sense that what was happening here was key to who we are as individuals and as a congregation? If these things are lacking, it may, in part, be because of our worship service's style or content or leadership. However, one of the things which I was reminded of most strongly in Chicago is that such personal preferences should not be determinate of our attendance or our involvement in worship. We don't worship because it makes us feel good...though it might. We don't worship because we're going to sing my favorite old hymn...though we might. We don't worship because of anything that's in it for us...though there can be so much in it for us!

As Bishop Robert Rimbo indicated in one of the forums I attended, we worship because it is our vocation as is what we is who we are. God calls us to be in this place, together being addressed by God's Word to us. Worship is "God's ongoing celebration of the redemption of the world." How privileged we are to be invited to this great feast!

In Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

April 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last month in this space I referred to a 1951 book of Lenten meditations entitled, Paths the Mater Trod by Pastor Kelly O'Neall. I do so again this month.

In the last chapter of that book--a chapter entitled "Ultimate Victory"--O'Neall writes: "The crucifixion of Christ...was the crime of all humanity--stupid, blundering, selfish, and dishonest humanity." In other words, it was our crime. Those are never easy words to hear...but they are true.

The same sentiment is captured in Johann Herrmann's hymn, Ah, Holy Jesus.

          Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon you?
          Alas, my treason, Jesus has undone you.
          'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied you;
          I crucified you.

As we move toward the conclusion of this season of Lent into the events of Holy Week, many are tempted to skip over this hard message and jump right to the empty tomb and the Good News of the Resurrection. To do so, however, is to cheapen that Good News. The resurrection of Christ is Good News not because a good man who had been wrongly executed now gets to live. It is Good News because the death itself was Good News...for me...for you. The one we crucified faced that death for us...and in dying, offers us freedom from death and from sin. When we recognize that, our gratitude is what makes our Easter celebration one of thanksgiving, praise and rejoicing.

As I asked you last month to give serious consideration to spending more time in observing lent this year, now I ask you to prayerfully consider walking the journey of Holy Week before joining in the celebration of the resurrection on Easter morning. The schedule for the week is in this newsletter. Let us join in walking the "Paths Our Master Trod" so that we can more fully join in celebrating "the ultimate victory!"

In Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

March 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"Lent is a significant season in the life of the churches." So begins the forward of a book of Lenten meditations entitled, Paths the Master Trod by Pastor Kelly O'Neall. The book was written in 1951, the year I was born. I believe Lent was a lot more significant then for most congregations than it is today. The writer of the forward, however, was more absolute than the author himself, who begins his preface by writing, "To the Protestant Christian, the observance of Lent is meaningful in the degree to which it leads him [or her] into personal fellowship with Christ."

I think that both writers are correct - even today. Lent always has been and still is significant in the church, even if it is so to fewer of its members than in times past. It is also true that each of us will largely determine how much meaning and significance it has for us by how much we put into its observance so that it might lead us more fully into our fellowship with Christ.

We enter into another Lent this month. After the glory of the Transfiguration, celebrated on March 3, we will move directly to the solemnity of Ash Wednesday on March 6. Elsewhere in this newsletter you will find our schedule for Lent. It is provided with the sincere hope that more of you will make this the year you get intentional about your observance of this significant season.

Elsewhere in his preface to the book O'Neall writes of the observance of Lent by offering a number of the ways one might do so: "...whether by self-denial or service or daily meditation and prayer..." How things have changed from when a pastor would assume that most of the members of the congregation would be doing any combination of those things. Maybe, even then, they were kidding themselves - I don't know. I do know that I don't assume most of you will largely alter your patterns of life for six weeks in order to observe Lent. I live in hope, however, that more of you will alter them somewhat for the sake of being led more fully into a deeper relationship with our Lord.

It seems "right, our duty and our joy," as we say in worship, to offer a larger piece of our time and our being during this season when we meditate and reflect on the offering of his whole life which Jesus made for us. So, "whether by self-denial or service or daily meditation and prayer" or more intentional worship attendance or additional Wednesday night worship attendance or by whatever means - may you this season observe Lent more fully and so grow in your knowledge and love of God.

In Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

February 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As I write (type) this letter, it is only a week or so until the 35th anniversary of my ordination to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. January 22 is always a day which is one of reflection for me. It has never been a day on which I do much forward-looking reflecting, wondering where I will be or what my ministry will look like in another 5 or 10 years; but, instead, looking at what has transpired during my ministry to date and where I am in living out my call.

Each year, I am somewhat surprised by the realization that I have been at it so long - 35 years in ministry; over 10 years here at Faith - yet I often feel new to it all with so much still to learn: about you, the people of the congregation; about how best to be your pastor; about how best to be God's servant in this place and time.

I think all this is, in many ways, a good thing. Ministry in Christ's name should always be new and challenging. There is always something to begin, something to expand, some way to be new for Christ - or better, to let Christ make of us a new thing.

To have the privilege of being ordained into this ministry is something of an adventure. There are no clear blueprints of what shape your ministry will take. There are certainly no guarantees that it will all go as you would like it to go. There are no precise roadmaps indicating the best route for bringing a congregation from where they are to where you feel God has called them to be.

There is, however, this assurance in the service of ordination: of good courage, for God has called you, and your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

And so, together, we go about the living out of our calls to be the Body of Christ. It is a call we share by virtue of our Baptism. By that Baptism we also share the promise of the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is sure, even when the way and methods might not be. Let us be God's servant people together; the adventure is forever new.

In Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

January 2019

Christmas greetings to my family in Christ,

Isn't it late for a Christmas letter? Yes and no. It is still a few days before December 25th as I write this. But even when you receive it, it will still be very much Christmas. I thought of making my Christmas greeting my December cover letter, but I was barely managing to focus on Advent when that newsletter was being prepared. I was quickly becoming too busy to split my focus among the many things that were occurring in rapid succession. It occurred to me that the same "busyness" which would make it difficult for me to get it written would probably make it difficult for you to get it read. Since I write it with the real hope you will read it, I decided to wait.

During Advent we stress in worship the future coming of Christ, looking beyond the present. We often think of Christmas as simply a remembrance of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, looking back into history. The now, the present, can be overlooked. That past reality and that future promise impact on our present; or they should. Now in these days following Christmas Day but still in the midst of Christmas, may we reflect and realize this more fully.

God loved us so much as to give us God's Son, our savior, Jesus Christ. God loves us so much as to give us that Son still. Jesus was not born to live in the world thirty years and cease to exist in that world until his second coming. He lives with us now.

"This very day in David's town your Savior was born - Christ the Lord!" Luke 2:11 TEV

The same Savior and Lord says, "I will be with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20 TEV

May the blessings of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem so many years ago, be born in your hearts this season and throughout the year.

Cindy and I wish you a most blessed Christmas.

In Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

December 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It has been some time since I put pen to paper to write a poem. Although the outcome may show that I am out of practice, let me use this form in reflecting on the Advent season.

This season, Lord has become for some
A source of consternation.
"Get on with it! Get the candles lit!
Move on to adoration!"

"This waiting time bores! It's left bereft
Of carols we love singing.
Why wait at all? Just look at the mall!
It's Christmas bells they're ringing!"

And yet your daughters and sons, the ones
Who formed your holy nation
Waited for year upon empty year
Hoping for salvation

The promised one whom you said would come
Was not swift in coming;
and yet those who trusted, adjusted,
Your faithful becoming

And demonstrating in their waiting
A deeper faith in you;
They used the time in ways sublime
Appreciation grew.

It is not right that we, in spite
Of all the world may say,
Should now anticiapte the date
And watch, and hope, and pray?

And as we yearn may we not learn
To see the true gift more?
That we concede our deepest need,
That's what this Advent's for.

In Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

November 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thanks be to God! For what?

With this issue, we begin publishing Reach Out monthly. It is November, and in the past it was the occasion for one of our newsletters covering a three month stretch. I have mentioned my frustration at least a couple of times about figuring out what to address on this page when those three months cover so much in our life together. Now, I can focus on November and address December and January in December and January.

So, I say again, it is November - a month which includes a day set aside for giving thanks. What is it we will thank God for? I think it is important for us to ask this question with three different points of emphasis.

WHAT will we thank God for?

I wonder if we haven't let tradition dictate to us in this area.

We thank God on Thanksgiving for food, family, and nation. I would like to suggest you take some time to thank God for all the pleasures of your lives.

Not just for the turkey and the pumpkin pie; but for granola bars, and chili dogs; the fuels we use to warm us; the vehicles which transport us.

Not just for our family and friends; but for the family of God, our brothers and sisters in Christ the world over; for all God's other creatures, our pets and the wild animals.

Not just for the United States; but for Canada and Ethiopia; for Malaysia and Liechtenstein; for the world which God has given to all people as our home.

What will WE thank God for?

Will we just take a day off to eat and watch football and leave the thanking to someone else? Make this the year you take the time to go to the community Thanksgiving Eve service (Pastor Denys will be preaching). Take time on Thanksgiving Day to offer thanks besides grace at the meal.

What will we thank GOD for?

Do our thanks become just a general expression of our pleasure? When we say, for instance, "Thank you for this food," are we simply saying, "I'm glad we have all this food," or are we saying more? Let us recognize that God is the source of all good gifts, including the greatest gift of all - God's love given full expression in Jesus Christ.

A blessed Thanksgiving to you all.

Thanks be to God!

In Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

September/October 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Sunday morning after the last issue of our newsletter was published, Pastor Denys came out of worship and saying he felt I needed a hug, gave me one. I always appreciate a hug, but, while it has not been unheard of, it isn't Pastor Denys' usual Sunday morning greeting. The look on my face must have shown my wonderment. He said, simply "I read the newsletter."

My frustration and my concern were evident in that letter as I tried to encourage a gerater response to the needs of our congregation by its members. I broke one of my own guidelines when it comes to speaking or writing about stewardship. I nearly always place the emphasis on our response coming out of our recognition and appreciation of God's abundant gifts to us; not as a means to support the church's programs. Let me try a different approach by sharing a brief story.

Recently I received a phone call at home. I heard the voice of our neighbor's caregiver, apologizing for calling but hoping we might have some rice. She had just come from shopping with our neighbor, had forgotten rice and didn't want to have to prepare her to go out again. It felt good, not only that there was no crisis (which is sometimes the reason I get evening calls), but that a neighbor thought enough of us to know that we wouldn't mind the call and to trust that we would help if we could.

Since Cindy was out, my next concern was whether I would be able to find the rice. It was, in fact, in the first place I looked and I walked it over to the neighbor. So, good feelings all around...that we would be asked and that we were able to help...that we had what our neighbor needed.

Each month in this newsletter and each week in our bulletin and our announcements, our neighbors ask...for food to eat, for volunteers to provide leadership, for financial support for our ministries. Our neighbors may be other members of our congregation, our Congregation Council, our community programs, the national church or persons on the other side of the world...Christ has reminded us they are all our neighbors.

Look in the cabinets of your lives...your time, your skills, your support...and rejoice and give thanks when you find that you do indeed have what is needed.

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

June/July/August 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This letter addresses an issue that has presented itself in a number of ways. Although there is nothing new in this, a couple of recent occurrences have brought into sharper focus a concern I have had for some time.

Again this year, as we move into the Summer, we are looking for teachers and helpers both for Vacaiton Bible School and this Fall's Sunday School. Despire newsletter and bulletin appeals each year, as well as many direct requests, it is a struggle to find enough volunteers to teach and administer these ministries of our congregation.

As I write this, our Stewardship Committee is conducting its annual appeal/drive. While I am so thankful to the members who complete Pledge Cards and Time and Talent sheets, it must also be noted that many members do not do so.

The Worship and Music Committee has also been having difficulty filling worship leadership positions. The number of people asking to no longer be scheduled is outpacing the people asking to be added to the lists.

These three instances represent three varied aspects of the life of our congregation: Christian education, general stewardship of time and talents, and worship. It's pretty tough to downplay the importance of any of them to our ministry.

The life and health of any congregation depends on the volunteerism of its members. Where are you? Let me try to anticipate and respond to your replies to that question.

"I do my share." - Some of you certainly do. In fact, a few of you seem to be on every committee and working toward the success of every event. This is true in most congregations, but at Faith the percentage seems exceptionally low, and if more individuals would do more volunteering, those few would not be pushed to over-commitment.

"It's somebody else's turn." - This is the refrain of some of those who volunteered in the past. That past work helped bring Faith to where it is and it is appreciated. But if you still have the health and abilities to help, why stop? If you're tired of doing the same thing for years, that's understandable; but why not try something new?

"I just don't have the time." - That's the biggie, and I know it is largely true. I am aware of the many things I would like to do that I don't get to because there is not enough time for it all. However, the examples I cited ranged from a commitment of less than an hour on occasion, to one week of mornings. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of people have some discretionary time. Our priorities determine how it is spent.

We all need our rest. We all need time for relaxation and recreation. We all should give time to our families (although this one doesn't exclude much of what we can do at the church). We all have other commitments and responsibilities. But unless a higher percentage of Faith's membership gives a higher priority to the life and ministry of the congregation it will stagnate.

My love for this congregation and my recognition of its many strengths and wonderful potential have not diminished. My concern over our willingness to use those strengths and to realize those potentials has, of late, increased to the point of overshadowing my hope.

This has been an exceptionally long letter and I am fully aware that most of those who are still with me are those who least need to hear this; but I thank you for the opportunity to vent, and for the opportunity to be in partnership with you in Christ's ministry and through Faith. I invite all of you to prayerfully examine your involvement in that ministry in response to God's grace. May the Holy Spirit guide that response.

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

April/May 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There have been many movies which have sequels that come out years after the originals. It seems to be more and more common. You might call this cover letter Easter: The Sequel.

I was all prepared to write on another topic entirely and went through the newsletter articles I had written in previous years. Back in April of 2010, my letter encouraged you all to remember that Easter is not just a day but a season, a “week of weeks.”

As I write this, I am preparing for Holy Week. Easter is less than two weeks away. With that 2010 letter in mind, how could I write on another topic for the April/May newsletter when Easter will extend through the entire month of April and two-thirds of May? I decided I wouldn’t. So then, here is a bit more on Easter.

In the days of the ancient church, the emphasis on the entire season as one long festival was marked by the fact that there was no fasting and no kneeling. Alleluia was not only back in the liturgy after its absence during Lent but was repeated often.

In our current practices, there are still some things that mark the season (in addition to the continued practice of extra “alleluias”). Our First Lesson each Sunday comes from the Acts of the Apostles rather than from the Hebrew Scriptures, reminding us that the life and growth of the early church were an extension of the life and work of the dying and rising Savior. We will be singing Easter hymns throughout the season, not just on Easter day. The Paschal Candle, carried in procession at the Easter Vigil, burns at the altar throughout the Easter season.

There are a number of Sundays during the season with specific histories and themes. The Second Sunday of Easter used to be known as White Sunday because those who had been baptized at Easter wore their white robes all week as a sign of their new life in Christ. A German custom developed of having Confirmation on this Sunday. The Gospel for both the Second and Third Sunday relate post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. The Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday, holding up for us the beloved image of the Lamb who was slain as one with the Shepherd. Psalm 23 is used each year on this Sunday. With the Fifth Sunday of Easter, our focus moves toward the Ascension, with Gospels for the remaining Sundays all being from the farewell discourses of Jesus and his “high priestly prayer.” The season ends with Pentecost, not the beginning of a new season, but the end of Easter.

Celebrate Easter for more than one day! It is too precious a gift for us to try to limit to an hour of our year!

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

February/March 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As I write this, many or most of you are not aware of what I am writing about. By the time this newsletter reaches you, however, many or most of you will be aware of the events that transpired on January 7th.

It started as we prepared to begin our Joyful Noise worship service at its new time of 12:30, while most people were already in their place and I was setting things up for Holy Communion. There was suddenly a lot of movement and people started saying things like, "There's water coming in!" I assumed that (as had happened before) snow melt from the flat roof over the narthex had started to seep down and drip from the ceiling. I continued to move from the chancel to the sacristy, counting on the many able people out in the narthex to place a garbage can under the dripping water.

It quickly became apparent that we were not talking about a drip...something almost everyone but me was already aware of at that point. Water was shooting with some force down from the ceiling all over the narthex.

Here is the reason why I've made this the topic of my cover letter this issue: By the time I got out to the narthex, people had already moved furniture out of the way, taken everything off the walls, and assembled a multitude of garbage cans to catch what could be caught while others began trying to contain what was already on the floor. Those who were there at the time quickly began calling others; the water was turned off and because of a suspicious odor, someone call the Fire Company. When they had located the source of the problem and give us the go ahead to re-enter the building, mops and shop-vacs came out and the worst of the lying water was removed. For a couple of members the day had just started as they waited for the sprinkler repair people (that's where the problem was) to arrive and to make necessary repairs; causing them to spend hours at the church.

As of this writing, it is still unclear how long and to what extent we will be inconvenienced by all this. We need an inspection by the township before we can put everything back together and we need just what putting it back together will entail.  We will also be doing most of this in cooperation with our insurance company, which might mean additional steps.

Someone said that it was fortunate that we had changed the time of the Joyful Noise service. If it had been most Sundays, at 12:30 most, if not all, of us would have been gone. It is a good point...I may have been the only one there and we know how useful I am in such situations! but I want to say that what was even more fortunate is that those who were there were as willing and able as they were to do what they could to aid in a bad situation. There were members from little children up through senior members getting wet to help get the job done. I won't list names since I am bound to miss one. There undoubtedly were some that I never even realized were there. But I am grateful to everyone of you!

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

November & December 2017/January 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I used my space in the last newsletter to tell you all about this year’s Adult Sunday School class. Now I’m about to use that space in this issue to tell you all about another learning opportunity.

At the last Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA, our bishop, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, invited and encouraged all members of the ELCA to read Luther’s Small Catechism. She stated in a video piece that the reason for this emphasis was that “the Small Catechism is a treasure too good for just early adolescents.”

I fully agree and have planned since hearing her challenge to encourage our members to be part of the process. I decided I would even provide a course to get some of us active in reading it together. Then I heard that a course was being produced by the church. The contributors included some people whose work I greatly admire and I knew we would be in good hands.

That was months ago. Bishop Eaton’s original invitation was to read the Small Catechism between the Assembly and October 31, 2017...the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. By the time the course was completed and available, we were at the end of the summer. I spoke with the Christina Education Committee in September about offering the course and when best to do so. We decided together that weeknights would be the best idea and that holding classes in consecutive weeks would be best.

I took out my desk calendar (yes, I still use the paper kind) and quickly determined that in order to offer such a seven session course in seven consecutive weeks, we would start with Tuesday, January 2 and end on Tuesday, February 13...the night before Ash Wednesday.

You will be hearing more about this because we will need to have an idea of how many people are interested in order to order books, arrange space, etc. While I know many people won’t be able to commit themselves to all seven weeks, it is my hope that participants will try to do so and that others will still participate as they are able. Anyone coming from non-Lutheran traditions and interested in membership in our congregation can use this opportunity to prepare for membership. (If you are interested in membership but unable to attend these classes, give me a call and we’ll work something else out.)

I have made the commitment of blocking out his time because I consider the study of this small book to be of great value. The course we will be using, By Heart: Conversations with Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, is well prepared and contains so much more than just the contents of Luther’s work. Video presentations and discussion will supplement our study of the book.

I am anticipating a wonderful learning experience and hope you will join me for all honesty, it’s not going to be so wonderful if you don’t!

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

September/October 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For the past two years we have pursued the same approach for our Adult Group during the Sunday School hour on Sunday mornings. The weeks of the month follow a pattern which allows for a variety of topics to be covered. Each class is designed to be self-contained so participants can come when they are able and interested without feeling they are behind others or out of the loop.

This approach has been well-received and we are repeating it again this year. We will, however, be making some changes in the topics (but not all). Here is the pattern we will start with this year:

1st Sunday of the month—We will repeat this year the focus we used last year which was well-received. Each “First Sunday” we will look at the appointed lessons for a Sunday later in the month. I may try to at least touch on the Psalm this year, a lesson we usually passed over this past year.

2nd Sunday of the month (September 10 will be the first day of Sunday School and so this will be our first focus)—This will be a “topical” study; each month pursuing a different topic. We will start with a requested topic: “The End Times.” I would imagine some topics might stretch out over a couple of months. Even when that is the case, they will be self-contained, allowing participants to follow that week’s lesson without having been in attendance the month before.

3rd Sunday of the month—“Our Hymns.” As with the first Sunday of the month, we will be looking at an upcoming Sunday. Instead of the lessons for that Sunday, we will look at the hymns. The history of the hymns themselves, the authors, the tunes, the composers. Most importantly, we will take the time to better appreciate the words and how they contribute to the themes of the day and season.

4th Sunday of the month—The Reformation. As we continue with the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, we will continue this popular week’s focus as we look at the people, events and impact of this dramatic movement in Church history.

5th Sunday of the month (when there is one)—We will continue what has been for many a most popular focus of the last two years: “The Bible Says the Darnedest Things;” looking at some of the odd, unusual, confusing or often ignored passages and stories of Scripture.

Watch for a poster in the narthex and notices in the bulletins for specific topics each month. Join us when you can as often as you can.

There are a number of special days and events coming up in these two months. Please be sure to read this newsletter, our bulletins and our Friday email blasts so that you don’t miss anything!

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

June/July/August 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

“Summertime! And the livin’ is easy!”

“Roll Out Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer.”

“In the summertime, When the Weather is Fine You can Reach Right Up and Touch the Sky.”

...Three songs from three different decades—all of which date me and all with basically the same message. Almost all of us look forward to summer; a time of relaxation, recreation and refreshment. We need these things, yet in the midst of them we continue to need God...and your church continues to need you.

If you are going away during the summer, please worship wherever you are. Most campgrounds and state parks offer worship services on the grounds. No matter where you stay, there will be a gathering of God’s people at hand. If you would like the name and address of a Lutheran church, just let me know where you’re headed and I’ll be glad to look it up for you. Then again, vacation is a good time to experience worship with a non-Lutheran congregation. Take time out from taking time out and worship God.

While you’re gone, we’re still here. Please don’t forget your congregation. Hold us in your prayers wherever you worship. I would remind you (at the risk of offending some) that our expenses continue as well. It is unfortunate our attendance drops as low as it does during the summer (after all, you’re not all away). I would much rather see pews filled than offering plates. Yet I do ask when you are away that you keep our financial obligations and your response to God’s constant gifts to you in mind.

May your summer be one of enjoyment and fulfillment. May your periods of escape from daily routine be times of drawing closer to God. Whatever your plans might be, wherever you might go, remember God goes with you, as do my prayers.

Remember that during the Summer our worship times are 9:00 and 10:30 AM. Please join us!

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

April/May 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ;

“Join us as we remember and explore this important part of our Lutheran heritage [Luther’s Small Catechism] and prepare ourselves to greet our Risen Lord at Easter.”

So I concluded my cover letter from the last Reach Out. In past years, I have regularly encouraged “stepping up” our devotional life during Lent. Recognizing that not everyone can attend mid-week services, I have encouraged other faith-focused Lenten practices. For instance, in 2015 I wrote: “Pray more than you currently do. Study and read your Bible more than you currently do. Be more regular in your worship attendance and/or more intentional in your involvement. Even if you regularly attend worship every Sunday, during Lent and Holy Week there are additional opportunities for worship.”

By the time you receive this, the mid-week services will be over, or nearly so. A faithful few have attended. As I write this there are still two services ahead of us but thus far we have averaged less than 20 per service. Again, I know that many cannot attend but I am also aware that many more do not.

As I have often stated in these letters as I comment on Lent, I firmly believe in the ability of our worship during Lent to help us more fully celebrate and appreciate the Resurrection. I am never surprised, but always dismayed that our worship attendance on Easter morning is on average more than four times the attendance on Good Friday.

When you receive this letter you should still have an opportunity to join us for our Holy Week worship (and if the timing is good, perhaps even the last mid-week service). I encourage you to make an effort to do so.

On April 9th Holy Week begins. Our worship opportunities for the week are rich.

April 9th is the Sunday of the Passion. The service will include a procession with palms and will move us into our week-long contemplation of Christ’s passion. On Maundy Thursday (April 13th) we will celebrate Holy Communion and consider Christ’s commandment of love and service. On Good Friday (April 14th) our worship will include the adoration of the crucified. We will celebrate the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening (April 15th).

Our celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord will take place at services at 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00. Holy Communion will be celebrated at all services. Worship during this season is so very important for our faith journey. Please join us!

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

February/March 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;

In the July, 2014 issue of The Lutheran (now called Living Lutheran), the magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, our presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, encouraged us all to get our Small Catechism out and refamiliarize ourselves with it.

Here are some of her thoughts:

We do have a history of communicating the faith from generation to generation. Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism after the Saxon Visitation of the late 1520s… He discovered a stunning lack of understanding of the basics of the Christian faith among laypeople and pastors. So in the Small Catechism he gives a concise but rich explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, the commandments, baptism, communion…

The Small Catechism became an important part of faith formation in families. Millions of us throughout the centuries and world have studied and memorized it. Catechism has been a rite of passage in the Lutheran movement. It could be argued that no other experience is more universally Lutheran than studying this little book—not language, not hymnody, not cuisine, not worship style. “What does this mean?” and “This is most certainly true” are two of the most recognizable phrases in Lutheranism.

… confining catechetical instruction to [middle school students] and expecting fully formed disciples at the end of the process is probably a little unrealistic...

It might be time for all of us to dust off our Small Catechisms (or find it in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 1160) and take another look at the basics of the faith… We are Lutheran Christians. With great humility we can be unapologetic about being Lutheran. It would be wonderful if we as the ELCA prepared for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 by studying the Small Catechism together… Catechism is not just for the young. This is most certainly true.

I personally have a slightly unnerving love for the Small Catechism. However, now I can blame Bishop Eaton for inviting you to spend a bit more time with it. This year our Lenten midweek services will be based on this important book. You’ll find a schedule elsewhere in the newsletter. The services will include hymns and readings to help us focus our attention on a different section of the book each week. Join us as we remember and explore this important part of our Lutheran heritage and prepare ourselves to greet our Risen Lord at Easter.

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

November/December 2016 January 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ;

I have mentioned before that I have had a hard time adjusting to being the pastor of a congregation that sends out five newsletters a year as opposed to a monthly newsletter as had been the practice of my former congregations. Having not yet adjusted after nearly eight years, I must just admit that I’m not going to adjust.

Now having admitted it, I am still left with the struggle each issue of deciding what I will write about in light of the reality that I will not have the same opportunity for at least two months (three this time around). In the months covered by this newsletter, we will be celebrating All Saints Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christ the King, the season of Advent, The Nativity of Our Lord, New Year’s Eve, The Name of Jesus and The Baptism of Our Lord. That’s just the festivals and seasons! In addition, we will be blessing the restored Meditation/Memorial Garden, holding our Sunday School Christmas celebration and events marking our 50th Anniversary.

All these events and occasions are still just part of the story. There are the many concerns and ministries of our congregation that could be addressed; such as stewardship, outreach, community involvement. Then there are the concerns beyond our congregation; such as the upcoming elections, poverty, hunger, violence and so much more. Although I will continue to try to take a stab at this in future months, this month I am again feeling a bit overwhelmed at not knowing where to start and so I have taken up the whole space without starting on it at all.

Please make every effort to attend worship and read bulletins and listen to announcements and read emails and make use of all the other ways in which we communicate information here at Faith. Be informed. Be active. Be involved.

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann

September/October 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last year we tried a new approach to our Adult Group during the Sunday School hour on Sunday mornings. The weeks of the month followed a pattern so that a variety of topics would be covered. Each class was designed to be self-contained so participants could come when they were able and interested without feeling they were behind others.

This approach was well received and we will be repeating it this year with some changes in the topics we will be looking at. Here is the pattern we will at least start with this year:

1st Sunday of the month—Again this year the focus will be on the Bible. But this year we will look at the appointed lessons for a Sunday later in the month. In this way, participants will get more from the readings that Sunday and I might get some insight into what I should address in my sermons.

2nd Sunday of the month—“Let Us Pray.” We will look at the purpose and methods of prayer.

3rd Sunday of the month—“Our Worship.” We will explore why we do what we do each Sunday; the words, the movements, their meaning and purpose.

4th Sunday of the month—The Reformation. As we move into the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we will look at the people, events and impact of this dramatic movement in Church history.

5th Sunday of the month (when there is one)—We will continue what was for many the most popular focus last year: “The Bible says the Darnedest Things.” We will again look at some of the odd, unusual, confusing, or often ignored passages and stories of Scripture.

Watch for a poster in the narthex and notices in the bulletins for specific topics each month. Join us for a week or the year—people with perfect attendance really impress the pastor—or anything in between.

In the name of Christ,
Pastor Zimmermann