Woodlawn CC

Woodlawn CC

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Are We Blind Too?

This past Sunday found us again in the Gospel of John, this time in the story of the healing of the man born blind.  There are of course a number of stories in the four Gospels about the healing of blindness, all of which relay to us a similar message.  The message is that those who should have recognized Jesus as the Christ often did not because they had become 'blinded' by their doctrines, beliefs, and of course by the strict adherence to the law.  This is, of course, one of those all too famous 'reversals of fate' that Jesus is so good at springing upon us.

Here in John's Gospel Jesus doesn't only reverse the religious leaders fates, but he also issues a solemn warning to us today about our 'fates'.  Should we ever become so convinced of our own ability to 'see', then we are in the greatest jeopardy of actually being blind.  Too often today we are blinded by our own definitions of how and why we should be 'church'.  Just today I was discussing an upcoming event here at Woodlawn with one of our board members concerning whether or not we should include individuals from another local congregation.  There was a difference of opinion on this matter among members of the board, with myself inclined to include them, this particular board member pointed out that in the great commission there was no mention of 'congregation'.  In fact, this great big experiment that we call Christianity is in the eyes of our Lord one big happy (somewhat dysfunctional) family.  We are all, each of us together as one, the Church.

Be a blessing to someone today!

In His Grace,

John 9:1-41  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

A Man Born Blind Receives Sight
9 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We[a] must work the works of him who sent me[b] while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus[c] to be the Messiah[d] would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”[e] 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir?[f] Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord,[g] I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.


a) John 9:4 Other ancient authorities read I
b) John 9:4 Other ancient authorities read us
c) John 9:22 Gk him
d) John 9:22 Or the Christ
e) John 9:35 Other ancient authorities read the Son of God
f) John 9:36 Sir and Lord translate the same Greek word
g) John 9:38 Sir and Lord translate the same Greek word

April 2017 Newsletter Article - Pastor Roy

I have posted my article from the April 2017 newsletter below.
Be a blessing to someone today!
Pastor Roy

Pastor's Pondering - April 2017 Newsletter Article:
Pastor Roy Karlen

Happy April EVERYONE!  You have to love April, it's when Spring first really feels like it's breaking into the calendar and we all start to remember the old, old saying “April Showers bring May Flowers”.  I type this as we've just gone through an entire day of rain yesterday and much of the forecast ahead shows rain... and it's not even April yet!

That silly little old saying “April Showers bring May Flowers” sustains us as we go through the rainy days of late March and April.  It reminds us that God's creation needs the moisture to create all of the incredible beauty that Spring brings forth, and Spring is such a magnificent time.  It's often this way for us in life as well, (though as I've said over and over I do NOT ascribe to the theology that God causes bad things to happen to any of us), it is often during the hard times that we learn the lessons and are prepared to fully embrace and profit from the good times and opportunities that lie ahead.

Depending upon the way that one translates the language from the Hebrew and Greek, it is possible to find the phrase “Fear Not” or some variation of this phrase 365 times in the Bible.  No matter how we translate this, this is a genuine reassurance to us... do not be afraid.  If we just have the courage of our convictions to genuinely turn our fear over to God we will get through even the darkest and rainiest of days.  God will deliver us, though He does not cause our pain, fear, or suffering, He is more than capable to turn these moments and events into opportunities to glorify and reveal His power and love to us and to the world.

Last Sunday we had the scripture in John's Gospel where Christ heals the man born blind.  This man was not born blind due to any fault of his own, nor any fault of his parents.  The man was not born blind due to God wishing to inflict suffering or discomfort, but out of this man's suffering Christ was able to convey to the world for all these many centuries, His love and grace upon this man and to us as an extension.  Praise God and believe that He is with you even in the darkest hour and remember... Spring is right around the corner!

I do want to let everyone know just what is going on with and between us and the Baptist Church.  There is as there always is a number of rumors and stories circulating around and many of these are either partially correct or perhaps entirely false.

As of last night, the combined Church and Christian Councils met to discuss our lending assistance to First Baptist Church.  It was agreed that while the Baptist congregation is trying to plot out their future that I would on alternating Sunday's provide them with a sermon and conduct their services at 9 am.  On these Sundays, my wife Gail will lead the Adult Sunday School Class here at Woodlawn.  The Combined Council voted that this arrangement will continue for the months of April and May and at that time the Councils will review the situation and make any determinations as to what we wish to do going forth.  The first Sunday that I will be assisting them will be April 2nd, this coming Sunday.  With this schedule of alternating Sundays (a gentleman from the Dayton Oaks Bible Camp will be preaching on the other Sundays) it would fall for me to be there on Easter.  The combined Council was not in favor of me being away from the Church for any duration of time on Easter Sunday and so it was decided that we should offer to the Baptist congregation the chance to come here to Woodlawn and join us in worship that morning.  I have discussed this invitation with Bill Hungate the Moderator from the Baptist Church and he felt that they just might take us up on our invitation.  A formal invitation will be extended this Sunday when I am there visiting with them and hopefully, they will accept our offer of common worship and fellowship.  I also invited them per the board's approval to join us for the Sunrise Service and breakfast. 

After the meeting, Roxy Crandall, Kim Anderson, and Gail Karlen our Membership/Fellowship co-Chairs decided that they wanted to make an exception to the requirement of membership at the Congregational Dinner on April 15th and invite the Baptist congregation to join us.  I was in agreement with this exception as I felt it was a wonderful gesture of Christian fellowship and compassion.  The members of the Baptist Church have been going through some very trying, challenging, and emotional times with the decision looming larger and larger as to whether to continue on or to close their much-beloved church; inviting them to join us as fellow Christians for a night of fun and fellowship is a wonderful gesture of empathy and love.  God bless the three of them for wanting to include the Baptist members.  On their and all of our behalf I have extended this invitation to Bill Hungate and the Baptist congregation, let us all welcome them with the loving arms of Christ Himself!

In this time of 'rain and storms' in the life of the Baptist Church here in Lake City, we find ourselves in the position to be for them the reassuring voice of God “do not be afraid, for I am with you”, as well as the caring and open arms of Christ our Lord and Savior.

Be a blessing to someone today!
In Christ!
Pastor Roy

PS: Please note all the things going on this month for EASTER!  We've got a very busy schedule and a lot of wonderful worship experiences ahead!  Praise God!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Woman at the Well, sermon given March 19th, 2017

The Gospel selection from the Lectionary this last Sunday was the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.  This encounter with Christ is a story that nearly all Christians are well acquainted with.  But, there's an aspect of the story that likely isn't the way you've ever considered it before.

Jesus reveals to the woman His knowledge that she's been married to five husbands and that the man she is with now is not her husband.  This aspect of her life is often pointed out as to why she is at the well in the heat of the day.  In my sermon, however, I point to another meaning or rather message from the "five husbands".  The Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom which would then become known as Samaria and relocated a portion of the population.  They then brought in five different groups from different regions, cultures, and religions.  The area known as Samaria, therefore, had five different religions besides the Samaritan religion.  These five religions are represented by the five husbands and the one not married is the Hebrew religion.  The Samaritans worshiped the first five books of the Torah, that section known as the Pentateuch.  Because the Samaritans had not embraced the whole of the Torah, Jesus refers to this as not being married.  The point is that Christ, the one often called the "bridegroom" is here offering the Samaritan woman as a symbol of all Samaria, a new chance to realize the fullness of God.  

In the sermon, I elaborate upon the division between the Jews and the Samaritans, and it is an incredible witness of grace that here a Jewish Rabbi extends to Samaria the gift of salvation and that here this woman of Samaria accepts this gift. Both sides had plenty of reasons to despise the other, if nothing else it's a testimony to the incredible and profound grace that God has for us all.  

The sermon is linked below, it's a bit longer than most of my sermons, but I think it's a pretty fair sermon and worth a listen. I can say that Gail even told me it was a good sermon, and she almost never tells me that! LOL  

Please take the time and give it a listen.  God bless!

Be a blessing to someone today!

In His Love and Care,

John 4:5-42  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)[a] 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you[b] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he,[c] the one who is speaking to you.”

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,[d] can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving[e] wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”


a) John 4:9 Other ancient authorities lack this sentence
b) John 4:20 The Greek word for you here and in verses 21 and 22 is plural
c) John 4:26 Gk I am
d) John 4:29 Or the Christ
e) John 4:36 Or 35 . . . the fields are already ripe for harvesting. The reaper is receiving

Funeral Service, Donna Jenkins - March 22, 2017

Photo by Christian Begeman
Yesterday, we all were sad to lay to rest our dear friend Donna Jenkins. You will be missed Donna, but we rejoice for your birth into Heaven.  We will all see you again in our Father's Kingdom!

Order of Service – Funeral for Donna Jenkins

Call to Worship:
Gathered in Christ's name, let us praise God
who is our certain hope in all life's varied circumstances.
In the face of death believe the good news the scriptures proclaim:
As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.
(Isaiah 66:13)

We have come together within the strengthening fellowship of friends and family:
to praise God for the life of Donna Ione Jenkins;
to share our grief with God and with one another;
to reaffirm our faith in God's unfailing goodness;
to hear again God's promise of resurrection;
and to commend Donna to God's everlasting care.

Music: The Old Rugged Cross

Opening Prayer:
Gracious God, your love endures forever.  Your faithfulness is unfailing and all your promises are true.  The movement of your Spirit is evident even in our darkest moments.  Attend to us now in our grief as we trust you will.  
Speak words of comfort to our hearts.  Open us up to receive your hope.
O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our sister Donna.
We thank you for giving her to us, her family and friends,
to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage.
In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn.
Give us faith to see death as the gate of eternal life,
so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth,
until by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Let us hear now a reading from the Old Testament:  
Psalm 23  King James Version (KJV)
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Let us hear now a reading from the New Testament:
2 Corinthians 4:1-5:1  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
4 Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth, we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. 6 For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—"I believed, and so I spoke"—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Music:  Amazing Grace

Message:  Pastor Roy Karlen – Woodlawn Christian Church
Donna Ione Jenkins was born on her family's farm near Coon Rapids on October 12th, 1930; she passed from this world and into our Lord's embrace shortly after 9 pm on March 19th, 2017.  Donna was one of four children born to Edward and Opal Visner, Merle, Vernerd, Marjorie, and Donna.  Donna only finished the eighth grade as she was ill for an extended period of time in her childhood with Rheumatic Fever.  On April 13, 1951, at the tender age of 20, Donna married Robert Jenkins here in Lake City.  At that time Robert ran the Phillips 66 Station that sat on the corner where Woodlawn Pharmacy is now.  Robert passed away on October 3, 2001.  Donna was baptized here at Woodlawn Christian Church on February 20th, 2003 by Reverend Carla Hillyer.

Beyond the members of the Search Committee, among the very first people I met upon arriving here at Woodlawn Christian Church was Donna Jenkins.  I remember the first morning I met her as she arrived for coffee before the service, her's was a smiling and cheerful face that greeted me and welcomed my wife Gail here to Woodlawn Christian.

On Sunday night after leaving the hospital, I sent a text to Jim Bruce that Donna had passed away.  He texted back thanking me for letting him know, and asking me to extend his condolences to the family.  He ended simply by texting "She was a neat lady".  Though one may be tempted to think of that statement as abrupt and or blunt, really, it is not... what it is, is concise.  In my attempts to describe what made Donna such a delightful person, I find that I can scarcely do better than Jim's assessment...  she was in fact, a NEAT lady.  I'll confess my temptation to just leave it at that, but indulge me just a moment while I try and fill in the cracks of that concise and so very accurate comment.  Though I know fully well, that I shall fall far short of conveying just what made her such a 'neat' lady.

Donna has since my arrival, as she has been for many years, a fixture at our Sunday evening group here at Woodlawn.  Each Sunday night we gather for a fellowship meal, a time of prayer, and then either a Bible Study, or a movie, and often a time of singing hymns and praise music.  During these gatherings, I would often let the group select the songs that we would then sing or sometimes just listen to.  Donna always wanted to hear the song "One Pair of Hands" which is attributed to Elvis Presley, it is the song we'll hear today at the conclusion of this service.  Her face would light up and she would just smile as it played.  I would often tease her about playing it, or at the very least mention that we were going to play it for Donna.

Donna always enjoyed a bit of good-natured teasing, she would tell Clyde Westcott on Sunday mornings that the coffee wasn't hot enough, and of course, Clyde was obliged to tease her back.  Donna mentioned Clyde and his teasing last week as she lay in the hospital.  My wife Gail always enjoyed sitting with Donna during our fellowship time on Sunday mornings.  Gail remarked to me how pretty Donna always was, and indeed, Donna always made sure she was made up and looking her best before heading out in public.

Donna always had a great concern for others and she always shared with us on Sunday night any needs for prayers for her friends and family.  For a long time, Donna kept us informed of her sister Marj's health and we lifted her up weekly in our prayers.  These Sunday night gatherings were very important to Donna, and not too many weeks ago when the weather was threatening, Scott DeVries and I decided we needed to cancel the gathering that Sunday night.  Scott told me that Donna wasn't very happy with either of us for canceling the gathering and that she pointed out to him that the storm wasn't supposed to get here until 7 pm and our group meets at 6.  

Our group meets in Fellowship Hall, and the folding chairs in fellowship hall weren't the most comfortable for Donna, so we brought one of the chairs from the choir room up for her to use.  That was always "Donna's Chair" and we never allowed anyone else to sit in it.  Donna certainly enjoyed that group and all of us that take part on Sunday nights are certainly going to miss seeing Donna there.  We'll miss her smile and the twinkle in her eyes as she told a story or engaged in banter.

Back in September of 2015 when I was visiting with Donna and her brother Vern in preparation for their sister Marj's funeral, they shared several stories with me.  One was how Donna remembered the day when Marj was born and how excited she was to finally have a little sister.  She remembered watching her aunt give Marj her very first bath.  Donna also remembered a few years later when she suddenly wasn't so keen on her baby sister after Marj had painted on all of Donna's paper dolls.  Donna did get even though in a way, as Donna and Vern also told me the story about how Donna wrecked Marj's first and only new car.

As I mentioned earlier, Donna was very ill with Rheumatic Fever as a child, her family was so afraid that she was going to die that they bought her a toy doll.  I'm not sure if this came before or after the paper dolls that Marj painted upon.

Donna was a farm girl, and years ago she had ducks and rabbits.  She has had her garden in the same spot at her home here in Lake City, for so many years that the family couldn't remember it not being there.  It seems it's been there in the same spot for all of her children's lives.  Donna and the family would can and preserve both vegetables and fruit from the garden.  Besides the vegetables, Donna also had flowers both inside and out.  The family told how she'd have Larry move the plants in the house from one location to another depending on the season.  Moving them up and down the stairs and around the home.  Donna loved her houseplants and she told my wife on several occasions how she wanted her to come over and see her plants.  Unfortunately, though, Gail never got over to visit Donna and see her plants.  Penny told me a story about how once when her son Tyler was little that he pulled all the buds off of Donna's Christmas cactus.  Donna called Penny to tell her what had happened out of both frustration and disbelief, she told Penny that it had been loaded with buds.  

Donna came from a family where you had to feed visitors, it was just part of her heritage.  She would make candy at Christmas time, she made noodles and she baked pies.  Just last week we had our Soup Supper here at Woodlawn and several people including Jim Bauman asked where was the gooseberry pie.  Donna's gooseberry pie was that night, and will forevermore be missed.  I remember early on in my ministry here sitting in fellowship hall and visiting with Donna, the conversation came around to pies, and I mentioned that my mother made gooseberry pie... Donna brightened right up and told me that she also baked gooseberry pie.  In all honesty, Donna is just about the only other person I remember encountering in my life, besides my own mother who baked gooseberry pie, and this impressed me a great deal, even though I will confess their two recipes are considerably different... but they're both very good!

Donna was a good mother and housewife, she also enjoyed volunteering and helping others.  She was very involved with the Senior Center starting to help out there while she was still in her 50's, she was in charge of the Center for many years.  She would also make coffee at the library on a regular basis.  Donna often would give perms to the neighbor ladies and often drug her kids along with her while doing so.  She seemed to always be helping someone out somewhere.

Donna liked to go up to Sparky's for coffee, this is something I heard from more than just one source.  In fact, it was Donna's trips to Sparky's that resulted in her becoming a member here at Woodlawn.  At Sparky's she became good friends with Doris Hanks and Doris ultimately convinced Donna to come to Woodlawn and the result was Donna was baptized here and became a member in 2003.

Donna and Doris had a long and close friendship, I heard them referred to as 'two peas in a pod', it was said that if you saw one of them you would see the other as well.  They and other friends would travel all the way to Otho to attend Saturday evening dances there.  Donna kept going to these Saturday events even after Doris went into Shady Oaks and in fact, the family expressed that they were a little concerned that Donna would try and go to Otho on the Saturday night before she was admitted into the hospital.  Donna truly enjoyed her Saturday outings and I am certain that she will be missed greatly at these events in Otho.

I confess that I was very moved by the story of Donna and Doris's friendship and how ultimately it resulted in Donna coming back to church.  In fact, I used their story as an illustration in my sermon this past Sunday.  Praise God that Doris was there to befriend and influence Donna over coffee at Sparky's.  Donna really enjoyed visiting at Sparky's, and who knows maybe there's a Sparky's in Heaven and today she's sharing coffee with those old friends that have gone on before her.

While Donna was in the hospital this past week, she, fortunately, was conscious enough to allow her to express her love to all of her family and to me.  She was also conscious enough for her family to convey their love to her.  I was able to witness the love that she had for each of her children, Larry, Philip, June, and Penny.  Her niece Barb was there for much of the time along with her daughter.  In the end, we live our lives here on earth and it's our love for one another that makes our lives worth living.  Undoubtedly, the greatest gift from God is the gift of love.

1 Corinthians 13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Perhaps it was Donna's love for her family, her friends, her God and for life that made her such a genuinely "neat lady".

Though we each grieve the loss of Donna, we should all rest assured that this is only a temporary parting and that we'll each get to see Donna's smile and that twinkle in her eye once again when we are all reunited in Heaven.  Praise be to God.  Today Donna is reunited with all of her friends and family that have gone on before her, today she is reunited with her husband Robert, and today she is in the very presence of our almighty and all-loving God... Praise be to God indeed...

Closing Prayer:
The family invites you all to join them in further celebration of  Donna's life and a time of shared remembrances and closure, by joining with them for a luncheon in the Church's fellowship hall immediately following this service.  After the lunch, you are all welcome to go with the family to the cemetery in Lanesboro for the committal service.

Let us pray, O God, our Strength and our Redeemer, Giver of life, and Conqueror of death, we open our hearts to you just as we are.  We celebrate your gift of life freely given but are grieved by a sense of loss in the face of death.  The love which binds us to one another leaves us aching as ties are broken.  Accept our tears as emblems of devotion, and transform them into waters of life to nourish us in the days ahead.
We trust you.  We love you.  We know in Christ that your love is everlasting.  Nothing can separate any of us from your abiding care.  With you is eternal life.
With confidence, we now entrust Donna to your unfailing love and overflowing goodness.  Through the power that raised Christ from the dead to live eternally with you, lift up this, your servant, to a life fulfilled beyond our imagining.  We give you but your own, enfold her in your everlasting arms, hold her for she is your child.
Now strengthen us, through the gift of your Spirit, to face into the future with confidence that you stand with us.  Grant that the changes of life may leave us stronger as we journey through life.
Reassured of your abiding presence, help us to knit more firmly the ties that bind us one to another.  Renewed by your love, help us to love in ever larger circles so as to embrace your people everywhere till at last we are all united eternally through Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


Music:     One Pair of Hands 

Committal Service:

Selfishly, we as mortals wish to hold on to Donna. It brings great pain to let her go. Living in the resurrection hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the trust of a loving God and in the promise of eternal life, we now commit her body to its place of rest. We will continue to mourn Donna, but now her laughter will warm the kingdom of God. We will continue to love Donna, but God will now take care of her. We will continue to carry Donna in our thoughts, but she will now be kept safe in God's hands. Receive her in the arms of your mercy, O God, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of all your saints.

1 Corinthians 15:50-57  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters,[a] is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die,[b] but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
"Death has been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Believing in the Resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we now entrust Donna to the care of our Almighty God and we ask our Father to open the doors to his mansion and lead Donna to the room made ready just for her. As we now commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we commend her spirit to its new home. Rest eternal grant her, and let light perpetual shine upon her.

God has blessed and enriched our lives in giving us Donna to know and love here on this earth. Though our time together was not nearly enough, in committing her body to the earth, we give over to God the care of her spirit, and we acknowledge that we will one day reunite with her in God's Kingdom. The Lord bless her and keep her; the Lord make his face shine upon her and be gracious to her; the Lord look upon her with favor and give her peace.

Let us now pray together the prayer that our Lord and Savior taught us to pray, using the word 'sins'...
Our Father....

This concludes our graveside service.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, may His strong arms encircle you and uphold you in your hour of grief.  God's peace and strength to you all.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nicodemus and his impact on the Christian Religion

The story of Nicodemus is often portrayed as a man who didn't understand the message of Christ and one who walked away from his encounter unable to change.  But Nicodemus shows up twice more in the Gospel of John, once in Chapter 7 and then again in Chapter 19.  In Chapter 7 he seems to be pleading on Jesus' behalf, and in Chapter 19 he and Joseph of Arimathea ask for Christ's body so they may prepare it for a proper burial.

That would all be well and good, but then we find the name Nicodemus showing up in the Talmud as a follower of Christ at about the time of the destruction of the Temple.  I can't help but speculate that just perhaps Nicodemus was involved in James the brother of Christ being allowed to preach on the Temple grounds for over three decades after the death of Christ.  When James is executed in 62 AD (I believe I incorrectly said 67 AD in the sermon) by the High Priest Hanan ben Hanan (Anani Ananus in Latin) during an interval between procurators, a faction among the Pharisees sent word to the incoming procurator Lecceius Albinus which led to Lecceius deposing Hanan ben Hanan, and installing Jesus son of Damneus as the new High Priest.  We know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, was he among those who sent word to Lecceius out of outrage over the killing of James?  We'll never know for sure, but again we can't help but wonder.

At any rate, it seems that Nicodemus didn't just walk away that evening never to be seen again.  Rather, he certainly remained involved on some level at least to the time of the burial of Christ, and just perhaps he remained involved enabling to some degree the ministry of James.  Perhaps Nicodemus's involvement even allowed us to be here as Christians today, it's doubtful that he could have ever realized the impact of his involvement in this fledgling movement within Judaism.

I shared at the end of the sermon a story about a missionary who never knew the impact his service to Christ would have.  I've shared the story below and also provided a link to the story on the blog where I found the story.

That's all for today, remember to....

Be a blessing to someone today!

In His Love & Care,

John 3:1-17  New Revised Standard Version

Nicodemus Visits Jesus
3 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”[b] 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born from above.’[e] 8 The wind[f] blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you[g] do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.[h] 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[i]

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

a) John 3:2 Gk him
b) John 3:3 Or born anew
c) John 3:6 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit
d) John 3:7 The Greek word for you here is plural
e) John 3:7 Or anew
f) John 3:8 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit
g) John 3:11 The Greek word for you here and in verse 12 is plural
h) John 3:13 Other ancient authorities add who is in heaven
i)John 3:15 Some interpreters hold that the quotation concludes with verse 15

John 7:45-52 NRSV
45 Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” 46 The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” 47 Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? 48 Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus[q] before, and who was one of them, asked, 51 “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” 52 They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”

John 19:38-42 NRSV
38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Missionary Story

By Mark Ellis

In 1912, medical missionary Dr. William Leslie went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After 17 years he returned to the U.S. a discouraged man – believing he failed to make an impact for Christ. He died nine years after his return.

But in 2010, a team led by Eric Ramsey with Tom Cox World Ministries made a shocking and sensational discovery. They found a network of reproducing churches hidden like glittering diamonds in the dense jungle across the Kwilu River from Vanga, where Dr. Leslie was stationed.

With the help of a Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot, Ramsey and his team flew east from Kinshasa to Vanga, a two and a half hour flight in a Cessna Caravan. After they reached Vanga, they hiked a mile to the Kwilu River and used dugout canoes to cross the half-mile-wide expanse. Then they hiked with backpacks another 10 miles into the jungle before they reached the first village of the Yansi people.

Based on his previous research, Ramsey thought the Yansi in this remote area might have some exposure to the name of Jesus, but no real understanding of who He is. They were unprepared for their remarkable find.

“When we got in there, we found a network of reproducing churches throughout the jungle,” Ramsey reports. “Each village had its own gospel choir, although they wouldn’t call it that,” he notes. “They wrote their own songs and would have sing-offs from village to village.”

They found a church in each of the eight villages they visited scattered across 34 miles. Ramsey and his team even found a 1000-seat stone “cathedral” in one of the villages. He learned that this church got so crowded in the 1980s – with many walking miles to attend — that a church planting movement began in the surrounding villages.

“There is no Bible in the Yansi language,” Ramsey says. “They used a French Bible, so those who taught had to be fluent in French.”

Apparently, Dr. Leslie crossed the Kwilu River once a year from Vanga and spent a month traveling through the jungle, carried by servants in a sedan chair.

“He would teach the Bible, taught the tribal children how to read and write, talked about the importance of education, and told Bible stories,” Ramsey notes. Dr. Leslie started the first organized educational system in these villages, Ramsey learned.

It took some digging for Ramsey to uncover Leslie’s identity. “The tribal people only knew him by one name and I didn’t know if that was a first or last name. They knew he was a Baptist and he was based in that one city and they knew the years.”

When Ramsey returned home he did some additional investigation and discovered Dr. Leslie was affiliated with the American Baptist Missionary Union. The American Baptist Missionary Union was founded in 1814 by Adoniram Judson, who led a pioneering work in Burma.

Born in Ontario, Canada, William H. Leslie followed his intended profession as a pharmacist until his conversion
in 1888. He moved to the Chicago area, where God began to grip his heart with the desire to become a medical missionary.

Dr. Leslie initiated his Congo service in 1893 at Banza-Manteke. Two years later he developed a serious illness. A young missionary named Clara Hill took care of him until he recovered. Their budding friendship ripened into love and a marriage proposal. They were wed in 1896.

In 1905 William and Clara pioneered a work in Cuilo, Anglola, where they overcame a hurricane that struck the night before one of their children was born, and more mundane obstacles like charging buffaloes and armies of ants.

Seven years later they cleared enough of the leopard-infested jungle along the Kwilu River at Vanga for a new mission station perched on a small plateau. Some of the villages surrounding Vanga were still practicing cannibalism at that time.

They spent 17 years at Vanga, but their service ended on a rocky note. “Dr. Leslie had a relational falling out with some of the tribal leaders and was asked not to come back,” Ramsey says. “They reconciled later; there were apologies and forgiveness, but it didn’t end like he hoped.”

“His goal was to spread Christianity. He felt like he was there for 17 years and he never really made a big impact, but the legacy he left is huge.”

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sermon March 5th, 2017 "The Temptation"

Photo by Christian Begeman, find his work at
This past Sunday the Lectionary Scripture from the Gospel was Matthew 4:1-11.  Which is the very well known story of the 'Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness'.  This story is found in all three Synoptic Gospels, though the story in Mark is much, much condensed from what we have in Matthew or Luke. It would appear that Mark had one source for this story and that Matthew and Luke had an additional source (most likely the enigmatic 'Q' source), available to them in the construction of their Gospels.

I did of course address in the sermon the 'temptation' portion of the scripture, though I will confess a temptation towards eliminating that aspect entirely. The part of the story that we tend to gloss over is the 40 days of preparation and fasting prior to the temptation.  This timeline of '40' whether it be days or years pops up throughout scripture.

- Noah and his family endured 40 days and nights on the ark before God made a covenant with them.
- Moses fasted on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and nights as he inscribed the words of God's the words of God's covenant for the Israelite's.
- Elijah fasted in the desert for 40 days and nights before receiving a new commission from God.
- 40 is the number of years the Israelite's wandered in the wilderness in preparation for their arrival in the promised land.
- (This is only a partial list, there are more of course)

And 40 is the number of days (not counting Sundays) of Lent that we are to spend in preparation for Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

All too often, we humans want to fill-fill-fill... for us, being busy and going constantly is a sign of the importance of the work we are doing, and this contributes directly to our own sense of self-worth.  But the 40 days of fasting in the wilderness that Christ performed (and which is the example we are intended to follow during this Lenten season), was a time of emptying and not a time of filling.  It was a time of reflection and prayer, a time of pouring out what He had been up until that time, in order to be completely filled with the Spirit that had come down to Him at the baptism by John.

Let us try and spend as much time as we can during this Lenten observance emptying ourselves... letting go of what we would be, in order to take in and become... what He would have us be.

Be a blessing to someone today!

In His grace, glory and care,

Matthew 4:1-11  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Temptation of Jesus
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
    and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Photo by Christian Begeman, see more of his amazing work at:

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Transfiguration Sunday and Ash Wednesday

I apologize for my great delay in getting up the sermon from Sunday Feb. 26th.  It was a bit of a busy week with "Ash Wednesday" in the middle and on top of that I've been under the weather a bit the last week.  So, here I am putting these two videos up just before I start uploading to YouTube the video from today's sermon.

I promise this weeks blog post won't take so long and will be a bit more elaborate.

Be a Blessing to someone today!

In Christ,

Video of Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017

Video of Ash Wednesday Sermon, March 1st, 2017