On the last Sunday of June, while Eric, Dir. of Youth and Family Ministry and Intern Nicole and our youth shared about their mission trip to Birmingham, Alabama; I attended the closing worship service at one of my first call perishes, Trinity Lutheran, Ottosen, Iowa. It was a bittersweet day to come together for the closing of a church. Ottosen is located about 35 miles north of Fort Dodge in the heart land of beautiful farm land where farms are growing larger and communities smaller and small enough to no longer sustain a church community. The people of this worshiping community will be able to find other churches to worship with. They are a faithful group of people and it was good to see familiar faces that I haven’t seen for 20 years. I am thankful for how these people shaped and formed me into the pastor I am today and I grieve the closing of this church.
Bittersweet seems to be the theme of my month and is bringing me back to my Epiphany word, LIFE. Last year it was joy, a gritty kind of joy and this year a bittersweet kind of life with the mixing and stirring of all that life brings with it, its joys and sorrows all stirred into one.
This month, after a year that has gone so fast, we will say fare-well to our intern Nicole Hanson Lynn and her husband Anthony on Sunday, August 11. It too is a bittersweet time. I have so enjoyed Nicole and Anthony and the gifts of ministry that they shared with us. I am sad to see them leave and grateful that they will serve the church well. Thank you for your willingness to support and encourage this internship year. I will miss Nicole and I will pray for her and Anthony and the Christian community that gets to help shape and form her pastoral ministry. We will keep you posted as to which synod she is assigned to and where she is called to. Please keep Nicole and Anthony in your prayers. It is an exciting time of expectation but also a time of waiting with many unknowns.
Bittersweet – sadness combined with happiness, such an odd combination swirling together. But we are Lutherans and we are accustomed to experiencing two odd combinations together. We are saint and sinner simultaneously; duty and delight; law and gospel; life and death.
In our Vacation Bible School in July, we met in Athens where our path crossed Paul. We learned a bit about Paul’s journey of not believing in Jesus and then having an encounter with Jesus that changed him forever, so that anywhere he went he could not help but talk about Jesus even if it landed him in jail or had him run out of town. There is a wild mix of emotions for Paul and the communities he lived in and the experiences that propelled him.
Life often brings an element of bitter sweetness. In this mix, the Holy Spirit calls and gathers us with a relentless pursuit to show us God and God’s will for us and the world God loves. Keep stirring us up, Holy Spirit and shape us to be your faithful people who share what we know with our neighbors about this bitter and sweet life that we have been called into.
Believing It Boldly Loving Expansively,
Pastor Connie Spitzack