It Is Not Good To Be Alone!

Posted October 3, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: October 2012

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Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”  Genesis 2:18

The Bible begins with two stories of creation, which are told in the book of Genesis.  In the first story of creation in the first chapter of Genesis, after God has worked wonders in creation, God evaluates the works of creation by saying it is good.  By the last day of creation, in this first story God’s assessment of creation is elevated to being very good.  In the second account of creation in the second chapter of Genesis we are told of the intimate creation of the man, formed out of the dust of the earth, brought to life by the breath of God, placed in the beauty of God’s new garden of creation.  This newly created man is given a task, to till and care for the garden, in this he becomes the first farmer.

As we read this story of creation, by all outward appearances, things seem to be fine, or as God might evaluate the situation, very good.  There is a beautiful garden, water, trees, plants, and a caretaker to watch over God’s garden of creation.  Yet, God observes that not everything is in place yet.  God’s assessment is that something is missing.  “It is not good,” God says, “that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”  In this self-critique of creation, God sets the course of creating and valuing relationships.  So afterward, all sorts of animals are created, which the man is given the task of naming, but none of these are suitable partners for the man.  So out of the man, God creates a partner, a woman.  “At last,”  the man exclaims, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

It seems clear to me, that God has created us to be in relationship with others.  God’s evaluation that it is not good for us to be alone recognizes the importance of our interdependence with others.  It really isn’t good that we should be alone.  We need to companionship of a close friend, a spouse, parents, children.  As God’s creation, we are social creatures who find meaning and understanding in our relationships with those who differ from ourselves.  And as hard as we might sometimes try, we cannot live in isolation.  God has created us in a way that causes us to depend upon the presence and giftedness of the other.   I happen to believe that we need others in our lives , not just for the purpose of survival, but so that we might just get a glimpse of the face of God.

Created In The Image of God

This Sunday (The Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost)  we will hear the story of God’s creation of the gift of relationship as it is told in the second chapter of Genesis verses 18-24.  In this time of political discourse about marriage and what constitutes marriage, we could all too easily boil this scripture down to a defense of marriage.  (please note that I am not saying that is a bad or unacceptable approach)  However, I believe when we do that we miss the greater gift that God gives to us in this creation story, and that is that it is not good for us to be alone.  So God creates us to be relational beings.  We are created in the image of God, so that we can be in relationship with God.  We are created in the image of God, so that in relationship with others we might reflect God’s image to the other.  We are created in the image of God, so that in relationship with others, God’s image might be reflected back to us.

It is not good for us to be alone.  So God gives us one another, partners and helpers and reflections of God’s wonderful and amazing grace.

Just Another Passing Thought!

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Change and the one who changes not.

Posted September 17, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: September 2012

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“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.  He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. 
  He gives wisdom to the wise
 and knowledge to the discerning.”  Daniel 2:20-21

It is September and we are now witnesses to God’s beautiful transition of seasons from summer into fall.  The fields of corn surrounding our communities have changed from a deep rich green to harvest gold.  Trees in the groves and wooded areas are yielding their cool summer colors to brilliant yellows and reds.  More temperate days are followed by cooler evenings.  Once again we are experiencing “good sleeping weather”.

As schools have opened children and parents have changed their schedules.  Bed times are earlier, and morning activities greet bleary-eyed children just a bit earlier then they had during the summer.  Changes are occurring in local churches as well.  Sunday school and confirmation classes have begun, or are soon to begin.  Some congregations are beginning new Bible studies, or stewardship campaigns.  In the parish I serve, Fields of Grace Lutheran Parish, the worship times have changed.

This autumn the landscape of our neighborhoods have changed as yard signs encouraging the support of political candidates and positions pop up in our neighborhoods.  In this political season, we are bombarded with messages encouraging us either to make a change or stay the course.

And no matter the season, sometimes change occurs in our lives that comes to us unexpectedly and even unwanted.  In these times of change we are caught unaware and thrown off-balance.  Tragedy strikes, the that which occurred eleven years ago this week, and the whole world is changed.

In the midst of all of the change we are experiencing, stands one who “changest not” as the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness proclaims.  Our gracious God, leads and guides our journey in the midst of change.  God is the one who blesses the harvest of once green fields that have changed to gold.  It is God’s handiwork, which paints the colors of the leaves which have turned into their fiery autumn colors.  Providing gifts of wisdom and understanding, God’s hand is involved in shaping the political landscape to raise leaders who protect and preserve the blessings of freedom, justice, and liberty.    And when change occurs that throws us off course, we are invited to cling to his steadfast love and faithfulness, which will never abandon us.

As we transition from summer into autumn, may the presence of the one who does not change, bless you in the midst of all the changes life will bring.

Just Another Passing Thought!

In The Midst of the Mess

Posted August 23, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: August 2012

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“Bless the Lord, all his works, and in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul.  Psalm 103:22

Bishop Jon Anderson, of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, often asks the following question when meeting with a group:  “What is the sweetest thing God is up to in your context?”  It’s a good question because it prompts people to consider God’s activity in the midst of what we sometimes believe is mundane and ordinary. This question helps stretch the imagination and look into the ordinary to see God doing the extraordinary.

On an occasion or two, I have borrowed this question and given it my own little tweak.  When I meet with small groups of people or on a one on one basis, I like to ask, “Where is God in the midst of the mess?”  I ask this question, because lets face it, life is messy. But I also ask it because I have experienced that in the “midst of the mess” is often where God does his best work.  The bible sure seems to prove that true, one only needs to look at how God deals with broken people, to seek god in the midst of the mess.  For instance, as Jacob is venturing back home to hopefully be reconciled with his brother Esau, he tackled by an angel of God and wrestles with him until the break of day.   When it appears that the match is a stalemate, Jacob seeks a blessing and the man gives him a blessing and a new name, Israel (God wrestler) because he has struggled with humans and God and has overcome.

At times in the midst of the mess, life seems like a wrestling match.  Sometimes it seems as if God is the opponent and we are contending against an unmovable object.  Other times it seems that God is the coach sitting on the edge of the mat, shouting words of encouragement, asking us to give our best, celebrating our victories, and picking us up off the mat when we are defeated.  And still other times God acts as the referee, making sure we wrestle by the rules, keeping us on the mat, and preventing us from stalling when action is needed.   In the midst of the mess, God is there and all we have to do is open our eyes, ears, and heart.   Then we must pay attention to his presence.

The Psalmist says, “Bless the Lord, all his works, and in all places of his dominion.”  These words of wisdom direct our attention to a God who is actively involved in the midst of the mess.  All of God’s works, where ever and whenever they happen are worthy of being blessed.  As a matter of fact they are deserving of a blessing.  So it is fitting that we bless God for his active presence in the midst of all of the circumstances of life.

Stuck at a railroad crossing?  Take a moment to give God thanks for the extra time you had to sort through the events of the day.  Struggling with issues at home?  Look for God’s guiding presence as you address the issues before you.  Washed away in the busy-ness of the day?  Pause for a prayer break.  In the midst of all the messy moments of life, pay attention to the works of the Lord in all of his dominion.

So, where is God in the midst of your mess?

Just Another Passing Thought!

Miracles of Multiplication

Posted August 21, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: August 2012

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Miraculous Multiplication

 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  John 6:35

The Farm Journal Foundation, has organized a campaign entitled “Farmers Feeding the World” this campaign is an industry-wide campaign in American agriculture with the goal of eliminating world hunger.   Working with global hunger organizations such as Heifer International, they have set a goal of raising $20 million annually to fight global hunger.  “Farmers Feeding the World” along with other organizations, many church based, are working towards the admirable goal of eliminating world hunger.

Living in south central Minnesota, I am quite aware of the impact that agricultural production has on the lives of others locally and globally.  At this time it is fitting to thank everyone involved in producing the food that is placed on our tables.  The work of local farmers and other agricultural professionals is a holy calling, and for that I wish to express my gratitude.

Just before the passage of scripture I have quoted above, Jesus had just fed a great crowd of five thousand people with only a few loaves of bread and two fish that were shared from a boys sack lunch.  Not only did this simple offering of loaves and fishes feed five thousand people until all had their fill, but following the meal twelve baskets of left overs were gathered up.

Jesus does some incredible things with the resources that are placed in our hands.  Miracles of multiplication occur in his presence, everyone receives their fill and in the end there are even leftovers.  Yet, all too often we are quick to forget the miracles of multiplication and begin to take on a mindset of scarcity. We tend to see what is missing, rather than what is present.  We focus on things being “not enough”, rather than directing our attention to “doing what we can with what we have.”  And scarcity thinking leads us to see that what we have belongs to us, instead of being placed in our hands as a gift from God.  In other words, scarcity thinking is, in my view, “stinking thinking”.

Jesus knew that this mindset could often get in the way of our calling to share the gifts of God with one another.  So he appealed to the people by telling them, Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”  Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:31-33).   The crowd replied, “Then give us this bread always.”  To this Jesus said that he is the bread of life and that in his presence no one goes hungry and people never thirst.  You see, if we trust in Jesus abundant providing, we can see that we have enough and even more to share.  May the blessings of God’s abundant giving lead you to live a life of generosity.

Just Another Passing Thought!

Celebrating Our Independence-Recognizing our Dependence

Posted June 28, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: July 2012, Uncategorized

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O beautiful for patriot dream  that sees beyond the year

 thine alabaster cities gleam,  undimmed by human tears:

America! America!  God mend thine ev’ry flaw,

 confirm thy soul in self-control,  thy liberty in law.

On Wednesday our country will celebrate the  236th anniversary of the signing for the Declaration of Independence. It is a day of great national pride and an occasion worthy of celebrating.  The signers of the Declaration of Independence declared the following, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Some 236 years later, we are the beneficiaries of patriots who made these claims.  July 4th is indeed a day worthy of  setting aside to mark our country’s independence.

As citizens of this great country, we are blessed to be given freedoms which have allowed us free exercise of our beliefs, the right to assemble, the right to speak our mind,  the right to have a say in the civic affairs of our country and many other rights and privileges which have been granted to us as American Citizens. In a document, equally as important as the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, in it’s preamble points to our dependence upon one another in order for us to achieve the ” unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  The preamble states, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice , insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty  to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”   Note the use of the word “we” in the preamble. Also note that our rights are held collectively, not individually.  It is not “my” freedom of religion, it is “our” freedom of religion.  The constitution does not simply establish justice for me, but for the betterment of my neighbors.  The framers of the constitution recognized that even though our nation was independent from the rule of another nation we were dependent upon one another to make sure that all people could experience the full blessings of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”.

Yet it seems today that independence has trumped  our sense of dependence and care for one another.  In our society, we have replaced the biblical call to care for the widow and orphan, with an attitude of  “God helps those who help themselves” (which by the way is found nowhere in the Bible).  It also appears that the “right” to speak our mind, has trampled upon all senses of civility.

The third verse of America the Beautiful  which is quoted above, recognizes the blessings of our independence and the necessity of our dependence upon God one another to make this country great.   Indeed, we need both, to survive.  It was the independent patriot dream, which envisioned a nation free from the tyranny of the rule of those from foreign lands.  Yet at the same time, the gleam of the alabaster cities, is made possible by the labor of the many working together.  And there is the recognition, that we are not yet the “more perfect union” that the framers of the constitution intended us to be, as a matter of fact we are not the perfect new creation God has intended us to be, and so we turn again to our dependence upon our creator to mend our every flaw, and to give us the power to confirm our soul in self control and our liberty in law.

As you celebrate the 4th of July.  I pray God will bless you and that God will bless America, so that  together we might be a blessing to all nations.

Just Another Passing Thought!


Were you there when a stranger bore his cross?

Posted March 28, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: March 2012

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Dear Followers of PT’s Passing Thoughts,

Below is the final meditation  in the “Were You There ?”  Lenten Series.  I hope these brief glimpses of Holy Week have been helpful on your Lenten Journey.  As you lean towards the Cross of Good Friday, may God fill you with hope and peace .

This meditation is based on  Mark 15:21-32

I was there…there on the street as the crowd gathered on the pathway which lead to that place called the skull, Golgotha…the place where the Roman crosses stood as a warning against making trouble and as a reminder that Rome ruled our land with a harsh and violent hand.  Often times, crowds would gather at the side of the road to watch the procession of cross bearers, who were often justly accused of their crimes.  Maybe part of the gathering was to remind ourselves not to speak in opposition to those who ruled us, and maybe part of it was to see those who were punished get what they had deserved.  On that day, however, I was just another face in the crowd.  I had gone to the market to purchase bread and cheese for my family.  As I was leaving the market, I heard the commotion, and watched as crosses made their way weaving though the Jerusalem streets.

One of those who were carrying a cross was a man I saw earlier in the week teaching in the temple, it was Jesus of Nazareth.  He looked worn down, beaten and bedraggled.  The weight of the cross he carried, seemed to contain the weight of the entire world.  Just watching him was exhausting.  He stumbled some and each time he stumbled a Roman guard would poke him with the end of his spear or smack him on the head with the butt of his sword.

I also noticed that he was dressed differently than the other criminals who carried their crosses.  He was dressed in purple clothes, and around his head was wrapped a crudely constructed crown of thorns. His own clothing mocked him.  Many of us thought he would be the king who would rescue us from the hand of Rome.  Now it appeared that he too, was a pretender to the throne.  Yet, as he passed by I couldn’t help but feel pity for him.

Again he stumbled.  His weakness and the weight of the cross was just too much for him.  As he lay face down in the dust and the dirt, bloodied and bruised, the guards unlashed the cross from his wrists and let his withered body drop to the ground.  One of the guards scanned the crowd with a watchful eye, and then began walking in my direction.  Suddenly he reached out and grabbed the man standing right next to me, and barked, “You carry it.”  The man tried to protest, “I’m a stranger in town, just making a pilgrimage as part of my observance of the Passover.”  But his protest was to no avail, the guards strapped the cross beam across his shoulders, cracked their whips and compelled him to bear the cross for Jesus.

The guards forced Jesus back to his feet, they pushed and prodded Jesus as he followed this stranger who carried his cross.  As I watched the scene pass beyond me, a tear came to my eye.  Somewhere deep inside of me I wondered and wished I could have carried his cross.  And at the same time, I felt as if the cross Jesus had carried was mine.

Yes, I was there…I was there when a stranger carried his cross.

Just Another Passing Thought!

Were You There When the Crowd Cried, “Crucify”?

Posted March 21, 2012 by Pastor Todd Nelsen
Categories: March 2012

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As we draw neared to the cross of Good Friday, I invite you to consider how the voice of the crowd which cried Hosannah! on Palm Sunday could be stirred up to cry  Crucify in Pilates courtyard.  This meditation is based on Mark 15:1-15.

I was there…I would have preferred to avoid the whole scene, but the chief priest and his council placed this mess right into my hands.  Up until that moment, I had tried my best to avoid involvement of Jewish religious affairs.  It was my hope that my rule in Judea, would be to bolster the empire and make good Roman citizens of my Jewish subjects.  Then maybe the Emperor would take notice of my leadership skills, and invite me, Pontius Pilate, to take a higher seat of leadership in the Roman Empire.  But then, one morning, a mob of people, lead by the Jewish chief priest, the elders and the scribes, literally drop this Jesus of Nazareth on my doorstep. 

Now I am a fair man, and I try to be fair in my judgments.  The Jewish council said that this Rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus, the son of Joseph the carpenter, was a traitor.  “He claims to be a King!” they told me.  Then they further instructed me, as if I did not know, that such a claim was treasonous.  So I asked him, clearly and directly, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Do you know how he answered me?  “You say so”.  It was odd, he gave no defense of himself, no explanation, only silence.  And all the while, the chief priests kept accusing him of one thing and then another.  He gave no answer. His only response was silence.  It made me wonder about whether he was guilty or innocent.  I was beginning to suspect that it was because of sheer jealousy that these religious leaders had brought him to me. 

Now I had this tradition, that when the Jews would celebrate their Passover, I would release a prisoner for them to show that I am not a harsh man, and that I am capable of mercy.  We had in the prison at that time, a notorious criminal named Barabbas.  He was despised and feared by many because he had committed a murder during an insurrection.  I thought that maybe if I offered up Jesus or Barabbas, that the crowd would surly have me release Jesus, and allow Barabbas to rot in prison for the rest of his life.  But those priests had it in for Jesus, they stirred up the crowd and got them to ask for Barabbas to be released.  When I asked what they would have me do with Jesus, someone in the crowd shouted “Crucify him!”  And soon other voices were added  to the cry, and crucify seemed to be the only word which was on their breath.

It is stunning to see what can happen when a crowd becomes of one mind.  I tried to reason with the crowd, I could find no guilt in Jesus, I asked them, “What wrong has this man done?”  The only response of the crowd was “Crucify, crucify, crucify!”  The chant grew in volume and intensity!  Soon it seemed like the entire earth was shaking, as the crowd in mob-like mentality called for Jesus’ life.

I felt like my hands were tied.  I could not afford to lose the support of the Jews, I could not afford to risk my political standing as governor of Judea, so I released to them murderous Barabbas, and I sealed the fate of Jesus, as I ordered his crucifixion. 

I was there…I was there when the voice of the crowd won out over justice and reason.  I was there when the crowd cried crucify.

Were you there?  Just Another Passing Thought.