Announcing a Major Change in Our Parish Work: Two Pastors!

The congregations of Bethany and Concordia decided on February 28 to extend two pastoral calls. One of the calls is to replace the call of Pastor Jacobsen, who has been serving as the sole pastor of the two churches since 2006. The replacement call was extended to Pastor Jacobsen to serve as senior pastor, but to focus his work on being the principal of Columbia Lutheran School and teaching the upper grades. A second call is also extended by the two churches for a new pastor to serve their pastoral needs full-time. The decision was to request a pastoral candidate from Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota. That’s the seminary of our Evangelical Lutheran Synod, from which Pastor Jacobsen graduated in 1998.

Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

After prayerfully considering it for two weeks, Pastor Jacobsen decided to accept the new call extended to him. He is now preparing to teach full-time in the upper-grades classroom, and managing the school’s transition to serving students from kindergarten through 8th grade.

Columbia Lutheran School was started in 2014 with Mr. Doug Radliff (a Concordia member with his wife, Lilly) as the kindergarten-4th grade teacher. He came to Columbia with many prior years of teaching, most recently the first and second grades at Covenant Christian Academy. Bethany has always had the long-range intention of operating a school with the usual “elementary” grades for a Lutheran parochial school, which extend to the 8th grade. After researching the start of Columbia Lutheran School, there is also an intention to open an early learning center for pre-kindergarten students.

Lutheran parochial education has a long tradition in the United States and elsewhere. Unlike a public school education, it includes biblical teaching as the foundation of every subject. The greatest benefit of literacy, for example, is to read and write the timeless truths of God’s Word. This helps us to grow in our faith, to glorify God, and to further the spread of the Gospel. Likewise, the study of mathematics and science is the study of God’s creation and its design.

Columbia is also distinguished in being a classical school. This is a return to the principles of learning used for many centuries, rooted in the foundations of western civilization: the Greek and Roman worlds of antiquity. A classical school teaches the history, languages, and literature from the classical period of time together with later times, but it also applies the teaching philosophy and methods developed from that time until now. Its purpose is to help our students grow into their full God-given potential as human beings redeemed by Christ, with dual citizenship in heaven and on Earth. Columbia’s mission is “To provide a quality classical Christian education for the families of the Mid-Columbia area, preparing students for their current and future God-given roles and supporting parents in their vocation to educate and nurture their children.”

Pastor Jacobsen will be fully engaged in the work of the school, especially in his first year of full-time classroom teaching. The school is an outreach ministry of Bethany, and benefits from the generosity of many people at Bethany, others in our fellowship, and even nationwide. The prayers of many ELS members are with us in this endeavor. Until the new pastor is installed, Pastor Jacobsen will be able to serve our churches as a vacancy pastor. That means he will conduct services and help to meet basic ministerial needs, but most of his attention will be on the needs of the school. After the new pastor arrives, Pastor Jacobsen will continue to be involved in our services, but on a much more limited basis.

We will hear in the first half of May whether a seminary graduate is assigned to our parish. If there is one assigned, we can look forward to celebrating that with an ordination and installation service for both pastors over the summer months. If not, then the congregations will join together for another call meeting and extend the call for a second pastor to another qualified man.

Your prayers and generosity with your time, talents, and treasure are both appreciated and needed by your congregation, and by Columbia. Please continue to pray for God’s blessings upon the work of Pastor Jacobsen, because they will also run over into blessings upon your congregation and its other work in the Gorge. Just as importantly, please remember to speak well of the work that God is doing among us, so that your neighbors, friends, and coworkers are aware of it in a positive light. This opens a door for you to help in the spread of the Gospel, and the strengthening of our Lord’s Church.

Thanks be to God!

Christmas Is Coming… Time to Start Preparing for a Great Service

We’re planning to hold Bethany’s Christmas children’s program this year again on the Sunday before Christmas. Technically, this means we’ll be stealing a Sunday from the Advent season, but it seemed to be well-received last year. On the first Sundays in Advent (November 29th through December 13), the participating children and adults will use their Sunday School time to prepare for the program.

Without a Christmas program on Christmas Eve, we will again have an opportunity to adorn the service with plenty of instrumental music. If you play any kind of band instrument suitable for harmonizing Christmas hymns, please consider getting it out and joining our practices over the next two months. We will meet on Fridays from 3:30 to 4:30: October 30, November 6 and 20, and December 4, 11, and 18. The music will be easy enough for most players. Most of our playing will be to accompany hymn singing, but some pieces may be played by the ensemble alone, and there may be some descants for soloists.

The joint Christmas Day service this year will be at Concordia in Hood River, which is an excellent acoustic space for music. Between December 20, 24, and 25, there will be three opportunities for our ensemble to play this Christmas season. Players will be encouraged, not required, to attend all performances.

A Visit to an Exploratory Mission

On June 28, the Jacobsen family was on our way back from Arizona to Oregon, having stayed the night at St. George, Utah. We had discovered to our delight that a WELS church existed in that town. It turns out to be an exploratory mission, Redemption Lutheran Church. They are meeting on the second floor of a nicely-decorated commercial retail building. Pastor Quandt, his wife, and three other couples were there for the 10 a.m. service. The Jacobsen family about doubled the attendance that day, but they drew together chairs for us in a second row (the back of the church), and we were given the extra service handouts for the day. It was a less formal service than at most of our churches, as the outreach prospects in St. George are unfamiliar with the rich and meaningful liturgical heritage of the Lutheran church. The main focus was law and gospel following the current ILCW lectionary, with a basic outline of the liturgy to be filled in over time as the members become more strongly catechized.

Please pray for Pastor Quandt and the gathering flock in St. George, as well as the white fields of prospects surrounding that mission, that God would draw them together to receive certainty of His grace, and rich forgiveness through Christ such as they have never experienced before.

Thought about Small Church Activities

We all like to have a full schedule of activities available for us at church. That’s not to say that we’d actually attend all those activities. We’re probably most concerned about the activities that interest us, rather than those geared toward others (children, young families, seniors, etc.).

Some churches have lots of varied activities on their calendars. One of the challenges this creates is faith-damaging burnout, as the same group of people usually manage everything at the church. This tends to happen regardless of the size of the church. Bigger churches experience it with more activities, smaller churches with fewer.

Another challenge created by lots of activities comes with specialization of the activities. With some geared toward children, some toward young families, some toward seniors, etc., they tend to splinter the members of the congregation into artificial groups or classes, based on the presumed interests of each group. I call these groups artificial because they don’t occur naturally. Families are composed of all ages and interest groups in one household. Lots of specialized activities pulls the family members in different directions, often doing more harm than good to family life.

I’d like to offer a solution, but I don’t have one. Instead, we should probably recognize that the primary activity of a church is to gather around the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and the administration of the Sacrament of the Altar and holy Baptism. That doesn’t need to be limited to Sundays, but Sundays are the starting point. Other activities are all extra.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind. A church’s beating heart is in the assembly where she receives the spiritual gifts of her Lord. But the faith created and strengthened with those gifts is active every day of the week, in the individual lives of the church members. Our worship of God does not end when the Divine Service is dismissed. It continues in schools, in work-places, in homes, and on every street and highway. We live as children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, glorifying Him by word and deed in keeping with His will. The main part of this takes place in the God-pleasing duties we fulfill each day, serving God through our neighbors. The work of the church is accomplished in and through the sanctified lives of her members. They don’t have to come together regularly on weekdays for God’s will to be done, though the members of a household might do so for mutual growth, encouragement, and prayer.

I’ll close with one more observation. Whenever there is an activity at church, it’s not something that just happens on its own. Think of any church activity you know about, and I guarantee that it happened because one or more people did one or more things. If it was a big event, it was planned, organized, managed, and maybe even marketed. In addition, other people showed up and participated. If it was a small event, maybe one person did all of those things. In any case, a church event can be boiled down to two things: people and actions. Without people there is no event. If they do something different, then the event is not the same. All of this sounds obvious, but we easily forget it when we begin to think of our church as a faceless institution where things just happen. But events don’t just happen, people do things, and that becomes the event.

So those of us who would like to have more events like W (whatever that is) should consider whether we would like to be a person who comes and does what is needed for a W event. If no person is willing to do the critical parts, then it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that. And maybe that’s okay, because God-willing, we will all gather again on Sunday around God’s Word and Sacraments, and maybe we can do W next week, or next month, or next year instead.

Prayer for Friday Evening (ELH, p. 171)

To whom shall I turn but to You, O Light of my life, now that the darkness and the perils of the night surround me. Open to me, O God, Your mild and loving heart in Jesus Christ and let me rest in Him, my safe refuge and strong fortress, in whom alone I may peacefully lie down to sleep and my sleep may be to me a true refreshment and blessing. My Savior, prevent every hostile power from harming me or touching me, and break asunder all darts which this night may be directed against me. Keep my body pure in chastity and holiness and let my soul, though the body rest, have its joy and comfort in You, my life and my salvation. Bless and defend all my family and my friends this night and always, and may they rest in peace. If I have an enemy, bless him also, and may his heart know Your love. Protect the government and all who are in authority. May Your mercy be great to all and mighty to save for time and eternity.

You can buy your own copy of the ELH through the Bethany Lutheran College bookstore.

Holy Week Services

cranach-altar-victory It’s a custom in our churches to have special mid-week services through the season of Lent, the six weeks leading up to Easter. These services are a reflective time, an opportunity to contemplate the work of Jesus Christ that has brought about our rescue from sin and death, and provided eternal life. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, we have a single mid-week service with a focus on our repentance, in preparation for remembering the great events of our Lord’s passion (suffering and death) and resurrection. In the final week before Easter, we have two or more special services, each with a special theme and focus.

This year, our mid-week services that follow Ash Wednesday have been about the cross of every Christian, as an echo or shadow of the cross of Jesus, by which we have been redeemed. This so-called “theology of the cross” defines the Christian’s life on Earth, yet is frequently missing or subdued in the teaching of many churches. No wonder, it’s not exactly upbeat! In the same way that some would like to portray Jesus as victorious while forgetting what He had to do to obtain the victory, so also some would like to suppose that a Christian’s life on earth is filled with giggles and rose gardens, while forgetting that these roses have long, sharp thorns. Our midweek Lent meditations are meant to refocus our faith upon the reality of every Christian’s life.

Holy Week is the climax of the season of Lent, beginning with Palm Sunday. Jesus entered His royal city on Earth to the shouts of “Hosanna!” from a vast crowd of jubilant people, in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah. Thus, we recognize that He is indeed the One chosen by God to take away the sins of the world, just as the Passover lamb was chosen by each Israelite family on the 10th of the month, in preparation for the Passover to be celebrated only four days later, when that lamb would die and become the meal of their salvation (Exodus 12:3-6).

Four days after Palm Sunday, we celebrate Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday. “Maundy” is a form of the Latin word “mandatum,” which refers to Jesus’ command given to His disciples on that night (John 13:34). Our focus is upon the feast of love instituted by Jesus during the Passover meal with His disciples, which we call the Lord’s Supper, or the Sacrament of the Altar. Following the Passover meal, Jesus and His disciples went across the Brook Kidron and ascended the Mount of Olives, where His intense prayers helped to prepare Him for His imminent suffering. See ELH 295 for a meaningful meditation on that time in our Lord’s life.

Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph. But when Jesus was crucified, it was really the end of death for the whole world. The nature of death has changed as a result of the death of Jesus. It cannot hold you any more. Even the ungodly will rise to life again on the Last Day, though unbelievers will also get their wish: not to be saved from eternal punishment by the suffering and death of Jesus. The torment of hell is on display when Jesus hangs upon His cross, forsaken by His Father as He bears the guilt of the whole world. In this way, He took what would have been an ordinary Friday in the fallen world, and turned it into a day for our deliverance from God’s wrath. It became Good Friday. We will hear about the passion and death of Christ, as we contemplate its meaning through hymns and meaningful responses.

Holy Saturday follows, when we remember that Jesus rested in His tomb through the Sabbath. Then, when evening comes and the ancient Israelites would recognize the beginning of the next day, we may begin our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection with a brief service for Easter Vigil. This year, for the first time, we have planned such a service to be held at 8:00 PM, at Bethany. We will again begin to sing Easter hymns and the Hallelujah, as special readings added to the Office of Compline (ELH p. 128) lead us into the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Then on Easter morning, we plan to gather in Hood River in Idlewild Cemetery, where we will greet the sunrise on the Lord’s Day with our joyous hymns and readings. After that, we will have the festival services at the usual times: 9:00 at Concordia, and 11:00 at Bethany.

There is nothing more important in the existence of any human being than these events and deeds of our Lord, so we invite everyone to join us in our meditation and celebration of these greatest works of God.

Matins for Everyone

One of the Bible classes planned for this Fall is on Lutheran liturgy, including services like Matins, which belongs to the Prayer Offices. Unlike the Divine Service, Matins is meant to be used on any day, even every day when it’s possible. It may seem strange for a congregation to gather at church every morning, but Matins doesn’t require that. The Prayer Offices like Matins are very adaptable, and can easily be used at home, or wherever you may be in the morning.

Certainly, the interests of the perishing world don’t include a daily break to pray, hear God’s Word, and join with fellow Christians, much less several breaks in the same day. But as Christians, we can remind ourselves of the deep mercy of God that He shows us day in and day out, all based upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the guilt of the whole world. He has not made it mandatory for us to stop now and then for worship. He’s made it possible, and He’s incorporated us by faith into the great body of worshipping saints in both heaven and earth. So why not re-center your mornings with a little Matins?

To help make it easier for us all to use Matins whenever we have the opportunity, I’ve put together a simple worship folder on a single sheet of folded paper that includes most of what’s found in the Hymnary on page 109 and following. The difference is that this booklet shows you which parts you should omit when you are using Matins in a less formal setting. It will still help to have your Bible handy, or even a Hymnary (especially if you want to sing something). The booklets will be available at each church, or upon request.

We will use a very simplified order of Matins for the Sunday School opening at Bethany for both children and adults this year. The whole thing should take 10 minutes, at the most.

You can view the booklet in a PDF reader by downloading it from this web site. If you print the two pages back-to-back, in the right orientation, you will have the whole thing on your own!

Planning for Your Ultimate Future

We have a document available on our church web site in which those who wish may arrange for their last great confession of faith: their funeral service. The document is self-explanatory, but Pastor would be happy to help anyone to understand or use it.

Thanks go to Pastor Samuel Gullixson (formerly our vicar) for the original version. The document may be downloaded from the Members area of our church web site.

Classes Coming Up

I’ve planned some classes for our churches through the coming school year, and many of them are ready to go right now. We’ve been following the curriculum from Northwestern Publishing House called Getting Into God’s Word for a couple of years now. We’ve seen units on Bible Study Skills , the Psalms, Old Testament Proclaimers, and Major Prophets, as well as the Messianic (New Testament) Age and the book of Revelation. That’s a lot! It’s about half of the whole curriculum. So we’re going to take a break for a little while, for a change of pace.

On the last Sunday in August, Concordia will begin watching the DVD presentation on “Engaging Others with Jesus,” including a potluck lunch. The same presentation will be studied at Bethany on Sundays, beginning on September 8. There will be time for discussion of each segment. The presentation covers the same sessions that were attended by Pastor, Rich and Kathy Kahler, and Coby and Patty Bailey at the Circuit 12 Evangelism Workshop back in May. It was an edifying and inspiring conference, and should be enjoyable and beneficial for any of our members.

At Bethany, our midweek class will begin on Tuesday, September 3 at 7 PM. We’ll start with a 3-part series on the subject of evangelism, with the focus on Jesus. The titles are “Christ for Us,” “Christ through Us,” and “Christ in Us.” Pastor Jacobsen adapted this series from one written this year by Pastor Aaron Hamilton in Utah.

Sunday classes at Bethany will switch back to a study of the biblical teachings in the Large Catechism on October 20. Meanwhile, the midweek class will resume after a short break on October 15 with a new 6-part series written by Pastor Jacobsen on Lutheran worship. This will expand upon the DVD class we have used in the past by Dr. Arthur Just entitled Liturgy, as we consider the history and spiritual foundation of the Lutheran worship practices found not only at church, but also in the home.

On November 26, the Bethany mid-week class will immediately embark upon a 4-part series covering the intertestamental period, the span of about 400 years between the last book written in the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament period described in Matthew and Luke. We will pull most of our information from the books of the Apocrypha entitled I and II Maccabees. All our Bible classes will take a break for Christmas.

After the Christmas season, on January 7, Bethany’s mid-week class will start a 6-part series based upon the synod convention essay from last June. The essay is called “Engaging Families with Jesus,” and our class is called “Engaging Jesus at Home.” We will apply some of the things we will have learned from our previous class on Lutheran worship.

In the penitential season of Lent, we will have another 6-part series on Christian Meditation. There is much for us all to learn about this practice, and it shouldn’t be surprising if we come away with a new appreciation for God’s Word, and the comfort of the Gospel.

Finally, we will return to the Getting Into God’s Word series on April 22, the Tuesday following Easter, with a 7-part series on the book of Ephesians.

Throughout this time, our calendar also includes a Confessing Jesus class at Bethany, to be held with a light lunch right after church on Sunday. Unlike last year, the schedule this year calls for holding the class every other week, instead of every week. We will pick that up where we left off, in the 4th article of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. After that we will return to the Formula of Concord at the end of the book.

All of the classes mentioned above are open to all of our members and our guests, including confirmed youth. If our youth have another interest, please speak to Pastor Jacobsen so that we can arrange a class that will serve their need. The Mary Martha Circle at Bethany will meet monthly, with part of the meeting devoted to a study aimed at spiritual growth. We will have an opportunity to read through and discuss a newly-translated and published biography of Katherine Luther, the wife of Martin Luther. There is a series of related studies prepared and ready to go, together with a reading schedule. Any ladies who may wish to begin reading now can obtain a copy of the book from Pastor.

If the members of Concordia would like to have any of these classes offered in Hood River or Klickitat, it can be arranged. An average attendance of at least three people would be helpful. Of course, any Concordia members are also welcome at the classes to be held at Bethany.

I hope you’re looking forward to the coming season of Bible studies as much as I am!

–Pastor Jacobsen

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

This prayer comes from our synod president.

Heavenly Father, we give thanks to you . . .

  • for continuing to pour out your love and mercy.
  • for sending your Son to rescue us from the power of sin and damnation by granting us your free and full forgiveness.
  • for caring for us daily, though we do not deserve any of your kindness.
  • for having your holy angels watch over our coming and going.
  • for the abundance of foods we enjoy as you daily provide for our sustenance.
  • for enabling us to have medicines and doctors and nurses to treat our ailments, as we rely on your healing power to restore health in keeping with whatever is your good and gracious will.
  • for blessing our nation and granting us the freedoms we enjoy.
  • for good and seasonable weather where we can enjoy the wonders of your creation.
  • for giving us men and women who are willing to risk their lives as they faithfully serve in our armed forces.
  • for granting us churches to attend where your Word is preached and your sacraments are properly administered.
  • for pastors, teachers and missionaries.
  • for giving us opportunities to further your kingdom through the efforts of our synod, our Lutheran elementary schools, our Bethany College, and our Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary.
  • for providing us with the means of grace whereby you grant us your highest blessings as secured through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
  • We also thank you for giving us the outlet of prayer to bring our petitions before your throne and to praise your holy name.

In Jesus’ name we pray and live. Amen.