A Bible Verse about Strength
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
A Story of Courage
The courage of the pioneers of Grace Lutheran Church in Loves Park was audacious. The facts as we have them are thin but here is how the story goes: some door-to-door outreach took place on January 23, 1924 in the neighborhood around Grand Avenue in Loves Park with the first worship service taking place four days later at the four room Loves Park Elementary School. In April, the first 23 members joined the church. Land was purchased and a cornerstone laid in August for the new church and the work completed and dedicated by Christmas of that same year.
1924 proved to be an incredible year in the story of Grace! The vision and work of the pioneers was remarkable. The names of the pioneer members are etched on the metal charter plaque located on the wall next to the elevator at the Merrill Avenue entrance. The first deacons were: Steinke, Geskey and Fredricksen and the trustees were: Hanford, Bjorklund and Carlson. These are a few of the leaders of Grace who financially supported this work and put hammer to wood and built the original church building. Imagine, laying the cornerstone in August and occupying the building a short four months later. This facility was a great space for ministry in this developing neighborhood for the next thirty years.
The story of the pioneers of Grace is also a narrative about a wider partnership between the church and the Augustana Synod. It was a short five years after the launching of this ministry that the stock market fell in 1929. The financial burdens on the members of Grace and this fledgling church in the wake of the economically challenging 1930’s was sustained only due to the support of the wider Lutheran church.
Despite these hard days that hit a low in 1932 but lasted until the start of World War II, the grit and determination of Grace Lutheran Church continued as a strong force of proclaiming the hope found in Christ Jesus. The pastoral leadership during the period of the first church building were: Rev. Paul Randolph (1924-1927); Rev. Rubert Hull (1928-1930); Rev. Ralph Peterson (1930-1934); Rev. Louis Danner (1934-1939); Rev. Oliver Nelson (1939-1942) and Rev. William Chell (1943-1953).
The pioneers of Grace lived courageous and strong Christian lives encouraged by the passionate preaching and ministry of faithful pastors. The partnership with our synod has always been vital but especially so in the first fifteen years of our ministry in Loves Park. Let us draw on the strength and boldness of our roots as we press into the challenges of life and ministry in this new day!
Ground Work: Read Galatians 4:4-7
Adoption is a powerful gift. My grandfather, brother and two of my neices were all adopted. It is an important part of my family story. Many other people have been blessed by the gift of adoption as well. Here are some names of people you know who were adopted: (political leaders) former presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton; Newt Gingrich & Jesse Jackson; former first ladies Eleanor Roosevelt and Nancy Reagan; John Hancock, Nelson Mandela and Alexander the Great; (musicians) John Lennon, Nat King Cole, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Sarah McLachlan; (writers) Edgar Allan Poe, Maya Angelou and Charles Dickens; (sports and entertainment) Marilyn Monroe, Babe Ruth and Art Linkletter; (entrepreneuer) Steve Jobs; and (philosospher) Aristotle.
The story of my grandfather John’s adoption impacted both my Great-grandmother Hannah Olsen and her son John. When my Great-grandfather Per Olsen died in a blizzard in Minnesota this left Hannah and her three children destitute. Knowing she could not do the necessary farm work of plowing, planting and harvesting the crops with horses and oxen as well as take care of a toddler, Hannah called the men of St. Johannes Lutheran Church to her kitchen where they prayed before John was placed in the center of the circle. Whomever he toddled to it was agreed would adopt him. John walked to Christopher Dahlseng who lived only a mile away and who together with his wife were childless.
My brother David’s parents both died within a week of each other when he was only seven. As the youngest of three childen, my Mom and her siblings decided that the godparents would each take and raise their godchild. To keep David’s last name of Rosten alive, because there were very few Rosten boys, they decided to raise David as their son without legally adopting him and changing his name to Dahlseng.
David and his wife Ruth Rosten were childless and until they were blessed with a baby girl through Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota. They named their daughter Kerry. I recall the joyous day that Dave and Ruth snuck Kerry into my parent’s bedroom and brought us all into the room to see a surprise! Mom and Dad were first-time grandparents!
My sister-in-law Vicky and her husband Wade worked through an adoption agency to welcome baby Janaki into the family. It was such a joyful day when my wife Jody and a couple of our kids traveled from New York to the International Airport outside of Cincinnati, Ohio where Wade and Janiki were going through customs as they returned from India. Every adoption has been a gift and has permenantly changed our family for good!
Our adoption in Christ Jesus has changed us for good and for God. Through our baptism into Christ, we have been claimed as a child of God. God’s Spirit lives within us as a guarantee of our adoption (Romans 8:14-17). God has said “yes” to you and me. Now we live as followers of Jesus, empowered by the Spirit to live and do God’s work through us.
- Who do you know that has been adopted? What is their story?
- At the right time God sent Jesus into this world (Galatians 4:4). Think about the “ at right time” in your relationship with Christ. When have you experienced the presence of God at just the right time in your life?
- The Holy Spirit is given to us in our baptism into Christ. Symbolically, when we went into the waters of baptism we entered our watery grave with Christ. As we came up from the water, we were raised with Christ to new life as his follower. How have you seen the Spirit at work in your life or perhaps easier, how have you seen the Spirit at work in another persons life?
- What do you know about the day of your baptism? What does your baptism into Christ mean to you?
A Final Thought about Love (Let all that you do be done in love, 1 Corinthians 16:14):Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God, 1 John 4:7.