Connections February '22

February 1

How lovely is your dwelling place,

O LORD of hosts!

Psalm 84:1

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Lindean Barnett Christenson, who serves Christ the King Lutheran Church, in Bozeman. Lindean is a great friend, and colleague. I hold her in highest regard, not only because one of her daughters shares my January birthday, but having served on the Christikon Board and Synod Stewardship Task Force with her, I find her to be a wise and insightful leader.

She shares a reflection on Psalm 84

“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.”

The joy of singing God’s praise, gathered with siblings in Christ, is hard to beat. As a young person growing up in church, I thought this psalm meant that I needed to be excited about the building the congregation gathered in – but it’s not about the building (lovely though it may be).

As a not-so-young person today, this psalm inspires the orientation of my heart and the use of my time. Gathering with others on the Lord’s Day, or any day, is like finding a home in a palace of time.

All the psalms about pilgrimage to Zion/Jerusalem/the temple remind me that we keep moving toward the day when God will make all things new.

Pastor Lindean Barnett Christenson

Christ the King Lutheran Church, Bozeman, Montana

February 2

“…my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.”

Luke 2:30-32

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Andy Wendle , who serves Eidsvold Lutheran Church, in Somers, Montana. That is on Flathead Lake, near Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp.

Today’s commemoration is The Presentation of Our Lord. This is the day that, at the temple, Simeon gives thanks for the gift of the baby Jesus.

Presentation of our Lord - Luke 2:22-40

I wonder, will Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow today? I know, this is Presentation of our Lord, but I can’t help but wonder about that furry rodent. Does he ever get tired of this whole bit? Does she ever want something new? Does he/she ever wonder, how did I get here ...?

The early readers/hearers of this passage were not people like us. They were Israelites. People who had a messiah or two before this. People who had known what it was like to be disappointed. People who had learned, through painful trial and error, what it was like to just come back to the same place you were before after an endless, repetitive time.

So, what was different for them about this One named Jesus? What was different that made Simeon sit up and praise God? That made Anna reach out to those looking for Israel’s redemption? That makes you and I sit up, praise God and reach out today?

What was different about this one named Jesus that made all the tomorrows different? Something new? A gift? Rather than the same old drama played out again and again, what does Jesus make new in you?

Pastor Andy Wendle

Eidsvold Lutheran Church, Somers, Montana

February 3

Here am I; send me!”

Isaiah 6:1

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Brenda Frelsi, who serves Zion Lutheran Church, in Glendive, Montana. She reflects on our first lesson for Sunday, from Isaiah 6. A number of us are meeting at noon on Wednesday to look at Isaiah. We’d love to have you join us!

Peace to you today, Pastor Phil

Isaiah 6:1-8

I’m always amazed at the speed in which Isaiah changes his mind from “Woe is me! I am lost...” to “Here am I; send me!” Both come with exclamation points. He is emphatic about each stance. And what does it take to change his way of thinking? Only an angel flying up to him with a live coal in a pair of tongs with which he gets touched on the lips. That doesn’t make sense at all!

Did you ever notice that the angel can’t even touch the coal but Isaiah gets it on his lips? And it takes away his fear??? What does the Bible think we are; gullible?

Oh, that’s right – we aren’t gullible; we’re faithful. Isaiah is a wonderful example to us of growing faith. The Holy Spirit works within us to nurture our faith in such a way that we grow from hopeless sinners to forgiven and empowered saints. When we are open to the Holy Spirit working in our lives, just look at what we are capable of! After all, why would Isaiah be any more capable than we are? He started out his journey of prophet thinking he was hopeless. We too, are able to move from “Woe is me” to “Here am I.”

Yes, we will never leave our ‘sinnerhood’ behind as long as we are here. But with God’s forgiveness, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can do the work of saints! What an exciting journey of sainthood, in the midst of sinnerhood.

Here am I; send me!

Pastor Brenda Frelsi

Zion Lutheran Church, Glendive, Montana

February 4

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart...

Psalm 138:1

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Molly Sasser-Goehner, who serves Immanuel Lutheran Church in Missoula. She provided the devotion for January 4th, perhaps she has a partiality for the number 4. Molly is a good friend, I will have to ask her if she signed up for these 4th’s for some particular reason.

Today she reflects on the gratitude proclaimed by the Psalmist in Psalm 138

Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart...

for your steadfast love and your faithfulness...

On the day I called, you answered me,

you increased my strength of soul.

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. (Psalm 138:1-3, 8)

At Thanksgiving, our congregation made a “Thanksgiving Tree.” People wrote down what they were thankful for on leaf cut-outs and hung them on a tree branch in our worship space. “I am thankful for my family” made up 62% of the responses.

Other items of gratitude named more than once included, my health and health care (7), our church (5) and God’s grace (3).

The psalmist is thankful for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness which endure forever. He asks that God’s purposes for him be fulfilled. God’s purposes for us indeed includes care and concern for our family members. Yet, I wonder how the responses might differ if I would have asked, “For what do you thank God with your whole heart?”

The psalmist thanks God for God’s deliverance from any number of trials or tribulations. Examples could be rescue from danger, healing from sickness, recovery from depression, or deliverance from enemies.

Take some time to write down what you are thankful to God for.

Then, go deeper. Be specific. Put your whole heart into it.

What unexpected gratitude lies deep within you?

Prayer: Gracious God, inspire in me a wider sense of gratitude.

Pastor Molly Sasser-Goehner

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Missoula, Montana

February 5

But by the grace of God I am what I am,

and his grace toward me has not been in vain.

I Corinthians 15:10

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Seth Nelson, who serves Faith Lutheran Church, in Ronan, Montana. Seth’s mom was a professor at Luther College, and I met her when I took Susie to register for classes in the spring of 2016. I recall a delightful conversation when we made these Montana Synod connections in NE Iowa almost 6 years ago.

Pastor Seth is serving his first call, yet he has written a book: “The Church Unknown: Reflections of a Millennial Pastor.”

Today he reflects on Paul’s interesting lament in I Corinthians 15:8.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

“Last of all, as to one untimely born, Jesus appeared also to me”

(1 Cor. 15:8 NRSV)

The Apostle Paul used these words to say that he was unlucky since he was unable to see Jesus before he was resurrected and ascended into heaven.

I often gravitate towards these words as my encounters with Christ often seem “untimely” and not of my choosing.

Whether it be moments of longing, despair, anxiety, or frustration when I long for God to show up but still feel God’s absence, or moments of contentment, ease, relaxation, or joy when I feel the Gospel compels me to pause and re-orient my own will toward the well-being of others and the will of God in the world, Jesus’ appearances in my life often make me feel like Paul saying, “as to one untimely born...”

Then, when I am finally able to get over myself, I am reassured by the fact that God has shown up in my life at all, as one who died and was buried, but rose again and ascended into heaven.

There is much hope and joy in this proclamation - enough to be content for all eternity.

Pastor Seth Nelson

Faith Lutheran Church, Ronan, Montana

February 6

When they had brought their boats to shore,

they left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:11

I hope to see you at worship today at 8:30 or 11:00.

The service is posted on the Trinity web site - click here

The sermon will be posted after worship…

The Prayer of the Day today is:

Most holy God,

the earth is filled with your glory,

and before you angels and saints stand in awe.

Enlarge our vision

to see your power at work in the world,

and by your grace

make us heralds of your Son,

Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord.


Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Ken Carrothers, who serves Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, in Billings. He reflects on the Gospel lesson for today.

Luke 5:1-11

...they left everything and followed him.

A small group of people were talking about how to live faith on a daily basis. A man who was seen as one of the finest middle school teachers told the group, “This is an easy question for me. I can’t live my faith on a daily basis, because I am a public school teacher. I am not allowed to talk about Jesus.”

Here is a man who has influenced thousands of young people. He has shown care and love in his teaching. He has mentored countless young people and he sees no connection between that work and his life of discipleship.

How many of us fall into the same trap? How many of us fail to see what we do on a daily basis as holy work?

Today’s passage begins with Jesus inviting Simon to do his daily work – row the boat and fish. When Jesus invites him to follow, he uses language of this daily work – catch people.

I wonder, could leaving everything and following be lived with the understanding that every interaction, conversation, and decision we have is an opportunity to leave our own plans, ideas and motivations behind to follow Jesus?

Pastor Ken Carrothers

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Billings, Montana

February 7

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,

  whose trust is the Lord.

Jeremiah 17:7

Today’s devotion is written for us by… me. Ha.

While most provided one or two devotions for this season, I was able to write a few more. Here we look at Jeremiah 17, which will be the first lesson next Sunday. In our Wednesday Noon class, we are looking at the book of Isaiah. The prophets speak words of judgment and grace, and they sound the ever ancient, ever new call to live our lives under the loving rule of God.

Jeremiah 17:5-10

“The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—

who can understand it?

I the LORD test the mind

and search the heart,

to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

Quite interesting words to read, just one week before Valentine’s Day. Many will make claims about the desires of their hearts next week and will not imagine that the light they bear casts any shadow.

We want to see a purity of heart in ourselves in all we do. Yet Jeremiah calls us to note the complexities of the human heart. I recall a line that suggests that while we might look at others with a Godlike justice, we want to be evaluated with a Godlike compassion.

Yes. Jeremiah reminds us of the limitations of our hearts. He also calls us to see the faithfulness of God, who restores us from our devious paths. To note our brokenness can be a negative journey, I suspect. Or it can be an honest appraisal of our own selves and set us free for relationship with the God who restores us and sends us to serve.

Thanks be to God.

May you have a blessed week, Pastor Phil

February 8

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 5:32

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Scott Hedegaard who serves Redeemer Lutheran Church, in Great Falls. Pastor Hedegaard prepared the devotion for New Year’s Eve, and now we hear from him again. Scott is a good friend with whom I have shared joys and sorrows through the years.

Today he offers a reflection the call of Levi…

Luke 5:27-32

It was a lonely place, sitting at the tax booth. Sure, plenty of people would come and go, but they weren’t exactly thrilled to see him. In fact, Levi counted himself lucky if a day went by when he wasn’t spit upon...or worse. Then the stranger came, a man named Jesus, and invited him, “Follow me.”

It was less lonely at the banquet. Levi held a feast in Jesus’ honor and many like Levi were invited. They too were people considered less than acceptable, tax collectors like him, ne’er-do-wells, the ones Levi considered his community. Jesus sat among them.

The religious objected. “Why do you eat with such rabble?” they demanded. Jesus softly responded, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. God’s grace is sufficient for them too.”

We sometimes come from lonely places. Yet at the table of Jesus we are welcomed, welcomed to sit among the proud and the lowly, welcomed to be part of the community who taste the goodness of his forgiving love, welcomed to receive God’s sufficient grace for all.

Open your arms to welcome us, Lord, just as we are. Amen

Pastor Scott Hedegaard

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Great Falls, Montana

February 9

May you be blessed by the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 115:15

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Tim Spring, former campus pastor, and now Chaplain in Bozeman. He reflects on Psalm 115.

Psalm 115

“You are to have no other gods besides me.” - 1st Commandment

“What does it mean to have a god?” Martin Luther asks in the explanation to the first commandment in his Large Catechism.

He answers, “god is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God.”

We can trust in many things: money, property, education, job, prestige, privilege, or power.

All of these are false gods.

For reflection: Who or what is your god? What do you trust in the most?

Pastor Timothy Spring

Staff Chaplain, Bozeman Health, Bozeman, Montana

February 10

the LORD watches over the way of the righteous…

Psalm 1:6

Today’s devotion is written for us by Jannie Hartman, who serves as an LPA at Bethany Lutheran Church, in Dutton, Montana. Jannie offers a reflection on our Psalm for this coming Sunday.

Psalm 1

“God charts the road you take.” The Message

Have you ever sat by a river and wondered about the path it takes? Taking the path of least resistance, it meanders, sometimes slow and gentle; other times rushing and angry. Dashing its fullness over rocks, thru narrow canyons, flooding the unexpecting plains with its vengeance, eventually reaching its destination.

What or who is there to greet it?

God has known where it would lead since the beginning of time. Our lives mirror that meandering, angry, wrathful, sometimes gentle river. Sometimes we are compassionate, at others angry and unjust.

The blessing is that while we might wander, God is in control. He charts our life, keeps us from taking the path of least resistance and shepherds us into a life of the faithful.

We have the assurance that when we get to the end of our road, God is the one who will be there to greet us, with love and compassion and forgiveness. The reservoir of our life will be filled, and with joy we are blessed.

LPA Jannie Hartman

Bethany Lutheran Church, Dutton

February 11

You have been born anew,

not of perishable but of imperishable seed,

through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 1:23

Today’s devotion is written for us by Dick Deschamps, who serves our Synod as the Vice President, and is also an LPA. He is a member of Hope Lutheran Church, in Bozeman.

I like this call to go and reach out with the love of Christ.

1 Peter 1:17-2:1

All things in our world will perish given time; some soon like bread or milk, and some a mite longer like granite mountains. Peter talks about imperishable seed, as opposed to perishable seed that gives rise to grass. He says we have been born anew of imperishable seed, “through the living and enduring word of God.”

That is our epiphany, our revelation, that through God’s incarnation, through Jesus the Christ, we are freed, born anew of imperishable seed.

Born for what?

To have, “genuine mutual love for one another, deeply from the heart.”

Now go, love each other as Christ has first loved us.

LPA Dick Deschamps

Hope Lutheran Church, Bozeman, Montana Vice President, Montana Synod

February 12

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,

the first fruits of those who have died.

1 Corinthians 15:20

I hope to see you in worship tomorrow at 8:30 or 11:00…

Today we hear again from Pastor Seth Nelson of Faith Lutheran Church, Ronan, Montana. He reflects on our 2nd Lesson for tomorrow. I am not alone in considering the 15th chapter of First Corinthians to be among my very favorite passages in the entire Bible.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Paul wrote early on in his letter to the Corinthians that the

“message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1:18), a “stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1:23).

Doubts about the resurrection of Jesus Christ are as old as when the message of his return from the dead was first proclaimed in the ancient world. These days, many people talk about doubting the message of the resurrection as some sort of new, enlightened idea, but Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us that people chose to reject the Good News of Christ’s resurrection in the same moments when many were receiving and believing it for the first time.

So, Paul reminds them and us again this week, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (15:19).

We need not be pitied, sisters and brothers, for Christ has in fact been risen from the dead as the first fruits from the dead. Instead, we who have been baptized into Christ’s resurrection can rejoice in the full, beautiful, bountiful reality of it all.

Pastor Seth Nelson

Faith Lutheran Church, Ronan, Montana

February 13

“Blessed are you who are poor,

For yours in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 6:20

I hope to see you at worship today at 8:30 or 11:00.

Today is the 6th Sunday after Epiphany.

The Prayer of the Day:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new. Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Tim Spring, who serves as a chaplain in Bozeman.

Luke 6:17-26

“Blessed are you who are poor,

For yours in the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20b

When Oscar Romero was selected as archbishop of San Salvador there was nothing in his background to suggest he would challenge the status quo. El Salvador’s oligarchy was pleased. But within a few short years the once timid and conventional bishop became a champion for justice. He advocated for the poor and voiceless in his country.

In Luke the beatitudes expand the message Jesus delivered in his inaugural sermon at Nazareth. Blessed means more than happy. The term “poor” means both those who recognize their dependence on God and the economically poor. It suggests God is for them and not against them.

On March 24, 1980, three years after becoming archbishop, Romero was assassinated while saying Mass. His death became a sign of hope for the church of God and the Salvadoran people.

“A church that does not provoke any crisis, preach a gospel that does not unsettle, proclaim a word of God that does not get under anyone's skin or a word of God that does not touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed: what kind of gospel is that?” - Oscar Romero

Pastor Timothy Spring

Staff Chaplain, Bozeman Health, Bozeman, Montana

February 14

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

1 Corinthians 15:26

A blessed Valentine’s Day to you.

Today’s reflection is written by Pastor JP Carlson, who is in his first year as the campus pastor at Montana State University in Bozeman. Our son David has enjoyed getting to know JP this year, and we are grateful to all in our Synod who support Campus ministry. (That includes you, as Trinity supports our Synod, and has given gifts to Campus Ministry as well!)

Again, I wish you a blessed day, Pastor Phil

1 Corinthians 15:20-34

“We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” We come across these words every time we recite the Nicene Creed in worship. Like most lines in our creeds, it’s easy to miss. How many of us, while reading the words aloud, robotically breeze through the text without a second thought? Our mouths move and make sounds while our minds drift from to-do lists to football games, to the current state of our bank account.

1 Corinthians 15 is a call to “look for the resurrection of the dead,” and not merely for a resurrection on the Last Day, but resurrection today. It’s a call to wake up to the deathless presence of Christ in the here and now.

Yet like a line in an ancient creed, resurrection is easy to miss. The cares and concerns of daily life push our risen Lord into the background.

Nevertheless, resurrection persists. Thankfully, we look for One who isn’t as easily distracted as we are. We look for One who doesn’t stay in the background. We look for One who does not stop looking for us.

Pastor JP Carlson

MSU Campus Ministry, Bozeman, Montana

February 15

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ,

whom we proclaimed among you...

was not “Yes and No”;

but in him it is always “Yes.””

2 Corinthians 1:19

Today’s devotion is one that I prepared. We hear from 2nd Corinthians today…

2 Corinthians 1:12-19

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you... was not “Yes and No”;

but in him it is always “Yes.””

2 Corinthians 1:19

Paul has such a marvelously singular focus. It is the faithfulness of God that bears the Good News and the promise of life and hope and love and grace. Nothing else. We proclaim God’s “Yes.”

The rest of the world may offer a yes, but it will always be a “Yes and No.” Always.

Not here. Not with the God who has sent Jesus Christ to speak God’s loving “Yes” to you, to call you out into the light of God’s love for you.

God’s “Yes” speaks you into being.

God’s “Yes” restores you to relationship with God.

God’s “Yes” sends you out to serve, bearing this same love with hope and joy wherever you go.

Extending our reading to verse 20:

“For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God.”

“Amen.” We get to respond with our own “yes”; with lives of love and service.

Blessings abound! Thanks be to God!

Pastor Phil Wold

Trinity Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

February 16

In my distress I cry to the Lord, that he may answer me

Psalm 120:1

Today’s devotion is a reflection on Psalm 120 prepared for us by Pastor Timothy Tharp who serves our congregations in Skaar and Savage, Montana.

Psalm 120

The Rev. Dr. Ray Fowler summarizes this Psalm by taking three points from it:

1) call on the Lord in times of trouble,

2) know that God will punish the wicked,

3) know that you do not belong to the world.

What peace these three bullet points provide to us!

We know that we can always call on God, it is GOD’s responsibility to deal with the wicked, and while we are part of this world for a short period of time, we do not belong to this world. Our eternity will be elsewhere - a place where deceitful tongues and warrior’s arrows cannot touch us.

Pastor Timothy Tharp

First Lutheran Church, Savage, Montana

Grace Lutheran Church, Skaar, Montana

February 17

Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him

Psalm 37:7

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Pete Erickson, who serves in Columbia Falls, Montana. Pete is a great friend of mine. Today he reflects on Psalm 37.

Psalm 37:1-11

“Do not fret because of the wicked…”

I think we have been using the word anxiety more frequently in the last decade. A school administrator told me that he noticed an increase in anxiety disorders among students around the time that social media on smart phones became widely used. Adults, too, certainly know about the normal emotion of anxiety and experience how it can become a painful interference in life when it rises to the level of a disorder.

Fretting is the sort of anxiety or worry that gnaws away at you. It takes its toll. It’s corrosive. It is not good for our health.

Psalm 37 suggests that we may experience fretting over others who are up to no good. The writer of this psalm calls them evil and wicked.

God understands our tendency to get so angrily fretful over the wicked. Yet God does not want that righteous worry to incapacitate us. This Psalm reminds us that the wicked “will soon fade like the grass.”

So, we are encouraged to trust God. Unconsumed by fretting we will be able to do good until we see God’s justice.

Pastor Peter Erickson

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Columbia Falls, Montana

February 18

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

I Corinthians 15:54-55

I prepared today’s devotion, a reflection on our reading this coming Sunday. The 15th chapter of I Corinthians is pretty great, we would all do well to spend time with this word from Paul.

1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50

For insight into Paul’s understanding of the resurrection, read the entire 15th chapter of First Corinthians. I recall reading commentary on this chapter that said something to this effect:

“This is difficult for us to understand, because we do not have as sophisticated an understanding of death and resurrection as Paul’s audience did.”

What? We’re not as sophisticated? You’ve got to be kidding me! They didn’t have iPhones!

We regularly confess; “I believe in the resurrection of the body....”

Today we read: “What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (I Cor 15:50)

This word from Paul does not contradict but sharpens our confession. The resurrection is a gift promised to we who are mortal. (It’s complicated!)

In the cross and the resurrection, God grants forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

This season of Epiphany we take note that God has sent Jesus to redeem even us, and that this gift shapes our entire lives, and more.

Jesus’ call to love our enemies (Sunday’s Gospel reading) is lived out in the cross, and, I believe, made possible in the resurrection.

May the resurrection promise give life to your love for others.

Pastor Phil Wold

Trinity Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

February 19

take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags…

Genesis 43:11

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Julia Seymour, who serves Big Timber Lutheran Church, in Big Timber, Montana. Pastor Seymour is an excellent writer, with Bible studies and devotional works published in national publications. Her reflection on the Joseph story opens our eyes to see God at work in myriad ways.

Genesis 43:1-11, 15

Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry them down as a present to the man—a little balm and a little honey, gum, resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. (Gen. 43:11)

Today’s reading contains poignant anticipation of a reunion between Joseph, his brothers, and his father. The reader knows information that some of the characters do not yet have - that Joseph is alive and that God has helped him to have forgiveness in his heart.

The verse above is an interesting side note: the patriarch, Jacob, is encouraging Judah to bring some small gifts to the mystery man of power in Egypt. Jacob’s sons have gone to Egypt because of a famine in their own land. Yet, they bring gifts of food and healing to the place from which they hope to be fed.

Even people in great need have something to offer to others. Small gifts, efforts at reciprocity, and sharing of wisdom are some of the ways that all people indicate their dignity, their humanity, and their hope.

Pastor Julia Seymour

Big Timber Lutheran Church, Big Timber, Montana

February 20

“But I say to you that listen,

Love your enemies,

do good to those who hate you,

bless those who curse you,

pray for those who abuse you…”

Luke 6:24

We hope to see you in worship today at 8:30 or 11:00.

The service will be posted on our website

The Prayer of the Day for today:

O Lord Jesus,

make us instruments of your peace,

that where there is hatred, we may sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

and where there is despair, hope.

Grant, O divine master,

that we may seek to console, to understand, and to love in your name,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Anna Merritt serves Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, in Great Falls. She offers a reflection on the Gospel for today…

Luke 6:27-38

Have you ever struggled to forgive someone? Seriously? Is there anyone who has not tried to love someone who is almost unlovable?

What might we do to make a difference? Perhaps trying to ignore them? Or soliciting others to be against them? But thinking about turning our other cheek to them? Or blessing them? Or even praying for them? What is Jesus thinking in this teaching?

Yet, when I think about it, God knows any of my feeble efforts, like those above, may not result in mending anything, but have the potential to make matters worse. And in the end, I would be the one who ultimately suffered, because unresolved resentment can cause me anguish. As others have said, holding onto to anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

It could be, then, that verse 37 holds the key. We are blessed by a God of grace and second chances, who judges fairly, forgives lavishly and loves perfectly. A God who hears our prayers and blesses our human efforts beyond imagining. A God who is perfect in doing what we may find nearly impossible.

Thanks be to God.

Pastor Anna Merritt

Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Great Falls, Montana

February 21

The LORD said to Moses,

“…you have found favor in my sight,

and I know you by name.”

Exodus 33:17

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Tonia Fisher serves St. James Lutheran Church, in Columbus, Montana.

Exodus 33:1-17

The Lord said, “I will go with you and give you peace.” (Ex 33:14)

God tells Moses “It’s time to claim the land I promised your forefathers.” But it is not a totally happy bon voyage, God also tells Moses, Godself will not be going with them. For if He did, He would consume them on the way, for they are a stiff-necked people. They have already turned away from the Lord and established their own god.

However, God does promise an angel will go before them, driving out the enemies which stand between them and their destination.

This is an unexpected send off. The people mourned when they heard this. On behalf of the people, Moses went to plead with God and reminded God of His promise to accompany them always.

We, too, turn from God in our actions and reactions. Then we plead for God’s grace, His blessings, His presence in our lives. God sent His Son, Jesus the Christ to show us God’s love, to open up our relationship. The Holy Spirit was sent to accompany us on our path.

God keeps His word and, in His love, promises His people still today, “I will go with you and give you peace.”

Pastor Tonia Fisher

St. James Lutheran Church, Columbus, Montana

February 22

Oh my God, do not be far from me;

make haste to help me,

O Lord, my salvation.

Psalm 38:21-22

Today’s devotion is written for us by Jenny Kunka, who serves our Synod as the director of the Northern Rockies Institute of Theology. NRIT is an important gift to our Church, providing continuing education opportunities for our leaders. Jenny provided the devotion a month ago, and I mentioned that I first met Jenny when she was a counselor at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp in the late 80’s or early 90’s. How is it possible that she has children who are out of high school???

I have really appreciated hearing from so many friends and colleagues this season, yet I am also looking forward to resuming writing the daily devotions once we are in the season of Lent.

Peace to you this week, Pastor Phil

Psalm 38

In the pre-dawn hours: It’s three in the morning. The television is off and cell phone plugged into a socket in another room. There are no blessed distractions when the accusations wake me

Shaking me, calling to me. And I face them. The sins.

Hundreds of selfish actions piling up over years of living. Innumerable transgressions both small and large. Hurtful words and uncaring actions, not to mention the damage my very existence has on the earth and God’s creatures.

It’s three in the morning.

Denial, excuses, minimization, and distraction are sleeping. “You have sinned,” the shadows whisper. “You care mostly of yourself.”

In the silence and the dark, my foolishness is laid before me.

My soul is shown to be wasting for lack of love for my neighbor… all my neighbors… every one.

For the next sleepless hour, it’s Psalm 38, weighing down the mattress, sitting with me.

In my despair.

Psalm 38 in the darkness

Until, just before dawn, I come to the last verse

And I reach out, grab hold and cling to the words,

“Oh my God, do not be far from me; make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.”

Jenny Kunka

Director, Northern Rockies Institute of Theology, Montana Synod

February 23

Jesus said to his disciples

“And if the same person sins against you seven times a day,

and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’

you must forgive.”

Luke 17:4

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Chris Flohr , who serves St. Paul Lutheran Church, in Missoula. I served that congregation during my internship year in the 1985-86 school year, so this congregation has a special place in my heart.

Luke 17:1-4

[Jesus said]

“…And if the same person sins against you seven times a day,

and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent’,

you must forgive.”

Jesus said we must forgive.

So what’s the problem?

Forgiveness: how hard it is, how sweet it is, how unfair it is, how healing it is!

Retired Synod Bishop Jessica Crist wrote about forgiveness in 2016 reflecting on the Mother Emmanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston South Carolina. A cold killing in a sacred space. You might remember a decade before the Amish school in Pennsylvania the students that were killed.

Bishop Crist shared this line – “We must learn over and over to ask for forgiveness, to grant forgiveness, and to receive forgiveness.”

In both the above-mentioned tragic events a counterculture proclamation of forgiveness was given to the gunman by the people most affected by the traumatic loss.

Always moving to me are the words of Jesus from the cross,

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

We know and we don’t know....

Jesus help us to forgive as you do. Amen

Pastor Chris Flohr

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Missoula, Montana

February 24

The LORD said to Moses:

Write these words;

in accordance with these words

I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.

Exodus 34:27

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor, who serves

Once again we hear from Pastor Julia Seymour of Big Timber Lutheran Church, and once again she gives us an insightful reflection that fixes our eyes on our God of grace and our calling to serve as bearers of God’s gracious love in the world.

A note: I’ve read accounts by Major League baseball players from the 30’s and 40’s who were Jewish. One told of being the the first Jewish person some folks ever met. He actually had people express surprise to him, because they were taught that Jewish people were so different from others, that they had horns.

I still remember being flummoxed by this…

Exodus 34:27-35

Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of Moses is incredibly muscular, and bigger than life. His gaze is intense. He exudes power. Though seated, his feet are positioned like a runner prepared to take off. But what’s up with the two horns sprouting out of Moses’ head? Scholars say the Latin Vulgate Bible contains a mistranslation. Apparently, the Hebrew word for “rays” has similarity to “horns.”

Yet, one would hardly confuse the two on sight! Animal ‘horns’ are bony projections, useful in defending territory or claiming dominance. While ‘rays’ are an ephemeral experience, a manifestation of sunlight. Rays of light often serve metaphorically for divine presence and hope. One thing is clear: When Moses descended from Mt. Sinai, the Israelites were overwhelmed by the holy glow of Moses’ face. It was too much illumination to handle!

Horns or Rays? Regardless of translation error, Michelangelo has given us something to think about. In current socio-political times, our people jostle for dominance and defend the territory of their convictions. Yet, God did not create us with horns upon our heads for this task! God gave us the law through Moses, and the gospel through Jesus. They guide our path like rays of sunlight: Love God with all your heart. Listen, respect, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Pastor Julia Seymour

Big Timber Lutheran Church, Big Timber, Montana

February 25

where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17b

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Kendra Wilde, of Helena, Montana. She reflects on our second lesson for Sunday.

Friday, February 25, 2022

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Freedom is a common preoccupation for U.S. Americans. We still wrestle with the nature of the freedoms outlined in our Constitution and in recent years, freedom seems to be defined as the maximum ability to do what I want with a minimum of external influence. Don’t tell me what to do!

Yet, how do we think about freedom as Christians?

Paul returns to the topic frequently, as we hear in today’s lesson: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).

In a characteristically paradoxical statement, Luther asserts: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”

And Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

A Christian understanding of freedom is quite counter-cultural. Instead of being “free” of others, freedom is to be found in relationship with God and with others. That is, the more attached to Christ we are, the freer we become. We are free from sin and death and, moreover, freedom for our preoccupation with our own sinfulness in order that we direct our energy to serving our neighbors.

Pastor Kendra Wilde

Helena, Montana

February 26

The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble!

Let them praise your great and awesome name.

Holy is he!

Psalm 99:1a, 3

Today’s devotion is written for us by Pastor Megan Hoewisch, who serves First Lutheran Church, in Havre, Montana. She provides us with a reflection on the Psalm for this coming Sunday…

The Psalms have been called “The Prayer Book of the Bible.” They are very much like a hymnal, with prayers and hymns. They are also like a hymnal in that we don’t really know who wrote the prayers and the liturgy. Some Psalms are attributed to David, many have other attributions. But the fact is we can’t know for sure about any of them…

I like how Pastor Hoewisch refers to the author of Psalm 99 as “she.”

That makes me think. And smile.

Psalm 99

“Moses and Aaron were among his priests,

Samuel was among those who called on his name;

they called on the Lord and he answered them.

He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;

they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.”

(Psalm 99:6-7)

Sometimes we keep our prayers generic and broad, like, “We pray for all health care workers.” Sometimes we make our prayers very specific, like, “We pray for the nurse who worked the night shift and wore the pink scrubs and held our hands when we were afraid.”

The person who wrote Psalm 99 made her prayer specific: she prayed for certain people who have shepherded God’s people when they were afraid. She remembered a very particular moment in her story when God’s presence and protection were tangible and made a world of difference.

If you were to pray a specific prayer, like this psalmist, which spiritual guides would you lift up? What moment of God’s provision would you remember? Which statute or decree has kept you safe from harm?

We give thanks for the specific and the general, the known and the unknown, who are always known to God. Amen.

Pastor Megan Hoewisch

First Lutheran Church, Havre, Montana

February 27

Sunday, February 27th

While he was saying this,

a cloud came and overshadowed them;

and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.

Then from the cloud came a voice that said,

"This is my Son, my Chosen listen to him!

Luke 9:34-35

The Prayer of the Day for today:

Holy God, mighty and immortal,

you are beyond our knowing,

yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Transform us into the likeness of your Son,

who renewed our humanity

so that we may share in his divinity,

Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

I hope to see you in worship today.

The service will be posted online

On this last Sunday before Lent we hear the story of the Transfiguration. Ash Wednesday worship services will be held at noon and 7:00 p.m. this coming Wednesday, March 2nd. We will have the imposition of ashes, and Holy Communion. Lent is a season that provides us an opportunity to prepare carefully for Easter, and Easter living.

Today’s devotion is a reflection by our bishop, Pastor Laurie Jungling, on the Transfiguration story.

May you have a blessed day, and as we look ahead to Lent, may we all consider how to walk always in the Good News of Easter.

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

Luke 9:28-36

Do you ever feel like you're stuck in the cloud? Caught in that moment of uncertainty right before the voice speaks? Luke describes it as a moment of terror for the disciples and it can be that way for us too. The anxieties of life can feel like they are seeping into our bones with a dampness that sucks our energy and makes it hard to ignite any flame. In the midst of those clouds, it's easy to forget God’s glory.

Christians often talk about glory as if it’s something we give to God. Remember that old Bible school song “Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory?”

But glory is not something we give to God. Glory is something God gives to us. Glory is the light of the transfigured Christ shining out of the darkness, dazzling our whole selves with good news of new life.

Glory is Christ’s love, reflecting through the universe, drawing us into the hope of God’s new possibilities. Glory is the kingdom of God come near in the incarnate Christ.

Even in the cloud, we are filled with Christ’s glory through our baptism.

So let’s shine and reflect God's glory into the world.

Bishop Laurie Jungling

Montana Synod, ELCA

February 28

So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.

Acts 10:23

Today’s devotion is written for us by my friend Pastor Peggy Paugh Leuzinger, who serves as our Synod Director for Evangelical Mission…

As we come to the season of Lent, we come to the end of these devotions prepared by my colleagues in the Montana Synod. I trust that you also have found it interesting to “hear” these many different voices. As members of Trinity Lutheran Church, we are part of a great community, and that community extends to the Montana Synod, the entire ELCA, as well as the whole Church on earth. It is true: “Every person who belongs to Christ, belongs to every person who belongs to Christ.”

Acts 10:9-23

"What God has made clean, you must not call profane." This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.” (Acts 10:15-16)

Children in pre-school are encouraged to begin to understand patterns. Developmentally, we humans learn to categorize and organize. In these words, from the book of Acts, we observe that Peter has learned well. He understands that there are categories of “clean” and “unclean”.

Except, suddenly his thought process is challenged. “What God has made clean; you must not call profane.” And we are told that this exchange happened three times, to make clear that this sheet business was real and intended!

Maturing in the Christian faith often means expanding the understanding that one had, in order to come to a new understanding – to see and comprehend a new pattern and intent.

In these revolutionary words in Acts, Peter suddenly has his eyes opened, not quite in the same way that the scales fell from Paul’s eyes, but in a similar way and to a similarly powerful effect!

God’s voice and the image of the sheet with the “unclean” animals had the impact to open Peter’s eyes and heart to respond to the request to go to Cornelius.

The barriers and walls have been burst apart!

To see with different eyes opens us to an understanding that is truly earth shattering and brings transformation and new life. Thanks be to God.

Pastor Peggy Paugh Leuzinger

Director for Evangelical Mission, Montana Synod, ELCA