FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR – OCTOBER 2017

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”(John 3:16 -17)

Martin Luther referred to John 3:16 as the Gospel in miniature, encompassing the primary theme and purpose of the Gospel. In the face of hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, monsoons, floods, tornadoes, famine, war, and other events I need to also hear John 3:17 loud and clear. God does not just love people, but the world, the cosmos, everything is included in God’s redeeming and reconciling work in Jesus Christ. As your pastor, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, know that whatever trials and tribulations come our way, God is present and active in the midst of our pain and suffering.

There are many events at CtK in October that I want to highlight:

October 1st at 2 pm is the Blessing of the Animals service.
October 7th and 8th is our Consecration Weekend with the theme of All Good Gifts.
October 14th and 15th is Bread for the World Weekend.
October 28th at 6:30 is the Beer, Brats, and Marty Bingo fellowship event and fundraiser for the National Youth Gathering team.
October 29th is Reformation Sunday.  As it is the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we will watch a Rick Steves DVD on Luther and the Reformation in the sanctuary from 9:45 – 10:45 am.

I hope that you have found the various articles from Living Lutheran discussing aspects of the Reformation helpful and edifying for your faith.

Living in God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Matthew Groenke

FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR – OCTOBER 2016

“God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”
(2 Corinthians 9:8)

I love this verse from the apostle Paul, but not for the reason you might think. Abundance and scarcity are constantly waging a war in our culture, vying for our allegiance and support. Abundance thinking would have you believe that all things come from God and that the constant need to consume and acquire and accumulate are not the be-all end-all that they present themselves as. Scarcity thinking always sees the glass as half full, defining one’s life by what one still does not have or possess, as if these things alone define who we are. Abundance thinking sees the glass as always overflowing with God’s gifts of love, mercy, and life, not just half full.

This past Sunday a group of us packed personal care kits for Lutheran World Relief, intended for those in God’s world who are in dire need of a sign that they have not been forgotten or abandoned in the face of terrible loss. The shadow of the cross reaches all people or no one, as the light from the empty tomb on Easter shines everywhere God claims and on everyone God loves. Amidst the divisiveness and brokenness of our lives, God calls us to become disciples of Jesus, carrying our cross and following Jesus wherever that may take us. God’s love for us knows no limits, and God’s mercy knows no bounds.

During all of the upcoming events in October I would like all of us to remember how much God has done for us, how much God is doing for us right now, and how much God will do for us in the future. Love another in Christ’s name. Be the change that God wants to see. Respond to the gift of faith in your heart by trusting that God has everything, I mean everything, in God’s hands. Because that is true, our hands are needed, our lives are needed, to share abundantly in every good work.

Living in God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Matthew Groenke

October Events
October 2nd – Blessing of the Animals at 2 PM.
October 5th – Weekly study of Gospel of Mark at 7 PM.
October 8th and 9th – Rite of Healing during all three worship services
October 15th and 16th – Bread for the World and World Food Day emphasis in all three worship services.
October 22nd and 23rd – Annual stewardship response opportunity in all three worship services
October 30th – German meal to kick off the year-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation at 12:30 PM.

FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR – JUNE 2016

Greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I love writing those words, filled with meaning and hope. This article is being written during the week between the celebration of Pentecost and Holy Trinity Sunday, a time, at least for this pastor, that is full of energy and vibrancy from our gift of the Holy Spirit given on Pentecost and many ministry and mission opportunities that beckon to a Sunday focused on a doctrine. It’s not exactly my idea of a celebration, but the Holy Trinity is our best effort in the church to explain, quantify, and define a God who is unknowable, indefinable, infinite, eternal, and incomprehensible. We confess through our creeds how God is a God of relationship, dynamic and life-giving. When I think of the Trinity, the need to combat various heresies in the early church comes to mind as different voices in the church came together to debate and struggle with a definition of faith. (As an aside, every time our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers make a three–point basket you can remember the Trinity as well!)

I would like to share a portion of the prayer of St. Patrick, which according to tradition was on his breastplate as he shared the Good News of Jesus Christ in Ireland.

“I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
I arise today through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism, through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial, through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension, through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s shield to protect me.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”

Living in God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Matthew Groenke

FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR APRIL 2016

The month of April is finally here, with the signs and smells of spring in the air. The start of the baseball season was always tangible proof that the frosty and icy grip that winter held over Ohio was beginning to wane. Although I can recall cheering on the Indians on opening day and having to wear layers of clothing and a winter coat. The phrase, “Stay five minutes and the weather will change,” could definitely have originated in Ohio. April was always the month that I looked forward to because of The Masters, which is the first Major golf championship tournament held every year over the second weekend in April. Watching the beautiful trees and flowers in Georgia was a welcome sight considering I usually had not been able to golf yet. My father and I would be sure to block out our Sunday afternoon during the last round of the Masters to see who would win the coveted green jacket. Truth be told I would rather play golf than watch golf, but watching these amazing golfers challenge themselves and each other was always must-see TV. However, CBS was only allowed in those days to show the back nine, or the last nine holes of the golf course. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I even knew what the first nine holes looked like! The public was always told that as a private golf club and course, it was their belief that the last nine holes were the best and most beautiful so only those holes were worthy enough to be shown on TV. It felt as if I was only able to see half of a work of art, or listen to a portion of a musical composition, or heaven forbid, eat only half of my favorite dessert! Today one can follow along with the players on every hole, watch particular groups of golfers, or watch one particular hole played by every golfer in the field.

This led me to some observations concerning faith. I have no personal empirical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, yet by this event happening the world was redeemed, restored, and saved. As the scores were posted by the golfers during their play on the front nine, I could not prove that they were accurate, but I still had to trust that others had observed and could verify their scores. Without the passing down of the witness of the resurrection throughout the generations combined with the written testimony and witness of the Bible passed down as a gift from the community of believers called the church, trust in the seemingly absurd and impossible resurrection would be pointless. “Faith comes from what is heard,” and the phrase “we walk by faith and not by sight come to  mind.” Along with the famous verse from Hebrews which states “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” When I compare my viewing experience of the Masters with only the back nine, or the whole eighteen holes available, I enjoy watching all of the holes because it gives a richer narrative and picture of the tournament as a whole. Only God is able to perceive everything, yet the glimpses and signs that we see in scripture, in the life , death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in our lives today which point to the new reality of becoming a new creation in Jesus Christ compel us through the Holy Spirit to participate in God’s mission and ministry in the world. Share the Gospel, love our God, love your neighbor, forgive one another, live out the gift of faith that God so graciously has given you.

Living in God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Matthew Groenke

FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR MARCH 2016

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
(Luke 24:5b)

This event, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has changed everything and also is still changing everything through the work of the Holy Spirit. Before arriving at the celebration of the resurrection, which we celebrate every Sunday that we gather for worship, there are many opportunities to prepare our hearts and minds. Every liturgical year, Christ the King gathers for an intensive or crash course in Christian identity and life. On Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, worship will include liturgies that use hearing, singing, eating, and praying, forming us again into the people who announce to the world that the cross and resurrection are connected. As Tony Campolo famously once said, “It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!” We gather together during these holy days to acknowledge our shared need for forgiveness, for life, for “re-formation” in the faith that God daily gifts us with. The readings, hymns, liturgies, and prayers may sound familiar, but never lose sight of the fact that you and I are different people than we were. God is shaping us, molding us, and transforming us every day in a myriad of ways including worship.

Here is a brief review of what is to come during this year’s Holy Week:
March 20th – Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday worship at 8:30 and 11:00 including a procession of palm branches and a dramatic reading of the Passion, and Intergenerational Sunday School at 9:45 with a surprise for the youth.
March 24th – Maundy Thursday worship at 7 with First Communion and stripping of the altar.
March 25th  – Good Friday worship at noon on the square in Twinsburg for the Stations of the Cross.
March 25th – Good Friday worship at 7 pm.
March 26th – Easter Vigil at 8 pm.
March 27th – Easter Sunday worship at 8:30 and 11:00.

This prayer is one of the options for Easter Sunday;
“God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

Living in God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Matthew Groenke

FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR – NOVEMBER 2015

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”(Colossians 3:15)

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”(Colossians 2:6-7)

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”(Psalm 100:4-5)

Historically, November has been a time to give thanks to God for the many blessings bestowed upon us. The verses above are a sampling of the importance of taking the time to be thankful, to be grateful for all that God has done. SO much of our energy and time is spent on the pursuit of what God alone can provide. There are 69 references from the Bible which illustrate the need to cultivate this attitude of thankfulness and gratitude.

Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is  only possible through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and one of the consequences of being given the gift of faith is that faith drives you to trust in the promises of God. Trusting in your relationship with Jesus Christ amidst a part of the body of Christ that is the fellowship of believers called Christ the King Lutheran Church compels you to fully live in to the promise that God is real and does exist, and that God will provide everything you need. Therefore, I will give thanks for what has been, look forward to what will be, and fully live in the present.

Thanksgiving is not just a national holiday in November; it is a state of mind, an attitude of gratitude that we can cultivate and celebrate every day. During the month of November, I would like to challenge all of us to keep a list of things that we are thankful for. Through the activity of listing and reflection, prayer and contemplation, we will grow in our ability to give thanks to our God.

Living in God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Matthew Groenke

From the Senior Pastor – October 2015

The season of fall is upon us, with the wide variety of fall foliage, football games and marching band shows, hay rides and the inevitable march towards cooler temperatures. In the midst of the change of seasons I was given an opportunity to take a stroll through the past. Specifically, I spent some time this morning sorting and placing on our library shelves here at Christ the King six boxes filled to the brim with books from Jeanette Cooper.

For those of you fortunate enough to have had Jeanette as a Sunday School teacher, you would not have been surprised at all by the variety of biblical commentaries, books on theology, and various translations of the Bible. There were even some hymnals and small catechisms owned by Jeanette and her family that have stood the test of time. One item stood out for me as I was placing all of her Bibles together on the shelves. Jeanette had presented her father with a Bible and said, “I present this Bible with faith that he will wear this one out too.”

What a great phrase to think on, to ponder, to let settle into the marrow of our bones. Those of you who have seen the shelves in my office know that I too have a love of books, of the ideas that I find in them, and how the weight of a book feels when I am engrossed in its pages. The Bible is the “cradle that holds Christ” in the words of Martin Luther. The Bible comes alive for you whenever you hear it as God’s address to you, showing you God’s mercy and love, calling you in the power of the Holy Spirit to pick up your cross and follow Jesus. Know that Jesus is the living Word, the Word made flesh and dwelled among us.

Speaking of fall, there is a plethora of opportunities to grow in faith and to be a part of our mission and ministry here at Christ the King.

October 3rd and 4th – Stewardship skit at all three worship services.

October 4th – Blessing of the Animals at 2 PM.

October 10th and 11th – Consecration Weekend with the filling out of pledge cards as God loves a cheerful giver.

October 18th – Bread for the World Sunday

October 19th – Youth Day at CtK (no school today)

October 24th and 25th – Reformation Day weekend and celebration

October 25th – Reformation Day festival at St. Paul’s in Alliance with Bishop Allende preaching at 7 PM.

Living in God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Matthew Groenke

FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR – JULY 2015

FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR JULY 2015

As I sit in my office writing this reflection the difference between today and a week ago is staggering. It has been just a week since the beginning of our LOMO Day Camp, with the theme “A Love that never ends.” The hustle and bustle around Christ the King was palpable. Forty children attended, numerous older youth assisted and served, and the adults who committed to this ministry and gave their time and talents were a sight to see. It is a wonderful thing to see children learning about God’s love, bursting with energy and vibrancy through the Holy Spirit, and eager to see Jesus in our worship, our songs, our fellowship time together. As your pastor I am thankful for all who made this ministry possible, as it was such a clear example of our mission to shine the light of Jesus, to reflect His unconditional love, and to mirror His kindness to all people. On the Monday that I find myself writing, the hustle and bustle of Day Camp has been replaced by a quietness that is almost disconcerting. Yet, in the stillness and quietness comes an opportunity to reflect on much that has happened and that will be happening soon.

I have included Bishop Eaton’s message on the horrific shooting of nine of our African American brothers and sisters in Charleston, South Carolina. Please read what she has to say, take time for repentance and mourning, to talk and to listen, and then to act. I am reminded of the mission statement of the Nebraska Synod, which says “Live love with the grace and courage of Jesus.” For those of you who heard me preach the weekend after Day Camp and the events of Charleston, you were a witness to the power of the Holy Spirit because these two sermons were right up there with my most challenging sermons to preach in 17 years of ordained ministry. The act of rewriting a sermon is never an easy one, but thankfully God pushed me past my anxiety and trepidation to empower me to say what needed to be said.

I would like to give thanks for all who helped at the work day at Christ the King. The 20 yards of mulch was spread, weeds were pulled with gusto, and much inside work was also done. It is a delight to serve our Lord together. The wonderful turnout allowed us to spread the workload around, have time for fellowship as well, and leave with a sense of accomplishment in a job well done. The lunch that was provided was also a delight to partake of.

There is much to look forward to as well. By the time you receive this newsletter, a new member class will have met and will soon become officially part of our faith community. Our worship service on July 5th as part of the Cost of Freedom event here in Twinsburg will give us another opportunity to be involved in God’s work in the world. On July 7th, Christ the King will host a blood drive for the Red Cross from 2 to 7.  On July 14th – 19th, four youth and two adults will be traveling to Detroit for the Rise Up! 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering. Gabrielle, Olivia, Carlton, Adam, Patti, and I ask for your prayers as we embark on this important faith formation event. On July 20th, the Twinsburg Hunger Drive kicks off with the passing out of bags to every residence in Twinsburg, Twinsburg Township, and Reminderville with the filled bags being picked up on July 25th to fill the shelves of The Emergency Assistance Center.

Living in God’s amazing grace,

Rev. Matthew Groenke

FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR – May 2015

As the weather finally turns to the season of spring, which the calendar states should have been the case days ago, I am reminded of the beginning of the baseball season. As a child , I lived in Cincinnati for five years during the heyday of the Big Red Machine. What a team! It seemed that every time I went to a game and looked out at the field there was an all-star at almost every position. I remember the electricity in the city when the Reds won the World Series in 1975 and 1976, but little did I realize then that the Reds would not win another World Series until 1990. By then, I was in the fall semester of my sophomore year at Capital and much had changed.

Having spent most of my childhood in northeastern Ohio, I had also begun to follow the Cleveland Indians. Do you remember the 1987 cover of Sports Illustrated declaring the Indians would win it all? We all know how that turned out. This year, the Cleveland Indians have been picked by Sports Illustrated to win it all as well. Taking the issue with Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley on the cover of Sports Illustrated out of my mailbox brought joy at first, but then a sense of “here we go again.” The memories of the World Series in 1995 and 1997 came to mind, when the winning of a championship was so close you could taste it. Don’t get me started on the Browns’ near misses in the 1980s. Fans of Cleveland professional teams have long been admired for their ability to “wait till next year,” and “hope springs eternal.” Whether the Cavaliers with the return of Lebron James can finally bring a championship back to Cleveland this year or not, we know that our hope is not based on the outcomes of our favorite sports teams.

When I typed in the word “hope” in my oremus Bible browser, the search produced 207 verses in which this word was mentioned including all of the apocryphal books in the Bible. Here are a few of these verses:
“For you, O LORD, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.”(Psalm 71:5)
“O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.”(Psalm 130:7)
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and for harm, to give you a future with hope.”(Jeremiah 29:11)
“And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”(Matthew 12:21)
“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.”(Luke 24:21)
“And endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”(Romans 5:4-5)
“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”(Romans 8:24-25)
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.”(Romans 12:12)
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”(Romans 15:13)
“It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”(1 Corinthians 13:7)
“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”(1 Corinthians 13:13)
“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”(1 Corinthians 15:19)
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11:1)

The hope that is given to us by God through Jesus Christ can never be taken away. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has made possible the reality of hope not only in the future but also in our present reality as we are a new creation in Christ and are empowered and equipped by the Holy Spirit to have hope now. Regardless of how our favorite sports teams fare in any given season, our hope is a gift that comes from God on a daily basis. We do not have to “hope for the best,” because God always gives the best! Thanks be to God!

Living in God’s amazing grace,
Pastor Matthew Groenke

FROM THE SENIOR PASTOR – April 2015

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. I love saying these words filled with hope, faith, and trust in the promises of God. So many words can be spoken in a repetitive fashion that one might no longer acknowledge or linger over the very act of speaking these words.

Soon we will be once again walking with Jesus Christ through the events of Holy Week, where many words will be spoken, events will be remembered and celebrated, and faith will be lived out. Thanks be to God that the power of God’s grace, the reality of becoming a new creation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not based on anything I or anyone else does or may do, but rests solely on our God. God is determined to be merciful to people, to elect to show mercy and love. God has made a decision for humanity and the whole of creation on the cross of Jesus. Why else can we call it Good Friday? The cross can be seen as the price of mercy, that Jesus dies for us, in our place, and ahead of us.

Every time that I come to the opportunity to worship our God during Holy Week, I am struck by the radical nature of the Gospel as defined as good news. God on the cross has made us die and simultaneously given us new life. The cross puts to death our need to justify ourselves. The cross and subsequent resurrection of Jesus mean precisely how God has chosen to act in history. Grace and forgiveness are given to all people through the cross and resurrection. God through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has saved us, and this is the Gospel as good news.

Within these pages of our monthly newsletter you will find numerous examples of our response to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are so many signs of this new life in Jesus, this new creation steeped in God’s grace and love being expressed here through the people of Christ the King that I can’t begin to count them all. Trust that you are treasured by our God, that you are special, that you are loved. Together, we live love with the grace and courage of Jesus.

Living in God’s amazing grace,

Pastor Matthew Groenke