Epistle #3 – Where is God?

During these interesting and frightful days, many of you may find yourselves asking this question: “Where is God?”

I do too.

Given the fact that I wear the yoke of responsibility as the spiritual shepherd of our St. Paul flock, I decided this week to build a 60-foot scaffolding structure inside the Chapel/Church tower here at Saint Paul Lutheran, in order to provide the answer for us all. “Never fear, I will find God!”

It was an arduous climb, at best. But I figured it would be so worth it to bring you an update and hopefully some answers.  Certainly with such a great vantage point I would be able to find God. What’s more, as many of you claim with pride, we know that Winterset is located right smack in the center of “God’s Country”. (Which would technically make God an Iowan, I suppose.)  Thus, this surely would make it more likely that one would have opportunity to see exactly where God might be hiding; or at least to observe if God can be seen heading our direction.  So finally, standing on top of the highest scaffolding platform, I was able to gaze outwards through the windows in every direction across the Iowa prairie.…looking for God.

I am kidding about the scaffolding climb and elevated 360-degree visual search, of course. (The good news there, is that we’ve got a painting crew hard at work, and many of our walls will be brighter, fresher and more lovely in the Lord’s house when we all are able to come together once again! 🙂

I am not, however, joking about our search for God. During this past week, in a time of intentional social isolation and the moratorium on the gatherings of people, I have come to a realization about my own personal faith. What I have discovered, is this: I am accustomed to “seeing God” and understanding God’s presence through people of faith. And of course, the most profound time of seeing and being with people of faith, is uniquely on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, etc. when “the church” comes together.

I know God through the folks who come to the Lord’s Table in humility and brokenness, and then go back to their pews with a new spring in their step.  I know and see God through the people who sing God’s praise together and pray together and do ministry projects together. I know and love God through the gathering of the 16 seventh and eighth graders and our team of four adult volunteers in our confirmation class, and in and through the great gathering of our grade school children and all of the adult volunteers who normally convene every Wednesday night to learn and sing and laugh and be together in Jesus name!

Where I most profoundly receive my regular diet of “seeing God” is at God’s house, through you. Yes, of course there are all sorts of other intentional and powerful moments as well. But the congregating of our congregation is where I tend to find encouragement and inspiration in God’s love and presence with God’s people together.

And now, we have suspended worship services. We are not meeting together for an indefinite period of time. It feels so weird. There is a sense of lost equilibrium. This is the case even for those for whom “coming to church” is an occasional or sporadic thing. How strange it feels to not have the option of being together right now.

Did you ever imagine that during your lifetime the coming together for worship on Sunday morning would not be available to you?

Perhaps some of us can relate to the feelings of the young child, crying out from the darkness of his bedroom one night. He was unable to fall asleep even though parents assured him that he did not need them to come into his room, because “God is with you! There is no need to be afraid” they called out in assurance to him, “because God is right there, present with you!” In response, following an extended pause, the boy’s voice called out once again: “But I want someone in here with some skin and bones on!”

I want to offer a challenge and invitation to you to see the opportunity to grow in your faith in new ways, given our circumstances. Especially if the craziness of these times provides you with more time than is the norm.

  1. Spending time with God’s Word. If you don’t have a particular reading plan, you might start with the Gospel of Luke. The pace is not so important as is the opportunity to be thoughtful and focused in your reading. Perhaps you might wish to set a goal of four or five chapters per day. As you may recall, Luke is also the author of the book of Acts, which brings us through the earliest history of the Christian church. I believe that as we are reminded of the historic beginnings of how Christ’s church gathered and grew and ministered and loved, that we might be inspired in our own approach as we will soon (hopefully) be able to start coming together, face to face, once again.
  2. Pray. Seek God’s revelation to you in new and different ways during these days. Know through prayer of God’s presence with you, and of guidance through the Spirit. And pray for those who are afraid, isolated, in panic mode with how to provide care for their children who do not have school, or are suddenly faced with a new economic reality of not knowing how they will pay their bills with an unexpected turn of events related to income flow. And pray for those who are sick, and for those who have lost loved ones, globally to the virus. And for those who are putting themselves at risk, in order to serve and protect the rest of us.

Peace to you all, in Jesus Christ. The One who promises, and keeps His promise, to never leave you nor forsake you.

Pastor Brian Mortenson

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867



Epistle #1

Dearest friends,
I write today, in the midst of an extraordinary global pandemic shut-down, in order to introduce the first of a series of communications which we will call “Epistles to St. Paul”.  This series of Epistles will begin today, March 18, 2020 and will conclude on that day in which we shall meet gathered in community in the physical presence of one another in worship on Sunday morning! (The date for this, of course, remains to be determined.)

This word epistle simply means “a letter”. We are accustomed to hearing about and learning from the biblical Epistles FROM St. Paul. (These written to the Christian communities in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, etc.) These epistles offer encouragement, support, direction, exhortation and news “updates” from the apostle Paul for life as Christian people in the midst of community, specific to that community.

Likewise, these present day epistles will also include words of encouragement, support, direction, exhortation and news updates.  However, these letters will be TO St. Paul. St. Paul the community, (which is currently the “virtual” community,) of our congregation, St. Paul Lutheran Church, of Winterset, Iowa.

Please look around you.  Is there anything of your normal day to day existence that does not feel totally “up in the air“ these days?  Because of how fluid our current environment, we do not have a fixed schedule for this plan.  Epistles will be sent out as needed, or as deemed beneficial. Some will be coming from me, your intentional interim pastor, and some will be coming from other Saint Paul church family members, including lay leadership.

Bottom line? We wish to make certain that we do not define Christian community with the shortsighted vision that it solely means those who come together physically on Sunday morning for worship. During these days, we see great need and opportunity to nurture this community of faith.  And yet we cannot be together.  But by being intentional in our communication and doing the very best we can connectivity-wise, we can be the church.

These are unprecedented times and circumstances, with unforeseeable outcomes. Accompanying these times and factors are a gamut of emotions, sufferings, challenges and yes… opportunities!  Let’s process these things, to the degree possible, together.

I look forward to sharing more thoughts on these things in the Epistles to come!

In the meantime, remember and relish the peace that only God can give. I pray today for you all, that amazing peacefulness in your heart and mind that is so profound that it even passes our own capacity to understand it.  And it comes from Jesus our Lord.

More to come very soon!
In Christs love,
Brian Mortenson, Interim Pastor

Church office phone:  515-462-4270
Church office email:  StPaulLutheranChurch@hotmail.com
Pastor Brian Mortenson email: StPaulPastor1941@gmail.com
Pastoral Emergencies:  605-351-0867


Other Announcements pertaining to St. Paul

Blood Drive  |  Tuesday, March 24 ● 1:00 – 7:00 pm

Life Serve Blood Bank will be here March 24th from 1pm until 7 pm.  We always need cookie bakers and volunteers to help at the canteen. This is a very busy Blood Bank and we can always use more help. Its a fun afternoon visiting with members of our community who come to donate blood.

Covid-19 Common Sense

Common sense things you can do to remain healthy and protect those around you.

  1. Regular hand washing. with soap and water or alcohol solution.
  2. Stay home if you are sick.
  3. Cover your mouth with your upper arm if you cough or sneeze.
  4. Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  5. Clean and disinfect all surfaces that are often touched.
  6. We will be temporarily suspending passing the peace at both worship services.
  7. Be sure you have a flu shot. Do it for the herd.

Charles W. & Lois H. Taylor Scholarship

A reminder that the Charles W. & Lois H. Taylor Scholarship application forms are now available.  Only residents of Madison County, Iowa who are also graduates of a high school or equivalent located in Madison County are eligible to apply for financial assistance to attend any accredited technical school, community college, college, university, graduate or professional school.”

Contact:   First Christian Church
103 W. Green Street, Winterset

Deadline to submit applications is May 1, 2020