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Abide in Jesus’ Word and Be Free

To the Jews who had believed in Him, Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and truth will set you free” (John 8:31b–32).

Over the centuries, many a people, Christian and non-Christian alike, have used our Lord's words here in John 8 in and out of context, as a firm unwavering belief in the Christ who sets one free or simply as a wisdom maxim, slogan or punch-line for whatever so-called truth one wishes to profess.

As we approach our annual remembrance and celebration of the Lutheran Reformation on October 31, we give thanks to our Lord for the work of the Martin Luther and company who brought to light the clear teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Holy Scriptures that truly and only sets men free from slavery to sin, death and devil! And yet, Martin Luther would be the first to deflect any credit for this historic movement that unleashed the good news of Christ upon people who were thirsting and yearning to be set free from the guilt and burden of their sins!

As Luther once famously said,

I did nothing; the Word did everything … I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philips and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it … I did nothing; I let the Word do its work. 1

Of course, one rightly celebrates the Lutheran Reformation properly when we remember it as the work of God through His Word and give thanks to Him for what He has done! At the same time, we would be well served to heed Luther's confession of the power and efficacy of God's Word in our own lives.

“If you abide in my word,” says the Lord, “you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and truth will set you free.” What does it mean to abide in Jesus’ Word? Does it mean that we should hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest His Word? Yes. Does it mean that we should walk in its truth as a light to our path? Yes. Does it mean that we should cleave to it, hold on to it with everything we have, never let it go, as we endure and suffer trial and cross? Yes! Absolutely! It certainly means all these things. But above all, it means listening, hearing, being open to hear again and again, hearing anew and hearing afresh the words of Jesus.

Jesus’ Words are spirit and life (John 6:63). His Word is light in the darkness (John 1:5, 9–11), life in the midst of death (John 5:24) and truth in the midst of relativity and falsehood (John 17:17; 18:37). Those who abide in His Word live in the light of His life and freedom. Those who abandon His Word for another word, who are indifferent to His Word, whose ears and hearts are not open to hearing His Word remain slaves to the darkness of sin and death.

Commenting on John 8, Luther observes the importance of abiding in Christ's Word and remaining His true disciples,

The divine Word alone is our cornerstone, the I-beam, the girder, the stanchion, and the pillar undergirding our constancy. Therefore it is imperative that we hold to the plain Word of God, that we cling to the words of Christ. Then we will experience God’s help in the midst of danger and upheaval … If we rely firmly on the Word, then we need have no fear … Here is where disciples of Christ come to the parting of the ways. The false disciples begin to believe, but they defect. The true disciples remain on the hard path or enter through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:14), namely the Word of God, saying: “I am helpless. May God help me. It all rest in His hands. He promised and said: ‘Just cling to the Word, and I will uphold you. When you find yourself in any extremity or distress, you will learn to continue in God's Word. This will liberate you and make you a true disciple.’” 2

Since the garden of Eden, man has and continues to be lead astray by the words, whims and teaching of the world. Amidst the cacophony of voices in our world that question, contradict, reject, deny, oppose and seek to silence Jesus' Words, faith clings to and abides in His Word. And abiding in His Word, we remain His disciples who are truly free.

True freedom is not the liberty to do, say or believe anything we want, but to abide in Jesus who “wants us to discard and abandon everything else … to give up the illusion that anything else will avail to make us free … [and] look to Him alone” who sets us free. 3

Jesus words are not a slogan or punch-line, but the very truth of His salvific work for you and me. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and truth will set you free.”

The Lutheran Reformation isn't just something that happened long ago, but is something that God is in the business of doing in you and in me today and always; opening our ears, opening our hearts, opening our minds anew, afresh with the words of Jesus that we might abide in His Word and be free.

In Christ Alone,
Pastor Nettleton

  1. Martin Luther, Eight Sermons at Wittenberg (1522), in Luther's Works, Vol. 51, 77–78.
  2. Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of John (1531), in Luther's Works, Vol. 23, 400.
  3. Ibid., 412.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at or at 970-305-2420.

Lord Teach Us To Pray

After observing the prayer life our Lord Jesus, His disciples asked Him, “Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1b). This request reveals at least two things about the disciples and about us. First, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer notes, “in making this request, they confessed that they were not able to pray on their own, that they had to learn to pray.” 1 And secondly, since we need to learn how to pray, we are essentially always learning how to pray.

To borrow a line from John Kleinig, Jesus is the only “expert at prayer.” 2 For the rest of us, we are always learning from Jesus and from His Word how and what to pray. Just as a child learns to speak by listening to his parents and others speak, “so we learn to speak to God because God has spoken to us and speaks to us … Repeating God's own words after him, we begin to pray to him.” 3

Of course, our Lord Jesus gives us the most excellent and most exemplary prayer of all to pray. He gives us His very own prayer that He prays to His Heavenly Father, literally “The Lord's Prayer” as we have properly named it. His prayer covers all the bases. There is nothing that we need to pray for that is not covered in this prayer! Each petition is “so great,” as Luther observes, “that it should impel us to keep praying for it all our lives.” 4 For “in these seven petitions are found all our anxieties, needs, and perils, which we ought to bring to God” and the “great things” He intends to give and do for us. 5

In a very real sense then, the Lord’s Prayer serves as the source, guide and norm for all other prayers, petitions, intercessions, supplications and thanksgivings. And while our Lord's Prayer should be prayed daily and often, there remain many other prayers for which God’s people may learn to speak in boldness and confidence to our Heaven Father. The Old and New Testaments give us numerous prayers to use as our very own, most especially the Psalter which Luther considered the Christian’s prayer book.

In addition, there are many fine prayers that have been handed down to us over the centuries through the church’s liturgies, daily prayer offices, hymns, collects and catechetical materials such as the Small Catechism that all have their roots in the Scriptures. Luther, in fact, intended his Small Catechism to be a prayer book as much as concise summary of Christian doctrine for teaching.

One of the greatest prayers that we have preserved in our church body is “The Litany.” 6 The name “litany” comes from the Greek litaneia which means “prayer, supplication or entreaty.” It is one of the most ancient forms of prayer dating all the way back to the fourth and fifth centuries. Our Litany is based on Luther’s revision of the Great Litany (1529) and follows the English translation made by Thomas Cranmer (1544). 7 Purged from the Litany of All Saints, Luther removed the unbiblical prayers to the saints and enlarged the element of intercessory prayer. Today, “the Litany stands as a great and comprehensive pattern of prayer for the Church, the world, and for all sorts and conditions of people.” 8

The Litany is appropriate for penitential seasons such as Advent and Lent or for special days of repentance and prayer. With the recent state of the world, especially the last few weeks, I have found myself on my knees in prayer much more these days. And in moments of frustration, anxiousness, deep concern and even anger, I have personally found the Litany to be an exceedingly helpful prayer to lift before our Heavenly Father. 9 During these trying and uncertain days, I invite you to join me in praying this great prayer for the Church, the world, and for all those in need.

As we continue to learn to pray from our Lord, from His Word using some of these ancient forms of prayer handed down us, we approach the Lord with sure and certain confidence that He hears our prayer, that He desires to help us, to give us and do for us great things in Christ our Lord. For as Luther quips, God “did not command [prayer] in order to deceive you and make a fool, a monkey of you; he wants you to pray and to be confident that you will be heard; he wants you to open your bosom 10 that he may give to you. So open up your coat and skirt wide and receive God's gifts for which you pray in your prayer.” 11

Serving you in Christ,
Pastor Nettleton

  1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible (Augsburg Fortress, 1970), 9.
  2. See John W. Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today (Concordia Publishing House, 2008), 156–161.
  3. Bonhoeffer, 11.
  4. Luther, The Large Catechism, III, 34.
  5. Martin Luther, Ten Sermons on the Catechism (1528) in Luther's Works, Vol. 51, 181.
  6. You may find “The Litany” on pages 288–289 in Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006).
  7. Cranmer (1489-1556) used and included Luther's version of the Litany in the Book of Common Prayer (1549).
  8. Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book, (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 410.
  9. Interestingly, Luther was prompted to revive the Litany when the Ottoman Turks threatened the faith and freedom of Christian Europe. He then insisted people pray or sing it during the Matins and Vespers.
  10. Luther is either referring to the chest or the innermost part of body.
  11. Luther, Ten Sermons on the Catechism, 171.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at or at 970-305-2420.

Youth Events June 2021: Vacation Bible School & Catechism Retreat

After a missing last year’s in-person VBS and a whole year of junior and senior high youth events, June 2021 turned out to be a great month for our youth here at Saint John’s!

Thanks to those who volunteered their time and talents, we were able to host a three day Vacation Bible School in early June. Our theme this year was “God’s Wonder Lab” where Jesus does the impossible. 31 children joined us for those three days as we focused on the marvelous, wonderful and amazing things our God has done and continues to do for us in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.

On June 20, six youth accompanied me to the Catechism Retreat hosted at Lutheran Valley Ranch & Retreat near Woodland Park, Colorado. We joined fifteen other Lutheran churches, fourteen pastors and 130-plus youth in studying the various petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and God’s desire to give us all the wonderful and good things we pray for in this blessed prayer. Youth also spent the week participating in various activities lead by the LVR staff such as rock climbing, horseback riding, archery, fishing, climbing the high ropes course and going down the zip line!

The Catechism Retreat was a great and eventful week of growing in faith, connecting with the larger body of Christ and having a lot of fun! Dates for next year’s Catechism Retreat are June 20–23. Youth confirmation age through high school are welcome to go with us next year!

The psalmist proclaims, “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds” (Psalm 72:17). Thanks be to God and this congregation for providing our youth the wonderful opportunities this summer to be instructed in the faith, grow in Christ and fellowship with His body of believers in the Church.

Serving with you in Christ,
Pastor Nettleton

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at or at 970-305-2420.

June 2021 Letter to the Congregation

May 31, 2021

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A year ago I wrote to you as we set to reopen our doors and begin in-person worship after two months of online only worship. We have been down a most difficult path over the past year, but the Lord has been with us every step of the way. This coming Sunday, June 6, we will begin having "mask optional" services as we continue to transition back to life and worship we knew prior to the pandemic.

While not everything will be back to "normal" yet, some changes have been made as we make this transition. With respect to the Sacrament of Altar, we have adjusted our communion distribution and will no longer be serving from individual tables. Instead, we will be using a modified version of continuous communion. Those serving the host, will drop the communion wafer into the communicant's hands (same will apply for the gluten free wafers). Those serving the cup will hand the individual cup to the communicant. For now, those serving the Lord's Supper will continue to be masked and wearing gloves. Those coming forward for the Lord's Super are asked to respect distancing as they come forward and move through the communion line.

I would like to thank our lay ministers, ushers, greeters, our re-opening task force and our church council for their extended help, guidance, and support over the past year in helping make our in-person worship services safe and accommodating for our entire membership.

As we move forward, I would ask that we continue to show the same respect and care for one another that we have over the past year. St. Paul writes, Ephesians 4, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:1–6).

Let us keep these words of St. Paul ever before us as we care for one another in this body of Christ "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Finally, we give thanks to the Lord God Almighty for His faithfulness to us over this past year in keeping our congregation and its membership safe from serious illness and even death during this pandemic. We pray that He will continue to protect, guide and care for us as we move through this time of transition and beyond. For as the psalmist reminded us on Sunday, "I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:8–11).

God's Peace to you always in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Pastor Nettleton

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at or at 970-305-2420.

Summer Intern Paul Mroczenski

A few years ago Saint John's was blessed to have seminarian Benjamin Vanderhyde serve here as a summer intern. Ben is currently finishing up his last year at Concordia Seminary St. Louis after serving a two year vicarage in Sri Lanka.

This summer we will be welcoming Paul Mroczenski to serve as our summer intern. Paul is a Junior at Concordia University Wisconsin where he will graduate in December with a major in Theological Languages and minors in Philosophy and Youth Ministry. After graduation, Paul will be preparing to enter one of our seminaries in the fall of 2022.

Paul is a native of Wisconsin where he grew up on a small dairy farm in Athens. He loves fishing, enjoys the outdoors, playing any and all sports (especially ping pong), watching movies and reading.

After graduating high school, Paul served ten months in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, through the Lutheran Young Adult Corps program. There he met his girlfriend Courtney Haag, a college student at CSU who attends Saint John's and is an active participant in our ChristLife campus ministry group.

Paul, right, with Courtney.

On Monday, April 26, Saint John's Foundation approved a scholarship to be given to Paul for his time with us this summer. Paul will be installed on Sunday May 23 during the Divine Service. We invite you to join us that day and welcome Paul to Saint John's.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at or at 970-305-2420.

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