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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.

Everything Hangs on Christ's Bodily Resurrection from the Dead

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.1 Corinthians 15:12–23

It's an understatement to say that there is a lot riding on Easter. St. Paul makes it clear that everything is riding on the resurrection of Christ! It is not just another article or confession of the faith, it is the very foundation of the Christian faith. No resurrection, no Biblical Christianity. Period. As C. F. W. Walther once said, “The resurrection is not just the shining jewel in the crown of our redemption, it is the crown itself! Without Christ's resurrection, the world would still not be redeemed.” 1

Without the resurrection of Christ nothing else in this life matters! Absolutely nothing! Without the resurrection of Christ sin still condemns and death still reigns. Without the resurrection of Christ there is no life beyond the grave, no hope for eternal life, and the Christian faith is nothing but a bunch of hot air. “If Christ has not been raised,” Paul writes, “then our preaching is in vain” (v. 14), “your faith is futile,” “and you are still in your sins” (v. 17).

Paul is writing these words to people who liked Jesus' teachings, who viewed Him as a good moral teacher, a good spiritual guru, but that's it! They didn't believe that Christ rose from the dead because the resurrection didn't fit within their world-view. Dead people don't rise and so belief in the resurrection was utter nonsense. Maybe someone should have passed that information on to St. Paul! Of course, Paul and his contemporaries also knew that people don't rise from the dead, but instead rot, decay and disintegrate in the grave.

The game changer, so to speak, is that the resurrection isn't a strange idea that Paul and the apostles cooked up! It really happened in real time and space! If Christ, like every other human being in history, had stayed rotting in the grave and didn't physically and bodily rise from the dead, our faith is indeed empty, worthless, pointless, and “we are of all people most to be pitied” (v.19). “But in fact,” Paul emphatically writes, “Christ has been raised from the dead” (v.20)! The resurrection of Christ was not any man's idea, but “in fact” God's wondrous action in history that has changed everything!

Without the resurrection, we are all dancing toward death and the grave with false hope and illusion! Without the resurrection, Christ's death on the cross was just one more heroic, selfless act of love, but has no power to do anything! Without the resurrection, our despair, our anguish, our tears, our sins, our death and eternal destruction remain forever.

But friends in Christ, Christ Jesus has “in fact” been raised! He is risen from the dead! Death did its worst to Jesus and it lost! Christ Jesus has kicked death in the teeth! Death is dead. The enemy has been conquered by the bright light of resurrection life! Your sins, your death, your anguish, your despair and your tears will not last forever because Jesus lives! Praise be to Thee O Christ!

The resurrection of Christ is the central theme of every sermon recorded in Acts. It is the sine qua non of Christianity. It is the beating heart of our faith, our living hope and our glorious future.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Almighty God, by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light. Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen (Collect for Easter Wednesday) 2

Blessed Eastertide!
Pastor Nettleton

  1. C.F.W. Walther, “Easter Sunday,” in God Grant It, (CPH, 2006), 345.
  2. A version of this article was emailed out as a weekly devotion for April 21, 2020.

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.

Life in the Desert of Lent

Several years ago something rare occurred in California's Death Valley National Park. Death Valley, appropriately named, is one of the hottest places in the world; ground-level temperatures can reach up to 200 degrees in the summer. We drove through Death Valley in the summer of 2002 moving from southern California to St. Louis Missouri to attend Concordia Seminary. Death Valley is a hot and desolate place to say the least!

The winter storms of 2004 brought unusual and record amounts of rainfall to southern California including six inches of rain to this dry desert. This small amount, three times more than normal, produced a rare super bloom that hadn't occurred in almost fifty years. A vast and wide array of wildflowers sprouted up and bloomed in this dry and desolate valley of death. Experts say that these wildflower seeds can hibernate for decades and then sprout to life with just the right amount of moisture. The very waters that brought mudslides, death and destruction to the western part of the country brought with it life in the desert!

The 2005 Super Bloom in Death Valley (photo by Brad Templeton)

Sound familiar? If this doesn’t remind us of the flood account recorded in Genesis, then it should at least remind us of our own baptism. Like those dormant seeds that were raised to life in a valley of death, we too have been raised from death to life through our baptismal waters. St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

Life through death, life in the dry, desolate, desert like places of this world through our death and resurrection with Jesus. This is the Christian life. This is especially true for us in the holy season of Lent as we journey over these forty days through the desert, the wilderness, with Jesus to Holy Week and Easter. And so, Lent and Baptism, Baptism and Lent, go together.

In the early church, Lent was a time when catechumens completed their catechesis instruction, preparing to renounce the world and be baptized into the Christian faith at the Easter Vigil. The connection of Lent and Baptism, however, is much deeper than this historical tie. Even as Lent is a time that the church focuses more intently on the suffering, passion and cross of our Lord Jesus, so there is an inescapable bond between Jesus' death and our baptism.

As one theologian put it, “We never speak adequately about Christ's passion unless we also eventually speak of our baptism, and we never speak adequately of our baptism unless we connect it to the cross and grave of our Lord.” 1 This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer had in mind when he famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” 2 Bonhoeffer spoke of our death to sin and self in the context of baptism. He continued,

Every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts. But we do not want to die, and therefore Jesus Christ and his call are necessarily our death as well as our life. The call to discipleship, the baptism in the name of Jesus Christ means both death and life. 3

The penitential season of Lent calls us to die to sin, to die with Jesus, that we may also rise and live with Him. This is what our baptism into Jesus did and continues to do for us.

Luther reminds us that the whole “Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, begun once and continuing ever after.” 4 Why? Luther explains, “For we must keep at it without ceasing, always purging whatever pertains to the old Adam, so that whatever belongs to the new creature may come forth.” 5 That is, we must die daily to sin with Jesus and rise with Him to new life.

Repentance, Luther says, “is nothing else than a return and approach to baptism … What is repentance but an earnest attack on the old creature and an entering into a new life? If you live in repentance, therefore, you are walking in baptism, which not only announces this new life but also produces, begins, and exercises it." 6

Lent and Baptism, death and life, repentance and faith, are all connected to Jesus. Like those wildflowers that sprouted up and bloomed in Death Valley, so our Lord has raised us to new life even as we live in this valley of sorrow and death. And as we follow Him through the valley of Lent He bids us to die with Him; to die to our self-seeking wills, our self-centered agendas, our coveting, our envy, our greed, our pride, our hatred, our unhealthy attachments to this world, our lack of faith and trust in Him and His Father's will. He calls us to die with Him so that we may also live with Him.

And so the only way to really live is to die with Jesus. Or as Harold Senkbeil puts it in his book Dying to Live, “There's no other way to live than through the death of Jesus. We're all dying; we can either die alone, or we can die in Jesus. But His death brings life, and it's when we die with Him that really begin to live." 7

Thankfully, what God began in our baptism, connecting us and grafting us into the death and resurrection of Jesus, He continues to do for us today by the power of His Word and Spirit, burying us with Christ Jesus and raising us anew to live in and with Him. Life in the desert of Lent comes through our baptism into Jesus. And in this same Jesus life sprouts up, blooms and bears the abundant fruit of new life (John 15:16) even in the deserts and wildernesses, the valleys of sorrow and death, in this world as we look forward to and pray for the fullness of life in the world to come.

Blessed Lententide,
Pastor

  1. Gilbert Meilaender, Love Taking Shape: Sermons for the Christian Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 4.
  2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1995), 89.
  3. Bonhoeffer, 84.
  4. Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, IV, 66.
  5. Luther, IV, 66.
  6. Luther, IV, 79, 76.
  7. Harold L. Senkbeil, Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness (St. Louis, MO: CPH, 1994), 55.

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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