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Vacation Bible School 2018: Splash Canyon

We had a great week of Vacation Bible School! 56 children joined us over the week as we focused on our faithful God who keeps all of His promises on life’s wild ride!

Life can indeed feel at times like were headed down a raging river with no paddle, no life jacket and sometimes not even a raft! And while God does not promise to rescue us from life’s trials and storms, He does promise to see us through them. Christ Jesus is God’s yes to every promise He has ever made to His people. As we reflected on God’s promises in Christ and in our baptism into Christ, we rejoiced that our faithful God who has already defeated sin and death for us will see us through every trial, challenge and obstacle that we face in this life.

Our VBS mission project this year was Mission Madagascar. This mission outreach sends Bible-based literature to children and families in Madagascar. The children’s response was quite impressive as they did an excellent job bringing in their daily offerings and giving $147.99 to support this mission project! Well done!

Thank you to everyone who donated various items and to everyone who volunteered their time and energy to plan, decorate, teach, organize and lead a fantastic week of VBS!

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.

Sabbath Rest

With the summer season upon us, many of us are looking forward to some time off from the daily grind to get away and find some rest. Appropriate rest is very much a part of God’s design for His creation. It’s much too easy to get caught up in the business of everyday life, making it all the more necessary to find time to rest and rejuvenate ourselves.

Rest, in fact, was built into the rhythm of life by our Creator. On the seventh day, after completing His work of creation, God Himself rested. Certainly, God did not need to rest, but did so to give creation a pattern to follow. By His own rest, God sanctified the seventh day as a holy day of rest. In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest is two-fold, it is for both physical and spiritual rest (Leviticus 23:3). The Sabbath brings rest for both humans and animals and is a time for sacred assembly. Even the land was to rest on the Sabbath to remind God's people that it was His land and they lived in dependence on Him. In other words, this two-fold rest was a way of teaching God's people that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that come for the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

After the disciples returned from their first mission trip, presumably exhausted from the demands of their work and their journey, Jesus invites them to rest. In fact, our Lord's words could hardly be more emphatic; “Come away, by yourselves, to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Come away and rest! Jesus invites His disciples to go with Him to a solitary place, a quiet place, a place where they can go and rest for a while! Mark tells us that they were so busy that they had no time to sit and have a meal (6:31). Presumably they ate, but probably on the run. So Jesus takes them to get some much needed rest.

Author Dick France writes, “Some Christians, governed by the ‘Protestant work ethic,’ have thought of ‘rest’ as at best a concession to human weakness, to be enjoyed, if at all, only with an underlying sense of guilt!” 1 For some of us, it seems as though it's ingrained into the fabric of our being that we always need to be doing something and if we're not, we tend to feel guilty. Sound familiar? I know I'm as guilty as the next person for failing to rest for these very reasons!

Jesus made getting away for rest and prayer a priority. And if He needed this, what does that mean for the rest of us? Rest is not just a seasonal need, but a weekly need! We may think we can work 24-7, seven days a week, but we will soon find out that this is not how God designed us. We may also think we can survive without the second part of God's Sabbath design, rest for our souls, but we will soon find out that this too is not how God designed us.

As much as we're run down from the daily grind and in need of rest for our bodies, we're also run down by our daily sins and failures and in need of God's grace, rest for our souls. Jesus is our Sabbath rest and, even in these summer months, His invitation still stands; “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We need rest from our sins, from our worries, from our burdens, from our struggles and from the crosses we bear in this life!

Wherever Jesus is, there is rest for weary hearts and burdened souls! We have been given the gift of receiving His rest where He has promised to be for us—in His Holy Church, in Holy Absolution, in His Word preached and proclaimed and in His Holy Supper. This is where Jesus continues to give us rest and healing for our weary hearts and burdened souls! God knew what He was doing when He gave His people the command to rest and gather for sacred worship (Leviticus 23:3). We need both and we need them regularly!

  1. Dick France, Mark: Daily Bible Commentary (Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 90.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.

The End of All Tears

I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye waste away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.Psalm 6:6–8

It has been said the Psalms are a “mirror of the soul." The prayer and words here in Psalm 6 especially bear this point out. We've all prayed these words even if not word for word. At some point, maybe more than we'd care to admit or have ever wanted or desired, our weeping over sin, over death, over the brokenness of this life have flooded our lives.

Thankfully, the psalmist reminds us that the Lord has heard the sound of our weeping. Our tears are not empty or in vain! The Lord has done something about them! Outside Jesus' empty tomb on that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene wept bitterly. The horror of Friday was still fresh; the grief, the pain, the sorrow were still raw. And without Easter, without the resurrection, Mary's tears would be forever empty; her grief, pain and despair never ending. But the Lord heard her weeping. He answered her cry. He answered her prayer.

As her tears flowed, perhaps uncontrollably, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, called Mary by name and revealed to her the great miracle of Easter; death could not hold Him in the grave! He is risen! Sin and death did their best to Jesus, but they could not and did not win! He is risen and holds the victory over then now and forever!

The Lord indeed heard Mary's weeping! He hears your weeping. He knows your pain, your grief and your suffering. Christ's death and resurrection for you prove it. His whole life is the answer to your prayers, your cry for help. His coming, His perfect obedience, His sacrificial death, His glorious resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of the Father is the Lord’s answer to your weeping and mine.

As we await the final victory and the day of the resurrection, we still grieve the death of our loved ones and feel the deep pain that accompanies such loss. We still shed tears. But one day, God will wipe every tear from our eyes forever! (Isaiah 25:8) For on that day, there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying and no more pain! (Revelation 21:4) Until then, our tears are not in vain, they are not empty. They are filled with hope in Christ's victory.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Happy and Blessed Easter!
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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.

When You Give, Pray, and Fast

Historically, the holy season of Lent has been a special time for prayerful and penitential reflection, special devotion, self-denial and humble repentance as we meditate on the holy suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. These sacred days are to prepare us to celebrate “Easter with glad hearts and keep the feast in sincerity and truth.” 1

Based on Matthew chapter 6, the Western Church has historically encouraged the three-fold discipline of almsgiving (charity or giving to the needy), prayer, and fasting (Matthew 6:1–18) during the Lenten season. There in Matthew 6, our Lord Jesus does not say, "If you chose to give, pray or fast." Rather, He says "when you give … when you pray … when you fast … ." Our Lord, of course, spends much time in this chapter addressing the problems of false motivation; doing things in order to impress others and appear pious. However, He is also assuming that we will be active in deeds of piety; giving, prayer and fasting.

During this season of Lent, some will “give something up,” which is a form of fasting. Others will find a way to give extra to help the needy, to help supply a food bank—maybe even our own Food and Clothing Bank. And some will set aside extra time for prayer and meditation on God's Word.

As we journey together through this holy season of Lent, I encourage you to engage in one of these three Lenten disciples, if not all of them. And as we practice these things, let us remember to always “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Whether you are fasting, giving or praying, fix your eyes on Jesus! He is only One who can prepare you now and always to celebrate the feast of Easter. May God bless our Lententide as we fix our eyes on Jesus!

In the name of Jesus,
Pastor Nettleton

Return from Exile daily devotional booklets are available on the tables in the narthex.
  1. “Ash Wednesday” in Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 483.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.

The Sign of the Cross

Since the inception of Christianity, the cross has been a symbol of our Lord's sacrificial death for our sins and the sins of the whole world. It is our chief symbol because it is the symbol of our salvation. Crosses are front and center in Christian churches, they adorn the walls of our homes and are worn as an expression of faith. The cross is a symbol of blessing and hope because it reminds us, points us to, symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through which all blessings flow and all hope is to be found. The cross of Christ defines us now and forever.

As you have noticed, our new hymnal, Lutheran Service Book, encourages the people of God to make the sign of the cross during the invocation in remembrance of their baptism. Some of you may have thought, and maybe still think, that this is a Roman Catholic ritual. Actually, it is very catholic, that is, Christian, because the practice of signing oneself with the cross is the most ancient Christian ritual or ceremony we have.

In fact, in the Small Catechism, Dr. Luther suggests that when we get up in the morning and before we go to bed in the evening, we should, before we pray, "make the sign of the holy cross and say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

So why does the hymnal and Luther encourage Christians to make the sign of the cross? What does it symbolize? Making the sign of the cross reminds us that we are a baptized child of God. It was there at our baptism that the sign of the cross was first placed upon our foreheads and upon our hearts to "mark [us] as one redeemed by Christ the crucified" because that is what literally happened. It was there in those waters of Holy Baptism that our life in Christ began as we were buried with Him in death and raised with Him to new life in His resurrection (Romans 6:1–11). It was there in those waters that our life and Christ's life became one life. It was there in those waters that that name of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit was placed upon us. That is, we were marked with the cross and with God's triune name forever. This was God's way of saying, "this one is mine," "this one is my beloved child."

Obviously, making the sign of the cross is a Christian liberty that one may or may not choose to do. Like any other ritual or ceremony, Luther reminds us that we should not and "do not make it a rigid law to bind or entangle anyone’s conscience, but use it in Christian liberty as long, when, where and how you find it to be practical and useful.” 1 One can surely remember their baptism without making the sign of cross. And yet, for nearly two millennia, the practice of making the sign of the cross, crossing oneself, has been for many a deep and powerful way or recalling who they are and whose they are, marked with the cross of Christ.

When we make the sign of the cross, we remember our baptism. We remember that we were marked with the cross, that is, redeemed by Christ the crucified and risen Lord. We remember that it was there that God called us by name, made us His very own child, even as He put His name upon us; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we make the sign of the cross, we remember who we really are—a baptized and beloved child of God.

Making the sign of the cross and remembering our baptism is a good way, as Luther suggests, to begin and end the day, to begin worship and prayer. For it is our baptism, after all, that grants us our entrance into the Christian life as God's redeemed and beloved child, gives us the privilege to pray, praise and live as God's very own.

  1. Martin Luther, “The German Mass and Order of Service (1526)” in Luther’s Works (AE), vol. 53 (Fortress Press, 1965), 61.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 970-305-2420.