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Vacation Bible School 2019: Miraculous Mission

"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31) God's creation was indeed very good! In fact, everything made from His divine craftsmanship was perfect! But it didn't take long for perfection to be broken and marred by sin.

Talking about God's good and perfect creation with children, it doesn't take them long to figure out something went wrong, very wrong. Thankfully, God had a plan and it wasn't plan B. He knew His good creation would be broken by sin and He was ready to come and fix it, redeem it, save it and make it completely new and perfect again! The name of God's plan of was and is Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of man.

We had a great week of Vacation Bible School! Nearly sixty children joined us over the week as we focused on God's miraculous mission to save the world and us from sin, death and the devil!

Our VBS mission project this year was to support the Vanderhyde family as Ben serves his two-year vicarage in Sri Lanka as a missionary at large. Some of the children remembered Ben from his summer internship here at Saint John's, where he led Bible challenge during our VBS. The response was amazing as children brought in their daily offerings, giving nearly $350 to support the Vanderhydes and their mission work!

It takes a village to pull off a week long VBS for over sixty children.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.

Shepherd of Tender Youth

At the Lutheran Men's Retreat last fall Pastor Mark Nierman gave an excellent presentation on hymn singing titled “Waging War Through Song.” It was there that I was reintroduced to a wonderful ancient hymn of the Church, “Shepherd of Tender Youth.” 1

Written around AD 200 by Titus Flavius Clemens, better known as Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215), “Shepherd of Tender Youth” is the oldest of all Christian hymn texts outside of the New Testament. Born of pagan parents in Athens, Clement was converted to Christianity under Pantaeus, the founder of the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement later succeeded his father in the faith as the director of the school where he “became known as a distinguished scholar, teacher and preacher of the gospel.” 2 In AD 202, persecution forced Clement to leave Alexandria never to return.

Several tunes have been used with Clement's hymn, but Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book use the tune “Italian Hymn.” This very familiar tune is used with the hymn “Come, Thou Almighty King” for which it was originally composed by Felice de Giardini in 1769. 3 Translated by Henry Martyn Dexter (1821–1890), “Shepherd of Tender Youth” offers praise to Christ as our Lord and King while it asks Him to be our Shepherd and Guide. Written as a hymn of Christian instruction for new young converts, the hymn highlights the Church's responsibility to train its youth diligently in the Lord.

The first stanza echoes the promise of Isaiah 40:11; “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” It also highlights the responsibility of Godly parents who bring their children to Jesus by raising and nurturing them in faith.

Shepherd of tender youth, Guiding in love and truth Through devious ways;
Christ our triumphant King, We come Thy name to sing And here our children bring
To join Thy praise.

The second stanza proclaims Christ, the Word incarnate, as our “holy Lord.” He willingly abased or emptied Himself by giving His life as a ransom payment for the debt of our sin. And in giving His life, He gives us life!

You are the holy Lord, O all subduing Word, Healer of strife.
Yourself You did abase That from sin's deep disgrace You so might save our race
And give us life.

The third stanza praises Christ our High Priest for His enduring gift of love to His people, His feast of love; the Sacrament of the Altar. Therefore, we may approach and come with confidence to His throne of grace, His table, for He has promised grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14–16).

You are the great High Priest; You have prepared the feast Of holy love;
And in our mortal pain None calls on You in vain; Our plea do not disdain;
Help from above.

The fourth stanza returns to the theme of Christ as our Good Shepherd (John 10:11) and echoes the opening words of Psalm 23. This Shepherd will lead and guide us to lie down in green pastures, beside still waters and in paths of righteousness for His name's sake (Psalm 23:1–3). Grass withers and flowers fade, but the “word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8) and with His enduring word, Christ leads us in His paths of righteousness.

O ever be our guide, Our shepherd, and our pride, Our staff and song.
Jesus, O Christ of God, By Your enduring Word Lead us where You have trod;
Make our faith strong.

The last stanza calls the whole Church, “infants” and “all the throng,” to joyfully sing forever to Christ our King! Clement wrote in a letter to a friend, “We cultivate our fields, praising. We sail the seas humming. Our lives are filled with prayers and praises and Scriptures reading before meals and before bed, and even during the night. By this means, we unite ourselves to the heavenly choir.” #

So now, and till we die, Sound we Your praises high And joyful sing:
Infants and all the throng, Who to the Church belong, Unite to swell the song
To Christ, our king!

This beautiful hymn reminds us that our Shepherd guides us, both young and old, with His enduring Word, strengthens us with His feast of love so that He be our staff and song now and forever. This seems to be an appropriate hymn for us to sing this coming Sunday as three of our Catechumens publicly confess the faith and receive the Rite of Confirmation and first communion.

Christ is Risen!
Pastor Nettleton

  1. Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 864.
  2. Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories (Kregel Publications, 1985), 243.
  3. Lutheran Service Book, 905.
  4. Osbeck, 243.

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 Death

On Ash Wednesday, we were reminded of what we know all too well: “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) The endless list of obituaries, the empty seats around the dinner table and our own physical pain and illnesses all remind us of the sobering reality that we are dying, that death is our number one enemy.

Not only are we dying, but we live in a culture of death. A culture that seeks, chooses and revels in death, not life. We live in one of six states where assisted suicide is legal under the cloak and the lie of “dying with dignity.” We live in a country where 10,000 third trimester, late term abortions occur every year and where over 61 million innocent lives have been killed since Roe v. Wade; nearly 50 times the number of American soldiers killed in every war we have fought.

We live in a country where some 21 million people are addicted to some type of drug, another sixteen million are addicted to alcohol, and where 100 people die every day from some type of drug overdose. We live in a culture where addictions to sex, pornography, work, gaming, gambling, eating or not eating all destroy lives, relationships and families. We live a culture of death and darkness, a world of disorder and chaos, a world that is broken and dying.

It is into this world of death and darkness, this complete and utter mess, that our Lord Jesus comes. To a world of death and darkness, He comes to bring light and life! In our midweek Lenten series, "Behold the Man," we have reflected on the humanity of our Lord Jesus. In Jesus of Nazareth God has a real flesh and blood body with real skin and a real face, real hands, fingers, feet and toes. He is a man who could be spit on, slapped and punched in the face. He is a man whose temptation was real. He was tempted in every way that we are but was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) In Jesus, God was completely exposed (naked) on the cross and vulnerable. In Jesus, God was not only killable, but was in fact killed, put to death.

As we continue our Lenten journey toward holy week and Easter, take heart, comfort and courage that our dying and the death that is all around us will be swallowed up forever by our Lord Jesus. He not only suffered real death and the very punishment that we and this world deserve, but He also ate death whole and spit it out!

Isaiah reminds us that one day, the former things of this world shall not be remembered. The cancer and the drugs, the evil and the violence, the things that kill and destroy our lives and the sin that causes it all will be no more! God will create a new heavens and a new earth. And when He does there shall be no more mourning or weeping, “no more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days.” (Isaiah 65:20) Just as God vindicated His Son on the third day, so on the Last Day He will vindicate His people and restore all things (Revelation 21:5); finally and forever death will be dead, death will be no more!

While we wait for this greatest and last enemy to be destroyed once and for all (1 Corinthians 15:26), we are bold to defy its claim on us and shout aloud, “Jesus lives! The victory's won! Death no longer can appall me; Jesus lives! Death's reign is done! From the grave will Christ recall me. Brighter scenes will then commence; This shall be my confidence.” 1

Blessed Holy Week and Easter,
Pastor Nettleton

  1. Christian Fürchtegott Gellert, “Jesus Lives! The Victory's Won” in Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 490.

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.

A New Year’s Prayer

As we begin this new year and ponder what it will bring, we as God’s people know unequivocally that, come what may, the Lord will be our help, our hope, and our home now and forevermore. “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” 1 penned by the prolific hymn writer Isaac Watts confesses this comforting truth well. One of the finest of Watts’ 600 plus hymns, it declares the beauty of God's keeping throughout the years of our short lives. “O God, our help is ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home.”

Played on the BBC as soon as World War II was declared, Watts’ hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 90. Though this psalm confesses God to be “from everlasting to everlasting” and “our dwelling place in all generations” (v.1), Psalm 90 is a one of lament. Even though God has always been, even before creation, and always been a refuge from enemies for every generation, Israel has still lived as though God did not exist, did not matter and was not a refuge.

The psalmist acknowledges that our life is difficult and short and that even the best of our days are wrought with toil and trouble (v. 10). He laments and confesses that man is like the grass that fades and withers in the evening (v. 6). Man is the dust that the Almighty will return to the ground (v. 4). But far worse than the brevity and mortality of life is the guilt and burden of sin under the wrath of God (vv. 9–11).

Thus, the psalmist pleads for God's mercy and steadfast love (vv. 13–14). He pleads for Yahweh to give His people hearts of wisdom that teach them to number their days and to continually turn to Him alone for mercy, refuge and security (v. 12).

Finally, the psalmist prays, “Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us” (vv. 16–17). Thankfully, the Lord answered this prayer revealing, manifesting, epiphaning His work in Christ to us. Christ Jesus is the work of God that bore our sin and shame and took the full brunt of God's wrath for us in death. He is the work of God that lets the favor of God rest upon us now and forever. He is the work of God that turns our brief, mortal and fragile lives into meaningful, joyful, unshakable lives lasting to eternity.

Stock markets, governments, employers, friends and even family will most likely fail us at some point this year. Life will remind us once again how fleeting and fragile it is. But the One who is constant, lasting and ever faithful is our God who is “from everlasting to everlasting.” He is our refuge, our help, our hope and our home now and forever. It is this truth and comfort of Psalm 90 that Watts’ great hymn expresses so beautifully.

“Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure; Sufficient is Thine are alone, And our defense is sure … Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Soon bears us all away; We fly forgotten as a dream Dies at the op’ning day. O God, our help is ages past, Our hope for years to come. Be Thou our guard while troubles last And our eternal home!” What an excellent prayer for the new year and always!

Blessed New Year and Epiphany,
Pastor Nettleton

  1. “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” in Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 733.

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.

Hope in Paradise Lost

The deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history is now fully contained. But the destruction and devastation caused by its path is still gut-wrenchingly unreal; more than 18,000 structures destroyed, including some 13,972 homes, and at least 85 lives lost.

A close and lifelong friend and his family live in Paradise, California. As news came in about the fire we feared the worst for them. By God's grace, they, like many of their neighbors, escaped the flames to safety. Unfortunately, they later found out, along with eighty percent of Paradise residents, that their home was destroyed to nothing but ash. Not only did they lose their home, but the community they loved was completely wiped out. Only a few public structures and homes remain while the city's infrastructure is totally destroyed.

My heart sank upon this news for my friend, his family and their community and stayed in my stomach for weeks. What does one begin to say? What can one do? What does one do? Of course, prayer is the place to start, and our family continues to lift up in prayer the Hogan family and their community to the God of all mercy.

Thank you to all who have joined our prayers for our friends and the community of Paradise. Thank you to our Saint John's Lutheran World Relief sewing group, who helped us send a box of quilts to Paradise. Thank you to those who have passed along gift cards to send to Paradise and to everyone who donated to the offering taken for LCMS Disaster Response’s wildfire relief.

In the midst of tragedy, a picture of hope has surfaced and remains for a community devastated by such unimaginable loss. It is a cross in the parking lot of Our Savior Lutheran Church. Even though the fire destroyed the church and parsonage, the cross remains standing in the midst of the rubble and ash.

Pastor Brandon Merrick, in a letter to his congregation, put it well: "I hate this picture. However, I also love this picture. … For me, this picture is not just a heartbreaking reminder of what can happen to the things and people of this world, this is our one true hope in the midst of tragedy that cannot be destroyed by anything. God is with us. … The hard work of the people of Our Savior Lutheran over the last 54 years, some who are still with us, was not lost in the fire because the cross still stands. God is still with us, and on the foundation of His promise and sure Word, we will continue to stand."

The cross standing in the parking lot of Our Savior is not only a picture of hope for the people of this congregation, but for the entire community of Paradise. It is also a picture of hope for us. For this, too, is our hope, and this, too, is what Christmas is all about.

Christmas is perhaps the most joyous season of the year. It has, unlike any other season, a certain sentimentalism attached to it that fills our hearts with joy and gladness as we recall childhood memories and times with family and friends over the years. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this (these, too, are good gifts from God) as long as we don't lose sight of the reason we gather together, what and why we celebrate; namely, the Nativity of our Lord. (See Carl Jorgensen’s Christmas memories).

Christmas is about hope in paradise lost! It's about a promise God made to Adam and Eve after paradise was squandered by the fall into sin and all the world was cursed. A promise that God would put enmity between the serpent's seed and Eve's seed; “he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) A promise that One from Eve's offspring would come to restore paradise lost by reversing the curse, destroying sin, death and the serpent forever.

Christmas is about the One who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin, lived, died and rose again to make right what has gone wrong with the world and with mankind. Isaac Watts captures this well in his beloved hymn, Joy to the World: “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as the curse is found.” St. John put it this way: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

We give thanks to God that He graciously and lovingly spared our friends from this horrific fire. Most of all, we thank the Lord for the hope we have in Christ symbolized by the cross that remains standing in Our Savior's parking lot.

Christmas is about hope in paradise lost. It is about the hope we have in the promise of paradise restored in Christ and the life He gives now and forever that nothing can touch or destroy! “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” Joy to the world, the Lord will come again!

Blessed Adventide and Christmas,

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.