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Christ and Calamity

If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.Psalm 139:9–10

Lord, do you not care if we perish?

That’s what the frightened disciples shouted to Jesus as he slept in the stern of a storm-tossed boat. In the midst of suffering and uncertainty, we’re all prone to think that God has forgotten us, he doesn’t care or he’s powerless to do anything. That’s certainly true of us in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Christ and Calamity, Harold L. Senkbeil speaks pastorally to our suffering and uncertainty. Senkbeil shows God’s constant and faithful grace to us. Calamities come in many different sizes, and God addresses them all in his word and by his Spirit. Even when we don’t see or feel it, God is always faithful.

The disciples’ faith in the midst of the storm may have been weak, but Jesus was mighty to save. And he will save you, too. No matter how small your faith, you can count on him to hear your anguished cry and to answer.

You can find Rev. Dr. Senkbeil’s Christ and Calamity: Grace and Gratitude in the Darkest Valley at Lexham Press or any bookseller. If you’d prefer to order a copy through the church office, please contact Tom at 482-5316 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The One Unchangeable

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.Henry F. Lyte, “Abide with Me”

The words of this beloved hymn ring true in several ways, but maybe the most applicable these days is change. Change is a part of life; a part that few of us like if we're honest with ourselves. I'll admit, I don't like change very much. I like routine. I like order. I like normal. And I don't very much care for these things being upset by change. Of course, if you are like me, this is due to the fact that we often find some sort of comfort and security in routine, order and normal daily patterns.

While this is not necessarily a sin problem, it can certainly be a temptation for us to turn things like routine, order, and normalcy into idols that bestow what only God can give, namely comfort, security and peace.

We've seen and experienced enough change and decay for one year maybe more! It seems as though the carpet of routine, order and normalcy has been yanked right out from underneath us. Some of us may feel as if we've had to push the pause button on our lives. Many of us are waiting for our lives to get back to some sense of “normal.” Maybe our lives will get back to the way they were, maybe they won't. Only time will tell.

One thing is for sure; “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and “Thou who changest not” abides with us always! The God of history is only Unchangeable and He is our ultimate source of comfort, security and peace—not routine, order and normalcy.

Professor emeritus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Robert Kolb put it best:

God is not pleased when we try to find the stability and security of our lives in maintaining or returning to doing things the way we always have. He wants to be our only ultimately stable, security, and shalom … He is also displeased with us when try to make our customary way of doing things the anchor of our lives and do not find our anchor in His Word and His presence. 1

Unfortunately, we all have a way of anchoring our lives in things that were not meant to hold, sustain or anchor us. Unfortunately, we have a way of fearing things above or more than God, loving things above or more than God and trusting in things above or more than God. God's good gifts (even routine, order and normalcy) are for us to enjoy, but not to worship, cling to or rely upon for what only God Himself can give.

Luther reminds us in The Large Catechism:

As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God. 2

Change has a way of upsetting our lives that none of us really welcome whole heartedly. And yet, change in our lives always brings the opportunity for us to reflect on where our faith and trust really lie. Change, challenge, trial and struggle may or may not be from God, but He will always use these to draw us closer to Him and His Word (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 12:8–10).

Reframing the First Commandment in a positive way, Luther reminds us that God invites us to trust, look to and cling to Him always especially in times of challenge and trouble.

“See to it that you let me alone be your God, and never search for another.” In other words: “Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl to me and cling to me. I, I myself will give you what you need and help you out of every danger. Only do not let your heart cling to or rest in anyone else.” 3

As those who have been born again by baptism into a living faith we know who to look and cling to for all things, especially our salvation. And yet, how easy it is to look elsewhere for comfort, security and peace.

Thankfully, “Thou who changest not” changes not His grace and mercy toward us in Christ. As the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed and rejoiced in, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23).

Change and decay are indeed all around us, but Thou who changest not, abides with us now and always with His grace, with His Word and presence. "Jesus Christ, who gives a peace no human system or institution, custom or practice can give, is here for us, at our side, on our side, in every contention with every new normal." 4 Thanks be to God!

Serving you in Christ,
Pastor Nettleton

  1. https://www.1517.org/articles/back-to-the-new-normal
  2. Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, I, 3.
  3. Luther, I, 4.
  4. https://www.1517.org/articles/back-to-the-new-normal

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.

God is our Refuge and Strength

Six months in and 2020 seems like it will be a year most of us will never forget, though we wish we could. A global pandemic, daily death tolls, government mandated shut downs, months of isolation, millions of people unemployed causing much fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Then the tragic and senseless death of a man caught on video that enraged a city and a country. Righteous calls for justice and protests against violence were quickly hijacked by vast mobs of opportunists who seized the moment as an excuse to riot, loot, deface, burn, destroy anyone or anything in their path causing more fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Debates rage over mask wearing, government overreach, police reform, racism and cancel culture with voices calling us to take sides! More fear, anxiety and uncertainty!

What are we to do? Where are we to go? With St. Peter, we know where and to whom to turn; “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). I can't think of a better Word of God for this moment than Psalm 46.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.Psalm 46:1–3

The psalmist paints us a picture of cosmic disaster and utter chaos. Mountains, symbols of security and stability, are being shaken. They are trembling and crumbling into heart of the sea. Waters are roaring and foaming, destroying whatever lies in its path. This picture screams of God's good creation coming undone.

In the midst of the chaos and the upheaval of creation, the psalmist is bold to proclaim “we will not fear,” we will not be shaken, we will not give way! Why? Even in the most dire of circumstances in our world or in our own lives, “God is our refuge and strength.” God Himself is our place of cover, of shelter and He protects and shields all who take refuge under Him. He is our rock, our stronghold, our strength whose security can be trusted. He is “a very present help in trouble” (literally, He is “much to be found, easy to find,” in trouble). God is our help in trouble who is always there, totally available, 100% accessible whenever, wherever and for whatever.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.Psalm 46:4–7

In the midst of roaring waters, there is a peaceful stream the makes glad the city, the people of God. This stream brings calm, peace and security because God is in the midst of His people. Everything else around them may tremble, crumble and come crashing down, but God's dwelling and His inhabitants will stand and will not be moved. This stream is His Holy Word and Holy Sacraments that pardon sin, calm fears and anxieties and give living waters to the thirsting soul.

The Lord “will help her,” His people, His church “when morning dawns.” Indeed, when the morning dawned that first day of the Resurrection Christ rose up from the grave having kicked chaos and death in the teeth! This is God's consummate victory over chaos and death for you! Nothing in this life can separate you from Him and Christ's victory for you! A good friend asked me last week, “Where is this world going?” He knows and you know. It will end with the resurrection of all flesh on the Last Day!

Nations may war and rage against each other and against God's people, but the kingdoms that attack Zion, the Church, will “totter” and give way. Why? All God has to do is speak His all powerful Word and His enemies are no more! He is the LORD of hosts (Sabaoth), literally “Yahweh of armies.” He is General Yahweh who leads His heavenly hosts against cosmic and human foes for the sake of His people.

Even though the very fabric of creation is coming undone, even though God’s Word and truth are under attack, even though fear, anxiety and uncertainly rule the day, we as God’s own beloved need not fear or be dismayed for the LORD is in control and He, the God of Jacob, our Mighty Fortress, is always with us!

Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.Psalm 46:8–11

The psalmist invites us to come and see the “works of the Lord.” He, and He alone, brings wars to end by destroying the weapons of war. Yahweh of armies could have called down a legion of angels to fight for Him (Matthew 26:53). But instead He defeated the prince of darkness and all the evil he insights with a love that could not be destroyed by hatred or violence. His victory didn't look like one through worldly eyes, but a few saw it through the eyes of faith. The thief on the cross said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). The centurion at the cross said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). This is why St. Paul says, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Exalted among the nations on the cross, the Lord of heaven and earth disarmed and dismantled the enemies of His people (sin, death and the devil) by the shedding of His own blood and the laying down His own life (Colossians 2:15). He is now exalted over all things and all things are now under His feet until the last enemy (death) is destroyed forever (1 Corinthians 15:24–26).

“Be still and know that I am God,” is not a call to quiet spiritually, but to know that the battle belongs to the Lord and to trust in nothing else in this world but Him! This psalm is clear that the Lord God alone and nothing else is our Mighty Fortress. When we put our trust in princes, in earthly governments and rulers, in any man or man-made movement, these things become idols. And idols always fail us and always break because they cannot hold our lives. The God of Jacob alone is our refuge, our help, the only One true God who holds our lives under His gracious and protective care.

Hence Martin Luther could write in his great hymn, “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us, We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpow’r us. This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him. … And take they our life, Goods, fame, child and wife, Though these all be gone, Our vict’ry has been won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.” 1

There is much chaos and upheaval in our world today, maybe even in our own lives. There is much to be concerned about, to pray about and to grieve over. Fear, anxiety and uncertainty abound. But fear not, people of God, for our great God is always our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in any trouble, even now. He is in control and come what may He will see us through these challenging days. He promised and He will.

Serving you in Christ,
Pastor Nettleton

  1. “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” in Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 656.

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.

Return to the Lord’s House

May 28, 2020

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Psalmist said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1). Oh, how we rejoice with the palmist at these beautiful words that are wonderfully displayed on the north entrance to our sanctuary!

For far too long we have been unable to be in the house of the Lord! But thanks be to God that on Sunday, June 7, we can return to His house to receive His gifts and return to Him thanks and praise!

Since we are still living with a highly contagious disease in our community, we will be reopening our church for services following the state and county's safety guidelines. I want to thank our reopening task force for their very careful and thoughtful approach to this important work. That being said, church services are going to look and feel quite a bit different for a time. Here are a list of things you should expect when you return to the Lord’s House:

  • Everyone is required to wear a mask at all times (this is a city ordinance for all public places). Please wear your mask while walking up to and back from the communion table. You may remove your mask to receive communion and place it on again after you have communed.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided for you at each entrance. We encourage you use it as you enter the building.
  • Attendees must maintain six feet of social distancing at all times. Floors will be marked accordingly for you.
  • Attendees will be seated and dismissed by an usher. Seating will also follow social distancing guidelines.
  • A service bulletin will be provided for you in your pew.
  • There will be no shared items in the sanctuary, cry room or nursery. Hymnals, pens, registrations cards and the children's activity center have been removed.
  • Communion will be provided to individuals or family units on a sanitized tray that will be placed on a table for communicants. The elements of the Lord's Supper will be prepared and distributed by those wearing masks and gloves for your safety.
  • There will be no Bible Study, coffee and donuts, or gathering inside the church building until a time these can be done safely.

I realize these safety measures are not what we are generally accustomed to and that many of these expectations are somewhat cumbersome. However, out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, their safety and that of our community, I ask that we would all heed St. Paul’s words to the church in Ephesians 4: “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 and the bond of peace” (v. 1–3).

I also realize that some of you will not be comfortable returning to the Lord's House at this time, and that is ok. Those who are uncomfortable returning to in-person services and those who are at-risk are encouraged to join us for worship online.

If you and or any members of your household have recently experienced a cough, shortness of breath, fever, recent loss of taste or smell, chills, muscle ache, headache or sore throat or have returned from traveling within the last two weeks, we ask that you would please stay home and join us for worship online.

I am grateful to all who have gone to great lengths to keep our services going and streamed online for you over the past two months. I am grateful for the prayers and support of you, the body of Christ, over these difficult and challenging days. I give thanks to the Lord for the continued faithfulness of this congregation and your support for Lord's work here at Saint John’s with your tithes and offerings. Finally, I am ever thankful that our Lord has continued to sustain us in faith and love through His ever enduring and abiding Word.

Please continue to pray for each other, our church, our community, our nation and our world and an end to this pandemic. Pray that our Lord will use the difficult days for His purposes and for His good in Christ Jesus.

Serving you in Christ,
Pastor Shawn 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.

Rest for the Weary

Friends in Christ,
Christ is risen and ascended on high! Alleluia!

The Word of the Lord from Matthew 11:25–30:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Today's devotion and prayer comes from Rev. Harold Senkbeil's devotional book Where in the World is God?, pages 103–104.

When Jesus says, "weary and burdened," we're all ears. That's us. We are weary and burdened. It's not just the burden of our daily work. No, it's the weariness of living. We sometimes get downright sick and tired of everything. We scramble so fast in this world of ours, just going about the business of living, that the whole concept of rest seems foreign to us.

What can be done about it? Many people believe that the Christian faith is supposed to do the trick. Faith in Jesus will help us find a silver lining for every cloud. The trouble is that life doesn't work that way. Sheer willpower will not turn our frowns upside down into happy smiles for Jesus. The Christian church is not a big self-help group, where we simply forget our troubles by thinking happy thoughts to chase the blues away. Fortunately, Jesus has something better for us than simply happy thoughts. He give us himself.

"Come to me," he says, "and I will give you rest." It's important to hear him clearly. Left to ourselves we really don't want rest from Jesus; we want rules. We'd like to know what we can do to improve our situation, what we can do to become healthy, wealthy, and wise. We would like Jesus to give us a 12-step recovery program. At minimum, we want to know what we can do to clean up our act and make ourselves over into better people. But Jesus is not a moralist. He is a Savior!

It sounds strange to hear Jesus first invite us to rest and then in the next breath to say, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." How can a yoke be easy or a burden light? When it is the yoke and burden of Jesus; that's when! It is the yoke of the cross. On his cross Jesus pulled off the greatest swap in history. He took our sin and gave us his own righteousness. He took all our sin away with him into his death. His cross, that sign of death, is the sign of life and healing for us. This is what it means to be a Christian, to be baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, to bear the mark of the cross in this world. This is our calling. This is our yoke, but it is also our deep and abiding joy. For every burden there is strength, in every sorrow there is comfort, and in all distress there is peace. It is the strength, comfort, and peace of Jesus Christ.

Wherever Jesus is, there is rest for weary hearts and burdened souls. He is present among us, offering a Sabbath rest for all the people of God in this world. We have the high honor to come to Jesus where he has promised to be found—in his holy church, where his Word is preached and his sacraments administered. There he continues to bring healing for weary hearts and strength for burdened souls.

Blessed Lord, grant that in the midst of our work, we may find rest and peace in your presence and may take joy in serving you, our refuge, our strength, and our great reward. Amen.

The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless and preserve you. Amen

Serving you in Christ,
Pastor Shawn 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.

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