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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.

Jesus Christ is the Same Yesterday and Today and Forever

As we begin a new calendar year, the year of our Lord 2021, we are anxious to move beyond the dreaded year of 2020 and put it behind us! And yet, as we move on ahead we are not quite sure what this new year will have in store for us as so much uncertainty and turmoil abound in our country.

As my alma mater Concordia Seminary St. Louis began its 182nd academic year this past fall under unusual conditions to say the least, they began with the theme “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). As interim President Rev. Dr. Daniel Preus welcomed students back to campus, he acknowledged that we are living in times of change, trouble, stress and anxiety. And yet, he encouraged students not be timid or afraid. Why? Because, as President Preus put it so well in his address, “Our Savior never changes. What He offers never changes. He offers forgiveness, life and salvation. These never waver, never change. They never fade. They are constant. And so in the midst of change and trouble we have comfort and we have confidence in God's constancy.”

When the writer to the Hebrews says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,” he is not offering some abstract or theoretical statement about the eternal existence of the Son of God, though it is true that the triune God Father, Son and Holy Spirit never changes. Rather, he is offering a practical summary of the points he has already made in his letter for the benefit of his audience that they may live with confidence, hope, peace and joy even in the midst of trial and persecution.

Yesterday, Jesus “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death” (Hebrews 5:7). He is the great High Priest who offered Himself as the once and for all sacrifice for sins with His own blood (5:7–10; 9:12, 26–27; 10:11–14). Today, Jesus remains the ever-living High Priest who sits at the Father's right hand making intercession and offering prayers for us right now (7:20–24) with His mercy, grace and help readily available to those who call on Him (4:14–16). And forever, this same Jesus, who is the great High Priest forever because He lives forever, is ever faithful and is coming again to consummate the salvation of His people and the reign of God forever (9:28). Those “who are eagerly waiting for him” (9:28) will receive their promised eternal inheritance in full (9:15; 11:8) through Christ who is the mediator of a new (9:15) and better covenant (12:24).

This profound, wonderful and succinct verse became a ‘motto’ for early Christians living through troubling times of crisis and suffering intense persecution. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (12:2a), these first Christians were able to “hold fast the confession of hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful” (10:23). This ‘motto’ or confession of faith must be our mantra that we repeat and sing over and over again so that we too are grounded in hope and sustained in faith in these gray and later days!

It’s hard these days not to be cynical about the present, concerned about tomorrow and anxious about the future. But the truth is that no matter what lies ahead for us in this always-changing ever fallen world of ours, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Kingdoms and kings of this world rise and fall, priests and people come and go, everything in this life withers, fades, rusts, rots and dies, but Jesus Christ remains forever! His reign and throne are forever and His Kingdom has no end (Luke 1:33). He who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), upholds you and His Church forever. And so we can live with confidence, certainty, and even joy that come what may, as we sung this past Sunday, “I am baptized into Christ, I'm a child of paradise!” 1

Blessed Epiphany,
Pastor

  1. Erdmann Neumeister, “God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It” in Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 594.

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.

Advent Hope

Have you ever seen Christmas decorations go up so early? As soon as November 1st hit the calendar, people in my neighborhood were already putting up Christmas lights and trees! I'm always happy to see people decorating for Christmas, but why so early?

Could it be that many people are searching for sense of hope? Could it be that people wearied by our current pandemic are desperately searching for something to look forward to, something hopeful? Many of us, if not all of us, are tired, fatigued and exhausted from the past nine months of uncertainty, isolation, mandates and shutdowns.

Multiple studies show that the rate of depression has tripled during our current pandemic. In late June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that forty percent of adults in the U.S. reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse. Recent CDC data reveals that almost one in five teens across the country have seriously considered attempting suicide. And sadly, actual suicides and drug overdoses have surpassed the death rate for COVID-19 among high school students.

Children of all ages are struggling mightily with isolation and remote education. Parents across the country are worried that their children are falling behind or failing in school. Small businesses are closing a rapid pace. Forbes Magazine predicted that sixty percent of restaurants nationwide will close permanently. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that one in four adults have had trouble paying their bills since the start of the pandemic. This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the awful 2020 news and statistics. To say that people are searching for any sign of light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, searching desperately for any sign of hope is an understatement!

As we enter the season of Advent, we enter a season filled with hope; hope that is grounded in the One who came and who is coming again! Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” The whole season of Advent has to do with our Lord's coming.

Traditionally, Advent focus on the threefold coming of Christ: (1) Christ's coming in the flesh to be our Savior; (2) Christ's coming again to be our Judge; and (3) Christ's coming to us now enfleshed in His Word and Sacraments.

Advent is a season of sober repentance mixed with holy joy as we prepare to celebrate aright the Nativity of Our Lord. It is a season of preparation, expectation and hope as we await our Lord's coming again to judge the living and the dead. It is a season of prayer and devotion, hearing and meditating on the Word of God and the wonder of His love come down to us and for us in the Christ child.

While the world around us desperately searches for any glimmer of hope with very little on the horizon, the Word of God in the season of Advent directs our hearts and our lives to the only place where true hope is to be found; the One who is born of the Virgin Mary “in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). He is our hope, our life, our joy and our glorious salvation. Even in the darkest seasons of life, His light shines bright as we wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Ironically, the Advent season comes during one the darkest times of the year. The days are short and the nights are long. And yet, Advent is a season of light, increasing light that leads us to the light shining in the darkness of Bethlehem in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). As Isaiah once foretold;

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:2, 6).

Advent points us beyond all the secularization and commercialization of Christmas, beyond all the Christmas lights and decorations, to the True Light that has come into the world (John 1:9). Advent is a season of hope because it points beyond itself to a time that is coming, to the One who is coming again as we pray and sing:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art,
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart. 1

As we continue to journey through these gray and later days, through a very dark 2020, take heart and comfort this season in your Savior Jesus who has come to set you free, to give you life, to give you rest, and to give you Advent hope, “coming” hope, in His coming again for you!

Blessed Adventide and Christmas,
Pastor Nettleton

  1. Charles Wesley, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” in Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 338.

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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