Immanuel Lutheran Church


3000 West Main Street

Kalamazoo, MI 49006

(269) 345-8090

Missouri Synod

There are certain expectations of piety regarding preachers in Protestant tradition. More than once I have shaken hands with a man who has looked at me in surprise. “Your hands are rough like someone who works for a living!” Usually followed by a nervous smile in the realization that somehow it has been implied that I don’t work for a living. I let it go and explain that I have a house, five children who drive and a small fleet of mostly old vehicles that I maintain. The common expectation of my life is one of sitting at a desk and reading (which I also do.) Modern technologies give me a freedom of space that my predecessors would not have.

The common joke of the “job requirement” of a pastor is to be available at all times in the office for folks who want to stop by, and be studying and writing sermons for Sunday at the same time, while praying for his congregation, while also visiting his shut-ins while also doing the work of evangelism in the community. Oh, and raising those five chi...

December 2, 2019

While in Hawaii last May I played a bit of a “dirty trick” on one of our Hawai’ian hosts. I used my iPad to show a beautiful photograph of the sun setting over a bay.

“That’s beautiful, where were you— Mauna Kea beach?”

“No,” I answered, “McClain State Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan!”

Although it may be reasonable, but not intuitive, a sunset over the water looks pretty much identical whether it’s the Pacific Ocean or Lake Superior. Without any distinguishing features but sky and sea a sunset seen from the Keewenau is the same as that of Kona.

The difference is in who is beside you and what is behind you.

On the shore of the Keewenau there is the squeaky soft water soaked garnet sand and white pines with their asymmetrical branches bent away from the harsh cold wind. In Hawai’i the black coral sand cuts at your feet as the palm trees stand tall with gentle random arcs.

From the campground at McClain the harsh lights of Coleman lanterns come on late at night as the soft conversation...

April 30, 2019

May 2019 Pastor’s Newsletter

There is a new Pew Research Report (January 31, 2019) on the relationship of religion to health, happiness and civic engagement around the world.

The summary may or not be surprising to you. Religious people, who attend church regularly, are measurably healthier, happier and engaged in civic actions!

While believers can rely on God to help manage their suffering and endure hardship whether active members of congregations or not, those who regularly attend services have the added support of social connections. Earlier research, Pew pointed out, indicates that friendship is a key factor.

“Those who frequently attend a house of worship may have more people they can rely on for information and help during both good and bad times,” the report said, citing scholars Chaeyoon Lim of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Robert Putnam of Harvard University. “Indeed, a range of social scientific research corroborates the idea that social support is pivotal to othe...

Lent is a time of Preparation 

1. Concerning baptism, baptise thus: Having first rehearsed all these things, "Baptise, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost in running water; 

2. But if thou hast no running water, baptise in other water, and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. 

3. But if thou hast neither, pour water three times on the head "in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost." 

4. And before the baptism let the baptiser and him who is to be baptised fast, and any others who are able. And thou shalt bid him who is to be baptised to fast one or two days before. (Part VII of the Didache, circa the First Century.)

I laughed when I read the part about baptizing in warm water if you don’t have cold water! At Immanuel, we make an effort to pour hot water into the “ewer” from which I will pour water into the Baptismal Font. We do this because the Rite of Holy Baptism comes before the Prayer of the Church which means the water is going to cool...

November 29, 2018

A Foretaste of the Feast to Come

If you asked me what my favorite ministry is I would be tempted to answer as any parent would if asked which child was his favorite child. “They all are!” This is the best and safest answer. But I can answer that, although I enjoy all of my ministry opportunities, I do have a favorite.

My favorite is the monthly chapel service at Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital. This ministry is unique in that none of the participants are my members. I don’t have to be there, and they don’t have to attend. There is no collection plate and no budget. They call me pastor as a courtesy and I consider them my flock purely out of affection. I never know who will attend or how I will be received. Some days are a pure joy, such as when the patient choir sings. Other days are more like being a substitute teacher for a bunch of seventh graders on the day before the end of school. I consider it pure ministry.

One of the joys of following Jesus is the happy result of the illogical ins...

I made my first Thanksgiving Dinner when I was 20. My family usually went out for a nice Thanksgiving Dinner meal. I really don’t remember the kind of places we would go, except that my dad would look for a pile of cars in a parking lot of restaurant about dinner time. A crude and pre-technology kind of YELP! approach; the logic was that if there were a lot of cars the restaurant was both open and probably good. My dad was just as likely to want a good Chinese dinner as the classic turkey and stuffing so the type of dinner varied from year to year. He always wanted to make it a nice “Sunday afternoon drive” kind of wandering up to a couple of hours away.

The reason to go out was simple. After my mom’s car accident (when I was 12) she had a difficult time cooking. Standing up for any amount of time was impossible for her. We didn’t have any family within a 12-hour drive and no habit of visiting for holidays with anyone, family or friends. Taking a road trip at Thanksgiving became our ann...

Life in the Fast Lane…

“Voices surround us, always telling us to move faster. It may be our boss, our pastor, our parents, our wives, our husbands, our politicians, or, sadly, even ourselves. So we comply. We increase the speed. We live life in the fast lane because we have no slow lanes anymore. Every lane is fast, and the only comfort our culture can offer is more lanes and increased speed limits. The result? Too many of us are running as fast as we can, and an alarming number of us are running much faster than we can sustain.” 

― Michael Yaconelli

Life in the fast lane, Surely makes you lose your mind

Life in the fast lane, huh

Life in the fast lane, Everything all the time

Life in the fast lane,

— The Eagles

I am going to give you the answer to one of my “security questions.” To recover a lost or forgotten password or to log in from a new computer, some web sites ask you to answer  a question from a selection of standard questions. I avoid using my mother’s maiden name because the “O’ “ ca...

The name of the nurse who took my blood pressure was Michelle. I don’t know how old she was exactly, but I think she was a pre-teen when Friends was a top-rated TV show. She was very accomplished at having the right balance of concern and skill levels for an emergency room. She was very reassuring. Apparently there were two nurses named Michelle, so each had a nickname. Her’s was Bambi. I did not ask if the other’s was Thumper. I spent about 5 1/2 hours in one of her rooms, waiting for my blood pressure to come down to something like normal. The 20 minutes of 104 degree hot water in the Hot Springs of Thermopolis, Wyoming, had caused my blood pressure to rise enough to make me feel dizzy. 

They had good WIFI, which I quickly connected to. You do have to be careful when looking at health websites such as WebMD, etc. Like reading the warning label on a bottle of Aspirin, a quick read of any given malady would convince you that you are dying, if not now, then very soon. I started to resear...

Journey (a definition): something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another. “The journey from youth to maturity…” “A journey through time…”

When Latin developed into French, diurnus became a noun, jour, meaning simply “day”.  The medieval French derivative journée meant either “day” or “something done during the day,” such as work or travel. Middle English borrowed journée as journey in both senses, but only the sense “a day’s travel” survived into modern usage.

In modern English, journey now refers to a trip without regard to the amount of time it takes. (Merriam-Webster)

I don’t think you need a dictionary to get the sense that a there is a difference between traveling and journeying.

During the summer between kindergarten and first grade, my mother and I took a train from Pontiac, Michigan to St. Joseph, Missouri to visit my maternal grandmother. Being so young, I had no sense of the nature or scale of the experience. I was just sitting on the train looking outside the win...

After Sunday evening service, the week in May when we had introduced the orientation to 42 Seconds, the Jesus Model for Everyday Interactions, I walked out of the kitchen door to my car. Playing in the dandelions of the church’s back lot was a young child being carefully supervised by his grandmother. I thought I might try to have a polite and welcoming conversation over the joy the child had simply playing in a field of dandelions. I returned to our library and picked out a suitable children’s book to give as a gift.

I walked out doors and carefully, with a big smile, walked past my car toward the field and the boy. Without hesitation the grandmother scooped the boy up in her arms, turned her back to me and walked away determined to get away from me and out of that space as fast as she could. She never looked back.

I returned to my car, threw the book into the back seat and sat down in the front seat and searched my thoughts, my intentions, and my motives. It seemed a reasonable thing t...

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