A(nother) Service of Letting Go and Letting God

As we’ve done previously, St. John’s is continuing to hold our fifth Sunday services of “Letting Go and Letting God.” You can watch the latest one here on our live stream and follow along with the order of service below. (Also, since both of our organists were unexpectedly out of commission on Sunday, you can also enjoy… or at least experience… my rudimentary guitar accompaniment skills, haha)

Thank you for joining us for worship! Wherever you are, we invite you to create space for worship, both in your physical space and in your heart — perhaps light a candle or fill a bowl with water to remember your baptism, or grab a bible or hymnal, or do whatever helps you most to feel worshipful.

On fifth Sundays of the month (like today, January 29), we have begun practicing a rite we call a “service of letting go and letting God”; it’s an opportunity to acknowledge the burdens weighing on our hearts and to surrender these things — along with our very selves — into the care of God. Typically, we do this with some kind of visible sign; if you’d like to pray along at home, today’s ritual involves a fun little DIY science with household items that you can learn about on this page.

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A Service of Letting Go and Letting God

Back in June, I gathered for a mini-retreat with the worship and music team at St. John’s to look ahead over the coming year (Aug-Jul) and dream up creative and innovative ways to deepen and diversify our worship life together. Especially after the practically apocalyptic challenges of the last few years, people are just exhausted — weary of historic world changes, worn out by constant worrying, carrying burdens of grief and disappointment and frustration and stress in their hearts with nowhere to set them down.

I wanted to find a way to offer people an opportunity to name and begin to process some of these burdens, some of the trauma of the last few years, and to open up their wounded hearts to God for healing. In previous years, this congregation had a history of doing some kind of special service — usually a service of healing — on the fifth Sunday in months with five Sundays; so we decided to resurrect that tradition to start periodically doing a ritual we have called “A Service of Letting Go and Letting God.”

Below, you can find the link to the live stream of worship, as well as the embedded video (if it decides to work 😜); I also copied the bulletin so you can follow along if you so desire. If you’re looking for a way to unburden your heart and open up your pain to God in prayer, I hope this service may be useful to you — that it may help you to name your burdens, let them go, and let God take care of the rest.

Watch the service here or embedded below.

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Holy Week & Easter services

Looking for a place to worship this week? You’re more than welcome to join us at St. John’s! All of our services will be in person and live-streamed; details are below for our Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday services. All services are live-streamed from our public Facebook page (no need to have a Facebook account in order to watch); visit the Virtual Church page on our website for more info.

Wherever or however (or whether) you worship this week, I wish you many blessings and Easter joy! ☀️💐🌈✝️

Watch now!

Maundy Thursday: April 14, 6:30pm; in person and online
Good Friday: April 15, 6:30pm; in person and online
Vigil of Easter: April 16, 6:30pm; in person and online
Easter Sunday: April 17, 9:30am; in person and online

Retelling the Story

In the recent life of the church, there has been a renewed interest in one of the most ancient services/rituals of the church: the great Vigil of Easter. People gather — as they have done for millennia — around the lighting of a fire to tell stories. At the Easter Vigil, the stories we share are the stories of God’s saving acts of love, from the beginning of creation to the death and resurrection of Christ.

If you’ve ever attended a candlelight Christmas Eve service, there’s a lot about the Easter Vigil that may feel familiar. Held on the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday (since, biblically, the new day begins at sunset), the Vigil certainly has some similarities, a kind of “Easter Eve” service, if you will — though practices like remembering and creatively retelling parts of the story of Christ’s life, and even the lighting of small, handheld candles, actually originated with the Vigil of Easter.

There are a whopping fourteen readings appointed for the Easter Vigil service: twelve readings from the Hebrew scriptures, or Old Testament, a reading from Paul’s letters, and a gospel reading. At St. John’s, we usually do no more than six or seven of the readings total, which means a lot of really great stories get left out.

In my ruminations on how we could find some way to work these stories into our shared life of faith, I was blessed with one of those wild ideas the Spirit loves to come up with, and this is the result: a two week daily video series in which I read one of these stories each day, praying an accompanying prayer. The Spirit also gave me the goofy idea to do these videos in different places in and around the Schuyler community that are meant to somehow connect thematically to the text.

I’ll keep updating this list as I do more videos, but I wanted to extend the invitation to join me on this journey through the story — as together we make our way once again to Jerusalem, through the waving of palm branches, through the shadow of the cross, to the joyous news of the empty tomb.

Service of Lament and Hope

Sunday worship, August 1, 2021
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Watch the service below. And follow along here with the special digital bulletin.

I encourage you to follow along with the paper ritual! Find someplace safe to burn the first paper, and then for the second paper you can use this seed paper I found here (it really does grow!), or perhaps write on some compostable/recycled paper before adding it to your compost bin, or whatever kind of paper/writing you can find that makes you feel hopeful!

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Easter Proclamation

The Easter proclamation is an ancient song of the church, traditionally sung on the great Vigil of Easter. We decided to forego a formal Easter Vigil service at my congregation this year, but the singing of the proclamation is one of my favorite moments in the entire church year, so I decided to sing it and share it with you all from my back yard. As I sang, I was accompanied by lots of chattering birds, accelerating vehicles, and the strains of a neighbor’s lively ranchera music — a lovely reminder that all creation together celebrates the great good news that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.

Watch the video and read the text of the proclamation below. (Or click here to watch the video on Facebook.)

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Christmas Eve

In case you’re looking for a place to worship this Christmas Eve, I’d like to extend to you an invitation to worship with us! Some clergy friends and I got together to record a service at a church in the area and we’d love for you to join us. There will be music and scripture and candlelight and — God willing — a bit of sacred space to encounter anew the wonder of the incarnation.

The video premieres here on our public Facebook page at 6pm Central on December 24, 2020 (no need to have an account to be able to watch it).

And you can follow along with the digital bulletin here on our website.

Merry Christmas to you! And blessings to you and yours this holiday season.

Longest Night

The Longest Night service — along with the similar “Blue Christmas” service — is a tradition in the church that seems especially relevant this year. It’s a service traditionally held on the winter solstice — the shortest day and longest night of the year — to recognize that the holidays are not a joyful time for everyone, to make space for the feelings of grief and loneliness and longing we may be carrying, and to proclaim that Christ is every bit as present in the darkness as in the light and celebration.

There are probably many more slickly produced versions of this service available online, especially this year. But here’s my humble offering — a simple little service of song, scripture, and poetry at sunset in my backyard with some candles and a smoky little fire. May it be a moment of peace and blessing for those who could use it.

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Pentecost Sunday Celebration

A joint Pentecost celebration broadcast live from St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Fremont, NE, on May 31, 2020!

Worship leaders:

  • Pastor Shari Schwedhelm, Salem Lutheran Church and St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Fremont, NE
  • Deacon Timothy Siburg, Nebraska Synod staff and Salem Lutheran Church, Fontanelle, NE
  • Pastor Heidi Wallace, Bethany Lutheran Church and First Presbyterian Church, Lyons, NE
  • Pastor Day Hefner, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Schuyler, NE
  • Pastor Allison Siburg, Salem Lutheran Church, Fontanelle, NE
  • Pastor Scott Johnson, Campus Ministry at Midland University, Fremont, NE
  • Pastor Al Duminy, Sinai Lutheran Church, Fremont, NE
  • Pastor Inba Inbarasu, outgoing pastor of Faith Ambassadors and Redeemer Lutheran Church, Hooper, NE

Watch the Facebook Live video of this service below, and/or follow along in the digital bulletin.

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Easter Sunday 2020

Our joint Easter service, broadcast from Salem Lutheran Church in Fontanelle, NE. You can find the digital bulletin here. And you can also read a manuscript of the four mini-sermons here.

We had some technical difficulties broadcasting this service — as if the coronavirus weren’t enough of a disruption, we had a winter storm with high winds and ice that kept knocking out power and reception! But Christ is still risen — Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!

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Vigil of Easter 2020

Night three of the “Triduum Tour,” broadcast from my own congregation — St. John’s Lutheran in Schuyler. The Easter Vigil is one of my absolute favorite services of the entire liturgical year. It is a glorious celebration with fire and water, sacrament and story and song. In some ways, it’s kind of like “Easter Eve” — an Easter version of Christmas Eve — except the Vigil actually predates Christmas Eve and is the inspiration for rituals commonly associated with Christmas Eve. Click here to see the digital bulletin.

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Maundy Thursday 2020

A few of my colleagues and ministry and I have decided to join forces for Holy Week and Easter Sunday this year, in this time of exile. Rather than all reinvent the wheel separately, we decided to do something together that we’re starting to call the “Triduum Tour” — hehe. It has been uplifting and meaningful for us to put together; I hope others will enjoy experiencing it also. If you’d like to follow along with the service, please check out this digital bulletin as you watch the video below.

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