Greeting in the name of our gracious and merciful Savior Jesus Christ who is the light that shines in the
darkness and who the darkness cannot overcome!
I was inspired again this past Sunday by one of our pastors who preached on Isaiah 43:1-7. In particular I
was taken by the second half of the first verse:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
That Sunday was the Baptism of Our Lord. The reference to being called by name reminds us of Jesus’
baptism and then our own. How blessed we are to be able to remember in faith our baptism, the time
when God adopted us as his child and called us by name. We are his. This is of preeminent importance in
our lives. When we have this, we have everything we need. It is out of this relationship then that we live.
Since we are redeemed we do not fear. I have been thinking of affixing a Bible verse to my
correspondence and signature. I think I have found the perfect verse that, for me, says it all. I pray that
this verse is of great comfort to you as well.
This morning (Friday January 14 th ) I had the opportunity to make my way down to Trenton for the annual
March for Life. There I met Rev. Martin Erhardt, Pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, Princeton (English
District). For four years now, we have been meeting at the rally to voice our support for the sanctity of
human life. The rally featured a series of pro-life speakers that included local pastors, leaders and
governing officials. While not all of the speeches were inspiring, together with the others, they
comprised a powerful message lifting the precious value of every human life created by God. The slogan
that captured the day came from the stirring speech of one pastor, “Pro-choice, that’s a lie, babies don’t
choose to die!” The day ended with a march of a couple of blocks to the building where Governor
Murphy has an office. Did he hear the chant? I don’t know but he most certainly knew of the protest. I
believe it is important for him to know that there are many who oppose the laws of the State of NJ that
devalue human life and his administration’s policy that support them. I would be glad to have you join
Martin and I next year.
It is with great pleasure that I make the announcement that we have a new Communications Director
for our District, George Mikula. George is a member of King of Kings, Mountain Lakes (Pastor Steve
Vera). He comes to us with a very strong background in graphic and motion graphic design, and
communications. I am looking forward to working with him and experiencing the ways he will impact
the communications of the District. Please look for his article in the Grapevine/Servant to Servant
regarding the change of schedule in both submission deadlines and publications date. You will want to
note that we will be publishing less frequently. That means submission dates will be more critical as you
seek to send in your articles in a timely fashion.
I would also like to announce that we will once again be holding our NJ District Mission Classic Golf
Outing. This year it will be held in early May on the 5th. This is a fund raiser for our NJ District missions
and in particular the work being done by Pastor Dan Fenco and Camino de Fe. Please watch for more
details as to how you can support this effort. Perhaps you can encourage those in your church to enter a
few foursomes of friends and family. If you don’t play golf you can sponsor a hole, donate or arrange for
a donation to our prize drawings, or even volunteer to help. This is always a fun day to play some golf,
renew friendships, and support our District mission.
It was with sadness but also thankfulness to God that we gathered on Sunday January 9th at Bethlehem,
Ridgewood at 3:00 pm. The occasion was the closing and final service for Mile Square Church, Hoboken.
Our sadness arose from the fact that this mission of the District was coming to an end. Out of a good
start we had hoped to plant a church that would minister to the community for many years. Partly due
to covid, that was not to be the case. We mourned with those who were a part of this endeavor and
prayed for God’s blessings upon them as they seek new places of spiritual nurture in their Christian faith.
Before his departure, Pastor Matt Lytikainen worked with each member toward this end. Yet, the
service was not all sadness. In fact, the overwhelming emphasis was that of thankfulness. We realized
that God was at work in people’s lives during this time of ministry. For that we are thankful and pray
that fruit may continue be born from this ministry.
Our Commissioned Ministers are truly a gift to us from God. I don’t believe we have any of them serving
in paid positions in our District, and as a result, we only have a few on our Roster. This past week I
invited our Commissioned Ministers to gather for a time of fellowship together. Some of them were new
to me and with others it was a time to get to know one another better. We had a wonderful time
visiting, reflecting on the Scriptures together, praying, talking about District, and sharing a meal. These
people have been specially trained in our Synodical Schools and bring tremendous gifts to our
congregations. If one of them is in your congregation, will you take a moment to recognize them and
thank them for the gifts and ministry they share with you? They are to be treasured.
Let’s not forget about our Wellness Wednesdays! Starting on Wednesday January 26 th our District’s
Older Adult Ministry, under the direction of Coleen Botcher (Parish Nursing) and Shirley Carpenter, will
be hosting an online physical and spiritual health endeavor. A Zoom link will be provided (contact Coleen
Botcher) whereby individuals or groups of people gathered at church or in homes can join the sessions.
There will be a devotion by one of our District Pastors, prayer, an exercise routine, and a health topic for
the week. Groups gathered at church can login for these 45-minute sessions and then, if they choose,
share a meal together and spend time visiting. With a little effort, this can be a great ministry in any of
our congregations. This pilot program will run for 4 week this winter, take a break for Lent, and then
restart again in spring.
This season of Epiphany, in which we find ourselves, is bookended by gospel accounts in which God
clearly proclaims that Jesus is his beloved Son (see Jesus’ Baptism and the Transfiguration). Because of
what Christ has done for you, and as you receive it in your baptism, it is also proclaimed to you that you
are his child. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”