• Excerpt from July, 2019 "The Mountain Top Messenger" newsletter...

    Sitting in the office today trying to keep cool, it is very warm outside today. Seems to me a month ago I was complaining of the cold and maybe even snow....
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1111 11th Avenue West ● Ashland, WI 54806 ● (715) 682-6075 ● inquiry@zionashland.org

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July 2019 "The Mountain Top Messenger" Newsletter
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Sitting in the office today trying to keep cool, it is very warm outside today. Seems to me a month ago I was complaining of the cold and maybe even snow. It amazes me sometimes how quickly our prospective changes based on what's happening around us. The world around us is constantly in motion, things are always changing. The older I get the harder it becomes to take in all the things that change on what seems like a daily basis. Then as you look at some things that don't change that fast, but they do change steadily and as time progresses the change is bigger and bigger. I was doing visitations last week and 3 of the folks I visit are 90 years old or older. We talked about the changes they have seen in their lifetimes. One was telling me how they used to go to church and town in a horse drawn wagon in the summer and a sleigh in the winter, anywhere else they went they walked. No uber for them. Now it seems no one wants to walk. As I contemplated some of those things I began to think of the changes in the church, and not all the changes over the last 90 years, but the changes I have seen in my shorter lifetime. I remember dressing up for church, men in suit and tie, women in dresses. Women had their heads covered in church. Children always wore those clothes you only wore on Sunday or special occasions. And everyone went to church, stores were closed, there were no sporting events or school activities. Church might have been an hour and a half or maybe even pushing two hours if there was coffee and cookies afterwards, as well as Bible Study and Sunday School on top of that, and all the children went to Sunday School. And after church families often got together for Sunday dinner at someone's house. As we look back, or at least as I look back those seemed like simpler times, do I dare say better. Things change, times change, demands on our time and resources change, and now it seems, squeezing out that hour on Sunday is a challenge. It doesn't have the precedent that it once had, as much as I hate to say it, it seems that the attitude has changed to; if we don't have anything else going on we'll go to church. What used to be an every Sunday commitment is now a 'well, maybe we can fit it in once a month'. Now I am not pointing fingers, I see that happening here. Some think this is a new trend, but I can assure you it has been a long slow steady process, the attendance numbers in churches have been declining for years and the numbers here at Zion are no different than those in other churches, actually they are better than many and I thank you all for that. The problem is we have slowly succumbed to the world and society and its demand on your time and resources. Over the last few months I have had several people ask me about the slowly declining numbers at church, I have been asked repeatedly what can be done to help get the people back, I have even been asked if I don't care, because it doesn’t seem like I am doing anything. My friends, I can tell you with confidence, I do not believe there is anyone in this church who cares more then I. I have spoken with some of my fellow pastors, I confided in them that I feel a sense of failure as the numbers slowly fall, that I feel responsible for those declines in worship attendance, Sunday school attendance, and Bible study attendance. I lose sleep at night, I worry, and I wonder where I have failed. I am thankful that I have a good support group, because they have lifted me up in prayer and shared God's Word with me, they have reminded me that it is not all about me. They have helped me realize this is a whole church problem, not just a pastor problem and as long as we continue to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and properly teach the Word of God and faithfully administer the sacraments the church will prevail. Times change, people change (sometimes), the church changes, but with all of that there is one thing that never changes God! And God will always prevail. So, you might ask with that being said, what do we do? Well, the answer is simple! We do church, we participate in the Means of Grace; God's Word, Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Lord's Supper. We do it whenever and wherever we can. And even more importantly we take care of each other. We help each other, we take notice when someone is missing, we call a friend when they haven't been in church for a while, we encourage others to join us in church. Whether you realize it or not the world is longing for a solution to its problems and we have that solution; Jesus Christ! We may not be the church that we used to be, but we have what is really important, the true and proper belief in who our Savior is and what He has done for us. We cannot ask for anything more than that, we have been blessed with salvation and life eternal. Live life with that knowledge and share that message with everyone you meet. God Bless you in all that you do! And thank you so much for your love and support and I promise to continue to do my best to share God's Word, Sacraments, and love with you.

Ephesians III
14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.

Pastor Rick