Palm Sunday Message | Peace Church’s Past, Present, and Future


by Betsy Ahlers

This is the beginning of holy week. One of the most sacred periods of the year, Jesus comes in a way that we don’t expect it. And we are praying for pastor James, as he heals from the virus, that’s affecting his family. We miss him. We know he was treasuring the time to be with us. And we are fortunate to have his passion and intellect. Let us pray, Most holy God, as we start this week of rejoicing, knowing the pain in victory, we face as Christ followers, keep us mindful of who we are and whose we are in your name we pray, Amen.

In 1960, the classis of Minnesota designated Eagan as a place for a new church plant. A group of people under the direction of pastor Levi Aker, first met in a home and then on Easter, 1961, they moved to the church across the street. The pastor and his family had a little apartment up above the sanctuary and of that original group. We have five people, Darlene Pearson, Don Hatterman, Gordy Boonstra, Marge Anderson, and Marie Lane. I was able to talk to Marie and Darlene this past week to get more of the history and their reasons for remaining part of this family. Originally, it was called Cedar Grove community church, and then it was changed to Peace Reformed Church, and there’ll be more history coming out in the future.

Now I like to watch HGTV and it amazes me how places that look dumpy can be really transformed into something beautiful. There is a term called good bones, meaning the foundation is strong and it can withstand removing walls and changes to become something new, more functional, more beautiful. Peace Church has good bones. We’ve withstood challenges. And we’re still here for many reasons. Since 1961, we’ve had six pastors and five associate pastors. Now, my grandma told me never to join a church because of a pastor. Join for the community, but she also told me that make sure I scrub my elbows, because if I didn’t, then boys wouldn’t ask me to dance. As a young child I took that to task, and then as I developed more critical thinking, I decided that wasn’t a determining factor in getting a dance partner. But her words about church ring true. We love, and we learn from our pastors and we trust God’s guidance in selecting them and they guide us. And they are also called to different churches. This church was created by God.

The book of acts 20:28 says we are told, keep, watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the holy spirit has made you overseers be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. As we prepare for searching for a new pastor, we must identify how we serve God. Peace church is about service. We are good at service. We may disagree about the particulars of our faith, but when there’s a concrete goal to meet, an opportunity to do something, give something to someone, whatever (it is) we do it, Jesus didn’t argue with others about the fine points of scripture. He said, follow me. He didn’t need to write a pro and con list to his followers He gave specific directions.

There are groups here that serve meals for Wednesdays, for funerals and they follow Jesus directive. There are people who give without reservation, who lead groups, bring meals, visit the sick, consistory members, work with children, youth, garden, perform, manage the mercy room. There’s an active prayer chain at Peace. And all these people are following our motto of being and becoming more like Christ. But what does this really mean to peace it’s members and those around us? And what does that mean to you? These are questions we are wrestling with. We are a community. And as that community, we don’t always get our individual needs and wishes met, and we are a multi talented and caring group. So how do you choose to become more Christlike? Is it reading the Bible alone or in a study being kind to others, donating time and money, confessing, forgiving, taking a break from worry or anger? These are a few possibilities.

We are blessed to have a few of the founding members of peace church with us. They had a vision to create this church and they’re still active today. What has kept them in active service here? I was able to have a conversation. And when asked, one of them just looked at me and said, this is my church. That to me is ownership. That is deeper than well, that’s my church. No, this is my church. This is my community. This is where I belong. And another described it as a marriage. That one stays in rather than leave when everything doesn’t go your way. We must treasure this legacy given to us. They are a link to the past that informs our future. Just as the hymns we sing connect us to our ancestors, So their vision and activity connects us to a wider vision of why this church is here, as well as the hopes and dreams that will move us to the future. We also serve a God who doesn’t change over time. The God who spoke to our ancestors is speaking to us today. That God will never abandon us. We are Christians. We are Christ followers. He calls each of us by name. And if that isn’t enough, the very hairs on your head are numbered. Every heartbeat, every breath is a gift from our holy creator. Let us remember that. Let us treasure that. Let us act knowing whose we are, let us remember God’s faithfulness and let us be faithful in return.

We have been together during life’s journeys and challenges. This is a place for baptisms, mission trips, weddings, funerals, VBS, joy, sorrow, loss, as well as rejoicing and healing. Well, why is peace here? Well, I’m just speaking for Dennis and myself. It was a place where we felt welcome and comfortable. You have become part of our extended family. You have been there with life challenges. And in our case, it was mostly related to children. Even Logan’s sudden death. Throughout all the last 37 years, peace has been a refuge and a place to learn about Jesus. We are still here. WE are still here. We’ve lost members for multiple reasons, and I encourage you to ask one another. Why are you here at peace? Let’s get the conversation going. We will be holding small groups to further this discussion, and there will be multiple different times. So one time in all these transitions of pastors, I was fretting about it. This change and Sharon Astleford, who was a true shining light at peace. Just the mention of her name brings a smile to my face and to the others who had the privilege of knowing her. She assured me “we’ll be okay because God loves peace church.” It’s true. God loves us. The challenge is how do we return the favor? How do we share what we’ve been given our legacy of peace church and Christianity? The good news is we don’t have to have all the answers. Now we can, and we will wait for the Lord’s direction. The Lord has been faithful through all generations. And where are we on this timeline? The timeline of our faith, the timeline of peace church, please explore what your role is in the legacy of peace.

The questions asked in this talk our keys to electing our new pastor. These answers will be helpful to anybody who wants to apply. So let us dig deep, spend time praying and seeking the Lord’s guidance in the days ahead. I found this from the new Bible dictionary, The English word church is derived from the Greek adjective, meaning the Lord’s house in Colosians and Ephesians Paul generalizes. This use of the churches indicate not an ” ” church, but a spiritual and heavenly significance of each local body, which has Christ as the head and by which God demonstrates his manifold wisdom. In God’s purpose. There is only one church, one gathering under all the headship of Christ, but on earth, it’s plural, multi, seen wherever two or three gather in his name, like the believer. The church is both local and in heaven. The church is not a synonym for the people of God. It is rather an activity of the people of God. And I think that is very crucial that we, we are the people of God, but it is what we do, how we act. That is the church.

I close with the reading from Colosians 1:18. He is before all things and in him, all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning and the first born among the dead. So that in everything, he might have supremacy. So on Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd. And within a few days, that crowd turned on him. Jesus didn’t stop when the cheers turned to jeers, he went through the good and the awful and kept going to victory. Let us pray that peace church can do the same.

I’ll close with a prayer. Almighty God. You have given us good bones as a church, as a faith, we know we can stand on your word and help us to reach out to each other, to carry what you want for peace church. You have the vision, of where you want us to go open our eyes and our ears to hear, may we be your servant in all we do in Jesus name. Amen.

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