It was just over seventy five years ago, when on November 16, 1941, a group of Christians gathered for the first time in La Crescent, MN to worship the Lord, hear his Word, and begin a ministry that still thrives today. But why you might ask. Members of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, South Ridge, thought that it would be possible that their minister conduct services for them in the village of La Crescent. They said, “It would be more simple for one man to travel to La Crescent than to have all the families traveling up S. Ridge Hill, especially in the winter time.” But why, when there was only about 500 residents of La Crescent and other congregations in existence?

Already serving Immanuel, South Ridge; Emanuel, Brownsville; and Zion of Hokah, Reverend E.G. Hertler trusted the Lord’s presence and promise to lead these Christians to start a confessional Lutheran congregation in La Crescent. Words from God’s Word inspired and encouraged this pastor and parishioners: (Jesus said) “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

What a great message to hold onto when starting a ministry. What a powerful message from which to receive power when your numbers are few. What a comforting message to trust when the future is unknown. Jesus gives courage and removes fear with the message that He is with His church.

This is what First Evangelical Lutheran Church, La Crescent is celebrating in 2017; the fact that Jesus has been and forever will be with His church. The members continue to gather around the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. They continue to proclaim the unchanging message of the Holy Scriptures in whatever form or function the ministry may take. They continue to serve with all courage and without fear.

They do so trusting that the Lord Jesus is with them and will continue to bless the proclamation of His Word. This message from Jesus in Matthew 14 is also one of great value as each of us begins to focus on the New Year. These words from Jesus are from the account of Peter walking on the water. When Peter was focused on his Savior he could do all things. When his focus looked to his own weakness and inabilities, he sank.

What a great reminder as we begin 2017 to focus on our Savior Jesus. Keep his Word first and foremost in your lives. Stop doubting and focusing on what you can’t do but instead keep focused on Christ and what you can do in him.

Take courage and don’t be afraid for the Lord Jesus has lived and died for your sins and lives victoriously. He promises to be with his people. Take courage and don’t be afraid as you Keep Christ First in 2017!

Pastor Chris Christenson