A Word from Pastor Jim

I remember the drills. Not the dentist; that is a different story. Not the drills that my golf coach had for us; that, too, is a different story. The good news or bad news is that if this coronavirus goes on for weeks or months, you may indeed get to hear all of my stories.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the drills from grade school. “Class, we are all going to be practicing our drills this morning.” I was thrilled! I hated math. I could not spell. My best subjects were recess and drills.

“Now class, if there is an emergency, we will tell you what to do. So, do not panic, everything will be OK. Now, who knows what to do if there is a nuclear attack by the Russians?” The fat boy in the back of the room who could not spell or do math, quickly raised his hand. “Jimmy, what do we do?” “We get under our desks and cover our heads and wait for the blast to pass.” “Very good Jimmy! Now class, let’s practice and remember, do not hurry or panic.”

What followed was three minutes of a simulated nuclear explosion. I am guessing that our school was gone and most everyone we loved was incinerated, but we were safe under our desks.

“Now class, what do we do if there is a tornado coming? Jimmy, let someone else answer, I promise you we will go to recess soon.” Rita raised her hand. “Mrs. Burke, we go out in the hall and stand with our heads against the lockers to protect us.” “Very good, Rita. In a minute the alarm will sound and we will not panic. Just walk by rows out into the hall to the lockers and take your places until we get the all clear signal.”

I am not sure what those drills were for, but I guess I did feel safer when I heard about tornadoes or Russians. But in reality, it was an illusion. Life is inherently dangerous. Even if we play it safe, follow the rules, wash our hands, eat low-fat foods, and look both ways before crossing the street we can still be caught up at any moment in a calamity.

The coronavirus is a crisis that is not of our making. We had nothing to do with it, but it is here. Suddenly, and with very little warning, we are all imperiled. Getting under our desks or standing in the hallway will do little to lessen the risk. Our finances are in shambles, our roads and cities are locked down. We are not allowed to worship together. We are, however, fortunate to live in a place where we can still go out for recess. In major cities, the opportunity to walk the beach or the neighborhood has been taken away for public safety.

We are not responsible for this crisis, but we are not helpless either. We were baptized for moments like this. We have the opportunity to be beacons of hope to our neighbors. We can order food from local restaurants. We can use technology to reach out to friends, old and new. In the church office, we are making every effort to keep in contact with some 1,000 people.

Let’s be clear, this will get worse before it gets better. We know that we will not be worshiping together for at least eight weeks. The virus is here, we have several in our parish who have tested positive already. We know that there will be more.

The drills. The drills will not protect us 100%. Life has no such guarantees. Do not be afraid, and do not panic. Here is the drill: wash your hands, stay away from others, pray for health care workers and first responders, pray for those who have tested positive for the virus, send a card, email, or letter, and hold on to hope. This crisis will not last. This virus will have a shelf life, and brilliant scientists are working to defeat it.

And finally, do not forget my favorite subject: recess. Get out of your house and go for a walk, enjoy the sunshine and the beauty of Whidbey Island, breathe deep knowing that God is with us and we are in this together.

My love to you!



Pastor Jim

Church In a Time of Coronavirus

Church In a Time of Coronavirus

“I thank my God in every remembrance of you.” Philippians 1:3

Worship services this Sunday will be canceled. In good conscience we cannot put a vulnerable population at further risk. A good shepherd will not expose the flock to unnecessary danger. Until further notice we will not be worshiping together on Sunday morning.

For the safety of all, our campus has been closed.

The South Whidbey Schools have closed until at least April 24. The Trinity Preschool will follow that lead and close as well.

We will not be worshiping on Sunday, but we are not canceling church! Because we are the church together. The church is not a building or a worship service. The church is a family of followers of Jesus Christ. We will continue to follow Jesus by living, loving, and serving.

We will be looking for a few individuals or teams that would be willing to deliver groceries to our shut-in seniors. A friendly familiar face at the door delivering life giving sustenance would also deliver hope. If you are healthy and could help with this ministry, please let us know. If you are shut-in and in need of a delivery please email or call the office.

We ask that you would call vulnerable shut-in church folks or neighbors just to check in and visit. If we are to be the church, then no one should be alone in this time of crisis.

We will not be worshiping on Sunday, but we are not canceling church. This Sunday you will be able to watch a sermon and hear Karl sing by following any of these links:
Trinity’s website

We will continue to be the church together, and some day this Spring we will have a homecoming on a Sunday morning. This too shall pass, this chapter will slip into history, and we will emerge stronger together, following Jesus together.

Much love,

Pastor Jim

This Too Will Pass

This Too Will Pass

This Too Will Pass
A Word from Pastor Jim

Do you remember the days after 9-11? The markets were in chaos. The skies were eerily silent. Airports were empty. The future seemed uncertain. Time seemed to stand still and all of life was in a kind of limbo. The Sunday morning services immediately following 9-11 were packed. People came to church looking for God; for comfort, for answers, for hope.

The uncertainty of life is always present, but only occasionally does it slap us in the face reminding us of our own frailty. The coronavirus has reminded our nation just how frail, fleeting, and out of control we actually are. It would be understandable to hunker down in fear, to isolate ourselves entirely, to be weighed down with anxiety.

I have no idea how this will play out, but I can tell you that it will play out and life will go on. The skies will again be filled with airplanes, fans will show up to sporting events, schools will be opened, and the faithful will return to church. This too will pass.

In the meantime, we need to be prudent and careful. Our response to this virus should be measured, consistent with the level of threat. At TLC we serve many in the most vulnerable risk demographic. Therefore, we have made many adjustments to our shared life and worship. Until further notice, please watch our Sunday sermon and music online.

The Trinity Preschool is following the lead of the South Whidbey School District and remains open at this time. On Friday, March 13th we will close our campus to all outside groups.

This too will pass, but until it does we want everyone to be prudent, precautionary and safe in their daily life. Stay home if you need to, but do not spend your day watching news programs that exaggerates risk and promote fear. You can get good information by searching for CDC.GOV.

Do not despair, be empowered by doing something productive. Send cards to shut-ins, make phone calls to friends or church people who might also be isolated. Sit down and write a letter to your children or grandchildren sharing memories from your childhood. Visit the Trinity website and take in a few old sermons or click on the Videos button at left and peruse the hundreds of sermons we have on Facebook.

Be still, be not afraid, this too will pass!

I am writing a sermon for Sunday. I hope that you will hear it in person or online.

Spring is breaking forth; new life is bursting forth. Life is good.



Pastor Jim

Our Life Together and the Coronavirus

Our Life Together and the Coronavirus

A Word From Pastor Jim About Our Life Together and the Coronavirus

At TLC we care about our community and the well-being, abundant life of all.

There is no need to panic about the coronavirus, but we will use best practices to be prudent and responsible. Our staff is monitoring the situation and we are thankful that to date there are no reported cases of coronavirus in Island County. However, we do know that the senior population is the most vulnerable and so we will proceed with caution.

In light of the recent events in the State of Washington we will be making some temporary changes in our worship practices.

There WILL be church this Sunday at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m.

There will NOT be Holy Communion this Sunday. We may suspend the celebration of Holy Communion altogether for some period of time.
If you are sick or have any symptoms, you are encouraged to stay home and watch the sermon online.

We encourage everyone to wash their hands upon arrival at TLC. We will dispense with hugs and handshakes until the Coronavirus situation is better understood. Ushers and greeters will greet you, but will not make physical contact. There will be no greeting line after the service. The coffee hours will be conducted as usual, with servers wearing gloves. Please wash/sanitize hands before attending coffee hour.

This Sunday we ask you to take your bulletins home with you for recycling.
We will suspend the printing of bulletins until further notice.

We are not canceling regular church activities at this time; we are simply asking everyone to use good sense and precaution.

Lenten Services will go on as scheduled, but the Lenten Meals have been canceled. Holden Evening Prayer Services will take place every Thursday at 7 p.m.

You can always watch sermons online at TrinityLutheranFreeland.org, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/TrinityLutheranChurchFreeland.

Fear will not win the day! Do not be afraid, but do look both ways before you cross the street, do stay home if you are sick, and do wash your hands.

My love and prayers to you all!




Pastor Jim

God Bless the Human Race

God Bless the Human Race

God Bless the Human Race
Weekly Word

In March, I will be taking 30 TLC Pilgrims to Israel. This year will be the 25th anniversary of my first trip in 1995. Israel was never on my list of places to go. Four of our “more senior” female church members took me for a walk in 1994 and said, “we want you to take us to Israel.” That walk changed not just my life, but the life of our congregation. What followed has been 25 years of amazing TLC trips, great inspiration, renewed and deepened relationships.

In 2022, Felicia and I will be leading our last trip to Israel. The details of that pilgrimage are still coming together. The pilgrimage will explore the roots of our faith as we visit Israel and Istanbul.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.”

My first trip outside of North America was that 1995 pilgrimage to Israel when I was 35 years old. It ignited a passion for travel, for history and culture. It gave me a deeper appreciation for my homeland, but in addition, it helped me to understand that all people in all lands are pretty much the same. They just want to love and provide for their families. They get up each morning as we do, they carry many of the same burdens and fears. They cry when they are hurt, they bleed when they are cut, and they will die as we will die. People everywhere are just people. But more than that, they are the children of God.

If we look closely at the face of an immigrant or a refugee, we will see the image of our parents or grandparents who came to a land of opportunity. If we look closely, we may even see Jesus, in those who have never really met Jesus.

When we travel, we have no choice but to rely on the hospitality of others. In the Bible, hospitality was right up there with peace and justice. Hospitality; caring for friends, neighbors and strangers is part of what makes the human race a family.

May God bless the human race.

See you Sunday!

Pastor Jim

Weekly Word: Do Not Be Afraid

Weekly Word: Do Not Be Afraid

Do not be afraid. Fear not.” That word from God to humans appears 365 times in the Bible. Is that a coincidence? For each and every day in the year – 365 times – God tells us not to be afraid. And yet, we are afraid.

When we are born, in our purest state, formed by God and carried in the safety of our mother’s womb, we are only afraid of two things. The only fears we have as a newborn are instinctual. We are afraid of loud noises, and we are afraid of falling. That’s it. The rest of our rational fears come to us by our human experience. We should be a little afraid to cross a busy highway, or to swim too far from shore. Rational fears may keep us alive.

But many of our fears are irrational. They are taught to us by professional worriers, or we catch them like the plague from media sources or politicians who peddle fear. Volcanoes, terrorists, pandemics, airplane crashes, spiders and snakes are real, but they are not a real threat to you. Even death, which will come to all of us, is not to be feared. I have been there; it is far more peaceful than scary.

Is it a coincidence that God tells us 365 times not to be afraid? I don’t know, but the theme is not an accident. The God who created us, knows that we are easily given over to our fears. We are afraid and the fear that can keep us alive, can also keep us from living. Fear, in the right measure, can protect us but when fear is unchecked it can enslave us.

I know that the world seems to be crazy, fragile and dangerous right now. Spend too much time watching the news and you will be convinced that things are worse now than they have ever been. In reality, that is simply not the case. This longing for the good old days is romantic recall; nothing more. The truth is, on most days, most of the people in the world live in peace; their days are routine, unremarkable, not affected by corrupt politicians or natural disasters.

What now? Should we work for peace? Should we advocate for justice? Should we address climate change? Should we be a voice for the voiceless? Should we be concerned for marginalized or oppressed populations? Should we demand that our politicians be honest and faithful? Should we vote? The answer to all of the above is YES!

Be energized by your calling to follow Jesus. Be energized to positive action – do not be paralyzed by your fear.

“Do not be afraid. Fear not.” Repeat 365 times, and I will see you this Sunday!

Much love,


Pastor Jim