st pauls church of german lake

St. Paul’s Lutheran
Church of German Lake
22693 German Lake Rd.
Cleveland, MN, 56017

July 2023 – Clay Pots

But we have this treasure in clay jars so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

This month’s pondering is the result of the confluence of two separate observations in the past month. The first is the beauty of all the flowers and plants that adorn each day with their colorful blooms. I see them in gardens around houses, as “weeds” (phlox?) in the roadside ditches, and in front of public buildings.

The second observation is that as I stand before you on Sunday mornings, I am very aware of the things many of you struggle with…bad hearing and vision, aching hips and knees, strained rotator cuffs, cancers, grief, heart disease, some mental illnesses like anxiety, and a whole host of other maladies. You might say that the clay jars that are our bodies are a bit chipped and cracked.

That being the case, I would like to share a little story I found lurking in my files.
An Indian water bearer carried two pots across his neck. One was perfect, and one had a crack so that only half the water arrived at his master’s house. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfections.

After two years of poor performance, the cracked pot spoke to the water bearer about his shame and apologized for its failures. The water bearer asked, “What are you ashamed of?” The pot replied, “Because of my flaws, you have to work harder and don’t get full value from your efforts.”

The water bearer responded, “As we return to the master’s house, notice the flowers along the path. Notice that they are only on your side of the path. I have known about your crack and planted flower seeds to take advantage of your leak. For two years, I have picked these flowers to decorate the master’s table. Without you, he would not have this beauty to grace his table!”
St Paul’s of German Lake

The reality is that we are all cracked pots. None of us is perfect. But God can use our brokenness to create beauty in this world. So please know that in God’s eyes (and mine as well), each of you are beautiful, each of you are treasured, and, without you…complete with all your flaws and failings…St. Paul’s would not be the unique and remarkable place that it is.
Time to go out and water the garden…

Blessings, Pastor Karl

Annual Meeting Recap

The meeting opened at 10:42 am with 35 members present. Jill Steffen, Council President, started with a devotion, and Pastor Karl opened with prayer.

The Secretary and Treasurer’s reports were approved, and an updated budget was provided.
There has been a small group working on the membership list. They will be reaching out to non-active members of the church through a variety of letters.

Pastor Karl talked about “how do we as a congregation not hide our light under a bushel basket; and how do we reach out to others in our communities”.

WELCA made 95 quilts and 43 fleece blankets and hosted the annual Salad Luncheon with 106 people served.

Things we accomplished this last year were – Sound system update, Time and Talent sheets with groups/committees formed, sealed the windows in the fellowship hall, and the website has been updated.

Things we are working on – adding handicap places in the front of the building, adding rock to the east side of the building, and repairing the Fellowship Hall roof.

We have added Pew Attendance books, asking those attending to fill out the information.
The updated constitution was approved – the major changes were to have the annual meeting in January or February, an Offering Counting team was created, and the council will now have 3 – 5 members.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:21 am.

Music to Our Ears

Each month we include a reflection on some of our favorite hymns. Is there a hymn that gets stuck in your head like ear candy? Is there a hymn that touches your spirit deeply each time you hear it? Perhaps you have a hymn that always gives you a sense of peace when your heart is troubled. If you want to know a bit of the backstory behind that hymn, you can send your suggestions by e-mailing either Pastor Karl at or Although it isn’t necessary, we would love it if you would share why this hymn is important to you.

As we prepare to celebrate our country’s independence on July 4th, it seems appropriate that this month’s selection comes from the “national songs” section of our hymnbook. It is popularly known as the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but in our hymnbook, it is titled Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory. (ELW #890)

“Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty.” Psalm 24:8

After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, a national service of prayer and remembrance was conducted at Washington’s National Cathedral. America’s most powerful leaders prayed together, listened to brief sermons by evangelist Billy Graham and others, then joined in singing the anthem, “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Its words seemed to perfectly signal America’s intention to battle the forces of terror in the world.
The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was written by Julia Ward Howe, a leader in women’s rights and an ardent foe of slavery. Julia, who came from a wealthy New York family, was married to the prominent Boston philanthropist and humanitarian Dr. S.G. Howe. They were both crusaders for progressive political and ethical issues of their day.

In 1861, during the darkest days of the Civil War, the Howes visited Washington, and Julia toured a nearby Union Army camp on the Potomac River in Virginia. There she heard soldiers singing a tribute to John Brown, who had been hanged in 1859 for attempting to lead an insurrection of slaves at Harper’s Ferry. The song was called “John Brown’s Body Lies A-moldrin in the Grave.” The music was rousing, but the words needed improvement. Julia’s pastor, who was with her at the time, asked her to consider writing new and better verses. That night, after the Howes retired to their room at the Willard Hotel, the words came to Julia.

She writes: I went to bed and slept as usual but awoke the next morning in the gray of early dawn and, to my astonishment, found that the wished-for lines were arranging themselves in my brain. I lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in my thoughts, then hastily arose, saying to myself, I shall lose this if I don’t write it down immediately. I searched for an old sheet of paper and an old stub of a pen which I had the night before and began to scrawl the lines almost without looking, as I learned to do by often scratching down verses in the darkened room when my little children were sleeping. Having completed this, I lay down again and fell asleep, but not before feeling that something of importance had happened to me.

Julia gave her song to a friend who worked at the Atlantic Monthly magazine. They published it in February 1862, sending her a check for five dollars.

In contrast to the irreverent lyrics of the soldier’s song, Howe’s version is religious in theme, drawing references from Biblical passages such as Isaiah 63:1-6 and Revelation 14:14-19.
In more recent years, this hymn has served as an anthem for various protest movements. The folk singer Sparky Rucker remarked that “It’s a good march. It’s just the right cadence to march along if you’re marching on a picket line or marching down the street carrying signs. It really gets your blood going so you can slay dragons”.

On the day before he was killed in 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop speech, which he ended by quoting the hymn’s first line, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.”