Author Archives: Pastor Craig Schweitzer

About Pastor Craig Schweitzer

I like to think of myself as a pretty easy going person who seeks to daily discover anew how God is present in my life and in the world in which I live and serve. I am a husband, father, brother, son, friend, pastor, and maybe most significantly – a child of God! My beautiful spouse Wendy and I live in Bismarck, ND with our twin daughters, Ilia and Taegan and our crazy dogs Henri & Sadie. I’ve serve on the staff of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Bismarck, ND since July 2001. I was first called to serve as Music & Worship Minister, in 2010 was called to serve as Pastor of Worship and Youth Education, and in January 2014 was called to serve as Senior Pastor. My professional background is a diverse collection of musical and educational experiences that ranges from live concert production and promotion to recording studios, and live performance to music education. Prior to joining Good Shepherd, I was an Instructor of Music at Bismarck State College and owned and operated a successful teaching studio called 6x6 Guitar Studio. I am a graduate of the University of Mary in Bismarck and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA and was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in September 2010. Outside of Good Shepherd, I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends, reading, listening or playing any and all music, a relaxing round of golf, or spending some quiet time with God.

“Grace & Sabbath” 06.03.2018 Sermon

Mark 1:21-28 • January 28, 2018

Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.

This weekend begins the longest season of the church’s year – the time after Pentecost or Ordinary Time. It’s a season of the year when we will spend a significant amount of our time with Jesus and his disciples in the early days of their mission to share God’s grace wherever they are.

I’m also fully aware of the fact that for many families in our congregation this is not a season known as the time after Pentecost – it’s a season known as summer traveling sports.

Image result for youth soccerI recently heard a story of a youth soccer coach who canceled a game because there was only one referee instead of three. It was a regular season game with 12-year old boys. He refused to use parent volunteers, as was often done in situations like this. Who knows why this man started coaching youth soccer, but somewhere along the line he lost his purpose for coaching kids. He missed the point that youth soccer exists so kids can have fun, exercise, and play soccer, regardless of how many referees you have at a game or whether or not those refs are parent volunteers.

It’s easy for us to get so caught up in what we are doing that we forget why we are doing it.

This weekend was the annual Synod Assembly of our Western North Dakota Synod. It’s an annual gathering of every congregation in the synod. Synod Assembly gives us a chance to refocus on the point, our shared purpose. Refocus on why we do what we do as a church. And, as we are renewed in that focus, we return to our congregations and communities to show others all that God’s grace has done and is doing.

One of the highlights of Synod Assembly each year is a video piece that is produced specifically for this event. It highlights much of the work that we do together as part of a church known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A church of more than 3.5 million Lutheran Christians in the United States alone that gather together in more than 9,000 congregations.

Since only 9 members of Good Shepherd who were able to serve as voting members at Synod Assembly have seen this video before today, I thought it’d be good to share it with all of you on this Synod Assembly weekend. It relates exceptionally well to our time together in worship today and the mission and ministry God is calling us into at Good Shepherd “to share the Shepherd’s love with all of God’s children.”

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton begins this year’s Synod Assembly video by asking the question “What is distinctly Lutheran about our witness to the gospel?” The video then reflects entirely upon that question and what she most often hears.

Our understanding of grace as Lutheran Christians, as this year’s Synod Assembly video reminds us, is that God’s grace does not depend on us. One of the key theological lenses by which we have lived out our faith as Lutheran Christians over the past 500 years is that receiving God’s grace is not up to us. It’s not about us and never has been. Never will be either.

God’s grace is a pure and free gift to us from God.

In the 16th Century, church reformer Martin Luther – the reason why we call ourselves Lutheran today – went so far as to proclaim this about grace. “Grace does so much that we are counted completely righteous before God.” Luther wrote, “For grace is not divided or parceled out, but takes us completely into favor for the sake of Christ our intercessor and mediator.”

As Jesus heals the man who had the withered hand on the Sabbath day, the good news of Jesus Christ – God’s grace given to us, is on full display. Freeing the man once crippled to new found freedom in order for him to be able to share God’s grace in ways never possible before.

One of the roles of the Sabbath day was to set God’s people apart. In a reflection on this gospel story, one theologian said that “You could tell who the Jews were because they kept the Sabbath. So what sets Lutheran Christians apart?” They asked. “If someone walked into your home could they tell you were a follower of Jesus? If someone watched you go through your day would you appear somehow different or set apart from those who were not Christian?” [ – lectionary illustration]

Image result for graceBrothers and sisters in Christ, here is the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ for us today – God’s grace is too big for any of us to contain.

It’s by God’s grace that you are here today.

And its’ by God’s grace that you will be sent from this time of worship today.

And it’s by God’s grace that you have been set apart to share God’s love with others you meet this week.

God’s grace is not limited only to people who you already know or who believe the right way or the same way you do.

God’s grace comes to all.

As people of faith, people just like you and me, we have joy knowing whom to thank for that gift. The gift of God’s grace. Amen.


“The Work of the Spirit” 05.20.2018 Sermon

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 • May 20, 2018

Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Happy Pentecost!

If you missed our youth-led worship last weekend, you missed a wonderful Spirit-filled time of worship as the Easter season came to a close. Our youth are not the future of the church – they are an active and blessed part of the church alive in the world today.

I do need to clarify one thing that was said last weekend by one of the preachers though. One of last week’s preachers, whom Pastor Bob and I believe is well on their way to seminary and ordination as a pastor one day explained one reason why they wanted to be a pastor. “Why wouldn’t someone want to be a pastor?” They said, “I mean, you get to drink coffee and eat cookies all day.”

Today is one of the great festival days of the church – Pentecost. It’s kind of like the birthday of the church because this is the day that the church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. A gift that comes 50 days after celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. A gift that continues to come as the Spirit blows in so many amazing and life-giving ways through each one of us.

A couple weeks ago I shared in another sermon that this section of John’s gospel is known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. It encompasses chapters 14–17 of this gospel. In these chapters Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is about to come – namely the events of Holy Week and the crucifixion. He is also preparing them for their ministry and mission in the world beyond the time that Jesus is able to be physically present with them.

In today’s gospel reading, he is sharing with them that the Father is going to provide an Advocate for them.

flameAn Advocate that comes in our reading today from the book of Acts with tongues of fire and languages from every nation under heaven being spoken at the same time.  An Advocate, as Jesus says, that is one who will testify on Jesus’ behalf.  An Advocate that challenges those of us who claim to be followers of this Jesus still today to also testify on behalf of Jesus.  An Advocate that gives us hope in this work that we are called to do as children of God.

But, the obvious question for Lutheran Christians with all of this is “What does this mean?” And Pentecost and the breath of the Spirit and all this talk about an Advocate gives us pause to ask that question again and again to find meaning in the movement of the Spirit right now, right where we are.

Princeton Theological Seminary professor Keri Day answers our question “What does this mean?” in this way. “The joy of Pentecost is that it gives us a vision and a hope for a community made possible through the work of the Spirit. This miracle involves being open to the shocking and surprising ways of the Spirit, which empowers us to reach across differences in order to experience radical and insurgent communions.” [Christian Century, May 9, 2018, pg. 10]

Yes, as one of our preachers last weekend reminded me, cookies and coffee are one of the blessed parts of a pastor’s work and life. But the last 7 days in my life as a pastor have existed around an over-abundance of meetings, pastoral care and visitation appointments, presiding and preaching at 3 funerals, and way too many phone calls and emails to possibly begin to return within the framework of a 24-hour day.

It was also a week when Jesus words in today’s gospel spoke deeply to this journey. A journey with Jesus reminding me several times each day that I have an Advocate – the Holy Spirit – walking alongside me. The Advocate, who gave me peace and hope and endurance each day this week.

In just the last 7 days of my life as a pastor, God has provided hundreds of opportunities to witness the vision and hope of a community made possible ONLY through the work of the Spirit.

The work of the Spirit in the care and concern we share as we gather together as brothers and sisters in Christ in order to help families grieve and heal following the death of loved ones.

The work of the Spirit as Good Shepherd serves alongside a Leadership Class with the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce to increase the number of locations offering Little Free Pantries for brothers and sisters in need in our community.

The work of the Spirit that is always a work of peace in spite of violence and evil that continue to ravage the communities and nations in which we live. The work of the Spirit as church school children and adult leaders celebrate the end of a church school year, by creating amazing pieces of Pentecost artwork that adorn our worship spaces this week.

Wendy and I recently attended the annual Senior Pastor’s conference. This is an event that gathers together Senior Pastors and their spouses from the largest congregations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It’s a few days of learning, networking, rest, and relationship building with other pastors who serve congregations like Good Shepherd across this church. To be honest – it’s among the most important few days of the year for Wendy and me.

Pastor Reggie McNeal was one of this year’s conference speakers. Reggie’s most recent book is called “Kingdom Come: Why We Must Give Up Our Obsession with Fixing the Church – and What We Should Do Instead.” Throughout the week he encouraged us by reminding us to always keep our eyes and ears open to the work of the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to miss out “on being a part of what God is already doing in the world.” Reggie said. [Kingdom Come, Reggie McNeal, pg. xxi]

Image result for south carolina license plateSo, by now you might be wondering why I have a South Carolina license plate on the screens this weekend. Well, first, the Senior Pastor’s conference was in South Carolina this year. And, second, believe it or not, the tag line on the South Carolina license plate of our rental car reminded me of the work of the Spirit. If I wasn’t open to it, I probably would have missed it. Which is something that, unfortunately, happens more often than I care to publicly admit.

If we look closer, you’ll see that the license plate says, “While I breathe. I hope.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Spirit is still breathing. Jesus has a lot more to say to us. God has more to do through us. And the breath of the Holy Spirit that’s already been given to us and is living in you and me will guide us and be our Advocate along the way.

You are deeply blessed along this journey. Blessed and sent into the world once again this week with a vision and a hope. A vision and a hope that is radical and shocking and surprising – even for those who already follow Jesus like you and me.  A vision and a hope that will bless you and those God places before you in ways that are only possible because of the work of the Spirit.

The Spirit is at work, brothers and sisters. Thanks be to God that it is. Amen.