Gary’s note: Pastor Dan is one of my favorite people for two reasons. First, he oozes faith. Yet as a pastor, he doesn’t shame others who are searching for faith. He has it, practices it, and humbly and with humor leads others to it. Second, he is the Holy Roller who, wearing a “Lefse King” apron, makes mounds of beautiful lefse every year as part of his church’s Lefse Ministry. This ministry inspires his congregation to make lefse, help the community, and even rebuild Hawk Creek Lutheran Church, which burned down in 2016. The following is Pastor Dan’s reflection on lefse and life in the rebuilt Hawk Creek, which opened last spring.
Some people enjoy lefse for its flavor. You might say it is the ultimate comfort food: soft, easy to digest, with no aftertaste (unless prepared as a Norwegian taco with lutefisk), usually sweetened with white or brown sugar, and infinitely adaptable to every taste.
Some people enjoy lefse simply for its nostalgic ability to remind us of a bygone era when our Norwegian ancestors braved the dangers and uncertainties of crossing the Atlantic and brought the flavors and traditions of the homeland to the new world. We can envision trunks full of the dried lefse (hard lefse) loaded onto steamer ships and providing food to hungry travelers. In its dried form, it kept well and could easily be reconstituted with a little water. Once pioneers settled on their homesteads, it became a delicacy for holiday meals.
At Hawk Creek and Rock Valle Lutheran Churches near Sacred Heart, Minnesota, many of our members trace their ancestry to Norwegian roots. And the delights lefse delivers to our palates, we can’t argue with that! But as I state in my Lefse Catechism: “There’s more to lefse than meets the stomach. Hidden within these orbs of tantalizing and tempting tastes is a message greater than any other — a message of God’s great love toward humanity, a message of salvation, a message of God’s answers for a broken humanity.”
Church Burning and Rebuilding
It’s that message that has empowered us the two difficult years from the time the beloved church building burned down from a lightning strike until recently when we dedicated our new building to God. It is true that when tragedy strikes, we always try to find meaning in it. We often hear, “There’s a reason for everything.” And you might say that as God’s people, we are always seeking signs of God’s presence. We found plenty of those signs. We never did claim Ichabod as our name (look it up). God is present powerfully to direct, lead, and lure us into God’s most preferred future. Our church’s Lefse Ministry is one expression of that quest. In lefse, we have found the message of God’s love. In lefse, we have discovered another reason to move on.
The unanimous decision to rebuild the sanctuary was radical in that it defied the notion that rural churches are dying. In recent weeks two churches in our Southwestern Minnesota Synod have closed. Died? No. Their mission is not over. It has changed. The headquarters for their members may have changed, but the Kingdom work goes on. With our new and beautiful building made possible by God, we are better equipped for the ongoing mission God has called us to. Our sorrow has turned to joy. Hope has not left us. Our prayer is that, united and strengthened through our trials, we will be a more faithful and energized force for carrying out God’s mission.
Not About Scarcity
When Gary Legwold — a very worthy competitor for the title “Lefse King” — wrote Keep on Rolling! it was a great affirmation, a tribute to the difference a small country church can make. How can we say thanks for the recognition he has brought to the unique mission God has given us? The title Gary gave to his chapter on our church’s Lefse Ministry is called “The Holy Roller” (me), but it should have been plural since this humble servant is but a small part. As God is creating great waves for us to surf, I am simply hanging on for the ride.
Let me repeat: We all look for signs of God’s presence in our lives. Remember Jesus’ stories about pearls, seed, farming, baking, etc? For us in the Lefse Ministry, the signs of God’s presence are not like flavorings on a lefse — be they sugar, cinnamon, boysenberry jam, etc. The signs are the substance, the lefse itself. God is not a flavoring we add to life once a week to make it easier or tastier. It is the foundation to which we add the many flavorings that life gives.
The story of Hawk Creek and its fire and rebuilding is a testimony to God’s faithfulness and grace, given in “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” It is a sign that God is not about scarcity but about abundance of blessing. Take it from us. We’ve lived through it. And by God’s grace, we pray that we can be faithful witnesses into God’s future. And lefse’s lessons will be a part of that journey.
“In lefse, we have discovered another reason to move on.”