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Pastor: Thomas Vaga
Telefon:  732-581-2951
Kodus:  732-363-0532

607 East 7th Street
Lakewood, NJ  06701


Esinaine: Malle Väärsi

165 Walnut Ave.
Bogota NJ 07603



Eha McDonnell
18 Styvesant Oval
Apt. 10A
New York, NY 10009



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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church

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Bogota, NJ  07603-1633
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Sermons / Prayers



Praying in the times of trouble

Isaiah 37; 14 15: Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.  And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord.

Martin Luther finds this Old Testament story about king Hezekiah in prayer to be a good lesson to us when we are in trouble. King Hezekiah lived c. 715 and 686 BC (before Christ) and was the king of Judah when the Assyrian empire attacked Judah  and Jerusalem.

A large army led by Assyrian king Sennacherib  was about to conquer Jerusalem. Sennacherib sent a letter to king Hezekiah full of threats against Hezekiah and Jerusalem. The letter was meant to scare King Hezekiah and Jerusalem in to give up. Hezekiah did what a faithful God fearing king of Juda  could do. He went into the temple and spread the letter out in front of God and prayed for God’s help. Luther teaches with that story the importance of Prayer in time of trouble and fear.

Instead of praying we tend to torture ourselves with fear and worry. All we can think about is trying to get rid of the problem. We become so upset about the problem that it takes complete hold of us. In this way we are lead from the way from prayer to the Devil himself, Luther says.

But on the basis of this story in Isaiah on what Hezekiah did, we should get into the habit in falling down on our knees before God and spreading out our needs and difficulties in front of God. When trouble threatens and we become frightened.

Prayer is the very best medicine there is. It always works and never fails, if we use it. Jerusalem and Juda were delivered from the Assyrians.  King Sennacherib left Judah and went back to his homeland Ninive.

Jesus promised: I will do anything you ask the Father in my name so that the Father will be given glory because of the Son. What does it mean when Jesus says: “I will do anything you ask the Father in my Name.” Christ Jesus is pointing to himself in this passage, Martin Luther writes: “These are peculiar words coming from a human being. How can a mere man make such lofty claims? But with these simple words Christ Jesus clearly states that he is the true and almighty God, equal with the Father.” Christ asks us to pray to God the Father in His name, in Jesus’ name. Christ possesses all of God’s power and strength. Here, Christ sums up what we can ask him for in prayer. He does not limit his. Rather, he says that he will do anything you ask. (See John 14: 13-14)

We all know the Lord’s Prayer, The “Our Father”.  Let’s see what Luther says about this Prayer. He said that we should pray the Lord’s Prayer every day. In the Lord’s Prayer we bring out our needs before God.  Jesus, the Son of God himself gave us this prayer. We can say that this prayer is given to us by God Himself. Right at the beginning of the prayer we address God as “our Father”. Jesus teaches us to respect and love God as a good and the great Father. When we know that God is our Heavenly Father, we trust Him because He will meet our needs and help us in trouble. We are overjoyed to be His children through Christ, Luther teaches. And so, because we trust that He will give us what He promised, we can pray to Him with confidence, in the Name of Christ, our Lord. So always, as the song says: “Bring it to Lord in prayer”.                                      

Pastor Thomas Vaga
October 2021



I am Lazarus

John 11:1-4

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Today’s Gospel lesson reveals a lot about Jesus, both as the Son of God, and also as the human being. His divine power is revealed in raising Lazarus from the dead, and His humanity in the sadness he shows at the death of His friend. Today’s Gospel lesson includes the shortest passage in the whole Bible; the 35th verse, where the Apostle John simply writes that “Jesus wept.” That is an emotion that we can all identify with, and we are comforted at knowing we can identify with Jesus during this sad time.

In fact, we can identify with everyone who we encounter in the reading. We most readily see ourselves in Mary and Martha – the sisters who had to see their severely sick brother die.


Image courtesy of Christiansunite.com

“Lord, if you had only been here...” How often have we thought this, not just at the loss of a loved one, but whenever we’ve faced a difficult situation? It’s natural for us to ask this question – to wonder what would have happened if God had only stepped in and changed the course of things. Whether this worldwide pandemic that is affecting billions of people from all corners of life, or a personal hardship that a single individual must face, people often turn to God and wonder whether He could have gotten involved earlier to steer the situation in a different direction. We’re all like Mary and Martha, thinking “if only…”

It’s important to note that this doesn’t come from a lack of faith. I don’t think anyone can question the faith that Mary and Martha had. They were rock solid in the faith they had in God, and in the faith they had in Jesus.

Martha says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” She was sure of it. The women didn’t lack the faith to understand why their brother died.

But this feeling of second guessing – of asking “if only” – comes from something else: it often come from not understanding the plans that God has for our lives.  “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Jesus teaches us. God will reveal His glory, even when we are having a difficult time seeing it right now.

And often it comes down to a matter of perspective. We can look at our current worldwide situation with the corona virus and think to ourselves: “how hopeless this is. More and more people are getting sick, and people are dying. And far too many people are suffering economically and losing their jobs…”

But we can also look at how God’s grace and love has become visible. It’s in the countless hours that healthcare workers are putting in to help those who are affected, working on the front lines and risking their own health just to be there for others. It’s in the numerous restaurants who, despite most likely losing business due to having to close their dining rooms, are happily donating meals to food-pantries and to health workers. It’s visible in the volunteers at churches around the world who continue to make sandwiches and meals for soup kitchens. The list of opportunities for us to carry on the ministry of Jesus is endless, even in this time of social distancing and seeming separation. And even if we can’t feel like we can head out into the world to help, we can show God’s love in our life by even simply picking up the phone and reaching out to someone and reminding them that God is with us. When we rise to action as a family of faith, even in our darkest hour, the Glory of God shines in this world!

And in that action, we are like His disciples, who followed Jesus no matter where He went. They were even ready to go back to a place where the people wanted to kill Jesus – where they had tried to stone Him. Yet the disciples put the work of the Gospel ahead of everything else and followed Him. When we live like them and put the Gospel of Christ first, we too can learn that there is nothing that we can’t do for the sake of the One who gave Himself for us.

Yet sometimes sadness still finds us, and we see find ourselves in Lazarus. We might be ill, whether physically, mentally or even spiritually. We may not feel like there is any hope. We feel like we are failing, and it doesn’t feel like Jesus is nearby. We don’t know where to turn. But we can take comfort in the words of St. Paul, who reminds us that even though we are here on earth, the Spirit of God lives in us if we only believe in Him. And if the Spirit of God lives in us, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also raise us up.

And Christ doesn’t just give us victory over death. He gives us victory over life! Even when we are troubled and are feeling overwhelmed, we take comfort in knowing that Jesus lived a life just like ours. He, too, faced the troubles and hardships of everyday life, the fear and sadness at the loss of a dear friend, and even more so He faced persecution and death at the hands of those who hated Him. Yet He overcame the hardships with a loving heart, he comforted the sad with his words of peace, and He even forgave those who nailed Him to the cross. Even in that hour, Jesus saw the Glory of God in action, as the Gift of Easter was given to us through His death and resurrection.

We, like Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and the disciples can put our faith in Him, knowing that whatever we face in this world, Jesus is nearby. He’s ready and willing to help, and is calling us by name to see His glory.  Amen

Pastor Markus Vaga - March 29th, 2020


Watch Markus Vaga deliver his sermon
at the Faith Lutheran online service on March 29th, 2020.




Evangelist Billy Graham writes in his popular book of angels: “Angels have a much more important place in the Bible than the devil and his demons.” 

In the Bible we read that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Elijah, Zachariah, Joseph, Mary and Peter, along with others, saw angels. Two angels are mentioned by name: Michael and Gabriel. Angels in the Bible are in many activities: climbing ladders, wrestling with people, taming lions, lifting great weights, announcing births, recruiting leaders, they are warriors in battle, executioners, performing miraculous rescues, opening prison doors, and comforting people.

Many of us have experienced angels’ help especially during our escape from our homeland during the war. Angels comforted those who were on the deportation trains to Siberia and prison camps. Many Christians in their suffering in communist prisons were visited by angels who strengthened and comforted them, and angels are still helping persecuted Christians in their suffering and despair. 

According to the Bible we know, that angels are created beings, dignified, majestic, and intelligent. They are personal beings who always represent God. We are taught in our Christian homes and Sunday schools that we all have an angel, “Kaitseingel” in Estonian. Little is said about the appearance of the angels, but they can take on the physical form of a person. Billy Graham writes: “The Bible is very clear that only God is to be worshiped. God is helping us in an emergency through His angels, but we are never to pray to the angels.” 

This Christmas time we read that when an angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the fields, suddenly a large army of angels appeared. They were praising God by saying: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those who have his good will.” Martin Luther writes: “From the angelic song, we can learn what the angels are really like... this passage portrays angels so clearly that we can discern their thoughts and hearts... They enthusiastically give honor to God, the one to whom it belongs.” The second characteristic of angels is that they love us. Here we see what wonderful, great friends the angels are to us. They love us as much as themselves, and they celebrate our salvation as if it were their own. The right way to understand angels is according to their inner heart, attitude, and mind. If you wonder what a humble, pure, obedient, and happy heart in God is like, then think of the angels praising God. Praise God and have a thankful heart.

Have a blessed Christmas season and beginning of the new Church year!

Pastor Thomas Vaga



In Christ the small is great

Dear fellow Estonians!

Every year we are celebrating a national event and have been doing it every year even the times when Estonia was occupied by Soviet Union. It is the one hundred and first year from the Estonian Declaration of Independence that took place on the twenty fourth of February in 1918. It is like the fourth of July is to America. The American Declaration of Independence was published in 1776? 243 years ago. America has gone through bad times in those years, like the Civil War. Estonia has as well. Together with us Latvia and Lithuania, and Finland share the same years and bad and good times. The three Baltic countries have shared years of terrible subjugation and deliverance to freedom. We have suffered in being the forgotten nations of Europe in the politics of great powers who divided Europe into spheres of interests over the people of Europe. I experienced the truth of it when the famous historian and President Kennedy admirer, Arthur Schlesinger, spoke at Rutgers about how the world is divided between the US and USSR to spheres of interest, that is domination.  I got a chance to ask him about the independence of the Baltic countries. I remember how he crinkled his nose as if he had smelled something bad and said: “They belong to the Soviet Russian sphere of influence.” It meant possession.

For the true Christian, it was faith – that is absolute trust – in God and the promises of Jesus Christ that looked forward in undying hope toward freedom. Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew describes in the words of Jesus our weaknesses and strengths:

(From the New Living Translation) “Then Jesus prayed this prayer. ‘O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike.’ Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find for your souls.

(Mt. 11:25.28.29b.c.). With Jesus Christ it is the law of the weak and not of the powerful rulers that governs. With Jesus there is no hopelessness for the small. In the end God is the winner and Jesus Christ has the solution in our personal lives and in world politics and the life of nations. A telling example is the bloodless dissolution of the Soviet Union similar to the breakdown of the Czarist empire 101 years ago. Both making it possible for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to become independent nations on the map of Europe. Freedom and democracy are gifts from God.

Bishop Thomas - 2019



For Thanksgiving - 2017

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated in Canada and the United States. It began as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest of the preceding year. Similarly named festival holidays occur in Germany and Japan. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States, and generally the same part of the year in other places.

Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday as well.  In Estonia, people used to celebrate thanksgiving as “lõikustänu püha”, as the time when all the harvest was in, days were shorter and nature was waiting for winter. In our Christian life we have thanksgiving day every day, but on this special day is nice to have the family come together. Thanksgiving is the day for that wonderful family tradition. In the United States it is remembered in connection with the first get together with the natives who taught many survival skills to the Pilgrims. In our Estonian congregation we make a special donation to our Church. At the October 22nd service, you could bring in your donation or send it by mail to our Treasurer Eha McDonnell. When you give your donation please stop to think on the blessings in your life. Thank God for your health, for your home, for your family and friends, for the quiet moments, for the your church and many, many other things. You know best what are the blessings in your life and thank God for them.



The Lord's Prayer

We all know how to say the Lord’s Prayer from memory or by “heart”. But how well do we really know it by heart, meaning in deep Christian faith. I found a good description of the deeper meaning of the Lord’s Prayer from a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor, Rev. Daniel Paavola. He describes the Lord’s Prayer as a trip or commute between heaven and earth, between the home of our Heavenly Father and our home – between God and us. We can make this trip every day.

We are anchored in heaven right from the start when we pray: “Our Father who art in heaven!” We go to heaven to pray and praise God as our Father: “Hallowed be your name!” Hallowed means honored and worshipped as holy. When we pray to God in this way we join with all the angels and Christian believers and worship services honoring and worshipping God as a mighty but kind and merciful Father in heaven who hears us. Then we worship Him on earth: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” Martin Luther teaches what we are praying for: “We ask that his governing and will be in us personally.”

We continue and say that when God’s rule and will is here, we are very well taken care of, as the prayer for daily bread and the things we need for living day to day says: “Give us this day our daily bread!” But in addition to “daily bread” God brings His will and authority near us to protect us. He draws us away from sin, the bad and the dangers in this life on the earth: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We are asking that He makes our life on this earth like it is in heaven,. And He does. God  feeds us, forgives us, rescues us, keeps us and our fellow human beings so we can forgive and be forgiven. He does all this in his Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer from sin and evil in this world.

Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer to His disciples (Read the original text Matthew 6:9-13) and to all Christians to bring heaven to earth for us and take us from earth to heaven. You can draw a picture of the Lord’s Prayer like a half circle with both ends in heaven and the lower curve on earth. That is the path or commute we take when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer works in and through Jesus Christ. He helps us overcome temptations and protects us from evil. He frees us from sin and helps us forgive others and work every day for our daily bread with trust and joy. The Lord’s Prayer is made of seven prayers. Each of them is like a step on the ladder between heaven and earth. We can go up and down on it to and from heaven every day.  The Lord’s Prayer is our help and guide every day we say it with a faithful mind and trusting heart in Jesus Christ who gave us this prayer.

Thomas Vaga, Bishop electus



 Impossible to Believe

No one has gone to  heaven except the Son of Man, who came from heaven.  John 1:13

Only Christ would be able to testify to a truth this remarkable.  How can human reason make sense of this strange teaching or how can it understand how it all fits together?  How can Jesus come down from heaven and in the same time live above.  How can Jesus ascend back to heaven and yet continuously be in heaven?  No one could have conceived of such a thought, whether in his heart or in his mind.  Human reason says it's impossible for someone to descend from heaven and be in heaven at the same time.  That is why Christians are considered foolish.  We believe something directly contrary to reason.

Whoever has a difficult time believing that Christ can come from heaven and yet be in heaven shouldn't worry about it.  It doesn't matter if we can't grasp this right away.  If we are considered fools because of believing this, our foolishness won't hurt us.  For Christians are certainly not foolish.  We know perfectly well what we believe.  We know where we can find counsel and help in all situations.  We know we will live eternally after we have been delivered from this world.

But if some people refuse to believe this truth, then they should leave it alone.  Instead, they want to figure it out.  These people want to resolve the paradox in their own crazy head -- first this way, then that way.  All of them think they will find God by figuring it out, but they won't.

However, you must hold tightly to the testimony that was brought down from heaven by Jesus, God's Son.  You must believe it, for all Christians dare to believe what Jesus says.  Then you can say as apostle Paul says:  "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live I live by believing in God's son, who loved me and took the punishment for my sins."  (Galatians 2:20)  Look at Christ, who was captured and offered for us.  He is infinitely greater and superior to anything else in creation.  How will we respond when we hear that such a priceless ransom was offered for us?  Do we still want to bring God our own good works?  What is that compared to Christ's work?  He shed his most precious blood for our sins.  Let's believe and be saved.  We come to God by faith alone.

From Martin Luther's "Through Faith Alone".



Prayer for the sick and by the sick

We know, dear Savior, that You care for people, body and soul. You healed the sick, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and even raised the dead. We ask You this day to bless the sick and the hurting among us.

When we are sick, we are weak and vulnerable and know how much we need Your care. We also need the love and service and kindness of others, help us to be Your hands to minister to those in need, being ever mindful that You are the Great Physician. 

Be near my bedside as my health fails. I am thankful that most of the days of my life have been free of illness and that good health enabled me to serve You more fully. But now as I lie on my sickbed, I am reminded of how fragile health and life are in this fallen world.

Bless those who care for me, my doctors and health-care workers. If it be Your will, restore my health.



Return to God

In Zechariah 1:1-2, we see that Zechariah's message was primarily concerned with belief and unbelief.  He pointed out that the greatest sin of the Israelites' ancestors was not trusting in the Lord when they were undergoing trials.  Rather, they looked to other people for help.  In this way, they were rebellious and idolatrous.  Zechariah wanted the people of Israel to understand that the words "return to me" should penetrate their hearts deeply.

A person "returns to God" when he trusts in and find comfort in God at all times, especially in times of need.  On the other hand, a person has turned away from God when he doesn't trust in God.  When someone doesn't trust God, his good works and sacrifices won't be able to help him.  This is what happened to Israel's ancestors.

In Zechariah's time, when the Israelites were trying to rebuild the temple, they needed to turn to the Lord of Armies because of all the trials and troubles they were facing.  They had to cling to God and depend on Him even if rebuilding the temple angered the emperor of Persia or the neighboring people.  God spoke,  He wanted to help, could help, and would help them so that Israel's enemies wouldn't overpwer them again.

We, too, need to hear these warnings in the book of Zechariah.  Let everyone return to Christ, cling to him, and not fall away.  Let no one become scared or be led astray.  God speaks.  And God will do what he says. 
(Martin Luther:  Through Faith Alone)

Church Notice #67 2013-2014



Dear member of our congregation, dear friend,

"The heavens tell the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made (Psalm 19:1)

This September we remembered the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Many are wondering how God could allow that to happen and is He really in control. How does God allow so many natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods to happen and take so many lives and destroy so many homes?
God is not removed from us. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, lived in this world. He probably lived through some earthquakes in Nazareth and at least two storms in the Sea of Galilee that could have swamped the boat He and his disciples were in during the storm. He knew the cold of the waves and the heat of the day. Jesus said: "I am with you every day and to the end of the times."

Coming to the autumn season, cooler weather, longer nights and shorter days we come closer to the end of the Church year. We remember our loved ones who have passed away, we imagine life in eternity where they now dwell. We try to prepare for our own death. Death is the great equalizer. We all will die. But we can look forward with confidence, because we know our final destination and Jesus Christ who will meet us at the end of life’s journey. We have hope.
Hope is taking up residence in us. Hope is not dependent on peace in the land, justice in the world, and success in business. Jesus said: "I will make all things new. " Hope makes us see God’s guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointment, in our sorrow and in darkness. Hope gives us new power to live, new strength.

God has written us a letter. The good news of God’s revelation in Christ declares to us precisely what we need to hope. In this hope let us enjoy the beauty of God’s nature -- and Christmas!

Nature is God’s workshop. Who wants to know God, take a look at his creation and step out into the night and stare at starlight emitted one million years ago...and millions to come. And on Christmas we celebrate and greet God coming into our world.
Rev. Thomas Vaga - 2011


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