Thursday, January 18, 2018

Return to Vocation

Sunrise over Chambersburg Hospital


A calling, a vocation, is something that God created us to be, become and to do. Sometimes it takes a while to figure it out. God waits until the right time to give us that nudge, or open the path that leads to discovering what we are to be. There are many callings, like marriage, becoming a parent, that would have us be of service to something greater than ourselves. A vocation is a holy calling; it doesn’t make us better than anyone else, but it makes clear what we are to do with the gifts, the time, and the resources over which we are set to steward.

Other times, it’s not at all clear. In can be downright frustrating to try one thing, then the next, and find nothing seems to work or work well. Where is God in such situations!

And normally, as our lifetime approaches a conclusion, or as illness hits, or tragedy strikes, all the roles, responsibilities, the titles, and tasks, get pealed away like the skin on an onion. We can find our self having a crisis of identity and purpose.

It’s our job, brothers and sisters to remember, to remind, return to the one calling, the one vocation we all share. And that is our identity as children of God and our purpose of sharing the light of Christ.


Third Sunday after Epiphany 
January 21, 2018
 
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen.

Readings 
Jonah 3:1-5, 10 
Psalm 62:5-12 
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 
Mark 1:14-20 

The word “Epiphany” means “the showing forth of God,” and the readings on the Sundays after Epiphany and our participation in the sacrament continue to show forth Jesus to be our God. This Sunday, Jesus calls the disciples—and us—to repent, believe, and follow him. And Jonah, after trying to run away, finally heeds God’s call and preaches repentance in Nineveh, the capital city of Israel’s enemy Assyria.

Winter Walk, 1990


Annual Report of Pastor Frye
Epiphany 2018

Annual reports can be a burden to read. I trust that what I offer here is not a rehash of statistics and things I have already reported in monthly reports to council.  Rather, I see this as an opportunity to step back a bit and review the larger scene, the bigger picture, and provide my insight and reflect on major themes, currents, and activities in relation to the ministry we share.

Perhaps the most obvious activity recently has been the building project.  We will hold a dedication and celebration on Transfiguration Sunday, February 11, at 2:00 PM with a brief program and ceremony followed by a celebration reception for the congregation and community.  We will take time together on that day to review our achievements and offer the appropriate thanks to God and to all involved in bringing it to fruition on time at at budget.

Thank you for your financial support of the ministry of the congregation this past year. Not only have we made significant progress on our 2020 Vision Capital Campaign, our regular giving and support was up by 5.5% over the previous year and we ended the year with a surplus.  The efforts of the Stewardship Committee, the 2020 Vision Campaign Committee and new strategies of communication have obviously made an impact. Finally, however, your commitment and support has been instrumental in our healthy stewardship ministry and is greatly appreciated as it enables us to function with Boldness and Hope!

In November, Lynn Fry, our Coordinator of Faith Formation, left for a new job with Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania. While her position has not yet been filled, the congregational council and leadership are meeting in retreat on Saturday, January 27 for a time of discernment and prioritizing as we look at staffing possibilities.  In December, Jamie Trotty and her family moved to Philadelphia. Jamie served as both our Choir Director and as Director of Rejoicing Spirits. Anne Copenhaver was appointed by the church council just before Christmas to serve as interim choir director.  The Rejoicing Spirits ministry will resume in February.  A renewed effort will be made to reach out to Franklin County group homes and other agencies that work with individuals with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. This ministry will continue in partnership with the Mosaic organization.

A reorganized Evangelism Committee emerged last summer as the Mission Outreach Team. Being intentional about our calling to reach others beyond our walls and campus with the gospel of Jesus Christ will be an emphasis of this group. They have been meeting and organizing these past months and have plans for a cooperative ministry with neighboring churches focused on children and their families from our neighboring elementary schools.

It is my honor to continue to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of SpiritTrust Lutheran and as a Trustee and the Treasurer of the SpiriTrust Lutheran Foundation. Our partnership with SpiriTrust Lutheran is an asset to our life together,

I am grateful for the mutual ministry that we share together. Your prayerful support is greatly appreciated. May God be with each of us in this year ahead. Most importantly, may we be attentive to where God is leading us as we are about the mission of sharing the light of Christ,

Friday, December 15, 2017

Rejoice! (Really?) Really!


This Third Sunday of Advent calls us to rejoice. Traditionally, this Sunday has been known as Gaudete Sunday from the first Latin word of the appointed Introit. The Latin command, Gaudete, is also echoed in the readings for this Sunday from Psalm 126 and Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians: Rejoice always.

As we make our way through some of the darkest and coldest days and as many deal with health concerns and worry, it may be difficult to summon the ability to rejoice in demonstrable ways. Does that make us unfaithful?  I think not. Yet, even in the face of all the trials we may face, we also can receive the grace to rejoice. We may not be able to jump around on some beachfront property with our friends at dawn's first light, but we are together with others around Word and Sacrament, forgiveness, and blessing. These gifts wield the power to propel our despair to the sidelines.

Paul closes his letter to the church at Thessalonica with clear directives:
Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
We have our work cut out for us!  While we know how to rejoice, pray, and give thanks, it is often an up-hill battle to do so always, constantly, and everywhere. Are we being set up for failure? Are the expectations too unrealistic?

Maybe life was simpler then. Paul had no idea how complicated and conflicted our lives would become. What do you think? 


The picture directly above is a detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald in the early 16th century. Pointing away from himself and toward the crucified Christ is John the Baptist. His index finger is intently leading our gaze to behold the suffering Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  

It is this same Christ who is the coming One. He is the One for whom we prepare in these Advent days by clearing away the clutter, repenting, and reprioritizing so that our hearts may be drawn unto Him for rest, refreshment, and rejoicing!


Third Sunday of Advent
December 17, 2018

Prayer of the Day
Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, 
and open our ears to the words of your prophets, 
that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.
Amen

Readings
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Yet Again

Do you feel like this sometimes?

The season of Advent is just about here, yet again. Recognizing this season of preparation and anticipation for the gift that it is can often be a challenge in our rush . Reluctant to wait, we tend to hurry ahead skipping over the deep meaning of this brief season.

Challenge yourself this year to wake up to the gift of each week of Advent. Be present to the possibility of going deeper in your faith by attending to daily prayer and meditation, scripture reading, study, and contemplation, and allowing for periods of stillness and quiet.

The appointed lectionary readings for the four weeks provide a worthy guide for this journey. On the First Sunday of Advent, we are reminded of our desperate need for a God to restore and save. We hear the cry to keep alert and stay awake.

Mr. Bean goes to extraordinary lengths to stay awake!


Isaiah contends that like a leaf, we all fade, wither, and fall; that like the wind, our sin sweeps us away. We hardly need reminding of this reality, do we? In fact, we would rather not remember this. We tend to keep ourselves distracted with other things. This busyness competes with God's desire for us to be still, to keep silence. Our perpetual motion can hinder us from whispering with the prophet:
Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

Enjoy a few minutes of listening to this Advent Hymn as you anticipate the beginning of this new church year on the First Sunday of Advent:



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Service

The Washing of Feet, by Ghislane Howard

One of my favorite hymns is The Spirit Sends Us Forth to Serve.  The words were written by Delores Dufner, OSB. It is hymn number 551 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Here are the four verses for your consideration:

The spirit sends us forth to serve; 
we go in Jesus' name 
to bring glad tidings to the poor, 
God's favor to proclaim.

We go to comfort those who mourn 
and set the burdened free: 
where hope is dim, to share a dream 
and help the blind to see.

We go to be the hands of Christ, 
to scatter joy like seed 
and all our days, to cherish life, 
to do the loving deed.

Then let us go to serve in peace, 
the Gospel to proclaim. 
God's Spirit has empowered us; 
we go in Jesus' name. 


I'm going to risk sharing the following observation: The word Service has come to mean and refer to so many things and actions that it no longer means much of anything. We pay it lip service (see, there it is again) to such an extent that it's ability to communicate is rendered impotent; at least, that is, when it is stripped of context.

Take a look at the following images regarding service. It each case the term is used accurately in its context. Yet, there are various implications.






So, when we explore the nature of service from our perspective as Lutheran Christians in Franklin County, we will add to this word's resume. 

Grounded in a solid discipline of Listening, and nurtured and refined in Discernment, we are called to engage in a level of Service. We are sent to serve as authentic persons who have experienced the Love of God in Christ Jesus and who now can't help but incarnate this Word in the life and world around us. This is the ideal response and action.

Take a few moments to consider your own call to service. How have you used the word to describe the actions in your life? More than mere busyness, service is something we steward. And like most stewardship, ours can be faithful or not.

Who are we sent to serve?  

+            +            +



Friday, October 13, 2017

Discernment


I came upon the following thought about discernment somewhere (I can't remember where, so I can't provide proper attribution). Maybe the church is implicated in this example of misuse. What do you think?
Several times we have actually used the word "discernment" to describe what we were doing. Though I suspect that we thought of it more in terms of planning and preparing. Discovering and doing the will of God is different from measuring and implementing our own. 
Figuring out what God wants you to do (and become) can be frustrating. Rarely is the process quickly accomplished. Sometimes I think of it as a period of gestation that seems to never come to fruition. Despite many idiosyncrasies, we are faithful when we strive forward. 


In 1 Corinthians 12:10, St. Paul shares the following: to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. Here, the ability to distinguish (discernment) is considered a gift of the Spirit. Sometimes we may think of the need to choose between two options, one good the other bad, one left the other right. Such dualistic thinking is convenient if not clear and simple. Yet, most of the time it is simply not that clear and simple. If it were, there would be little need for distinguishing and discernment.


At various points throughout life, the implications of our decisions change. Consider some of the first major decisions you made in your life. Were there other options at the time? What were they? Did you choose wisely? Do you regret any decisions you have made? If you do, can you remember what led to the decisions you made? Did you take time for discernment or was your decision more impulsive?

Considering the need to engage in ongoing reformation and renewal, having the willingness to accept God's will for your life is before us. This Sunday we will explore some of the questions raised above and some, perhaps, that we haven't yet considered. Your experience and participation is crucial for the vitality of our time together. Consider sharing a moment in your life that you have engaged in discernment.


19th Sunday after Pentecost
October 15, 2017

Prayer of the Day
Lord of the feast, 
you have prepared a table before all peoples 
and poured out your life with abundance. 
Call us again to your banquet. 
Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure, 
and transform us into a people of righteousness and peace, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen


Readings and Psalm

Isaiah 25:1-9 
The feast of victory

Psalm 23 
You prepare a table before me, and my cup is running over. (Ps. 23:5)

Philippians 4:1-9
Rejoice in the Lord always

Matthew 22:1-14 
The parable of the unwelcome guest at the wedding feast

Friday, October 6, 2017

Listening


At times it has been a steep learning curve. Learning to listen more and speak less has been a discipline that I have had to intentionally practice. However, it is becoming easier the more I practice it. Never will perfection be reached. I will have to be content with progress.

Communication is often considered to be concerned only with "getting the word out" by whatever means necessary. It's more of a two-way street, isn't it? Communication's less obvious component is listening. When you look at someone listening, the perception is that they aren't doing anything. And we all know how much value is placed on not doing in our culture of perpetual motion and persistent noise. 

Here are some definitions of listening (listen) for our consideration. The first is from Webster's Dictionary. The second is from an article I read somewhere (can't remember where). And the third is a definition of the Greek word frequently translated as Listen. 


Definitions of Listen

listened; listening \ˈlis-niŋ, ˈli-sᵊn-iŋ\
archaic :to give ear to: hear
1:to pay attention to sound 
listen to music
2:to hear something with thoughtful attention :give consideration 
listen to a plea
3:to be alert to catch an expected sound 
listen for his step

Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Listening is key to all effective communication. Without the ability to listen effectively, messages are easily misunderstood.
ἀκούω (akouō) to attend to, to comprehend, to understand

This third example, from the Greek, is beautifully and pointedly evident in the following passage from the gospel of Matthew:
Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" (Mathew 17:4-5)
Reformation of our interior and individual life is predicated by our capacity and willingness to practice listening for God. Our relationship with the Father, through the Son, is dependent on the mutuality and divine dance of love, mercy, and grace, that looks to listening as life support.
  • As we anticipate our time together on Sunday morning, take some time to reflect on a few questions: In the past week have you intentionally spent time listening?
  • To what or to whom do you listen?
  • Do you listen only to what tickles your ears?
  • Do you thirst for satisfaction?
  • Would you be content with not getting in the last word, but rather receiving the Word?


18th Sunday after Pentecost
October 8, 2017

The Prayer of the Day
Beloved God, from you come all things that are good. 
Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right, 
and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen.

Lectionary Readings
Isaiah 5:1-17
Psalm 80:7-15
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46



Friday, September 29, 2017

Reformation: A Look Inward and Forward



This coming Sunday in the Faith Formation class, I'll begin teaching a series of sessions entitled Reformation: A Look Inward and Forward. For four consecutive Sundays, we will be invited to explore the dynamic implications of our legacy as a church that is a reform movement, continually being called to transformation and reform.

October 31, 2017 will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. As good Lutherans, maybe we think it is an occasion to be celebrated. Well, let's look at it another way. What if we commemorated the event without getting too much in party mode over a schism in the Body of Christ. Further, rather than dwelling on the past, let's consider what the future may hold for this reform movement. Do we have a goal in mind? If so, what is it?

Here is another matter for consideration and some related questions: What does reformation look like for each of us individually, as brothers and sisters in the community of the church? What has been our experience of Christ's grace? How has it shaped our living? Are we in need of a reboot?  

This first session on the horizon for this Sunday will serve as introduction and prelude for the three weeks to follow. Take some time, meanwhile, to ponder the thoughts and questions shared above. If you develop questions of your own, bring them with you and share. I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide and empower our prayerful and thoughtful time together. Everyone is welcome.



_______


17th Sunday after Pentecost
October 1, 2017

Prayer of the Day
God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings. 
Give us your grace to overcome them, keep us from those things that harm us, 
and guide us in the way of salvation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen.


Readings and Psalm

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 
The fairness of God’s way

Psalm 25:1-9 
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love. (Ps. 25:6)

Philippians 2:1-13 
Christ humbled to the point of death on a cross

Matthew 21:23-32 
A parable of doing God’s will