Saturday, October 6, 2018

Seeing Together

For various reasons, it's been months since I last posted on this blog. One of the reasons, now that I look back, is that I have been preoccupied with other things. I'm sure you know what it's like to slip away or out of a discipline because of the demands (real or perceived) of daily life.

Perhaps it is appropriate, then, that we intentionally consider a way to organize and mobilize as we look forward to mission and ministry in the months and years ahead.


Beginning tomorrow morning at 8:45 and over the next four weeks during the Sunday morning Faith Formation class, I will lead us in an exploration and discussion of these six topics. The goal is for each of us to know and inwardly digest these six words and be able to use them as a guide - a tool - in evaluating our direction and discipline. Please take the time to join in this series of classes over the next four weeks so that we can see together grow in our commitment to Christ and the life of mission to which we are called.




Francis of Assisi, renewer of the church, died 1226
Born into the family of a wealthy merchant, Francis gave up his inheritance to serve poor people. He formed the Order of Friars Minor (called Franciscans), who took on poverty and the task of preaching "using words if necessary." Francis had a spirit of gratitude for all of God's creation.

A prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Incredulity

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas 
Caravaggio c. 1601–1602.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. 
A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Charles Dickens

Incredulity has haunted Thomas.

Incredulity (in·cre·du·li·ty) noun  the state of being unwilling or unable to believe something.

When I suggest that it has haunted Thomas, I am referring to the way in which Thomas is primarily been remembered as the stubborn one -- as the disciple who couldn't quite get it. He has been characterized as being a bit slow on the uptake. Thomas has been dubbed the doubter. Before he could believe, Thomas needed visceral proof that Jesus had indeed been resurrected from the dead.

Every year on the Second Sunday of Easter, we are confronted with this same scene of the disciples in their safe house, hidden away and wondering what's next. We hear again that Thomas was late to the gathering and so had missed out on the appearance of Jesus. The others told him what had happened and what they experienced, but Thomas wanted to see it to believe it.

I invite you to gather on Sunday morning both for the Adult Education class in the fellowship hall at 8:45 (bring your bible!) and for worship at 10:00. We will study, explore and discuss the passage from John's gospel that relays what transpired on the evening of that glorious day of Christ's resurrection.

May our incredulity be transformed into boldness and joy in the hope, promise, and reality of Resurrection life.



Second Sunday of Easter
April 8, 2018

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, 
with joy we celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection. 
By the grace of Christ among us, 
enable us to show the power of the resurrection 
in all that we say and do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, 
now and forever.  Amen.

Gospel Reading
John 20:19-31

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Cleaning House



Realizing that I haven't updated this blog with a new post in many weeks, it occurred to me that it is rather easy to be distracted by a felt need to be respond to everything at the expense of focusing on the One thing. If for nothing else, the last several days have provided an opportunity to reflect and take stock of a period of time that, even in hindsight, is a blur with incidents and other happenings that have limited my ability to be proactive. This is not a complaint, but rather an observation.

Ideally, Lent is meant to afford us with this opportunity of pausing to inventory our lives, to engage in a spiritual housecleaning of our hearts and minds. To this end, I frequently advocate for postponing meetings of committees and councils, if at all possible, until the season is over -- not just to free up time from these activities, but to create time for matters of primary importance and the intentional nurture of our relationship with God. The vitality of our faith depends on it.

Both in anticipation of the recently completed building project, and in these weeks that have followed it, there have been many occasions for sorting through accumulated clutter of papers and materials from past programs and projects. Not everything is a candidate for the archives! During these moments of house cleaning, bags and boxes of stuff were sent to the recycle bin or piled in the dumpster. Cabinets were organized, closets were excavated, and offices were purged of years of accumulated detritus. It  really is amazing to discover what is worth saving amidst all that we think is so important. This process of cleaning house is clarifying. This same process can be applied to our spiritual lives as well.

In the reading from John's gospel this coming Sunday, we hear an account the so-called "cleansing" of the temple by Jesus. This scene is described in all four of the gospels, but only in John's gospel is it included so early in the ministry of Jesus. Upon entering the temple, Jesus encountered a mass of misplaced priorities, profiteering, and manipulation. All this occurred in a place and within a community that had been distracted by the clutter of self-preservation and self-interest. Jesus became angry. With little of what we would refer to as tact and diplomacy, Jesus overturns the tables and drives out the sheep and the cattle. In John's account, there is no reason to assume that Jesus drove out the money changers. They are left to be confronted with the point blank preaching of Jesus. They have not been dismissed as unworthy of correction, repentance and redemption.

Such a surgical cleansing is more difficult than a hasty clearing. When we engage in self-examination, we can be assured that God desires us to allow our unfaithful and sinful actions and attitudes to be expelled. Yet we need to be reminded that we are not driven out. We get to remain. We  encounter God's will and purpose for our lives as His children.

Christ Cleansing the Temple
El Greco, circa 1600

Third Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2018

Prayer of the Day
Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Exodus 20:1-17 
Psalm 19 
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 
John 2:13-22 



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?  

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