Thursday, December 10, 2015

Year in Review

 

Annual Report of Pastor Frye to the Congregation                         

A Variety of Gifts:  As I reflect on this past year and look to the time ahead, I am mindful of the many who have contributed so much in service to our Lord and the Church. The Apostle Paul reminds us that in the church, the Body of Christ, there are a variety of gifts. I am grateful to all of you who employ your gifts in the life and ministry of this congregation.

I can’t name everyone, but we should all be grateful for the dedication and service of Helen Hessler over the years. She has been the coordinator of the Prayer Chain Ministry. While she continues to participate in prayer ministry, the coordination responsibilities have now been entrusted to Robert Kane. Further, our two office secretaries, Vicki Long and Norma Huss, have stepped down after fruitful and dedicated years of work. Earlier this fall, we welcomed Susan Mayer as our new office secretary.  Thank you all for your gifts!

Homebound: A group of seven have been involved in study and formation to begin service as visitors to homebound members and friends with the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  This is an extension of the Lord’s Table to those unable to attend regular worship. These visits will complement, not replace, the regular visits that I conduct. Please keep Diane Koch, Bob Kane, Bob Huss, Tim Frye, Mary Ellen Fairbairn, Carleen Skiles, and Rich Garner in your prayers as they anticipate the beginning of this ministry in the weeks and months ahead.

Plans: A result of much prayer, deliberation, hard work, and teamwork, the masterplan for our congregation’s physical plant was presented and approved at a special congregational meeting earlier this fall. A two-phase approach will be utilized as we move forward. Currently the selection of a capital campaign consultant is underway. We look forward to progress being made early in the new year.

Council Study: Throughout this past year, the church council, has been engaged in a study of Dave Daubert’s book, Living Lutheran: Renewing Your Congregation. We took up this study at the suggestion of Pastor Richard E. Jorgensen, Jr., Director for Evangelical Mission, Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA. Pastor Jorgensen has consulted with us on several occasions at council meetings and with me to encourage, equip, and support us as we seek faithful ways to engage in mission and ministry. This year’s study, prayer, and discernment has been essential to our continued openness and willingness to pursue God’s purpose for our life as church. We are all grateful for the wisdom and faithfulness of our council president, Jodi Forrester.

Retreat: It has been a blessing to many of our members (and members of our community and other congregations in our area and region) to be able to attend our Lent and Advent Retreats this past year. Sisters Thelma and Jo Anne from the Tau Hermitage conducted retreats here for participants of many and various backgrounds and faith traditions. I look forward to continuing these semiannual events into the near future.

Looking Forward: There is a great deal of transition going on in the life of the Chambersburg Conference (Lutheran congregations in Franklin County).  A sister congregation (Greenvillage) is closing, and others are in precarious positions as they anticipate the future. Over the years, as a congregation, we have been blessed. This congregation has demonstrated time and time again a willingness to risk and step out in faith. We need to remember this character trait when we sometimes get anxious about change and the uncertainties of growth. With this blessing comes responsibility and opportunity. While we necessarily spend time and resources in the year ahead to strengthen and expand our physical facility and capacity for worship and ministry in this place, I pray that we would also be open to ways that we might continue to strengthen and extend our outreach – specifically in our local community and neighborhoods. This could involve shared and cooperative ministry with other established Lutheran congregations.  And it might well involve perusing the renewal of relationships with our ecumenical friends in the greater Scotland and Fayetteville communities. For several days in February I will be attending a training conference for new Mission Developers and Redevelopers in the ELCA. I covet your prayers and support for this opportunity.

On a personal note, thank you for your ongoing support and dedication to our mutual ministry. You are probably tired already of hearing me say this:  We’re in this together.  I know it would make a good bumper-sticker slogan.  Yet it rings true.  And I believe it without question. This togetherness is a gift that we get to live out of our baptismal identity as sisters and brothers in Christ. On behalf of Heidi and our children, Isabelle, Gabriel and Rowan, thank you for all your prayers, acts of kindness and support. It has made all the difference! 

May God bless you.

Your brother in Christ,

Pastor Christopher Frye

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Christus Rex


Although it's the end of the church year as we know it this Sunday, all around it sounds like the end of the world as we know it. Hyperbolic language is bombarding us from the right and from the left in regard to current events. The premise that is so uncritically accepted is that there has to be sides: winners and losers, right and wrong, good and evil. Everyone wants to be on the winning team.

The thing is, we all lose when we accept these terms as the way things have to be. We are a community of faith that is lead by a crucified Lord. We look to the Christ of the Cross as the victorious Lord of all. So, if the way of selflessness, suffering, sacrifice, and the cross was Christ's way of loving the world, are we too called to take up these things as our way of life as well? I believe we are.

Mercy, love, grace, acceptance, and hospitality -- these are not optional equipment for the journey we are called to make as brothers and sisters in Christ.

When we confess Christ as King, what are the implications for the way in which we live our lives. What difference does it make that Christ is King when we are confronted with the tragic, the terror, and the tedium of our times? How easy it is to be swept up in the call to arms, violence, retaliation, hatred and fear!

Christ the King is also the Prince of Peace. He calls us to lift up our hearts and set our minds not on things that are on earth, but on things that are above. This isn't easy. It's not convenient. And it sure isn't popular. Yet, I can find no faithful alternative. Can we reconcile the cognitive dissidence in the popular premise that asserts itself at the center of our current state of affairs here below?


Christ the King Sunday
November 22, 2015

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings 

The one coming with the clouds rules over all

Ever since the world began, your throne has been established. (Ps. 93:2)

Glory to the one who made us a kingdom

The kingdom of Christ

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Every Whit


What does it look like to be committed? Have you ever been "all in" with some project, effort, or passion? It's been observed that half measures avail us nothing.This may ring true on the page, but what about in real living? There are so many voices vying for our allegiance.

I'll admit that I frequently feel that I must compromise in order simply to keep my head above water. Even as I'm taking the time at this moment to sit down and work on this blog, I'm thinking about all the other places I "should" be right now. I've got to work on promoting Sunday afternoon's concert, I've got to make a few visits. I've got to help the secretary get the bulletin announcements proofed and in order because so many ignored forgot the Wednesday deadline for submissions! The sermon isn't finished yet. Gabriel has chorus rehearsal at 4:30. The leaves need to be raked. The phone is ringing. Someone just came in the door! Is it time for lunch? People are chatting in the hallway!

I'm taking a deep breath.

This Sunday we hear the gospel lesson in which Jesus commends the nameless widow who gave her all, every whit. So many throw in their two cents, but she has given wholly, all she had to live on. This widow is "all in" -- committed, invested.

With all our abundance, are we able to experience the luxury of thorough devotion? What might be some of the obstacles? What might one thing be that we could do to help clear the way?


Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

November 8, 2015

Prayer of the Day
O God, you show forth your almighty power chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy. Grant us the fullness of your grace, strengthen our trust in your promises, and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Readings
God feeds Elijah and the widow at Zarephath

Psalm 146 
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. (Ps. 146:8)

Hebrews 9:24-28 
The once for all sacrifice of Christ

Mark 12:38-44 
A widow’s generosity reveals the hypocrisy of the scribes

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fear & Faith


We walk by fear and not by faith!  Is that how it goes?
Be afraid, be very afraid!  Really?  Who says?
Whatever happened to the Freedom of a Christian?
What forces mold and shape your life?  
How about our life together?

Have you ever risked stepping outside your comfort zone? I suppose I am assuming we all know what a comfort zone is. For this discussion, let's agree that a comfort zone is a place or a way of being and acting that is familiar, predictable, and well-traveled. You know what I mean. Don't you?

We all have our individual comfort zones and when we assemble (for example, as a congregation) we have a shared comfort zone.  There may be much over-lap and similarity. This experience can make our individual comfort zones all the more comfortable.

So, back to the original question.  Have you ever risked stepping outside your comfort zone?


As you think about this, consider fear and faith. In my experience, fear can do a pretty good job at manifesting itself as apathy. Fear is both a powerful motivator as well as immobilizer. In other words, fear gives us a rational for staying put in our comfort zone.

Faith, on the other hand, (or a least on the other end of the fear/faith continuum) is that gift from God that enables us to live, move, and have our being more in the way that God intended for us. Faith helps us to love, to forgive, to serve, to build-up, to worship, to dance. Mature and dynamic faith propels us to seek first the kingdom even here and now.

These are just some of my extemporaneous thoughts about the topic we will discuss further on Sunday morning at 8:45. In the meantime, if you have a question to raise or a thought to share, avail yourself of the comment feature at the end of this post. 

+                     +                     +

Reformation Sunday
October 25, 2015

Over the centuries, Lutheran have kept a special day to thank God for the freedom that the word of God grants to believers and to pray that with the help of God's Spirit, the church will be continually reformed and renewed. You are invited to worship with us on this Reformation Sunday, in praise and petition to God for the ongoing health of the church.

Prayer of the Day
Gracious Father,
we pray for your holy catholic church.
Fill it with all truth and peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where in anything it is amiss, reform it;
where it is right, strengthen it;
where it is in need, provide for it;
where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen

Readings
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-28
John 8:31-36

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Crowd Control


Recently I have been re-reading a book that was recommended by my spiritual director several years ago.  The book is The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. 


In our day and age of Netflix and short attention spans, the discipline of storytelling has been diminished. However, it remains a truth that a well-told story, like a picture, is worth a thousand words. It points beyond its own limitations to a larger reality that can bring meaning. Jesus told stories. Often they were referred to as parables.

Last Sunday’s sermon was based on Mark 10:17-31. In that passage we encounter a rich man who wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus schools him on the Way. The man was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Kurtz and Ketcham share the following story and reflection that I have found helpful and that I now share with you.

Around the end of the nineteenth century, a tourist from the United States visited the famous Polish rabbi Hafez Hayyim. 
He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was just a simple room filled with books. The only furniture was a table and a bench. 
“Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist.“Where is yours?” replied Hafez“Mine? But I’m only a visitor here.”“So am I,” said the rabbi.
Greek thinkers, Hebrew prophets, Eastern sages, and Christian saints agree that the “problem” is not material realities but our attachment to material possessions--attachment that hinders us from seeing and seeking our own good, the “goods” proper to us because they fit the spiritual reality into which we “fit.” Material realities tend to stunt spirituality because as we possess them, they possess us. Possessions can lead to obsessions; consumers become consumed with getting things, keeping them, safeguarding them, adding to their hoard. Obsession with possessions crowds out the spiritual. (page 34, The Spirituality of Imperfection.)

What do you think? Is your life crowded? What can be put to the curb? How do we strike a balance? Is there a balance to be struck?  Thoughts and comments appreciated. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Saint & Sinner

In the reports that I have heard this week of the visit of Pope Francis, one of the commentators mentioned a well-known quote from Oscar Wilde:  Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. To my mind, this gets at the entry point for authentic conversation. In developing a series of classes for the month of October, I tried to set the stage for multiple entry points for authentic conversation for our Sunday Faith Formation Forum.  I would like to encourage you to review the topics below and begin to consider the questions raised and take some time to formulate questions of your own.  I'm looking forward to our time together in the weeks ahead for listening, learning, and growing as authentic disciples of Jesus.


Faith Formation Forum

Topics for October 2015
Sundays @ 8:45 AM



October 4
Identity & Mission
Who am I? What am I to do?
We'll hear about who God says we are alongside many other descriptions from society, self, and tradition. Ultimately, our sense of calling and vocation in light of our identity will be discussed .




October 11
Power & Weakness
When we are weak, we tend to protest and look the other way in order to avoid a hard truth about who we are. Often a lifetime is spent in denial of limitations and conditions we rarely consider God-given and necessary. 
Where is the true power in your life?



Lucas Cranach the Younger, 
detail from "Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery" 
(after 1532), oil on copperplate, 
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. 

October 18
Self & Others
It's a delicate balance! How is it working out in your life? 
Has self-will run its course yet? Are others really worthy of our attention, service and love? Where do we meet Jesus?




October 25
Fear & Faith
We walk by fear and not by faith!  Is that how it goes?
Be afraid, be very afraid!  Really?  Who says?
Whatever happened to the Freedom of a Christian?
What force molds and shapes your life?  How about our life together?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Spiritual Compost

(At yesterday's healing service I reflected on this passage from Colossians 3:1-3.  
I tried, as best as I can, to reconstruct the homily in writing to share with you here.)


So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)
 + Grace and Peace to you.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the young church in Colossia, is encouraging the community of faith to recognize and embrace not only the good news of the resurrection, but also the impact that this good news has on their lives in the faith. Things have changed. God has acted in Christ.  

When we are baptized, we participated in the only death that really matters.  We have already died, we have been put to death, we have been joined to the death of Christ in the waters of baptism.  And we have been raised with Christ in the resurrection.

Therefore, Paul can say:  So, if you have been raised (up) with Christ (and you have!) seek (or keep seeking) the things that are above...

This is all well and good.  We hear these words of encouragement that exhort us to look up and seek things above. But how are we doing with this, say, when we are walking the aisles of the grocery store and we have to concentrate on whether to buy Cheerios or Grape Nuts?  We live our lives in the midst of the here and now, the nuts and bolts, the down and dirty of earthly life. How can we go around seeking the things that are above?

When we were baptized, God took the initiative to give us a new identity, an identity that will outlive our diagnoses and prognoses.  We are children of God.  We have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness, we have put on Christ, our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

The thing is, our lives have become cluttered. It’s sometimes difficult to recognize these blessings of God in our lives because there is so much stuff in the way.

Consider for a moment the image of an overgrown backyard.  Without weekly and regular tending, trimming, and uneventful maintenance, things quickly become complicated and confused.  Our soul is a lot like that backyard. It is out of sight for most of us and most everyone looking in at us.  Yet we know that we need a bit of care (to put it mildly).  It seems so overwhelming. Where do we begin?

Probably the most effective and efficient way to proceed is to compost.  Just start gathering all the debris, detritus, and trash in the yard together. Pile it high and turn it over.  Allow it to ferment, breakdown. Permit the rain, the Sun, and the clock to turn this pile of waste into something beautiful. Compost.  It can eventually be used to feed and nourish, to bring and encourage life where only death and decay seem to prevail.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Don’t waste this life on trash and clutter that brings you down and makes a stink of things.  De-clutter, take out the trash, pile it up high, turn it over and let God... 

Meanwhile, clothe yourself in God’s garments of righteousness, light and life, in Christ.
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Seeing Together


Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.  (Isaiah 40:4-5)
What kind of future do you think the prophet Isaiah was pointing towards with these words? Prophets were never so much about predicting the future as they were about addressing present behavior with God's will in mind.

For example, if I continue to play with matches, eventually I will get burned.
If I stop that behavior -- if I refrain from playing with matches -- I stand a better chance of not getting burned. Maybe this is too simplistic. The point is, Isaiah's point is to point to God and the will of God for the people of God and all of creation. Oh that we would behave accordingly!

For those determined to interpret scripture only literally, this passage from the fortieth chapter of Isaiah is rather unsatisfying. Do we really want to live in such a topography? Sure, we would love for the glory of the LORD to be revealed, but what about that part of all people seeing it together. Shouldn't we get special privileges? What about a preview, all-access VIP passes, or reserved box seats?

I took a brief detour the other day to see the local spectacle pictured above. South of Chambersburg, just to the east of Marion is this beautiful field of sunflowers. From one perspective, it's some spectacular show (quite the departure from familiar corn or soybeans). Looking at the acreage from another perspective reveals the orderliness of the rows, and the way in which the flowers are all oriented in the same direction. Such discipline from organic and innocent vegetation! They look like a mass of little conspiring satellite dishes.

When God envisions unity, I believe uniformity is not the intention. Indeed, we are all one in Christ Jesus. Yet we are not the same. There are a variety of gifts, but the same Lord.

More about this on Sunday. . . . looking forward to our time together!



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Prejudice


I wasn’t keeping track of time exactly, but I’m pretty sure that it didn’t take as much time for 30,000 people to receive communion last Sunday morning at Ford Field in Detroit, than it does on any given Sunday at St. Luke. This is not a complaint, just an observation that I think is interesting. How can this be? Well, the reason is that there were probably 500 communion “stations” conveniently located throughout the stadium.  To my knowledge, nobody had the opportunity to kneel, but everyone was welcome to the Lord’s Supper.

It would be practically impossible (nor advisable in my opinion) to have such a massive gathering as a normal occurrence for weekly worship, but it does provide an opportunity to reflect on and experience the rich diversity that is the Body of Christ.

My experience of the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit last week provided a great deal upon which to reflect. I can report that I frequently felt overwhelmed and outnumbered. Perhaps such large crowds of people remind me that I have a propensity to anxiety in such saturated social situations. 

So, what I was able to do was be proactive in engaging individual people as opportunities presented themselves and I was inclined. 

There was a man named John who I encountered on a visit to a neighborhood that is home to the Heidelberg Project. Our tour bus turned down the street and parked right in front of his house. John was standing behind the fence in his front yard with a look of disgust on his face. Among the first off the bus, I walked up to him to say hello. He was upset that the bus parked where it was -- that the exhaust fumes filled the air and drifted into his home. Point taken. 

I spoke with the driver of the bus and suggested she park the bus on the next block that was clear of any residences. There were just abandoned lots where once homes stood. The bus moved.

We took about 45 minutes to tour the “installation” of the Heidelberg Project. By the time we were getting back on the bus, I noticed that John had emerged from his fenced in yard and was engaged in conversations and “selfie” photo-ops with many of the youth in the larger group.  He was standing now in the middle of the street with broom in hand, sweeping up shards of broken glass. The pride that John had in his neighborhood and in his city was clearly evident. By now, John’s disgust was transformed into delight in his encounter with the curious ELCA youth who had taken the time to not only visit the project, but visit with him. 

But John’s transformation was just one of many. When I first encountered John less than an hour before, I had quickly determined that he was just a grumpy old contrarian who simply wanted us young folk to get off of his front yard. However, what I came to realize is that John was just like any one of us who simply desire to be seen as a unique person with a story to share. John was real, authentic, vulnerable, and courageous. He risked encountering a bunch of out of town unknowns. And he delighted to commune with us as his brothers and sisters.

Clearly, I do not have a comprehensive understanding of the totality of John’s life story. But, taking into account his age, race, and longevity in Detroit, I can only guess at the struggles, adversity, and challenges he has faced in his years and which still confront him in the unfolding story of his hometown. 

Maybe the overwhelming nature of the 30,000-person gathering created the willingness in me to see this individual on his own terms and in light of God’s desire for His creation to be reconciled to one another. When I got up that morning and boarded the bus, I hadn't anticipated that I would meet Jesus in a man named John. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see past my initial presumptions and prejudice.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Detroit

I am planning to share with you some of my personal, spiritual, and theological reflections of our time here in Detroit at the ELCA Youth Gathering. But that will have to wait a few days at least so I allow things to percolate a bit more. For now, here are some pictures for you to see.  Some have already been shared on our Facebook page.

Opening worship at Ford Field

Service time with LutherHANDS in Dearborn

A quick visit to the Heidelberg Project

An exhibit at the Heidelberg Project

There is a man who lives across the street from the Heidelberg Project. 
His name is John. Prepare to hear more about John in an upcoming sermon sometime!

The ELCA Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth A. Eaton, 
took some time to meet and talk with us in Cobo Hall on Thursday

We spent the day on Friday cleaning up around an abandoned home in preparation for the "boarding up" crew to arrive on Saturday.

Here is the crew getting started.

Getting ready to leave for our day in Hart Plaza.

Praising Jesus along with our 30,000 sisters and brothers at Ford Field.

Another morning gathering on Hart Plaza looking south into Canada!

On the bank of the Detroit River at the monument to the Underground Railroad.

The Renaissance Center is a group of seven interconnected skyscrapers in Downtown Detroit. 
Located on the International Riverfront, the Renaissance Center complex is owned by General Motors as its world headquarters. 

The Cross has central place at Ford Field, the center of our evening gatherings of worship and praise.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thorns

Rembrandt captured in his paintings the sense of burden Paul carried. 

Gift inventories are important. At least it is common practice for churches to encourage their congregants to engage in "gift discernment" so that everyone knows what you bring to the table, how you can contribute to the mission of the church and, honestly, how you might support it financially. And as far as that goes, that is all well and good. But I believe it doesn't go far enough.

I think we miss out on the fullness of God's vision of faithfulness when we think that the focus should be on gifts. What I mean here by gifts are the strengths, talents, and abilities that we identify in ourselves and one another. In an ever-so-familiar churchy kind of way we emphasize "gifts" to the near exclusion of all else.

What about different abilities?  What about dis-abilities?  What about our weaknesses and what Paul would call the thorns in our flesh? What good are they? Might God have a vision that includes them as well?

Here is how Paul speaks of it in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
. . .  [A] thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
Take a few moments in the days ahead to consider what your thorns might be. How can they be viewed as a blessing?  Are they a reason for strength? How might God use you in all your authentic, complete self (thorns and all!) to be a willing habitation of the power of the Holy Spirit?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A New Creation


For the next four Sundays the church hears readings from the Apostle Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians is crammed with great stuff!  Ok, I am a little excited about this. I can't help it. All I ask is that you give it a chance. I think maybe its contagious. At least I hope and pray it is.

I've outlined below the readings for each week. As I mentioned in last Sunday's sermon, I would like to ask you to do a bit of preparation for the sermon this coming Sunday by reading the appointed text. I've also included a brief excerpt of the verse on which I will likely focus. Although, please be advised that the Holy Spirit sometimes has other plans!

If you are not in the practice of sharing these posts with friends, now would be a good time to give it a try.  It is an easy way to engage in a bit of evangelism. Help share the light of Christ with others.

Third Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, June 14, 2015
2 Corinthians 5:6–17

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: 
everything old has passed away; 
see, everything has become new.


Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, June 21, 2015
2 Corinthians 6:1–13

See, now is the acceptable time; 
see, now is the day of salvation! 


Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, June 28, 2015
2 Corinthians 8:7–15

For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, 
yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 


Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, July 5, 2015
2 Corinthians 12:2–10

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, . . . So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

I don't care which came first, this little peep is just so cute!
A New Creation

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Take a Deep Breath


The moments following death, at a funeral for instance, normally provide the occasion to listen to these words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4.
16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.  (2 Corinthians 4:16-8)
But it is time now, as we are living, that we are wise to dwell in these words. Spending time, allowing ourselves to be seasoned by their counsel can provide needed perspective and an environment for healing when we know ourselves to be experiencing affliction, tribulation, or distress. Certainly these words of Paul preach themselves when introduced in the context of ultimate concerns. But what about more everyday moments of rut running? How can our mundane maladies be treated with the balm of these promises?

Most often it is our sense of sight that provides the evidence we require to make up our mind about most things. But what about the things we cannot see? What then? Are we to postpone conviction and hold faith at a distance?  Paul contends that we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. Maybe he means that when we are functioning faithfully we are able to see more with and through the gift of faith then with the concrete certainty of material evidence.  I believe that’s it.

What need would there be for faith if we could simply confirm a hypothesis with irrefutable evidence?

Today I’m at home trying my best to rest and recover from a nasty case of bronchitis that has developed into somethings exhibiting pneumonia-like symptoms. My doctor originally thought I had pneumonia, but after reviewing the results of my chest x-ray determined that there was no visual evidence for such a diagnosis. In the meantime, I am to continue the treatments and medications that she prescribed when she thought it was pneumonia. I guess it is better to err on the side of caution than not.

Being reminded and mindful of the crucial role that breath plays in living, I can’t help but think of the gift of the power of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us as Church. This Holy Inspiration, this Breath of God that is given to us really is the gift of life and the power we need to remain vital and faithful to our calling. We can’t see it, but we know what happens when we become restricted and block the flow. Breathing deeply of this mysterious unseen gift of God is blessing and occasion to give thanks and praise.



SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
June 7, 2015

PRAYER OF THE DAY
All-powerful God, 
in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory. 
Increase our faith and trust in him, 
that we may triumph over all evil 
in the strength of the same Jesus Christ, 
our Savior and Lord.

Readings
Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13--5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ascension Thursday


The Ascension of Our Lord
detail from window at First Lutheran Church
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
44Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.  
49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." 50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.  Luke 24:44–53

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, 
your only Son was taken into the heavens 
and in your presence intercedes for us. 
Receive us and our prayers for all the world, 
and in the end bring everything into your glory, 
through Jesus Christ, our Sovereign and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever
.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Minding and Abiding

Sometimes a change in perspective is necessary.  Often, though, it can be make us feel disoriented or at least a bit uncomfortable. Our experience has taught us that we eventually adjust and adapt. For example, the view of the baptismal font is different, yet it is still the baptismal font. The only thing that has changed is the perspective from which we are viewing the familiar font.


This Sunday we will consider the way that we are connected to Jesus. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism remains the central initiation into the Body of Christ. In baptism we are joined to Christ's death and resurrection -- we are given a new life, the only life that matters.

The way we view baptism sometimes becomes so familiar that we don't see the connections that have been made. A change in our perspective is often very helpful is rediscovering things we have forgotten or never noticed before.

Take some time between now and Sunday to discover more about your baptism.  Have you been baptized?  If so, when and where were you baptized? How were you baptized? Did you have sponsors or Godparents? Do you have any pictures?

On Holy Trinity Sunday, May 31, we will be receiving new members into the congregation. While we do so, everyone will be invited to participate in Affirmation of Baptism. Perhaps we can see things from a new perspective and be reminded of the connections not only between ourselves and Christ, but among one another.
In baptism our gracious heavenly Father frees us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are born children of a fallen humanity; by water and the Holy Spirit we are reborn children of God and made members of the church, the body of Christ. Living with Christ and in the communion of saints, we grow in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God.  (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Order of Baptism)

Mosaic of Jesus the Vine. San Clemente Church, Rome. 1100 a.d.

I realize that I used a version of the above illustration for the mid-week Lenten devotions. However, I found a better picture of this mosaic to share with you.  It may be difficult to discern in this image, but the central figure of Christ on the cross is surrounded by a series of branches that is to be an image of the church. Jesus is the True Vine and we are the branches. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing.

The Gospel reading this Sunday is from St. John: 15: 1-8.  Take a few minutes to read it, then sit back and listen to this meditative work by contemporary Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt. It's one of my favorites. (You can skip over the add after a few seconds.)