Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All Saints

All Saints day II, Wassily Kandinsky, 1911

This coming Friday, November 1, is All Saints Day. It is a day to remember those who have died and taken their place in the church triumphant. We commemorate the lives of the faithful departed, reminding ourselves that we are still connected -- that indeed death has not rent asunder what God has put together in our shared baptismal identity as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Since we typically don't gather together for worship on Friday, we observe the festival of All Saints on All Saints Sunday, November 3. It is one of my favorite Sundays of the church year. I appreciate the annual emphasis on our interdependence and connectedness as the body of Christ.  Everyone is there. We're together, whole, complete and at peace.  This is always the promise. But like most promises, we need to be reminded and encouraged that it's true and real. 

Saints are not just those who have lived exemplary lives of faith and obedience to God's will.  We do well to also consider that ordinary saints like you and me are counted among the great cloud of witnesses. Far from perfect, and sinners all, we still are blessed to be in God's favor and objects of God's care and love in Christ Jesus.

As a local community of faith, we will also welcome new members into our midst this Sunday. God continues to call, gather, and enlighten us in our life together. Please take time to introduce yourself to one another at the reception following worship.

Even though, for now, the four-week Faith Formation Forum is complete, please know that everyone is invited to return this Sunday to the fellowship hall at 8:45 AM for the Adult Contemporary Class as they consider a multi-week study entitled, LivingFully, Dying Well. This study is designed to assist us in making careful, wise and prayerful preparation for meeting life's most important moments. It inspires us to talk openly about faith and mortality. Everyone is welcome and guests are expected. Take time to invite a friend! 

+           +             +

All Saints Sunday
Sunday, November 3, 2013

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you have knit your people together in the one communion 
in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, 
and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149
Ephesians 1:11-23
Luke 6:20-31

+            +            +

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mystic Sweet Communion

"Last Supper" by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, 1896

In 1866, Samuel John Stone, an English Cleric, composed a set of hymns on the Apostles' Creed in response to a controversy between two South African bishops who had appealed to higher ecclesiastical authorities in England. Stone's set of hymns, Lyra Fidelium, included one based on the ninth article of the Creed, "the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints." The hymn is known as The Church's One Foundation.  It is included in our hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship 654. Here is the fifth and final verse:
Yet she on earth has union with God, the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
Oh, blessed heav'n-ly chorus! Lord, save us by your grace,
that we, like saints before us, may see you face to face.
Last Sunday we explored the topic of Church. This week's topic, Communion, is related. Communion is a loaded word. How we use it greatly determines what we mean when we use it.  When we speak of receiving communion, are we intentional about, or aware of the broader scene? In other words, when we kneel at the altar rail and receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood, are we aware that we are surrounded, connected, and embraced? What is mystic sweet communion of which Stone writes and we sing?

When we consider that communion is both celebration and rehearsal, it would be good to have an idea what we are celebrating and for what we are rehearsing. This may be easier to grasp when we acknowledge that there is an "already-and-not-yet" aspect of our faith. For example, the Kingdom of God is both already here (in our midst) and not yet (thy kingdom come). When we gather together on Sunday mornings in worship, what is communion? What does it do?

If, by now, you think that what I've written so far has lead you down the road of frustration, or has caused confusion, please know that you are not alone. This is all really rather difficult to understand. Yet, each of us -- all of us -- get to believe it. That Christ is present, that the hosts of heaven join with us and we with them, that we're all in this together -- this is mystic sweet communion.

You may think and believe otherwise. So, let's talk about it together.  I'm looking forward to our time with  one another on Sunday. Take a moment to invite a friend, relative, or neighbor to come along with you.  All are welcome and guests are expected!  Meanwhile, stay in One Peace!

"The Sacrament of the Last Supper" by Salvador Dali, 1955

+             +             +

Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost 
October 20, 2013

Prayer of the Day
O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people, 
you are always ready to hear our cries. 
Teach us to rely day and night on your care. 
Inspire us to seek your enduring justice 
for all this suffering world, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen

Genesis 32:22–31
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
Luke 18:1–8 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen
Location unknown
(Stolen from the Van Gogh Museum December 7, 2002)

The word "church" is perhaps one of the most hackneyed words in the church. See what I mean? What do we mean when we use the word? For example, here are some frequently heard occurrences:
  • This Sunday, I'm going to church. 
  • I just received a letter in the mail from the church. 
  • The church is developing a new program. 
  • We are members of the church. 
  • I don't feel like getting up for church.
  • I love my church!
This week's Faith Formation Forum will explore what we mean by the word church.  We will consider the impact of our assumptions and be challenged to consider alternative understandings. Church-as- destination is quite different from church-as-mission. The former conjures images and ideas of place, building, and institution. The latter encourages thoughts of action, movement, and incarnation. 

This may seem a bit confusing at first review. But don't give up or dismiss deeper reflection in the days ahead as we prepare for our gathering this Sunday at 8:45 AM.  I'm looking forward to our time together again. (I had a blast last Sunday.) I have just a few follow-up thoughts to share about conversion as well.

+                  +                   +

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, October 13, 2013

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and most merciful God,
your bountiful goodness fills all creation.
Keep us safe from all that may hurt us,
that, whole and well in body and spirit,
we may with grateful hearts
accomplish all that you would have us do,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen


2 Kings 5:1–3, 7–15c
Psalm 111
2 Timothy 2:8–15
Luke 17:11–19

+                    +                  +

On a personal note: We are moving to Chambersburg over the next several days. Tomorrow is packing day. Thursday is loading day. Friday is unloading day. Saturday is unpacking day (the first of many!). Please keep us in your prayers. Thanks for the many offers of help and assistance. Your kindness is a blessing. Everything is coming together nicely so far. The moving company is taking care of the heavy lifting and transportation. Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shall me make a start?

For several months I have been looking forward to launching this blog. Its purpose is simple: to serve as a means of communicating with members and friends of St. Luke Lutheran Church. I hope that this site will not simply be a billboard of only my thoughts and reflections, but rather a forum in which we can be "in conversation" with one another and the world around us. But things take time, and time takes time. So, in the meantime, shall we make a start?

For now, the plan is to post an article during the middle of the week that will attempt to get us thinking about and reflecting on the themes that we likely will encounter in worship and learning the following Sunday. There are no guarantees, however. In the course of any given week there may be something else that will drive the conversation. But for the most part, we can look to this blog as a source as we anticipate and prepare our hearts and minds for our Sunday assembly.

+     +     +

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. (Luke 17:5-6)

This coming Sunday we hear this imperative from the apostles. If we take this text out of context, it sounds only like the apostles are frustrated and selfish. This plea comes immediately following Jesus teaching about forgiving those who sin against us even repeatedly. Those who keep sinning and keep repenting are to be forgiven.

This is difficult for us to accept. Aren't we to repent and sin no more? Rightly, or at least understandably, the apostles feel inadequate or at least challenged by this. So they plea for more faith. But how much is enough? Maybe if we just had a little bit more faith, we could manage.

What does it mean to you to have faith? How did you get it? How do you keep it?

The Conversion of Saint Paul, 1600
 Caravaggio (1571–1610)

Conversion is the topic of our Faith Formation Forum this Sunday at 8:45 AM.  Here are some questions you can begin to consider between now and then:
  • When are we ripe for conversion?  
  • Is it once and done? 
  • Is is once, for all? 
  • Who takes the initiative? 
  • What does conversion have to do with faith? 
  • Can we have faith and still be in need of conversion? 
  • How much is enough? 
  • Is a mulberry tree capable of obeying us?
I encourage you to take a little time and ponder these questions and reflect on the readings listed below for this Sunday. Email this link to a friend as well and invite them to come with you this Sunday for the first in a four-part series called Faith Formation Forum.  Meanwhile, stay in One Peace!  -cf

+   +   +

Sunday, October 6, 2013
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Prayer of the Day
Benevolent, merciful God: When we are empty, fill us.
When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.
When we are cold in love, warm us,
that with fervor we may love our neighbors
and serve them for the sake of your Son,
Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-9
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10