Thursday, January 30, 2014


Presentation in the Temple
Rembrandt, Presentation in the Temple

Although this Sunday is the fourth one after the Epiphany, it happens also to be February 2, the day the Church observes a lesser festival called Presentation of Our Lord. The appointed gospel reading is Luke 2:22-40. As I was making preparations, I came across the following explanation. 

Forty days after the birth of Christ we mark the day Mary and Joseph presented him in the temple in accordance with Jewish law. There a prophetess named Anna began to speak of the redemption of Israel when she saw the young child. Simeon also greeted Mary and Joseph. He responded to the presence of the consolation of Israel in this child with the words of the Nunc dimittis. His song described Jesus as a "light for the nations."

Because of the link between Jesus as the light for the nations, and because an old reading for this festival contains a line from the prophet Zephaniah, "I will search Jerusalem with candles," the day is also known as Candlemas, a day when candles are blessed for the coming year.

Presentation of our Lord
Sunday, February 2, 2014

Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, your only-begotten Son was presented this day in the temple. May we be presented to you with clean and pure hearts by the same Jesus Christ, our great high priest, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 84
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40

Light a candle and sit and listen to this setting of Simeon's song:

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A Reminder:
There will be an informational session immediately following worship this Sunday for the purpose of group discernment and visioning for our future journey together as God's people in this community. A review of the topics covered at the Leadership Retreat will be included along with opportunity to share where you have seen God's work being done recently. What is God calling us to be about in the years ahead?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mutual Responsibility

If you are an interested inquirer or engaged member of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Chambersburg, please be aware that on Sunday, February 2 and Sunday, February 16 there will be presentations and conversation about the next steps in our journey together as the Body of Christ. Following worship on those Sunday mornings we will gather in the nave of the church to hear a review of the Leadership Retreat that was held on January 18. Everyone is welcome and indeed encouraged to come and participate in this ongoing process of discernment. This is an opportune time for us to take stock of our strengths and challenges as we consider the mission that God is already about in our midst. How are we going to be involved and engaged in what God is doing?

Below are some of the resources and scriptural passages that were considered at the Leadership Retreat last month.

The liturgy for the Affirmation of Baptism describes the faith practices that grow out of our baptism (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 236).
We are to "live among God's faithful people;
hear the word of God and share in the Lord's Supper;
proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed;
serve all people following the example of Jesus;
and strive for justice and peace in all the earth."
These five lines will provide the framework for a five-week series of Faith Formation Forums to be held on Sunday mornings, March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 at 8:45 AM in the fellowship hall.

The Apostle Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth has been described as a missionary manual. Too often, we think of missionaries as only those who travel great distances to reach people with the gospel. However, missionaries are not only people we sponsor and support, missionaries are who we are here, now, where we are. As we envision together how we can join with God in the work of the Kingdom, we do well to reflect on the following passage from 2 Corinthians 5:16-21:
 16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  
18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  
20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Look this passage up in your own bible and read it in context. How might it translate into our life together as the Body of Christ? What does it mean to consider yourself and one another as ambassadors for Christ? How does God's gift of the ministry of reconciliation clarify our common purpose?  What responsibility do we share?

Reconciliation, by Josefina de Vasconcellos, in St. Michael's Cathedral, Coventry.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Take a Walk

I went for a walk last evening after supper.  Before I left, my daughter Isabelle loaded some new music on my iPod so I would have something other than “boring” pod casts to listen to as I made my way. It was a good evening to be outside. It felt like Spring even though it was in the mid-thirties. Our new-year polar vortex re-calibrated my thermostat.

In years past I was an avid walker.  Other than yard work and occasional bursts of gym-going, intentional walking was my primary form of exercise. Recently I have felt the need to shed a bit of the holiday cookie ballast that clings so closely. So, yesterday, I decided to go for a walk. 

As it turns out, I walked to Target, stopped by the Starbucks cafe for a decaf cappuccino. I sat there and observed . . . . then noticed a group of eight women who had gathered at one end of the cafe for what turned out to be either a Bible study or book discussion. They greeted one another with hugs, laughter, and warm conversation. I quickly deduced that these fellow coffee connoisseurs were actually clandestine Christians! I wanted to join them in their fellowship. 

It occurred to me later that had these women held their book discussion in the confines and privacy of a church building, I would have never noticed their contagious, attractive and Spirit-filled fellowship (mission). 

The point of sharing this story is to say that sometimes seeing God at work in the world takes intentionality. (I’m grateful that these women let their light shine in the growing darkness of this January evening.) For sure God is at work in our midst when we gather on Sunday mornings around Word and Sacrament. However, God is not on hiatus the rest of the time. Nor should we be undetectable as God’s ambassadors for Christ.

I encourage you to take a walk sometime and see what you can see. Where is God at work in the world around you? Where do you see Jesus in others? How can you be about such a witness that reveals the contagious, attractive, and Spirit-filled light of Christ? How could we do this together as the Body of Christ?

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Prayers needed!
This Saturday morning there will be a "Leadership Retreat" at St. Luke Lutheran Church for council members, other leaders, and any interested inquirer. The purpose of this retreat is to consider our mission as the people of God in this time and place. We'll review some trends, engage in some scripture study, pray, and join in conversation. Please keep this gathering in your prayers!  And, if you would like, come and join us.  The plan is to gather together at 9:00 AM and to disperse no later than 1:00 PM.

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Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 19, 2014

Prayer of the Day
Holy God, our strength and our redeemer, 
by your Spirit hold us forever, 
that through your grace we may worship you 
and faithfully serve you, follow you and joyfully find you, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen

Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Baptism of Christ, c.1585 | Tintoretto | Painting Reproduction

Baptism of Christ, Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto (c. 1585)

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan,
to be baptized by him.
John would have prevented him, saying,
"I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
But Jesus answered him,
"Let it be so now;
for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness."
Then he consented.  
(Matthew 3:13-17)

In a rush to get to the action of this scene, we often miss out on the details of the prelude.  No mere filler, these verses immediately preceding the description of the baptism of Jesus are filled with wonderful details that can help us comprehend and more fully appreciate the will of God.

The first spoken words of Jesus in Matthew's gospel are included here.  
But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness."  Then he consented. (NRSV)  

Eugene Peterson, in his transliteration of this passage in The Message, puts it this way: 
But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.” So John did it. (The Message)
These first words set an example for us. They demonstrate willingness. They model openness. Jesus is fully cooperating with the will of the Father, humbling himself publicly before John in the water of the Jordan.   

Then John consented. So John did it. 

John's protest was met with Jesus' pronouncement. And the result was righteousness.

In the face of God's persistent, lavish and extravagant grace for us, do we protest? Are we reluctant to cooperate with God's work? Are we willing co-laborers with God and habitations of the Holy Spirit? 


This Sunday the Church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord.  Take some time before gathering for worship on Sunday to review and meditate on the readings we will hear together. And while you're at it, make some mental notes on what baptism has meant in your life. Is it just a date in your past, or does it shape and inform your daily walk into the future? When were you baptized? (What is your baptismal anniversary?)

The Baptism of Our Lord
First Sunday after the Epiphany
January 12, 2014

Prayer of the Day
O God our Father, 
at the baptism of Jesus you proclaimed him your beloved Son 
and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. 
Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful 
to their calling to be your daughters and sons, 
and empower us all with your Spirit, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever. Amen

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10: 34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

Thursday, January 2, 2014


“Let your light so shine before others,that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

Monday, January 6, 2014, is the Festival of the Epiphany of Our Lord.  Epiphany means "manifestation." On this day we celebrate the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles—that is, to all nations. Some Christian traditions celebrate three great epiphanies on this day: the magi's adoration of the Christ child, Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle, in which he changes water into wine. The word and sacraments are for us the great epiphany of God's grace and mercy. We go forth to witness to the light that shines brightly in our midst.

To mark this occasion, I invite you to join with others of our community for a service of evening prayer/ Epiphany Vespers at 7:00 PM on Monday at Saint Luke Lutheran Church. Invite a friend, relative, or neighbor to come along.  The service (only about a half-hour long) will be followed by a time of refreshments and fellowship.

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This morning I was speaking with a friend of mine about making a resolution for the new year. It seems like the thing to do. She mentioned to me that she ran across a passage from the Bible that she thought she would try to incorporate into her life this year.  Here is the passage:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6
Since our conversation, I have been thinking and meditating about this. Trusting with all means just that.  It means that I can't knowingly hold anything back. I'm all in. And the next line doesn't mean I can't use my mind and have thoughts and ideas. What it does say is that I shouldn't be depending upon it at the expense of depending upon God. My own independent understanding (as informed and insightful as I think it is) isn't an alternative fuel for the engine of faith. It may make a fine additive or supplement from time to time, but leaning on it with all my weight is dangerous!

Have you made a resolution for the new year? I'd like to invite you to incorporate this passage from Proverbs into your plan. Let me know how things work for you.

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Second Sunday of Christmas
January 5, 2014

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Psalm 147:12-20
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:1-18

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, 
you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. 
By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.  Amen 

Here is another blast from Brother Bruce: