Thursday, March 27, 2014

Justice and Peace

The five-week series of Faith Formation Forums is concluding this coming Sunday with our consideration of the fifth faith practice:

STRIVE for Justice and Peace In All The Earth

This is a tall order.  Keep in mind that it is a calling, a discipline, a path on which we make progress, not accomplish perfection. Yet it is a practice we may not sideline for its inconvenience or intimidation factor.
And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8b NRSV) 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9 NRSV)  
"Along with all citizens, Christians and others have the responsibility to defend human rights and to work for freedom, justice, peace, environmental well being and good order." (ELCA Social Statement, The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective, 1991, page 5)
We celebrate the abundant blessings that are a part of this world. But we also walk in the struggle of human existence where we face our own sin, our self-centeredness, and the collective sin of human institutions, for example, the church, governments, the nations. In this struggle however, we meet the suffering God who bears the sins of the world and sends us out, as ones who are joined in the crucified Christ and in his solidarity with the pain of the world. As believers in Christ we are called to be about the work of justice in our personal and public life. We recognize that God's justice is something deeper and purer than our own best understanding of justice. And yet, we are called to love our neighbor as we would love ourselves. 

We speak the truth in love as we participate in God's mission of abundant life for all. With a deep awareness of our sinfulness and the sin of our society, with humility we speak with respect and promote change. And God calls us to speak out. An enemy of justice is silence. A justice mindset is one key way we practice our faith. A mindset and a heart filled with peace is faith in practice. Practicing our faith is something that we may never master. We always have more to learn. 

The focus of our practice is our gracious God, not the practices in themselves. Our faith practices are always an offering of response to our gracious God. May God work on you as you practice your faith in the midst of life in God's church and God's world. 

As we seek justice and peace in all the earth we may: 
  • Pray for peace among nations and peoples
  • Host an after-school, summer or weekend feeding program for children and families 
  • Begin a "Go Green" Initiative in our congregation and community (
  • Forgive as we have been forgiven by God
  • Organize a community march against family violence
  • Challenge the systems that perpetuate poverty
  • Contact the ELCA Advocacy Office about joining with other Lutherans to speak to public officials about the difference our congregational ministries make in our community
  • Sign up for the ELCA Advocacy Network to receive information and other alerts
  • Love all of humanity, respecting everyone, and seeing differences as a gift from God

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Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 30, 2014

Prayer of the Day
Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. 
By your gracious life and death for us, 
bring light into the darkness of our hearts,
and anoint us with your Spirit, 
for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever. Amen

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Who is being Served?

This Sunday we will continue our exploration of faith practices that are rooted in and emerge from Baptism. This week's topic is:

SERVE All People Following The Example of Jesus

"For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45 NRSV) 

Serving is at the heart of Jesus' ministry. Making the connection between Jesus feeding the five thousand and setting up a food pantry is easy. God serves others through us. Jesus calls us to be more than good waitstaff. The ministry of feeding is commendable, but there is more to serving. 

To follow the example of Jesus and serve all people requires us to get involved in the lives of others. Jesus valued relationships. Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman, making time for children or comforting his friends Martha and Mary serves as a blueprint for moving us beyond projects and anonymous charitable activities to relationships. 

Following the life of Jesus leads us into the mess of life where lives are transformed and Christ is made known. Serving as Jesus serves brings us closer to Jesus, the one who did not come to be served but to serve. 

As we serve following the example of Jesus Christ, we can: 
  • Visit the sick and the imprisoned
  • Feed the hungry
  • Respond to disasters
  • Walk alongside others
  • Give of our resources

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Third Sunday in Lent
March 23, 2014
Exodus 17:1-7 | Psalm 95 | Romans 5:1-11 | John 4:5-42

Prayer of the Day
Merciful God, the fountain of living water,
you quench our thirst and wash away our sin.
Give us this water always.
Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bring It!

What are we saying? What's the message?

As ambassadors of Christ, we are sent with a message. This Sunday we'll reflect together on both the content of the message and the mode of its communication. While were at it, we better also think about the intended target of the message.

This third so-called faith practice implies that we are all involved in the task of sharing the good news.

Proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed

“And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah” (Acts 5:43).

Think about proclaiming the good news. It’s easy to envision a pastor in the pulpit on 
Sunday morning bringing the word of God to the gathered people. (It's not always easy to bring it!) But through our baptismal covenant, we all are called to proclaim the good news of God in Christ. Not just the pastor, but every one of us. And not just once, or once in a while. We are called to proclaim the good news day after day, never ceasing, just as the disciples did in the passage above.

What does it mean to proclaim the good news of God in Christ? As the church, acting 
together and as individuals, we have a story to tell. We have the story of God’s movement in our lives through the saving actions of Jesus Christ. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not simply a story in the Bible. Rather it’s the story of our lives and the story of what brings us life. We simply share with others how God is working in our lives. We share the story that shapes our story.

We are living out the story of Christ in us. We are proclaiming the story of God’s saving 
grace in our lives when we:
 Invite others to the church where Christ is proclaimed 
 Confess our faith through song and word in worship 
 Offer encouragement to a friend and others who are ill or in need 
 Show Christ through our daily lives and work, which express thanks to God and care for the common good 
 Talk about our faith in our homes and with others 
Live prepared to give a reason for the hope within us
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And now, a message from the Bishop of the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA:


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Do you hear what I hear?

For  as often as you eat of this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Last Sunday's gathering for the Faith Formation Forum provided us all an opportunity to engage one another in thinking about what it means to live. Living among God's faithful people is simultaneously both a blessing and a challenge. It is a faith practice that is best carried out in cooperation and community. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the conversation.

This Sunday we consider the second of five faith practices that are grounded in our baptismal identity: Hear the word of God and share in the Lord's Supper. What has been our experience with this? In light of all the activities and functions that demand our attention, where does this faith practice land in our list of priorities?

Communion of the Apostles by Fra Angelico, 1440-41

The centrality of Word and Sacrament to the worship life of the congregation cannot be overlooked, ignored, or underestimated.  How do we hear God's word and share in the Lord's Supper? Do you agree that uniformity is not necessary for unity? What have been your experiences with this over the years? Has your understanding and appreciation changed in anyway? 

Take a moment to invite a friend or neighbor to join you this Sunday as we gather together to Hear the word of God and share in the Lord's Supper.  May our Lenten discipline bear fruit to the glory of God!