Advent is Coming

Advent is Coming

Advent is coming, its marks the beginning of our church year. This Advent is particularly unique and eventful as I await the birth of my own child. 

The Birth of a child is a special thing. I am reflecting on how much love and attention our baby has already received and they aren’t even born yet. We are so thankful for all the gifts and well wishes. It certainly makes me think the Jesus came to us as a child for a reason. For Christians, the birth of Jesus is not an afterthought. The birth of Christ is the beginning of the Good News that “God is with us”. John 1:14 tells us “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”  The announcement and birth of a Child has a unique and special way of creating and nurturing community. Just look at all the people who gathered around Jesus when he was born. Mary, Joseph, Angels, Shepherds, Animals, and Kings. The focus of each one shifted to adoring and loving this child. Their needs seem to be put on hold and a generous spirit of caring to flowed forth toward this Mother and Child.

We have a lot of hurt and division happening in the world, and yet we celebrate grace and truth that comes in the Christ Child. Through this child we are called together. When we focus on loving Jesus we quickly understand that through Jesus we are loved by God and we are called to a greater purpose by God’s light in the world. This love is meant to be shared with the world and bring redemption. Advent is the season we celebrate and prepare for the Good News found in Jesus.  

We celebrate advent using several colors. In some traditions the color of Advent is blue as a symbol of hope and Jesus’ royalty. In other traditions purple and rose symbolize the coming Kingdom and the need for repentance as we hear from John the Baptist and Jesus: “Repent for the Kingdom is at hand.” Both are true. Jesus brings hope, but he also reminds us that God comes to shake things up in our lives. 
We celebrate Advent not just to remember the hope of God’s people waiting for Jesus long ago, but also as God’s people who wait for Jesus to come again now. We are still waiting!

Caitlin and I preparing for our own child with lots of fear and excitement. We know that you share in the experience as well. What will baby look like? Will it be a boy or a girl?

I invite you to reflect upon a waiting, or any other period of waiting in your life. What was it like to anticipate change? How might that be similar to us as we wait for Jesus? While we wait for Jesus, know the Holy Spirit is with us and beside us, guiding and preparing all of us.

This year we will have our Soup and Service on Wednesday’s during Advent. The theme we are looking at  Saints sharing the spirit of Advent: St Nicolas, St. Lucy and Katharina Von Bora (Katie Luther) Let’s find out together.

I hope that this Advent and Christmas, Christ makes himself known to you in a meaningful way. Caitlin and I look forward introducing baby and sharing stories and photos. Have a happy and blessed celebration here in our community and with your family.

What does a Pastor do?

What does a Pastor do?

A question I often get asked is “What does a Pastor do from day to day?”

The most obvious thing is preparing a sermon each week. Every pastor is different in their process. I typically read through the assigned weekly scripture reading at least a half-dozen times throughout the week. I might copy by hand the Gospel lesson as a way to slow down my brain and meditate on the words. I spend time throughout the week, praying, thinking about current events, writing down my thoughts about the Scripture,  reading commentaries, and then reading through my notes aloud. Usually, by Friday I have a strong sense of what my sermon will look like. I will write an outline and review it until I preach it. As someone told me once “A Sermon isn’t done until it is preached.” When I preach, my prayer is that you hear God’s voice. Sometimes the sermon might be challenging you, other times it might bring comfort, but I strive to communicate the love of Jesus no matter what. My prayer is that my preaching makes you more aware of how God might be speaking to you in your daily life.

Throughout the week I usually have a variety of meetings in which I provide guidance and prayerful reflection. I spend a fair amount of time thinking, planning, and writing to prepare for each meeting. Much of the conversations at these meetings center around how God and our community are best served through our efforts here at Community. I spend time brainstorming about how we can impact our neighborhood. I am often looking ahead to the seasons of our church calendar so to provide meaningful worship experiences from year to year.

Additionally, I work with our teams to plan our regular liturgy, collaborate on Sunday School plans, and have conversations about our food pantry and looking at what the council and I would like to accomplish together in the future. I am continually learning what God is up to in this place. I learn just as much from you as I hope you do from me.

One of the most important daily tasks is my time spent in prayer and reading Scripture. Serving God as a Pastor is a privilege. Learning to love God more helps me to give my best as I lead this community. I typically go through the directory and pray for folks by name. Spending time in reflection and listening to God is a priority for every follower of Jesus, but even more so for pastors. As Martin Luther states “Prayer is like breathing”.

One of the things I value most is getting to spend time with my flock. On Sundays, I learn something new about our community every time I lead worship. I occasionally pop in on some of the various team meetings or Bible studies. I make phone calls or go to your homes, or you might even come by my office. There are also other times when I am called upon to support you through a surgery or illness, the death of a loved one, or when people are just struggling with life. I have the privilege of sharing the gifts of the communion table to those who are homebound as well. I value hearing your stories. I hope that my presence reflects God’s presence to you. I am often amazed by how much I see God’s grace through each and every one of you.

I also represent our small community to the wider community through my involvement with other churches in our local Ministerium, particularly at the many Ecumenical prayer services and service events. I also meet with my Lutheran colleagues and churches across our Synod and the ELCA. This gives us a connection to the wider church and provides me and our church with additional ideas, resources, and support for our ministry of sharing the Gospel of Jesus. 

It is a privilege to be your pastor. There are probably numerous other things I do: like help with the website or Facebook, assist with clean-up around the church. I make the annual climb to the attic to get Christmas decorations down. These tasks would probably fall into the “other duties as assigned” in my letter of call. Of course, the biggest task that I am called to is to love God’s people to the best of my ability.

Bread of Life

Bread of Life

The past few weeks in August the Gospel Lessons from John chapter 6 have been about Jesus as the Bread of Life. I thought I would share a few of my reflections on what Jesus as the Bread of Life means for me. Especially as it relates to the Lord’s Supper or Communion.

Every week we celebrate Communion. Sure, we could have it less often but, we have it every week because It is who we are. As Christians, we rely daily on God’s grace and we know that every Sunday we can receive God’s grace at the communion table. We receive the promise of his presence and his forgiveness.

First, As Lutherans, we believe in the real presence of Christ. What does this mean?  It means we trust that when Christ says “This is my Body given for you” And “This is my blood shed for you” it is true. It is a promise. That not only is Christ present in the Bread and Wine but that this gift is “for you.” How can Christ be present in bread and wine? This gift is one of the great mysteries of the church. It can be hard to wrap our heads around. St Claire says it best: “What wonderful majesty! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the Universe, the Son of God, should come to us in bread and wine, for our salvation.

The question often asked when faced with this great mystery is: Am I worthy to receive such a gift? Who comes the table is not about what any of us did or didn’t do. It is about what Christ offers us. Every Sunday at the beginning of our service we confess our sins and we announce that we are forgiven in the name of Jesus. Being a forgiven child of God makes us worthy. As Christians, we gather as broken wounded people around the table of our savior who endured the cross and death and yet rose again. We find life in him. This bread of life is for all those who follow Jesus and need food to keep them going. It is for people who might think they are unworthy or have doubts but even the smallest part of them trusts Jesus has something for them anyway.

Lastly, when I think about communion, I think about the communion of saints. I think about all those before us who have partaken of this meal and all those who long after us will do the same. The Mystery of this meal is that just as Christ promises his presence in the bread and wine when we receive it Christ becomes present in us. And we all become part of the body of Christ. Christ lives in us.

​What is important about communion for you? How do you feel Christ present when we gather? What do the words “For you” mean we celebrate communion? Do you ever miss communion if you are away? I’d love to hear your answers.

Fruits for the World

Fruits for the World

What does it mean to be Christian? As we see a lot of religious talk and bible quoting in the public sphere. This has been my question for the past few months. I am reminded of what Paul reminds us Galatians about living in the Spirit.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. “

Galatians 5:16-26

As Luther Might say, what does this Mean?

How do we live by the Spirit? How do we evaluate ourselves and those leading us to see if they are living the Good News of Jesus entrusted to us?

Galatians provides us some guidance. In our culture we get hung up get up on few of the first sins related to sex and can’t move past them. They are important, but the rest are just as if not more important. Just look at our country. We have made idols of money and politics, we have outright hatred for people based on race or who we voted for. The list of things that draw us away from living in God’s Spirit our numerous.

I urge you as we think about how we live our lives, who we support, and what things we give allegiance to. Use the Fruit of the Spirit as your guide. Are the people leading our country, our communities, in our lives Loving, Joy filled, working toward peace, patient and diligent, Kind, Good, Faithful (to not just to God but to all people), gentle (humble) and self-controlled (purposeful and disciplined toward the wellbeing of others)? I hope you find someone. And if you can’t find anyone, maybe God is calling you.

Nobody is perfect but if each day we ask for God’s grace to be just a little more loving, more kind, more peaceful, more patient, gentler, and more self-controlled. If we can help others around us do the same. The world will be a better place. Following is Christ can be difficult and us be nourished by the Fruit of the Spirit along the way and share this fruit with others. How are we as a community of Christ cultivating and sharing this Fruit?

On Being Made Holy

On Being Made Holy

It seems the longest Season of the Church year Pentecost has come quickly upon us. We celebrate the presence of the risen Lord and fulfillment of Jesus promise to send his Advocate the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther in his small catechism in describing the 3rd Article of the creed as “On being made Holy.” It is through the Holy Spirit we can know Jesus and it is through the Holy Spirit us leads us to repentance and to receive forgiveness. Being Holy is being whole in the presence of God. It is through the Holy Spirit God calls us, not just us individually but as Christ’s body in the world to make the world, Holy. A world aware and alive because God’s presence. As John 3:17 says “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

How does Holy Spirit’s make the world Holy? “The Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers” as stated in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.

We understand the Holy Spirit is a variety of ways: As Wind, Fire, A dove, a wild goose. It is certainly not something we can control or tame as John 3:34 reminds us that God “gives the Spirit without measure.” The Holy Spirit most simply described is an outpouring of God’s Love upon God’s people. Think about it, Love is often depicted in the same way: as a wild animal, as fire, as a fragrant breeze. So during Pentecost we celebrate this wonderful outpouring of Love upon God’s people the Church. This outpouring of Love is for the world God created.

The Holy Spirit works and inspires so many people in our congregation, giving them the energy and gifts to share God’s Love. To love their neighbors through words of forgiveness and caring but also by feeding the hungry, providing clothing, tending the sick, offering God’s presence. We worship together, we pray for each other and the world. We study God’s word and we try to follow Jesus out in the world. All this is happening here in this place. And that same Holy Spirit is working throughout the rest of the world too. Isn’t that exciting?

During this season I would ask that we do three things. First, be grateful for every breath and know the Holy Spirit is in each breath. Second, Pray for the Holy Spirit to surprise you, pray for open ears, eyes and mind. Lastly, Take time to study God’s word, it can be the lessons from Sunday or a devotional you like. Take some small action around what the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to do. You are not alone in these tasks. Ask your fellow pilgrims, remind each other to be grateful, pray with each other, take action together. The Holy Spirit is here in and among us inspiring and moving us to make not just ourselves Holy but the world around us as well.