A Christmas Message 2015

December 14th, 2015

Happiest of holidays dear members of American Lutheran.  

Well, at one of the most sacred and busy times of the year, we are challenged with the task of beginning the process of replacing our most cherished asset.  Our much-loved pastor has made an excruciating decision to relocate and has preached her last sermon for us.  

This has triggered the launch of a process that could take us well over a year to complete.  We are now actively searching for a replacement.  This is a sad time, a scary time, an exciting time and a challenging time. There is much for us to learn and much for us to do.  

We will begin the process by identifying a Mission Evaluation Team, a call committee and a team to guide our new capital campaign.  

The MET team will essentially write the resume for our beloved church that will be circulated throughout the ELCA and will illuminate the myriad of reasons why any pastor anywhere would be doing him/herself a disservice by not considering us.  Why….? Because literally and figuratively WE ROCK.   Jesus is magnified, glorified and directly experienced every week at American.  

The call committee will do the actual interviewing of potential candidates and be our discerning recommenders.  

The team to guide our new capital campaign will play a critical role at this time, as we are also preparing for the annual congregational meeting and planning next year’s budget.

We are funded, we are musical, we are talented, we are unified, we are reconciled, we are welcoming, we are diverse, and we are looking to develop a vital and energized mission plan that will make us even stronger.  

Yes, these are truly exciting times for us.  We have much work to do and much to accomplish.  It won’t be easy and it won’t always be fun.  We’ll be challenged and we’ll be tested.

But we WILL soon have a dynamic and intentional Interim Pastor to help us along the way.  Even at present, we have a true biblical and liturgical scholar in Pastor Tony Auer, while we search for our best interim. 

I urge each and every one of you to search your hearts and simply ask yourselves where you may be willing and able to step up and lend a hand, your ideas, a little time and yes… your money.   None of this will be done alone, and from where I sit, I can see us coming together even more cohesively as a congregation as we move ahead. 

No one likes change.  It pushes us to places that make us uncomfortable.  Well folks, 

our souls are not strengthened in the forge of comfort. Our faith is amplified by what is difficult.  

Enough preaching.   At this writing we are working to have our bishop,

Bishop Guy Erwin, in worship on Sunday the 20th.   I am hoping that his schedule permits him to be with us and share a Christmas message. 

I’ll finish by expressing my sincere  wishes that you all have beautiful, peaceful and relaxing holidays.  May God’s love and strength enfold you throughout the season and always. 

God Bless you,

Deyo Blake

Congregation Council President


December 4th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

It’s been said that with God there is no such thing as “coincidence.” Indeed, I had no idea when I ended my resignation letter last month with a quote from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, that it would also be part of the appointed reading for the 2nd Sunday in Advent, my last Sunday in worship with you: “I thank my God every time I remember you….because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.”

From the bottom of my heart, I do thank God for the privilege of serving as your pastor. As we meet once more to share the holy meal that keeps us connected over time and place as the body of Christ, I look with hope to the day we will join together again at God’s table in the feast to come.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

December Newsletter

December 2nd, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

When I made the announcement to fellow colleagues that I was leaving my position in December to accept a new call starting in January, one of the pastors exclaimed:
What perfect timing for you and the congregation-during Advent-the season of waiting for new birth!” Well he’s right, I guess. Advent is the time we hope with great expectation for how Christ will be born anew among us. But oh my, do the labor pains of birthing hurt! It’s one thing to feel in my heart that God is leading me in a new direction. And it’s another thing to feel the pain of saying goodbye to people whom I’ve grown to love so dearly.

The feeling of grief cuts deep and can go through different stages-denial, anger, bargaining, sadness-before hopefully reaching a place of acceptance and new beginnings. I imagine there may also be disappointments, unmet expectations, maybe even feelings of abandonment. I wish I could take away the emotions of your grief and my own. But the hard work of grief can’t be side-stepped. The only way through it is to go through it. When I was in labor with my second child, it was much more difficult and painful than with my first son. But having gone through it once before, I knew I would get through it again. And what helped me immensely was remembering the reward that came after the labor-the gift of a newborn baby placed in my arms.

As we both go through labor pains towards new birth, I encourage you to remember the hard work and challenges we went through the past five years. Then look below at all of the gifts–the fruits of our labor-that God placed in our arms:

* A growing music ministry with choir and band under Steve and Ulf’s direction

* The rental of our school building to Brighton Hall giving us financial stability

* Combined youth program with Salem Lutheran and adult confirmation mentors

* A clear statement of welcome to everyone-with no exception

* Summer day camp for elementary children

* Media projection to enhance and create worship that is more user-friendly

* Hiring a social media coordinator to engage people with our on-line presence

* Fellowship events including Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras, “American’s Got Talent,” Blessing of the Pets, ALC Angels softball team

* Two productions from the Burbank Children’s Theatre Company

* Increased local partnerships with Burbank Housing Corporation (Adopt a Homeless Vet), Burbank Temporary Aid Center, Lutheran Social Services, Burbank Ministerial Association, Burbank PFLAG, Family Promise

* Global partnership with ELCA missionaries in Central America

* Prayers in worship from the wider community through our prayer chalkboard

* Commitment to much-needed property renovations with a Mission Investment Fund loan and Capital Campaign during our 75th anniversary year

I am so grateful for what God has borne through our ministry together. I am so grateful to have been your pastor-and now to be your friend. May God give us strength and hope to endure the birth pangs of Advent, knowing they will lead to the glorious celebration of Christ’s new birth among us!

Joy and peace,
Pastor Gretchen

First Sunday in Advent

November 27th, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

It’s Black Friday and the rush towards Christmas has begun! Frantic shoppers are vying for the best deal, people are filling their calendars with holiday events, and the most wonderful time of the year has turned into the busiest, craziest time of the year.
Unless you’re someone who also pays attention to the church year, and not just the calendar year, as part of the faith community which observes Advent.

And so on this 1st Sunday in Advent, instead of picking up the pace, we slow down. We take time to savor this rich season of waiting. The word advent means “coming.” Together we wait with bated breath for the celebration of God’s coming into our world in human form, as one of us. As we also wait, too, for the day Christ will return and God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. While at the same time we wait for the way Jesus will come into our lives right now, with grace-filled gifts of joy and peace.

May this time of waiting fill our hearts with great hope and expectation for Jesus’ coming into our lives and world.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

Endings & Beginnings

November 20th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

This Sunday is the end of the year on the church calendar as we observe Christ the King Sunday. The new church year begins the following week on the 1st Sunday in Advent as we await the birth of the newborn King.

Endings and beginnings. They are part of life and the rhythm of the church year. Death and resurrection is the very core of our faith. Every goodbye anticipates a borning cry of new life. And Christ the King, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, holds our lives and all of heaven and earth in his loving embrace.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

“Don’t be alarmed”

November 13th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

We’re constantly reminded that life can change in an instant, whether it’s in the face of a wounded veteran; a homeowner whose house has burned to the ground; or a parent mourning the loss of a child. It takes courage and hope when the world as we know it crumbles around us. Yet that is exactly what Jesus gives us. “Don’t be alarmed,” are his words from the Gospel this week. For out of the rubble, God will build something new. Whether it’s a broken building, body or dream, whenever something fails it is but the “birth pangs” of a new beginning.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

Icon1 Lectionary 33B (Color) (Clip Art)

Notice Those Who Need Our Compassion

November 6th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

We pay a lot of attention to people who are rich and famous and powerful—the mansions they live in, the clothes they wear and what they tweet or post on facebook. Yet we often avert our eyes to those who sit on sidewalks or stand at exit ramps asking for help.

When Jesus draws attention to a poor widow who put in her last cent at the Temple, he shows that God sees our struggles and hardships and cares about us. Likewise he invites us to notice and care for those around us—especially those who need our compassion—as we share the gift of God’s love with others.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen



November Newsletter

October 30th, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

What are your plans for the holidays?” Now that it’s November that’s a question we are starting to hear more often. People are getting ready for Thanksgiving, which usually means a feast with family and friends where we celebrate one another and our blessings. Yet for us as Christians, we celebrate around a meal not just once a year, but every week as we gather around the Lord’s Table for the “Eucharist” which means thanksgiving.

On Sunday Nov. 1st we recognize six of our young people who have completed instruction about the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, and give thanks that they will regularly join our “family” for the special meal where we receive Jesus’ love and forgiveness. And as they learned, we go from the table in church out into the world, so all may know God’s gifts. That’s the deeper meaning of Thanksgiving-when beyond celebrating our own blessings, we recognize in our true Host one who wants everyone brought to the table.

In our own community, November is also “BTAC Month” when we share our blessings with others through our partnership with Burbank Temporary Aid Center. Once again BTAC will be the recipient of the offerings collected at our Interfaith Community Thanksgiving service on Sunday Nov. 22nd at 7pm. Last year our church hosted this celebration which brought together people from local congregations and the wider community, and this year it will be held at Burbank Temple Emmanu El.

As we prepare to celebrate our national day of thanksgiving, we pray as a community of faith: “Almighty God, your generous goodness comes to us new every day. By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 61).

With gratitude,

Pastor Gretchen


October 23rd, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Grace. That’s what it’s all about for us Lutherans, going all the way back to the 16th century Reformation, which we celebrate this Sunday. As Paul wrote even earlier in the 1st century, we are “justified by faith apart from works” (Romans 3:28) solely by the grace of God. Think of it this way: 

There is nothing you can do that will make God Love you more.

There is nothing you can do that will make God Love you less. 

That’s the promise given to us in baptism. And the promise that three of our youth declare publicly this Sunday as they affirm their baptism in the Rite of Confirmation.

We have much to celebrate this week as we live in God’s amazing grace!

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

Living Joyfully in Service

October 16th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Albert Schweitzer, Lutheran theologian and medical missionary in Africa, once said:
I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Jesus reminds us of the same thing. When we live only for ourselves we become self-absorbed and competitive, constantly trying to secure our position and future, just like James and John who wanted to sit at his right hand and left in the kingdom. But when we know our future has already been secured through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are freed to live joyfully in service to one another.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen