March 2015 Newsletter

February 27th, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Does the church matter? If it does, how do we as a community of faith make a difference in the world? These are the questions that began our first Lenten Conversations this past week. We had lively discussions with two different groups after worship on Sunday and at our Soup Study on Wednesday night. These are important conversations happening not only at our church but in congregations throughout our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, using the resource “Claimed, Gathered, Sent“. Why these conversations? Because we live in a time of great change and culture shift. Studies show that people in the U.S. without any religious affiliation will soon surpass those who do. And 48% of the Millennial generation (born between 1984-2002) might be described as post-Christian in their beliefs, thinking and worldview.

Given the graying demographics and decreasing worship attendance in mainline churches such as ours, how do we continue our calling to lead people to transformed lives through a relationship with Jesus Christ? What are the challenges and opportunities for us in this changing world? Our Lenten Conversations are the beginning of a process the Council has begun in reviewing our congregation’s mission statement this year. This process will include listening to each other, listening to our neighbors and the wider community, and listening to God as we discern where the Spirit is leading us.

Our Confirmation youth have also been discussing the nature and purpose of church. At a recent Sunday night gathering they were asked: If you were able to build the church the way you think it should look, or how God wants it to look, what things would you include? What are the important building blocks to help us grow upon our foundation of Jesus Christ? Come to worship on Youth Sunday March 1st at 10am to hear their answers! And then participate in the four remaining Lenten Conversations (Sundays from 11:30-12:30 and Wednesday evenings from 6:15-7:15; both in the Administration building lounge across the patio from the church).

I’m not worried about the church’s survival. From its humble beginnings 2,000 years ago with just a dozen disciples, the Holy Spirit has been transforming the lives of billions of people since, all over the world. And in fact the church is currently growing significantly in places like South America, Africa and Asia.

The question now for us is this: how will American Lutheran Church be faithful to God’s mission?

Your partner on the way,

Pastor Gretchen

Lent, Holy Week, Easter schedule

Wednesdays Mar. 4-25th Lenten Conversations
Soup & Study  
6:15pm-7:15pm Admin. Building
Wednesdays Mar. 4-25th Evening Prayer  7:30pm-8:00pm Sanctuary
Thursday April 2nd Maundy Thursday
7:30pm Sanctuary
Friday April 3rd Good Friday
7:30pm Sanctuary
Saturday April 4th Easter Vigil  8:00pm St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church N. Hollywood
Sunday April 5th Easter Sunday 10:00am Sanctuary

The Mystery of God’s Love

February 24th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

We have now begun the season of Lent, a rich time for us to focus on our inner spiritual growth as we journey towards Easter. Together as a community of faith we reflect on the mystery of God’s love through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and how Jesus leads us through our own “deaths,” and wilderness experiences to new life.

There are many opportunities to help make this a meaningful time through prayer, Sunday and Wednesday evening worship, our Lenten conversations, and works of love. Check out the details in our most current eNewsletter.

May our gracious and loving God walk with us
during this time of mystery and growth.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

A Promise is a Promise

February 20th, 2015

We all know what it feels like when someone hasn’t kept their promise to us, or when we have let others down. In our readings this Sunday we’re reminded of the everlasting promises God establishes with us and all creation, and that God always makes good on those promises.

Join your community of faith on this First Sunday in Lent as together we make the journey to Easter, returning to God with heart, mind, body and soul.

Ash Wednesday 2015

February 17th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Tomorrow we enter into the 40 day journey to Easter which is known as Lent. This is the time of year to nurture our spiritual life. Not only do we prepare ourselves to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the death and resurrection that continually takes place within us.

From the Middle Ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross. As we are reminded of our mortality, sin and brokenness, we are drawn to turn again to God who alone is the source of healing and new life.

I invite you to make time for worship with your community of faith (Wednesdays 7:30pm and Sundays 10am), along with engaging in the other spiritual disciplines of Lent–fasting, prayer and works of love–returning to God who creates a new spirit within us.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

Everyday Epiphanies

February 13th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Faith alone holds you while you stand waiting and hoping and trusting.” Those words of Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward, underscore why Jesus was transfigured in a bright light before his closest disciples. He knows that as they walk the path to the cross, they will need that experience of his glory to survive the experience of his suffering and death.

In the same way God gives us glimpses of glory, everyday epiphanies, so that faith will hold us, too, as we stand waiting and hoping and trusting in the light that shines in the darkness.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

Come be renewed and refreshed!

February 6th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Sometimes life on a good day can be tiring and exhausting. Then add in the burden of sickness, or a work crisis, or complicated relationship, and it can leave us overwhelmed. In the midst of whatever challenges we face, listen to this inspiring poetry: “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40: 31).

Come be renewed and refreshed this Sunday at 10am by our God who heals and empowers us!

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

February 2015 Newsletter

February 1st, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

If I ever lose my phone I’d be lost myself! I don’t just use it to make calls, but also to text, to check my e-mails and facebook, and most importantly where to be when since it’s my only calendar. Yet as important as my phone is to me, it’s also a distraction. I have a habit of checking it more often than I’d like. As much as it keeps me connected to the world around me, it also has the potential to disconnect me from my deepest self.

This is one of the reasons I look forward to the season of Lent each year. Lent is a time to renew my spirit and keep me grounded in what’s truly important to me—my relationship to God and others. Author Joyce Rupp put it this way: “The church is wise in offering us the season of Lent because it can be the very time we need to find what is missing in our lives; it can be the season to deliberately seek what has been tossed away or misplaced or ignored, so that our lives can once again reflect the gospel which Jesus encouraged us to live” (Fresh Bread and other gifts of Spiritual Nourishment).

As we begin the six-week journey of Lent together this month, I invite you to engage in the following spiritual practices personally and with your community of faith:

  • Regular worship on Sunday mornings at 10am and Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm
  • Adult learning on Sunday mornings after worship and Wednesday evenings over soup from 6-7:20pm using the resource “Claimed, Gathered and Sent” to kick off a year of conversation on the mission and purpose of our church.
  • Service through donations for Lutheran World Relief’s “Baskets of Promise” personal care kits.
  • Prayer and Meditation using the booklets with daily Scripture readings, reflections and prayers available for your devotions at home.
  • Fasting from unhealthy food and drink in order to be good stewards of our bodies, as well as engaging in the ancient spiritual discipline of giving up something to reflect on Jesus’ giving up his life for us.

I pray that this season of Lent may be a rich time of spiritual renewal for us all. May these practices not be something rigid, or good works to earn God’s love. Rather may they open our hearts to better receive the abundant grace we are given through Christ’s death and resurrection!

Lenten blessings,

Pastor Gretchen

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