Like Branches Connected to a Vine

April 30th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

We know that love is at the heart of our Christian faith. We also know how hard it is to love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s especially hard when those neighbors don’t think and act like we do. Simply put we are not capable of loving as Christ has loved us. But because we are connected to Christ, like branches connected to a vine, we can do what God calls us to do: bear the good fruit of love to all people.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

May Newsletter: Transformations and New Beginnings

April 29th, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

I’ve been watching the TV series A.D. recently which is about the beginnings of the early church. Although I’m one of those people who usually likes the book better than the movie, I have to say that watching this series brings the book of the Bible alive in a visual way. It’s striking to see the change in the disciples after the Holy Spirit comes upon them in wind and fire 50 days after Easter. They are transformed from fearful followers to bold witnesses of Jesus, many becoming the first martyrs of Christianity.

50 days after Easter, on May 24th the Day of Pentecost, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit not only in the past but also in the present. For God continues to blow in our midst now to transform us, too. I?m reminded of the story a grandfather told about his grandson who had an inner ear problem. His mother told him that in order to help him get better she was going to take him to a chiropractor. But the eager three year old thought  she was going to take him to see a “firecracker.” One makes an adjustment, the other makes an explosion.

Sometimes all we want in life is to be adjusted. For God to fish us out of whatever mess we?re in; to make life more comfortable without making any changes. But Pentecost reminds us that the Holy Spirit came to transform us. To explode whatever old ways keep us bound in our fears, so we might be energized with new power from on high.

As I write this, our Council is still in negotiation with Brighton Hall about their possible use of our Administration building. We are also assessing the use of our property by other groups. And whatever we decide about how our physical space should be utilized, that is only secondary to the mission we will be discerning together as a congregation. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that changes will certainly be part of that future.

Even more we know that the Spirit is still moving, forming us to be creative, confident, courageous proclaimers of God’s love and grace. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann says that we have a stunning vocation as Christians: “to stand free and hope-filled in a world gone fearful?and to think, imagine, dream, vision a future that God will yet enact.”

I am extremely hope-filled as I look at all the ministry happening in our congregation right now:  a community thinking, dreaming, and envisioning a future that God will enact. In our worship, our study, our fellowship, our service, our outreach, the Spirit is indeed empowering us as faithful followers of Jesus Christ!

Led by the Spirit,

Pastor Gretchen

The Good Shepherd

April 24th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

One of my favorite hymns is Marty Haugen’s “Shepherd Me, O God” based on Psalm 23:

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.

This Sunday we are reminded of the Good Shepherd who invites us to know the abundant life he came to bring, and to extend the invitation to others.

May the love and compassion of Jesus flow through our lives, so all may know God’s grace and mercy.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

Got Food?

April 17th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

–Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Food is an important part of being alive. So it is that when Jesus appears to his followers after the resurrection, he eats something. He is not dead or a ghost but a real person!

Our Lord cares about us as whole people. Christ wants us to think well, love well, and sleep well; to fill all of our hungers with his life-giving presence. And so he invites us again to come to the table and be fed with the bread of life.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

Maundy Thursday

April 2nd, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Tonight as the sun sets on Maundy Thursday, the season of Lent concludes and the great Three Days begin, ending with sunset on Easter Day. The liturgies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Vigil on Easter eve are actually one liturgy with no benediction separating them. We leave the worship space for awhile, then gather again to prepare for God’s gift of new life.

On Easter Day we return to celebrate that God’s power of goodness is greater than the power of evil, and life is stronger than death!

With alleluias, beautiful music, spring flowers, and the resurrection story, we proclaim with great joy: CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

It is a holy thing to be called by name.

April 1st, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

One of the greatest privileges of being a pastor is the opportunity to be the bearer of God’s grace, by placing the bread into each outstretched hand during Holy Communion as I say the words: “This is the body of Christ given for you.” And because the size of our congregation is such that I know most of those who worship here, I am able to add the name of who is receiving the bread to personalize those words.

It is a holy thing to be called by name. It means we are seen, we are noticed, we are recognized for the unique person we are. In the Gospel of John’s story of the Resurrection, Jesus’ identifying Mary by name becomes life-giving. When she arrives at  the empty tomb and discovers that Jesus is not there, Mary becomes visibly distraught. Convinced someone has stolen the body of her teacher and friend she’s paralyzed, weeping outside. When she turns around and sees Jesus standing there, she is still overcome with sadness, thinking he must be the gardener. Only when he calls her by name, “Mary!” does she recognize him, running to share the good news with the others (John 20:1-18).

In the season of Easter that begins this Sunday, April 5th we rejoice that God knows each of us by name. Since the day we were born God sees us and knows us, down to the number of hairs on our head. When we were brought to the waters of baptism, each of us was named and claimed as God’s very own child. And when we feel worn down by life’s journey, and alone in our pain, Jesus calls us by name once again to raise us to new life. As you listen and watch the video below may you be filled with the joy of Easter, trusting that God knows you by name.

He Knows My Name-McRaes LYRICS

Joy and peace,

Pastor Gretchen