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

Grace

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

All Things Possible

October 9th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

In the Gospel for Sunday a rich man’s wealth gets in the way of his relationship with God and generosity to others. That still happens today when we care more about our stuff than our faith. But there are other things that can also get in the way of our relationship with God: negative self-talk, unwillingness to trust, not believing that anything can change.

What keeps you from living the abundant life Jesus came to bring? Join your sisters and brothers in Christ this Sunday at 10am, as we are reminded of Jesus’ love and acceptance which make “all things possible” by God’s grace.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

October 2015 Newsletter

October 1st, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Last month in a sermon called “Good Question!” I said that it’s ok to ask questions about faith. In fact, not only is it ok, it’s probably necessary. When we struggle honestly with one another about who God is, and what it means to be a Christian, we open ourselves to a deeper spiritual life. We admit that there is Mystery greater than our own understanding; and that faith grows more through a spirit of curiosity and imagination, through dialogue and discovery, more than through certainty and answers.

That Sunday I invited those in worship to write down one question about faith, God or the Bible and put it in the offering plate. Not surprisingly, several people asked a similar question in different ways:
Why do we have so much pain in life?
Why does God allow people to suffer—especially people who live good lives?
Why do humans get ill? Is it a sign of lack of faith?
Does God allow us to go through terrible hardships as a growth?

These are all questions that have been pondered and debated forever by theologians and philosophers. They all deal with the problem of theodicy—how a good God could allow bad things to happen. It would take many pages to fully address this problem. But let me share with you a few of my own thoughts.

First, God wants the best for us and the world that God created good. I don’t believe that when something bad happens it’s “for a reason.” We simply live in a world that is broken and imperfect, where sin, sickness and evil exist. Because we were created with free will, God does not force or coerce our behavior.

But God is continually wooing us by the love shown most clearly through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God stirs up the gift of faith so that we will trust in God’s grace. And all we need is the tiniest bit—no bigger than a tiny mustard seed of faith. God does not punish us with sickness or suffering because we don’t have enough faith, or because we need to be taught a lesson. God can, however, transform even our worst experiences into healing opportunities, so that we can affirm with St. Paul, “….that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Paul also said that although now we can only see through a glass dimly, there will come a time when we will see God clearly, face to face, and all our questions will be answered. In the meantime, know this: that God wants nothing more than to come alongside us, to share our struggles and challenges, so that through our relationship with him we will grow in faith and love.

Seeking with you,
Pastor Gretchen