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

Working Together to Make a Difference

September 25th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

The burdens of daily life can get heavy-especially when we try to bear them alone. Likewise the work of the church can get feel like a burden if left only to some people. Thank goodness the Holy Spirit is poured out generously on everyone within the community of faith-and even on those outside the community of faith-in order to accomplish God’s purposes. When the Spirit is shared among us, we can work together, as one, to bear God’s healing, hope and compassion to the world.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

Keep Asking Questions

September 18th, 2015

Have you ever failed to ask a question out of fear or embarrassment? Someone once said, “Never be afraid to ask questions! It’s better to seem a fool for a minute than to be one for the rest of your life.” Asking questions doesn’t necessarily mark a lack of intelligence. It’s a mark of curiosity and eagerness to learn.  And when it comes to faith, when we ask honest questions within the safety of the community, God draws closer to help us better understand and grow as Christians.

So keep asking–even if the answers may take awhile–even if they never come. The Spirit is at work as we engage together in conversation about what it means to be faithful people of God.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

The Power of God

September 11th, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

It’s a familiar calling we’ve heard before: to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Familiar, yet hard to do. It means that nothing can stand in the way of loving God and loving others–even if it means suffering and painBecause even our suffering can be transformed by the power of God, who brings hope from despair and life out of death.

Your Servant in Christ,

Pastor Gretchen

Be Opened: Healing comes in many forms

September 4th, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Each week we lift up prayers of healing for the many people on our active prayer list, as well as the names on the prayer chalkboard outside our building. Yet healing comes in many forms. Not just for individuals who need healing in body, mind or spirit. We also need healing for our fragile earth, as well as healing from the racial prejudice that is so prevalent right now.

In the Gospel this week we hear an amazing story where Jesus is not only the bearer of healing, but is healed himself through the actions of a persistent foreigner. How might we be opened to the unexpected people and places for whom God is working to bring healing now?

Your Servant in Christ,

Pastor Gretchen

September Newsletter

August 28th, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

I don’t know how I would have ever gotten through this without my faith!” How many times have I heard that sentiment from others-as well as said it myself. Whether the “this” is a failed relationship, an unexpected illness, a pink slip at work, or something else, when a crisis hits we need support. And for us as Christians, we have the support of our faith and our church to give us hope in the midst of despair.

But not everyone has that kind of support. Some may have grown up in the church and fallen away. Some may have had a bad experience with church and rejected it. Others may have never heard of God’s promises, or thought they were for them.

That’s why our congregation is participating in National Back to Church Sunday on September 20th. We are asking you to take a look around and invite a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend to worship that day. This isn’t a sales pitch to get more people in the pew or offerings in the plate. This is a way that we may reach out to those who need what we all need-real hope in a world that too often feels hopeless. Following worship we will continue our hospitality with a potluck lunch, helping us get to know the guests who join us that day.

Take a look at the video invitation below. Then pray about who you might invite to discover the hope that can transform lives through a relationship with our loving Lord, and the living body of Christ in the community of faith.


For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…plans to give you hope and a future.….” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Your hopeful servant of Christ,

Pastor Gretchen

 

God’s Power Made Perfect in Weakness

August 21st, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Our culture worships the powerful-usually meaning those who are rich, famous, or have political clout. Even in religious circles we hold up successful mega-churches as ” bigger is better,” or equate those who lead highly disciplined, ethical lives as more ” holy” with greater personal power.

But Paul turns our usual notions of power upside down when he says ” whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” We worship a God who doesn’t just use the mighty, the gifted, the morally virtuous. Our God uses flawed and imperfect people-like us-to do amazing things.

When we rely not on our own power, but on God’s power, we trust that God’s grace is sufficient, and God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

Our Hands are Open in Generosity

August 13th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

There’s a song that we sometimes sing in church with this refrain: “….they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” And that love is seen most clearly in real, concrete actions—like the way we respond to those who are hungry and hurting.

Generosity to the poor is an ongoing theme through the Gospels. For Paul, generosity is one of the fruits of faith. It shows that God is at work in our lives. It doesn’t matter how much we give: “….if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12).

The key is that when our hearts are opened to the stirring of the Spirit, our hands are open in generosity.

For a real-life story of amazing generosity, from the open hands of two young children, please take a couple minutes and watch this inspiring video:

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen