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

Festival of Pentecost

May 22nd, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

This Sunday, May 24th, we observe the Festival of Pentecost when God sent the Holy Spirit to empower the ministry of Jesus to continue through his followers.

Pentecost is both a day and a season, extending from The Day of Pentecost until Advent. It is a time for claiming the power of the Holy Spirit for our daily living to help us grow in faith, courage and love.

Wear red to worship as we boldly witness to the Spirit alive and well in our midst!

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

Christmas is coming!

December 19th, 2014

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Christmas is less than a week away. Is that terrifying? Are you feeling crazed and unprepared? Then you’ll want to be in worship this Sunday as the young people of our congregation remind us in their Christmas play, that the love of God does not depend on how we feel or what our circumstances are. We can be rich or poor, handsome or homely, talented or average, but God’s love is constant through moments of trial and moments of triumph.”

Join us on the 4th Sunday in Advent at 10am as we prepare our hearts to receive Jesus, the true gift of Christmas.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

A Christmas Message from President Deyo Blake

December 18th, 2014

A Christmas Message from your president

Happiest of holidays dear congregation.

It’s that most wonderful time of the year. And also one of the most stressful on the commercial side. I get caught up in it with all my fellow shoppers. When this happens I tend to forget that I am waiting for the divine providence that is in store for us all. What an incredible day that will be. Inconceivable, unimaginable, incomprehensible, beyond all mystery and fully majestic in every aspect.

I’m certainly not an Advent scholar and my schedule has prevented me from attending the great talks on the subject hosted by dear Pastor Gretchen but my naïve take on its meaning is that God wants us to simply think about him, his presence, his plan, his gracious mercy and mostly his spectacular love. He wants us to have, as best we can, conscious contact with him as much and as often as possible. Advent is the great tool for helping this happen.

I get up every day at 5:00 a.m. and meditate for 20 minutes in the dark and to the purr of the space heater.   I usually just count my breaths and sometimes feel a little impatient. Especially if I have a particularly challenging day ahead.   I want to rehearse all my responsibilities and sometimes try to figure out how I can get out of them. But during Advent it seems like I’m more able to just allow myself to know that for at least this 20 minutes I can just feel safe and assured that all is as it should be and God is listening. I can imagine being held and comforted.   And most important, I can be reminded that throughout the day, and always, I can feel this way. I can always go back to just thinking about our Lord God and Savior and the peace that comes with the contemplation of Jesus and his sacrifice on our behalf. What he already knew and what he must have been thinking as he fulfilled his mission.

We are rapidly approaching a new year with its many new opportunities and challenges. Let’s take the time as it comes up to pause and give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy. They are too innumerable to count actually. Let’s think about our God a little more frequently and what it means to wait for the day when reality will be remade. That day is in store for us all. The realization makes us just better human beings with a greater responsibility to demonstrate this awareness to those who live in a state of troubled slumber.

The Peace of the Lord be with you all.

Deyo Blake

Congregation Council President

Hanging of the Greens

December 3rd, 2014

Please join us on Friday, December 5th at 6:30pm for our annual St. Nicholas Day “Hanging of the Greens.” We will start with a potluck and then work together to decorate the sanctuary for Christmas.

Everyone is welcome!

 

St. Nicholas Day Flyer

Waiting

December 3rd, 2014

Waiting is not something I enjoy. I don’t like waiting for the traffic to move when I’m stuck on the freeway. I don’t like waiting for test results after a doctor’s visit. I don’t like waiting for the changes that need to happen to create a more peaceful, fair and just world. Waiting feels like a dry desert between where I am and where I want to be.

But Scripture encourages us to wait: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope” (Psalm 130:5). And the season of Advent is what waiting is all about. Particularly at the time of year when we feel most rushed and busy getting ready for the holidays, Advent is the time we slow down to recognize what, or who we are waiting for.

As I write this article I’m waiting for my two sons to arrive for Thanksgiving. Just the prospect of their arrival makes me happy as Will and I prepare for the meals, activities and time we’ll spend together.

In the same way, Advent is a joyful, hopeful time for Christians as we reflect on the life-changing gift of Christ in our lives. Therefore I invite you to enter fully into this season of expectation through prayer, worship, fellowship and study:

  • Download an Advent devotional for your prayer time at home luthersem.edu/advent
  • Worship each Sunday of Advent at 10am with your community of faith;
  • Join us for the “Hanging of the Greens” potluck and decorating the church, Friday Dec. 5th at 6:30pm;
  • Participate in the Advent Bible Study “Church in Waiting” either Wednesday nights at 7pm or Sundays at 11:30am.

In the words of spiritual writer Henri Nouwen, quoted in the clip below, “Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about Him for whom we are waiting.”

May your Advent time of waiting be filled with expectant hope, increasing the joy of your Christmas celebration of God’s greatest gift to us in Jesus!

Pastor Gretchen