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


Holy Week Begins

March 26th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

There is no more important time in the life of a Christian and the community of faith than Holy Week, the heart of the church year, which begins on Palm/Passion Sunday, March 29th. As Jesus enters Jerusalem on the last week of his life we walk the journey with him from the joyful palm procession, to the Last Supper with his disciples on Maundy Thursday, to the agony of the cross on Good Friday, to the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter.

Plan to gather in worship with your sisters and brothers in Christ  as we enter fully into the mystery of God’s deep love for us, a love which transforms us daily from death to new life.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

Fresh Eyes

March 6th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

So did you see the black and blue dress or the white and gold one? As the dressgate debate was being played out last week in the media, it showed how different people can see the same thing in different ways. And how we can become so rigid in one interpretation, that it doesn’t allow for other perspectives.

Jesus came to give us fresh eyes to see in a new way. So that together we might work to make God’s vision the new reality in our lives and world.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

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

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