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

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

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

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

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

 

August 2015 Newsletter

July 31st, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Teach your children well…..” goes the refrain from a popular Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song years ago. But the sentiment goes back much all the way to the Old Testament with God’s instructions to the Israelites, “Teach [these words of mine] to your children, talking about them when you are home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise” (Deut.11:19).

Passing on the Christian faith from generation to generation is at the heart of the life and work of the church. Parents make promises to their children in baptism to teach them the essential truths about God. And the congregation in turn makes the promise to partner with parents in nurturing their child’s spiritual growth.

Looking at the month ahead, I was reminded of all the different ways we partner together to guide our young people in faith and life:

  • During worship on Aug. 2nd we will present baby blankets knit by members of our church to the newly baptized, as a tangible sign of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
  •  On Aug. 9th we will hear and see how those attending the ELCA National Youth Gathering in July were transformed through inspiring worship and acts of service with the people of Detroit.
  • “Blessing of the Backpacks” on Aug. 16th will remind our students that God is with them in their classrooms as they learn and grow throughout the year.
  • Our young families will gather once again on Aug 23rd to deepen relationships and support one another in raising their children in the Christian faith.
  • Middle and high school youth will begin a new year of Confirmation and Youth group with parents and mentors at the Welcome Back Potluck on Aug. 30th.
  • The Burbank Children’s Theatre Company will provide wholesome entertainment for all ages with their second production, “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”

What a gift we give not only to our children, but also to one another when we work together to see God’s presence alive through home, church, community and culture.

May we continue to teach our children well, so they will see all of life as under the care, blessing, and direction of our gracious God.

Pastor Gretchen

Child of God

Turbulent Waters

June 18th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

An old French prayer says, “O Lord, my boat is so small and the sea is so great.” This Sunday’s gospel reading is filled with turbulent water. We all have experienced storms in our lives-whether emotional, physical or spiritual. Sometimes we’re even called into the storms that come from following Jesus. Either way, the water of baptism reminds us not to fear. In faith we trust that we are not alone in our small boats-Jesus is with us. Faith gives us the courage we need to weather the storms of life.

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

Day 
Date 
Event
Time
Place 
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
Worship 
7:30pm Sanctuary
Friday April 3rd Good Friday
Worship
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