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

“Don’t be alarmed”

November 13th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

We’re constantly reminded that life can change in an instant, whether it’s in the face of a wounded veteran; a homeowner whose house has burned to the ground; or a parent mourning the loss of a child. It takes courage and hope when the world as we know it crumbles around us. Yet that is exactly what Jesus gives us. “Don’t be alarmed,” are his words from the Gospel this week. For out of the rubble, God will build something new. Whether it’s a broken building, body or dream, whenever something fails it is but the “birth pangs” of a new beginning.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

Icon1 Lectionary 33B (Color) (Clip Art)

Notice Those Who Need Our Compassion

November 6th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

We pay a lot of attention to people who are rich and famous and powerful—the mansions they live in, the clothes they wear and what they tweet or post on facebook. Yet we often avert our eyes to those who sit on sidewalks or stand at exit ramps asking for help.

When Jesus draws attention to a poor widow who put in her last cent at the Temple, he shows that God sees our struggles and hardships and cares about us. Likewise he invites us to notice and care for those around us—especially those who need our compassion—as we share the gift of God’s love with others.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

widow

 

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

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

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

Jesus Prays for Us

May 14th, 2015

Jesus prays for us. Do you ever think about that? We pray for one another and we pray for ourselves, but Jesus also prays for us knowing intimately the challenges and struggles we face every day. That was the assurance he gave to his first disciples before he left them, and it’s the assurance he gives us too, “so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.(John 17:13)

I invite you to know the joy of being part of the community for whom Jesus prays, as we gather for worship again this week.

The Good Shepherd

April 24th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

One of my favorite hymns is Marty Haugen’s “Shepherd Me, O God” based on Psalm 23:

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.

This Sunday we are reminded of the Good Shepherd who invites us to know the abundant life he came to bring, and to extend the invitation to others.

May the love and compassion of Jesus flow through our lives, so all may know God’s grace and mercy.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

Got Food?

April 17th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

–Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Food is an important part of being alive. So it is that when Jesus appears to his followers after the resurrection, he eats something. He is not dead or a ghost but a real person!

Our Lord cares about us as whole people. Christ wants us to think well, love well, and sleep well; to fill all of our hungers with his life-giving presence. And so he invites us again to come to the table and be fed with the bread of life.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen