November Newsletter

October 30th, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

What are your plans for the holidays?” Now that it’s November that’s a question we are starting to hear more often. People are getting ready for Thanksgiving, which usually means a feast with family and friends where we celebrate one another and our blessings. Yet for us as Christians, we celebrate around a meal not just once a year, but every week as we gather around the Lord’s Table for the “Eucharist” which means thanksgiving.

On Sunday Nov. 1st we recognize six of our young people who have completed instruction about the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, and give thanks that they will regularly join our “family” for the special meal where we receive Jesus’ love and forgiveness. And as they learned, we go from the table in church out into the world, so all may know God’s gifts. That’s the deeper meaning of Thanksgiving-when beyond celebrating our own blessings, we recognize in our true Host one who wants everyone brought to the table.

In our own community, November is also “BTAC Month” when we share our blessings with others through our partnership with Burbank Temporary Aid Center. Once again BTAC will be the recipient of the offerings collected at our Interfaith Community Thanksgiving service on Sunday Nov. 22nd at 7pm. Last year our church hosted this celebration which brought together people from local congregations and the wider community, and this year it will be held at Burbank Temple Emmanu El.

As we prepare to celebrate our national day of thanksgiving, we pray as a community of faith: “Almighty God, your generous goodness comes to us new every day. By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 61).

With gratitude,

Pastor Gretchen


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

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

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


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

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

Don’t Lose Hope

July 23rd, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Life is full of ups and downs. And when we find ourselves feeling discouraged and disappointed for whatever reason, it can test our faith as we wonder if God even cares. Yet Paul reminds us that no matter what happens we do not lose hope because Christ is our hope:We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

This Sunday we begin a 5-part series, “A Heart for Reconciliation,” based on Paul’s 2nd letter to the church in Corinth. As we delve more deeply into this New Testament book, may our hearts be opened in love to God and our neighbor.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

The Power of Names

June 26th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

What’s in a name?” begins the famous quote by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

But we know that there is power in names-both bad and good. Being called a derogatory name hurts our feelings.

Yet when someone remembers our name after meeting only once, it feels good to be recognized.

This Sunday we are reminded of the one name we all share as God’s beloved people-child of God. No matter what other names we go by, this is the name that is the core of our identity.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

“It’s not my fault!”

June 4th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

It’s not my fault!” How many times have you said those words when you realize you’ve made a mistake but don’t want to admit it? So we make it another’s fault. The dog ate my homework. The car in front of me stopped too quickly. My partner didn’t write it down on the calendar. Blaming goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, whose story we’ll hear in worship this Sunday (Genesis 3:8-15).

The good news is that God doesn’t reject us when we make mistakes. We can own up and be forgiven. With grace enough to forgive one another. Thanks be to God!

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen