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

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

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

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

Transformed

March 20th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

In his book Falling Upward, Richard Rohr writes that “…the great difference between transformed and non-transformed people” is that “great people come to serve, not to be served.Indeed, everything changes when we stop worrying and grasping for what we can get for ourselves, and focus instead on what we can give to others.

As our Lenten journey brings us with Jesus closer to the cross, we’re reminded that we find our lives in losing them; and that the path of suffering and dying leads to resurrection and new life.

See you in church,

Pastor Gretchen

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