May Newsletter: Transformations and New Beginnings

April 29th, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

I’ve been watching the TV series A.D. recently which is about the beginnings of the early church. Although I’m one of those people who usually likes the book better than the movie, I have to say that watching this series brings the book of the Bible alive in a visual way. It’s striking to see the change in the disciples after the Holy Spirit comes upon them in wind and fire 50 days after Easter. They are transformed from fearful followers to bold witnesses of Jesus, many becoming the first martyrs of Christianity.

50 days after Easter, on May 24th the Day of Pentecost, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit not only in the past but also in the present. For God continues to blow in our midst now to transform us, too. I?m reminded of the story a grandfather told about his grandson who had an inner ear problem. His mother told him that in order to help him get better she was going to take him to a chiropractor. But the eager three year old thought  she was going to take him to see a “firecracker.” One makes an adjustment, the other makes an explosion.

Sometimes all we want in life is to be adjusted. For God to fish us out of whatever mess we?re in; to make life more comfortable without making any changes. But Pentecost reminds us that the Holy Spirit came to transform us. To explode whatever old ways keep us bound in our fears, so we might be energized with new power from on high.

As I write this, our Council is still in negotiation with Brighton Hall about their possible use of our Administration building. We are also assessing the use of our property by other groups. And whatever we decide about how our physical space should be utilized, that is only secondary to the mission we will be discerning together as a congregation. We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know that changes will certainly be part of that future.

Even more we know that the Spirit is still moving, forming us to be creative, confident, courageous proclaimers of God’s love and grace. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann says that we have a stunning vocation as Christians: “to stand free and hope-filled in a world gone fearful?and to think, imagine, dream, vision a future that God will yet enact.”

I am extremely hope-filled as I look at all the ministry happening in our congregation right now:  a community thinking, dreaming, and envisioning a future that God will enact. In our worship, our study, our fellowship, our service, our outreach, the Spirit is indeed empowering us as faithful followers of Jesus Christ!

Led by the Spirit,

Pastor Gretchen

February 2015 Newsletter

February 1st, 2015

Dear disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

If I ever lose my phone I’d be lost myself! I don’t just use it to make calls, but also to text, to check my e-mails and facebook, and most importantly where to be when since it’s my only calendar. Yet as important as my phone is to me, it’s also a distraction. I have a habit of checking it more often than I’d like. As much as it keeps me connected to the world around me, it also has the potential to disconnect me from my deepest self.

This is one of the reasons I look forward to the season of Lent each year. Lent is a time to renew my spirit and keep me grounded in what’s truly important to me—my relationship to God and others. Author Joyce Rupp put it this way: “The church is wise in offering us the season of Lent because it can be the very time we need to find what is missing in our lives; it can be the season to deliberately seek what has been tossed away or misplaced or ignored, so that our lives can once again reflect the gospel which Jesus encouraged us to live” (Fresh Bread and other gifts of Spiritual Nourishment).

As we begin the six-week journey of Lent together this month, I invite you to engage in the following spiritual practices personally and with your community of faith:

  • Regular worship on Sunday mornings at 10am and Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm
  • Adult learning on Sunday mornings after worship and Wednesday evenings over soup from 6-7:20pm using the resource “Claimed, Gathered and Sent” to kick off a year of conversation on the mission and purpose of our church.
  • Service through donations for Lutheran World Relief’s “Baskets of Promise” personal care kits.
  • Prayer and Meditation using the booklets with daily Scripture readings, reflections and prayers available for your devotions at home.
  • Fasting from unhealthy food and drink in order to be good stewards of our bodies, as well as engaging in the ancient spiritual discipline of giving up something to reflect on Jesus’ giving up his life for us.

I pray that this season of Lent may be a rich time of spiritual renewal for us all. May these practices not be something rigid, or good works to earn God’s love. Rather may they open our hearts to better receive the abundant grace we are given through Christ’s death and resurrection!

Lenten blessings,

Pastor Gretchen

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