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

Everyday Epiphanies

February 13th, 2015

Dear Disciples of Jesus at American Lutheran,

Faith alone holds you while you stand waiting and hoping and trusting.” Those words of Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward, underscore why Jesus was transfigured in a bright light before his closest disciples. He knows that as they walk the path to the cross, they will need that experience of his glory to survive the experience of his suffering and death.

In the same way God gives us glimpses of glory, everyday epiphanies, so that faith will hold us, too, as we stand waiting and hoping and trusting in the light that shines in the darkness.

See you in church,
Pastor Gretchen

A Christmas Message from President Deyo Blake

December 18th, 2014

A Christmas Message from your president

Happiest of holidays dear congregation.

It’s that most wonderful time of the year. And also one of the most stressful on the commercial side. I get caught up in it with all my fellow shoppers. When this happens I tend to forget that I am waiting for the divine providence that is in store for us all. What an incredible day that will be. Inconceivable, unimaginable, incomprehensible, beyond all mystery and fully majestic in every aspect.

I’m certainly not an Advent scholar and my schedule has prevented me from attending the great talks on the subject hosted by dear Pastor Gretchen but my naïve take on its meaning is that God wants us to simply think about him, his presence, his plan, his gracious mercy and mostly his spectacular love. He wants us to have, as best we can, conscious contact with him as much and as often as possible. Advent is the great tool for helping this happen.

I get up every day at 5:00 a.m. and meditate for 20 minutes in the dark and to the purr of the space heater.   I usually just count my breaths and sometimes feel a little impatient. Especially if I have a particularly challenging day ahead.   I want to rehearse all my responsibilities and sometimes try to figure out how I can get out of them. But during Advent it seems like I’m more able to just allow myself to know that for at least this 20 minutes I can just feel safe and assured that all is as it should be and God is listening. I can imagine being held and comforted.   And most important, I can be reminded that throughout the day, and always, I can feel this way. I can always go back to just thinking about our Lord God and Savior and the peace that comes with the contemplation of Jesus and his sacrifice on our behalf. What he already knew and what he must have been thinking as he fulfilled his mission.

We are rapidly approaching a new year with its many new opportunities and challenges. Let’s take the time as it comes up to pause and give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy. They are too innumerable to count actually. Let’s think about our God a little more frequently and what it means to wait for the day when reality will be remade. That day is in store for us all. The realization makes us just better human beings with a greater responsibility to demonstrate this awareness to those who live in a state of troubled slumber.

The Peace of the Lord be with you all.

Deyo Blake

Congregation Council President

Waiting

December 3rd, 2014

Waiting is not something I enjoy. I don’t like waiting for the traffic to move when I’m stuck on the freeway. I don’t like waiting for test results after a doctor’s visit. I don’t like waiting for the changes that need to happen to create a more peaceful, fair and just world. Waiting feels like a dry desert between where I am and where I want to be.

But Scripture encourages us to wait: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope” (Psalm 130:5). And the season of Advent is what waiting is all about. Particularly at the time of year when we feel most rushed and busy getting ready for the holidays, Advent is the time we slow down to recognize what, or who we are waiting for.

As I write this article I’m waiting for my two sons to arrive for Thanksgiving. Just the prospect of their arrival makes me happy as Will and I prepare for the meals, activities and time we’ll spend together.

In the same way, Advent is a joyful, hopeful time for Christians as we reflect on the life-changing gift of Christ in our lives. Therefore I invite you to enter fully into this season of expectation through prayer, worship, fellowship and study:

  • Download an Advent devotional for your prayer time at home luthersem.edu/advent
  • Worship each Sunday of Advent at 10am with your community of faith;
  • Join us for the “Hanging of the Greens” potluck and decorating the church, Friday Dec. 5th at 6:30pm;
  • Participate in the Advent Bible Study “Church in Waiting” either Wednesday nights at 7pm or Sundays at 11:30am.

In the words of spiritual writer Henri Nouwen, quoted in the clip below, “Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about Him for whom we are waiting.”

May your Advent time of waiting be filled with expectant hope, increasing the joy of your Christmas celebration of God’s greatest gift to us in Jesus!

Pastor Gretchen