November has quickly come upon us. We begin November with All Saints Day and our Annual Meeting. At end of November we also celebrate Thanksgiving. What a great time to give thanks for the all the saints who inspire us in our faith, to give thanks for all work we do as Community Lutheran Church and to give thanks for family and all we have. God is good. I urge you to find a moment each day (it can be just 5 minutes) to give thanks. Give thanks to God, thank the people who care for you and thank those who are often overlooked. With all that is happening in the world around us we can often be so focused on negativity and our fears about the future we forget to be grateful for what we do have and what God is doing right now. When we focus on gratefulness we can experience joy.
I would also encourage you to engage with the Psalms. The Psalms reflect the whole range of human emotion. As we give thanks we should also take time to be honest with ourselves and God. Sometimes we aren’t thankful. Sometimes we are angry or in pain. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and confused. In the Psalms we read honest conversation with God. If you pay close attention you might notice how many of the psalms move from pain and sadness to hope and thankfulness for God’s goodness. We can truly experience gratitude and thankfulness when we allow ourselves experience the wholeness of Life, the good and the bad. We often forget that the Good News of Jesus isn’t that we will be happy all the time but that we have a God who took on flesh, knows what it means to be human. Jesus walks with us through joy, pain, sorrow and death. Isn’t that something truly to be thankful for?
Find a Psalm that resonates with you. Use it as your prayer. My prayer for you is that you will find a deeper connection with God and you will experience a greater sense of gratitude. For myself, Psalm 55 is my prayer. I look at the news. I see the violence, and hateful words everyday. I long for God’s justice and peace. Especially verses 6-7
“And I say, “O that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
truly, I would flee far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;Selah
I would hurry to find a shelter for myself
from the raging wind and tempest.”
And as I read these words, I know that God is my refuge and my strength. And that I am called to provide words of comfort and peace in times such as these. I am grateful for this task.
Be Grateful Brothers and Sisters. Christ’s peace be with you.
October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg 1517. On Oct 4th the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Francis, who in his own way help reform the Church some 200 years earlier. This October I encourage you to think about the ways God’s Holy Spirit might be reforming us today using these great reformer as examples.
St Francis was born into a rich family and was called to give up everything, as Jesus said to the rich young man in Luke 18:22 “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” He became poor and urged others to do the same. Francis was called by Christ to “repair the church” when he received a vision from the Cross at San Damiano. Through him and his followers (known as Franciscans) he sparked a spiritual renewal in the church that focuses on the poor, outcast and broken. He lived a life of joy and reflected the truth that many had forgotten that “God, so Loved the world.” He modeled a simple life in which all creation took part in the Gospel. For St. Francis we are thankful.
One of the reason I bring up St. Francis is because I am part of the Order of Lutheran Franciscan. This order is a group of like minded Lutherans who find the life St. Francis and his teachings inspirational. We find spiritual renewal and fellowship through the gifts he brought to the church. A devotion to simple living, daily prayer and solidarity with the poor and outcast. For me, it helps keep me humble and accountable as I live to follow Jesus in my life and be the Shepherd of this little flock here. I look forward to sharing my journey together in mission in this place.
Of course our patron saint as Lutherans is Martin Luther. Martin Luther’s wanted him to be a lawyer but during a thunderstorm was so scared by God, Martin promised to become a monk if he was spared. He became an Augustinian monk and through his training and study he came to realize the God was never angry with him but that God truly loved him and the rest of humanity as well. He saw that the foundation of the Christian life was the Word of God and faith in Christ . This revelation convicted him to reform the many of the things the church that blinded people from the Grace of God. He taught that God’s grace was a gift and not something that could be earned through works or bought (like indulgences). He also translated the Bible into German so that all people could read God’s word and discover God’s grace for themselves.
In October will celebrate these reformers in worship by singing a piece based on St. Francis Canticle of Creatures and a special liturgy on Reformation Sunday. We have also being studying the Augsburg Confessions in our Bible Study. We will also being have a public viewing and discussion on Rick’s Steve Germany and the Reformation video. Date and Time will be posted soon. Check the church Calendar.
I leave you with some questions to ponder this October: Where might God be reforming your life? Where might God be reforming our congregation? Who are the people in your life that inspire you to understand God in new and exciting ways?
Pastor Mark Molter OLF/n
July is a busy time of year for us folks here at the Beach. I am excited about all the wonderful things happening as we continue to be a source of Gospel Joy in the community. Our summer Bag lunch program for the Kids is off to a wonderful start. We also continue to serve our weekly meals for the homeless. A few folks of have volunteered at House of Mercy, offering support with cleaning and sorting of clothing. We are also enjoying the wonderful power of the Sun as it provides us with green energy. Truly inspirational.
In the midst of all the wonderful things we are doing we encounter a world that is in pain. I increasingly have more questions than answers when faced with our world at times. I find comfort in the Gospels especially as I hear stories of Jesus having compassion on the the crowds. I know for myself I can become numb to seeing and hearing the numerous things on television about violence in our country, violence overseas, pollution to our common home the earth, and blatant disregard for common good in our politics. We have a world in which compassion is very much needed.
We are called to open our hearts to God’s Spirit and grace. So for the month of July I would encourage us to practice compassion. But where do we begin?
Pray: Make a short list of some of the big things or people that concern you. (Maybe even people you don’t like) Take some moments to pray for these things. Pray for peace and that you receive the gift of compassion. Be specific if you can. Think about some of these things as we pray together on Sunday. Maybe even use your directory to pray for people.
Listen: Take some time to find voices that you aren’t familiar with. Strike up a conversation with someone new. Call somebody in the congregation you might not know well and say hi. Check out NPR for interviews from various people who might be different from you. Take some time to hear another person’s story.
Read Scripture, Especially the Psalms. The Psalms are a wonderful collection of poems that express a wide range of emotions. Pride, Anger, Betrayal, Despair. Maybe read the Psalms with someone else. Look for the emotions the Psalmist feel and look for yourself in them. The Christian life is not one in which are called to be “happy all the time.” God walks with us in all our trials. When we recognize that, I hope we can see how God is walking with others through their trails as well.
I hope that we can as God’s people not just do exciting things together but also learn to live in this broken world and offer Compassion to a world that so desperately needs its. We are Apostles, the sent one, We are sent out in the name of Jesus which means we are Jesus to the people we encounter. Let us be Jesus, Let us show compassion.
Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed! During the Easter Season we are called to reflect upon what it means for us to claim that Christ is alive. I would like to share with you what several saints have said about the significance of Christ’s resurrection.
An early Church father John Chrysostom, in an Easter sermon that is read by the Orthodox church every year, wrote:
“Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.”
Dr. Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, reminds us of what the Lord’s resurrection means to the people in the Middle East who face continuing violence. As he wrote in an Easter sermon:
“The resurrection reveals how the justice of God is wholly different from the justice of the world. Where the world insists that death and fear and jealousy and mistrust and deceiving are unavoidable facts of existence, a culture we must accept and work within, necessary evils which ensure our own personal happiness, the resurrection proclaims exactly the opposite. By rising from the tomb, Jesus shows us a new path forward. The Risen Lord has given us a Culture of Life.”
And our beloved Martin Luther wrote during the reformation:
“We must consider that it is ours, that it has to do with you and me. We should not only consider how the resurrection happened, but that you recognize that it happens for you, as the Lord says in the words: “Go and tell my brothers!” (Matthew 28:10). There we hear what he intends with his resurrection.
This is the true teaching of the resurrection: that each person receives the resurrection as his or her own. For there is a great difference between ‘Christ is a Savior and king,’ and ‘Christ is my Savior and my king.’ But just how difficult this is, is indicated by the disciples, who scarcely believe that Christ is raised—not to mention that he is raised for them […] This is our comfort, that Christ comes forth: Death, sin, and the devil cannot hold him. The sin of the entire world is powerless. When he appears to Mary Magdalene, one sees in him neither death nor sin nor sadness but sheer life and joy. ”
As I reflect on what the resurrection means to me, I am reminded of the hope that Christ gives us. In John’s gospel, the first few words Jesus gives his disciples are “Peace be with you.” The risen Christ brings peace and life. In moments of chaos and uncertainty, Christ gives us peace. When fear of death and the unknown come upon us, we know that Christ endured death and returned with the words “Peace be with you”. When we feel surrounded by sin and guilt, Christ gives us words of peace and forgiveness. Remember this the next time we share the peace in worship. The risen Christ is there with us.
Be blessed this Easter season. Reflect upon what Christ’s resurrection means for you.
-Pastor Mark Molter
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34.
As Jesus is in agony on the cross his thoughts turn to not himself but to God the Father and to our sorry state. This is love. How often does our own pain turn us inward? Often when we are in pain we lash out at others. The reality of life is that most of us don’t know what we are doing. We often fail to truly understand each other or God. And yet Jesus offers love and forgiveness.
Then the robber crucified next to him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” -Luke 23:42-43
We often assume that the Kingdom of God is someplace in the distance after we die. However, When Jesus talks of the Kingdom it is always in the present tense. What might the world look like if we lived like the Kingdom of God was here and now? That is Jesus. For the thief on the cross, he simply had to ask and Jesus graciously granted it to him. Are we bold enough to ask for ourselves?
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. -John 19:26-27
And Jesus on the cross shows concerns for others rather than himself. He offers his brother and disciple and new mother. And his mother a new son. We are adopted into the family of Christ at baptism and we are not left alone. In the great cloud of witnesses, we are given new brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. This communion of saints walks with us on our journey of faith in Christ.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
Yes, even Christ felt forsaken. There are times when we feel God has abandoned us. There are times we feel abandoned by those around us. It is painful. Yet we know that God is the source of our salvation. We know that Joy will come in the morning because although Jesus is on the cross here, there is resurrection yet to come. Lament, Wail, Cry, Curse, you need not deny your pain. Yet remain in hope.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. -John 19:28-29
We all thirst. Thirst comes in many forms. We thirst for physical things like water. We thirst for things like peace, justice. We often have a hard time finding a place to satisfy our thirst. We know that Jesus offers us living water when he encounters the Samaritan woman at the well.
An orthodox priest was once asked “If God is everywhere, Why is the Church necessary?” And he replied “Yes, God is everyone but so is water. Water is in the air we breathe but, we still must go to a well or stream. The church is that well.” What wells do we go to for water? We are reminded every Sunday through the means of Grace (Baptism and Eucharist) that God promises to be present. Let us not forget to come together and receive the water that quenches thirst and the bread that satisfies hunger: Jesus Christ.
Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. -Luke 23:46
Jesus breathed his last and trusted the Father. What does trusting God look like to you? Would you be willing to die in that trust. These last words of Christ remind us that we all need to die. We need to let go of our ego, our pride, our own way of doing things. When we let go and trust. New life can begin. What needs to die in you so something new can begin?