What does it mean to Worship together? We gather as a community every Sunday in the hope that will we encounter God.
As Lutherans, we are steeped in the historic Liturgy (the order of worship). Liturgy means the works of the people. When people read the lessons, the prayers, when we sing together, we respond or pray in unison. All these things contribute to the Liturgy. As Pastor, I contribute only a small portion of what makes worship.
At our Annual Meeting, there was a motion to look at our worship schedule. To particularly consider if having just one service is a possibility. Historically churches who choose to reduce worship service times tend to lose overall attendance.
We have set-up a task to review and prioritize the many aspects of what such a change to our worship life might entail, which would include changes with Sunday School and the Choir. One of the concerns raised is the lack of volunteers for needed roles within worship such as altar guild set-up, assisting ministers, and ushers. We have many folks who are scheduled quite often and encouraging more participation is a must for us to continue our current worship schedule. The Task Forces first concern is looking at how we can increase volunteerism by making our worship experience more accessible while remaining true to our Lutheran Worship heritage.
In an effort to make sure everyone is informed and involved, we will have as many opportunities to offer instruction and discussion on the essentials of worship. Please keep an eye out for these opportunities. These will include discussions after worship services, Articles in the grapevine, a survey. Please feel free to talk to me directly if you have a concern.
In all our discussion about worship, we must keep our focused our mission here at CLC. “To Know Christ and Make Christ Known.” Keep this focus in your prayers as we discern and work together.
Epiphany begins with the story of the 3 Magi or Gentile Priests who through divine knowledge and Reading the stars learned that the Savior Jesus is born in Bethlehem. These three priests were most likely Zoroastrian which is one of the oldest religions in the world.
Epiphany celebrates not only that Jesus is the savior of the Jewish people but also the whole world. Christ’s light and love are for everyone. However, what exactly do Christ’s light and love look like? One of the great writings about love in the Christian Tradition comes to us from 1 Corinthians chapter 13. In this short chapter, we find a succinct illustration of what God’s love looks like. As we go through the various Lectionary texts this season, I urge you to look at the parallel themes that 1 Corinthians 13 brings out. My prayer is that it enlightens and draws you closer to what it means to find the love of God in Christ Jesus. That God might give you, your very own Epiphany.
The themes are as follows:
Jan 6 Love never ends
Jan 13th When the complete comes, the partial will come to an end
Jan 20th It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things
Jan 27th Now I know only in part; then I will know fully; even as I have been fully known
Feb 3rd The greatest of these is love.
Feb 10th And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Feb 17th If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing
Feb 24th When I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
March 3rd For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face.
PS. I also wanted to take a moment to offer and word of thanks for your support and prayers while I was away for Advent and Christmas. It was a gift to be able to bond with Norah and for Caitlin and me to learn how to care for her together.
I look forward to the remainder of the year and what lies ahead.
A few quick notes:
Please continue to pray of Dick Kauffman. He has some heart issues that are being addressed.
Also, we are resetting the Weekly Prayer list in the bulletin. Please take some time to review the list. Contact the church office if there is a specific person whom you would like to remain on the list. We want to start fresh as the list has gotten rather lengthy.
Advent is coming, its marks the beginning of our church year. This Advent is particularly unique and eventful as I await the birth of my own child.
The Birth of a child is a special thing. I am reflecting on how much love and attention our baby has already received and they aren’t even born yet. We are so thankful for all the gifts and well wishes. It certainly makes me think the Jesus came to us as a child for a reason. For Christians the birth of Jesus is not an afterthought. The birth of Christ is the beginning of the Good News that “God is with us”. John 1:14 tells us “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” The announcement and birth of Child has a unique and special way of creating and nurturing community. Just look at all the people who gathered around Jesus when he was born. Mary, Joseph, Angels, Shepherds, Animals, and Kings. The focus of each one shifted to adoring and loving this child. Their needs seems to be put on hold and a generous spirit of caring to flowed forth toward this Mother and Child.
We have a lot of hurt and division happening in the world, and yet we celebrate grace and truth that comes in the Christ Child. Through this child we are called together. When we focus on loving Jesus we quickly understand that through Jesus we are loved by God and we are called to a greater purpose by God’s light in the world. This love is meant to be shared with the world and bring redemption. Advent is the season we celebrate and prepare for the Good News found in Jesus.
We celebrate advent using several colors. In some traditions the color of Advent is blue as a symbol of hope and Jesus’ royalty. In other traditions purple and rose symbolize the coming Kingdom and the need for repentance as we hear from John the Baptist and Jesus: “Repent for the Kingdom is at hand.” Both are true. Jesus brings hope, but he also reminds us that God comes to shake things up in our lives.
We celebrate Advent not just to remember the hope of God’s people waiting for Jesus long ago, but also as God’s people who wait for Jesus to come again now. We are still waiting!
Caitlin and I preparing for our own child with lots of fear and excitement. We know that you share in the experience as well. What will baby look like? Will it be a boy or a girl?
I invite you to reflect upon a waiting, or any other period of waiting in your life. What was it like to anticipate change? How might that be similar to us as we wait for Jesus? While we wait for Jesus, know the Holy Spirit is with us and beside us, guiding and preparing all of us.
This year we will have our Soup and Service on Wednesday’s during Advent. The theme we are looking at Saints sharing the spirit of Advent: St Nicolas, St. Lucy and Kathrina Von Bora (Katie Luther) Let’s find out together.
In January Cathy Kunst, Phyllis Dobson and Kathy Waluk will serve again as our executive team in 2019. I look forward to what we will accomplish this coming year. Please pray for wisdom, guidance and focus for our leadership. God is calling us to new adventures and down a few paths untrodden and unknown. We are reminded that Jesus Christ comes to us as Emmanuel “God with Us.” Let us rest in this promise.
I hope that this Advent and Christmas, Christ makes himself known to you in a meaningful way. Caitlin and I look forward introducing baby and sharing stories and photos. Have a happy and blessed celebration here in our community and with your family.
A question I often get asked is “What does a Pastor do from day to day?”
The most obvious thing is preparing a sermon for each week. Every pastor is different in their process. I typically read through the assigned weekly scripture reading at least a half-dozen times throughout the week. I might copy by hand the Gospel lesson as a way to slow down my brain and meditate on the words. I spend time throughout the week, praying, thinking about current events, writing down my thoughts about the Scripture, reading commentaries, and then reading through my notes aloud. Usually by Friday I have strong sense of what my sermon will look like. I will write an outline and review it until I preach it. As someone told me once “A Sermon isn’t done until it is preached.” When I preach, my prayer is that you hear God’s voice. Sometimes the sermon might be challenging you, other times it might bring comfort, but I strive to communicate the love of Jesus no matter what. My prayer is that my preaching makes you more aware of how God might be speaking to you in your daily life.
Throughout the week I usually have a variety of meetings in which I provide guidance and prayerful reflection. I spend a fair amount of time thinking, planning, and writing to prepare for each meeting. Much of the conversations at these meetings center around how God and our community are best served through our efforts here at Community. I spend time brainstorming about how we can impact our neighborhood. I am often looking ahead to the seasons of our church calendar so to provide meaningful worship experiences from year to year. Additionally I work with our teams to plan our regular liturgy, collaborate on Sunday School plans, and have conversations about our food pantry, and looking at what the council and I would like to accomplish together in the future. I am constantly learning what God is up to in this place. I learn just as much from you as I hope you do from me.
One of the most important daily tasks is my time in spent in prayer and reading Scripture. Serving God as a Pastor is a privilege. Learning to love God more helps me to give my best as I lead this community. I typically go through the directory and pray for folks by name. Spending time in reflection and listening to God is a priority for every follower of Jesus, but even more so for pastors. As Martin Luther states “Prayer is like breathing”.
One of the things I value most is getting to spend time with my flock. On Sundays, I learn something new about our community every time I lead worship. I occasionally pop in on some of the various team meetings or Bible studies. I make phone calls or go to your homes, or you might even come by my office. There are also other times when I am called upon to support you through a surgery or illness, the death of a loved one, or when people are just struggling with life. I have the privilege of sharing the gifts of the communion table to those who are homebound as well. I value hearing your stories. I hope that my presence reflects God’s presence to you. I am often amazed how much I see God’s grace through each and everyone of you.
I also represent our small community to the wider community through my involvement with other churches in our local Ministerium, particularly at the many Ecumenical prayer services and service events. I also meet with my Lutheran colleagues and churches across our Synod and the ELCA. This gives us a connection to the wider church and provides me and our church with additional ideas, resources and support for our ministry of sharing the Gospel of Jesus.
It is a privilege to be your pastor. There are probably numerous other things I do: like help with the website or Facebook, assist with clean-up around the church. I make the annual climb to the attic to get Christmas decorations down. These task would probably fall into the “other duties as assigned” in my letter of call. Of course the biggest task that I am called to is love God’s people to the best of my ability.
The past few weeks in August the Gospel Lessons from John chapter 6 have been about Jesus as the Bread of Life. I thought I would share a few of my reflections on what Jesus as the Bread of Life means for me. Especially as it relates to the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
Every week we celebrate Communion. Sure, we could have it less often but, we have it every week because It is who we are. As Christians we rely daily on God’s grace and we know that every Sunday we can receive God’s grace at the communion table. We receive his promise of his presence and his forgiveness.
First, As Lutherans, we believe in the real presence of Christ. What does this mean? It means we trust that when Christ says “This is my Body given for you” And “This is my blood shed for you” it is true. It is a promise. That not only is Christ present in the Bread and Wine but that this gift is “for you.” How can Christ me present in bread and wine. This gift is one of the great mysteries of the church. It can be hard to wrap our heads around. St Claire says it best: “What wonderful majesty! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the Universe, the Son of God, should come to us in bread and wine, for our salvation.”
The question often asked when faced with this great mystery is: Am I worthy to receive such a gift? Who comes the table is not about what any of us did or didn’t do. It is about what Christ offers us. Every Sunday at the beginning of our service we confess our sins and we announce that we are forgiven in the name of Jesus. Being a forgiven child of God makes us worthy. As Christians we gather as broken wounded people around the table of our savior who endured the cross and death and yet rose again. We find life in him. This bread of life is for all those who follow Jesus and need food to keep them going. It is for people who might think they are unworthy or have doubts but even the smallest part of them trusts Jesus has something for them anyway.
Lastly when I think about communion, I think about the communion of saints. I think about all those before us who have partaken of this meal and all those who long after us will do the same. The Mystery of this meal is that just as Christ promises his presence in the bread and wine when we receive it Christ becomes present in us. And we all become part of the body of Christ. Christ lives in us.
What is important about communion for you? How do you feel Christ present when we gather? What do the words “For you” mean we celebrate communion? Do you ever miss communion if you are away? I’d love to hear your answers.
Posts from various People reflecting on How Christ intersects with daily Life.