Bethlehem Lutheran Church

37000 Union Lake Rd, Harrison Twp., MI 48045
(586) 791-3030

Spiritual Matters

The Shema (continued)

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on March 16, 2012 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

The Shema (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9) reminds the Israelites that they owe their loyalty and love to one god, the Lord God Almighty, not to many gods, as the pagans believed. They are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your strength.” Jesus adds “mind” to the list (Mark 12:29) because of the Greek understanding of the day. Both Scriptures are a call to love God completely, body, mind and spirit (soul).

What does it mean to love God with our minds? Unlike the Hebrews, but like the Greeks, we think of the mind (not the heart) as the control center, the seat of reason. We might say there are two main functions of the mind: being aware of and understanding the world and making decisions based on information we have stored in our minds. Some people have used their power of reason to conclude that God doesn’t exist. Others have used that same power of reason to come to the opposite conclusion. So the first way we use our minds to love God is to decide that there is a God to love. After that, there is an interplay of mind and spirit. More on that next week.

Blessings for your Lenten journey,

The Shema (continued)

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on March 7, 2012 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

The second section of the Shema commands the Israelite people to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Jesus adds “mind” to the list. (Mark 12:29) Different scholars have different ideas about precisely what each term means. What is certain is that, taken together, they refer to all aspects of a person, physical, mental and spiritual.

What does it mean to love God with our physical being, our bodies? Here are a few ideas. It means to recognize our bodies as God’s creation and a gift to us. Therefore we show our love to God by doing those things which keep our bodies healthy (e.g., eating properly, exercising, not smoking, getting enough sleep). We also don’t use our physical strength against others. Instead we use that strength on behalf of others (e.g., clearing snow for the elderly, working with Habitat for Humanity to build low income, affordable housing). We don’t swear or engage in verbal abuse, but use our voices for prayer and the encouragement of others.

These are just a few ideas. How do you show your love God with your body?

Blessings for your Lenten journey,

The Shema

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on February 28, 2012 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The Shema

Our church pauses each Wednesday evening in Lent for worship and reflection. This year we are looking at the Shema, the central prayer of Judaism, which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and quoted by Jesus in Mark 12:29-30.

“Shema” is the first word of the Hebrew text. In English, the prayer begins “Hear, O Israel . . .” However, the word “shema” means more than just “hear.” It also carries the sense of “pay attention” or “listen and do.” It introduces the call to worship one god and one god only, the Lord God Almighty.

The people of Israel were influenced by the cultures around them, just as we are influenced by what is happening around us in our society. Many times they found it hard to worship only God, when their friends, neighbors, and, perhaps, spouses, turned to a myriad of gods with their requests. Maybe they thought that the more gods they invoked, the more likely that life would be good. Or maybe they didn’t want to risk insulting a foreign, but perhaps powerful and vengeful, god. Reciting the Shema twice a day and touching the mezuzah (a small decorative box containing a scroll with these verses written on it) where it hung on the doorpost as they entered their homes, helped them stay focused on the one god able to save them, the God of Israel.

As Christians, we worship the same God as the Jewish people do. How do we keep our focus when our society would pull our attention (and us) away from the one God who saves us?

Blessings for your Lenten journey,


Posted by bethlehemlutheran on February 21, 2012 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

This week the Church enters Lent, the great penitential season of the church year. None of us likes to admit we are wrong, but we aren’t able to accept God’s unconditional love if we don’t do it. The Church has set aside this time to help us.
The word “Lent” comes from ancient words meaning “springtime.” If we embrace the season and allow ourselves to face up to our shortcomings and open our hearts to God through Jesus, this time can be a springtime for our souls, a season of new growth and flowering.
The law exists to give us a way to examine ourselves, but the law given by Moses can only accuse, it cannot save. For our sakes (Yes, that includes you.) Jesus takes the punishment required by the law, so that we have nothing left to do, except to accept his gift of unconditional love.

Blessings for your Lenten journey,

'I'd like to make this clear to you . . . .'

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on February 14, 2012 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Mark 9:2-9

The disciples were often baffled by Jesus. He was always doing unexpected things: talking to women he didn’t know, touching unclean people, slipping away just when someone was ready to make him king. And things were going to get stranger still. This man they believed to be the messiah, God’s anointed one, would be arrested like a common criminal and executed.

Jesus tried to help them, tried to explain what would happen and why. Even when Peter, James and John saw him bathed in glory on the mountaintop, they weren’t able to understand. That would only happen later, on the day we call Easter.

God’s peace,

Speaking and Acting with Authority

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on February 3, 2012 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Mark 1:21-45

In 1st century Palestine, when people encountered Jesus, they knew there was something different about him—he spoke with authority. Back then, and today, speaking with authority is enough to make people pay attention (or maybe even elect you to an important position), but if you don’t follow that up with positive action, people will lose interest and look for a better authority elsewhere. Jesus demonstrated his authority in dramatic ways—casting out demons, curing illnesses, and, perhaps most importantly, allowing people to move from the fringes of society into the mainstream of life. He still demonstrates his authority that way.

God’s peace,

Follow Me!

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on January 17, 2012 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Mark 1:14-20

What triggers a radical change? Disappointment? Desperation? Hope? Idealism? A word timely spoken? Any and all of these can certainly push us toward change, but the actual pivot point is often a person—someone who understands the disappointment or desperation, who offers hope, embodies the idealism or speaks the clarifying word. Jesus said “Follow me,” and people did. They still do. Why?

God’s peace,

Come and See!

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on January 10, 2012 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

John 1:43-51

During the time between Epiphany and Lent, we are looking at various ways that Jesus is made known to people and the attitudes that need to be overcome in the process. John presents an attitude easily recognized by us today –skepticism. As soon as Nathanael hears where Jesus is from, he is ready to write him off. Nazareth was a town of no special importance to the Jews. It was a garrison town full of pagan Roman soldiers, their gods and their ways. How could the Messiah come from there?

Today’s skeptical question often is “How do you know the things written about Jesus in the Bible are true?” My answer has to be the same as Philips: Come and see.

God’s peace,

Who is this Jesus

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on January 3, 2012 at 10:10 PM Comments comments (0)

With the celebration of Epiphany this Friday, we in the church continue to ask an important question, “Jesus, who are you?” Throughout Advent and Christmas we have heard answers—God’s son born of a young woman, a light in the darkness, the expected one, the messiah or anointed one, savior of the nations.

As he grew into adulthood and prepared for his public ministry, Jesus, himself, needed to be clear about his identity. At his baptism at the age of about 30, he is given the answer in dramatic fashion, leaving no doubt in his mind as a voice from heaven declares him God’s son, and the Spirit settles on him like a dove. He would still need forty days in the desert to sort it all out, but from that time on, his understanding of who he was would never be shaken.

God’s peace,

How to Prepare for Jesus' Arrival

Posted by bethlehemlutheran on December 27, 2011 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

A central theme of Advent is preparation.

We prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birthday by thinking about what the world was like before he came to earth as a baby and, as an adult, died to save us, and what it would be like now, if he hadn’t.

We prepare our hearts to receive him in the present by accepting his great gift of salvation and, with it, freedom from the power of sin in our lives.

We prepare for his return to earth in bodily form by living faithful lives, so that, if he should return today, he will find us doing what we have been called to do.

Happy Advent,

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Saturday, Jul 14 at 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
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Sunday, Jul 22 at 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Sunday, Jul 29 at 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM