|Posted by bethlehemlutheran on December 6, 2011 at 10:20 PM||comments ()|
Has anyone ever witnessed to you? I’m not talking about the wild-eyed guy standing on a street corner yelling that the end is near or the insistent lady who pushes a religious tract into your hand or evangelists knocking on your door. I’m talking about a friend, relative or stranger who deeply moves you by quietly telling you about a dark time in their life made bearable by God’s love. Have you, yourself, been such a witness?
Like John the Baptist, who testified to the Light that had come into the world in the person of Jesus, we are called to bear witness, so that all may know that there is a God, not in some far off heaven, but with us now.
|Posted by bethlehemlutheran on November 29, 2011 at 6:10 PM||comments ()|
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.
|Posted by bethlehemlutheran on November 25, 2011 at 4:25 PM||comments ()|
Happy New Year!
No, I’m not jumping the gun. The new church year begins this Sunday, November 27, with the season of Advent. So, happy New Year!
The word “advent” comes from the Latin and means “arrival.” The season has several purposes. As the first season of the church year, it marks the beginning of our annual retelling of the story of salvation which we do by recounting the life of Jesus (Advent through Ascension) and the ministry of Jesus (the season of Pentecost).
In the past, Advent was considered one of the penitential seasons, like Lent, and gave Christians time to prepare their hearts (as well as their homes) for the celebration of Christmas. Although the season is still a meditative season for many church members, it has lost some of its somber tone.
During this time, we think about and prepare for three different arrivals of Jesus: in the past (when he was born into our world in Bethlehem), in the present (when he is welcomed by us into our hearts), and in the future (the “second coming,” when a new reign of justice will be established).
More about Advent next week!
|Posted by bethlehemlutheran on November 9, 2011 at 12:00 AM||comments ()|
If you would like to start (or end) your day with a brief but insightful devotion, try the "God Pause" devotions from Luther Seminary.
|Posted by bethlehemlutheran on May 6, 2011 at 3:52 PM||comments ()|
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
For many Americans, the Easter eggs and chocolates have been eaten, and the baskets have been put away for another year, because the celebration is over. However, many of us who attend Christian churches will be celebrating Easter until Pentecost, 50 days in all, or a week of weeks. That gives us time to really think about Easter (and eat more chocolate). The Scripture lessons read in those churches during this season tell us about Jesus, what he did and does for us, and why.
Outside of the Easter story itself, one of my favorite Easter Scriptures is the one that will be read on May 8 this year. It concerns two people walking the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus late in the day on the first Easter Sunday. They are walking away from some very troubling events which have deeply disturbed them. By the end of the story, their sorrow has turned into joy and they are hurrying back towards Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-35).
What has happened to change everything? Jesus, real and alive, has been made known to them in the breaking of bread. Blessed, broken and shared to reveal Jesus; this is the Communion pattern. It happens often in the New Testament, it happened to Jesus himself, and it happens often in the life of today’s Christian, as well.
To learn more, join us for church this Sunday!
|Posted by bethlehemlutheran on March 2, 2011 at 12:15 AM||comments ()|
Dear Friends in Christ,
Several pastors in our cluster are challenging their congregations to grow spiritually during Lent by taking a 40-day discipleship challenge. The challenge was devised last year by Pastor Ben Sandin from King of Kings in Shelby Township for his church. This year he has made his booklet available to those churches who wanted to buy it for use in their churches. I did consider it, but the Holy Spirit led me to use the general idea and then structure it especially for our church. Instead of being based on the five marks of discipleship, our challenge is based on the discipline of Lent to which we are invited each year during the Ash Wednesday service, as follows:
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor. I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent—self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love—strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament. (Ash Wednesday service, ELW, Leaders Desk Edition)
This year I hope to make it easier for you to accept this invitation, whether or not you are able to attend the Ash Wednesday service.
Here is the general outline of the challenge:
1. Don’t be too ambitious. It’s okay to choose one discipline to concentrate on or to add to what you already do.
2. Make use of the opportunities the church provides or create opportunities at home:
As far as other kinds of fasts go, Lent is a good time to make healthy changes in your life, by giving up smoking or an unhealthy diet, as long as you plan to continue the good habits after Lent. Giving up a pleasure, such as watching television, reading novels, etc. for forty days can help you feel close to Jesus, who gave up so much more. You might also consider the kind of fast called for in Isaiah 58: one that involves changing attitudes towards others and sharing one’s time and substance.
3. Take the challenge with someone else. You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable. Families can do this together, too. Tailor the goals to each family member. That’s easier to do if each person has his or her own calendar to use. You will find extra on the small table in the narthex.
4. Be creative!
My goal is to...
I will do the following to reach my goal...
May you enjoy this challenge and be blessed in the doing of it!
Download the Discipleship Challenge Calendar & Letter
|Posted by bethlehemlutheran on January 28, 2011 at 2:35 PM||comments ()|
The churches that divide their year up into “seasons” are currently celebrating the time after Epiphany. It starts with the story of how Jesus is made known as “the king of the Jews” to a group of non-Jewish magi, or sages, from the East, possibly Persia, and ends with the story of the transfiguration, when Jesus is made known to three of the disciples as the Messiah, or Anointed One. The theme of the entire season, which extends from January 6 to Ash Wednesday (March 9, this year) is about making Jesus known to the world in various ways.
One of the major ways Jesus is made known is through the lives and ministry of his disciples. Today, the church is where disciples are born and nurtured. This may be why the Gospel readings for the rest of the season after Epiphany are taken from Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, the Bible’s handbook for disciples.
The short article below, which Mary Fredericks wrote a number of years ago for Trinity Lutheran Church in Clawson, talks about one aspect of making God (and therefore Jesus) known to the world.
Do you ever wonder what the Bible means in Genesis 1:27 when it states we are made in the image of God? If you were to study religious paintings in churches and museums, you would conclude that it means that God and people look very much alike (think Sistine Chapel). Other possibilities have been suggested, many of them having to do with different types of creativity. Recently I came across a suggestion which I like very much. It stated that we are like God in that we, like the Creator, are capable of bringing good into the world.
Wow! Does this strike you as a thunderbolt idea? It does me. Its implications are enormous. For instance, it tells me that my likeness to God lies in how I relate to the world and is not reflected in skin color or gender or nationality or even intelligence. And it gives me an important reason for being alive: if I choose, I can increase the amount of good here. “Well,” you might say, “I know that God created the entire universe and called it good. I can’t do that.” No, not on that scale, but you can mirror the impulse that lay behind God’s act. Every time you say a kind work, do something helpful, create beauty, or think a constructive thought, you are bringing good into the world and acting in the image of God. An equally staggering conclusion is that every time you choose not to do good, or to actively think or do evil, you are chipping away at that part of yourself that is like God. Now there’s a thought to ponder!
|Posted by bethlehemlutheran on July 23, 2010 at 1:10 PM||comments ()|
Here is a pop quiz for you:
1. What do we all do every day that is most essential to life? Answer: breathing
2. As Christians, what is our most essential spiritual practice: Answer: prayer
3. What combines these two essential activities? Answer: the breath prayer
The breath prayer is a simple but powerful prayer. A variation of what is commonly known as centering prayer, it helps the body relax as the mind focuses on short phrases that express a truth, create an image, or make a request. This in turn refreshes and strengthens the spirit. Each breath prayer is the length of a single breath. For example, as you inhale, pray “I trust you” and as you exhale, pray “with my life.” The prayer is then repeated as you continue breathing in and out. It can be repeated many times or just a few, as you wish.
In her book, The Cup of Our Life, Joyce Rupp suggests these breath prayers:
Held in your mercy (while breathing in) . . . held in your love (while breathing out)
Joy and sorrow . . . live together
I stand . . . beneath the cross
Send your light . . . send your truth
Strengthen me . . . encourage me
The possibilities are limitless. You already know many phrases you can use. How about “Jesus . . . loves me” or “The Lord . . . is my shepherd”? You can also find a Scripture passage that exactly fits your need of the moment. Use a concordance to help you do this. Or make up your own phrase such as “His amazing grace . . . is saving me.”
The breath prayer is a good way to begin a devotional time, because it fits easily into whatever daily prayer and worship routine you already have established. It’s also easy to do throughout the day whenever you are waiting for the light to change, standing in line at the bank or grocery store, taking a break with a cup of coffee, etc. It is definitely the pause that refreshes – mentally and spiritually.
Let the Spirit guide you and have fun with this! May it bless your journey.
Your shepherd in Christ.