“You have heard it said……But I say to you….” Jesus, Sermon on the Mount.
When Jesus gets into the meat of his sermon on the mount, with the very practical applications, he starts many of his paragraphs with “you have heard it said.” When he says this, he’s referring to the Bible. The Bible says this, but I say this. Jesus doesn’t contradict the Bible, but he does interpret it. The Bible says don’t commit adultery. Jesus says don’t even look at someone with lust in your heart. Jesus expects more from his followers than just obedience to the Bible. We are to be obedient to Jesus. Jesus is the one who will tell us what the Bible means, not just what it says.
This past November I was fortunate to visit Italy. We traveled with a tour group that included 11 pastors, 3 deacons and 3 bishops. The trip was really a pilgrimage, visiting many sites sacred in Italy, particularly to the Catholic church. I wasn’t sure how I would experience this trip or what I was even looking forward to most. I wanted to let the trip unfold each day as we experienced different sites figuring that if I was unsure of my expectations then nothing would disappoint.
Have you ever found yourself unexpectedly moved by what many would consider ordinary? When traveling in Italy we visited countless Catholic cathedrals and basilicas, some incredibly ornate and magnificent, others simple, almost humble. In these churches are many alcoves with smaller altars and chapels often honoring saints who have gone before. I also started to notice that almost every church we had visited had an “Altar of the Sacrament,” a space that held the body and blood of Christ in between services of Holy Communion. It is kept on the altar a constant awareness of the presence of Christ with us still today in his body and blood shared between us. While Lutherans understand the presence of Christ in this sacrament differently that the Roman Catholic church, we all come together to understand the action taken is through Christ who forgives and saves.
In this next week it is my privilege to teach our 5th graders, and the parents that will join them, about the sacrament of Holy Communion. For so many of these kids they have been coming to church for years and watching as those around them take in the body and blood of Christ. It is now the time for them to learn, to ask questions, to live into a baptismal promise to receive this sacrament. I love to remind them that this is a gift that Christ himself gives to us as he first blessed the bread and wine saying that it is “for you.” It’s also an opportunity to invite them into a practice, a tradition, that has remain unchanged for thousands of years, it practiced by Christians of varying beliefs and is something that brings us closer to unity with each other and the world around us that almost anything.
I invite you to think about what communion means to you in the weeks to come. Listen closely to the words that we share in the Eucharistic prayer and the words of institution, listen to the history they connect us to, the forgiveness and salvation that are proclaimed, and the unity it brings us back to, all the way to Jesus and the disciples together at what was the Last Supper. We are soon entering into the Lenten season, a time when we will walk with Jesus through his teaching and his final days as he journeys to the cross. Let us journey with him, remember all that connects us to the life of Christ and especially to the life that he renews in us through the sacraments.
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God -1 Corinthians 2: 9-11
How do you know when the Holy Spirit is moving within you or is trying to reveal itself to you? It can be difficult at best to open ourselves to the presence of the Holy Spirit, and at other times it can be so obvious that God is at work that we know it can’t be anything else. But when I read the 9th verse of this passage, in it I find great comfort that even though I may not know what God is doing, he has still prepared all things for me. My job is to be open to living into whatever it is that God has prepared for me. In the gospel reading this week we are told that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In those gifts, revealed to us by the Spirit, we can join Christ to feed the hungry, care for the homeless, clothe the naked as called by the prophet Isaiah in the first reading for this week.
In the darkness of this winter season, we can look to the light of Epiphany and remember that we are called to embody the spirit and mission of God. To be light to the world and the salt of the earth. We are indeed created in God’s image, therefore the spark of the divine is alive in all of us. The light shines through us as we live out God’s mission for our lives each day. As Epiphany continues, we should all be prepared to let our light shine and share the good news.
As we continue moving forward with the Peel House renovation project this will be the space where you can find updates on the different pieces of the renovation.
The renovation team for the Peel House will be meeting about once a month to track progress and finalize design decisions on the project. When we gather, our meetings typically include a financial update, design and architect update, construction update, and comments from the group on specific details. In addition to the full renovation committee we also have a design team and a group of “owners reps.” The owner representatives will be a group that meets with the Nunn Construction team at least weekly throughout the pre-construction and construction phase of the project. They are trusted to make real-time decisions, work with the Nunn Construction to ensure that plans are being followed and timelines adhered to, and that any changes can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. This group will keep the full renovation committee informed of progress and bring any big changes or construction issues to the full group. The design team is working on the interior design choices such as finishes, lighting, kitchen design, and flooring. This group includes the architect firm and the design firm. As selections are being made by this team they come back to the renovation committee for discussion and to move forward with selections.
In terms of finances we are closing in on making a choice for the loan that will support the project as pledges continue to be fulfilled through the three-year commitment time frame of the capital campaign. We are so grateful for the pledges made and so pleased that many pledges have already been fulfilled which means we are able to apply for a lower loan number. We continue to work with Nunn Construction on maintaining the scope of the project within the financial gifts of the congregation as pledged during the campaign.
It is really exciting to have reached a point where groundbreaking is not far off and we can even begin to visualize spaces and uses in the newly renovated facility. It will be a gift to open this facility to the ministries of our congregation and expand our outreach opportunities to create new life at First Lutheran as we live into our mission “to equip members to be fully committed followers of Jesus Christ, who seek to glorify Almighty God in their lives and share with others the joy and salvation of the Christian faith.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:3
We call these the beatitudes because each teaching of Jesus starts with “blessed are.” They are the core of Jesus’ teaching. They are the start of a sermon that lasts for three chapters in Matthew’s gospel. If you want to know what Jesus really was about, this is a good place to start. The words still challenge us, because it’s very clear that Jesus has a special place in his heart for the underdogs in life. He focuses on the poor, the sad, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the persecuted. In our culture of success and achievement it can be hard to admit that we fall into any of those categories. And I think maybe that’s the point. Each of the beatitudes is about someone who is incomplete, who is failing, who has weakness. If we want the blessings Jesus gives, we must start by admitting our need for them.
Chris Beyer gave a fantastic presentation to the OWLS (Older Wiser Lutherans) group on January 22nd. As part of her presentation she shared how important it is for adults to form caring relationships with younger people. She gave the group practical and simple skills to get started, like learning a name and what young people are interested. During the course of her presentation she shared an interview with one of First Lutheran’s own high school students and how a friendship developed over the course of the years between him an older member of the church. A good reminder of the opportunities we each have to make an impact on the lives of young people in our midst. Here’s that interview with Joey Heiny.
“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” 1 Corinthians 1:10
Paul had to deal with conflict in a congregation. From the very beginning of the church there have been arguments and disagreements within. People argue about theology, about politics, about carpet color. We are after all people. Sometimes we find ourselves surprised that this kind of thing happens in a church, of all places. But it does, because the church is full of people and people have opinions.
Paul “appeals” to the Corinthians to get along. Getting along, being united, working toward a common purpose all takes effort. It doesn’t come natural to us, we need to be constantly encouraged to put others ahead of ourselves and seek unity. May God help us to love one another enough, especially those we disagree with, to put in the effort to come to agreement.
People need people. We are hardwired for connection. There have been any number of studies from neuroscientists and researchers that show our need for human connection is as great as our basic needs for food, water, and warmth. Think of a newborn baby, totally dependent upon their mother for all their needs, from birth we are dependent on a human connection. As we move through different stages of life we are no less dependent on relationships and connections to keep us healthy and happy.
We have the opportunity here, at First Lutheran to make those connections. We are especially blessed to be able to connect people in different stations of life with others who want to create new and meaningful relationships, being church together when one can’t get to church. Our Christian Caregivers visit our homebound members, those who are hospitalized and those in rehab. They bring the gift of relationship and a piece of church when perhaps getting to church just isn’t a possibility. We have a dedicated group of caregivers that are excited and eager to bring their gifts and the blessing of the church to those who are open to receiving their calls and visits.
If you are interested in training to be a caregiver, bringing communion to hospitals and our homebound members, visiting with those who are no longer able to get out, or making calls to check-in on those recovering from hospitalizations or illness please call the church or send an email to Pastor Carrie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are in need of a one-time visit or would like to receive ongoing care and connection in your home call the church office or email Pastor Carrie at email@example.com.
Help our youth collect money for the Marion House Soup Kitchen! Donations will be taken on February 2 between services in the Gathering Place. Super Bowl Sunday is a day when many of us gather together to enjoy food and fellowship while we watch football teams battle it out for the sport’s greatest title. Help us use Super Bowl Sunday to support those in need!