3rd Annual Pack the Pews Sunday

The congregation will gather for the Third Annual Pack the Pews Sunday on November 4, 2012.

Schedule for the morning includes:

9:00 am Coffee Fellowship with Fresh Bread

9:30 am Sunday School (1/2 hour only)

10:00 am One Worship Service with Holy Communion, a Remembrance of Saints, & Combined Choirs

following worship, stay to participate in an all-congregation photo in the refurbished courtyard!

Never Losing Hope

I think I’ll let Professor David Lose of Luther Seminary in St Paul be our guest postwriter this week. May this story uplift you in your own life, especially those moments when we wonder what it all means.  A blessed Reformation Day to all.  -pastorhh

This past summer I was visiting Wittenberg and heard a story about Martin Luther I hadn’t heard before that seems appropriate for those observing Reformation Sunday this week. I knew that Luther died in Eisleben, the place of his birth, bringing his work and life, in a sense, full circle. And I knew that he preached his last sermon there after successfully negotiating disputes between several local magistrates. What I didn’t know was that only five people showed up for the sermon. What I didn’t know was that he was [angry]. He wrote a friend about the event, despairing over what we feared was a “failed” reformation.

While I can understand his dismay and disappointment, I nevertheless think that at that moment Luther forgot that much of our energy and effort will be given over to failed endeavors. He’d forgotten that is, Paul’s reminder that we have all sinned and fallen short … and will keep sinning and falling short. Moreover, he’d forgotten that our ultimate hope rests not in our successes but in God’s great failure on the cross, the failure that redeems all failures and successes, binding them together in the promise of resurrection. He’d forgotten, that is, his own words at the close of the hymn many of us will sing this week, “Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day. God’s kingdom is ours forever.” [A Mighty Fortress, stanza 4]

This is God’s doing, you see, and so we are free — free to risk, to dare, to love, to live, to work, to dream, to struggle, and even to fail…all in hope.

Walking With Jesus: Give Generously

Giving to God comes from our belief that faith includes giving as a part of our worship, putting gifts on the altar of God.  Every faith walk is a collection of steps.  This week, you are asked to consider your next step in growing in your giving to God and God’s church.  The chart below encourages you to make a growth step from your current level of giving to God.

# of families                          This year’s                     Step forward

at this level                    giving per week                 for next year to:

98                                  $0.00 – $4.99                 $10.00 per week

61                                  $5.00 – $9.99                 $15.00 per week

32                              $10.00 – $14.99                 $20.00 per week

24                              $15.00 – $19.99                 $25.00 per week

27                              $20.00 – $29.99                 $35.00 per week

20                              $30.00 – $39.99                 $45.00 per week

13                              $40.00 – $49.99                 $55.00 per week

9                               $50.00 – $59.99                 $65.00 per week

4                               $60.00 – $69.99                 $75.00 per week

4                               $70.00 – $79.99                 $85.00 per week

4                               $80.00 – $89.99                 $95.00 per week

0                               $90.00 – $99.99               $105.00 per week

3                            $100.00 – $119.99               $125.00 per week

2                            $120.00 – $139.99               $145.00 per week

0                            $140.00 – $159.99               $165.00 per week

0                     Over $160.00 per week          add $15.00 per week

After next Sunday you will have the opportunity to complete an estimate of giving card for 2013.  In your Walk with Jesus, give prayerful consideration to your approach to worship that includes giving to God and God’s mission.

Answers to Questions We Never Asked

A recent Pew Research Center poll made headlines in the last couple of weeks. It shows, for the first time ever since recording began, that nearly one-fifth of all U.S. adults now list their religious affiliation as “none.” 20% of all adults. No religious affiliation. They’re gone, and statistically, they are not coming back.

And, according to the Pew report, a vast majority of the religiously unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion they feel fits them. In fact, most of the “nones” responded that they felt that churches and religion in general strengthen communities and help the poor. They just aren’t interested in joining up.

As churches close, as ministries shrink, as Sunday morning in a pew starts to seem quaint instead of foundational to the greater public, it’s stressful. To me, for sure, and perhaps to you. Some days, it is enough to make many of us churchgoers sneak off to Jesus and say something like what James and John request in our Gospel Reading for today: “We want recognition, and a guarantee that things are going to work out in our favor.”

But what if Jesus has the very same response to us as he does to James and John?

Instead of “give us what we would like,” might our prayer as disciples become, “give us people to serve?”

If so, that prayer, according to the new research, is already being answered.  In fact, that is our mission field, and it is growing every single day.

Hiking With An Overstuffed Pack?

Image

When you prepare to go back packing you give special attention to how much stuff you put into your pack because you have to lift and carry everything you take along.  The more stuff you pack, the harder your adventure will be.  Think for a moment about your adventure called life, and in particular the adventure of your faith life.  How much unneeded stuff do you have packed for this adventure?

Today’s gospel reading (Mark 10:17-31) might suggest that Jesus feels this rich man has too much extra stuff in his back pack to follow him and eventually enter the kingdom of God.  Jesus’ answer is terse and often hard for us to take, or is Jesus simply saying, you’ve packed too much for this trip?   Can you imagine how we pack too much stuff for the journey Jesus calls us to follow?

Walking With Jesus Week Two

As Jesus’ first disciples walked with their Lord they often found themselves listening closely as Jesus taught them and others.  Walking with Jesus still means listening to Jesus teach.  It is because of this that Bible study and prayer are such important parts of the walk.

Jesus often taught his followers about the important relationship between faith and money.  We can think of his conversation with the rich ruler and his comments to his disciples as they watched the widow place two copper coins in the temple treasury. 

One important teaching of Jesus is the sentence, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  This is so important that it is recorded in both Matthew and Luke.  These words point out that what we do with our treasure impacts our loyalties.  When we give generously to something, when we place our treasure there, our heart follows. 

God’s people for centuries have discovered that generous giving to Christ’s church leads one’s heart to Jesus.  It is almost like a mathematical formula “Growth in giving = growth in faith.” 

On your walk with Jesus, consider your own giving.  How does your giving lead your heart to Jesus?  Is your giving at a level that it does lead your heart to Jesus?  Is your giving at a level that it leads your heart in other directions, and blocks your heart from coming to Jesus?

These are serious questions for each of us to consider as we walk with Jesus.

-pastorcl & pastorhh

PhotoStory: Music Past and Present

Music has always played an important role in Christian worship–and worship at First Lutheran definitely has a strong tradition.  As you survey the photos of those who lent their voices to song in years past…what do you notice?  How have things changed, and how have they stayed the same?  What role does music play in your worship experience?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

[You may click on the photostory to enlarge it in a new window]

Walking With Jesus Week One

When you imagine someone taking a walk with Jesus, you probably think of his first disciples, heading up and down the hills with Jesus—walking, talking, and mostly listening.  Or perhaps you think of those two believers on the road to Emmaus, amazed first to walk with someone who hadn’t heard what had happened in Jerusalem, then amazed even more during the breaking of the bread.

Certainly those early followers did walk with Jesus.  Just as certainly each follower of Jesus today is on a daily walk with Jesus.  Each day of your life is a walk with Jesus.  Some days you may feel that he is walking right beside you.  Other days you may feel like he is walking at quite a distance.  Regardless of how you feel, Jesus is walking with you, and you are walking with Jesus.

An important part of this daily walk with Jesus is how you use the money God has entrusted to you.  This is such an important part of the walk that Jesus talked with his first disciples more about money and possessions than about any other topic, except for the kingdom of God itself.  Since money was so important on Jesus’ walk, it needs to be an important part of our walk with Jesus.

Over the next few weeks we members of First Lutheran Church are going to think about our walk with Jesus, and especially about how our handling of money is an important part of that walk.

-pastorcl & pastorhh