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Wednesday Words, Jan. 16, 2019

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

After the excitement of holidays are over, we are left back with our routines of life, which can be a relief for some but for others the cold, gray, and dark days can be tempting to hibernate and get lost in our own thoughts and fears. This time of year can throw our alignment off leading us to feeling exhausted and depressed. The truth is all of us have experienced times in our life when we feel out of sorts and I would add that we do not feel in right relationship with God. During our staff meeting yesterday, we discussed this very subject. We talked about what throws our alignment off and what contributes to feeling out of sync.

What contributes to you feeling out of sync?

  • Too busy?
  • Feeling distracted?
  • Anxiety?
  • Over-indulgence?
  • Tension?
  • Loneliness?

During the profession of faith in Holy Baptism, we ask the congregation to join sponsors and parents, or those being baptized in confessing our faith in Jesus and rejecting sin. We say this with the understand that there are temptations and darkness in the world that are pressing against us every day.

Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God? I renounce them.

Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God? I renounce them.

Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw you from God? I renounce them.

The rejection of sin in the liturgy is followed by the Apostle’s Creed where we confess our understanding of God and God’s love and forgiveness when we fall short and we feel out of alignment with God.

The second part of our staff conversation yesterday was what are ways that we try to realign ourselves.  For some of us it might be time and space, for others it might be sitting down and talking with someone, and for me the best way is pray and lean on friends and family.

Our study of the book of Luke, ends this week with the Temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13). The ways in which the devil tempts Jesus aren’t new to us. The devil tempts Jesus with needs, security, and power. These things are not so different than our needs and wants. God promises to be with us always; whether those times are sad, depressed, or joyful. But, the devil tempts us to doubt that promise too. Jesus leans on the scriptures to work through the temptations of the devil that try to throw him off.

As we live through the dark and cold days of January, may we remember that God is the source of all goodness, and God’s love is stronger than our fears and darkness. Amen. 

Wednesday Words, Jan. 9, 2018

Wednesday Words – Whole 30

Pastor Paul Cannon

 

And a voice came from heaven,

“You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

-Luke 3:22

After coming down off the sugar high of the Christmas season, my wife, Kirstin, and I decided that it was time for a reset. Some relatives and friends we know have been into the newest health craze Whole 30, and so we thought we’d give it a shot. We bought the book, read up (or I should say Kirstin read it, and I followed orders) and we took the drastic step of cutting sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol, and pretty much anything fun out of our diet for the next 30 days.

Do you want to know how it’s going? In summary: The past five days on Whole 30, I have been feeling light-headed, constantly hungry, and sporadically cranky. If you see me digging through garbage cans or walking the sanctuary with a vacuous look in my eyes you’ll know why.

‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ It’s the question I’m sure many of us have had while on a new health kick. There are good reasons: live healthier, feel better, live longer, etc. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But for many of us (and I am just as guilty), we sometimes do them because we feel inadequate and unhappy with ourselves.

That’s where I think God’s word to Jesus in his baptism might help: “You are my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Those aren’t just words spoken to Jesus, they are also words that God speaks to each and every one of us in our baptism. You are my son. You are my daughter. With you I am well pleased.

Really God? You are pleased with me? God, I’m a mess! I’m just happy if I can get out the door in the morning and both of my kids are wearing pants! You’re pleased with ME???

Yeah. Really. In Baptism God’s declaration to you is that he loves you fully, as you are – not the perfect version of yourself that you’re trying to achieve. God doesn’t condition his love on you being your best self. God knows your imperfections. But he loves you just the same.

Whether you eat that cookie or not.

Wednesday Words, Dec. 19, 2018

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

This third week of Advent we have been focusing on the Star of Unity. We are united in the anticipation and remembrance of the birth of Jesus that brings hope, joy, and love. 

Today, Wed. Dec. 19 at 7 pm, we welcome and invite you to join us at our Longest Night Service. This worship service is a time that we come together as a community acknowledging the blue feelings at this time of year. For some, this season is a "long dark night of the soul," in which memories of the past and the pain of the present can be overwhelming. We will pray and sing together recognizing that this is not a season of joy for everyone. We pray that you will find hope and comfort knowing you are not alone. We all wait in hope of the Lord's coming. 

Star of Unity

Wednesday, Third Week of Advent

The Bright Star of Bethlehem Devotion

Open Doors

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:5

At midnight on a wintry night, thirteen travelers boarded a bus at the Guesthouse of the International Center of Bethlehem, bound for Tel Aviv airport to return home to the United States. As the bus made its way through the dark and quiet streets, the travelers quietly sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The bus slowed to a halt, and the travelers looked out to see a solid metal wall, three stories high, across the road. The driver honked and they waited. To the left, atop the wall, was a lookout tower. The driver honked again and still they waited. Their "hopes and fears were present. The metal wall made a grinding sound as it slowly moved to create a narrow passageway. the driver drove forward, spoke to the armed guard, and the bus was permitted to pass. Our passage was made possible by the connections made between people. 

Within this three-story-high wall still more unifying work is being done. The International Center of Bethlehem is achieving the work of Christ, through education, sports, services to young families, services to the elderly, wellness services and cultural offerings that the lives of 60,000 people in the Bethlehem region. With something as simple as a honk or a friendly wave, you can be the agent of Christian unity in your communities as well. 

Prayer

Jesus, Star of Unity, unite us in our commitment to serve the needs of those in our neighborhoods. Amen. 

 

 

Wednesday Words, Dec. 12, 2018

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

The second week of Advent we focus on the Star of Hope. Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb says, "Hope doesn't wait for vision to appear. Hope is vision in action today. "

Come join us today, Wed. Dec. 12 at 7 pm, as we talk about hope during our Midweek Advent Service. We will take another offering for the Bright Stars of Bethlehem ministries.  Following service there will be a snack buffet. This peaceful service is a time to pray together in the hope of Jesus Christ in our lives and this world. Take time to invite a friend to share this evening with us. 

From The Bright Star of Bethlehem Devotion - Star of Hope

Too Little to Matter? 

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathat, who are too little to be amount the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. - Micah 5.2

My journey to Bethlehem started by plane from St. Louis to Chicago to Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, then continued on a late-night bus into the Holy City, Jerusalem, which was shining and teeming with life and light, music and laughter. Suddenly, as we turned south to Bethlehem, light and sound dissipated. The road narrowed, obstructed by a 35-foot-high concrete barrier, with it barbed wire, gun turrets, massive steal gate and ominous weaponry. We tried to pass through. 

"Passports!" Israeli soldiers demanded. "Why are you here?" they questioned.

"I'm on a pilgrimage; I just wanted to see where Jesus was born," I responded, somewhere between sheepishness and defiance. "I'm an American."

"Americans. Always meddling" was the curt response. 

Yet the crossing point opened, the massive gate parted and in I went, now fully intimidated. We  saw graffiti and refugee camps and poverty, anger, frustration and despair. Deeper and deeper we went into the heart of the ancient, too-little-to-matter-then-or-now-town. Finally, I found the right side street and a door. We knocked. A baby's sweet cry pierced the night. I saw a dim lantern. A gate opened, and heavily accented Arab-English voice declared:

"Welcome to Christmas Lutheran Church. Welcome to the House of Bread, David's City. Welcome to Jesus' hometown."

I then had hope that all would be all right. 

Prayer

Jesus, Star of Hope, give us hope, even when we are struggling to find our way on life's journey, that your door is always to us. Amen.  - John D. Echrich

Wednesday Words, Dec. 5, 2018

December 5, 2018

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

Happy Advent to you! Advent is a time of waiting, anticipating and hoping. Our theme this Advent Season is Bright Stars of Bethlehem and this week’s focus is Star of Creation.

During this month we are encouraging our congregation to join us in reading the devotion book, “The Bright Star of Bethlehem.” We have extra copies at church if you didn’t get a chance to pick one up. The devotion book is written with Bethlehem Pastor Mitra Rahab and the Bright Stars of Bethlehem. “The Bright Star of Bethlehem is a U.S. 501c organization founded in 2003 to promote and to bring awareness to the many hope-filled ministries of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, to build hope and a brighter future for Palestine.” (Pg. 2, The Bright Star of Bethlehem: Devotions for Advent)

You’re invited to join us today, Dec. 5 and Wed., Dec. 12 at 7 pm for our Midweek Advent Holden Evening service where you will learn more about, The Bright Star of Bethlehem ministries. We will also be taking an offering during both of those services to support their ministry. Following service there will be a snack buffet. This is a beautiful service that offers a time for you to breathe and relax for a moment during this busy time of year. I hope you can come.

Star of Creation

Wednesday, First Week of Advent

The Bright Star of Bethlehem Devotion

The Mindfulness of God

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the starts which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him? – Psalm 8:3-4

After church on Sunday in Bethlehem, I was invited home for dinner, by a woman I met at coffee hour. Over dinner, she and her husband talked about their concerns for their children, their own safety and their future in this war-torn place. “We feel trapped like animals in a cage. Are we not human beings?” they said in desperation.

Just then a neighbor came by to take the kids to the pool at Dar Al-Kalima Health and Wellness Center. “If it weren’t for Pastor Mitri and the activities at the Center, our children would have nothing positive to do, “said this mother. “ We are so very grateful.”

It was in that moment when my commitment to support and participate in the ongoing work of the church in Bethlehem tightened its hold on my heart. Our God is mindful of us and works through us to care for all who feel “like animals in a cage.”

The international Center of Bethlehem and the various ministries there offer care and hope to the people of Bethlehem. In a speech giving in acceptance of the German Media Award, Pastor Mitri Raheb spoke about the necessity of “creating spaces for life: spaces where people can breathe,” where children can explore their abilities and stretch their wings, where young adults can learn how to express their dreams and frustrations in music and dance, where God’s mindfulness for us as his creations is expressed and experienced.

PRAYER

Jesus, Star of Creation, thank you for being mindful of us. Help us to create spaces in this world where your blessings can be found. Amen.  – Bonnie Van Overbeke

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