Monthly Messages from the Pastor

December 2019

 

Peace to You and Grace From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!


"Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming."; Matthew
24:42 (NRSV)


Happy New Year! No, you haven't gone to sleep and missed December 2019. We
are, as of December 2019, are at the beginning of a new liturgical year of the
Church. We welcome a season of well, waiting. Speaking on behalf of myself, we
humans are not very good at that. I've already bought Christmas presents and plan
to put up my Christmas tree in the next few days. Waiting is just not an art humans
practice very well. That doesn't make us much different from the 1st century
Palestinians. The writer of Matthew:39's Gospel in the introductory scripture has Jesus
speaking to being prepared in light of Jesus coming back, and they want it to
happen now. They are confused as to what to do. Jesus commends them to calm
down and always be prepared with open hearts to the Holy Spirit. We are as well
frightened by things we hear on the news and our focus is more on that than on
Jesus'; calming words to focus on the good news to wait on that which is truly
authentic and real and consistent - the word of hope. They want to know what to do
to prepare. But Jesus is speaking to them in this voice of hope. This is the promise of
that which is to come. It is easy to become distressed in the stress of commercialized
Christmas - hustle, and bustle of lists and buying and maxing out credit cards. That
is why God calls us to intentionally pray, gather as a baptismal community, and
ponder on our daily walk with God during this Advent time of waiting and watching
for the Savior - the one who is to come. This is why Advent is as important as Lent
in preparing our hearts for the evolving story of Jesus. Blessings as you walk this
spiritual path toward the Nativity.


Thanks be to God!

Peace and Grace,
The Rev. Susan M. Bame

November 2019

Peace to You and Grace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

For all the saints who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed, thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia! Alleluia!

"For All the Saints," verse 1

by William Walsham How, 1864

On November 3, we will celebrate an important day in the life of the Church - the festival of All Saints Sunday. The center of our faith celebrates God through Jesus Christ, who gives hope after our and our loved ones' physical deaths. The cross and the open tomb assure us that we will join the great cloud of witnesses - those who have joined the Church Triumphant, who have run the race, and now rest indeed from their labors.

These are beautiful and faithful words, but being human, we still hurt and feel sadness from the death of our loved ones. I personally still grieve over the death of my mother this past year. I still expect her voice on the telephone. I miss her hugs and talking with her. Our hearts are broken from the deaths of our brothers and sisters in our Lutheran Chapel community: Terry Beaver (November 27, 2018), Willie Mae Blackwelder (November 29, 2018), Frank Patterson (January 14, 2019), Leonard Patterson (June 6, 2019), and Gladys Shue (July 11, 2019). But, as we remember the peace of Jesus Christ, we celebrate both their legacies and the joy of their hope in Christ fulfilled.

O blest communion, fellowship divine, we feebly struggle, they in glory shine; yet all are one in thee, for all are thine. Alleluia! Alleluia!

"For All the Saints," verse 4

by William Walsham How, 1864

 

Thanks be to God! Amen

Peace and Grace,

The Rev. Susan Bame

October 2019

 

Grace to you and Peace From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by law. Romans 3:28


Reformation Day - reform - authority of God, not human works.... this is what we as Lutherans celebrate and lift up this month and always. Our faith tradition exists because a young man named Martin Luther placed in a very public forum on October 31, 1517, a list of challenges to a very public figure - the Pope, and in doing so, challenged the idea that our works determine our salvation, and priests are intercessory for humans, especially in access to God and the sacrament of Holy Communion. This challenged power and finances - two manifestations of the ego. Yet in translating the Greek New Testament, and studying it as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Luther realized the essence and most important point of the Gospel - humans do not write their ticket for salvation; that is solely in the hands of a crucified Christ and a merciful God who resurrected him. Therefore, prayers, sermons, doctrine began to look different, and they should continue to look different, emphasizing that we walk in freedom to serve God through Christ, not to avoid everlasting fires. When Luther proclaimed the good news that is the essence of St. Paul's letter to the churches in Rome, he set the state and church of the Roman empire on fire! When he was charged with heresy, and ordered to recant what he had said, Luther uttered the famous lines of refusal: "On the Word of God, I cannot recant anything...Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise...God help me. Amen!"; The Reformation's main idea is that the church is always reforming - always changing to bend to God's will and God's desire for us. We abide, in contemporary times, in smugness, fear, anger, and judgment; in short, we display a lack of confidence in God's call. How Lutheran are we? Perhaps that is displayed by how we follow in our life the true compassion and grace that Luther, after his epiphany, concluded that God shows us through Christ. It's what calls us out as Sinners - that we
absolutely depend on the sufferings of Christ on the cross to know life and salvation. But it's also what signifies us as Saints - freed and empowered to claim Christ's confidence, gentleness, forgiveness, and peace of the Resurrection amidst the chaos of our times. We are called and enabled to walk, pray, teach, and love as Reformed people. Thanks be to God, Amen!


Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Susan M. Bame

September 2019

Peace to You and Grace From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
...none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. Luke
14:33 (NRSV)


My late mother, after retirement, loved to watch the television program The Price is Right. It is a long-running game show, but the premise today is still the same: some members of the audience are called, and they are asked to "Come on down!" and guess the correct price of selected items. Members whose names are called usually screech, jump up and down and bound to the front joyfully. Why? It's an opportunity to win prizes!


The context of the introductory scripture verse is from the Holy Gospel, according to St. Luke, the 14th chapter. Jesus is teaching along the road to Jerusalem, knowing he is bound for the cross. He is engulfed by crowds as he walks. Joining Jesus to these followers is akin to being called down to the front in The Price is Right. They have seen in concrete ways what the kingdom of God looks like through Jesus' teaching and ministry, and they want very much to be a part of it. There is just one difference: Jesus is not extending an invitation to win material items. He is preaching on the cost of truly being a follower and realizing what is involved in living out the kingdom of God. Those desiring to be his disciples need to know the truth. The cost is much higher when one follows Jesus. It involves sacrifice.

In defining the cost of discipleship in the introductory scripture, Jesus is calling his followers not necessarily to get nailed to a cross (though many in the first century Palestine who follow Jesus will, indeed, suffer). Jesus, more importantly, is calling disciples of all time to revisit priorities.


What does that mean in 2019? First of all, it means realizing our identity is as baptized children of God through Christ - not as a member of a certain gender, age, nationality, religion, or political party. This means loving as Jesus loves, including all those Jesus includes, living a life of sacrifice to make others' lives worthy as Jesus sacrificed, and putting self and even body behind the priority of loving God as Jesus does.


A life in Christ and following the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth is not always easy. It's much easier and comfortable to agree with those who affirm unfaithful ideas. Following Christ embraces honesty, compassion, and mercy, and therefore embraces the peace of Christ which passes all understanding. Thanks be to God!

Peace and Grace,
The Rev. Susan M. Bame

August 2019

Peace to you and Grace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
(Jesus said) Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32


These are hard times. As I write this message, I am sitting in my mother's hospital room. She is suffering from multiple ailments from which my family and I are not sure she will recover. Each day brings new decisions that this time last year, we had no idea we would be making. We, as well are there as a congregation. We have suffered the loss of five dear congregational members since the winter. Our hearts are so sad over the deaths of Terry Beaver, Willie Mae Blackwelder, Frank Patterson, Leonard Patterson, and Gladys Shue. I remarked to our administrative assistant, Jackie Kimball that I wish God would quit calling our members to the Church Triumphant! They are out of pain, but our hearts remain heavy. We turn on our televisions and there seems to be little but bickering, violence, fear, and loss. We would not be illogical to wonder if the "evil one" referred to in the Lord's Prayer has won the day. But our sovereign Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says a resounding, "No!". In the introductory scripture from the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke, Jesus is speaking to a group of followers who were very anxious. They were worried, also. They were going through hard times, too. These worries included stresses over Roman oppressors hurting them and their families. Jesus responded to them addressing them as the "little flock." This is important because he is putting them and their problems in perspective to God's greater role in the world. Worry steals joy. It takes our focus off our faith. It steals perspective on what responsibility we can take in the world. It steals perspective on possessions and their lack of ultimate value as priorities in our lives. We are also a part of God's "little flock"; through Christ. When Jesus went to the cross and God brought him through the tomb, greed, obsession, and lust for possessions were overcome as powers in our life. It is a hard time for humans. But for the followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers us through the trust we can have in the one that nurtures, consoles, and walks with us on our journey, even in the valleys of our days.


Thanks be to God!

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Susan Bame

July 2019

 

Peace to you and Grace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart...soul...and mind; and (love) your neighbor as yourself Luke 10:27

Happy Summer! Many of you are already enjoying vacation, traveling, and overall reenergizing. We, as your church family at Lutheran Chapel, pray for you to rest and return safely and enjoy time with friends and family.

July 4th, is of course, a special time in our nation. Fireworks, parades, and cookouts celebrate freedoms won through sacrifice of founding fathers and mothers for us in the United States.

But we have higher freedoms we celebrate all year long. These were also bought for us through sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the work of God the Father through the open tomb. Those who are freed are all in God's kingdom. The good news is this freedom is not just for a certain country, a certain gender, a certain economic class, or a certain faith tradition. These all represent man-made divisions of judgement and sin. Worry is not a call in God's kingdom, for we celebrate the freedom, as the introductory scripture declares, to serve God and the neighbor.

were taught in Sunday School about the least likely to help a man who has been robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Samaritans were disliked by many Jews. They were neither welcoming to Jesus nor his disciples. But after two men who are worried about cleanliness laws pass by the wounded and dying man, God shows up with a surprise. A man from these despised Samaritans was the one who eventually treats the man, takes him to an inn, and foots the entire bill for his healing. Jesus illustrated that God's promise is there is no "most deserving" or "least deserving" in the kingdom. God shows up so many times the last place in the world we expect God to show up - in homes of surviving folks grieving their dead loved ones, in souls of those impoverished and often concerned about paying bills, in the hearts of those turned away in society because of their sexual identity, at the borders where little children separated from loved ones languish in filth and loneliness. And Jesus comes to us, and frees us to show is weBut who is our neighbor? This is a question posed to Jesus by a lawyer who is seeking to know what it takes to 'inherit everlasting life," according to Luke's Gospel. After Jesus affirms that the lawyer knows that the Law states one must serve God and the neighbor, the lawyer asked Jesus to identify who
mercy, and to receive mercy. We are called to not avert our eyes from the ditches of our world where helpless victims lie. Jesus says our neighbor is not only the one who shows mercy, but the one who needs mercy. He then commissions us from the parable of the Good Samaritan and equips us and commissions us to "God and do likewise." Thanks be to God!

that

Have a safe and blessed summer!

 

 

Grace and Peace,

The Rev. Susan Bame

June 2019

 

Peace to You and Grace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Acts 2: 17

 

Remember the song many of us learned as children about the Church? " I am the church! You are the Church! We are the Church together! All who follow Jesus, all around the world - yes! We are the Church together." And that is really a wonderful way
to sum up Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and how and why we are sent out from worship to serve God and others.

 We have two very important celebrations in the life of the Church coming up in June, and these are Pentecost Sunday and Holy Trinity Sunday.  Both inform our faith in reassuring us of WHO is in the driver's seat when it comes to our faith and our expression publicly - and that is God! Pentecost is the celebration of the birthing of the Church when the Holy Spirit sweeps through with rushing wind through a community of people speaking differently and binds them together. The unpredictable winds of the Spirit are unruly and unpredictable, and therefore, the imagined order of human organization is shattered, but people miraculously understand each other. This is definitely not about how differences divide, but rather how God, the Holy Spirit unites the community of Christ.

On Trinity Sunday, we celebrate those words said in Holy Baptism: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, Three in One. Even in Genesis, the pronouns referring to God are plural, so that it is not just God the Creator who has always been, but the one who is to come to redeem and the one who gives us our faith and sustains our community of faith as well. Is this very easy to explain? No, because just as we do not fully comprehend how baptismal waters cleanse us or the wine and the bread become Christ's blood and body, it is mystery. We are bound together as community through that mystery as we gather, confess our sins, praise and worship God, hear the Word properly read and preached, receive the Sacraments, and then are sent not only to support one another in our own community, but outside the church building walls as well.

God calls us to serve God and the neighbor through these sacraments and rites, through ritual and liturgy. And it matters that we are formed in community to suppport one another in joy, understanding, grief, and affirmation of the faith. This is actually the very topic to be explored in our summer Sunday School class in July facillitated by the pastor. "Ritual of Belonging: Holy Sacraments and Rites of the Lutheran Tradition and Why Community Matters." You have an outline included elsewhere in this newsletter. It includes the topics covered each week and the scripture upon which those topics are based. Please bring this with you along with your Bible, so that we can faithfully discuss the core of our faith tradition. We will announce at a later time where we will hold class. With the coming months of summer, I know many of you will be traveling. We pray for your safety in reaching your destination, your relaxation and recreation while you are there, and your safe return home.

 

Peace and Grace,

The Rev. Susan M. Bame

May 2019

 

Peace to You and Grace From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

When they (Jesus and his disciples) finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said, "Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." John 21: 15

 

Are we "over Easter"?  It certainly appears so - most lilies are gone from sanctuaries; students and workers have returned to their responsibilities after break; Easter dinner leftovers are long eaten. Is Easter over? In the included text, Jesus tells Peter the Easter event is only beginning. And thus, it is with us as Easter people. The Paschal candle is still lit, and Jesus commissions us, as well as Peter, to feed his lambs and his sheep. We are commissioned to go from the feeding we receive from Christ (as Peter and the disciples were fed at the Sea of Galilee by the risen Christ). The event sends us forth to feed Jesus' lambs of 2019. We do so with the same abundance of grace with which God the Father has provided us through the Easter event. The introduction to the Holy Gospel of St. John that the Word made flesh provides us with the gift of "grace upon grace." The Easter event informs us as the sheep and lambs of God through Christ, we no longer have to struggle with our own sin, our own world with boundaries, and our own power to feed others. The walls are gone; the limitations disappear.

The scene of the text from John 21 is the beach aside the Sea of Galilee - displaying for the disciples with a vastness of which they cannot conceive. By the power of God, the disciples catch fish, where they had minimal success before, of amounts they cannot conceive. But then they are fed by Jesus and commissioned to go and feed those in the world. Jesus invited them into his world of grace and abundance to be providers for those in the world who hungered for the same abundance.

We are called to that community as well to feed others with reckless abandon, with the invitation to be included, and to tear down walls that are visible and hurtful to those lambs. The beginning of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, chapter 1, begins with a reminder that those boundaries have been removed from us with "grace upon grace." Grace is defined in the gospel of John as abundant through one who has fed us, feeds us, and promises to continue to feed us, so that we may be witness to the lonely, the hurt, the excluded, and yes, the blessed. We are invited by Christ to invite others to step into that community of abundance with our love, service, and faithfulness. We are Easter people through Jesus our Lord, and as such, Easter is going nowhere - our journey is merely beginning.

 

Peace and Grace,

The Rev. Susan M. Bame

April 2019

Peace to You and Grace From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Why so you look do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. Luke 24:5B (NRSV)

 

How many times do we go on "goose chases" to find lost possessions - keys, cell phones, addresses, items of clothing, etc., and then find them in the most unexpected places? You can imagine then the women in the Easter text from the Holy Gospel of St. Luke, as they went searching for the body of Jesus of Nazareth to bathe it in spices. Jesus has been crucified and buried in the tomb, but when they arrive early three days later - no body, just "dazzling" grave clothes and the messenger who tells them he is not there, just as he told them he would suffer, die, and rise again.  We are told by the Gospel writer they are "terrified," and we can certainly understand why. But the Holy Spirit sent them in their frightened state to "(tell) all this to the eleven and all the rest." (vs. 9) A unique take on this Gospel According to St. Luke is the amount of women who were sent as the evangelists - women who were certainly not high up on the social food chain. Understandably, "these words seemed to be an idle tale, and they (the eleven and others) did not believe them, " (verse 11) until Peter went and verified the story, "amazed at what had happened." (vs. 13)

How does God speak to us today when we are on our own "goose chases" of fear and misdirection? And how do unexpected evangelists - those we would never think that God chose and sent - proclaim good news? Is it in those who don't necessarily frequent the places we expect "good Christians" to be, like worship services, our social venues in which we feel the most comfortable, in acceptable arenas of society? Perhaps, God through the Holy Spirit, is sending us evangelists such as those who long for health care, those who are being shut out of "our" country, those who are battling addiction and disease, those members of our family who don't act as we feel they "should." God is calling us to look for the living among those we have often been marked as "dead" to us. God through the risen Christ is calling us to meet those who are often in uncomfortable places, and "go and tell" with our acceptance, our hospitality, our proclamation, our resources, and our love - the same action that God found us in Holy Baptism in the unexpected place of human sin.  We are sent rushing from dead grave clothes and empty tombs to proclaim with our lives and our presence to proclaim to "the others,", "He is among the living," and we are amazed. Alleluia! Thanks be to God!

 

Peace and Grace,

The Rev. Susan M. Bame

March 2019

 

Peace to You and Grace From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.  Hebrews 5:1

 

When is the last time you shed tears? For joy? For thanksgiving? For grief? All of these occasions are times when we are overcome with emotions. Tears are the human body/ mind/ spirit response to being overcome with emotions. In this venue, they are authentic, and God HEARS them. Crying is biblical, faithful, and yet we so often apologize for them. Politicians are often mocked for shedding them, for our society has labeled tears as signs of weakness.  Would we call Jesus weak? If weakness is surrender to his Father God, the scripture informs us that most assuredly, he was weak. For certain, we read that Jesus wept. There are multiple references to this in scripture, and as Christians, we are called to study these times of surrender and never be ashamed to emulate Jesus of Nazareth in our surrender. Tears say, "I am letting go. I am surrendering."

Holy crying and tears are the themes of our 2019 weekly Lenten worship services - "A Time For Tears." The following scriptures and sub-topics will be the center of Wednesday reflections:

March 13  Luke 19: 41 - 44  "How to Bring Tears to Jesus' Eyes"

March 20   John 16: 16 -24 "I Cried All the Way Home"

March 27   Luke 7: 36 - 50 "Does Love Make You Sorry?"

April 3       Hebrews 5:7 "Praying With Tears in Your Eyes"

April 10     Matthew 26: 60-75  "A Christian's Tears of Failure"

The scripture texts for our Lenten worship explore not only our surrender, but the surrender of Christ to God the Father for our sake.  We begin the Lenten liturgical season (after Shrove Tuesday on March 5) with the 7:00 Ash Wednesday worship (Holy Communion / Imposition of Ashes) followed by the 5 Wednesday worship services beginning with the meal at 6:00. Lent culminates with Maundy Thursday on April 18 and Good Friday on April 19 (both 7:00 services).

Lent is a time of reflection, renewal, and the realization of our humanity. Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Man, teaches us how to respond faithfully to our human condition. God walks through the journey with the example of Jesus walking toward the Cross. "A Time for Tears" texts help us through this reflection faithfully. I pray that we respond as faithfully in attendance and sincere evaluation of our spiritual gifts and surrender.

 

Peace and Grace,

The Rev. Susan M. Bame

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