8:30AM, 9:45AM in the hall, or 11AM

7150 Pines Blvd
Pembroke Pines, FL 33024
The SE corner of Pines Blvd and 72nd Ave
Across the street from Broward college South Campus lake
(954) 989-1903

Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
Sundays at 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

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Obituary for Earline LaCroix

Earline's family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Trinity Lutheran Church, Pembroke Pines in her memor...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

This coming Sunday...

Sunday at worship at Trinity Lutheran, our year-long journey from Joshua to Job will come to an end. 
We have wrestled with genocide, rape, the de-valuing of women, murder, why bad things happen, and the role of God in the midst of the human condition in every way imaginable. We have met strong women and wise women; wise kings, foolish kings, rapist kings, murdering kings, weak kings, faithless kings, selfish kings, warrior-kings, and exiled kings. We have heard from the prophets the voice of God crying out for justice for the oppressed. We have witnessed cities and nations born, torn asunder, destroyed and re-built. 

We have listened through the lens of our own experience (because we cannot help that) and through the lens of that which draws us more deeply into the heart and ways of Jesus who declares that our very best is to love God and neighbor; to love one another as he loves us. We read the scriptures through this lens because it keeps us from falling into the temptation to use the scriptures, particularly the Old Testament passages we encountered this past year, to justify our own thoughts, our own prejudices, our own limited world view, our own hates and judgments. 

We did not let the God expressed in these stories from Joshua through Job off the hook. We asked hard questions. We read them through all that God expressed through Jesus. We read them through the Lutheran traditions of Law and Gospel, of letting scripture interpret scripture, of salvation by grace through faith, of the scriptures as the cradle in which the Christ-child is laid. We were not satisfied to leave the ways of God as unfathomable, when the ethics we encountered ran counter to the teachings of Jesus. No. We took the harder road and our faith is more robust for it. 

 We discovered that these Old Testament stories could still speak  powerful truth to the events in the world in which we live. And we drew upon the life of Jesus as expressed in the Gospels, the letters of Paul, the Psalms, and more to help us.   

So Sunday we will review the journey and reflect upon how it has challenged us and enlivened our faith . Please join us!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Job's Happy Ending

On Sunday, Aug. 28, we finish our reading of Job with this passage:  Job 42:7-17.  In this passage we seem to see Job enjoying a classic happy ending:  new wife, new children, fortunes restored.  How do we interpret this ending?

One standard--but troubling!--way to interpret this ending is to see it as Job's reward for being faithful.  One way this approach troubles modern theologians is the interpretation of faithfulness: is he faithful because he talks to God and listens when God responds?  Is he faithful because he stays true to God, even in the midst of suffering?  How much are we expected to endure?

As a 21st century reader, I'm troubled because I know that Christianity has a history of holding up examples like the one we see in Job as a way to encourage people to put up with difficult situations without trying to change the structures that make the difficulty possible.  I'm thinking of generations of women encouraged to stay with their abusive husbands.  I'm thinking of Civil Rights workers being told to suffer and wait for society to catch up with them.

I'm also troubled because Job seems to leave his old family behind and move on to the replacement family, but that probably says more about me.  I'm trying to see this ending as a presentation of Job embracing life and learning to live and love again.

Here's a more radical interpretation:  theologian  Kathryn M. Schifferdecker says, "Job's fortunes are restored. He (and presumably Mrs. Job) have more children, and he gives his daughters names befitting their great beauty and an inheritance along with their brothers (an unheard-of act in that patriarchal culture). In other words, Job learns to govern his world the way God governs God's world: with great delight in his children's beauty and freedom. Like God, Job gives his children the freedom to be who they were created to be."

I wonder how my relationships would change if I, too, could be more like Job at the end and God--if I could give those around me the freedom to be who they were created to be.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Job's God in a Time of Climate Change

The readings for Sunday, August 21, 2016:

Job 38:25-27; 41:1-8; 42:1-6

In these passages, God continues to give Job a tour of creation.  When I first read it, it was hard for me to shake the tone of God saying to Job, "Who are you to question me?"  But my response still shows a human-centered approach to God, God as being defensive.

Why is it so hard for us to come to Job's realization?  Why is it hard to see God as expansive?

For some of us, it's hard because we have to admit our puniness.  Humans are not the center of the universe.  Creation was not made for humans.  We are not the largest element or the smallest--and that means contemplating the idea that we are not the most important.

I will be interested to see how theologians wrestle with these ancient views during our own time of extreme climate change.  Is it different to read the texts for this week as we create new records for hottest month and hottest year on record?

I find this vision in Job a comfort in our own times of mass extinction.  Creation will continue, even as various species expire.  God will continue to delight in creation, in all of its varieties.

God seems to invite Job to join in this wonder and exaltation.  I'd like to see other translations of Job's response.  My text uses words like despise, dust, and ashes.  Job's response seems extreme, but maybe it's just more ancient, and thus, harder for me to understand.

Like Job, I need to return to this vision that God offers.  I despair in what seems like planetary depletion, but God reminds us that the Creator works in wondrous ways.  I need to be reacquainted with this rain bearing God, the one who makes grass spring out of the desolation.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Marc Chagall on Love

In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love.
- Marc Chagall

Blessing of Teachers and School Staffs and CHOCOLATE!!!

So this Sunday AUG 14th is Blessing of the Teachers and Staff for all of those folks heading back to schools in our community. We have some prayers for them and goody bags and I will be making Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothies during all coffee hours. Whipped Cream and Chocolate chip topping optional. So calling all teachers and school staff people: We want to chocolate you up! All Welcome!

God Speaks to Job

The readings for Sunday, August 14, 2016:

Job 31:  35-37 and Job 38:  1-11

In the readings for this Sunday, we see Job wanting God to speak to him--and then God does.  On the face of it, on the first read, we might see this as God saying to Job, "Who the heck are you to question me?"  But upon additional readings, we see a creator who takes the questions of Job seriously.

Job gets a tour of all of creation, perhaps as a reminder that humans aren't the reason why creation exists and humans aren't the reason that God exists.  In many ways, the God that we see in Job seems very modern.  This God that we see this week is a God with much to do, but not too busy to attend to Job's request.  This God is a God of the entire universe, not just a wish granter/magician for humans.

We see a vision of God in control, but not a God who is controlling.  There are boundaries that God has established, but all of creation has enormous freedom within these boundaries.  Luther Seminary professor Kathryn M. Schifferdecker explains in this essay, "God gives his creatures the freedom to be who they were created to be, and that freedom is a great gift to human and animal alike. In this vision of creation, the world is not an entirely safe place for human beings, but it is a world of order and of beauty, and its Creator delights in it."

Many of us may find this vision of God to be very different from the God we might have thought we were worshipping.  We may have been told that if our faith is great enough or if we pray hard enough, all of our prayers and wishes will be granted.  But that's crummy theology--it doesn't take into account free will or the problem of evil in the world or countless other factors that will undermine our faith in the world of that theology.

Job shows us a more mature vision of God--a God that has created the universe with certain laws and boundaries, a God who allows freedom, even though that freedom may bring heartbreak.

For many of us, it's not a comforting vision.  It means that the cancer cells may win, regardless of how hard I pray.  I might prefer the Santa Claus God of my childhood Sunday School classes.  But the Santa Claus God is not the true God, although it may be the more comforting God.

These passages in Job show us a God who has not deserted us, but at the same time, will not necessarily rescue us.  For many of us it's a tough vision.

But throughout the Bible, we see God's promise:  that God will be with us and that God delights in us--and in all creation.  God will be there, not as the magical easy fix, but as a much larger force, one not controlled by humans.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Sunset with Gandhi

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator. 
- Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Psalm 16:11

You show me the path of life.
 In your presence there is fullness of joy
Psalm 16:11

The Hope of Job

Our off-lectionary study of Job continues with these passages for Sunday, August 7, 2016:

Job 14:  7-15 and Job 19:  23-24

In these passages we see that Job still wrestles with how to handle his suffering and where to find God in this suffering.  In these passages, we see similar themes that careful readers see throughout the Bible.

Job finds hope--strange, inexplicable hope--in the middle of his extreme suffering.  He doesn't have the same kind of hope in an afterlife that twenty-first century readers might have.  He senses that other parts of nature might have more hope of an immediate redemption, new sprouts, and that humans die and dry up as a lake might.

Yet he also professes belief that he will see God, and Job yearns for this time, even as he admits to not understanding how it will happen.  Job's response feels familiar to me.

I think of the Easters that I have celebrated when the Easter message rang hollow to me, when death felt more victorious than God.  I felt surrounded by happy people who felt more reassurance than I did in that Easter message.  In these times, I like the message of Job, the message of the Psalms--I like these texts that show us the human response to God and to suffering.

I know that the disadvantage to a free will world is that God cannot just sweep in and make everything OK.

But I also know that the message of that weaves its way through our Bible, with the Easter culmination, the promise that Death will not be the final answer.  We do not know how and when Death will be defeated--at least, I'm not going to try to engineer God that way.  We know the how of the beginning of the defeat of the Death culture:  we have spent days hearing that part of the story.  But we don't know the future part.

But we do have God's promise that Death doesn't have the final word.  We see it as a constant theme in our texts, and we see that announcement throughout all of creation.  And even when we feel the despair of Job, even when we doubt this promise, God will not abandon us.

Friday, July 29, 2016

On the Occasion of the Completion of My 16th Year as Your Pastor

So this Sunday will mark the completion of my 16th year as pastor of Trinity Lutheran, Pembroke Pines. Technically, August 1st will mark 16 years according to the paperwork, but I started a day early because I just couldn't wait any longer to get started. Trinity has been my only congregational call. This is somewhat unusual, to serve 16 years (and counting) in one's first call, at least in the Lutheran tradition. When I began my youngest son was one year old. Now I have an AARP card and he is rolling into his final year of high school. In another year I will have served as long as Trinity's longest serving pastor.
The years have flown by.

I have been privileged by God to walk with many people over these years. I have surely disappointed some, encouraged others, and by and large been myself and given myself, and made my mistakes and learned from them [hopefully] and pushed boundaries and comfort zones and sought to be faithful in the running the race set before me. At my worst I was arrogant and defensive and failed to listen to wiser counsel. My best is left for others to judge. Why this call works so well and for so long, I think, is the willingness of so many to take risks for the sake of the gospel. To seek what the Holy Spirit is up to and to embrace that with all of their hearts and minds and strength. As pastor I have tried to nurture this and encourage this and serve this vision.

Once I thought my "job" was to put the congregation on my back and climb Mt Zion through my own strength and ideas of what church could/should be. I was surely not alone among pastors in such thinking. At some point the living out of that kind of pastoring will break you, body and soul.

I broke.

And having broke, I hope that I am better for it. I'm fairly certain years of therapy and counseling and medication have not been wasted on me. I have, on the advice of my psychiatrist, blogged the last few years of my journey at https://keithandrewspencer.wordpress.com/.

I am in awe of all that God has allowed me to witness and experience so far in this call: the noisy and boisterous joys, the quiet moments of faith, the challenges, seeing Christ in the most unexpected places, blessing upon blessing, even in the pain and occasional disappointment and heartaches. In all of it I have discovered more of who I am, and moreover, who I am in and through Christ and who Christ is for the sake of the world.
And I have learned it all with you.

For this, for the past sixteen years, for the future as God so wills, thank you.
Truly, thank you.
Ever in Christ,
Pastor Keith

Thursday, July 28, 2016

John 15:16a

You did not choose me but I chose you. 
And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last
John 15:16a

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Job and Responses to Suffering

The readings for Sunday, July 31, 2016:

Job 3:  1-10, 4:  1-9, 7:  11-21

The book of Job wrestles with a great theological question:  why do the righteous suffer?  It's a question that still seems relevant today.  I would modify it a bit:  why do some people have such suffering in their lives, while others go through life relatively unscathed?

We see in the response of Job's friends a response that many of us might still espouse today:  people suffer because they deserve it--what goes around, comes around.  We reap what we sow.

But of course, the problem with that response is that some people suffer far out of proportion to any wrongs they may have committed.  So often in a human life, the punishment does not fit any wrongdoing. 

I wish I had a tidy theological answer, but I don't.  Many of us like the views of the friends in Job because it suggests that some of our lives are within our control.  But most of us, especially as we get older, realize how little of a human life is up to the human actor.

We see Job's response, which is a typical human response to the question of human suffering.  Job asks why, Job laments, Job wishes that he'd never been born.  Psychologists would likely tell us that these responses are quite common.

I find it refreshing that Job, the most righteous of men, has these responses.  I like knowing that even the righteous have their breaking points--it makes me feel a bit more O.K. about my own breaking points.

So, if we all must suffer, then what?

This realization leads us to a more pressing theological question:  where is God in all this human suffering?  We will wrestle with those questions in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Isaiah 43:3

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
 and streams on the dry ground;
 I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,
 and my blessing on your offspring.
Isaiah 43:3

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Psalm 35:7

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
 All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:7

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Isaiah 35:4a

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
 "Be strong, do not fear!
Isaiah 35:4a

Thursday, July 21, 2016

1 Peter 1:23

You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
1 Peter 1:23

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

1 Timothy 3:16a

Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great
1 Timothy 3:16a