In the Sanctuary at 8:30AM and 11AM -
a blended service of traditional and contemporary elements with communion

In the hall at 9:45AM
scripture, prayer, and creative response with communion

Worship each Sunday @ 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

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We have moved the service that was tentatively planned for this Friday July 13th to Friday, September 21st 7PM-8:30PM in commemoration of th...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Folks have asked over the past months about the grey carved rock memorial stones that fill our butterfly gardens. From an aesthetic point of view, all stones are ordered from the same company: The Shady Garden. their website may be found at http://www.theshadygarden.com/.

Individuals desiring to purchase stones for inclusion in the garden are asked to let SAM in the office know that they are ordering a stone. Stones are ordered by individuals and families directly through the company, not through the church. When the stone arrives please contact the office to discuss the logistics of placement. All reasonable efforts are made to accommodate the garden placement requests of those ordering stones, but the church reserves the right for final determination. We do our best to maintain the landscaping in the gardens throughout the year, however the rainy and dry seasons each present their challenges as does available manpower. These gardens are meant to be natural butterfly gardens as they are part of our certified wildlife habitat. Please keep this in mind. There will always a certain natural "wildness" to them. A donation to the Butterfly Garden Memorial Fund at the time of placement will help to provide plants to enhance the landscaping around the stone.

Please note that donations or memorial contributions designated for the butterfly gardens are always welcome in order for the gardens to be replenished and expanded. As well, volunteers are always appreciated to help weed, mulch and maintain these gardens. Check in with Pastor Keith if you have any questions on what needs to be done.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pastor Keith and Piper's Christmas Letter
Dear Friends,
It has been far too many years since we last sent out a Christmas letter. I am writing this the day after Christmas, which for pastors is a day of serious rest. So I am not going to sweat this. Nice and easy. Relaxed. A stress-free letter. Let’s see… (sound of computer keyboard keys clicking)

Hello! Blessing upon Blessing be upon you this most JOYOUS season!

Yes, those are our children in the photo to the left. They are older now than when some of you likely last saw them. Time flies and all that. So where have we been and what have we been up to in the interim?
I could suggest that we have been travelling the world or that we are America’s secret first space family, but what could be cooler than the truth: we’ve just busy raising a family and serving the church.

Christian will be 17 in June and is a high school junior who just happens to be taller than his father and is now learning to drive. Still playing the vibraphone and bells in the high school band and dabbling with piano on the side, Christian still reserves most of his creative energy for his drawing. Under the tutelage of a retired Disney artist his passion for cartooning continues to grow. That’s one of Christian’s creations to the right. We’ve visited four colleges so far with a few more trips still planned.

Thomas will be 14 in April and is an 8th grader much into his computer and taking care of Yuki, his somewhat prickly albino hedgehog. Tom plays the baritone horn in the band and like to pluck out tunes by ear on the piano. Tom’s our scientist and we don’t blink an eye when he starts pulling ingredients out of the pantry or hands us some blue print off the internet and begins to give us a shopping list.

Luke will be 10 about the time you get this and is enjoying 4th grade. Our resident Wii expert, Luke can beat Dad in everything but Wii bowling. This year Luke traded soccer for fencing, added glasses, said good bye to one hamster and welcomed another and discovered “Guitar Hero.” He reads voraciously (all our kids do even in this electronic age) and is counting the days until he gets to learn to drive.

Piper began the year as a middle school world history teacher and moved on to the open spot as the 7th grade science teacher (yes, she is still grinning at that). She’s had her students dissecting chicken wings and so forth. I’m told her Roman and Greek Day was the hit of the year for many students. So much science, so little time….Well, between grading tests and projects and planning the next cool lab, helping the boys with their home work, making lunches, checking book bags, balancing the checkbook, leading the church's hand chime choir, and trying to keep up with her running, Piper has found time for both continuing her bass playing with the Broward Symphony Orchestra and taking ballroom dance lessons with me. She bought special ballroom dance shoes, so you know that she takes this seriously.

For our summer sabbatical sojourn she mapped out a several thousand mile trip from Florida to Boston and back with too many stops in between to mention. We rode the subways in New York and Boston, visiting colleges in Virginia and Georgia and generally had a blast.

Keith (that would be me) got a bit older this year with a trip to the emergency room during my 3 month sabbatical that was the beginning of the end for my gall bladder. An ultrasound, nuclear stress test, upper endoscopy and some outpatient surgery later and I was a few pounds (and one stuffed with gallstones gall bladder) lighter and much more pain free than I had been in quite a while. On the bright side I did get my thesis approved and graduate with a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in May. How quickly four years came and went!

Piper and I took a romantic trip up to St Augustine (above), staying at a bed and breakfast that was simply out of this world.
I got to baptize my little niece Olivia in New York in June (Seen below with the boys).

I still bake bread, mess around with the Irish whistle, do the odd crossword or jigsaw puzzle and enjoy writing the annual church Christmas program. As always, this year was a gift.

A blessed Christmas Season to All!
With Love,
Keith, Piper, Christian, Thomas and Luke!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Blessed and Joyous Christmas!

Our 11PM Service: The largest Cantata Choir Ever!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

As a kid the one thing that I looked forward to most was the arrival of the Sears Wish Book each fall. This was the Christmas Toy catalogue bar none. Page after page of GI Joes and Lava Lamps and racing car sets and games. Dutifully I would write down each item and page number on a yellow legal pad. This was before sticky notes were invented or the internet and its electronic wish lists. Back then we had to do it all by hand. And we did. I know that I was not the only one keeping a list of what toys I wanted. It was a happy time, anticipating a happy Christmas.

My parents still have home movies of those early Christmases. We weren’t allowed out of our beds until dad had the movie camera set up to record the expressions on our faces. Stockings were left at the foot of our beds full of things to keep us busy from the time that we woke up until a decent hour, say 6AM, perhaps 6:30. When we were little, my older sister was always the first to awaken and she would let the rest of us know that Santa had come and then we would compare stockings and check on mom and dad. Sleeping or pretending to sleep, who knew? My parents seemed less happy at first, during those initial moments of having three very awake kids bouncing on their bed, then they would perk up, usually after dad had a cup of coffee or two.

Do you remember when Christmas was all about being happy?
About shredding wrapping paper and the wonder of gifts or perhaps filming gleeful children or having your family altogether for breakfast or a special dinner? Maybe you completed the scene like we sometimes did by turning the television to one of the TV channels that was broadcasting the Yule log – a picture of a fireplace that never needed tending, where a flame merrily burned while Christmas music played on and on for 24 hours straight. Add a cup of hot coco and I’m not sure we could be happier.

Happy, they say, means pleased or glad.
Maybe Christmas still is about being happy, though tougher this year for many. Trying to keep up with a tougher economy, more stress, more pressure. The things that kids want seemed much more complicated and expensive. More families must share Christmas, the impact of divorce turns Christmas into a negotiation with someone always coming out the loser. The displays in our neighborhood came out early this year, but in general are less than less year. People are cutting back. It’s tougher to keep up with the things that make us happy. And we want to be happy.

I will admit that I had my own father dig the model trains out of the attic so that for the first time I could set them up under our own tree, bringing back a memory from childhood when my Father and I would set up these humongous Lionels, the engine would puff real smoke, as we raced it around the track. I also ditched the fake tree, we call them artificial I suppose, it sounds nicer, doesn’t it? And instead got a real one. No need to spray fake pine scent this year. And even though its shape isn’t as perfect as an artificial tree and I have to vacuum up needles and add water twice a day, it makes me happy. A beautiful sight to behold.

But something was still missing. Being happy takes a lot of work. And then I got to thinking maybe I needed to focus on peacefulness. I got the trains and the tree and even bought paper to write the Christmas letters that may make it out before the seasons of Lent begins (hey, I bought the paper!), but perhaps I needed to put on some Christmas music and light a few nice smelling candles and just sink into a comfy chair and enjoy some peace. Let it wash over me. Carry me away like Calgon (or whatever you add to your own bathwater) to some other place. But that didn’t work either. Which makes sense since as much as we talk about this peaceful Christmas and sing about a peaceful Christmas, I can’t imagine anything less peaceful then giving birth to a child, which is what we are celebrating. The birth of a child, Jesus, the Savior of the world. Mary and Joseph are stuck, probably in a cave, which served as stables back then. Not so sanitary. Her water breaks. Contractions begin and then come closer together. No epidurals. No Demerol. No doctor or nurse or Lamaze coach. We don’t even know if there was a midwife to help out. Just this carpenter named Joseph who was probably good with tools, but who knows if he knew what to do when a head popped out or an umbilical cord or after birth. You see we skip to this peaceful scene of Mary with baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in her arms or lying in the most sanitary and comfortable feeding trough that the world has ever seen. A manger is just a fancy word for feeding trough. The animals are all there and the humans all seem to have bright glowing halos of light over their heads and the shepherd are in awe, silent for the moment, and we even stick the wise men there even though in the story they don’t show up for weeks or months later. It is one peaceful scene. The pain and screaming and sweating and pushing and fear and hard work of the birthing process is skipped over. Mary’s valiant work missed. Men obviously wrote this part. Giving birth is not a peaceful process. What do we think that one moment Mary is there as her water breaks and then next she is holding Jesus without a strand of hair out of place?

So maybe the peaceful thing with quiet and candles and music and even Calgon isn’t the way to Christmas happiness.

Happiness takes a whole lot of work, but Joy, that’s something else altogether. We don’t produce it - it come from outside, from others, and it come to us as a gift. A true gift.

We read: In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

Good news of great joy.
While happiness is about being pleased or glad, joy is about the prospect of possessing that which one desires. We desire it, but can’t get it on our own. We settle for the struggle for happiness instead. Joy comes from the outside, as gift.

This came home to me the other night at rehearsal for our Christmas Eve program. At some point I looked around and saw children that are growing up here in this faith family. I saw shepherds and dancing wind and Joseph and Mary and I heard the voices of the prophets of old all telling the story: The good news of great joy that is Christ our Lord. When we are a part of something so much greater than ourselves - like we are as we tell and share about Jesus - Joy comes to us, breaks upon us, washes over us and comes to live in our hearts. Receiving the Joy that comes from God in and through Christ Jesus, allowing our hearts to be open for it, to give room for such joy, how can the exhausting pursuit of happiness compare? And that joy is here for us now. Here in its fullness and with its hope and with its promise. Will you make room for such joy in your hearts tonight? Will Joy be birthed in your heart this evening: The true joy that is Christ Jesus?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Still Time to Sign Up for ZUMBA
and keep that New Year's Resolution
(that you know that you are going to make!)
Ditch the workout, join the party...Zumba is a latin inspired dance aerobics class. Participants will get a cardio workout and learn basic dance moves while moving to great latin music. Zumba is energizing and more importantly FUN. All you need to bring is yourself, a pair of sneakers, a bottle of water, and a towel. Zumba will get you moving and can help you meet your fitness goals. All fitness levels welcome. Sign up on your worship slip or leave a message with SAM at the office via phone or email. The class is at eleven participants and growing!
Led by our own Basi Perkins, a certified Zumba instructor.
Class will be held in our fellowship hall Thursday nights beginning JAN 8th.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Luke 1:26-38 Advent 4 December 21, 2008
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

This past week I was invited to speak at a middle school Christian group after school. It was their Christmas party. Forty, maybe fifty kids were there, excited and boisterous. Only a few more days left until Christmas Break. The student leader tried to get things to come to order and it was tough. I mean, they were seriously excited. She tried a couple of things, none of which worked particularly well.

We Lutherans know what it takes to silence a room.
Five simple words.
The Lord be with you!
(And also with you).

That response is practically encoded on our DNA isn’t it? And we know that when we hear those words, what follows that briefest of exchanges, will be something that we need to hear. We anticipate it. We grow silent. We pay attention.

The Lord be with you....the world just stops...something important is about to be prayed or said or maybe the food is ready, who knows? But the expectation rises. We know that whatever follows needs to be heard. Must be heard.

The Lord be with you. (And also with you)……………. We wait. And we wait.

Excruciating, isn’t it? The waiting? The expectation.
Now imagine if nothing follows. Nothing. “The Lord be with you and the reply comes “And also with you and then…nothing. Silence. Deafening silence. How long would we wait? How long until the excruciating silence frees our lips to begin talking again. False alarm we tell ourselves. First the murmurs and then the volumes rises until we’ve forgotten that something important was about to happen.

And the truth is that important words were just spoken. Very important words. And we’ve missed it. We were expecting something else and we just plain missed it.

The truth is…The Lord is with us.
Five words, none longer than a single syllable, and you and I, we’ve received the transforming power of the Gospel.

Listen again to the Gospel:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’

Like Mary we, too, are favored by God.
Like Mary the Lord is also with us.
True, we are not going to become pregnant virgins and give birth to Jesus.
(Sorry if that disappoints some of you.)
The Immaculate Conception is for Mary, the Mother of our Lord alone.
But we are favored all the same.

The Lord is with us!
These words are not just bread crust.
Not just curled parsley on top of the steak of our life.
They are not Styrofoam packaging.

The words wash over us in waves of profound truth. Of hope realized. Of Joy confirmed. The Lord is with us.

Scriptures tells us that before we were born, while we were still in our Mother’s womb, the Lord knew us. Knew us then, knows us now, and will know us forever.

At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation, God made flesh in Christ Jesus. God did not come down because God was bored, or because God could, or because God was curious. Scriptures tell us that God came down and became incarnate from the virgin Mary because as we read in John 3:16 God so loved the world.
God favored us. God loved us. Loved us enough not to leave us to our own futile existence, stuck in our own sin. Broken, lost and wandering in an unfulfilled search for truth.

No. God favored us. Not because we deserved it, but because God loved us. Loved us enough to die for us, to die upon the cross so that the sin that separates us from God could be atoned for, our debt of sin paid in full, its power destroyed.
That baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger is our Emmanuel.
Our "God with us."
Imagine that!
One of the very names for our Lord and Savior Jesus is "God with us."

Mary can hardly believe that give the circumstances of her life (she is just a young women betrothed to the local carpenter) that the Lord would find favor with her. That the Lord is with her. Why should the Lord care about her?

And given the circumstances of our life, we might believe the same. Maybe it is something that we have done. Maybe it is our faith which we may find wanting at times, weak at times. Perhaps it is because we believe ourselves to be nobody special.

The Lord be with you!
What a tremendous blessing to be spoken.
The Lord…be…with… you
The Lord who saves, who loves, who gives who strengthens, that Lord , the Lord, be with you.
And the only thing we can do when such a blessing is bestowed upon us is to share it “And also with you,” we say. Because what else can we give in the face of such a blessing except that same blessing back?
The Lord be with you!
What did you just hear?
Just now as you received those words of blessing what does your heart say to you?
In your joy and your frustration, in your stress and relief, as you look into the eyes of your children and grand children, your wife, your husband, as you look at yourself - the Lord is with you. God favors you. Emmanuel is with you. Always!

A baby cries out in Bethlehem like the cry that will later pierce the afternoon at Golgotha.
God in and through Christ Jesus declares us favored, worthy, and righteousness.
It is a truth, a declaration, a promise that we need to hear again and again and again until our very heart sings at its utterance.
The Lord Be With You!
(And also with you!) Amen!

• Over 20% of worshippers on a typical Sunday morning since September 1st are under the age of 18.
• Over 43 adults and children were received in to membership during 2008.
• The percentage of new members under the age of 18 was 26%
• We had seven baptisms in 2008

• Over 30 children, youth and adults are participating in the 2008 Christmas Eve Worship Program.
• Over 15 Advent Wreaths were made during recent IGSS Advent Workshop.
• Over 35 volunteers from Trinity turned out to assist in serving the hungry at First Lutheran on November 19th and many more donated food.
• We set a Trinity record for number of Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes filled
• We set a Trinity record for total VBS donation to the ELCA VBS Mission Project
• We passed the 350 mark in number of prayer shawls made and delivered during 2008.
• Over $750 was given away through Trinity’s new Helping Hands Ministry this fall
• We created two prayer labyrinths and put them in use. The larger of the two spans over 60 feet in diameter, making it one of the largest in all of Florida.
• For the first time Trinity will participate in the triennial National Youth Gathering during the summer of 2009 with 6 youth and three adults registered.
• Over 50 families were served by Trinity’s Food Pantry this year.
• We began our participation in the ELCA’s Book of Faith Initiative with a four Bible study. Over 25 participants covenanted to read the Bible for 15 minutes a day through Easter Sunday.
• During this summer’s parsonage renovations, Trinity essentially gutted and replaced or erformed major repairs and upgrades to: one bedroom, two bathrooms, the living room, storage room, kitchen and roof.
• Over 100 preschoolers visited the Pumpkin Patch with their classes this year. The Patch raised over $2800 for our Christian Education and Youth ministries.
• In one of the most difficult years for the economy since the Great Depression, Trinity reduced its proposed 2008 budget deficit of approximately $30,000 to an estimated actual deficit of $3,000 by year’s end.
• In 2008 Trinity began a year round stewardship model that will ask folks to increase their egular weekly giving by 10% in 2009.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

ADVENT 3 DEC 14 2008
Some have called it the most revolutionary document in the world.
A bombshell.
And what document are these quotes referring to?
Some Terrorist manifesto? No.
The DaVinci Code? No.
The South Beach Diet or Chocolate Cookie Diet or each whaever you want and still lose weight diet or whatever diet Oprah is on these days? No.
Perhaps, the U.S. Declaration of Independence...actually, No.

I want you to listen to the words as they are sung…
The first verse of Canticle of the Turning echoes in the sanctuary

This hymn, the Canticle of the Turning is based upon our text for the 1st Lesson today from the Gospel of Luke: The Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise. It is this text, the Magnificat of Mary that has earned the label as the most revolutionary document in the world.
Let’s read it again. Slowly and Carefully.
Let’s read it together:
And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’

So what’s so revolutionary here? Where’s the bombshell?
A voice sings verse two of Canticle of the Turning.

Well, we learn that...the expectations of the world have been measured and found wanting.Mary suggests that God in Christ Jesus is about to turn the world upside down. To discomfort the secure. The comfortable. To turn God’s thoughts, God’s attention and God’s power to give the power to the powerless, the marginalized, the broken, the hungry, the poor. To raise them up. To declare that the human-made boundaries that separate poor and rich are not of God’s doing, not of God’s making, not of God’s Kingdom.

I was talking the other day with a church-goer from across town about ministry . “Around Thanksgiving,” he said, we hand out box lunches to the hungry. It makes us feel wonderful. Like we are doing something.” “That’s great,” I said. And I meant it. But I went on, “Have you folks ever thought about inviting them in to eat with you? To serve them a meal and engage them in conversation.?” He looked at me a little blankly. To hear what they have to say. About their life. Their struggles. Their dreams. Their burdens.

Let me ask you, what is more revolutionary, to hand the hungry food, which they need, of course and is a good and blessed ministry in and of itself, or to treat them as equals and at the same time more than equals, as guests at dinner?
Which is more revolutionary?

A voice sings verse three of Canticle of the Turning

The hungry people of this world need their food and we and countless other congregations and organizations and individual people give them food from our hearts and they are thankful for that. Their cupboards are barren, their children cry out and hunger rages. That food matters a great deal. But what is revolutionary, the bombshell as some call it, exploding into a world of us and them, what makes this text so dangerous is it’s proclamation that justice matters to God. That justice is valued by God. That the in-breaking Kingdom of God in and through the incarnation, Christ Jesus come into the world, demands it. And that treating one another as all equally part of the family of God is an act of justice.

With a handful of people First Lutheran in Fort Lauderdale has invited the hungry people of their city to come dine with them. To worship with them. To bless them with their conversation. Wednesday we join with others in serving as a part of this radical proclamation of the Kingdom of God. To not only feed their hunger for food, but for dignity, for personhood, for conversation and acceptance.

In choosing Mary, I ask you, is God making a statement? Is God speaking to justice? To what God and thus we should value? Should strive for?
The Magnificat is testimony to the answer to that question. A witness.

But are we ready to be revolutionaries of the heart? Revolutionaries In thought, mind, and especially in action? To not only feed the lowly, but lift them up as God has lifted them up before God’s throne? The day of the Lord is coming, Scripture and we proclaim, shall we not embody it with our very lives?

Think of all the ways in which we keep the poor and economically challenged at a distance. Instead of lifting them up, we tune them out, not wanting to add any more challenge to our lives. The time has come for us to turn.
The hymn refrain echoes.
The time to turn is here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


It is a work in progress - but what a wonderful work it is!

Thanks goes out to Kristin and Carl Berkey-Abbott, webmasters and to the Talbert family and Richard Mandat for their work on our earlier site.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Second Sunday in Advent
Mark 1:1–8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
My mother, without much provocation, will gladly tell people that as a child I was known to walk into parked cars. Not stopped cars, mind you. Parked ones. Our neighbors cars. Oldsmobiles and Buicks and Fords. With shiny metal bumpers. With my mind deeply focused on the deep thoughts and childhood imaginings and chin slightly elevated to the sky with a far off dreamy look, I never saw them coming. Wham! I would find myself crumbled on the ground brushing pebbles off various body parts.

If I only had turned around.
Even at the last minute.
Pulled my head out of the clouds or dreams or thoughts or wherever it was.
It would have saved several pairs of jeans over the years and more than a shred of...let's say dignity. Much less embarrassment perhaps.
If I had only turned around and gone off in another direction, preferably one not blocked by a large domestic automobile.
How different those years might have been.

Is it surprising to learn that turning around - that changing direction is an important biblical concept. To repent is to literally turn around go in another direction - instead of going your way, go God's way.

We folks have a hard time going God's way. And we have for a long time.
Look at Genesis. We are going God's way - listening, serving, loving God.
god tells Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil then Bam! The serpent tempts Eve and through Eve, Adam, to disobey God. To go in another direction. To march to the beat of a different drummer.
They don't start off repenting either. Instead they play the blame game.

From Genesis 3:9-13
But the Lord GOD called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." Then the Lord GOD said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate."

In fact, they never do explicitly repent and their story fades from view with the birth of Seth, after the death of Abel.

John the Baptizer proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and we read that people from the whole Judean countryside came to him in the river Jordan confessing their sins.

The Lord is coming he says. One so great that he was not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal - the job of the lowly slave. Prepare his way. Repent. Change direction.

There was a woman who I met while I was still in training to be a pastor who had an adult son whom she loved dearly. She raised him and brought him to church as a child and taught him right from wrong, but it appeared all for naught. As he moved into adulthood he fell into deep addictions, moved back home, stayed out late at night, hid drugs in the house and so on. It was every mother's nightmare. Would he come home tonight? Was that a police siren? How long would he stay clean this time? Her prayers grew desperate, difficult, and more and more earnest until one day she prayed to God that her son would die. Then she prayed, she would never have to worry and suffer each night. Just take him God, she prayed.
And he didn't come home that night.

In the morning she saw his body slumped over in the driver's seat of their car out in the street in front of the house.
For a moment we could imagine what went through her mind.
Had God listened to her?

She banged on the window and he stirred.
He had been not dead, but asleep.
I had been another harrowing night and he was done with it.
That very night , that awful night, he had made up his mind.
He repented. Changed direction. Sought a different road not his own.
His own having only led to pain and heartache and self destruction.

She told me this story without emotion.
Her voice only began to crack when she spoke of his life after that long night. How he straightened out and cared for her. Made something out of his life and now as hers was nearing its end he was there always to be counted on, full of love and strength as her own strength waned.

A ship changes direction with a rudder and we cannot change direction of our own power, our own strength, our own wisdom. It's when we think that we know what is best for ourselves that our ship runs aground. We're back in the garden again listening to the serpent's voice:

He said to the woman, "Did God say, "You shall not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, "You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

And those voices are always out there, urging us to seek a direction to call our own. And our path always leads to self-destruction

The good news is that we do not have to change our own direction on our own. Help comes.

We know how hard it is, at least for men, to go back the way that we came and try a different route when driving, even when we know that the road that we have taken is the wrong road.
Inertia kicks in and pride and stubbornness and our own desire to fix the problem that we created by continuing in the same direction until we are no longer lost. I mean after we drive past China we know that we are heading back to where we started, eventually, right?

On our own, we don't stand chance to repent.
Powerful help is there for us. Poured out for us and into us in our baptism. We have been baptized with the fire that John promised would come in and through Christ Jesus for our sakes.
And it will not forsake us. It is close at hand. We know that even if the decisions that we may make in life cause us to forget for awhile. Blind us to the possibility. The first step that we take in repentance is guided by the Holy Spirit, inviting continued formative change in our life, reshaping us into the image of Christ. One has come and is coming. One more powerful than I or you. We aren't worthy to untie the thong of his sandals either, but he takes us by the hand and leads us onward in a new direction. Thanks be to God! Amen!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Gingerbread Men in the Making!
(Or is that baking?)

Let the Baking Begin!
See you Saturday at 6PM for potluck and gingerbread man (and woman and other things) decorating! Please bring a dish to share and a can or tub of icing and a decorating element (sprinkles, hard candy and so forth).
Chef Keith

Monday, December 01, 2008

It is baking week in the parsonage as dozens upon dozens of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies fly out of the oven bound for our college students who are preparing for their finals and then even more dozens of 10 inch gingerbread men for this Saturday's Annual "Gingerbread Decorating Night."

This is the recipe that I use for a nice smelling and hard (easier to decorate) cookie.
(It comes courtesy of King Arthur Flour)
If you want to make these cookies int a tree ornament, use a straw to poke a hole in the top of the cookie before baking to add a hanging loop later on.

5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves.
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup molasses (or light or dark corn syrup)
2 eggs

In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt, cinnamon,ginger, cloves and baking soda. Set the mixture aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the shortening, then stir in the sugar and molasses. pour the tepid shortening mixture over the flour mixture and begin beating till everything is thoroughly combined. Divide the dough in half and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours (or overnight)., to mellow. The dough is easier to work with if given a long rest. Don't forget to pull the dough out of the fridge a few hours before you want to work with it if refrigerating overnight to allow it to warm up and soften a bit.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour and roll the dough to approx. 1/8 to 1/4 in ch thick. Use cutters to cut as many cookies as you can, then gather the scraps together and re-roll them, and cut out more cookies till the dough is gone. Transfer cookies to a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. (Try to cut out as many cookies as possible each time you roll the dough because each time you-re-roll it it will get tougher and harder to work with.)

Bake the cookies in a pre-heated 350degree oven for 15 minutes or so or until they're just barely starting to darken around the edges and you can still leave an impression in the top of a cookie if you press down with a finger. The larger the pieces the longer it will take to bake. (If you are making them to serve as ornaments bake them until they are good and hard).

Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them completely on a wire rack before storing an in an air-tight container.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

With the Christmas shopping seasons upon us - please remember that if you shop online why not go through www.goodshop.com and select "Trinity Lutheran Church - Pembroke Pines" as your charity. Going through goodshop.com as your shopping portal to nearly all of the major web retailers allows Trinity to earn a percentage from each sale courtesy of the retailer and goodshop.com. It doesn't affect the price you pay and our shared ministry of the Gospel benefits!

If you do any web searches (and who doesn't?) you can search using www.goodsearch.com or go to that page and download the toolbar for your web browser to make it even easier and again select "Trinity Lutheran Church - Pembroke Pines" as your charity. We get a bit over a penny a search. Trust me it adds up. Quickly.
Trinity's Bible Study Blog is Growing...
Have you been checking it out?
And why not become a "poster" yourself?
Jon, Kristin and I have started the trend -
see the results at http://tlcbiblestudy.blogspot.com/
We would love to have you "post" or "comment" on a post.
Send Pastor Keith or the office a note and we will let you know how to get started.

Need Help in your Daily Commitment to Read the Bible?
Find a partner and join our 15 minute a day challenge that will run from DEC 1st through Easter Sunday April 12th 2009. Covenant forms will be available this Sunday. Partners will check in with each other weekly for encouragement and perhaps even a little sharing of what you have been reading. Need a partner? We'll find you one.

Monday, November 24, 2008



(and each Friday in Advent)

Please Join Us!

Friday, November 21, 2008

We will return to First Lutheran Church to provide dinner, serve, and make sandwiches on Wednesday December 17th 2008 and Wednesday January 21st 2009. In addition to food we will also be collecting coats for distribution on our December date and kits consisting of toothbrushes, disposable razors (men's and women), and travel soap, tooth paste, and shaving cream in a gallon size ziplock bag in January. There will be marked boxes/bins in the narthex for these items shortly as well as sign up lists for food and for the serving team. If you would like to be team captain for one of the nights - please let me know.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Feeding the Hungry
Last night about 35 of us from Trinity went to First Lutheran Church, Fort Lauderdale, to assist in their Wednesday evening dinner program that provides meals for the hungry of Fort Lauderdale. A number of folks also cooked or donated the food that this crowd then served.
A BIG Thank You goes out to everyone who helped in any way. I saw people literally take the coats and sweat shirts off the backs and give them to people who they knew would be freezing later that night out on the streets. A dozen lasagnas and many loaves of bread and the largest bowl of salad that I ever saw went within 40 minutes as well over 50 guests arrived, not including our folks and the folks from First Lutheran.

I wish I could show you about two dozen of our folks in the kitchen making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches assembly line style for First's daily lunch program, but I left the camera at home, which is OK. The memories will serve for all of us I think. I also think that when we got home that we prayed as our little Natalia suggested during the worship service that followed diner: "For the homeless people."

Our shared work to embody the gospel with First Lutheran will continue - more information on our next two serving and food providing opportunities will follow shortly. And remember, our approach must always be two fold - for works of charity (the feeding) and works of justice (our advocacy for systemic change through Bold Justice and other ways). Tonight with Bold Justice is the issues training meeting for those who will be working on the issues of Jobs, Wages and Unemployment; Affordable Housing; and Affordable Dental Care. Did you know that last year through the work of Bold Justice that over $800,000 in grant money was acquired to assist those who do not have dental coverage in Broward County? Advocacy works when we all work together!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The purpose of the Book of Faith initiative is to increase biblical literacy and fluency for the sake of the world. We kicked off our initiative with a covenant litany on Reformation Sunday.

The new Lutheran Study Bible
During coffee hour we took sign-ups for the new Lutheran Study Bible – 17 so far – remember monies and final orders are due December 15th. The sign up list may be found at the book sale table in Charter Hall or you may contact the office

Bible Studies
On All Saints Sunday we commenced our three week “Re-Discovering the Book of Faith” Bible Study, spending one week each on the roots of the Old and New Testaments and one week on the Lutheran impact on Biblical interpretation. On the final week we also participated in a survey in order to better plan for future Bible studies. We also need to remind folks that there are two ongoing Bible studies at Trinity – the Men’s Bible Study coordinated by Fritz that typically meets once a month on a Tuesday evening and the Tuesday morning Bible study led by Earline at 8:30AM.

A new Coffee Hour Bible Study will begin in January!
I will be leading a four week Coffee Hour Bible Study class at 12:15PM on January 11th, 18th, and 25th and February 1st called “Bread and the Bible” in which we will spend the first half of the class looking at four ways in which bread appears in Scripture (mana in the Book of Exodus; the feeding stories in the gospels, the “Bread of Life” discourse in the Gospel of John and the Last Supper in the gospels). The second half of each class will include a lesson on baking a different type of bread each week – samples, of course, will be shared and enjoyed! Tentatively we will learn how to make focaccia, Struan, challah, and whole wheat Naan bread.

The 15 Minute Challenge
Come join the challenge!
Commit to read from the Bible for 15 minutes a day between December 1, 2008 and Easter Sunday April 12th. That’s 133 days and by Easter you will have an extra day and a half of your life immersed in God’s Word. Commitment Cards will be distributed to the congregation and dedicated to the Lord on November 30th at worship. We ask that you select a partner who can encourage you by checking in at least once a week during this time. Another option would be to post on line. Those with an Internet connection can post what they are reading and any questions, thoughts or insights or comment on what others are posting on Trinity’s own Book of Faith Bible Study Blog at http://tlcbiblestudy.blogspot.com. If you want to post anonymously, feel free to email your posts to Pastor Keith who will make sure that they get up on the blog without your name. To participate in this wonderful online opportunity please send an email to Pastor Keith at drpk@ earthlink.net so that he can send you an invitation email to get you started.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Matthew 25:31-46 SUNDAY NOVEMBER 23, 2008

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' 37Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

I imagine that most of us have never heard of Cliff Hillegass. Growing up during the dustbowl of the 1930’s Cliff financed his way through college holding down two paper routes and helping care for his family’ Jersey cows. He worked for a book company and in 1958 took off and ran with idea that was becoming popular in Canada, a study aid to help students better understand the finer points of literature, thus Cliffsnotes was born. For the past 47 years, Cliffsnotes have been synonymous with the ultimate shortcut. Just give me the Cliffs notes version we tell someone who is just getting wound up with a long story. Taking the Cliffsnotes approach is just perfect for people who already have too few hours in the day.

Today I want to share with you the ultimate Cliffnotes approach to building up our faith. The ultimate Cliffnotes approach to having such a robust spirituality that nothing and I mean nothing can diminish it. How to become a sheep instead of a goat in not two, not five, but three easy lessons.
And we all want to be a sheep, right?
At the great divide, when the goats are all plucked out, we want to be shown the great velvet ropes that lead us sheep to the eternal pastures of heaven.

We read: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;

I have done all the work for you. Here it is. Everyone break out your pencils and pens – ready…you're sure? Well, first I have this bridge that I want to sell you in Brooklyn. No? How about some swampland in Florida?

There is no Cliffnotes approach for being a sheep. No short cuts to a robust spirituality. No easy faith. Not then. Not now. Not ever.

So we hear a Gospel text like today’s and we say to ourselves – fine, if there are no shortcuts (and I know that some might be tempted to check the Cliffnotes section of Barnes and Noble next time one wanders in for a good read and a latte just to make sure)

Assuming that I am not just blowing smoke (and I can't even blow a bubble with a mouth full of chewing gum) , what is then required of us – what do sheep do in order to be sheep and not goats? If we want to be counted as sheep then we better live like sheep and do things that sheep do. So we look to the parable in today’s Gospel and we learn that sheep…feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit those in prison. So, we might say to ourselves, if I do those things then I can count on moving on to that great sheep pen in the sky, right?

Somebody out there is thinking – stop right there Pastor – that sounds exactly like earning our salvation. We can’t do that. No way!
Salvation comes as a gift. As pure grace!

(If you were that person, pat yourself on the back. You are truly a Lutheran at heart.)

For Luther (and we Lutherans) God's unmerited gift of grace in and through Christ Jesus has freed us from the futile (and impossible!) life of trying to earn God's favor so that we might serve both God and neighbor. We have been freed for something, for the life of a sheep. A life that includes feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming, visiting and clothing. That is the good that we do, right?

Richard Jensen, writing about this text, keyed me in to something that I think we need to hear. He points out that the sheep are utterly surprised that the things they did served the will of God. They were completely surprised that those things that they did were anything special. “But when Lord,” they say, “when did we do those things for you?”

The very people who take this text to heart don't even know that they are serving anyone, especially Christ. They have come to so embody the Christian life, freed by God's grace, that serving and loving neighbor is as natural as breathing. They have become as Paul writes in Ephesians "imitators of Christ" and they don’t even know it!

This parable isn't meant for us to figure out if we have been sheep or goats and plan for the afterlife accordingly, but rather offers for us a glimpse of what life lived as children of Kingdom should be. It can be an uncomfortable and messy life, can't it? I think of Mother Theresa lovingly collecting up the neglected and rejected dying on the streets of Calcutta during their final days and hours and caring for them along with her sisters. Instead of dying in the gutter amid refuse and mud, they had clean beds. Instead of dying in filth, they were bathed and had their hair washed and combed. Instead of dying alone, they died among those who loved them because for Mother Theresa and her sisters, THEY WERE CHRIST.

“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

They didn’t seem to be thinking about what they did, now did they? They just did it.
For them it was as natural as breathing. For them, the living out of their faith was as natural as breathing.

Take a breath. We don’t have to think about it much. It just happens. The diaphragm drops down filling out lungs with air and then the air is forced back out.

When we see Christ in all, we are transformed - the encounter becomes a holy moment and our lives one holy moment after another until our life, itself, is truly sanctified, lived continually in the presence of our risen Lord and Savior. As Luther says in his "Introduction to Romans" speaking of our life of faith, our faith does not even ask if there are good works to be done, but is already and always at the doing of them. That is truly embodying the Christian life. That is truly imitating Christ.

And it requires more humility than we could ever muster without the Holy Spirit stepping in and offering us a hand.

And it requires turning over the sovereignty of our life to Christ, which none of us would do without the Holy Spirit's constant strength; which none of us could do without the Holy Spirit’s call to us for confession, repentance and forgiveness.

Being a sheep means not thinking about being a sheep, but rather looking into the eyes of another human being and seeing Christ staring back at you A thirsty Christ. A hungry Christ. A naked Christ. Would we feed him? Give him a drink? Clothe him?
Would we, indeed.

More on Sunday!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Matthew 25:14–30
14For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' 21His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' 23His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

How much risk are we willing to take?

Perhaps not much. At least anymore. At least not with one’s finances. In the tech stock bubble of the 1990’s Wall Street gambled, made a bundle, then coughed up huge loses. In this decade it is the banks that bundled mortgage loans including risky loans as investment instruments that they then sold to eager investors in order make even more profit. Unregulated, this house of cards continues to collapse before our very eyes on the front pages of news papers and on the television news and internet. The tremors are being felt every where, not just in the finances markets, and affecting nearly every aspect of our lives. I just looked at my retirement statement. When your own statement finds it way to your mailbox, the envelope ought to have a warning label on it: “Those with weak hearts or weak stomachs should not open this envelope under any circumstances!” Seeing the value of your retirement portfolio shrink by ten percent or more may cause even the most steely investors to give pause, even if you have enough years ahead to make it up. We know that historically the market even out over time. Such knowledge brings little comfort with unemployment rising, defaults on loans and foreclosures reaching heights not seen in most of our lifetimes.

How much risk are we willing to take?
Not much, likely.
Large forces in our economy have gambled and all of us have lost to some degree.
Risk has become a four-letter word. Safe, reasonable, solid, dependable, predictable – these are words for the life that we long for.

Of course, risk, and especially great risk is not the invention of the early 21st century or late 20th century or America in its entire history. Risk had been around since the first caveman woke up one day and left his cave, picked up a pointed stick, and decided for kicks that he would chase down a saber tooth tiger and attempt to poke it really hard.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the question of risk is at the heart of our gospel today and we should take notice of that fact because while all risk is “risky” by definition, we learn that not all risk is bad, especially when it comes to our faith.

We read of a man who was going on a journey. He took some of his money and entrusted it to three of his servants. To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and for the third, just one,. Each according to their ability. Now a talent by some estimations was the equivalent of 15 year’s wages for the average working person – so we are talking about some serious working capital here. After a long time , the man comes back and wants to know how each of them has done with that working capital – for it was entrusted with some expectation. Now, the one who had been entrusted with five talents had made another five; the one who had been entrusted with three talents had also doubled the money and both of them earn the blessings: Well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your master!

But the focus is on the third. The one trusted, according to his ability, with one talent, though still a sizable sum. 15 years’ wages is still 15 years’ wages. We see that he would not take a risk. Perhaps he was afraid, like he said. Or Perhaps he is lazy and a liar. In either case he has hidden his talent in the ground where it sat throughout the years for curious earthworms to gawk at while time passed. Perhaps the servant was hoping that the master would never return or just forget about the sum. We’ll never know. The earning potential on that talent, on that still enormous sum, had been completely wasted. And what does that servant earn for his trouble – punishment and condemnation.

We might be inclined to sympathize with this third servant. After all, it is not like he lost any of it. He could have taken risk and lost and had nothing to show for it. Like those who were hoodwinked by Enron. When I was in the navy we had a saying about those marines who loved to parachute - “Why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” Those who did loved the rush, the thrill, the risk. A lot more people would rather keep their seatbelts on, thank you very much. The third servant was one of these people. No risk. None at all. He played it safe, burying the talent, we might imagine, where no one would find it. So, what was wrong with that? He broke even, didn’t he. Why the condemnation? Perhaps he knew his own limitations. Perhaps he wasn’t a wizard when it came to investing. So why the suffering punishment?

We see, however, that the parable anticipates every argument that we can throw at it for the sake of this third servant. The owner tells the third servant: “Then you ought to have invested my money with bankers and when I would have returned I would have received what was mine with interest.” Not much risk in opening a savings account is there? True this was before the days of the FDIC, but still, not much risk there, some, but not much. The servant could have chosen this much lower risk and had something to show for it, but no. Instead he tells the owner that the owner isn’t a nice person and engages in illegal business practices. You see, it is the owner’s fault, not the servant’s. How typical, to place blame on someone else. To lie, To make up stories all so that one does not have to accept responsibility for their own actions or refusal to act.

So, how much risk are we willing to take?

Jesus is not concerned with how we diversify our investment portfolios here or apportion our annuities or allocate the funds in our 401K’s to ensure the maximum Return on Investment, is he?

Rather, I think, Jesus reminds us that God has entrusted all of us with a gift. Now, most folks that I know absolutely love receiving gifts. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, heck, we don’t complain much when those card stores invent new holidays just so we can receive more gifts. It might be better to give than receive, but receiving, that feels pretty good most of the time. So, all of us get a gift in our Baptism from God through Christ delivered by the Holy Spirit. Not a Bible or a cross necklace or a card or a savings bond or a photo frame, but something much more precious.

Lutheran writer Kelly Fryer says, at our Baptism, we get a job. God gives us a job - The job of proclaiming the in-breaking Kingdom of God to a world that needs what we have to give them. All of us have this job. Every single one of us. And there is no retirement only death, and God has already taken care of that for us through his Son. So no worries there.

At our Baptism we get a job. And God has give us the gifts necessary to perform that job for the sake of the world. We just have to be willing to take the risk to use what God has gifted us. Each according to our own abilities.

To be cowards or Christians. To be blessed or condemned.
The parable is harsh in its judgments. No shades of grey. No middle ground.
To take a risk for the sake of the Gospel to serve the Gospel. To proclaim the Gospel. To embody the Gospel. To live the Gospel. To use our gift boldly. To declare to others the wonderful glorious gift of grace. To declare Christ crucified and risen.
Risky business, indeed.

At baptism we get a job. God gives us gifts to perform that job boldly and well.
The question is: Are we willing to take the risk to open our eyes to those gifts? Are we willing to put those gifts to work?

One picture that will forever be warmly remembered happened a few years ago – we were visiting the Lippmann Shelter for Youth on a Saturday with a group of folks from Trinity. We brought food for lunch and tools to dress up their yard, and we brought Bill Nichols with us along with his potter’s wheel and a bunch a clay. We set up his wheel on a table in their dining room and plugged it in. Around the room skeptical teenagers watched, some looking bored, others curious. He was this man, certainly as old as their grandfathers, doing something that he had done nearly all his life: Taking a lump of clay and fashioning something beautiful from it. These kids, they were there because they had run away or because the court ordered them there or because they had nowhere else to turn. Their reasons were their own. But one by one these streetwise teens were drawn to Bill and the clay and took their turns with joy shaping something beautiful. At his baptism, Bill got a job and a gift and into his 80’s he hadn’t forgotten. His talent was still working for the sake of the Kingdom.

At our Baptism we get a job. And God has given us the gifts necessary to perform that job for the sake of the world. We just have to be willing to take the risk to use what God has gifted us. Are we ready to take such great risks for God? Will we take such great risks for the sake of the world?

Friday, November 07, 2008

As an ELCA Book of Faith congregation, we at Trinity have opened up a new BLOG where folks can share what they are reading in the Bible and any thoughts, questions or insights from that reading. In order to post, I have to add you to the authorized list, which is easy - all you have to do is to drop me a note at drpk@earthlink.net. Once authorized you can post your own thoughts or comment on what others post. Please drop me a note then come and share!
Our Book of Faith BLOG can be found at http://tlcbiblestudy.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

NOVEMBER 9, 2008 Amos 5:18–24

Children are not stupid. They notice things.
As a kid we worshipped as a family most Sundays and after Sunday school was over and worship let out and we skipped coffee hour, all of us would pile into our family’s green ’72 Chevy station wagon and observe people. The time spent between backing out of our parking spot and leaving the parking lot was often quite informative.

One Sunday, the pastor preached about grace and forgiveness and then we observed through the car windows of neighboring cars heated arguments, contorted faces and wild pointing of fingers. If the window was rolled down we learned of disagreements over where one family was to have brunch or whether another should immediately go home in order to make kick off or instead visit visit a neighbor.

Another Sunday, the pastor preached on the first being last and the last being first and it must have taken twenty minutes for our car to get out of the parking lot because everyone seemed to want to get home. Our car would start backing up and someone else’s would move more quickly. I remind you that this was New York, and church or no church, such aggravation pushed people dangerously close to sharing their feelings in both word and deed with their neighboring motorists.

Children aren’t stupid: they notice these things. They notice when there is a disconnect between what is heard in worship and heard in Sunday school and what they see Christians doing in the world. The greater the disconnect, the greater and deeper the lesson is learned.
Such powers of observation, of course, are not limited to children. We adults are known to have the ability to see, to observe, to note disconnects and incongruities when we take the time to open our eyes to see such things.

Listen again to the prophet Amos:
I hate, I despise your festivals,and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,I will not accept them;and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters,and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos speaks for God in words of condemnation for the disconnect between worship and life in how the people of God went about the course of their daily activities. Specifically, the prophet condemns their lack of justice. Just a few verses earlier he has reminded the people of their sins – their hypocrisy: How they trample the poor, over burden them with taxes of food, take brides for injustice and push the needy from the gate.

Carla came to me one Sunday after church with a look of concern. “I’ve just been offered a promotion,” she said. “That’s wonderful,” I told her. “Congratulations!” “”I’m not taking it, “she said quietly. Even though it meant more money, better benefits, and a step up the corporate ladder she was going to turn it down. “Why?” I asked. “What’s the problem?” She began to tell me how in this position she would have to compromise her faith – deny people help that she knew that they needed and make it more difficult for them to receive the care that they deserved. The disconnect for her, between her faith and her life, between Sunday and what took place outside of the doors of the sanctuary was vivid, stark, and would not be compromised for profit, personal gain, or career. I don’t know how easy or difficult the decision was for her, but she had made up her mind. The justice that flowed from the righteousness of her faith won the day.

Could God ever hate our worship? Despise our singing? Not accept our praise and our prayers and our gifts?

Amos suggests that God pays attention to how well we connect our act of worship with how we worship God in the living out of our life. That God especially pays attention to how well justice flows from the righteousness given to us in our Baptism.

Someone pointed out the three ladies in the front row, the first row of pews, dressed up for church and chatting amiably amongst themselves in the minutes before the prelude began. The three ladies sat in the front pew of First Baptist as they had nearly all of their adult lives. They were in their seventies now and decades before they had fought to integrate the railroad near Atlanta. These women, these church ladies, these women of the south, had gone to the tracks one day and lay down in front of a locomotive and refused to move. Could you imagine these three young ladies, housewives, neighbors to some, friends to many, in their Sunday best laying down on dirty tracks in front of a diesel locomotive? They were arrested, of course, but the point was made. There would be no disconnect for them between their Sunday morning worship and the rest of their week. God’s justice would not dwell alone as words that they heard Sunday mornings in worship or Wednesday evenings in Bible study, but there on the tracks in front of a segregated train as well.

Our worship should inform and be informed by our living out our Baptismal calling in the world and one of the foundational themes that should be taught, lifted up, nurtured and encouraged is that of justice. In worship we encounter and are encountered by the crucified and risen Lord, yet Jesus warns us that we shall encounter him also out in the world as one on the margins, as one in need. As one thirsty and in need of a drink. As one hungry and in need of food. As one naked and in need of clothes. As one in prison who we visit.

The images from Amos are startling. The righteous being sold for silver; the needy being sold for a pair of sandals; the heads of the poor being trampled into the dust of the earth - all the while those who considered themselves righteous feast on good food and drink good wine and push the poor out of the way at the gate.

I hate, I despise your festivals,and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,I will not accept them;and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon.Take away from me the noise of your songs;I will not listen to the melody of your harps.But let justice roll down like waters,and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

The disconnect in far too many Christians between the righteousness that they have received and the justice that they live out in the world is glaring. Shameful. Obvious. And people notice such things. Children and adults alike who look to us as witnesses to what God has accomplished in Christ Jesus for the sake of the world – they are watching. If they watch us carefully, what will they see? Will they despise our worship and hate our praise because it comes to God empty and shallow? Or will they take hold of God’s justice flowing through our lives, through our congregation, and join their voices in praise and prayer to the Glory of God?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Thank you to everyone who participated in our "covenanting" into the Book of Faith Initiative on Reformation Sunday.

This is what we promised:
PASTOR Reads the Covenant:

WHEREAS all the baptized when they affirm their baptism promise “to hear the Word of God” and “to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed”; and

WHEREAS all parents and sponsors covenant to place the Holy Scriptures in the hands of their children and nurture them in faith and prayer; and

WHEREAS pastors at their ordination vow to be diligent in their study of the Holy Scriptures; and

WHEREAS the ELCA has begun a Book of Faith Initiative inviting everyone to join the conversation, to make a commitment, and to become part of the initiative

BE IT RESOLVED, that TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH, PEMBROKE PINES, FLORIDA become a “Book of Faith” congregation, committing ourselves to live in and from the Word of God in all our meetings, assemblies and events, so that as we regularly and increasingly hear, read, study, share and are engaged by God’s Word, we lead by example in faithful service and holy living;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that all participants in this faith community covenant together this day to begin a regular practice of Bible study and prayer, in order to become more fluent in the first language of faith -- the language of Scripture -- that we might live into our calling as a people renewed, enlivened, empowered, and sent by the Word.

PASTOR: People of God, this do you solemnly covenant this 26th Day of October, Reformation Day 2008? If so please declare “Yes ,with the help of God.”
PEOPLE: YES, with the help of God. Amen.

Our New Coffee Hour Bible Study
Over 24 people joined in our first week "Re-discovering the Book of Faith" Bible study.
That's 20% of our worship attendance, so that's awesome - the more the merrier!
Remember that folks can join in for any or all of the three sessions.
For those who were with us on Sunday - remember to do your daily 15 minutes of reading in the Old Testament and to check in with your reading partner throughout the week.

This Sunday our second service coffee hour Bible study will turn to the New Testament and try to unpack what we find there.

The Lutheran Study Bible will be coming out this March, but the special pre-order discount runs only until December 31st. So far 17 Bibles are to be pre-ordered - we'll be sending our total order in right before the holidays - so our deadline for orders (and payment) will be DECEMBER 15th.

The Augsburg Fortress Press Book Sale (lots of good stuff there - for studying the Bible, to books on faith, books for children and much much more) continues throughout the month of November. Display is set up in the hall - order forms can be found on the table. Payment is due with your order. All proceeds go to our justice ministry - and we get to keep the copies on display for our church library!

We'll keep you updated on this important part of our ministry - have you found the daily Bible reading on this blog yet?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

FIRST READING Revelation 7:9-17
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying,"Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!"11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." 13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" 14I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal ;they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

“Why am I suffering like this?”

The words were whispered, urgently whispered, in a voice shocked, surprised, and worn.
Six words, then she spoke no more. Not that day or the next until she spoke, one surmises, in the Kingdom.
Why am I suffering like this?

It was a few years back and I was visiting someone in hospice, in a coma, in the last days of her life. Family and friends had gathered. They came and went in shifts. Standing, sitting, talking. Wandering in and out. Remembering, weeping and holding one another in support. Her breathing had grown shallow and struggled a bit, though thank goodness for hospice keeping her comfortable. She no longer squeezed my hand back when I entered and spoke soft words and prayers and squeezed her hand to let her know that I was there. I had walked over to the lounge to be with those who had gathered there, gathered for a break from death and the dying. To sit and not have to hear the sound of breathing, in a place where noise was OK, and one could enjoy a moment of peace without having to wait for death, to watch for it. We spoke, shared memories of small consequence. Kept it light and easy.

We had not gotten out but a handful of thoughts when someone still standing watch in the room ran and to tell me, tell us, that she had called for me. SHE had called for me. That she had inexplicably sat up from her near death coma looked around the room and called for me with her eyes wide open.
I entered. Her bed was surrounded, the room full.
She looked at me and spoke:
“Why am I suffering like this?”
And then she returned to her sleep.
Every eye in the room turned to me, expectantly, wanting to hear the answer to a question that had no answer.

“Why am I suffering like this?”

Suffering is as old as human life – as long as we have walked upon the earth - its first threads woven into the story of the Fall from the Garden of Eden itself. Adam forced to work the land for food by the sweat of his brow and Eve to experience the pain of childbirth. The suffering of pain until then unknown.

Suffering, too, has been a mark of the Christian faith and its congregations from the beginning. Not that Christians are called to go looking for it or to revel it in or hope for it – but rather that suffering comes: Sometimes as a matter of course for just being human and sometimes for being Christian.

It is believed that the seven churches to whom the Book of Revelation is addressed were undergoing persecution by Rome that was leading to suffering. Following the strong persecution by the Emperor Nero mid-way through the 1st century, being Christian was tantamount to being part of a criminal conspiracy – a threat to good order – a threat to the harmonious relationship between people and their gods. If the provincial governors wanted to they could persecute Christians at will. A major purpose of the Book of Revelation, then, according many Biblical scholars, was to offer comfort and encouragement to persecuted and suffering Christians.

Listen again:
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" 14I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal ;they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Why am I suffering like this?
Suffering is something that connects us as human beings.
Perhaps that is why every head in the room turned hoping for an answer.

Did you hear? That at the gates of heaven something marvelous happens. God waits for us and for our tears, to wipe them away forever. That tears have no place there. That suffering does not happen there. Thirst is gone and hunger, too. That God makes sure of it. All of it left at the gate. The pain. The loss. The ache. The brokenness. That is the reward that the saints receive – the fulfillment of the promise as a child of God – the fullness of our baptismal promises made manifest.

I remember years ago sitting with an older woman, the mother of a member of this church, who had gone to the hospital, her disease having progressed with no hope for turning back inevitable death. I stopped by her hospital room and as soon as I plopped myself down on a chair, she had some things that she needed to tell me.

“Jesus came by last night and said that I am going home and that he would take me there.” She was quite matter-of-fact about it. Smiling actually. Peaceful. Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know how to take what she said. What does one say, supposing that something should be said. The statement acknowledged as powerful as it was. As confident as she was. I should say something, I thought. “That’s wonderful!” was all that I could manage and then shut up for awhile to think about it. Another saint of God entering into the fullness of the promise given in her baptism some 90 years earlier. She went to sleep and the very next day she died in peace. No questions left unanswered. Ready to go home with Jesus to lead the way.

As Lutherans we declare that all of us are saints of God, consecrated in our Baptism, sealed with Christ, adopted by God, and made inheritors of the Kingdom. Some will suffer during the course of their lives, some greatly, some perhaps not at all. It is not our suffering that makes us a saint, but God, who chose us all in Christ Jesus. Why there is suffering and why one suffers, while another might not, are questions that will have to be left in this life. Left at the cross in whose shadows, perhaps, such questions are ultimately lost, rendered in time as meaningless, as we, too, receive the fullness of the promise given to saints.

"These are they who have come out of the great ordeal ;they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."