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...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, October 4, 2009:

First Reading: Genesis 2:18-24

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Psalm: Psalm 8

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 26

Second Reading: Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Gospel: Mark 10:2-16

All across America, I imagine that mainstream pastors plan to preach on the Old Testament, Psalm, or Second Reading, instead of the Gospel this week. With so many divorced and remarried people in the congregation, who wants to touch the Gospel text? Verse 10, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder," has probably been slung around more often than just about any other Gospel verse, and I suspect, not always with the intent of making people's lives better.

But let's look at the text again, with different eyes. Note that the question is about the ability of men to divorce their wives. Of course it is. Women couldn't divorce their husbands nearly as easily under the ancient laws (Roman and Jewish) which governed the audience of Jesus. You might see this lesson as part of the whole lesson that Jesus preaches again and again, that lesson about caring for the poor and destitute and outcast, for those on the lower rungs of society. In some ways, this admonishment protected women, who under the law, didn't have much protection if their husbands wanted to cast them aside. And under the law, women cast aside didn't have much in the way of economic sustenance.

The Gospel lesson closes with yet another story of Jesus and children, which helps to frame the lessons about divorce and lead us back to thinking about our mission to protect the weak and the vulnerable. In almost every society, who is more weak and vulnerable than children? Even old people have more protection. Most societies like to think that they prize children, but look at how they spend their money, and you'll see a different story. Jesus, however, reminds us that children belong to the Kingdom of God, and that we must become like children to enter it.

The traditional interpretation of this part of the Gospel would be that Jesus is talking about Heaven, that place where we go when we die. Yet modern scholarship tells us that Jesus used that word, "Kingdom," differently. He's talking about a future time, but also our present time, the now and the not yet. Jesus came to tell us that the Kingdom of God was breaking through to reclaim the world. It's fabulous news. We don't have to wait until we die to experience the good life.

But of course, the paradox remains: we're still part of a fallen world, part of a world waiting for redemption. How do we cope with that reality and the message of Jesus?

Many humans respond by creating laws and conveniently ignoring the fact that the message of Jesus is one of grace and love, not of law. We see the Pharisees testing Jesus on issues of the Law, and Jesus snapping back. One can almost hear him thinking, we have so much to do and you're bothering me with questions of divorce and taxes? Before we get too self-righteous, thinking that we're not like those blasted Pharisees, we might remember that in the mainline church, we've spent quite a long time debating homosexuality. We may have settled the question of divorce for ourselves, but we're still getting tangled in these issues of Law and Righteousness.

I can imagine that Jesus would be impatient with us and say, "Honestly, are you still arguing over these issues of which love is legitimate and which love isn't? Haven't you put on your child eyes yet?"

I recently spent time with my three year old nephew, which often changes the way I approach the world and helps me understand these Bible passages that revolve around children. My nephew is the most non-judgmental person I know, and it's a delight to spend time with him. He wants us to dance around the living room, and he doesn't care how stupid we look. He wants us to draw him a picture of a truck, and while he'll offer suggestions, he has never crumpled up the paper and told me never to draw again. He delights in the world in a way that most adults have forgotten how to do.

I imagine God is much the same. We've got a wonderful world here, and we often forget how fabulous it is. We get so hung up on all the ways we think the world has gone wrong that we forget what is right. We spend time creating laws to try to control behavior, when we might do better to simply accept people for who they are, which is a major step towards loving them. We want to see the world in strict colors: black, white, no gray. We forget that the world is variegated. If we can leave the land of Law behind and enter the world of Love, we'll see a world washed in color, all of it good. We'll know what God knew, way back in Genesis, that the Creation is good, very good.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Adult Sunday School Class
With Thrivent's Steve Cochell
Continues this Sunday!
9:30AM in the east side of Charter Hall
Want to get your finance’s under control? We are offering More Than Money Matters, an interactive, values-based money management workshop developed by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in response to requests from congregations such as ours.
More Than Money Matters starts with a foundation of stewardship. You’ll learn how to identify what’s most important in your life and set goals. You’ll also learn how to make sharing, saving and spending decisions in line with your values and use basic management tools to help you budget, reduce debt and find money to save.
The six sessions include:
Stewardship and Values
Communicating About Money
Setting Goals
Credit and Debt
Finding Money to Save
Budget and Net Worth
A gift of joy and a message of God's love. For the past several years, we have supported Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child is a project in which empty shoeboxes are filled with school supplies, toys and personal items, along with a special message about God. The shoeboxes are then delivered to a drop off center, where they will eventually be distributed to children around the world who live in difficult circumstances and are in desperate need of hope. On Sunday, November 1st, we will be meeting in Charter Hall after late service to carpool to the local dollar store to purchase toys and items to fill our shoeboxes. Pizza and soda will be on sale while supplies last. $1 per slice & .50 per drink. We will depart for the dollar store at approximately 1 PM. Everyone is invited. If you are unable to join us but would like to make a contribution, please feel free to drop off any items in the box labeled "Operation Christmas Child" located in the Narthex. Additional pre-wrapped shoeboxes and Operation Christmas Child literature can be found in the Narthex as well as on the desk in Charter Hall. All monetary donations are tax deductible. Checks should be made payable to "Samaritan's Purse" and placed in the offering plate labeled Operation Christmas Child, Attn: Nancy Berger. Please make your donation by Sunday, November 15th. If you have any questions, please contact Nancy Berger at (943) 473-5484 or Jean Myers at (954) 962-5376.


Meeting Sundays at 9:30AM in the youth area of Charter Hall.

This Sunday we continue our immersion in 2 Timothy chapter 1 using the "Dwelling in the Word" approach to Bible Study after another challenging icebreaker. Then we will jump into the scripting of your 30 second "Faith Commercials" based upon Luther's rousing Introduction to Romans. Be thinking of some creative ideas!

All High School Age youth are always welcome!

Buildings will be ready for use WED afternoon
Proverbs 27:17
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend

Tuesday October 13, 2009 is fast approaching. This is the date of the first monthly meeting of the Men’s Ministry. We expect an exiting program as we attempt to further Men in discipleship and make them fishers of men.

Please pass this on to all your male friends, relatives and neighbors.

Our men will gather on the second Tuesday of every month at 7:30 Pm in the east side of the fellowship hall of Trinity Lutheran Church of Pembroke Pines. They should also be advised that their wives and female friends can attend a meeting on the west side of the hall at the same time with the ELCW

Our agenda will include a short Coffee social period followed by prayer, bible reading and bible study, old business, new business, discussion of volunteer opportunities and any other related topic the men in the ministry elect to discuss.

Our goals for the year are to reach and help men to become disciples by:

Furthering Men’s knowledge of the bible through reading and discussion.
Providing the tools necessary to expand men’s efforts as disciples.
Create, capture and sustain momentum among men
Maximize current efforts reaching men before creating new efforts.
Consistently provide men with a credible next step
Implement a strategy that God can use to change men, marriages, families and communities
Please email Pastor Keith ASAP to fill the openings
OCT 4th -
Greeter; Assisting Minister; Acolyte

OCT 11th -
Altar Guild; Greeter; Assisting Minister; Communion Assistant; Acolytes

OCT 18th -

OCT 25th -
youth reader; Assisting Minister; Acolytes;

NOV 1st -
Greeter; Assisting Minister; acolyte

Sunday, September 27, 2009

BOLD Justice House Meeting
Sunday, October 11th @ 12:15pm
Let your voice be heard!

BOLD Justice stands for Broward Organized Leaders Doing Justice. Trinity is one of 28 congregations that belong to BOLD Justice because it's our vehicle by which we "do justice" in this community. BOLD Justice includes congregations from different cultures, denominations and all parts of the county. Through BOLD Justice we have the opportunity to be involved in responding to God's call to do justice. BOLD Justice's strength in numbers and diversity is the source of our ability and power to create local systemic change. BOLD Justice uses an organizing process that has been successfully used in other cities to win greater access to health care, more affordable housing, increased reading scores and addressing crime in neighborhoods, etc.

This house meeting is one of two that will be held at Trinity to offer an extensive listening process to surface and choose community problems for our action. At these meetings we'll bring you up to date on the current issue work and share about community problems directly affecting us. I want to invite you to attend the first house meeting that I will be hosting on Sunday, October 11th from 12:15 - 1:45pm. This is your chance to share with the organization what your concerns are here in Broward county and what you would like to see changed to make it a better place to live. The more votes each issue receives, the more likely it is that BOLD Justice will take that issue to our elected officials throughout the coming year. Hope to see you there for this important gathering! God's Blessings, Janean Baumal


Saturday, October 3, 2009

4PM in Charter Hall

Bring your pet or a photograph of your pet for a blessing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


James 5: 13-20

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.19My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Are any among you suffering? They should pray.”

James gets it right, doesn’t he?
We can talk about the power of prayer all day long, but until the power is at work in us or in the lives of those whom we love, it can be hard to understand that power. To embrace it.

In March of 1986, my life seemed pretty good.
As a college junior, I had just spent a week in England on a spring break theater trip with the English Department. We saw two shows a day and met with actors and directors after many of them to discuss the characters portrayed or the decisions that the directors made in bringing their version to the stage. We saw Les Mis with the original cast and several Shakespeare plays and the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard. For a geeky English Major, it was pretty much heaven. We drank tea and dined on Tomato soup and sang Simon and Garfunkel tunes as we skipped down the streets of London at night, inviting plenty of stares and much laughter.

When the plane landed and we arrived back at school there was a note from my parents on my desk. They were waiting for me downstairs in the lobby. That’s all it said. “Meet us downstairs.” They had driven four hours to meet me and whatever the news was – it couldn’t be good. I saw them before they saw me: faces tired from the drive, but something more. Serious. Pained. “Lisa’s in a coma,” mom said. “We have to go.”

Lisa and I had been inseparable since I had gotten her to autograph her picture splashed on the front cover of the school paper during open house. She had just starred as Dorothy in our high school’s production of the Wizard of Oz. We became fast friends and our friendship survived countless boyfriends and girlfriends and eventually my going off to college. I help to teach her to drive and tutored her in math and visited her in the hospital when her asthma acted up. We filled our time together with endless hours of conversation about everything and anything. When I struggled with depression and attempted suicide my first semester in college, it was her voice that re-kindled some meaning for me, her command that made me promise not to do something so stupid ever again, her letters full of smiles, laughter, friendship and love.

During the drive home my mother explained that Lisa had had another Asthma attack, but this time had gone into cardiac arrest. He brain had not received oxygen for far too long and she had slipped into a coma and was not expected to live much longer. Her major systems were shutting down. It was only a matter of time.

Outside ICU, her mother met me. She was fidgeting with a cassette player and earphones, trying to feed the tape in with shaking hands. “It’s a tape of her singing with the high school chorus,” she said. “I think she might wake up if she hears familiar voices. Go in and talk to her. Go. Maybe she’ll wake up if she knows it’s you.”

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray.” James writes.

The smells. I remember the smells first, walking into that room. The smell of urine from the catheter and that chemical antiseptic smell that we all associate with hospitals and smells indistinguishable, like a discordant symphony. Maybe even the smell of impending death, but back then I wouldn’t have recognized it.

The sounds came next. The respirator and the EKG beeps and there she was. Tubes everywhere. Face swollen. Hair a matted mess. Her chest rising, struggling unnaturally with every change in pitch of the respirator.

Her mother’s voice came from the door. “Talk to her. Let her hear your voice. Talk to her and maybe she’ll wake up.” The door closed and we were alone again.

I spoke. I wept. And kissed her and said goodbye.

She died the next day, having spent a week in a coma. Her mother said that Lisa had waited for me to see her – had just refused to die before I could be there and say goodbye. That right after I left everything had begun to fail.

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray,” James writes.
We hear these things. We have said them ourselves. Prayer works. Prayer is powerful. Prayer moves the hand of God.

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray,” James writes. James believes that prayer is powerful. That we should be praying boldly. Praying with expectation.

We pray you and I, but do we believe in its power? That it accomplishes God’s purpose in the world. That it matters. That it heals. That it makes whole. That it binds up the wounds in our life, in our hearts, in our souls. Do we believe that? Do we pray like we believe in prayer and its power to bring forgiveness, healing, and wholeness?

The night that Lisa died I was already back at school. Everyone thought that was best. Classes had begun for the new semester. I missed the funeral, but had written some words that were shared at the graveside in my absence. Twenty odd years later and the Lord still works healing for the wound of her death, deep as it is. How does anyone take one more breath after the death of a friend or the loss of a loved one or the wounds of betrayal or the loss of a marriage or a relationship or any of the many ways in which we find ourselves wounded and broken? Even our national church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America today is wounded and broken. Being rent by schism. People and congregations refusing to find ways to live together amid disagreement. Not willing to sacrifice their need for some sense of peace to live together in the tension of the moment to allow the Holy Spirit to guide, to counsel, to work patiently. It is a day to mourn and grieve for our national church. And to pray.

We pray because prayer is powerful and through it the mighty power of God works in the world to forgive, and to heal and to make whole..

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray,” James writes.
There are many types of prayer – it comes in many forms. This Sunday is our Sunday we set aside for healing and intercession.
Some of you will come forward and be prayed for and receive the oil of anointing for healing. Healing of mind or body or spirit. Maybe all three. God knows what we need, even if we aren’t sure ourselves. But what we are sure of is the power of that prayer. We pray boldly because we have a God who invites us to pray boldly as a matter of faith.

During our time for intercession, some of you will lift up names – the names you hear spoken from the altar that you will make your own and names that speak from your own hearts that you freely add as together we weave our tapestry of prayer for God’s action.
And we will pray for our national church our bishops and congregations.

James says that the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Let us pray in that power always for God has come to heal us. To bind up our wounds. Forgive our sins. To make us whole again, to lead us once more beside the still waters of peace.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009:

First Reading: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

Psalm: Psalm 19:7-14

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 124

Second Reading: James 5:13-20

Gospel: Mark 9:38-50

Sometimes, we forget how harsh the message of Jesus must sound to outsiders. Sometimes, we've heard a certain phrase so often that we don't stop to ponder the implications.

Consider this verse: "And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire" (Mark 9: 43). And then we get the verses about cutting off a foot and plucking out an eye.

As a child, I was always taught that these verses were metaphorical. Of course we shouldn't pluck out our eyes if we looked at something forbidden.

As an older person, I wonder if we fall back on that idea of metaphor too often. Unfortunately, what often happens is that we sweeten up the message of Jesus in a desperate bid to attract non-believers. Look at all those prosperity gospel books, if you don't believe me. Several years ago, I was stuck in an airport in Kentucky, and I scanned much of a book entitled God Wants You to Be Rich! Really, I thought. The God I worship wants me to give my money away. If I take Jesus literally, not figuratively, I should be giving more of my money away. Notice how I'm hedging, even just then. There are plenty of verses where Jesus tells us to give ALL our money away.

As a pre-teen and early teen, I often voiced my desire to be either Jewish or Catholic. My parents were confounded by these requests and tried to explain the differences between our Lutheran beliefs and that of Jewish people and Catholic people.

But for me, it wasn't about beliefs. It was about practice. I wanted a religion that would impose a harsher discipline. I wanted to keep kosher. I wanted penance activities to do to earn forgiveness.

Now that I'm older, I want a religion that accepts my faults and reassures me that I'm lovable anyway. But I often wonder if mainline groups are losing members to more fundamentalist faiths because those faiths offer more rigorous requirements.

Jesus knows that we don't often require enough of ourselves--not in our spiritual relationships, not in our friendships, not in our workplaces, not in our families. Jesus knows that we will let ourselves off of the hook and not require real change of ourselves. And worse, Jesus knows that our harmful practices may harm others. Like the disciples who tell the man casting out demons to quit, we often dampen the positive passions of others.

What do we need to pluck out of our personalities? What is causing us to fall short of the full glory that can be ours? Or, to frame the question in a more positive way: how can we be good salt?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Our Fall Schedule Continues

8AM is our traditional LBW Setting One Liturgy.The front six pews will be open and filled with the Green LBW Hymnals. Organ only. Altar Rail Communion.

10:45AM is our Family Liturgy with Kid's Time, Choir, a mix of instruments and musical styles. Predominantly continuous communion on the floor before the altar. Essentially the summer liturgy with a few tweaks here and there.

At the 8AM and 10:45AM services this week we will be celebrating our Third Quarter anniversaries for those who have been living out their faith as a part of congregation as well as our monthly healing service. On our Healing Sundays we also lift up our prayer list, name by name for intercessory prayer. The prayer list for this Sunday has been built straight from the worship slips from last Sunday. If you have a new prayer request or were unable to attend last Sunday and want to add a name to the list please email Pastor Keith at his email address: drpk[at]earthlink.net or leave a voicemail at the office (954) 989-1903.

"We will recognize Ron McCoy for his nearly two years of leadership on the church council as Trinity's church and council president. Ron recently resigned due to a health emergency in the family. Your current congregational and council officers are as follows:

President: Kristin Berkey-Abbott
Vice- President: Pastor Keith
Secretary: Faith-Marie Lombardo
Treasurer/Financial Secretary: Bob Smith

Sunday School continues...
After a very successful Rally Day Sunday classes continue at 9:30AM
Lower Elementary (Grades 1-3) and Upper Elementary (Grades 4-5) and Confirmation (Grades 6-8) Should report directly to Charter Hall. Pre School should report directly to the nursery in the sanctuary. High School Youth should meet in the youth Room. The adult Class "Money Matters" will be off this week and return on OCT 4th.

Sign Up Lists
The Pumpkin Patch is in need of a few good people to serve in one of the three daily shifts (beginning OCT 15th) or to help with the off-load (WED OCT 14th 6:30PM) . Students needing Service Hours for school are highly encouraged to volunteer and why not bring some friends!

If you want to help with the worship service by reading, serving as an assisting minister or communion assistant or on the altar guild or in the nursery or by greeting or help with our healing service and more - the way to do it is to sign up on the clip board that is passed around each Sunday. If the board doesn't make it to your pew - seek it out after worship!

Worship Slip News
The "Singles" Affinity Group debuts this week under the leadership of Diane Seguine-Jansen. Remember two more people are needed to make this group a reality. Affinity groups commit to having three people who meet at least three times over three months for fellowship, prayer, and Scripture and commit to inviting at least one person not associated with Trinity to join them. A number of our groups are active now - indicate your interest on your worship slip.

The Visitors Dinner has been moved to FRI December 4th at 7PM to coincide with the season of Advent and our first Candlelight Walk. New Members will be received on Sunday December 20th. Interest in either opportunity can be indicated on the worship slip.

Wasn't Natalia's First Communion last Sunday wonderful! Children may begin communing at any age and are of course welcome to the Table of the Lord as is everyone at Trinity. We do encourage each child and a parent or significant adult in their faith formation attend a communion class that are offered throughout the year for an opportunity for deeper learning and reflection about the sacrament. "First Communions" are a special recognition of a child or youth's sacramental life and are arranged through Pastor Keith and involve further conversation and instruction. Interest in 1st Communion is indicated by checking the block on your worship slip.

And let us not forget: Rummage for the OCT 17th Rummage Sale may be dropped off on Sundays, Mondays between 8-11 and Wednesdays from 8-11. There are spaces on your worship slip to indicate your special interest in helping in the final sorting, setting up and day of sale.

Tenting of the Sanctuary and Charter Hall

Swarming termites have caused us to take the action of the tenting of our buildings.
We need volunteers to help box up the food from the kitchen and food pantry Sunday after the 10:45AM worship. The Office and buildings will be shut down for tenting Monday September 27th through Wednesday September 29th. Pastor Keith will be available by cell phone.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rummage for the OCT 17th Rummage Sale may be dropped off
on Sundays, Mondays between 8-11 and Wednesdays from 8-11

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Trinity High School Youth pack up over 48 dozen cookies and brownies for delivery to college folks associated with the congregation. Way to go!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

FRI SEPT 18th 7PM Meeting
We'll spend some time with God in Word and Prayer then pack up the cookies for the college folks and talk about upcoming events.

SUN SEPT 20th 9:15AM
We'll meet a few minutes early to get ready to greet the Sunday school kids for rally day and help out with some of the opening activities then head to the youth area of Monson-Mueller to talk about faith.
SEPT 20th

8AM Traditional Worship using the Lutheran Book of Worship
9:30AM "Sunday School Rally Day!" in Charter Hall
9:30 AM "Money Matters" Adult Sunday School Class with Steve Cochell from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in Monson-Mueller Hall
10:45AM Family Worship
So we need more acts to prove it!
Sign up for the Trinity Talent Show ASAP.
Email Pastor Keith or sign up on your worship slip this Sunday.
Date: SAT SEPT 26th
Time: 7PM
PLACE: Charter Hall

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Join us as we start our 6 weeks of walking and fellowship at Trinity Lutheran Church - 6 Weeks to a Healthier You!

Getting healthy can be fun. You don't have to do it alone. We want to help, encourage and support each other to live healthy- spiritually, physically and mentally.

It's easy-
Come every THURSDAY between Sept 23 and October 29, 2009 from 7-8:30 pm.

7:00-7:30 pm Walk at BCC Park
7:30-8:00 pm Enjoy a healthy light meal
8:00-8:30 pm Scripture and Support

Please RSVP by next Tue. 9/21. We hope to hear from you,

Have a great week!
Your Walking Affinity Group Coordinators
Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, September 20, 2009:

First Reading: Jeremiah 11:18-20

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Proverbs 31:10-31

First Reading (Alt.): Wisdom 1:16--2:1, 12-22

Psalm: Psalm 54

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 1

Second Reading: James 3:13--4:3, 7-8a

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

This Gospel seems to drip with extra meaning, in a month where we've seen tennis stars lose their cool, musicians upstage each other at awards shows, and people hollering at a presidential address. Perhaps this is a work week where we wonder what on earth we're doing and how our lives have come to this. Maybe we're feeling frustrated with our families.

Maybe we wonder if we're living up to our full potential.

We're surrounded by self-improvement plans. Maybe we'll go back to school to make ourselves great. Maybe we'll color our hair or buy a new wardrobe. Maybe we'll pay off our debts or buy a car that makes us feel special. Maybe we'll lose weight or bulk up our muscles. The world has no shortage of suggestions for ways that we might make ourselves better.

God has a different suggestion. Jesus says, "If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all" (verse 34).

Humans, most of us, aren't wired that way. Watch what happens at work when one of the higher-ups leaves and there's a vacancy to fill. Watch how many people convince themselves that they're perfect for that job. Watch children, who will always struggle for supremacy. Very few of us come to service naturally.

But those of us who have worked to adopt the servant ethos can tell a different tale. Those people might talk about how good it feels to serve, how their own desires disappear in the face of those that are needier than they are.

But there is a bigger reason why we're called to serve: God hangs out with the lowly. Go back to your Scripture. See how often God shows up with the poor, the outcast, the lowest people in the social structure. We serve, so that we meet God. We serve, so that we serve God.

This verse reminds me of the 25th chapter of Matthew, where humans are separated depending on whether or not they fed Jesus or clothed him or visited him while sick or in prison. And the ones headed to eternal punishment say, "When did we ever see you hungry or naked or sick or in prison?" And we get the classic rejoinder in verse 45: "Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me."

We serve God by serving. Leaf through the Gospels and let yourself be struck by how much of the message of Jesus revolves around this message. We are called to serve. We elevate ourselves not by making ourselves better, but by serving others, by serving those who have the least to offer us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

SERMON on Mark 8:27-38
27Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" 28And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." 29He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

It begins simply enough, doesn’t it? Jesus inviting the disciples to offer what they have been hearing on the street. What’s the buzz – what’s the word – who do people say that I am? Sounds like he is curious, doesn’t it. Wants some feedback. Checking to see how people are understanding the one who is delivering the message, performing the miracles. “Who do people say that I am?” he asks. “Who do people say that I am?

The report, sad to say, isn’t very good, is it? “O” for three. Jesus doesn’t baptize anyone so how could they possibly think he was John the Baptizer? And Elijah has been dead for centuries – over eight of them - though some folks thought that he would come back from the dead someday – at the end of the days - so there’s that possibility. Remote, but still in play. Choice number three - One of the prophets – pick one – anyone will do - they spoke God’s word to the people – did some outrageous things, powerful things. Broadly speaking Jesus is like that in a vaguish sort of way.
But in truth – their darts land far from center. Jesus is so much more. They just can’t perceive it.

Now we might think that they are only half paying attention to Jesus – figure that they would TIVO him and catch the parts of the message that they missed later. “Hey – Jones - Jesus do anything worth watching tonight? Or should I just tape over him with re-runs of last year’s American Idol final?” Perhaps they have an earbud from their IPOD in one ear and are listening to Jesus with the other, lost somewhere in the music half the time.
No. Not likely.

Now, it is at this point that they story begins to get interesting. We move from perhaps idle curiosity to the real deal: “He asked them, [meaning the disciples] But who do you say that I am?" Now we’re bringing it close to home. We figure eleven of them are saying to themselves “No one told us that there was going to be a quiz! Anyone have the notes from class last week – who did Jesus say that he was?” Anybody? anybody? Peter realizing that Jesus has in fact never said who he was exactly, suddenly finds the answer on the tip of his tongue. No idea how it got there. But there it is. "You are the Messiah." And 11 heads turn to face Peter in wonder and bewilderment. Thinking “How on earth did he think of that?” But it wasn’t of earth, now was it? The Holy Spirit fills him in.

And Jesus’ response? Not a gold star for Peter or student of the week or a letter of commendation, but a warning and a stern one at that: Don’t tell anyone about me. No one. Zip. Nada. No one. Jesus already knows what the buzz is on the streets. Everyone out there except Peter has gotten it wrong. And the more people out there get it wrong, the harder it will be to fix, won’t it? At least for now. More will understand later.

Now that Peter has instructed the disciples on who Jesus is – not a carpenter’s apprentice , Mary’s boy or just another teacher or even a prophet, but the Messiah, Jesus begins to explain to them the rules of life for the Messiah, the Son of Man: the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

And twelve jaws collectively drop upon the ground. Say what! Rejection? Suffering? Death? I don’t think they got past the whole death thing and onto rising on the third day. I don’t think so. Death was just not a part of their idea of what following Jesus was all about. Victory perhaps. Revolution, perhaps. Some tangible benefits for their personal sacrifice perhaps. Even Peter had found the word “Messiah” right there on the tip of his tongue, so he uttered it, he had no clue. No clue how Jesus would take the popular myth that the Messiah was going to come at the end of the age to defeat the Romans and re-establish the throne of David and turn that image upside down and inside out all at the same time: the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. Those disciples must have suffering from some serious cognitive dissonance. Messiah as military victor and Messiah as suffering sacrifice don’t hold together well, do they. Peter finds his tongue first: taking Jesus aside and rebuking him. Rebuking Jesus. Can you imagine that? Seriously. Rebuking the Messiah? “Jesus you got it all wrong. Listen to me. You are supposed to kick the Roman’s butts clear across the Mediterranean Sea and then sit yourself down on a nice throne and let us be your court.” Or something like that, perhaps.
So Jesus calls Peter Satan. The teller of lies, the divider and deceiver.

Jesus then explains to everyone what it means – the big picture of the in-breaking Kingdom of God that the Messiah is bringing with him:
"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

So let’s ask the good Lutheran question: What does it mean this idea of denying one’s self, taking up one’s cross and following Jesus

In Isaiah 55 we learn 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Denying ourselves is a recognition that our own thoughts apart from God can lead us into trouble. When we send humility packing and relegate the Holy Spirit into some far off corner of our mind and take up our own thoughts we can wander far off from the will of God, can’t we? Don’t we? There was a congregation that had a Sunday school and one of the teachers would serve breakfast for the kids – this was an urban church mind you, and the neighborhood kids figured out that if they wanted to eat breakfast that this church was the pace to go because at their own homes breakfast turned into a luxury most days. But some folks in the congregation got it in their heads that having and feeding a bunch of kids from the neighborhood for breakfast , kids from broken homes or the street or worse, was not what they wanted. Who knew what these kids were into or up to. Let them eat and find Jesus somewhere else they thought. Didn’t matter that the food was donated. It wasn’t a money thing. I was much worse than that. And their will prevailed. And years later that scar still hurts that Sunday school teacher who just wanted to share Christ with these kids and feeding them helped – all the better.
"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
And so we ask ourselves - Where is the borderland where I leave myself behind and enter into the presence of Christ completely, fully, with total surrender? Where are the clean waters where my gentle shepherd bids me rest, the quiet waters where the tumult of my life gives way to the peace of Christ, the peace that passers all understanding – and allows Christ to rule in my life? The Messiah to reign in my soul. That place begins at the cross – where we must confront our own limitations and find instead the power of the grace of God in and through Jesus Christ. That is where the Messiah comes for you and for me and for all, ready for us to follow in his steps. Amen

Friday, September 11, 2009

We return to

8AM will be our traditional LBW Setting One Liturgy.
The front six pews will be open and filled with the Green LBW Hymnals.
Organ only. Altar Rail Communion.

10:45AM will be our Family Liturgy with Kid's Time, Choir, a mix of instruments and musical styles. Continuous communion. Essentially our summer liturgy now at 10:45AM.

We will install Sunday school teachers at both services.

THIS SUNDAY at 9:30AM and noon:
Semi Annual Ministry Faire
Ministries, Affinity Groups, Worship and Office Helpers, Pumpkin Patch Sign up, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and much more!

All children and youth meet in Charter Hall at 9:30AM

Adults participating in the "Money Matters" class meet in Monson-Mueller Hall
(the one on the east side - or left side)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, September 13, 2009:

First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9a

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Proverbs 1:20-33

Psalm: Psalm 116:1-8 (Psalm 116:1-9 NRSV)

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 19

Second Reading: James 3:1-12

Gospel: Mark 8:27-38

I can only imagine how much the Jesus in today's Gospel must have baffled people--Peter even goes so far as to rebuke him. It's important to remember that Jews during the time of Jesus weren't looking for the kind of spiritual savior that we have in mind when we use the term Messiah; Jews during this time period expected their Messiah to be a great warrior who would kick the Romans out of the homeland.

And here's Jesus, talking about being rejected by everyone and being killed and rising again; he mentions crosses--in that time, the only ones picking up a cross were those on their way to their own brutal public executions.

This Gospel was written during a later time of social upheaval (and written about an earlier time of social upheaval)--the reason the Gospel of Mark sounds so apocalyptic is because the Christian community feared attack from various quarters. This Gospel is written both to calm the community, as well as to give them strength to face what is coming, and the courage to do what must be done. The last chunk of the Gospel shows this motivation clearly. What good is our earthly life if, in preserving it, we lose our souls?

An intriguing question, even today--a time of social upheaval, where there are plenty of events to frighten us. Notice the language of Jesus. Following him is a choice. Crosses don't just fall on us out of the sky; we choose to pick them up when we follow Jesus.

It's a marketing scheme that you would never find in today's "How to Build a MegaChurch" model books. Emphasize suffering? Why on earth would people want a religion like that?

It's interesting also to reflect on Jesus' words at the close of this chapter--are we ashamed of Jesus? Do people know we are Christians by our actions? If they ask us about our faith life, are we able to speak coherently (or at least openly) about it?

These questions take me back to when I taught more classes. Several years ago, on a Monday evening, a student asked if she could see a book I had on my desk: The Violence of Love. I'm not sure what she thought it was, but I'm fairly sure she didn't think it was a collection of the homilies of Archbishop Oscar Romero (martyred for his faith and preaching on social justice in El Salvador in 1980). After class, she asked me "Are you Christian or Catholic?" In the past, I might have evaded the question by explaining how Catholics really are Christians. Or I might have hemmed and hawed and explained how my Christian faith and practice was different than that behavior of other Christians which embarrassed me.

On that Monday, I opted for simplicity. I said, "Christian." We talked about the book and Oscar Romero, about her Catholic upbringing and my Lutheran one, about her drift away from church and how she yearns for church but is afraid of it. She asked if she could find me next quarter to continue this conversation, and I said, "Any time."

I know that sometimes Jesus must cry himself to sleep when he watches my behavior. I like to think that on that Monday night, he said, "That Kristin. She's finally showing some signs of spiritual maturity." I like to think that he woke up Oscar Romero to tell him how his work still resonates. I like to think of Jesus and Oscar Romero, sharing some leftover flan that they found in the celestial refrigerator.

Are you willing to pick up your cross? Are you willing to talk about Jesus without being ashamed? Are you willing to follow Jesus, even though you must be aware that "we as Christians participate in the only major religious tradition whose founder was executed by established authority" (Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity, p. 91). And not only the founder, but many of the early missionaries of the faith, like Paul and Peter. If you're practicing Christianity the way you should be, you'll be a threat to the established order. Are you willing to take that risk?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Don't Miss This Sunday! Besides being the day where we return to our normal service schedules, we will be blessed with a very special anthem.

At 10:45 am, several musicians from the area will join our choir for a special music ministry presentation of "Classic Praise". It is a beautiful medley of "As the Deer" and Beethoven's "Adagio".

The choir will be joined by an orchrestral ensemble consisting of bass violin, cello, violin, flute, and grand piano. There will be no electronics. It will be totally "unplugged".

I am very proud of everyone who is participating in the event. The choir and instrumentalist (and the director), has been working very hard over the last two months to learn it to the best of our ability- so that God will be truely glorified!

See you Sunday at 10:45 am.

May God bless you always,

Jacob Smitter
Music Minister For Praise
at First Lutheran Church, FT Lauderdale

Trinity serves this important ministry on the third WED of the month.
In addition the the monthly sign up list for food and serving that makes its way around the congregation, there will be a box in the narthex for collecting items as follows:

In September and October - personal hygiene items:
tooth brush, tooth paste (travel size), bar soap, razors, shaving cream (travel size), brand aids
Q-tips or cotton swabs, shampoo (travel size), socks (clean, new, mens and womens)

On November 4th a group of youth from LMIC will assembly the collected items into kits to be distributed that evening. Do not be afraid to asks doctors, dentists, or other for samples.

In November and December - items:
socks, hats and scarfs/shawls, blankets, jackets/coats (used is fine, but please make sure to clean out pockets), sweatshirts and long sleeve shirts (If clothing is used, pleas be sure it clean)
Come out and learn more about hand chimes at the ministry faire this Sunday!
Sept 27, 12:15, Practice (Come, Children, Join to Sing)
Oct 4, 12:15, Practice
Oct 11, Play at 1045 Service

Nov 15, 12:15, Practice (All Creatures of Our God and King)
Nov 22, 12:15, Practice
Nov 25, 7:30 PM, Play at Thanksgiving Eve Service

Dec 6, 12:15, Practice
Dec 13, 12:15, Practice
Dec 20, 12:15, Practice
Dec 24, 7:30, Play at Christmas Eve Service

Off Load WED Oct 14th
Patch from 10AM to 7PM with morning, afternoon and early evening shifts OCT15 – 31st.
Many hands needed – plus if you know a youth who needs service hours for school this is an excellent opportunity! All Welcome!
All monies go to support our Christian Education programs. If you know of a pre school or elementary school group that would like to visit the patch - please contact Pastor Keith

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sunday Sept 13th
8AM Traditional Liturgy
10:45AM Family Service

9:30AM and 12:15PM
Come out and see many of the ministries and affinity groups at work in and around Trinity as well as meeting some of our ministry partners such as Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

Friday, September 04, 2009


readers, assisting ministers, communion assistants, greeters, altar guild, healing service assistants, nursery, acolytes, ushers

For 8AM and 10:45AM services SEPT 13th
through the end of the year.

Will be available beginning this Sunday
All positions open to all ages. Training available.



The list is growing and might exceed 20 people! Youth will be boxing them up on FRIDAY SEPT 18th at 7PM Please drop off in the office on Thursday SEPT 17th between 11AM and 5PM or in Charter Hall on FRI the 18th between 6:30PM and 7PM.

SUNDAY SEPT 6th 2009
Mark 7:24-37
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre.He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." 28But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 29Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go — the demon has left your daughter." 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

Helping Soccer Parent for a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds.
The Whistle blows and they play on oblivious, determined to score that goal no matter what the costs.
They bunch up all following the ball no matter how many times the coaches and parents suggest, sometimes loudly for the defense to stay on their side of the field and the offense on the other.
I have seen young players just leave the field having noticed the ball come near them on the field next door and decided to chase that ball instead.

We know in our heart that soccer for 4 and five year olds is about learning the rules that govern the sport – to learn to succeed within those rules.

Rules are important.
And listening to them allows us to succeed.

However we have a problem – more of a quandary really.
And the problem or quandary begins in our baptism.
For in Holy Baptism the Holy Spirit enters our live4s in a new and powerful way - a holy wind blowing through our souls.
And if the Holy Spirit was a soccer player it would have a hard time staying in position, let me tell you.
It would have a hard time caring about the stop watch or even the field markings.

What am I talking about – consider today’s gospel.

Jesus tells a woman off. Get Lost! Calls her a derogatory slur.
I'm sent to other people and not to your people!
At least not yet.
There's a plan - my Father's plan, you see.

And get this...she doesn't take the hint.
She keeps on pestering him.

Jesus tells a healed former deaf man and his companions to keep the news of the miraculous healing quiet. SSSSSssshhh!
The crowds are growing larger and Jesus can hardly get around in town anymore. His ministry might begin to attract the eyes of the authorities prematurely. Who knows?
Jesus isn't looking to fill stadiums, just do his Father's work. To follow the plan all the way to the cross.
Actually, he doesn't just tell them - he "orders them."
And the more he orders them, the more they blow him off and the more "zealously" they proclaim it.

Now if one of our children did that....

But it wasn't us and wasn't our children. This is Jesus and two people.
And the bottom line is that in each case that people disobey Jesus and something incredible happens.
Isn't that weird?
Jesus makes it clear that his ministry is to the lost sheep of Israel and this Syro-Phoneician woman defies him with a faith that would shame most of us. And Jesus acknowledges that faith, that passionate faith, with a powerful healing.

The deaf man hears and Jesus orders them to keep it quiet (the crowds already mob him in the town and who knows when the Romans will shut him down as a troublemaker), but he and his companions tell everyone they find about this healer, this Savior. And word spreads. Boy does it spread!

Here's where "What Would Jesus Do" is the wrong question for us.
It is the wrong question because as radical as it is, it is still too safe.
It is wrong because it limits what the Holy Spirit might have in store for us.

Yes, it is fine and important to go to Scripture to understand how to become imitators of Christ (See Ephesians!);
Yes, of course we need to understand our consecrated Baptismal life as children of God (Check out the Beatitudes in Matthew or Luke).

BUT, what these two healings remind us is that the Holy Spirit does not always play by the "rules."
That the word for Spirit and wind are the same in the languages of Scripture is no accident.
Both just cannot be contained.
Put it air in a balloon, and it still finds a way to get out - even those fancy foil ones.
We take in a breath - and we just can't hold it forever.
We try to stop it and it just journeys onward, right through us, right passed us to wherever it has been called.

The Spirit does not play by the rules. It will not follow the Script.
It improvises.
It asks of us impossible things.

That bothers us, I imagine.

We want things that we can understand, control, anticipate. The Spirit will have none of that.

So, away with "What Would Jesus Do?"
God has poured the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
God has changed us, gifted us, called us, equipped us and sent us out.
The Spirit beckons like a fire, like the wind blowing, calling forth from us the impossible for the sake of the Kingdom.
The Spirit just doesn't think "outside the box" - that is the Spirit's playground!

The question is…are we prepared to meet the Spirit there, outside, in the rain, in the sand and dirt, in unexpected places? Will we leave the comfort of what we know taking with us only the faith that Jesus declares is enough?
Are we?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Whether you are home or away
Cookie-filled care packages will be prepared for you and mailed out soon!
So - we need your updated address immediately so the cookies don't get lost
Email Pastor Keith directly
drpk[at] earthlink.net
There will be a Youth Planning Meeting on FRI SEPT 18th at Charter Hall at 7:15PM.

We will dive into an icebreaker to get to know each other better - share some thoughts on some scripture - do some fall planning (bring ideas and perhaps even some info on those ideas!!!) - and pack up care packages for Trinity's college crowd.
Snacks provided!

We hope that you can join us!
Much Joy
Pastor Keith
Click on poster to enlarge it and make it legible.
Walking Affinity Group
at Trinity Lutheran
Walk/Fellowship Thursdays- 6 Weeks to a Healthier You!

Starting from September 24th-October 29, for 6 weeks we will be meeting to walk, share a healthy meal and have a special fellowship time focusing on health and wellness. The purpose of this 6 week journey is to offer support to those seeking a healthy lifestyle in a way that is simple, fun and effective. By participating in this event participants will become more knowledgeable about nutrition and fitness, as well as empowered and motivated to make positive lifestyle choices that will lead to better health and wellness.

September 24-October 29, 2009 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
7:00-7:30 p.m. Walk at BCC park
7:30-8:00 p.m. Healthy Meal
8:00-8:30 p.m. Fellowship (scripture/discussion and prayer)

Cost is free. Participants may be asked help with meals.
We hope you can join us this Fall,

Walking Affinity Group at TLC
From the
Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Reflections on the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and the Bible
Timothy J. Wengert, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania Professor of Reformation History at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

[1] If there is one rule we need to follow in the wake of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, it is this: Do not break the eighth commandment (against false witness) in order to defend the sixth (against adultery and other sexual sins). Both those who supported the changes in policy and those who did not need to remember this. We must speak what we know and not cast aspersions on those who disagreed with us. Luther’s comments on the eighth commandment in the Large Catechism are helpful here. Even when forced by one’s office to speak out, one must not lie or distort the truth.

[2] In light of some implied (and explicit) attacks on the decision, however, it is also necessary to make one thing clear. The change in policy was grounded in Scripture. In fact, the calls for justice toward gays and lesbians in committed relationships and the recitation of examples of healthy same-gender relations, as important as these are to some folk, finally do not in themselves constitute a complete standard for changing church policy, since even calls for justice must for Christians be grounded in and normed by sound interpretations of Scripture as God’s Word for us.

[3] What does this argument from Scripture look like? It is an argument from the law but in this fashion. The social statement on sexuality began with reference to the question posed to Christ about the greatest commandment. As we know, Jesus recited two commandments: love God above all else and one’s neighbor as one’s self. As Luther pointed out in his interpretation of Galatians, when Paul in both Galatians and Romans mentions only love of neighbor, it is not because he meant both commandments, as the church father Jerome had argued. Instead, Luther stated, Paul realized that the command to love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul, etc. is indeed fulfilled for us through justification by grace through faith on account of Christ alone. As a result, Christians are free by faith to serve the neighbor.

[4] What we often forget in Jesus’ answer to the question of commandments is the next phrase, “on these depend the law and the prophets.” The word in Greek is literally “hang.” The debate over sexuality in the ELCA in some ways “hangs” on these words of Jesus. The ELCA with its decisions at the churchwide assembly is now stating that in this passage Jesus gave us a key to understand the Scriptures, that is, a lens through which we may interpret every other command in Scripture. Every command in Scripture must be focused by this question: “How does following this commandment enhance love for God and neighbor?” By asking this question of every other scriptural command, one remains truly faithful to Scripture.

[5] There is also another way to claim faithfulness to Scripture, and that is to interpret this saying of Jesus in the opposite way. Then one would say that commandments in Scripture define what the love of God and neighbor should be. Then the Christian responsibility is a matter of following the laws of Scripture and applying them to themselves and others precisely because they reflect that twofold love. As I listened to the debate in Minneapolis this past week, it seemed to me that some opposed to these changes were arguing along these lines. There are commandments in Scripture referring to homosexual activity; these determine how we must love God and neighbor; therefore we cannot change church policy. To those who support the first way of interpreting Jesus’ statement, however, this approach would seem to turn his statement on its head and to assume that the command to love God and neighbor is normed by, hangs on, the commands in Scripture and not the other way around.

[6] Along with this difference in approaching laws in Scripture comes a second matter, and that has to do with whether a particular passage in Scripture applies to the present. For some, the question might even be whether we have the right to “pick and choose” one passage over another. Here Martin Luther can help us. In the mid-1520s, he was opposed by Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, among others, who argued that Old Testament commandments, including those regarding the Sabbath and tithing, must be rigorously applied to Christians. In response to such claims, Luther wrote the following.One must deal cleanly with the Scriptures. From the very beginning the word has come to us in various ways. It is not enough simply to look and see whether this is God’s word, whether God has spoken it; rather we must look and see to whom it has been spoken, whether it fits us. That makes all the difference between night and day. … The word in Scripture is of two kinds: the first does not pertain or apply to me, the other kind does. … The false prophets pitch in and say, “Dear people, this is the word of God.” This is true; we cannot deny it. But we are not “the people.” (LW 35: 170.)

[7] Thus, the scriptural argument for changing the ELCA policy toward gays and lesbians in committed, lifelong, monogamous relationships—and it is a scriptural argument—has at least two parts. In the first place, it is argued that the Scripture passages dealing with homosexual actions are not at all aimed at homosexual orientation and behavior in the present but at very specific issues regarding, in Leviticus, standards of holiness that set the people of Israel apart from the pagan temple cults and, in the Pauline material, the coercive relations of male-on-male sexual activities. (For the specific arguments, see the biblical study commissioned by the task force and referred to in the social statement.) The passage in Romans 1, which includes the only biblical reference to female sexual activity, must also be seen in the context of practices among Gentiles that Paul’s Jewish readers would have easily condemned, and it actually sets up the condemnation of those very readers in Romans 2. Thus, the argument, far from being unscriptural, takes Scripture very seriously but says, using Luther’s advice, this does not apply here. (It is important to note, however, that the argument is not “this never fostered love of God and neighbor.” In their original contexts and in similar ones in our day and age, these commandments arose out of concern for the neighbor and continue to protect the neighbor from idolatrous or coercive behavior.)

[8] But, in addition to the question of whether these passages apply in this case—something Luther invites us to ask—we have the command of Jesus and must ask a second question: how do I best love my neighbor in this situation? Luther, too, referred to this principle when dealing with the Wittenberg church’s insistence that people receive the cup in the Lord’s Supper in order to fulfill Jesus’ command. He said that they were right about faith (the principle involved) but lacking in love and patience (the practice). Love of neighbor norms how Christians apply God’s law in specific situations.

[9] How might one decide whether this question outlined above regarding the law of love and the commands in Scripture is an accurate one? For this we have the example of Jesus himself. Jesus did two things vis-à-vis the law. First, by including in the simple commands against murder and adultery (among others) hatred, slander and lust, he made it impossible for us to boast that we can keep the law. We are all mortal sinners. Second, he broke specific, God-given laws for the sake of love of neighbor. One of the best examples he left us in this regard comes with the man who had a shriveled hand (Mark 3:4; Matthew 12:12; Luke 6:9). It was the Sabbath; the man was not in mortal danger; so the traditional response of a physician would be, “Make an appointment with my secretary and I’ll see you tomorrow.” That way the man would be healed and the Sabbath would be kept holy. Jesus, however, asks a different question: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?” That is, does the command to love the neighbor (doing good to the man) norm (we might even say trump) the third commandment to keep the Sabbath holy?

[10] This concern for the neighbor’s situation is not, however, a subtle scheme to undermine the law. Indeed, Jesus’ behavior itself functions as law in condemning legalists who cling to the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit. Moreover, in several places in the gospels he explicitly condemns just this sort of misuse of the law for neglecting weightier matters or imagining that externals were more important than what comes out of a person’s heart. These specific questions (“Does this apply to my neighbor?” and “How do I love my neighbor?”) do not destroy the law but rather use the law in ways that do not harm the neighbor in need. Thus, this approach to the Bible, far from being “antinomian” (against the law), as some have alleged, actually insists upon taking Jesus’ command to love the neighbor with complete seriousness.

[11] Thus, the following biblical questions lie at the heart of the present debate. How does one best love the neighbors who are homosexual, living in lifelong, monogamous committed relationships? Can one welcome them as they are? Can one support them publicly with the prayers of the community and the promises of God? Can one open to them places of leadership within the ELCA? Within the ELCA there have come to be at least two responses to this question. The Churchwide Assembly voted to affirm one biblical response while, at the same time, recognizing that there are many Christians in the church whose consciences are bound to a different, opposing scriptural response. Whether we can live into this disagreement remains to be seen. What is important for all participants to respect, I believe, is that both sides, not just one, employ thoroughly biblical arguments at the heart of their positions.
© September 2009Journal of Lutheran Ethics (JLE)Volume 9, Issue 9
Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, September 6, 2009:

First Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7a

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

Psalm: Psalm 146

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 125

Second Reading: James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17

Gospel: Mark 7:24-37
Many people find this Gospel's depiction of Jesus disturbing, but I find it refreshing, even as it disturbs me. I grew up with an idea of an inclusive Jesus, a Jesus who came for all of us. The Jesus of my childhood was never angry (except perhaps for that incident in the temple), never irritable, never tired.

The Jesus of the Gospels isn't the Jesus of my childhood. If we read the Gospels carefully, we can see that the view of Jesus shifts as the community of faith continues to interpret the meaning of Jesus and to define what happened to Jesus and the first community of believers. Often we forget that the Gospels were written not by the first disciples (as I thought, when I was a child), but by people who came along later.

One early view of Jesus was an exclusive one, the one that says that Jesus came for the Jews. As the early Christian community expanded to include non-Jews, we can see chunks of the Gospels written with this development in mind. The story of Jesus and the Greek woman may be part of that mission.

Or perhaps we're seeing something more basic. I notice that a running theme in this Gospel is Jesus' attempts to get away, to move anonymously. It doesn't work. Everywhere he turns, there are the people who need him. We've all had those weeks at work or in our families where it seems that people need more and more of us and we can't get away from those incessant demands. We know how cranky that can make us. Maybe we're just seeing a Jesus who is tired and irritable. I like the idea of a snippy Jesus who can be reminded of his mission and who can soften his attitude. I like the idea that we can be occasionally cranky and not ruin our mission, just as Jesus was occasionally cranky, but managed to change our world so radically.

I also find the Greek woman to be refreshing. Here's a woman who fights for her daughter. Here's a woman who is told no, I didn't come for you--and she fights back. She presents a good argument, and it works.

I like the idea of a Jesus who can change his mind. I like the idea of a Jesus who listens to an outsider (a Greek, a woman) and becomes more inclusive.

Often the Gospel gives us a picture of Jesus who seems more divine than human. This Gospel shows me a refreshingly human Jesus, with traits (irritability, a desperate need for rest) that I recognize. I see a divine presence who might really understand me, since he's been under stress himself.