WORSHIP WITH US!
8:30AM, 9:45AM in the hall, or 11AM

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


Join Us For Worship!

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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

ADULT BIBLE STUDY
Ron McCoy will be leading our Adult Class beginning Sunday February 6th in the left side of Charter Hall at 9:30AM tackling the Question: "How Lutherans Interpret the Bible"


This class will not dimiss the way that you currently read the Bible, but rather present a variety of Lutheran perspectives for interpreting the Bible. Sign up on your worship slip or just show up ready to dive right in!
SOUPER BOWL
of CARING
Our youth will hold soup pots at church doors on Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday, February 6, 2011.  In 2010, $10 million was collected by Souper Bowl of Caring participants all over the world for local charities. All of the money collected at Trinity will be used by our Youth for outreach to meet a local need. In the past this has included food for the hungry, Homeless Shelters and Youth Shelters. Please support the youth of our church in this effort to “love our neighbors” by dropping your dollar in the soup pot on February 6th.
Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, January 30, 2011:

First Reading: Micah 6:1-8

Psalm: Psalm 15

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

Here we are again, at one of the touchstones of our faith, the Sermon on the Mount (alternately called The Beatitudes). Those of us who have been going to church for many years have likely heard it so often that we zone out at the reading of it. We might say to ourselves, "Yeah, yeah, blessed, blessed, got it."

Now is a good time to revisit this text. Now is a good time to use that old technique from the ancient practice of lectio divina: sit with this text for some time and take note of what jumps out at you. That might be God talking to you through the text.

You could also use a similar technique from literary analysis. In my literature classes, I often ask, "Which character speaks to you?" Here I would ask, which verse speaks to you?

Are you that person who mourns? Are you hungering for righteousness? Are you making peace?

Maybe you have a darker glimmer: maybe you're not the person who is working for peace (perhaps in the politics of your office or your family). Maybe you're the one standing in the way of peace. Maybe the text is calling you to revolution, that turning around, in the way that St. Paul turned around. Jan. 25 is the day that the Church celebrates the conversion of St. Paul. It's a valuable time to remember that God has a use for us, no matter how ferociously we've been undermining the vision that God has for humanity and creation.

The text reminds us of how to treat ourselves and others: with mercy, with compassion, with comfort. The text reminds us that just because we follow Jesus, our path will not be easy. On the contrary, we will likely face persecution. But Jesus doesn't let us off the hook. This text tells us how we are to act and what we are to value.

Again and again, Jesus reminds us that God's way is not the world's way. Read this text one night as you watch T.V. and marvel at the difference in values. The world worships wealth and power. The world worships beauty and power. The world worships those who boss the rest of us around. The world worships those who ship our jobs away, those who buy low and sell high, those who ignore the rules and succeed.

Our Gospel this week reminds us of God's rules, the way that we succeed in God's eyes. Our Gospel this week gives us God's promise that we will be comforted, that even though we may be meek in the eyes of the world, we will be filled with good things.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BAR B CUE UPDATE
We need a couple of more grills for Sunday's Congregational bar b cue - if you have one that can be brought to Trinity please let us know!
Thanks and Blessings!
Pastor Keith

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

TRINITY ANNUAL WEDDING VOW RENEWAL SERVICE
Trinity Lutheran Church, Pembroke Pines, invites all married couples to renew their wedding vows at its annual Wedding Vow Renewal Service to be help during worship services on Sunday February 13th at 10:45AM.


Vows represent the heart of any wedding service, the promises that a bride and groom make to one another before God and gathered community. A vow renewal service is an opportunity for husband and wife to recommit to those vows having now lived into their reality: sickness and health; richer and poorer; forsaking all others for as long as they live. It often produces powerful moments as husbands and wives renew their covenants of life long commitment, trust, and love.


Participants are asked to RSVP with the church office at 954 989 1903 and are encouraged to invite family and friends to witness their renewal.

COUPLES SPECIAL BRUNCH
Whether you choose to renew your marriage vows or not, all couples are invited to join Pastor Keith and Piper for a special Couples' Brunch at 12:30PM on Sunday February 13th at the parsonage (around the corner from the church).
To RSVP and for directions, please contact Pastor Keith at 954 668 6077 or via the office, email or your worship slip.

Monday, January 24, 2011

REFLECTING ON OUR FAITH

"Reflecting on Our Faith” is a sampled collection of reflections left and written by worshippers at Trinity Lutheran, Pembroke Pines, on their Sunday morning worship slips based upon their experiences during the previous week. We share a sampling of these in our weekly BLOG and elsewhere to encourage others in their walk with God; however, names and other information referenced in the reflections are abbreviated or deleted altogether in order to maintain anonymity.

1. Where have you seen God working this week?
Working in my family.
As we continue to heal after receiving scary news
In the two young men who stopping to evangelize
At our situation
At First Christian Church
Providing Strength
Answering our prayers
My Mother-in-Law’s recovery from surgery
Meeting with my reunion prayer partner.

2. Where Did God use someone else to bless you this week (whether they knew it or not)?
God used my granddaughter to bless me and remind me of how precious life is with her.
In the joy and laughter of my daughter when a dear friend came for a visit.
In the person who picked me up from the doctor’s office when I was sick.
Pastor Keith
Kind and compassionate healthcare workers
At Calvary Chapel.
My wife.

3. Where did God use you to bless someone else this week?
God used me to bless a father and child who stopped in the middle of the street because the child was having seizures.
I distributed a few unclaimed Christmas cards to their intended recipients.
To lead and to train others.
Being able to help a relative.
At Trinity Lutheran

HOW HAS TRINITY HELPED SUSTAIN YOU IN YOUR FOLLOWING OF CHRIST IN THE WORLD?
Fellowshipping with one another.
The interactive IMPROV makes Biblical lessons come alive, so they are easier to remember.
By hearing the Gospel/Sermon preached - trying to apply in life.
Helping me to keep faith and trust in God’s healing power.
My faith
Providing an extended family of faith
Keeps me focusing more and more on our savior for eternal life.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

TRINITY DECLARED SAFE
As you may or may not be aware, Trinity received threatening emails and messages this week from an apparently irate individual who visited a single worship service at Christmas Eve (which she claimed to have enjoyed). These threats were immediately reported to local law enforcement and the FBI as well as to Bishop Benoway. Her threats, according to the detective in charge (from the Pembroke Pines Police Department), had to do with some issue relating to her family and some Lutheran church out in the midwest. It appears that Trinity was merely a convenient target for her anger. We sent out an email to the congregation on WED asking that care be taken while on church grounds and that any suspicious activity be reported. We also asked for prayer for both Trinity and this person. As you may imagine it was a very anxious time for the staff. Her renewed threats against Trinity Thursday morning were of such a nature that the decision was made to close the office on Thursday until such a time as she was apprehended.


Word from the detective in charge of the investigation is that as of Thursday evening, the person of interest who had made these threats was picked up on an outsanding warrant and is being extradited to Volusia County. She will be gone for a while while that is sorted out (weeks, maybe a month)

Pastor Keith will be giving a statement to the police on Monday and then it will be up to the Prosecuter's office to determine whether or not charges will be filed. Thank you for your understanding, prayers and patience in this matter. Updates will be issued as needed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WALK ABOUT AUTISM!
Trinity's Ro Mileto is taking part in the Dan Marino Foundation Annual Walk About Autism on JAN 29th
Want to walk with her? Support her? Pray for her?
http://support.danmarinofoundation.org/site/TR?px=1010145&fr_id=1030&pg=personal

Blessings
Pastor Keith
HEALTHY COFFEE HOUR
This Sunday JAN 23rd
at 10:45AM Serivce
as an extension of our healing service.
brought to you by Trinity's "Green Team"
SEMI-ANNUAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING
BAR B CUE AND KICKBALL GAME
SUNDAY JAN 30th
A SINGLE SERVICE at 10AM
with festivities to follow
Sign up list for food will be passed around on Sunday

More Chefs (Grilling People) Needed
Please contact DPK
Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The readings for Sunday, January 23, 2011:

First Reading: Isaiah 9:1-4

Psalm: Psalm 27:1, 5-13 (Psalm 27:1, 4-9 NRSV)

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

Gospel: Matthew 4:12-23

Here we are this week, still in the early days of Jesus' ministry. We see him call the disciples with that famous offer to make them fishers of people. He goes out to preach and teach.

But notice that early on, he's also ministering to the physical needs of people. He's not here to talk to them about their spiritual ailments. At first, he doesn't go around haranguing people about their selfish natures and the need to pray more.

Notice that his fame spreads, and it's probably not because of his brilliant teaching. People will come from far and near if one of their physical ailments can be lessened.

Jesus also addresses, at least indirectly, their emotional ailments. As he heals and teaches, he's creating a community. It's exhausting work. But again, he knows that people aren't going to overthrow their established way of doing things unless they get something substantial in return.

His ministry addressed the very real, the very physical, the very present needs of the people around him. It's an example we should keep in mind, as we order our own lives, and as we think about the future of our individual church and the larger Church.

Notice that Jesus doesn't talk in terms of eternal salvation, at least not in this part of the Gospel. He doesn't promise a place in Heaven if people will just endure their ailments during this life. He doesn't tell people that they'll be popular in Heaven to make up for being outcast on earth.

No. He creates a community and includes all of these people.

I went to a strange high school in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Young Life folks had been busy, and most of the popular, in-group types had been saved. And they were all too happy to tell you about it (and to point out the ways the rest of us were doomed). But did I see anything concrete that would convince me that their lives had changed? No. They still sat at their tables at lunch time, and the rest of us sat at ours. They didn't reach out to invite any of the really outcast to their parties (or maybe they did--I don't know--I wasn't invited). Meanwhile, new kids like me were adopted by the Drama groups and the Band and Choir (those strange high school intersections where all sorts of kids could coexist).

As we think about outreach, we should keep the example of Jesus in our mind. We should ask ourselves what our lives show others about Christian life. As we think about our individual lives and about what God has called us to do, we should keep God's example in mind. What is our larger purpose? How can we effectively minister to a broken and hurting world?

Many of us aren't comfortable talking about our faith, and perhaps that's for the best. Nothing turns of an unbeliever more than someone who inserts faith into the conversation too early ("Hi, I'm Cindy, and I'm saved. If you died tonight, could you be sure you'd be going to Heaven?" I wish I had $5 for every time I heard a variation of this in high school). Instead, we can help out our coworkers who need it. We can invite lonely people over for dinner. We can be the person who always has a smile ready. We can be the person who's willing to listen. We can be the light of the world that God needs us to be.

Monday, January 17, 2011

REFLECTING ON OUR FAITH

“Reflecting on Our Faith” is a sampled collection of reflections left and written by worshippers at Trinity Lutheran, Pembroke Pines, on their Sunday morning worship slips based upon their experiences during the previous week. Names and other information referenced in the reflections are abbreviated or deleted in order to maintain anonymity.

1. Where have you seen God working this week?
In providing for my needs, calming my fears, and healing someone.
In healing after a heart to heart talk
Via de Cristo on Thursday serving food in the dining room
In church.
In the news.
Healing the “Team.”

2. Where Did God use someone else to bless you this week (whether they knew it or not)?
Someone being a loving Christian, providing rises, and listening
A friend game me encouragement.
My husband handled something so I didn’t have to.
Friends and family supporting an elderly relative through big changes.
A loving church family helped my son to grow closer to God.
At the Bible study at 1st Christian Church this past week
The computer.

3. Where did God use you to bless someone else this week?
Talking to someone and trusting to be vulnerable.
I helped the leader of an organization that we belong to at a time when she was overwhelmed and needed support.
Talked to someone about faith
At Trinity Lutheran this week

Saturday, January 15, 2011

SERMON
John 1:29-42 January 16, 2011

GOSPEL: John 1:29–42

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks.
And the disciples of John ask Jesus: “Where are you staying?”
And Jesus responds “Come and See”
Jesus said what? COME AND SEE!

The disciples of John are not interested on which side of the tracks Jesus lives or if he lives in a brick Tudor or in a tent – or if it is a one room shack or a 20 room mansion. They do not want his house number, or the apartment number. They want to know where they can go to be with him.

“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks. And they want to know where they can go to be with him. To be at the center of his world. To be with the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And Jesus invites them to “come and see.”

There’s this pastor, a guy named Mark Pierson. One day he goes, like many of us perhaps, to his high school reunion and listens to his surprise as friends and acquaintances talk about their longings, their faith, and their spirituality. Many of his old friends, he found, were on spiritual journeys – seeking to find answers, he says, that would bring meaning to the experience and questions of their lives. What also surprised him was that none of them had found what they were looking for in any church or Christian community. Maybe it shouldn’t have surprised him, but it did.

And then driving back home, something happened that broke him and left him in tears:
He realized that if they had come to the church that he was pastoring, they would not have found their answers there either. “We all had similar hopes and dreams and questions, yet I wouldn’t want them to come to my church because I knew that it would put them off instead of turning them on to Jesus,” he said.

Did you hear what he said: “I knew that it would put them off instead of turning them on to Jesus.”

“What are you looking for?” asks Jesus.
And the disciples of John ask Jesus: “Where are you staying?”
And Jesus responds “Come and See.”
Jesus said what? COME AND SEE!

Mark Pierson’s concern wasn’t that his church wasn’t contemporary enough – Not about the music or the preaching or whether folks wore suits and dresses or blue jeans and flip flops. It wasn’t about whether they used video or hymnals or a high church liturgy or an implied order of service. It wasn’t about the preacher wearing robes or an untucked shirt or if she preached from the pulip or from the floor. Why Mark wept and the question over which every congregation should give pause and weep in concern is this: As we gather as a faith community for worship, are people being nourished and sustained in the faith for their following of Christ in the world?

Any congregation that answers “yes” is more than likely a place where people will be led to “come and see” and if not, if the answer to the question is “no” then no high priced, high tech sound and video system, no award winning music ministry or smorgasboard of programs will make a difference in the long run. And life, folks, as we all know, is a long run.

“What are you looking for?” asks Jesus.
And the disciples of John ask Jesus: “Where are you staying?”
And Jesus reponds “Come and See.”
Jesus said what? COME AND SEE!

A young lady wanted to have her baby baptized. It was probably my second year here, so we are talking about nearly a decade ago. I visited her and her family and we talked about baptism – the significance – death to life – the forgiveness of sins – the promise of the Kingdom – powerful, wonderful, awesome stuff. This was an important moment for her – what some call a liminal moment – where a major event in life opens us up to the possibility of real and significant change. In this case it was a baby allowing the Holy Spirit to open up this young woman’s life to re-enter a faith community. A moment of what we might call Kairos – one of the two words the New Testament uses for “time.” While chronos means time like we might tell using a watch, Kairos means opportune time – God’s time – the time when the door opens for a moment and we either step through it or not.

She was nervous about the event, not having been at a worship service since she was a child. She was nervous about what to do, what to say, what to wear. A quick read of the New Testament suggests that Jesus never was overly concern with what people wore in his presence, but this young lady was. In our gospel text today Jesus walks by John the Baptist and his disciples and John says “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” and what he does not do is to tell the disciples that they better hurry homer and put on their best pair of sandals and their fancy robe before Jesus moves on to a new place. John is concerned about pointing out Jesus to the disciples so that they could follow Jesus. Nothing else mattered.

Let’s flash forward: the young woman shows me the dress that she is going to wear to the baptism – is this OK she asks. “Of course,” I tell her. It’s beautiful.” So the day of the baptism there she is with her little baby and wearing the dress that she had showed me and all some of the folks in the congregation could talk about was the dress, whether it was churchy enough. It was the best that she had – but for some that miracle of baptism was much less important than the dress – the best that she had. And that day, in the privacy of my car, I, too, wept, wondering if we could truly be a congregation for those who didn’t have a clue about Jesus or who had some inkling, some thought, coupled with a great desire to know him more deeply. Could we also be a congregation for them? It was not an idle question.

“What are you looking for?” asks Jesus.
And the disciples of John ask Jesus: “Where are you staying?”
And Jesus responds “Come and See.”
Jesus said what? COME AND SEE!

Nothing is more important to me as your pastor then to lead you in wrestling with this question: How as a worshipping community can we better nourish and sustain the faith of the people who gather here, for the following of Christ in the world.

It is not about trying to do what someone else is doing, this mega congregation or that one. Just aping what slick thing another congregation is doing is pretty much a cope out – shallow and lacking integrity. Rather, it is about our struggle to understand our context, our community, our history, our present and our future, our mission field and discern what God is calling us to do and to be.

Why – why struggle – why not just accept who we are now and be content with all that we are now? Because this neighborhood, this city, this county and all of South Florida is full of people like that young lady whose child we baptized 8 long years ago. It is full of people like the two young ladies we baptized just last week at the early service. It is full of people just like us and absolutely nothing like us. It is full of people full of questions seeking meaning in their life and the Holy Spirit has led them here and we should never be satisfied that we are doing all we can in our sacred call to nourish and sustain the faith of the people who gather here, for the following of Christ in the world.

Think about one thing that we do that we need to stop right now that is getting in the way of people wanting to come and see Jesus here.

Thing of one thing right now that we need to start doing to help sustain the faith of the people who gather here, for the following of Christ in the world.

Take a few minutes and if you are comfortable with it turn to the person next to you and share your answers.

If you want write it somewhere on your worship slip.

Think about one thing that we do that we need to stop right now that is getting in the way of people wanting to come and see Jesus here.

Thing of one thing right now that we need to start doing to help sustain the faith of the people who gather here, for the following of Christ in the world.

"What are you looking for?” asks Jesus.
And the disciples of John ask Jesus: “Where are you staying?”
And Jesus responds “Come and See.”
Jesus said what? COME AND SEE!
Amen.
SPECIAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING

SUN JAN 16th

As previously announced through a December 7th letter, the BLOG and bulletin, there will be a special congregational meeting during both the 8AM and 10:45AM worship services on Sunday JAN 16th.

Special congregational meetings are limited in purpose and scope to the expressed purpose for which they have been called. This meeting has been called by your congregational council in order to vote on their motion concerning the timing of the annual regular council elections and the voting for the 2011 spending plan/budget.

As stated in the December 7th letter:
“This [change] allows a new finance team to be a part of the budget preparation process and allows for a new sequence of fall stewardship campaigns and spring budget preparations.”

Nearly all stewardship experts agree that separating stewardship teaching from the budget process should be standard practice in congregations that seek to grow healthy and generous disciples. As our goal is a stronger and more solid financial administration for Trinity and to deepen the commitment and generosity of the disciples that form it, Trinity’s council, after much prayer and deliberation, has brought these suggested changes before you. Previously, we held the council elections and the budget vote simultaneously during the winter semi-annual congregational meeting. .

As the motion comes from the council, a second will not be necessary.
The motion will be placed on the floor, questions directly pertaining to the motion will be entertained and the vote called for.

Rather than the previous practice of voting what we think to be right, we are continuing to expand a practice in which we focus on God’s will and not our own. So during the vote we will be asking:
“All who sense that it is God’s will to prayerfully hold our council elections on Sunday January 30th during a single worship service and to prayerfully vote on our 2011 Spending Plan/Budget on Sunday June 5th during the 8AM and 10:45AM worship services, say ‘yes’; all who do not believe that this is God’s will say ‘no.’” Results from the two services will be added together and the results released through BLOG, email and bulletin.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BIBLE IMPROV
9:30AM in Charter Hall
The story of Moses told
as only our Bible Improv Team can tell it!


For all ages - lots of audience participation! Four Sundays JAN 16, 23, 30th and FEB 6th. 9:30AM to 10:15AM. All Welcome!
Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The readings for Sunday, January 16, 2011:

First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-7

Psalm: Psalm 40:1-12 (Psalm 40:1-11 NRSV)

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Gospel: John 1:29-42


Today's Gospel continues the story of Jesus' baptism, and it has lessons for each of us. Notice that Jesus doesn't get baptized and go home to sit on the sofa. He doesn't say, "Well, I'm glad I got that spiritual landmark over with. Now I don't have to do anything else until I die and get to go to Heaven."

No. Jesus goes out and tackles his mission. What is his mission? The same as ours: to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is revealing itself right here, right now, that God is breaking through our mundane daily life to transform us into better people in a better world.

But notice that Jesus doesn't go around yakking about this all the time. He's not the type of guy that drives most of us crazy, all talk and no follow through. When people ask about his mission, he says, "Come and see."

And what will people see? They will see a man healing the sick, comforting the poor in spirit, feeding the poor, eating with the outcast, and supporting the lowest people in society's social stratum (women, children, demon possessed, tax collectors, and the like). They will see a man who sacrifices his social life and prospects for a long life so that other lives will have improvement. They will see a man of constant movement.

What do people see when they look at your life? I've said it before, but it bears repeating: people pay attention to your actions. If your actions don't match your words, people don't accept your words. But it's worse: people see you as a hypocrite, one of those Christian types they hate so much. But it's even worse: if your actions habitually don't match your words, people begin to assume that ALL Christians are hypocrites.

I know it's tough some days. We're impatient. We wonder why these out-of-towners can't turn when they get a green arrow, and we lean on our horns. In these days of gathering gloom (economic, ecological), it's harder to part with our money. We want to conserve and hoard. We don't want to comfort a sick coworker because she reminds us that human flesh is so frail and grasslike. We would rather retreat to our houses and watch reality TV shows.

What's a beleaguered Christian to do? Pray for help, of course. Each morning, when you wake up and wash your body, remind yourself that you are marked with the cross of Christ forever. Then ask God to help you be the light of the world today. Remember that the world watches you, waiting for your light. Remember that when your light shines, other people feel better about being people of the sun. Forgive yourself for days when you're a dimly burning wick (to use the words of Isaiah's, in last week's readings) and remember that God does not extinguish a dimly burning wick.

And remember, that we are called to do tough work. Remember to follow the example of your Savior. Surround yourself with like-minded people who will help you on the journey. With these people, take frequent food breaks (eat fresh-baked bread and drink wine!). Every so often, retreat from the world's demands so that you can pray and recharge. And remember that Martin Luther said that faith should move your feet. We are called to be Movement People. And even the smallest movements can lead to great changes down the road.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

REFLECTING ON OUR FAITH

“Reflecting on Our Faith” is a sampled collection of reflections left and written by worshippers at Trinity Lutheran, Pembroke Pines, on their Sunday morning worship slips based upon their experiences during the previous week. Names and other information referenced in the reflections are abbreviated or deleted in order to maintain anonymity.

1. Where have you seen God working this week?
God got me through another week at work.
Feeding the Hungry
In the aftermath of the shooting in Arizona.
In the smiling faces of our young people.
At the ICU unit of the hospital.
I nthe blessing of my grandfather celebrating his 93nd birthday.

2. Where Did God use someone else to bless you this week (whether they knew it or not)?
While I was working
A knowledgeable sales associate told us to come back the next day in order to take advantage of a sale.
At the hospital.

3. Where did God use you to bless someone else this week?
Feeding the hungry.
At church.
I did a few things outside of my comfort zone because I was asked.
At home.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Eileen Soler and others wrote a great article on the history of several Broward County churches
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/07/v-fullstory/2004989/houses-of-worship-change-with.html
Matthew 3:13-17
Baptism of our Lord Sunday
January 8, 2011



Let’s be honest, you and I.
Jesus hadn’t done anything as far as we know.
The scriptures are silent. All those childhood years. Those young adult years.
Adolescents and puberty. Whisper quiet.
He had accomplished exactly zip. Nada. Zero.
His resume wouldn’t have completed a proper paragraph.
No one healed. No sermons preached. No bread yet broken, nor fish multiplied.
No demons banished, nor the powerful humbled, nor the dead given back their life.
No suffering, cross, no victory. Not yet anyway.
Soon and very soon and then in generous plenty.


Oh, there are stories outside of the Bible here and there.
About Jesus the irascible child doing this or that, but those aren’t scripture,
just curious tales and depending upon your inclination, creative fiction.
And then Jesus rises out of the waters of his baptism and God speaks: “Beloved.”
"This is my Son, my beloved, and with him I am well-pleased."

And we may wonder, you and I,
What about us?
In the grand scheme of things,
Our life,
As we rise each day, new in our Baptism.
The power of the one event, the one day,
The day when the water met the word and met us.
The day when we died to sin and rose to newness of life.
The day we died to ourselves to live for Christ.
The day we were signed, sealed and delivered to God and for God.
Mark with the cross of Christ forever.

That day.
And then this day, we rise this day, still wet, still soaking, still a child of promise.
Still brothers and sisters to Christ and in Christ.
Still children of God.
Still Kingdom-bound.
What about us?
We may wonder.
Are the heaven’s ripping wide open?
Is the voice of God booming, we imagine, not whisper soft but loud and strong
and resonate, echoing in the halls of heaven, resounding from the deepest deep,
the very power of creation its strength.

And does that voice of God speak to us and all within hearing and call us,
call us by name, but more.
In a word, in the power of brevity, speak the word: Beloved.
Dear to the heart of God: Beloved.

Gone is the idea: God as some far away deity, some great creator on permanent vacation or even just a creation-long sabbatical.
God is not some far away deity that put everything together and then went away to plant other gardens and to admire the way that grass grows, and flowers blossom. Somewhere else.
God does not love us from afar.
Beloved is not a word that tolerates distance or intentional separation.
It speaks of intimacy. Of hearts and souls and minds for one another in trust and love and life and death, not merely at the same table or in the same room or at the same party.
Beloved: Dear to the heart of God.

Does being that close to God make us uncomfortable?
Too intimate, too powerful, too personal: Beloved.
What if?
What if we began to define ourselves, to understand ourselves,
to find our meaning in that place, in God’s love for us?
Is it true that we have spent far too much time and effort trying to find answers everywhere else and we are not satisfied with what we have found?

Perhaps some have sojourned here and there and everywhere, trying this and that, trying to find the right formula, the correct mixture, the elusive balance, the ephemeral peace , when the peace that passes all understanding is right there. There is the very heart of God, that loves us, calls to us, died for us, whose grace accepted us first before we could even dare raise our eyes and ask for forgiveness, loved us first knowing everything there was to know about us, even the things we would not dare admit to ourselves or speak aloud.

Perhaps we have forgotten our Baptism.
Perhaps we have dried ourselves off. Dressed ourselves in other clothes.
But today is a day of remembrance. Of affirmation.
Of sacred and generous celebration
We the baptized soaking ourselves again in the promise of God
Throwing away the towel.
Kicking off our shoes.
Wading into the water. Immersing ourselves in the very heart of God.

Gracious God,
your love for us is beyond our understanding.
You love us when we feel most unlovable;
When we cannot even love ourselves,
you declare that we are dear to your heart.
You invite us to enter more deeply into your love,
that there you may be more fully known.
May we immerse ourselves in your heart
And come to realize that we cannot even begin to exhaust
even the smallest portion of your love’s meaning;
its height, its width, its depth.
Thank you Lord for your love for us.
Amen.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, January 9, 2011:

First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-9

Psalm: Psalm 29

Second Reading: Acts 10:34-43

Gospel: Matthew 3:13-17

This week's Gospel finds Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, a ministry that shows what a difference to world history a year of two can make. Notice that Jesus begins with baptism. Much critical ink, and literal blood, has been spilled in the centuries since the baptism of Christ, as people try to determine how important baptism should be to us as Christians. But let's put those issues aside and focus on the words of God: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

We tend to see Jesus as special. We can't imagine God saying the same thing about us. But in fact, from everything we can tell, God does feel that way about us. God takes on human form in its most vulnerable (well, the form could have been more vulnerable, I suppose; God could have appeared as a female slave in the Roman empire). How much more of a demonstration of love do we need?

For those of us who are big believers in affirmations, we should print out those words and paste them on our bathroom mirrors. What does it mean, if we believe God is well pleased with us?

Many of us dwell in the land of self-loathing this time of year. Maybe we've spent too much money on our Christmas festivities. Maybe we've eaten too much in that time between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Maybe we've already broken our New Year's resolutions. We look in our mirrors and see multiple reasons to hate ourselves.

We look in the mirror and see ourselves as we imagine that the world sees us. The world looks at us and feeds us criticism: too fat, too plain, too wrinkled, too odd, too tall, too short. A diet of that commentary quickly leaves us malnourished. The world looks at us and judges us in terms of all the things we haven't accomplished yet: no child or children who don't measure up, lack of business success, a house that's too small or in the wrong neighborhood, no publication credits, no worthy creative products, the wrong kind of degree or no degree at all. Seeing ourselves through the eyes of the world means we compare ourselves to others and hold ourselves to impossible standards.

No one wins this game.

Try a different practice for a week or two (or 52). Look in the mirror and see yourself not as the world sees you. Look in the mirror and know that God loves you. God chose you. God delights in you.

Our spiritual forebears might have worried that this kind of practice would lead to too much pride. But frankly, our culture has changed. In a world where more people are seeking help for the diseases of depression and anxiety disorders than ever before in human history, and many of the rest of us are trying to self-medicate, perhaps we shouldn't worry too much about big-headedness.

God chose you. God delights in you. God loves you.

You may find this hard to believe. You may be able to believe that God loves people like Mother Theresa or Archbishop Tutu, or any number of people more worthy than you. The good news is that God loves you the same way. God sees you in the same way.

No matter how much you improve yourself, God will still love you. No matter how many times you lose sight of your goals and move further away from the best self that you could be, God will still love you. Of course God sees your full potential and probably hopes that you'll move in that direction. But even if you don't, God will love you anyway. No matter how miserably you've failed, God will always welcome you.

We've lived in the land of self-loathing long enough. Why cripple ourselves with this kind of thinking? There's work to be done, and the world cannot afford for you to waste time feeling bad for all the ways you've failed. Every day, remember your baptism (perhaps as you bathe, as Martin Luther recommended) and the larger meaning of your baptism.

Monday, January 03, 2011

REFLECTING ON OUR FAITH

(Christmas Eve Through Sunday January 2nd Edition)

“Reflecting on Our Faith” is a sampled collection of reflections left and written by worshippers at Trinity Lutheran, Pembroke Pines, on their Sunday morning worship slips based upon their experiences during the previous week. Names and other information referenced in the reflections are abbreviated or deleted in order to maintain anonymity.

1. Where have you seen God working this week?
God kept people safe on New Year’s Eve and brought us to another year to make a fresh start
He offered us hope and healing after receiving bad news.
My Family’s good health
The miracle of Christmas
In the lives of believers telling the story of Jesus
Our family was together tonight (Christmas Eve)
In my life with my children helping me.
Giving me strength to attend exercise classes at the senior center
Keeping travelers safe
In the Christmas miracle and the joy it brings (Christmas Eve)
My 96 year old neighbor made a coffee cake for me.

2. Where Did God use someone else to bless you this week (whether they knew it or not)?
God brought me into contact with new friends.
Friendly strangers offered words of encouragement and support regarding an upcoming surgery.
God sent a familiar angel to sit and pray with me in the surgical waiting room as my loved one went in for emergency surgery so that I wouldn’t be alone.
My family blessed me with Christmas joy.
In loving us
Surprise gifts from a friend in Texas.
God enabled a friend to give me some good advice.
He helped re-unite me with someone that I had fought with
The 7:30PM Christmas Eve Young Person’s service.

3. Where did God use you to bless someone else this week?
I supported my child with her goals during our time off.
I let my daughter sleep in this morning because I did her chore.
Comforting someone.
Giving gifts to friends and family.
I was able to help my mom fix her computer.
Praying for a friend to receive a job offer (and he did!)