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Join Us For Worship!

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

Featured Post

Advent Meditation on Joseph

The reading for Sunday, December 17, 2017: Matthew 1:18-25 This Sunday we read about an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. We've no...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thoughts on Giving as the World's Stock Markets Tumble

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, August 23 and 30:

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 & Luke 6:27-36

For much of the past week, as I watched the world's stock markets tumble and rally and tumble again, I thought about various Bible passages that talk about wealth and where we place our trust. 

Money--and the power and status that it brings--is a powerfully seductive thing. Once, when facing changed circumstances as my husband left his job, my Charismatic Catholic AA friend acted as if I'd had a death in the family.

I shrugged and said, "I think having too much money is spiritually dangerous."

You wouldn't think I'd have to explain that to her, but I did.

If we have too much money, we tend to think of ourselves as capable and smart and able to go about our lives on our own. We think we don't need God. And soon, we begin to worry that we don't have enough money, and we lash ourselves to our jobs, jobs that require ever more of us, so that we can ensure we have enough money. But we'll never have enough money.

We will never have enough money. We will never be safe and protected by having enough money.

The only way to win that game (to paraphrase books and movies about other subjects, like female beauty and nuclear war) is not to play.

When markets tumble, I'm reminded of how much faith I've put in my money, of how I've stored up for myself treasures on earth, where moths and rust and thieves and worldwide economic downturns can take it.

 Again and again, Jesus warns us not to rely on our monetary wealth.  Let these market fluctuations remind us that even if we don't own stocks, if we're like the rest of the world, we clutch fiercely to our money.  Let us use this reminder to turn to Jesus and cling to what can truly save us.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Initial Thoughts on Being a Cheerful Giver


by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, August 23 and 30:


2 Corinthians 9:6-15 & Luke 6:27-36
In my much younger years, I remember having heated arguments with my parents about money--but not the kind of arguments you might expect.  My parents tried to train us to have good money sense, which included talking about how we would spend our money.  In my rebellious years, I didn't think I should give money to charity.  I had an attitude which might be very typical:  "I earned it; why should I give it to charity?  What did they do to deserve any of my money?"

We may have been the only family talking about the idea of tithing as we ate our family meals. 

My parents had very good answers, and they must have sunk in, because I give money to charity now.  My charities include the church and church camps, a variety of social justice organizations (all of them Christian, not all of them Lutheran), and other good causes.  Along the way, I've returned to my parents to have discussions of what it means to give our money away.

If I give money to a friend or family member who is having money problems, is that the same as giving money to an organization that helps the poor?  If I give away household goods, does that count as cheerful giving?  Does it only count if I give away items I still like?  Or can I be even more cheerful a giver if I'm getting rid of clutter while also giving away items?  How does doing volunteer work count?

You may notice a spreadsheet mentality in those questions, and you would be right.  What counts?  What doesn't?  It's not a very grace-filled approach.

My family talked a lot about the idea of tithing.  My Lutheran pastor grandfather and grandmother had a simple approach to giving:  for every amount that came into the household, they gave 10% to the church, 10% to savings, the rest to spend on expenses.

In my adolescent years, I asked my parents, "Why 10%?  Why not 15 or 20?"

My dad once replied that 10% is enough so that you notice it; it's not an extreme hardship to give up 10%, but it requires you to be more intentional.  But it's also a goal that can be met by most of us.  My parents understood the importance of not setting up children to fail, and they saw the same thinking behind the idea of tithing.

My parents didn't mention the additional benefit of regular giving:  most of us who give away part of our money notice that money loosens its grip on us.  Most of us who don't give say that we can't afford it--I've been that kind of non-cheerful, non-giver during parts of my life, so I do understand.

But I've noticed that when I give on a regular basis, I'm not as clenched about the idea of money and having enough money.  My spreadsheet mentality loosens its grip on me.  I begin to give out of a sense of gratitude, not because I think that God is making notes on that spreadsheet in the sky.

I give because I have and others don't.  I give because I've had opportunities, and many of them came my way out of sheer luck, not because I'm more deserving.  I give because I like the way it feels when I share.  I give because when we pool our resources, we can accomplish so much more than when we try to hang on to what we see as ours with our clenched fists.

And in this way, I can transform myself into the cheerful giver that God wants me to be--not because of a spreadsheet, but because God has a vision of a world where everyone has enough.

What a wonderful, grace-soaked vision!  And we can help bring it about by sharing what we have.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Week 2 of Encourage

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The Reading for the August 9 and 16:


1 Thessalonians 3 
I've spent the last week thinking of the idea of encouragement.  My brain has also returned, as it often does, to the subject of whom the church should serve.

Many of us might answer that the church should serve future generations.  We might see the purpose of the church as bringing up children in the way they should go.  Those of us who think this way might see the purpose of church as encouraging not just children, but also their parents.

Some of us might see the church as being formed to serve those who are not members.  Maybe it's our community, maybe it's new members we haven't met yet, maybe it's the poor and outcast and oppressed.  Maybe all of them.

Lately, I've begun to think about how we can encourage each other--the grown ups, the children, the members with whom we go on retreats, the ones we don't know very well.  I've been thinking about encouragement not because we want to recruit new members, not because we want to form children so that they'll stay with the church--no, I'm thinking about ways we can encourage each other because we are all so in need of encouragement.

I return to Paul's letter, and I see it shot through with that need for encouragement and gratitude when it comes.  I recognize that emotion.

There are many ways that church members can encourage each other:  we can go on retreats together, we can create retreats for each other, we can work on projects together, we can keep up with each other via social media (or old fashioned media like letters and phone calls).  We can pray for each other.

Most churches, especially smaller churches, may not always have methods in place for members to do this.  One thing I've always admired about the megachurches is their use of small groups to keep members connected.

I predict that one of the great developments of social media like Facebook, texting, and e-mails will be that we stay more connected, in this small group kind of way.

But could we be more intentional?  The new media will help some of us feel connected and encouraged.  What about the rest of us?

I'd like to spend some time thinking about ways we could encourage each other.  It's a hard, lonely world out there--if we're not going to encourage each other, who will?

Saturday, August 08, 2015

John 3:35


The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.
John 3:35

SERMON Notes for this coming Sunday as we continue on the Marks of Discipleship

SERMON Notes for this coming Sunday as we continue on the Marks of Discipleship
ENCOURAGE 1 Thessalonians 3 Sunday August 9th 2015
It is much easier to tell people that I suffer from lupus than it is to admit that I also suffer from depression an anxiety. They have me on an anti-malaria drug to deal with the swelling and to protect my organs from the possibility of damage during a lupus flare up. And they have me on medications for stress because that can trigger flare ups, too. What they are actually treating is clinical depression and anxiety. Depression and lupus do this little dance together like they were made for each other. But which came first? The answer with a little research is “Yes.” Lupus can cause depression and depression can happen all by itself parallel to lupus and lupus like any auto-immune disease can lead to depression from the weight and wearing on of the symptoms.  I’ll leave the arguments to the brain and body bio-chemists, because in the end, it just doesn’t matter. I would be taking the same small handful of pills every morning and evening regardless.
While I have been very willing to share with people my lupus diagnoses and what it means for me and to welcome their prayers, few people knew about the depression and anxiety. It is one thing to be open about being on “stress medication” for lupus and another thing altogether to say that it is for clinical depression. There is still a sense of stigma in the world about that; weakness, shame, that it is just an excuse and so on and so on. And with that depression hopelessness sometimes flares up; that nothing matters. That nothing one does will make a difference. And one just sinks down the rabbit hole into the darkest, deeper and deeper and deeper.
Recall how 1 Thessalonians 3 begins:
Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions.

The people of the churches in Thessalonica were facing persecution. Situated in northern Greece in an area that honored Julius Caesar as “god” and that worshipped Emperor Octavian as “son of god,” the early Christians converts turned from those false gods and from the comfort of doing what was expected of them by their neighbors, friends and local government. We do not know the full extent of what these persecutions included, but the concerns brought to Paul from Timothy, who Paul had sent on his behalf to those churches, included a concern about the dead in Christ, who may very well have been those who died from these persecutions. So after receiving Timothy’s report upon his return, Paul sits down and writes a letter, perhaps the oldest of all of Paul’s letters, in which the core of his message includes this idea: Our one true and living God gives us hope in the face of death and because Jesus died and rose again, we live with him, whether we are alive or dead.
As Paul writes later in 1 Thessalonians 5: 9-11
For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
Paul sends his co-worker Timothy to strengthen and encourage the believers in Thessalonica and then later urges those believers to encourage and build up one another. What makes that encouragement real is that it is rooted in hope. Fine, encouragement is real because it is rooted in hope – big deal. And why does hope matter? Couldn’t hope just be some word that religious people like to throw around to keep people like me from jumping off every bridge they come across? It is just a word, isn’t it?
Years later, Paul will write to another group of believers, this time in Rome:  Romans 5
…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For Christians hope is not just a word, not a lie, not a figment of our imaginations, individually or collectively, not a myth, or crack for Christian’s cooked up in their self-preserving imaginations.
As Paul writes to the believers in Galatia:
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The heart of our encouragement is that hope, that one true hope, that one true hope that will never disappoint us, though at times we are blind to it, suspect of it, or even doubt it with every fiber of our being.
If you have been down the rabbit hole of depression, perhaps you, too, have attended your own private funeral for hope. Of  course a loss of hope is not limited to the depressed: it may include those who have suffered debilitating illness or painful disease, had your life turned upside, lost a friend, a loved one, the life you once cherished, faced the struggle of aging, struggled to raise children or make ends meet or find your place in this world. Everything seems to want to nail our hope to a cross and declare it crucified, dead and buried. But the foolishness of the cross is that every expectation is turned on its head: hopelessness gives way to hope; life comes from death; our mourning gives way to dancing.
  
Paul sends his co-worker Timothy to strengthen and encourage the believers in Thessalonica and then later urges those believers to encourage and build up one another. That is what disciples do. They encourage. In “encourage” we see the word “courage” standing there front and center bold. It takes courage to encourage others with the hope of the Gospel. It takes courage to open ourselves up so that others may be encouraged from the hope that is within us, the living Good News, the hope from the cross, the hope that is Jesus. Be of good courage and lasting courage, my friends. Amen

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

First Meditation on "Encourage"

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The Reading for the August 9 and 16:


1 Thessalonians 3

I haven't read this text in many years, and I read it just after having a Facebook chat with a friend--sort of like writing letters, only more immediate.  So perhaps I was more inclined to see this text for what it is--a letter.

I was struck by Paul's tone--not only is he encouraging the very new church, but he's also drawing encouragement from them.  There will be persecution, yes, but it is survivable, with the good news that other followers remain faithful.

Through the years, many people ask me why I go to church.  Many of them assume that I'm going so that I can secure my lodging in Heaven after I die.  A nice spot in the afterlife would be grand, but even if we knew that there was no life after this one, I would still go to church.  For me, it's not about the next life, but this one.

I spend much of my day surrounded by people who are not motivated by any vision of an alternate life worth living.  Many of them aren't exactly inspired by this life--but neither are they inspired to work for change.

I go to church because it's where I've found a community--both locally and larger--where people are committed to that vision of God expressed again and again in Scripture, a vision where everyone has enough, where no one feels the boot on the neck.  I go to hear where people have seen God at work.  I go to be encouraged.

I have a good grasp of history, so I know that we will not live to see all of the transformations that we'd like to see, whether in our personal lives or the larger world.  I think of it as building a cathedral, a project that took many generations of workers' efforts to come to fruition. 

And I know that the transformations that I want to see won't take place at all without the efforts of ordinary folks like the kind I know from church.  The most enduring social movements have a base of faith.

I read Paul's earliest letters to one of the earliest churches, and I smile in recognition.  They feed Paul, as he has fed them--and thus, the wider world is fed too.

Monday, August 03, 2015

School Supply Blitz for Our Savior, Bahamas

School Supply Blitz coming Sunday August 16th at Trinity Lutheran to help the children of Our Savior Lutheran church in the Bahamas. Any of the following are needed: Backpacks, pens (blue and black), pencils, erasers, pencils cases, pencil sharpeners, construction paper, back and white composition books, paper folders (with and without clips), ruled paper, geometry sets, crayons & color pencils.

There are some great sales at Office Depot/office Max this week and teachers receive a 25% discount ! 

We are called by the Gospel to think and serve both locally and globally - please place your donations in the bin in the narthex between now through Sunday August 16th and thank you!