Lenten Journey through the Catechism

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This year for Lent, we have committed to working through Luther’s Small Catechism. For such a small volume, this little gem is jam packed with food for reflection. We have provided each of you with your own copy (you can also download a free version on the device of your choice – search in Google Play or iTunes store for the Augsburg Fortress version). We have also provided you with your own copy of Free Indeed, a devotional based on the Catechism.

During the 6 weeks of Lent, you could commit simply to reading these two resources. This only takes a few minutes each day (perhaps, a few minutes more than you typically devote to your spiritual life outside of Sunday morning?). Below are some additional ideas:

  • Commit to memorizing the 10 Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, if you haven’t already. These are the foundational building blocks of our faith, and should be written on all of our hearts.
  • Commit to memorizing the explanations for these texts in the Small Catechism. (Remember when this was required for confirmation? Who still remembers?) The explanations are full of helpful language for talking about faith – language that brings life to our own hearts even as it equips us to bring God’s life to the world.
  • Commit to journaling for a few minutes each day. You could reflect on the day’s Free Indeed devotion, or choose whatever part of the Catechism you choose. Ask yourself each day the question Luther repeatedly asked: what does this mean for me, today, at this time in my life?
    • If you choose to do this, here are some tips: 1) Don’t try to be perfect. Streams of consciousness are fine! 2) Don’t write what you think you are supposed to write; write what is in your heart. 3) Begin and end each writing with prayer, simply asking God to guide your thoughts, and then thanking God for speaking to you.
  • Commit to coming to midweek gatherings. This year these are offered over the lunch hour for 45 minutes (or however much you can manage!), as well as our usual evening time. Together, we will dig into the Small Catechism and ask, what does this mean for us?

However you choose to engage in Lent this year, I pray that it is a fulfilling time in which you grow closer to God. Blessings on the journey!

Sermon: Ministry is risky, or should be (Feb. 19. 2017)

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Text: Matthew 5:38-48; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us seems easy enough to get on board with… until we realize that doing that might put us in an unsafe, uncomfortable position. But Jesus never promised to make us comfortable – only to bring us comfort in the promise of love, grace, and forgiveness. It is these promises that make it possible to do the risky work of ministry.

Epiphany 7A (2.19.17)

Lent 2017: Free Indeed!

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door, thus sparking a major shift in the Christian Church and western culture as a whole. This year, 2017, we are remembering Luther’s legacy, and all the ways he helped us understand faith and our relationship with God in new ways – how he helped us to understand that in Christ, we are “Free Indeed!”

We’ll dig into this exploration during Lent this year, by studying Luther’s Small Catechism. Each week we will focus on a different part. To aid in this exploration, we are providing everyone with a Catechism, and a devotional entitled, “Free Indeed,” which will be used by congregations all around the ELCA this year. Be sure to pick yours up in the next couple weeks!

Here is our Lenten schedule:

Ash Wednesday, March 1 – Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion at Bethlehem Lutheran Church (1767 Plank Rd, Webster)

Midweek Services (6pm soup supper, 7pm evening prayer):
Week 1 (Mar. 8, BLC) – 10 Commandments
Week 2 (Mar. 15, BLC) – the Apostles’ Creed
Week 3 (Mar. 22, St. Martin) – the Lord’s Prayer
Week 4 (Mar. 29, St. Martin) – Baptism
Week 5 (Apr. 5, St. Martin) – Communion

Holy Week Services:

Maundy Thursday, April 13, 7pm at St. Martin (813 Bay Rd. Webster)

Good Friday, April 14, 7pm at Bethlehem

EASTER SERVICES:

8:30am at Bethlehem, breakfast to follow

10:30am at St. Martin, breakfast at 9am

Sermon: Choosing life in the law (Feb. 12, 2017)

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Text: Matthew 5:21-37, Deuteronomy 30:15-20

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us some pretty tough interpretations of the law, interpretations that convict every last one of us. Yet a closer look shows us that following the law as Jesus describes it does, in fact, bring life, just as Moses told us it would in his sermon centuries before to the Israelites. “Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live!”

Epiphany 6A (2.12.17)

Sermon: Salt and light in a world of difference (Feb. 5, 2017)

 

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Text: Matthew 5:13-20

Jesus promises us that we already are salt and light in the world. Yet in such a divided world, where our differences seem more pronounced than ever, we sometimes have different ideas of what it looks like to be salt and light. Our challenge, as Christ-followers, is finding a way to embrace what unites us, even as we use our different viewpoints and skills to bring God’s love to the world in whatever way we are able.

Epiphany 5A (2.5.17)

Sermon: Jesus blessed whom?? (Jan. 29, 2017)

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Text: Matthew 5:1-12; Micah 6:8

Jesus begins his famous Sermon on the Mount by calling “blessed” a bunch of people we wouldn’t consider blessed – the meek, the poor, the hungry, the persecuted… In doing so, he is promising them, “You are already blessed, because I am with you – especially when you feel less than blessed!” Jesus makes clear in this sermon that his priorities lie with the oppressed and disenfranchised. Whom would Jesus call blessed today?

Epiphany 4A (1.29.17)

Christmas Services

“Come to Bethlehem and see him whose birth the angels sing!”

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Join us this evening for Christmas Eve worship at 5pm. Holy communion, a special children’s sermon, candle-lighting, and of course plenty of Christmas carols. (If you are unable to attend at 5pm, consider coming to our partner congregation, St. Martin, 813 Bay Rd, Webster, at 7:30pm. The services are nearly identical.) Pastor Richard Johnson, preaching and presiding.

We hope to see you also for Christmas morning worship at 9am on Dec. 25. We will celebrate Holy Communion, and give thanks and praise for the light shining in the darkness. Pastor Frank Hanrahan, preaching and presiding.

Sermon: Disruptive peace (Advent 1, Nov. 27, 2016)

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Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Luke 24:36-44

How easy it is to love Jesus, the “Prince of Peace”… until he is less peaceful and more disruptive! But sometimes disruption is what love and peace look like, and our readings in Advent show us this. Today Jesus tells us to “Keep awake,” not to fall into the peaceful slumber of complacency that allows our most vulnerable brothers and sisters to live lives that know no peace.

“It seems Jesus is quite clear about where and for whom our peace-seeking efforts should lie: with the most vulnerable, the most needy members of society. For all his hard-to-love disruptive qualities, this is what the love of Jesus looks like: like keeping awake and constantly vigilant to serve “the least of these,” to do what is necessary to bring peace to them.”

Sermon: What kind of king? (Christ the King, Nov. 20. 2016)

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Texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 46; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43

We have an image of what a king or ruler should be like, but today’s passage from Luke, describing Jesus on the cross, is not it! So this sermon addresses two questions: if this is our king, then what does it mean for us as followers of this king, and second, does this picture differ from what we expect of our secular rulers?

“I have been thinking more than usual this week about what my Christian call means in public life, or said another way, how to be a patriotic American who is also living out her faith in civil society. I wonder if part of it might be to ask these questions about how Christ would reign in America today, and then to hold our elected leaders accountable to that (by calling, visiting, writing letters, etc). And then to fight for those same things President Jesus would. To work in whatever way we are able to bring Christ’s reign here to earth, through our prayers and petitions, our love and compassion, our faith-full voices, our willingness to use our particular gifts and positions for helping those in need, as well as our willingness to forgive, and our invitation into Christ’s salvation.”

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Sermon: What happens after this election? (Nov. 13, 2016)

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Text:
Isaiah 65:17-25
Isaiah 12:2-6
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Our country is divided after this election. With emotions and reactions all over the map, how do we be the Church together? First of all, we allow people space to feel what they need to feel. Then we trust wholeheartedly in the Lord, who is our salvation – which doesn’t mean sitting back and waiting and watching, but actively doing our part to continue to reach out to those in need, and never stopping to speak up on their behalf.

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