Change of Worship Time, July 2: 8:45am

Please remember that starting on July 2, we will begin worship at 8:45am instead of 9am. This will allow Pastor Johanna more time to be with us following worship, before traveling safely to St. Martin for their 10:30 service. Please note, this is a TRIAL. We will get feedback from the congregation before making this a permanent change. The trial will run for 6 months, through the end of the year. Thanks for your patience as we figure out what is best for our congregation, our pastor, and our covenant with St. Martin.

 

Strawberry Social, Thurs, June 15

Warm weather is finally here, so it’s time for our annual Strawberry Social! Here are the details:

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When: Thursday, June 15, 4:30pm until gone.

Who: the whole family, and all your friends!

Menu: Beef BBQ dinner ($8) or hot dog dinner ($7), which includes main course, two sides/salads, and drink. Desserts (including strawberry shortcake, other cakes, ice cream…) are a la carte, and range in price from $1.50 to $4.50.

Why: For food, fellowship, and strawberries, obviously, but in addition, all proceeds from this event will go to support Mended Little Hearts. This organization helps families of kids born with congenital heart disease. Help us support this important work!

Come enjoy the food and fellowship, and while you’re at it, take a walk in our prayer garden, which is in full bloom right now! Weather is supposed to be great on Thursday – hope to see you!

Wipe clean my heart: Preparation for Ash Wednesday

Like most babies, my little Isaac has chubby little baby rolls on his neck. They are, of course, adorable… until that horrifying moment when he stretches his head back and you realize that, stuck in that sweet baby fat, is some of the milk that had dribbled down his chin, mixed with some of the dirt from when we played outside with sister. Because of all that cute baby fat, the tenderness of the area, and his still stiff newborn body, this space tucked deep in his fat rolls is very difficult to clean, and because it remains mostly hidden, all that gunk eventually causes irritation on his soft skin. The area can’t heal until he lifts his chin, and it can be wiped clean.

It occurred to me that this is a helpful metaphor as we prepare this week for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The penitential season of Lent always begins with this service focused on confession of sins – a confession that continues through the six weeks of Lent until Easter. The Psalm appointed for the day is always Psalm 51, with its well-known line, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

I’ve long loved this image of seeking a clean heart, but seeing what happens in those hidden spaces of my sweet little boy’s baby fat really put a picture to it – for our hearts are just the same. We may not even notice what sins are stuck in those hidden places of our hearts, may not even notice that their presence there is causing irritation. We can’t see that the longer they remain, the more irritation they cause. Eventually it starts to affect us in external ways – in our relationships, our faith, our way of being in the world.

Until, one day, we finally lift our chins, look up to heaven, and ask God to “wash me through and through… cleanse me from my sin… Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.” With our chins lifted toward God in prayer, and that dirt and sin that would irritate our tender hearts revealed, God is able, finally, to wipe us clean. After we are wiped clean, we are able, finally, to heal, to love, to serve God in newness of life.

What gunk is stuck in the tender places of your heart? What sins are irritating you and keeping you from the fullness of life that God envisions for you? What do you need wiped clean?

Join us for Ash Wednesday worship this Wednesday, 7pm at Bethlehem. We will have the imposition of ashes as well as holy communion, as we prepare for the six week journey of Lent.

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

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.

A New Sunday School Year

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Loved seeing all the kids up front ready to learn about God our first week of Sunday School!!  We had a great time in both classes and we look forward to seeing you in church again next week.

Just a reminder that Sunday School is held during the 9 am church service for pre-K to 6th grade children.   We start the service with our families and dismiss to Sunday School following the children’s sermon with Pastor Johanna.  On communion Sundays we return to finish the service and receive communion with our families.  The 3rd Sunday of the month is family worship and there is no Sunday School so that the children may worship together with their families.  A staffed nursery is available every Sunday for families with young children.

500th Anniversary of the Reformation

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“For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8)

            On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church to spark a conversation about some abuses of the Church at the time. What it sparked was a reformation of that Church – and 500 years later, the Church that bears his name, as well as a slew of other Protestant churches, are still going strong. Next year, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of this world-changing act, and most of all we will celebrate 500 years of living in the knowledge that we are saved by God’s grace and not by works. Praise be to God!

We’d like to assemble a group of people to help plan how we will prepare for this monumental anniversary. This may include particular Bible or Catechism studies, presentations on the area in which Luther lived and worked, a brush-up on the history of the Reformation, new mission projects… who knows what else! This is a great opportunity to learn about and embrace our Lutheran heritage. If you would be interested in serving on this planning team, talk to Pastor Johanna. We’d love a few people from each congregation. The time commitment is minimal – probably just 1-2 meetings this fall to brainstorm and plan, and maybe a couple easy jobs next year (ordering things and whatnot).

 

Holy Week 2016

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Already Holy Week is nearly upon us! Holy Week is the time of year when we walk with Jesus during his last week of life, remembering together the sacrifices he made, what they mean for our lives, and then at the end, celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord and the new life that this victory brings to us. Hope you can join us for some part of this special and sacred week.

Palm Sunday (March 20, 9am) – Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem in preparation for the Passover celebration. But shouts of “Hosanna!” quickly turn to cries of “Crucify!” On this Sunday, we will begin with a joyous procession with palms, followed by a theatrical reading of the Passion According to Luke.

Maundy Thursday (March 24, 7pm @ Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 1767 Plank Rd) – Jesus shares a meaningful supper with his disciples during which he gives them a new commandment, “to love one another as I have loved you.” On this night, we will reflect on that covenant, experience the humbly loving act of foot-washing, and celebrate communion together, remembering how Christ gave himself for us. The service will conclude with the solemn practice of Stripping the Altar, while we reflect on how Jesus gave up everything for us.

Good Friday (March 25, 7pm @ St. Martin, 813 Bay Rd) – On this darkest of days, we remember how Jesus “breathed his last” on the cross. This will be a Tenebrae service (meaning, “shadows”), mostly candlelit, as we read the Passion According to John, allowing beautiful and haunting a cappella music (sung by the Johnson family) provide the commentary on this sad but salvific event.

Easter: The Resurrection of our Lord (March 27, 8:30am, breakfast following) – “On the third day, he rose again,” and today we celebrate! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Come and raise a joyful noise to give thanks for Christ’s victory over the grave, and the victory that we all have, too, because Christ’s resurrection has conquered the fear of sin and death. Stay after for a delicious homemade breakfast spread.

Lenten Pilgrimage: Day 1 Reflections

This year for Lent, our congregations have committed to “walk” to Jerusalem. Along with the Israelites wandering through the wilderness in search of the Promised Land, and Jesus descending the mountain of his Transfiguration toward his trial, death, and resurrection in Jerusalem, we will name our own trials we seek to overcome, as we move toward the promises God has made for us and to us. We will compile all our miles walked, and hopefully make it all the way to Jerusalem by Easter!

So today, Ash Wednesday, is our first day of walking. Of course, it is snowing. (We are counting on El Niño to deliver a mild winter, but we are bound to get some cruddy days, right?) Still, I bundled up Grace and myself, and we headed off. First stop was to drop Grace off at daycare. As I did this, I made a concerted effort to notice things. What follows are my reflections on some of those things.

The first thing I noticed was the quarter inch or so of snow on the ground. It crunched a little unevenly under my feet. Lesson one: be careful, and don’t slip. Not a bad lesson for the first day of this journey!

The next thing I noticed when I took inventory of how my body was feeling. I became aware of a slight pain in my right hip. I often have pain in my hips that comes and goes, and I usually don’t even notice it anymore, but today, I did. As I did, I couldn’t help but think of Jacob wrestling with God (Genesis 32:22-31). After wrestling with God all night, Jacob demands a blessing from God. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, and Israel leaves this match having prevailed, but with a limp in his step because God had touched him on his hip. This encounter happened in the middle of a journey. I have long been fascinated by it, and the lessons of this story were not lost on me today: on any given journey, there may very well be injury, either physical or spiritual, and they may very well be a result of a close encounter with God. But that’s not a bad thing. I knew going in that this Lenten pilgrimage was meant to “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me,” and this often can’t happen without some pain. Lesson two.

After I dropped off Grace and continued on my way, I became very aware of the footsteps in the snow. I smiled, as they became a physical reminder that I wasn’t walking alone. I walked alongside one pair of footsteps for a stretch on Cooper Road, and thought of that famous Footprints poem everyone loves, but I sort of hate, due to that whole “familiarity breeds contempt” thing. Still, I imagined Jesus walking with me.

As I meandered through the streets of my neighborhood, I encountered different sets of footprints as one would veer off in a different direction and other would join my route. Each was different from the last, reflecting how differently each of us walks (physically and metaphorically). Some were turned slightly outward, some parallel. Some were accompanied by pet prints. Some were quite large, some small. Some walked side by side, some alone. Some had a swish behind each step – those people must shuffled their feet a bit while they walk. Some were partially snowed over (early walkers!), some were fresh. Some shoes had flat soles, some clearly had superior traction. Some were solid, some were broken into two parts. Some looked like fish, swimming down the sidewalk (those will be helpful once our journey to Jerusalem takes us into the Atlantic! Har har…).

Fishes! One of the earliest symbols for Christianity.

The more footsteps I saw, the more interested I was, and the more compelled to pray for their owners I became. I imagined the people who made those footprints – who they are, and what they might be going through on this day. Do they walk every day? Were they walking for exercise? Were they walking to lose weight and be healthy? Or just to enjoy some fresh air? What burdens do they carry? What joys do they experience? What is their relationship with the rest of their family? What is their job, or are they retired? Noticing people’s footprints in the snow, while I was myself trying to walk with some sort of intention, made me consider the people in my neighborhood in a way I hadn’t before. It almost made me want to follow one of the sets to their end, and knock on that door and ask if they’d like to share a cup of tea! (My creepiness radar told me that wasn’t such a good idea at this juncture.)

When all was said and done, I walked about 2 miles. The next couple of days are supposed to be bitterly cold, so I expect I will be finding somewhere else to walk than on the streets of West Irondequoit, but I do look forward to my next walk alongside my neighbors!

Lenten Pilgrimage: Moving Toward the Promised Land

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“Stand at the crossroads and look,
and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies;
and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

 As we near the beginning of Lent, we have been following the Israelites, in our Daily Bible readings, as they leave Egypt and make their way toward the Promised Land. Because this land has served such a central role in the Judeo-Christian history, the Holy Land (and Jerusalem in particular) has long been a pilgrimage site for Christians. When it got to be too dangerous to walk to Jerusalem, people still practiced pilgrimage by walking labyrinths, or found other ways to take an internal journey even as their bodies moved toward an external destination as well.

While the idea and practice of pilgrimage has changed over the years, today we can understand pilgrimage basically as a sort of “prayer with your feet,” an opportunity to seek personal and sometimes communal transformation. In short, pilgrimage is an opportunity to take a journey toward a place and in a way that brings you closer to God.

To that end, during this Lenten season, we will be following the footsteps of the Israelites as well as generations of Christians, and taking a pilgrimage toward the proverbial Promised Land. And so, I’d like to reflect with you on why pilgrimage matters, especially during Lent.

Traditionally, Lent is a time when the Church prepares to receive and celebrate the new life that comes with the resurrection on Easter. Over the centuries, people have done this in various ways – generally through prayer, penance, almsgiving, and self-denial – but whatever the method, the goal remains the same: to let go of the things that keep us from right relationship with God, and move instead toward the life God envisions for us.

Pilgrimage is a powerful tool for this effort. Just as the Israelites wandered through the wilderness in search of the Promised Land, we, too, will consider, as we prepare to embark together this Lent, what wilderness plagues us this season, and what Promised Land we hope to find at the other end of our journey. Is it reconciliation with a loved one? Is it acceptance of a situation? Is it a healthier way of living and caring for the body God gave you? Is it living each day with a deeper sense of gratitude? Is it simply growing closer to God? Whatever it is, let this Lenten pilgrimage be a time when you will focus on that destination, even as you take intentional notice of the journey to get there. Consider prayerfully what you need to leave behind in order to reach that Promised Land, what you need to bring, and whom you’d like by your side as you “travel.” Even as we are each on our own journeys, we will also work together to get to Jerusalem, the original Promised Land, by keeping track and compiling our miles, as a reminder that we are never alone as we journey!

Guardian of my soul, guide me on my way this day. Keep me safe from harm. Deepen my relationship with you, your Earth, and all your family. Strengthen your love within me that I may be a presence of your peace in our world. Amen. (“Pilgrim Prayer” by Tom Pfeffer and Joyce Rupp)

Moving Toward the Promised Land: How it Works

If we worked together, could we make it to Jerusalem? This Lent, we’re going to try! If we could walk on water, the distance from Webster, NY to Jerusalem would be 5,730 miles. So throughout Lent, we will be encouraging everyone to get out and walk a mile or two each day. Not just your usual steps (though you can include those, too, in your total), but rather, some intentional time each day where you get out and move, and at the same time, focus on your relationship with God, and the “Promised Land” to which God is leading you. Each week, send in your miles, and we will compile them, and hopefully make it to the Promised Land by Easter!

If you can’t walk – don’t worry, you can still participate. Count 15 minutes of dedicated Bible study as one mile “walked” on your pilgrimage.

Midweek Gatherings

Join with other travelers on Wednesday evenings for soup, fellowship, and Holden Evening Prayer. Soup is at 6pm, and Holden Evening Prayer begins at 7:15.

Feb 17 and Feb 24 @ St. Martin (813 Bay Rd)

March 2, 9, and 16 @ Bethlehem Lutheran Church (1767 Plank Rd)