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)

Christmas Eve Worship: 5pm

1526779_10201276390887880_1808801338_n“Come and worship Christ the newborn King!”

5pm at Bethlehem on Christmas Eve

Worship includes the Christmas Story, plenty of carols, an extensive children’s sermon, and Holy Communion. Hope to see you there!

Join us: Read through the whole Bible in a year

Bible-in-a-Year Bible Study Kick-off: January 9944311

To recognize Bethlehem’s 140th birthday and our covenant’s 5thanniversary, we will spend 2016 reading through the entire Bible together. The Bibles we’re using (Daily Bible NIV: In Chronological Order) have been given out as gifts. Everyone is invited to read along however much you can, whether or not you attend the Bible study itself. Reflection/discussion questions will also be provided in each newsletter, printed on handouts, and sent over email for each week. Let’s discover how God has worked through time – together!

Why Read Through the Whole Bible?

The Bible can be difficult to read at times. Some of it seems so archaic, or the language is hard to understand, or the historical context is unfamiliar to us. While biblical literacy among Christians used to be a given, today few people have a working knowledge of scripture, nor do they understand the arch of the biblical story. And yet, this is the story of our faith – not just the New Testament, but also the Old. When we are not familiar with the Old Testament (or “Hebrew Bible”), it is like walking in on the end of the conversation: you get a sense of what the conversation was about and can feel the energy, but don’t know why everyone is feeling that way or why what was just said matters.

Our Bible-in-a-year Bible study will be an opportunity to get a sense of the arch of the story of salvation history. While a conventional Bible is organized by type of literature (Torah/Law, History, Poetry, Prophets, Gospels, Letters…), the Bible we are using has put the readings in chronological order, so we get a sense of how things fit together through time. So for example, if a prophet was speaking/writing during the time period covered in one of the history books, those readings will occur near each other.

            Our hope is that by the end of this year, you will have had a memorable and meaningful encounter with the Word of God, that you will have a deeper sense of how the story of salvation history hangs together, and that you will find biblical witness becomes something that can be applied and incorporated into your daily life, and not just something of which you hear bits of pieces on Sunday mornings. In short, we hope that scripture will become as the Psalmist writes:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Schedule:

Each congregation meets on Sundays after worship at their respective churches. On the 2nd weekend of each month, we meet on Saturday morning instead (so, no Sunday). These gatherings will be all together, both congregations, led by Pastor Johanna, and will include a light breakfast. If you miss one, return here to see the materials that were handed out posted under the month of the gathering. The dates for Saturdays are as follows:

January 9 @ BLC
Introduction to the Torah (2016)

February 13 @ SMLC
OT_Timeline February Bible Study (Law)

March 12 @ BLC
March Bible Study (Deut History)

April  9 @ SMLC
April Bible Study (Chron. and Psalms)
Selected Psalm Prayers

May 7 @ BLC (Note: this is the 1st Saturday instead of the 2nd as other months!)
May Daily Bible study (Solomon, temple, wisdom)

June 11 @ SMLC
June Bible Study (Divided kingdom)

July 9 @ BLC
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August 13 @ SMLC
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September 10 @ BLC
September Bible Study (restoration)

October 8 @ SMLC
Guide to the Gospels

November 12 @ BLC

December 10 @ SMLC

 

Prayer Garden Dedication Photos

Our Prayer Garden Dedication this weekend was so beautiful! We had a good crowd, we sang songs, prayed, and offered thanksgiving for this space, the people who made it possible, and the people who will use it. Then we enjoyed it along with some cookies! We hope you will find a time to come and use it, and tell your friends to come as well!

chatting IMG_0646 IMG_0647 IMG_0648 IMG_0649 Johanna leads proposed garden refreshments

Community Prayer Garden

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Community Prayer Garden Dedication

Saturday August 1st, 2015    10am

 

After years of dreaming and planning, we will be dedicating our Community Prayer Garden this week.  We will gather in the garden (rain or shine!) for a service of morning prayer that includes a time for blessing and dedication of this gift. The service will last only about 20-30 minutes, but we hope you will linger to enjoy this beautiful place.
Our hope for this space is that it will be used by the community as much as our own members, that it will be a place of respite and peace, and place where people can find and be with some sense of the divine, whether or not they share our particular Christian beliefs. So even if you are unable to attend the dedication, please know that the space exists and is open for all to use at any time it is needed for prayer.

NOTE: There is some seating available, but most people will be standing throughout the service, so plan accordingly. You also may want to be bring mosquito repellent.

~ The Story of the Prayer Garden ~

Prayer has long been a part of the character of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Today, this is enacted through an active prayer chain, as well as a group who meets for prayer each Wednesday throughout the year. Several years ago, a couple members had a vision for the little grove of trees near the parking lot: to create a garden that would serve as a respite and a place for people to sit amidst God’s beautiful creation and pray.

Though there was energy around the idea, the hopeful spot for the garden was too swampy to create a pathway. But a conversation with Bruce Zaretsky of Zaretsky and Associates, Inc. opened a new possibility: a boardwalk, surrounded by shade- and water-loving plants. Bethlehem eagerly agreed to the idea, and Zaretsky finished building the boardwalk he designed in 2013.

Shortly thereafter, Jason Leisten cleared out a walkway through some nearby trees. This offers a sort of extension to the boardwalk, and an even more secluded place to seek God. In the future, we hope this will also have benches and scripture, and will lead to a large walking labyrinth in the shape of a rose, as a nod to the history this area, formerly known as Roseland.

Some members have a connection to Scout Troop 113, and invited one of the scouts to design and build some benches for the garden. Will Dorfner took on the idea for his Eagle Scout project, and in 2014, the benches were complete.

Meanwhile, several members donated plants – some purchased, some taken right out of their own gardens. As a result, the plants represent not only current members, but in some cases, also members who had previously shared plants and have since passed away. The growth in the garden truly represents the cloud of witnesses by which we are surrounded.

We wanted a place where people could leave their prayer requests, to be prayed for by other users of the garden, which would tie us all together even more. Many years ago, Robert Panneitz had built a small mailbox in the shape of Bethlehem. Kevin O’Grady fixed up that original mailbox and made it look clean and sharp to add a gracious entry point to the garden where people can take or leave prayers.

The final touch was to add scripture to the garden. Our weekly prayer group brainstormed what short verses they would like present to help people focus their prayers, and we choose seven, since seven is the biblical number of completion. Rochester Signs and Graphics made the plaques for us and installed them in July, 2015.

The prayer garden was dedicated on August 1, 2015, and we hope it will be in use for many years to come!

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Strawberry Social Success!

Many thanks to all who helped make our 2015 Strawberry Social another huge success. Despite warnings of thunderstorms all day, we ended up with a beautiful, warm, slightly breezing evening, with lots of happy, full people of all ages. Many people enjoyed walking around our prayer garden, and we even had a magician entertaining folks (thanks, Magic Mike!).

 

A couple folks from South Wedge Mission came (Pastor Matthew and member Caroline) to tell people about the mission this year’s social supported, and they were very grateful to meet some of their mission partners. After expenses, we will be able to give them about $1000 toward the work they do in the South Wedge. Praise God!

Here are some pictures from the event:

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Mmm shortcake!

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The line to get in.

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Magic Mike entertains

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Men making hots

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A poodle balloon!

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Cutting up strawberries the day before

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Service with a smile!

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A full house, as usual

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Making massive amount of mac salad the day before