Message from Pastor Jerry

Monthly Message
September 2018

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.  Ephesians 4:1-6(NLT)

Greetings and peace to you all!
I’ve been doing a great deal of praying and thinking about the following question: “What is church?” Martin Luther said church is “the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel.”
Of course, Holy Scripture shares that the “ecclesia (the church community)” is the place where believers find support, encourage-ment, affirmation, admonition, rebuke, hope, peace, love, and God’s presence dwelling within!

As a young boy growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s, “church” took on a different form. Church was the place where I worshiped God with people who instructed me “how” to properly worship. Sometimes through words of encouragement, but often through gestures and facial expressions sharing with me approval or disapproval. Church was the place I could sing and see the smiling faces of people who

cared about me. Church was the place where I could gather with my friends and have fun…. But not get carried away! Church was the annual bazaar to raise some money for the new windows, or the painting of the doors. Church was Vacation Bible School where the older kids actually took time to play with us. Yes, these are a few of the memories of “church” that formed my early Christian identity and I fondly recall.

As an adult, and hopefully more mature Christian, “church” has become something much more personally powerful. Church is the place where believers actually help each other experience God in daily living. Church is the place where believers tend to one another’s wounds and allow others to see our scars. Church is the place where I can join others on life’s pilgrimage to learn more about God and how God desires us to live in a difficult world through sharing time together studying Holy Scripture. Church is the place where we should be able to find joy and laughter in one another’s company, is the place where we should feel “safe enough” to cry, is the place where forgiveness should not simply be a word, but an action of our expression for one another. Church is the place where grace is not only spoken about but the place where all of God’s children find a welcoming at the base of the cross!

In my now 16 years of ministry, I have been amazed by the number of people who view church as a “consumable product.” These sisters and brothers in Christ see church as a place where they pay a certain amount of money and expect certain services in return. My sisters and brothers in Christ, nowhere in Holy Scripture, nowhere in the confessions of the Lutheran Church will we find such a model of faith. This model of faith is a by-product of the world in which we live, not the model shared with us by God or the founders of our faith.

Why share all this with you at this time? On September 9 at our worship celebration we will be polling those in attendance to gauge whether or not the people of the United Proclamation of the Gospel should extend our agreement for shared ministry to extend until September of 2022 instead of September of 2019. Should this movement be approved, we will be forming an ad hoc ministry team to provide guidance for visioning and ministry as we continue our pilgrimage together. This will provide an opportunity for us to evaluate and re-define how we understand “church.”

I write to you today hoping that your visions for “church” and the ministries we enter into and the feelings that prevail within our community, will be openly discussed and shared. Instead of simply lamenting on the loss of the “church” we might have grown up with, use your gifts, talents, and voice to redefine, reestablish, or revision “church” as you would like it to intersect in your life and in the life of the world.

My hope and prayer is that we would be able to energize our community of faith to engage the world that exists in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the year 2018, that helps more and more people engage God and engage faith with zealousness and joy in order that more and more people can feel the love of our God.

Peace and blessings for now,

Weekly Message
Sept. 23

Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can
always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.  And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words! 2 Corinthians 9:11-15

Greetings and peace to you all!
With the recent events associated with the impact of Hurricane Florence, I have the opportunity to share with you my great admiration and passion for a wonderful ministry of the ELCA. This week and next week, we as a community of faith are asking you to consider making a gift to the victims of Hurricane Florence through ELCA disaster response. This ministry, whose staff is funded by the benevolence dollars forwarded to the ELCA, insures that every dollar contributed to the victims of any disaster receive 100% of the donated monies. The disaster response team works in conjunction with the local synod, social organizations, and congregations to help support relief efforts of the affected areas. This is truly a wonderful ministry of our larger Church.

If you would like to share a gift in response to Hurricane Florence relief efforts simply place that gift in the envelopes provided in today’s bulletin. Additional envelopes will be available in the narthex both this week and next week. If writing a check, please make the check payable to either St. Peter’s Lutheran Church or Light of Christ Lutheran Church and place in the “note” section of the check “ELCA Hurricane Response.”

I thank you for your help in advance and hope and pray that all who receive our gifts will feel God’s presence in the midst of their time of suffering. Peace and blessings PJ