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Pastor's Message

October 2019

posted Sep 26, 2019, 8:56 AM by Christine Rice

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

    On October 4th, the church commemorates St. Francis of Assisi, renewer of the church, who died in 1226. Pope Francis takes his name from Francis of Assisi.  St. Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant.  In a public confrontation with his father, he renounced his wealth and future inheritance and devoted himself to serving the poor.  Under his leadership the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) was formed, and they took literally Jesus’ words to his disciples that they should take nothing on their journey and receive no payment for their work.  Francis had a spirit of gladness and gratitude for all God’s creation.  He called the animals his brothers and sisters.

    You who have pets know that they become a member of the family.  The Hickman’s “brother”, Buddy the dog, died September 5th at the ripe old age of 14.  That’s 98 in people years!  Buddy, who was a Black Lab mutt, was originally a rescue from the animal shelter.  He was never well trained, so he was always an outside dog.  Don’t worry. He had a heated dog house and water dish for winter time.  He had the whole run of our fenced back yard and he lived for walks.  I always wished I could be as enthusiastic for each day as Bud was for his daily walks.  He would start dancing around with his big doggy grin as soon as he saw the leash.  Bud was Kyle’s dog.  Walking Bud together was always quality father/son time.  But Kyle has been away at college the last 5 years, except for Christmas and summers.  So, you know who, did most of the walking, feeding, watering, petting and poop-scooping.

    Until Bud went deaf about 2 years ago, our thing was to howl at emergency vehicle sirens together in the back yard.  He would start in or I would start in and we would be howling together.  Pretty soon the neighborhood dogs would join in.  It was great fun and it made him so happy: me too.  Over the last 5 months Bud was in kidney failure despite several rounds of anti-biotics and a special diet.  He was not interested in eating much and had lost over 20 pounds.  Finally, he was groaning in pain and could not move anymore.  The time had come to do the kind thing and put him out of his misery.  We buried him deep down in the garden.  We miss him, but we picture him running around in doggie heaven.

    Is it true that “All dogs go to heaven”?  Who knows?  The Bible does talk about the peaceable kingdom of God, where the lamb lies down with the leopard. (Isaiah 11)  The reformer Martin Luther was supposedly asked if he thought there would be dogs in heaven.  Luther replied, “If not, I don’t want to go there.”  Luther did say, “I wish I could pray as attentively as my dog watches the meat platter!”

    Our first job as human creatures in the image of God is to take care of God’s garden and God’s animals.  God’s blessings upon pets and pet owners alike.  God’s blessings upon all who take care of God’s earth and the creatures therein, including the human ones.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Dennis

 

September 2019

posted Aug 28, 2019, 11:18 AM by Christine Rice

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

            I hope you all had a little time for R & R this summer.  The Hickman’s enjoyed a good family trip.  Cathy and I went to Mt. Rainier for 2 nights for our 29th wedding anniversary.  We never saw the mountain due to clouds and fog, but the wildlife and flowers and hiking were great.  Of course I did some backpacking and hiking in our nearby Cascade mountains, some kayaking with my brother and replaced the  rotten wood deck on the back of our house.  That was 5 days of sweaty, hard work!

            The relaxed pace of summer comes to an end with the energy of the Ellensburg Fair and Rodeo, followed closely by the start of public school.  Here at FLC, the pace picks up as well.  The Sunday Adult class and Middle/High School Class start Sept. 15th at 8:45 in the chapel room.  Adults will pick up studying the Book of Acts where we left off last May.  Confirmation kicks off with the annual pizza feed for students and families Wed. Sept. 11 at 6:30 pm.  The Thursday 9 am prayer and Bible study keeps going and is always open to all.  We did take a few weeks off in the summer, but we are back to praying and studying the Sunday morning Bible texts.  The quilters have been going strong all summer and they continue their good work on Wed. mornings.

            Huge thanks to everyone who brought cans of chili, stew, chicken, ham and much more for our FISH Food bank.  Our food bank really needed these protein contributions over the summer and continues to need them throughout the year.  Let’s keep the protein items coming and expand it to pretty much all foods.

            Our Weekend Nutrition Program for school kids starts up again in September.  Thanks to Judy Ragland, Debbie Butler and Louise Acheson (St. Andrews) for putting all the meals together each week for needy children at Lincoln, Thorp and Dammon schools.  Please see Judy’s article for easy to fix and eat food items we can contribute to this wonderful nutrition program for kids.

See you in worship!    

Pastor Dennis

 

July~August 2019

posted Jun 25, 2019, 9:00 AM by Christine Rice

 Dear People of God,

 

    Ah, summer time is here and it’s my favorite time of the year!  After the cold of winter (and spring in Ellensburg), it is freeing just to be able to stop wearing so much heavy clothing.  I like to ask people what brings them renewal during the summertime.  I love to sit out on my back deck in the sun, before the heat of the day, and read my morning devotions and Bible passages while having breakfast.  It’s also good prayer time and a great way to start the day and stay connected to God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

    In the church calendar, we are into the long, green growing season of Sundays after Pentecost, also known as Ordinary Time.  We are encouraged to keep growing in faith and life, just like the plants and fields around us are green and growing in the summer sunshine. The Sunday Gospel readings focus on the teachings, actions and miracles of our Savior Jesus.

    In the summer, it can be easy to get out of the good habits of worship and prayer time due to travels or vacations.  I encourage you to take your Bible and devotion booklets along with you wherever you go.  Even while backpacking in the mountains, and I carry less weight every year as I get older, I take a little pocket New Testament with Psalms.  I’m a person who is renewed by spending time in God’s marvelous creation.  Hiking in our nearby mountains is one of my favorite things to do in the summer.  Seeing the grandeur of God’s mountains, lakes and forests renews me.  I also enjoy riding my bike on the Iron Horse Trail beside the Yakima River. (I know that’s not the correct trail name anymore, but it’s the same trail.)  But I also enjoy being lazy and sitting in the shade in the back yard with a good book and a glass of iced tea.  What renews you during the summer months?

    I always enjoy planting a little garden in the summer.  I honestly don’t work very hard at gardening, but I do plant some tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and green beans.  Getting my hands in the dirt connects me to God’s good earth.  God designed seeds and soil to feed humans and all living creatures.  Planting seeds and watching them grow, helping them along, is to participate in a miracle.  Plus there is nothing like the taste of home grown tomatoes and veggies!

    This summer, let yourself be renewed through God’s good creation, through the saving Good News of Jesus Christ in the Bible, through worship with other Christians, and through prayer time with our loving God.

    At the same time, let us not forget our hungry neighbors in need while we enjoy the summer time.  People need to eat all year round and donations to our food banks go down in the summer.  I urge you to keep on supporting our FISH Food bank and the lunches in the parks for children.  If you are a gardener with extra produce or fruit, the food bank is happy to receive it.  I like to pray for all farmers and all who work the land during the summer.  A favorite prayer of mine in the growing season is, “Lord, may there be bountiful harvests and plentiful food for all.”

    May the summer time be renewing for you.  Let yourself be renewed through the goodness of God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.                                           

 

Peace in Christ,  Pastor Dennis

 

June 2019

posted May 29, 2019, 11:44 AM by Christine Rice

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

            We had a good synod assembly in Boise, the weekend of May 17-19. Ethan Bergman and I were your voting members.  The emphasis was global mission and we gathered under the theme, “We walk together.”  As Bishop Kristen Kuempel said in her sermon during opening worship, “We walk together, or we don’t walk at all.” This is an important message for Christians and all people in a world that is tending more toward fear and isolation.

            We enjoyed great global music at the synod assembly and our Eastern Washington Idaho Synod will soon have a new name.  Come August, we will be the Northwest Intermountain Synod!  We needed a more inclusive name, since we have two congregations in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming, and the ELCA congregation in Ontario, Oregon just joined our Synod.  It will take a while to get used to saying “Northwest Intermountain Synod”, but the inclusive name will help us to walk together.

            It was great to see again Pastors Moses Nwaka and Eliud Payowela, our brothers from our companion synod, Ulanga Kilombero, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.  Moses and Eliud add the words, “Bega kwa bega” to the phrase “we walk together.” “Bega kwa bega” means “shoulder to shoulder”.  What a great image of accompaniment that is!   We walk together shoulder to shoulder in the love and mission of Jesus Christ our Savior.

            Our synod also has a domestic sister synod.  I and many others often forget this.  Our domestic companion synod is Greater Milwaukee.  It was good to have with us Bishop Paul Erickson from Greater Milwaukee and he preached at the closing worship service.  In his message he shared this African proverb.  “If you want to walk fast, walk alone.  If you want to walk far, walk together.”  This is a good proverb for me, since I often tend to walk too fast.  Clearly this proverb is not limited to the physical act of walking, but applies to many aspects of life, including church life.   Walking together and working together may be slower and messier, but it is definitely more loving and inclusive and joyful than going it alone.  Walking together, we support and encourage each other and we can go a lot further than if we tried to go it alone.  “If you want to walk fast, walk alone.  If you want to walk far, walk together.”  “We walk together or we don’t walk at all.”  “Bega kwa bega” we walk together.

            I attended the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services workshop.  LIRS has been working in the U.S. for over a century helping to settle refugees of war and conflict.  LIRS accompanies people, offers counseling and legal help, language help, and helps connect people with food, clothing, housing, jobs and transportation.  After WWII, LIRS settled many refugees here from Germany and Lativia.  During and after the Vietnam War, LIRS settled many S.E.  Asian refugees, with the help of many sponsoring churches.  Right now, LIRS is helping the many immigrants from Central America, especially in the efforts to reunite children with parents.  “We walk together, or we don’t walk at all.”  “Bega kwa bega, we walk together”.  As we follow the great command of Jesus to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we can be sure that our Savior walks with us.                                            

 

 Peace in Christ,  Pastor Dennis

 

May 2019

posted Apr 29, 2019, 11:50 AM by Christine Rice

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

              During the whole month of May this year we are in the season of Easter in the church year.  The greatest news ever of the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus is too big to be confined to one Sunday.  So in the church we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus for a 7 full weeks, a week of weeks: 49 days—clear up until Pentecost on the 50th day after Easter.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! We keep on saying that life changing good news for 7 Sundays.  Truth be told, it is never inappropriate to say “Christ is risen!” since every Sunday is a “little Easter”: a little celebration of Jesus Christ’s victory over sin and death for us.

            One option for the actual day of Easter is to read the resurrection account of Jesus from the Gospel of John.  We chose to go with Jesus’ resurrection account from the Gospel of Luke, since it is the year of Luke.  But the resurrection of Jesus found in John 20:1-18 is rich and I greatly encourage you to read it again, if you have not already done so.  John’s account tells of Mary Magdalene going to the tomb on that Sunday, while it is still dark and finding the stone rolled away.  She runs to tell the disciples, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  Peter and John run to the tomb and find the linen wrappings lying there.  Scripture says John “saw and believed”, but also “for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples returned to their homes.”

            But Mary Magdalene stands weeping outside the tomb and sees two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying.  They ask her why she is weeping.  Then she turns around and sees someone whom she supposes to be the gardener.  She asks him if he has carried away the body and if so, where has he laid him.  Then “the gardener”, aka the risen Jesus, calls her by name,” Mary.”  Her eyes fly open in recognition and she exclaims, “Teacher!”  Jesus then tells her to “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary runs to the disciples and says to them, “I have seen the Lord” and she tells them what Jesus told her.

            For this reason Mary Magdalene is often called “The Apostle to the Apostles”.  Apostle means one who is sent out: one who is sent forth.  Jesus sent Mary forth to tell the other apostles about his resurrection from the dead and she did.  The apostles were then sent out to share the great news with everyone they could and they did.  Mary Magdalene: Apostle to the Apostles.

            The witness of Mary Magdalene is another good reason to keep on celebrating the resurrection of Jesus for a full 7 weeks in the church year, and really for every week after that. We are not Mary Magdalene nor among the original 12 apostles.  But the risen Jesus does send us all forth to share with others the great news of his resurrection and the love of God for all people.                                                 

 

 “Christ is risen!   He is risen, indeed!”      

 

  Pastor Dennis     

 

April 2019

posted Apr 1, 2019, 9:27 AM by Christine Rice

Dear Friends in Christ,

            It’s probably a good thing Easter is later in April this year, since winter held on so long.  I don’t know if there will be any daffodils or tulips by April 21st.  Flowers are certainly beautiful and signal spring time, but the resurrection of our Lord Jesus is in no way dependent upon flowers blooming.

            During the first weeks of April we are still on our Lenten journey.  During Lent we continue to struggle against everything that leads us away from the love of God and the love of neighbor.  Prayer, fasting, giving alms, repentance, worship, Bible study and works of love all help us to do this. 

            On Palm/Passion Sunday, April 14th this year, we begin holy week together.  We are nearing the end of our Lenten pilgrimage and are coming to the main things of our Christian faith: the suffering, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.  On Palm/Passion Sunday we remember that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a humble beast of burden and people spread branches and cloaks on the road to welcome him as king.  We exclaim with the disciples and the crowd, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!” Luke 19:38.  And we hear the Passion of our Lord, the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus, according to Luke’s Gospel.

            On Maundy Thursday, April 18th this year, we remember that Jesus gave his followers a new command, a new mandate (hence—“Maundy”): “Love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” John 13:34.  Then Jesus humbly washed his disciples’ feet and bids all his followers to humbly serve one another in love. As Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples, he was celebrating the Jewish Passover Seder meal of liberation and freedom with his friends.  But Jesus gave it new meaning when he took the bread and said, “Take and eat, this is my body.” And then he took the cup of wine and said, “This is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

            On Good Friday, April 19th this year, we remember with sorrow and gratitude that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins and the sins of the whole world.  Good Friday is often called the Great Day of Atonement:  at-one-ment.  We were all out of tune with God our Maker, but Jesus, God’s own Son, has made us one again with God through the sacrifice of himself on the cross.  Thanks be to God!

            Having journeyed with Jesus through his suffering and death, we are then ready to fully celebrate the day that changed the whole world forever:  the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This year, resurrection day, falls on Sunday April 21st.  We rejoice with the women at the empty tomb as the angels tell them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”  Luke 24:5-7.

            On Easter Sunday, The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we exclaim with all the faithful of every land and time, “Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!”  We pull out all the stops and celebrate with great music and banners and flowers and the Word and the Lord’s Supper and even breakfast.  And then we keep on celebrating the greatest news ever for a full 7 weeks of Eastertide and with a “little Easter” on every Sunday.

                      

Christ has died!   Christ is risen!  Christ will come again!                 

Pastor Dennis

 

March 2019

posted Feb 26, 2019, 10:17 AM by Christine Rice

Dear Friends in Christ,

                

             During the month of March we are in the season of Lent in the church year.  The word “Lent” comes from an old English word meaning “to lengthen”, because the daylight hours are lengthening.  So Lent basically means “Spring”.  After all the cold and snow of this last February, we are all ready for some springtime.

                The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, this year on March 6th, and concludes on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter.  The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus falls this year on April 21st. The 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays, which are always “little Easters.”  Scripture tells us, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.  He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.” Luke 4:1-2.

                During Lent, as Christians we walk with our Savior Jesus in the wilderness and to his cross, his grave and finally, his glorious resurrection.  Lent is a wilderness time and a soul-searching time. During Lent we are called to struggle against everything that leads us away from love of God and neighbor. The disciplines of Lent-- repentance, fasting, prayer, and works of love—help us to wage our spiritual warfare.

                On Ash Wednesday we receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads.  It is a reminder of our own mortality and a reminder that we are baptized into the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus died and did not stay dead.  I remember kissing my dear Dad’s forehead just before his body bag was zipped up and wheeled away.  Dad had died at Guardian Angel Care Center in Richland after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.  Jesus died and did not stay dead.  Therefore Jerry Hickman and every other believer who died also did not stay dead.

                For three Sundays in February, our second readings were from 1 Corinthians 15, which is often called the resurrection chapter.  The early Christians in Corinth were having trouble grasping the resurrection of the body and the resurrection of the dead.  Some even thought their Christian friends who had died before Christ returned in glory had simply missed the boat and were gone forever. The Apostle Paul writes to reassure them that, because Christ has been raised, all the dead in Christ will also  be raised.  “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished….But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” 1 Cor 15:16-20.

                Lent fully acknowledges the reality and loss of death and the reality of resurrection life in and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As ELCA Bishop Guy Erwin in California says, “Our faith is death-defying: it takes death seriously and faces it unflinchingly.”

                             

Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.   Pastor Dennis

 

February 2019

posted Jan 29, 2019, 11:23 AM by Christine Rice   [ updated Jan 30, 2019, 8:49 AM ]

God’s beloved people,

            We have more Sundays in the season of Epiphany this year, since Lent and Easter are later than usual.  Here’s a little preview of the Gospel lessons for the month of February.

            On February 3rd, the Gospel reading is Luke 4:21-30.  Jesus is in his hometown of Nazareth.  In the immediately preceding verses, Jesus has read from Isaiah in the synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  And then Jesus said, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  At first everyone speaks well of him.  But when Jesus says that God’s grace is for all people, including foreigners, his hometown folks try (unsuccessfully) to hurl him off a cliff!  Jesus reminds us that God’s love and mercy are for ALL people, even folks we think of as our enemies.

            On February 10th, the Gospel reading is Luke 5:1-11.  Jesus teaches the crowd from Simon Peter’s boat and then tells Simon to “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  Simon is reluctant, since they worked all night and caught nothing.  But he obeys Jesus and soon the nets are bursting and the boats are almost sinking with the miraculous catch of fish. Simon says, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”  Jesus says, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”  Then the disciples leave everything and follow him.  What might we be given when we obey Jesus?  What might we be asked to leave behind in order to follow him?

            On February 17th, the Gospel reading is Luke 6:17-26. In Luke, this begins Jesus Sermon on the Plane.  Jesus’ popularity, at least among the poor and needy, is approaching rock-star status.  He says to a great crowd.  “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”  To all who are in difficult circumstances and might feel they are somehow being punished by God, Jesus says you are actually first in the kingdom of God and God cares for you very much.  Jesus is voicing what some have called, “God’s preferential option for the poor.”  Jesus is beginning to form a community that is very different from the “haves and the have-nots.”  Jesus voices God’s vision of a community where everyone has plenty, because people share.

            On February 24, the Gospel reading is Luke 6:27-38.  Jesus continues his Sermon on the Plain.  These are perhaps some of Jesus’ most challenging words ever.  “Love your enemies, do good to those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also…Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful…give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”   Jesus invites us to live the generous life.  He also pushes us beyond our comfort zones to be merciful to all people.

            Epiphany is the season of light in the church year.  By February, the days are getting a little longer and we see more daylight.  Lord help us to be little epiphanies of your love and mercy, by following the teachings of our Savior Jesus.   

                                                                                                     

Peace in Christ, Pastor Dennis

 

January 2019

posted Jan 2, 2019, 10:52 AM by Christine Rice

             Happy New Year!  May God bless you in 2019 and may you be a blessing to others.  Through January 5th the church is still celebrating the feast of Christmas.  For the shopping malls it all ended on December 24th, except for the returns.  But for Christians, we think the birthday of our Savior Jesus is worth celebrating for a full 12 days.  On Sunday, January 6th we begin the season of Epiphany.  Epiphany is the season of light.  In the midst of a cold, dark January we look to the light of Jesus Christ.  Epiphany means a revelation, a manifestation, something is brought to light and clearly understood.

            The January church calendar starts out with 3 epiphany events which spell out the good news that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  First off, the naming of Jesus on January 1st spells out that Jesus is the Savior.  What’s in a name?  Jesus or Joshua/Yeshua in Hebrew literally means “He saves” or “God saves”.  As the angel told Mary “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will him Jesus.”  Luke 1:31  Like all Jewish babies, Jesus was named on the 8th day of life.  In our modern calendars, this is also New Year’s Day.  How appropriate to start off a new year in the name of Jesus, the one who saves.

            Next, we have the Visitation of the Wisemen on January 6th.  The magi from the East followed the star and traveled long and far to see the child who was born king of the Jews.  When they finally found the humble child with his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him.  The magi brought him gold, frankincense and myrrh: gifts fit for a king.  The visit of the magi is an epiphany and reveals that Jesus truly is our good and gracious heavenly king.  The wisemen were not Jewish.  They were from the East, probably Persia.  This shows that Jesus is the savior for all peoples and all nations.  The wisemen help reveal the truth about Jesus.

            Then on January 13th we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord. Jesus is baptized by John in the River Jordan.  Through sinless, Jesus is baptized in solidarity with us and with all people.  As Jesus is baptized, the heavens are opened, the Spirit of God descends on him like a dove and God’s voice from heaven says, “You are my Son, the beloved: with you I am well pleased.”  Luke 3:22.  Jesus baptism is his commissioning for service.  After he is baptized Jesus starts teaching, healing, eating with people and feeding them and journeying toward the cross, the grave and the resurrection.

            In out own baptisms, God claims us as his daughters and sons and commissions us for service in the name of our crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. And trusting in Jesus the Savior of the world, we seek to  share the light and love of Jesus with other people.

 

May your Epiphany season be full of the light of Jesus,

  Pastor Dennis

 

December 2018

posted Nov 28, 2018, 11:57 AM by Christine Rice

The second verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” says:

                O come, O Wisdom from on high, embracing all things

                Far and nigh: in strength and beauty come and stay;

                Teach us your will and guide our way.  Rejoice! Rejoice!

                Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel.

Yes, Emmanuel (which means “God with us”), come among us this season and teach us your will and guide our way.  Starting on Sunday, December 2nd, we are into the season of Advent, which merges into Christmas.  Advent means “the coming” or “the arrival”.  We are, of course, preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ our Savior.  During Advent and Christmas we can actually talk about and celebrate three comings, three arrivals of Jesus Christ.

                We prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming among as a child.  This is Jesus’ soft and sweet coming as a human baby.  This coming already happened more than 2000 years ago, so we are actually celebrating Jesus’ birthday, rather than his birth.  Nevertheless, Christmas is the miracle of God in the tender flesh of a newborn: the incarnation of the Son of God for us.  During the four weeks of Advent we prepare our hearts and minds to receive again this miracle of God’s love and grace for us.

                The Sunday Bible readings in Advent actually concentrate more on Christ’s second coming: his return as Savior and judge of all humanity at the end of time.  We read some apocalyptic (end time) verses urging us to watch, prepare, and be alert at all times (Luke 21).  We hear the voice of John the Baptist calling us to repentance and crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Luke 3:4. 

                During Advent and Christmas we also celebrate Christ’s “third coming”.  This is Jesus’ constant presence with us in the here and now: in worship, in bread and wine, in Christian community and in our hungry and needy neighbors, whom we reach out to in love and caring.  Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20.  Jesus also says, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40.

                On Sunday December 2nd, we begin a new church year: the year of Luke’s Gospel.  Last year our Sunday gospel readings were mostly Mark.  This year is largely Luke, rounded out with some readings from John.  It’s a three year lectionary cycle.  The idea being that we hear most of all 4 gospels over the course of 3 years.  Luke is often referred to as “Good news to the poor” and the “Gospel to the Gentiles”.  (If you are not Jewish, you’re a Gentile).

          Some major themes to watch for as we read through Luke this year are the  journey, salvation, the Holy Spirit, hospitality and food, women, the socially marginalized and the here and now.  In Luke, Jesus does major teaching on his journey to Jerusalem and he is nearly always “on the road”.  In Luke, salvation is more than forgiveness of sins: it is liberation from oppression, the reversal of status and full restoration of life.  Jesus is always eating with people in Luke and relationships take shape as hospitality is extended.  In Luke, “disciples” is a big group and includes women.  Elizabeth, Martha, Mary and others are women of great faith.  In Luke, Jesus reaches out to and saves widows, Gentiles, tax collectors, poor people and the physically challenged.  In Luke, salvation does not happen just sometime in the future, but takes place “today” and discipleship is a daily reality.

                And of course Luke gives us the beloved Christmas Gospel.  “And she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:7

                “O Lord, how shall I meet you, how welcome you a-right?  Your people long to greet you, my hope, my heart’s delight!  Oh, kindle Lord most holy, your lamp within my breast to do in spirit lowly all that may please you best.”  ELW 241

                                                                                                

O come, o come Emmanuel,   Pastor Dennis

 

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