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LCHS Emmaus, PA

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Letter to the Congregation

Posted by Joe Tobey on March 25, 2013
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Letter to Partners in Christ’s Ministry:

This has been a week of loss and tragedy for our Holy Spirit family.  This past Sunday, as many of you are aware, Bill Mosser died following a battle with cancer.  Bill, along with his wife, Midge, were charter members of the congregation and Bill was the first President of the congregation as well.  On that same day, Melissa and Montana Twining and David Jenkins were tragically killed in an apartment fire in Emmaus.  Melissa, Montana and David were active members of our congregation and were usually in attendance most Sunday mornings.  Many of you have called, written or emailed expressing your concern for the Mosser, Jenkins and Twining families.  I am writing to share with you information related to their respective Memorial service arrangements. The delay in making this information public occurred because of the delay in identifying the remains of the fire victims and the scheduling  involved with both Memorial Worship Services.

The Mosser family is planning a public Memorial Service for Bill on April 27 at 2:00 pm. here at Holy Spirit.  Memorial donations are being directed to The Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit Memorial Fund.  Midge, Mary Jo, and David hope that the worship service will be a celebration of Bill’s life, ministry and faith.  I know that many of you join me in expressing our sadness and sense of loss over Bill’s death.

The Twining and Jenkins families are planning a joint Memorial Service to be held this Sunday, March 24, at 3:00 pm.  here at The Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit.  Memorial donations are being directed to the Twining/Jenkins Memorial Fund; the proceeds of which will be used to help the victims of this past week’s fire in Emmaus.  Any residual monies will be directed to the Rejoicing Spirits Ministry at The Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit.  Please know that every effort is being made to emotionally, spiritually and financially support Melissa’s, David’s and Montana’s families.  The funeral home, the congregation, the staff and a number of our members along with me have actively stepped forward to support the Twining and Jenkins families.

Finally, I ask you to offer your prayers in support of the Mossers, Twinings, Jenkins and Holy Spirit families.  We have all suffered loss this week, but thanks be to God that we are a community of faith centered on God’s promise of forgiveness, comfort and resurrected life in Jesus our Lord.  Thank you for your concern, prayers and support.  Please join us as we gather as a community to celebrate their lives.

In Christ’s name,

Pastor Elliott, Senior Pastor

What do you feel when receiving or sharing communion?

Posted by Vicar Jonathan on January 9, 2013
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How do you feel during communion?  When you are actually receiving the body and blood of Christ, what is your emotional state?  Are you somber, remembering the radical sacrifice that Christ gave for our sins?  Are you joyful, taking part in the saving grace that is given to us through Christ?  Are you humbled, feeling the power of the omnipotent God focused on you in particular as you are reminded that these are given “FOR YOU?”

I ask this, because I have felt incredibly differently while receiving this gift at different times.  In my experience, the music during Eucharist really sets the emotional tone.  Quiet, reflective music often reminds me that this is a truly sacred time, when the gathered people remain respectfully quiet, taking their time to kneel around the altar.  But on Christmas Eve, I was distributing the bread, and Joy To the World was going full blast through the organ, and I could barely contain my excitement at sharing the holy meal with everyone in sight!  My joy was overflowing, and I’m sure I had a huge smile for everyone as they received the bread.

The Eucharist is a truly mysterious gift from God, that touches each person in a unique way.  How has God touched you in your life through this personalized, “FOR YOU” gift?

Prayers after Sandy Hook

Posted by jelliott on December 17, 2012
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As we lift up the people of Newtown, CT and Chengping, Henan province, China, also remember the victims, and families whose lives have been forever changed by gun violence in every community across the United States of America and the world. 

As Jeremiah prophesied and Herod fulfilled, “a voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18

O God, our hope, as you heard the cries of Rachel for her children, hear our cries for the people of Newtown, Connecticut – especially the children, teachers, parents, community, and families and the people of Chengping, Henan province, China (who also experienced an elementary school attack this week). Receive into your loving arms those who lost their lives far too soon; console all parents and loved ones who are still numb with shock, disbelief and grief; strengthen and direct the counselors, educators, religious leaders and first responders who are helping the community grieve while processing their own loss. May your light brighten and overcome the darkness and evil of these days, as we look forward to the advent of your Kingdom of peace and justice here on earth and await the coming of the Prince of all Peace. Transform us into people of justice, love, and peace. Filled with justice and love, Come Lord Jesus, Come.

May our disbelief at this outrage to innocent, trusting children, working educators and loving parents, cause us to live more deeply in love with one another, strive for peace in all aspects of our lives together and seek justice in all forms of inequality and from senseless violence especially from weapons which kill. Be with all who live as witnesses and victims of violence. Call us together as a community, and as a nation, loving God, to work to end violence, to build a safer community, safer schools and places of worship for our children. Turn our mourning and wailing into action. Filled with justice and love, Come Lord Jesus, Come.

God our hope, in you light shines in the darkness and mourning turns to joy. Be with the community of Newtown, CT in this time of overwhelming sorrow. May your light surround them and all victims of violence. Assure them of your promised peace in the midst of suffering, remembering always that God’s promise is for this new heaven and new earth where justice and healing and love will have the last word. Filled with justice and love, Come Lord Jesus, Come.

A Day that Changed History

Posted by jelliott on December 17, 2012
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There are days that change the course of history. Not many days happen when people begin to think differently…when the world changes

  •       September 11,  2001…Terrorism attacks on the World Trade Centers, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA
  •       December 7, 1941…Bombing of Pearl Harbor
  •       November 22, 1963…Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
  •       August 6, 1945…Dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima
  •       January 28  1986…Challenger explosion
  •       April Fool’s Day, 1976…Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak built the first personal computer in their parent’s  garage
  •       Dec 17, 1903…Orville Wright took off from the Outer Banks of NC, near Kitty Hawk and flew the gasoline powered Wright flyer for 12 seconds.  Later that day Wilbur Wright piloted the plane for 59 seconds and covered 852 feet.  From that day on…we think differently about human flight…after one day a new world began…the world of aeronautics

On that day people began to think differently… new worlds were now accessible.  Bill Gates puts it this way,  “That the Wright brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. Airplanes became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas and values together.”

Friday…December 14, 2012…may yet become one of those days…the horrific killing of innocent children and teachers in Sandy Hook, CT…it may challenge us to think differently about our culture of violence, the accessibility of assault weapons and diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

In about a week we will celebrate another day… the day when a baby was born in Bethlehem…his birth changed everything…witness the fact that 2000 years later we are still discussing the meaning and impact of that life that came to be one night so long ago.

There was yet another day…about 30 years after the birth of Jesus…the day that John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

It is worth reflecting on and considering why 2000 years later we still remember and recall the day John the Baptist gathered a crowd at the Jordan River…called them to repentance…called them a brood of vipers…called them to live lives that bear good fruit.  John was not interested in what we in the business politely call “Seeker sensitive worship.”

John the Baptist was a world shaker, not a community maker; stunning God’s people with a radical call to discipleship.

To me, John the Baptist’s words are particularly poignant this morning…We live in a broken world filled with broken and hurting people.  John’s language this morning shocks us…brood of vipers…sin, repentance, the fires of judgment. .John’s language is not as outdated or quaint as some would believe.  It’s as fresh as this morning’s news.  Only a very broken person living in a very broken world would enter an elementary classroom and gun down innocent children and teachers.  The only explanation for such behavior is sin, sickness and brokenness.

And it’s not just out there somewhere; it’s in our own home and our own lives…I’ve reflected quite a bit since Friday that I grew up in a house where my parents divorced because my father put his revolver and a butcher knife under his pillow at night; a home where my parents argued about my father carrying his gun into Sunday worship and my own memories of my father napping on my dormitory bed with his hand on his revolver.  My mother, my sister and me, my grandparents, his other wives, his other children, his other families…How many lives were ruined by one man’s sickness and brokenness?

John also reminds us today that his message is not just for others, for the mad gunmen of the world. John’s words this morning, “who warned you to flee from judgment?”, don’t begin to say, we are children of Abraham. None of us gets a spiritual free pass…none of us despite a strong spiritual heritage or a strong church going resume’ gets a get out of jail free card….we are all broken…all sick in our own ways…all sinful and unclean.   I/ we may not kill children or sleep with weapons, but how are we broken?  Who have you hurt, what lives have you damaged?  John reminds us we are all broken people who live in a broken world.

Secondly, John reminds us that God not only sees the world’s brokenness, but has acted.  The longer I am in the ministry the more I believe there are situations that cause God to weep.  Remember the scene at the grave of Lazarus, Jesus’ dear friend.   John tells us in his gospel that Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus.  Think about it…the God of creation, standing by a grave weeping.  I am convinced there are times every day when God weeps over God’s children.  I believe God wept in Newtown on Friday morning.  I believe there are times when our world is so broken all God can do is weep.

So often after a tragedy like Friday’s in Sandy Hook we hear folks ask, where was God?  Why didn’t God act?  I believe God acted on Friday…God did not pull the trigger.  But I believe God was there.  God was not absent.  I believe God was also there on Friday.  I believe he was with the children, with the teachers, I believe God is with the grieving families.  And I believe God does act and has acted to end the brokenness and evil of our world.  That to me is what the Gospel is all about…God entering our world of brokenness in the person of Jesus…Jesus dying to heal the brokenness of creation.  God entering our pain to bring healing and hope.  Listen again to John’s words.  “There is one coming after me who is mightier than I.  I am not even worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  God sees our brokenness, shares our pain and acts in the person of Jesus…the light shines in the darkness.”

“God did not offer God’s love from the distance of a heavenly throne, but came to dwell among us, born of a baby. God’s love was demonstrated most forcefully in the midst of the unspeakable violence and cruelty of a crucifixion. And God’s penchant for life was demonstrated most profoundly in Christ’s resurrection, reminding us that while death is real and often horrible, it is never the last word.”

Lastly, this morning, John reminds us that words and good intentions are not enough.  To use the traditional words.; God is calling us through John to lives of goodness, righteousness and repentance…in other words God is calling us to change ourselves and change the world.  Listen to John’s words:

Anyone who has two shirts should share…tax collectors…don’t collect more than required…soldiers…don’t extort money or falsely accuse. In other words, because of Christ live differently.

  • Change the culture which glorifies violence
  • Do what you can to stop senseless violence
  • Work to create families and communities that nurture and heal
  • Strive for a society that better identifies and treats mental illness
  • Create a society where the innocent and blameless are not injured or harmed.

We were created to bear fruit…

A number of years ago, Jane and I had a garden behind our small apartment in Lansdale.  We decided to plant cantaloupes.  Not sure why, but we did.  After a few weeks, we had lots and lots of vines; but almost no fruit; just one little cantaloupe, about the size of an orange.  The vines were all show and no fruit.

This morning God calls us to live lives that are not like the cantaloupe vines.  We are called to bear good fruit. Amen.

 

Being Hope in our World

Posted by Vicar Jonathan on December 11, 2012
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This has been a strange Advent season so far.  The news has had some pretty sad stories, from the supposed end of the world (the Mayan calendar actually just resets like ours does, so don’t expect anything on Dec. 21st) to the prank phone call resulting in a suicide.  It seems to me that the world truly needs HOPE right now, which makes the job of Christians and the church quite important.

Advent is the season of hope.  We know the Christmas story; we know that Christmas is coming; and we know that Christ has already come into our world and lived among us.  Each year, we spend some time preparing the way for Christ to enter our lives.  We don’t “let” Christ in, but we can get things nice for the arrival.  This is the season that we remind ourselves that things will get better.

Our calling as Christians is to love God and serve Christ by serving the world.  This Advent, be a reminded to anyone who is in doubt or despair that they are not alone.  Our great hope is that Christ COMES to us, that we are not left alone to deal with our broken world.  Manifest that hope and be a loving and hopeful presence to those around you.  Serve them, love them, and give them hope, and you will be preparing the way of the Lord.

Untitled Post

Posted by Vicar Jonathan on November 27, 2012
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I used to get up early on Black Fridays, drag some of my friends with me to Circuit City or Best Buy, stand in line in the frigid early morning air.  This year, I slept in and managed to wait until 11:30am to venture out into the arena of retail shopping on Black Friday.

I think it’s very interesting that the two biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, happen within hours or days of giving thanks for all the things we already have.  It’s like saying “Thank you for a warm house to live in with lots of modern technology……Oh crap, I don’t have enough!!”

Now don’t get me wrong.  I know that a lot of gift shopping happens on these days, that we buy things for other people, and that makes it non-selfish spending.  But has consumerism really penetrated so deep into our minds that this is the only way we can tell people that we appreciate and love them?

Here are some figures for last year:

“So far, Cyber Monday has delivered on its mission, becoming the biggest single shopping day of the year for online retailers. And it keeps getting bigger: Sales on the day amounted to $1.25 billion in the U.S. in 2011, up 22% from 2010′s record highs, according to comScore. Sales on the second biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, tallied $816 million.”
– Lauren Indvik*

Last year, in two days, Americans spent over $2,000,000,000 at retail shopping.  That’s a LOT of dough.  But is buying things really the best use of our money?  Remember making hand-shaped turkeys for your parents in Kindergarten, or taking other crafts home to your parents when you were little?  Have you ever received a hand-made gift from a friend, and realized how much time and effort that must have taken?  What’s a gift that you’ve received that had meaning, but was not a tangible THING?

My point is to put some though into where your money and time go this Christmas season.  Consider tithing part of what you spend on gifts.  Perhaps find a gift that doesn’t cost money, and donate that money to a charity instead.  As we get ready to celebrate the coming of Christ, get wrapped up in your relationships, rather than wrapping things up.

(Feel free to discuss and leave comments.  You just need to create an account for the site if you haven’t already.)

* – http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/26/tech/web/cyber-monday-mashable

The Success of a Church is….?

Posted by Vicar Jonathan on November 20, 2012
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In our changing world, it has often been said that churches are failing.  People point to decreases in attendance for churches of all denominations, many closing churches, and the increasing number of people who identify themselves as non-religious.  It is certainly a challenging time to be the church, but I cannot say that I think that churches are failing.

First of all, the measure of success of a church is not the number of people in the pews.  Tracking numbers can help understand the organization of a congregation, how many people there are to participate in ministry, or other important things about the life of the church, but not success.  Jesus says nothing of success to the disciples, but simply to go share the good news and make disciples.

Second, the church will continue to exist and serve, even if it continues to shrink.  The early Christian church was certainly a minority in the Roman culture.  If the church can survive having its members thrown to the lions for believing in Christ, I think the church will weather the post-modern era of doubt and suspicion.

Finally, we ARE the church.  It’s not some building or corporation that we go to.  The church is the people of God, doing God’s work in the world.  Should we lose all our buildings, land, and treasure, we the church will continue to minister to a broken world.  We would probably be much less effective, but we would certainly continue.

I feel blessed to be a part of the community and part of the church that is the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit.  This is a congregation that is certainly busy and active in the world.  Our support for Angel Network helped give out 130 baskets with supplies for families in need, and we are looking to do so again in another month.  We are supporting the Arusha Hospital in Tanzania that is in need of medical supplies and equipment.  We send youth and adults through Project Help, the National Youth Gathering, and the Lutheran Disaster Response to help rebuild areas and homes that are in need.

What do you think is going to happen with our congregation and/or the wider church in the immediate future?  What would you say makes church successful?  (comments link is at top of post)

Pastor’s Blog Purpose

Posted by Vicar Jonathan on November 20, 2012
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The intent behind starting this blog is to create a space to share thoughts, feelings, and experiences about all things faith-related.  Rather than a sermon, where the Word of God is being interpreted and preached to the community of faith, this blog is aimed much more at discussion.  Topics may be posted that stir up disagreement, which is good.  It means people are involved and caring about the issue.  However, we ask that discussion take place in a loving and Christian context.  If you disagree, respond to the idea presented, not the person.  Keep discussion civil and appropriate, especially as this is a publicly viewable forum.  If you have questions or responses, please post them in the comment section.

When Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, he wasn’t posting an updated Ten Commandments.  He was entering into a discussion, to say “we have a problem, and here is what I think” and help the church move forward.  It is with that spirit that we hope this blog takes off.