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LCHS Emmaus, PA

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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?

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.