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March 20, 2019, 2:00 PM

Reflection for Interfaith Prayer Service in response to New Zealand shootings


On Tuesday, March 19, I was one of the Christian faith community leaders invited to offer a brief statement and prayer in response to the tragic shootings at the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.  The following is what I said:  

As part of the Christian season of Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday, March 6, I urged my congregation as part of their "Invitation to Lent," to "a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor."

I recalled those words after I heard reports of the attacks on Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch because this sacred season in the church’s calendar is at heart, a call for followers of Jesus to be more expansive in the ways in which we love God and our neighbors.  

And so, I am honored and humbled to gather with you all tonight to pray and bear witness that the love of God is more powerful than the hate of white supremacists, and that our prayers together proclaim the power of faith to unite people of faith in support of one another around the world.

As part of her Pastoral message in response to the shootings, the Presiding Bishop of the denomination to which I belong, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, wrote:

"We know that our own Muslim neighbors here in the U.S. are also experiencing grief and fear. Many will wonder whether it is safe to attend Friday prayers today. These are not the kinds of questions that any of us should have to ask ourselves as we seek to live out our religious commitments. Yet, devastatingly, this is also a reality that binds us together as people of faith. As [she] wrote last November in the wake of the Tree of Life shooting: “Hate-filled violence knows no bounds – whether a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, a Christian church in Charleston, a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh” – and now these mosques in New Zealand.

Together with our ecumenical and inter-religious partners, we stand shoulder to shoulder in condemning hatred, bigotry, racism and violence whenever and wherever it occurs. We do so because all people are made in the image of God." ... Bishop Eaton concludes with the words of Psalm 16:1: “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.”

Indeed, this is my prayer, and my congregation’s prayer for the people of Christchurch, for Muslim communities around the world, and for all who mourn and are afraid. So let us pray...

     Almighty and merciful God, when people terrorize, you are near as a comforter and friend. You have taught us that reckless hatred cannot save us, and your call for healing, peace, and love is greater than the clamor of terror in our world. 
     Lead our enemies from prejudice into truth. Do not allow bitterness to form within us, but give us the courage to resist violence and to counter expressions of white supremacy with love of our neighbors. 
     We pray for the Muslim community in New Zealand and around the world that you would protect them from unjust aggression and discrimination.

     And we pray that you would touch the hearts of those who are tempted to commit acts of terror that they would recognize the evil of such actions and may turn to the ways of peace and respect for the life and dignity of every human being.  In your holy name I pray.  Amen.

The full text of Bp. Eaton's remarks is available by clicking here.

 




February 8, 2019, 8:45 AM

We Believe... A Revision to the Back Page of our Bulletin


Most churches that print a bulletin include some sort of welcome statement and instructions for worship including how to receive communion or request prayers.  Often, this goes unnoticed by worshippers or if it is noticed, it can feel overly directive--"go here, place a card there, see this person for help..."  But the reality is that such statements are simply instructions based on beliefs that center the community.  So a few weeks ago, we restructured some of our welcoming language around our beliefs to show how these beliefs are lived out in worship.  Here is the end result:
 

TO OUR FIRST TIME WORSHIPPERS, WELCOME!  We believe God calls us to be welcoming to all.  Being in a new church can be nerve-wracking to say the least.  If you are unsure where something is or how something goes, please ask.  We want to make sure you feel welcome.  We also invite you to complete the yellow “Visitor Information” card by the time of the offering and put it in the offering plate.  We promise not to flood your inbox with emails or mailbox with postcards!

We believe God invites you to the table.  The Sacrament of Holy Communion is available to all baptized Christians who recognize in the Sacrament the true body and blood of our Lord. Children who commune in their home congregations are welcome to the table. Anyone who has difficulty coming forward to receive communion may receive it at their seat. Please inform an usher of your need.

We believe worship should be open for all.  Hearing devices and large-print bulletins are available from the ushers for those with special needs.

We believe children belong in worship. Children’s worship kits and instructions are available in the narthex (a church term for the entrance area) to allow children to participate in worship.  If a child becomes restless and their guardians decide there is a need to remove the child from church, a staffed nursery is available down the hallway.

We believe faith formation is for all ages.  Christian Education is available during the school year for everyone two years old through adults.

We believe God calls us to pray as a community.  Prayer requests may be made by filling out a prayer request card and placing it in the offering plate, or contacting the prayer team leader for the month—see an announcement sheet for their contact information.

 




February 7, 2019, 11:00 PM

Rise Up Campaign Introduction


As one of the 115 congregations in the Southeast Michigan Synod we partner with other congregations and the Synod staff to assist us in our ministries here in Grand Blanc. Our connection to the Synod is one way we learn from others and share resources. When we walk together, we witness to the Kingdom of God in a wonderful way. As we look for new opportunities to reach our community, provide resources for ministry, and raise up new leaders here and across the church, the Synod is one of our key partners.

We now find ourselves in a time very different than when most congregations in the Synod—including Holy Spirit— were founded. Our neighborhoods have changed, the economy of Southeast Michigan has changed, demographics have changed, even the place of Christianity in America has changed. Many of congregations in our Synod find themselves struggling with how to transition to vibrant ministry in this new day.

To help address these concerns, the Southeast Michigan Synod has launched an initiative entitled “Rise Up!”  This capital campaign has a goal of 1.25 million dollars, and the good news is that we are already 2/3rds of the way to the goal!  And the majority of the money raised will come right back to help congregations better reach out to their communities to proclaim the Gospel.

In fact, after we conduct this campaign in the coming weeks, we can apply for a grant to help launch a new ministry initiative through the Southeast Michigan Synod. So, in many ways, we will be investing in ourselves through this effort.

This week in worship, we will share a video highlighting the goals of the Rise Up! campaign, and over the coming weeks, we will explain the campaign further using a variety of bulletin inserts, temple talks and other resources.  Together, we can Rise Up! and respond to God’s call to make disciples as we proclaim God’s love to the world!




October 18, 2018, 12:19 PM

Revolutionary Giving Series


When I was in Philadelphia earlier this year, I worshiped with my children at historic Christ Church.  It was a powerful experience to worship at this Episcopal church founded in 1695, whose building dates to 1744.  But even more inspiring was to sit in the pews and worship where revolutionaries like Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Benjamin Rush, George Washington and John Adams once did.  To sit there and reflect on the revolutionary leaders was one thing, but to worship there became a reminder of how revolutionary our faith in Christ is for our lives.

In the coming weeks, we will be reminded of this in our Gospel readings:

  • On October 21, we will hear Jesus invite us to  revolutionary serviceby becoming a servant of all, not just a servant to our own self-interests.
  • On October 28, as we commemorate the Reformation, we celebrate the revolutionary freedom we have in Jesus as he says, “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
  • On November 4, we remember those who have died even as we claim the promise of the resurrection - because eternal life gives us a revolutionary spirit of hope in which we live.
  • On November 11, we look on with the disciples as Jesus points out the revolutionary giving of the widow who put in “everything she had” as her offering to God.

Taken together, all of these readings suggest that a life of discipleship is about responding generously to the revolutionary love and grace that God has first given us for the sake of building up God's kingdom. Yet, even though we know this is true, it can still be hard. We still need regular reminders and each other’s mutual support.  So as part of the stewardship program this year, you will be invited by letter to review your finances and consider increasing your offering for the coming year. 

If we work together, the Stewardship Team believes we can: 1. maintain our current ministries, 2. raise funds to repair our parking lot, and 3. continue to reduce our mortgage debt in 2019.  All of these goals will help us maintain our outstanding ministries and beautiful facilities to the best of our ability.  More information about each of these areas will be shared in the weeks ahead.

Please pray about this request and respond as God leads you.  On November 4th, our Consecration Sunday, we will present our Statements of Intent for 2019 during the worship service. You are also welcome to mail your statement of intent to the church office if you cannot be present on November 4th.  Then, on November 11th, we will celebrate with a congregation-wide Thanksgiving meal following the 10:30 service.

Thank you all for being a part of Holy Spirit Lutheran Church.  I am awed by the ministries we do together, and the ways in which we express God’s revolutionary love and grace to the community around us.  




September 11, 2018, 8:43 AM

Martin Luther on Education


I am persuaded that without knowledge of literature pure theology cannot at all endure. . . . When letters have declined and lain prostrate, theology, too, has wretchedly fallen and lain prostrate. . . . It is my desire that there shall be as many poets and rhetoricians as possible, because I see that by these studies as by no other means, people are wonderfully fitted for the grasping of sacred truth and for handling it skillfully and happily.[1] – Martin Luther, Letter to Eoban Hess, 29 March 1523.

As we begin another year of Christian Education programming, I came across this quote from Martin Luther in a letter he wrote to Eoban Hess.  In his day, Luther was a significant proponent of education for all—something that seems fundamental to society now, but was radical for its time.  Nor was he speaking specifically of Christian Education like Theology or Biblical Studies.  Such a notion would have been a false dichotomy to him because all education was seen as Christian Education.  Education itself is a gift from God, and a way to better understand the world God made. 

It’s with that in mind that I want to encourage you to continue your own education—not only with the educational programs we offer here, but also with personal reading or classes.  Pick up a book of poetry, or challenge yourself by reading an objective biography of someone you know little about—or may not like that much (indeed, the Sr. High were talking about loving your neighbor and praying for your enemies at their Bible Study earlier this week).  You might even consider a class at the community college, or the library.  And as you do, remember that this process of lifelong learning is one aspect of our Lutheran heritage that we honor each time we embrace education (and those people and resources who help us learn) as a gift from God.

Blessings in your learning!

-Pr. Nathan

A Prayer for Teachers and Students:  

God our Creator,

You surround us with the marvels of this world and give us the ability to explore the mysteries of creation. You fill the earth with the Spirit of wisdom and inspire us to search for the truth. You have sent us prophets and teachers as witnesses to your love for us. You have come among us in Jesus Christ to teach us your saving truth by word and example. Help us to enjoy our learning together and enable us to take delight in exploration. Give us patience in our studies and strength to use what we learn to your glory. We ask this in the name of Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, now and forever. Amen.[2] 

 

[1] Letter to Eoban Hess, 29 March 1523. Luther’s Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters. Trans. Preserved Smith and Charles Jacobs, Vol. 2. Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1918. Pg. 176-7.

[2] Adapted from Augsburg Fortress Publishers, Autumn Seasonal Worship Resources. www.sundaysandseasons.com


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