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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.

July 30, 2018, 12:27 PM

Draft Social Statement on Women and Justice

Adult Education Opportunity for August

In between services for the month of August, Pr. Nathan will be leading a discussion of the Draft Social Statement on Women and Justice.  Grab a cup of coffee, and join us in Grace Hall at 9:45 for some conversation. 

In 2009, the Churchwide Assembly authorized the
development of a social statement on women and justice. The ELCA Task Force on Women and Justice: One in Christ has been at work since 2012 and in November 2017 it released the Draft of a Social Statement on Women and Justice. The comment period on the Draft is open until September 30, 2018, so you are welcome to join the class for the discussion, and at the conclusion of the month, we can submit our comments online.

While the document itself is long (even by Social Statement standards), the first 10 pages offer a basic statement including: core convictions, the ways in which patriarchy and sexism have affected the church, and some ways in which the church can respond in both society and the church itself.  The following pages (pgs. 11-56) offer a fuller explanation of the basic statement.

In class, we will work through portions of the basic statement and  turn (as needed) to the fuller explanation for points of discussion in class.   In that regard, it would be helpful to have read at least the basic statement in advance of the class.  However, even if you do not have a chance to do so, there will be some time to review the statement in each class.

How can I get a copy?
There are a few copies on the Welcome Center in the Narthex.  The statement is also available online at:  Go to the “Faith” tab and click on “Social Statemets” then on the right of the page, the image (above) will lead you to the page.  You can go there directly at:


June 8, 2018, 8:50 AM

Summer Sermon Series: Children of the Bible and What They Can Teach Us Today

As the old proverb goes, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV). But the reality is we also have a lot to learn from children. Throughout scripture, children provide examples of courage (think of David and Goliath), resourcefulness (Miriam approaches Pharaoh’s daughter about helping raise him), generosity (the boy with five loaves and two fish gives up his lunch to feed the 5,000), and many other examples for us today. So this summer, we will take a look at some children of the Bible and what they can teach us today.  (You'll also hear a couple guest preachers for a couple of these Sundays as well!)

July 1: “The Little Girl who Woke Up” (Mark 5:21-43)
Theme: Resurrection and new life

July 8: “Samuel the Listener” (1 Samuel 3:1-18)
Theme: Listening and responding to God’s call.  This week, youth who attended the National Gathering will share some reflections from their time in Houston.

July 15: “The Boy who was Wise” (Luke 2:41-51)
Theme: The Importance of children in God’s house

July 22: “The Girl who Loved Her Enemy” (2 Kings 5:1-14)
Theme: Faith in the care and healing of God

July 29: “The Boy who was Generous” (John 6:1-14)
Theme: Giving what you have for ministry among God’s people

August 5: “Miriam the Resourceful” (Exodus 2:1-10)
Theme: Children as instruments of God’s grace

August 12: “Isaac the Questioner” (Genesis 22:1-19)
Theme: Honoring the questions of our children

Vacation Bible School at Holy Spirit will be August 13-17.  Like last year, members from St. Christopher's Episcopal will be joining us, but all children are welcome, so invite friends, family and anyone with children to join us for dinner beginning at 5:15 pm with VBS starting at 5:45 pm.  And if you would like to help out, we can always use volunteers!

June 8, 2018, 8:49 AM

Pastor's Semi-Annual Report to the Congregation, June 2018

So those who welcomed [Peter’s] message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  –Acts 2:41-42

These words from Acts 2 came to mind as I began reflecting on what to say after worship on Pentecost when we welcomed four young women as adult members of Holy Spirit.  Indeed, the end of last year and beginning of this year have seen us welcoming more new faces to the congregation (seventeen on March 11!).  In the summer months, we will welcome another group of new members as well (thank you in advance for wearing your name tag). I am excited by this growth and the new faces at church, and I am also mindful of the emphasis Luke placed on teaching, fellowship, breaking bread together and praying together to create a strong church community.  So as the summer months approach, I encourage you to make time for these four important components of our life together as Holy Spirit Lutheran Church.

Looking back over the past six months, in Lent we examined the theme of “forgiveness” using Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s, The Book of Forgiving.  Then, during Holy Week, we tried something a little different for Maundy Thursday: Individual Absolution as well as a dramatic presentation from Peter’s perspective on the passion of Jesus.  On Good Friday, we hosted five other congregations in town as well as a 60-member choir and chamber orchestra.  Thank you to all who made that service (and all of Holy Week) such a meaningful remembrance of what Christ has done for us.  

In Adult Education on Sunday mornings, we have looked at the similarities and differences between Lutherans and other Christians, as well as between Lutherans and other religions.  As a conclusion to this series, we will be reviewing the ELCA's draft statement, "A Declaration of Our Inter-Religious Commitment" starting on June 3 and going until we are done with it.  For the rest of the summer, we will likely take a brief break from Adult Education classes on Sunday mornings, but we will continue to offer small group discussions including a small group on “Laughing Your Way to a Better Marriage” scheduled to begin on June 4 at 6:30.  It will run approximately six weeks.

Beginning last fall, I began working with area clergy and non-profit leaders on the formation of a “Grand Blanc Faith Community Outreach Center.”  We will likely have a formal charter and bylaws established later this summer, so look for more information in the months ahead—I will share updates on my blog page on the church website.  In part, this is an attempt to create a central space for some of the services available to the community (similar to a model established in Flushing.  It would NOT affect any of our current outreach programming at Holy Spirit, but having such an outreach center could allow us to work with other congregations, area businesses and other non-profits (like FISH) to better support those in need in Grand Blanc. 

Speaking of community outreach, I am excited to be traveling with the youth and Briana to Houston for the Youth Gathering.  We anticipate it being an amazing experience like previous Youth Gatherings, but still ask your prayers for us and all the participants.  THANK YOU to all who have worked and given to make this experience possible for our youth!

Later in the summer, I plan to lead a short sermon series like I did last year.  It will most likely be on “Children of the Bible” and what we can learn from them.  However, it is still in the early stages of development, so come to worship this summer and find out more! J

A couple personal updates: in early May at the Southeast Michigan Synod Assembly, I was elected as a voting member of Churchwide Assembly scheduled for August 5-10, 2019 in Milwaukee, WI.  Also, this summer, I will submit my Doctor of Ministry dissertation proposal.  If approved, I will be interviewing other ELCA congregations that have joined together with our full-communion partners for ministry in their surrounding community.  While this does not affect our congregation at this time, it is clearly a growing trend especially in rural and urban contexts.

Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to the staff, council members and ministry leaders at HSLC.  Your dedication to Holy Spirit makes it a wonderful community to share in that same “teaching and fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers,” which Luke encourages for us all.

-Pastor Nathan

May 3, 2018, 11:20 AM

The Marathon of Grief and the Promise of Easter

Easter is often seen as a joyous and celebratory time in the church year, and indeed, we do have much to celebrate: Christ’s victory over sin and death is something that gives us the “complete joy” that Jesus speaks of in John 15:11.  And yet, even as there are signs of spring and new life bursting forth around us, I am also mindful of the recent deaths of loved ones in our congregation as well as the way in which Holy Week and the Easter season can remind us of deaths and losses in our pasts.

Indeed, there is no simple way to just “get over the grief” nor is that really an advisable thing to do. If we try to suppress emotions like grief, they have a way of coming out in other ways in our relationships and interactions with others.  Sadness can easily become anger.  Pain can become isolating.  But it doesn’t have to—because even amid grief, there is grace. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (NRSV).  Grief reminds us we are not in control of our lives, and that we “cannot save ourselves” as our Confession & Forgiveness in worship regularly reminds us.  But we have a Savior in Jesus Christ who can save us.  Indeed, he already has.

So as we continue in the fifty days of this Easter season, I treasure the language of abiding that we hear in John 15 over the 5th and 6th Sundays of Easter.  Jesus spoke these words on Maundy Thursday evening, and I think Jesus was using them not only as preparation for dealing with the emotional roller-coaster of fear and grief and joy that the disciples would soon experience with his death and resurrection, but also as a way to understand how to deal with grief and loss over time.  It’s as though Jesus is preparing his disciples for a spiritual marathon, and the best way to do that is to abide…to remain in his love and keep his commandment to love one another (John 15:9).   

Jan Borgman, a grief counselor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital says, “Dealing with grief is a lot like training for a marathon. No matter how hard the journey is, it begins with a single step. Some days you may feel that you can handle whatever the course presents and other days it takes all you have just to get out of bed. Along the way there will be celebrations for how far you have come and there will be frustration that you are not further along than you think you should be…. There will be peaks and valleys, paved and unpaved paths along the way. What works for one person on the grief journey will not be helpful for someone else. It takes a lot of hard work to establish a new routine and to figure out the best way to deal with your grief. It’s important that you not compare yourself to someone else on the journey but to keep your own pace and rhythm.”[1]

To extend her metaphor, I like to think of the Easter season as a whole as a refreshment station in the marathon of grief. And attending regular worship is like the crowd cheering the runners along the way. It’s the support of the community that helps the runners keep going and not give up when they think they cannot go another mile.  Ask any marathon runner and they’ll tell you—there is always a wall when you think you cannot keep going, when you want to just give in, but it’s the crowd and/or the other runners who encourage them onward.  A marathon runner cannot “go it alone.”  And neither can someone who is grieving.

Borgman continues with some lessons we can learn from marathoners when dealing with grief, which are worth our consideration.  She writes:

1) Don’t force yourself to go too fast. If you force yourself to get through the grief experience, you may overlook or deny some of the issues related to your grief.

2) Reflect on your experience. Take the time you need to deal with your grief. Notice the mile-markers or the accomplishments you have made in order to see how far you have come.

3) It is important to refresh yourself along the way. Take a break from your grief. Give yourself permission to enjoy life and to find pleasure in things you use to enjoy.

4) Allow others to help and support you. You can’t do this alone. Reach out to others and let your needs be known.

5) At times the journey of grief can be lonely and isolating. As time passes, you might find that those who initially supported you are no longer there for you. During those times, be aware of your feelings and the challenges you are facing. Remember that the course is long but you need to keep going. Slow and steady wins the race.

6) There will be new joys and hopes along the way. You will find new meaning in your life as you learn to live your life. Each step along the way will lead you to a new experience, if you can be open to it. It will take time and at some point you will look back and wonder how you made it through your most difficult day.[2]

This Easter, I encourage you to continue “running the marathon” or as Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Because one day, the marathon will come to an end, and grief and sorrow and pain will be no more.  Then we will find ourselves with Jesus and those who have gone before us—celebrating before the throne of God.  And just imagine what a complete joy that will be.


[1] Jan Borgman, “Dealing with Grief: the Marathon of a Lifetime.” Accessed online at:

[2] ibid.

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