News and Resources from the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Midweek Musings

Midweek Musings for Sunday, May 1, 2016

This Week’s Reflection Comes From
Rev. Aileen Robbins
Messiah, Rochester
and Member of Synod Council


Bountiful God, you gather your people into your realm, and you promise us food from your tree of life. Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit we may love one another and the world you have made, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

John 14:23-29

Jesus answered [Judas (not Iscariot),] “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”

I met recently with someone to discuss matters of prayer when she asked me, “Where do you find peace?”
It caught me off guard. And so I thought a while before I answered her, “I don’t think we find peace. I think peace comes to us.”
Oddly enough, peace comes to me in the midst of chaos. Peace comes to me when I am sitting face to face with someone who is facing demons or is in the midst of a huge crisis. Peace comes to me when it’s late and I’m at a meeting and my one remaining brain cell is about to give out. Peace comes to me when the office is crazy busy and I have to get that Bible Study done or the sermon written and the phone rings yet again.
It’s crazy, I know, that peace should be sensed in the midst of busy-ness and crisis and turmoil and even death. But, I think that when Jesus offers us peace, it isn’t a silent, one way, mountain top experience. I think peace in the midst of craziness was what he meant.
In the Gospel of John Jesus gets rather long winded and we forget where he started. This week we find Jesus and the disciples still gathered around the table where the Last Supper has ended. Judas has gone out to betray his Lord. Simon Peter is still wrestling with the hard truth that he doesn’t have what it takes to walk through the next hours beside his Master. All of the disciples are confused and confounded. Jesus is speaking words of comfort and hope to these friends for the days ahead.
He does not offer them an island oasis or a time apart from the crowds. In fact, Jesus is leading them right into the heart of injustice and violence and what he offers in the middle of that is peace. Peace that is not as the world gives.
Life was about to take a turn for the worst for those disciples. They were about to witness the arrest, the torture, the crucifixion of the one they had come to love. They were about to lock themselves in behind closed doors for fear of the authorities. They were about to be directionless, lost, beyond hope and desperate. All they would have would be one another.
In the midst of the chaos and the craziness and the violence they would have Jesus’ words to cling to: Love one another. For in that command lies a promise. Love one another is really the promise of a community grounded in the grace and mercy of God. No matter what, our vision, our goals, our work is for God’s kingdom and for God’s reign in the world.
Maybe that’s why peace comes to us in the midst of ministry of our churches. Because we all love God and we all love Jesus and we all love one another. Oh, I don’t mean warm, fuzzy, bff on facebook kind of love. Let’s face it, some days loving one another is a bit challenging.
When I speak of loving one another, I mean a love that causes us to be committed to working together for the good of one another and the kingdom of God. A love that causes us to lift up one another’s abilities so that real ministry happens-the ministry that feeds hungry people and causes those without shelter to find homes and justice to be enacted in Christ’s name. Love that allows us to forgive one another those missteps and mishaps that happen when people come together.
Jesus promises a peace that is not of this world. Jesus gives us a peace with a purpose; a peace that comes from knowing he is in the midst of us. Jesus gives us a peace that comes from knowing he has sent the Spirit to work through us; a peace that assures us that even when we can’t agree, we will be heading in the right direction as long as we’re side by side trusting that along the way we have the Spirit to nudge us and correct us and teach us and remind us.
In the meanwhile, we have each other and we have the work that Christ has set before us. Knowing that gives me peace. Real peace. Peace as gift and promise from that only one who can give it.

Midweek Musings for Sunday, April 17, 2016

This Week’s Reflection Comes From
Rev. Krista Mendoza
Bethany Lutheran, Elmira
and Member of Synod Council

John 13:33
[Jesus Said] Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and I said to the Jewish people, so not I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.”

Somewhere in us is our childlike nature. Jesus, recognizing this declares the disciples to be children, perhaps, because he knows what our reaction to his words will be. In our childlike nature our natural tendency in this situation of Jesus telling us we cannot do something is to obviously have a tantrum…..”why not!” or “I can too!” or some other defiant words will spring from our lips (well they do from mine). I can’t stand when someone says I cannot do something. My natural stubbornness takes on a whole new life when faced with the words, “you cannot do it.” I have accomplished some pretty impressive feats following those words all to show someone, “yes I can.” For better or worse, it is how I am wired.

Jesus turns to his disciples before he heads to the cross and begins a long segment of teachings that reaches from chapter 13-17 in John’s Gospel. It all begins with the foot washing and the call to be servant leaders. It follows with Judas taking off “at night” to go to the elders to tell them where and how to arrest Jesus. It will continue with Jesus’ prayer to the disciples, some final words of wisdom and these words of forewarning, “where I am going, you cannot come.” Is it to the cross that Jesus refers? Sort of, though many of the disciples will be martyred and some by hanging on the cross. Is it into the depths of Hades to defeat Satan and rescue those confined within it (depending on your theology)? Well, we certainly can’t do that. Is Jesus thinking in the future tense to his ascension to heaven? Perhaps, but Jesus promises to take us with him to the kingdom at the appointed time so that doesn’t quite fit either. Where is Jesus going? Why can’t the disciples go to? Is it death itself that Jesus forbids us to go? Is it with deep compassion and love that Jesus tells the disciples that we cannot go because with his resurrection death is no longer a possible destination for all the faithful? I lean towards this idea. I lean towards the promise that Christ will defeat death itself…that as Paul says, “in a twinkling of the eye we are transformed from our perishable body to an imperishable body.” Death is not a pit stop along the way to life eternal. We cannot even go there, not even if we wanted. Not in this life, not in the next. Jesus says, “you cannot come” because he takes away the possibility and wipes the destination off the map. Death has been swallowed up….we cannot go. What a thought! What a promise!

What do you think? What does Jesus mean when he says, “where I am going, you cannot come.”

I hope it is a word of promise in your ears!

Midweek Musings for Sunday, April 12, 2016

This Week’s Reflection Comes From
Rev. Krista Mendoza
Bethany Lutheran, Elmira
and Member of Synod Council

John 10:28-30

“I give them eternal life and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”


Throughout the Gospel of John Jesus spends significant time trying to disclose the unique relationship between himself and his Father. Whether it is in the language of abiding or oneness or unity of action and voice, Jesus discloses the intimate relationship between Father and Son; Christ and God. Then, he takes that and draws the rest of us in to that relationship. Later, in John 17 Jesus says, “and this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

So, here is my musing….eternal life is deep and intimate relationship with our God in the persons of Messiah, Spirit and Father/Mother God. Eternal life begins now….began in our earliest prayers, earliest confessions, earliest songs of praise…eternal life has been a part of the reality of who we are from the beginning of our faith and Jesus extends an invitation to dive deeper into that eternal life as we foster a relationship with our God. True, eternal life comes to its fullness in the life to come when we come face to face with our Creator in the Kingdom /Heaven, but it does not begin there….it begins here and now.

I forget this, a lot. And when I forget this I neglect the awesome and extravagant invitation of Christ to know God, to know Christ, to be one with the divine nature of God. I assume I live a ho-hum life. I assume the grandeur of God will only be known and seen in the life to come. I assume the adventures to be had are left to the Hobbits and Hogwarts. I assume that I just have to plod through today in the hopes of something better to come once my time on this earth is complete. (Ok, that’s a little melodramatic, but you get the point.) Instead, I see Jesus issuing you and me a personal, all-access pass to God. The hard question for me is, “what am I going to do with it?” And, I hope this goes without saying…Jesus gives eternal life as a free gift and what we “do” with the invitation can never lead to us being “snatched” out of the Father’s hand. Amen.

Midweek Musings for Sunday, April 10, 2016

This Week’s Reflection Comes From
Rev. Krista Mendoza
Bethany Lutheran, Elmira
and Member of Synod Council

John 20:12
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

I know that Jesus has done a lot of amazing things up until this point in the Gospel (including rising from the dead), but this is the moment I want so desperately to be a part of. A crisp early morning on the lakeshore with a fire ready for roasting freshly caught fish….the smell of the fish cooking and the sound of the skin crackling. In my mind it is a pristine moment; one of those moments when time stops and all seems right with the world. I have had a few of those moments in my life. All have been out doors and all have involved food and the hospitality of good people. I love that this verse ends with the words, “no one dared ask him, “who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.” It is a moment of clarity for the disciples. No questions are needed, no explanation, no introductions. Jesus simply issues an invitation, “come and have breakfast.” No need to bring up the miraculous catch of fish. For the disciples, it is enough that Jesus is there. They walk into this moment and are wise enough to sit down, shut-up, eat and just be with each other and with Jesus. How often we miss those moments when they are presented to us. How often we are in such a hurry we don’t even hear the invitation. How often we experience the joy of the miraculous moment and forget to turn around and see Jesus smiling along with us and take that moment to smile back and rest in the peace of knowing what it is to be loved just the way we are.

I don’t think it is any surprise that Jesus, after creating that moment of peace (and I mean Shalom here, wholeness of being), takes Peter aside and extends an even deeper invitation in the words, “feed my sheep.” Jesus has just shown Peter how to do this and Jesus has shown us. This is a back to the basics sort of Gospel lesson. A meal, the present Word of God, companionship, forgiveness and an invitation into sharing the simple truth with others. It is a story that is a microcosm of the Kingdom, the Gospel, the Church and the People of God…of how beautifully simple is God’s love to us and simply beautiful is the invitation for us to share that love to the world.

Jesus said to them, “come and have breakfast.”

Midweek Musings for Sunday, April 3, 2016

This Week’s Reflection Comes From
Rev. Krista Mendoza
Bethany Lutheran, Elmira
and Member of Synod Council

John 20:24
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

“But…..” it’s one of those words I tend to shrink back from. Everything is going along well until the person you are talking to winds up to the “but” part of the conversation.

“I liked it, but…..”

“that was a great meeting, but…..”

“thanks for helping me out, but……”

“you played a great game, but…”

I’m always waiting for those three letters when someone gives a compliment or when someone is sharing some good news. It’s like I’ve been trained to wait for the other shoe to drop. Here are the disciples all together having this incredible moment with Jesus who breaths on them and they receive the Holy Spirit. Here is this beautiful moment as Jesus, resurrected and standing before the ones who love him, shares that word, “peace be with you.” I imagine a stillness in the room after Jesus says those words; the kind of stillness that would allow you to hear that proverbial pin drop. As a listener on Sunday morning I feel a kind of excitement and joy as I hear these words and in my mind I am jumping up and down clapping for the disciples who have such a privilege to experience such a moment with the Lord. And I want to stop there. The story seems perfectly fine to me…..then… goes on, “BUT Thomas was not with them.” At this point in the story I’m wondering to myself, “why? Where did he go? What is he doing? Did the other disciples ask him to go get food or water? Why, oh, why Thomas are you missing? Jesus, why didn’t you wait for him to return?”

Now, I know that this text has the heading Doubting Thomas. However, let’s cut the poor guy a little slack. If we really stopped to think about it, I’m not sure how many of us would have reacted any differently. Look, I’m gullible. Super gullible….my friends derive endless entertainment from what they can make me believe with little to no effort. However, I do think I would be smart enough to call into question friends who tried to tell me that someone I saw die and saw buried had appeared to them from inside a locked room. I would want to see it for myself. Wouldn’t you? Let’s call Thomas grieving, exhausted, wanting to believe, needing something to hold and see; let’s call Thomas human.

So what does Jesus do with Thomas? For all of us who live as sincerely as possible, but fall short? For all of us who want to, but can’t seem to believe? Jesus shows up. Jesus acknowledges that there are those who will not need to see and will yet believe. But, but for those who need to see, Jesus is there. In the word of forgiveness, in the bread, in the wine, in the water and in the community of Christ (just to name a few). Jesus was there for Thomas, is there for you and will be there tomorrow. Amen!

Proclaiming Hope

This mission magazine tells the stories of just a few of the many ways lives are being made new by the power of the Holy Spirit through the ministries of the Upstate New York Synod. We hope you will be inspired by te work we do together in Jesus' name.

Questions Regarding Mission
New Mission
Lutheran Disaster Response
Social Ministry
Outreach with Young Adults
Congregational Renewal
Congregational Redevelopment
Growing Disciples
Companion Synods
Missionary Support
Theological Education
Outdoor Ministry
Campus Ministry

Download a PDF file of the entire magazine.