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

Midweek Musings

Midweek Musings for Sunday, January 17, 2016

This week’s reflection comes from
Synod Vice President Thomas Madden

The Second Sunday After Epiphany

Lord God, source of every blessing, you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son, who brought gladness and salvation to his people. Transform us by the Spirit of his love, that we may find our life together in him, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

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5Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
6Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
7How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
10O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. Jesus revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. Alleluia. (John 2:11)

Holy Gospel

John 2: 1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

I’ve recently been making my own wine starting with juice pressed from viniferous grapes. The grape juice comes in six-gallon containers which, when all is said and done, each produce about 27 bottles of wine, or 4½ bottles per gallon. Contemporary winemaking methods, developed to speed the process, consist of at least five steps and require a minimum of nine weeks to transform the grape juice into wine ready for bottling. Even so, the bottled wine should sit undisturbed for six months to a year or more before it becomes good wine, ready to be enjoyed.

So, according to John, the miracle at the Cana wedding in an instant produced about 6-jars x 25-gallons/jar x 4½-bottles/gallon = 675 bottles of wine! That must have been some wedding party!

But who were the witnesses to the miracle itself? Not the bride and groom, nor the party host, nor the guests-they were simply happy recipients of the good wine. It was the servants, whose lot in life was to attend to and clean up after the privileged, who witnessed the miracle and to whom Jesus revealed himself. The servants were no different from the lowly shepherds who were the first to be told of Jesus’ birth, nor from the women, second-class citizens of the day, who were the first to be told of his resurrection. Jesus revealed himself to those whom society might rather ignore or cast aside-those who had little or no hope.

Yesterday as I had breakfast at the local diner, a vagrant woman who’s been around town for years entered and walked right past me toward the counter in back. I didn’t see what took place there, but in mere seconds, as she headed back out the door, I noticed her stuff something wrapped neatly in a napkin into her coat pocket. Jesus revealed himself again in that little miracle.

Water into wine? Baptism to the Cross? That is the miracle.

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people.”

Thanks be to God!

Midweek Musings for Sunday, January 10, 2016

This week’s reflection comes from
Synod Vice President Thomas Madden

The Baptism of Our Lord

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit and revealed him as your beloved Son. Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service, that we may rejoice to be called children of God, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


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Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Alleluia. (Matt. 3:17)

Holy Gospel

Luke 3. 15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”


This Sunday is the festival of The Baptism of Our Lord. But did you notice who was baptized in Luke 3:12? All the people, and Jesus. This was a communal event culminating in a vivid nexus of heaven and earth. The Holy Spirit alighting on Jesus and the voice from heaven proclaimed to the assembly that Jesus came as Lord of the heavens and Son of God. But Jesus came also as one of us. He was baptized with us, walked and lived among us, even to the point of dying with us, and as Lord, lives as the resurrected Son of God.

In our own baptisms we too experience a nexus of heaven and earth. In the midst of the assembly we are joined into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through water and the Holy Spirit. May we, whenever we assemble for baptism, be immersed in that vivid nexus, renewed to proclaim God’s praises and to join in faithful service to our world.

Thanks be to God!

Midweek Musings for Sunday, January 3, 2016

This week’s reflection comes from
Synod Vice President Thomas Madden

Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Alleluia. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Alleluia. (Ps. 98:3)

THE READING: John 1:1-16

John 1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ‘) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

John conveys to us the birth of Christ not as a narrative of events unfolding, but rather gets right to the crux of it by proclaiming the truth about God and Jesus Christ. John brilliantly and beautifully portrays a second creation account hearkening the one found in the Old Testament. In Genesis, with nothing more than a word, God creates light and deems the light as good. For John, the Word, Jesus, is the light of the world. But Jesus’ light is life itself. The great gift to us is God’s desire to be known to us intimately through God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ.

John most eloquently sets to prose that which humankind cannot fully comprehend. Perhaps that is why, year after year, I am so drawn to and never tire of these verses. The profound truth expressed so exquisitely in this text is augmented all the more when set to music. May it be that way also for you hearing John’s Gospel proclaimed in a setting by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612).

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Verbum caro factum est                          The Word was made flesh,
Et habitavit in nobis                                 and lived among us,
et vidimus gloriam ejus                           and we have seen his glory,
gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre              the glory as of a father’s only son,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.                    full of grace and truth.

Thanks be to God!

Midweek Musings for Sunday, December 27, 2015

This week’s reflection comes from
Bishop John S. Macholz

The miracle happens in the dark. A cold stable, inky night, and tired shepherds-all is jolted to a new awakening when God comes among us! We, too, are greeted with angel song as Christ makes his way among us in an old story, in miracles of bread and wine, in the wondrous fellowship of flesh-and-blood people called together to be a body for Christ.

Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


Luke tells the story of Jesus’ birth with reference to rulers of the world because his birth has significance
for the whole earth, conveying a divine offering of peace.

Luke 2. 1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,a the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,b praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.


“Do not be afraid.” The words of the angels are spoken not only to shepherds on this most holy of nights but to us as well, some 2000 years later. “Do not be afraid.” The words form an imperative, in effect, a demand that we not worry. “…for see-I am bringing good news of great joy for all the people.” For centuries the people had waited for the Messiah and now, in this town in the middle of nowhere, he is born. God has become incarnate. New life begins.

The message the angelic host brings is for us right now in this out of the way world. The message is one of promise and hope and a new day. Hear the message clearly and take it to heart. Even in…

…the midst of heightened terrorist alerts,
…the reality of mourning the death of a loved one,
…the sense that life is out of control,
…stress which is a constant companion,
…economic times that seem uncertain,
…futures that are unknown.

Christ comes to make his blessings known. To share life with us. To remove burdens. To remind us of God’s love. To enter into our existence. To redeem.

May this year’s celebration find you kneeling in thanksgiving, with wonder and songs of unbridled joy.

Christ is born today! Christ is born to save!
Blessed Christmas!!!


I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the word seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.
–Taylor Caldwell

Midweek Musings for Sunday, December 20, 2015

This week’s reflection comes from
Bishop John S. Macholz

Prayer of the Day
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that binds us, that we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Advent is a season of expectation and hope. It is also a season of impending accompaniment. By that I mean we prepare for the Christ to come and take on our flesh and blood and live among us, full of grace and truth. His promise to be with us and stand beside us is all that we need some days to make it through them.
A week ago I was home and had a free evening. A free evening, that is, until I received an email inviting me, along with other judicatory leaders, to gather for a hastily called meeting at the Islamic Center of Rochester. The request had gone out from our Muslim brothers and sisters who were deeply concerned about the political rhetoric being freely tossed about in light of the recent attacks on the Planned Parent Hood offices in San Bernardino.
As I arrived at the Center and walked toward the doors, two members of the community welcomed me, calling me brother and pointing me to the correct door to enter. Once in the building I saw a gentleman across the room who began moving toward me, his name was Muhammed Shafiq, Executive Director in Hickey Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue at Nazareth College. I had not seen Muhammad in years but he remembered me and warmly embraced me, welcoming me profusely and thanking me for being present.
Directing me to a room where about fifteen of us finally gathered, we began in an atmosphere I can only describe as palpable with fear. My Muslim brothers were deeply concerned about what they saw, and rightly so, as a rising threat against them and their beliefs. They were so happy to have us there that they must have told us that at least a half dozen times. We talked about our solidarity with them, the fact that we would stand beside and with them and wondered about future opportunities to continue to combat the anger and outright hatred in our society.

We did not solve any big problems that evening and, in fact, little changed. What did happen, however, was that others came alongside them and assured them of companionship on this journey. About a week later, having received the letter from our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton on the issue of Muslims as our neighbors, I forwarded it on to Muhammad stating clearly that we stood together with them and would continue to accompany them on this journey.
That, it seems to me is incarnational. That is what Advent is all about. It is why we prepare our hearts for room to receive the gift and grace of this Messiah whose birth we celebrate and whose coming we await. As he comes to us he calls us to be with others in their time of need, offering help and hope and sometimes, just sometimes, a simple presence. There are moments when silence says more than any words we might offer.
In these closing days of hope and expectation, take a moment to look around, to listen in order to hear the cries of those in need, to understand more fully those who may appear to be our enemies but, in actuality, may be the friends we have yet to meet. Be Christ’s presence to and with them, no matter their faith. Simply be, sometimes, it is enough.

We are called to ponder myst’ry
And await the coming Christ,
To embody God’s compassion
for each fragile human life
God is with us in our longing
To bring healing to the earth,
While we watch with joy and wonder
For the promised Savior’s birth.
“Unexpected and Mysterious” ELW 258

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.