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Midweek Musings

Midweek Musings for Sunday, August 23, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, August 23, 2015

This week’s reflection comes from Patsy Glista, Associate in Ministry
Assistant to the Bishop for Operations

Prayer of the Day
Blessed Lord God, you have caused the Holy Scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people.  Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises, we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, which you have given us in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen   (ELW)

Gospel: John 6:56-69 (NRSV)

56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.  58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and are died.  But the one who eats this bread will live forever.

59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.  60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you?  62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  64 But among you there are some who do not believe.”  For Jesus knew from the first, who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.  65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father. 

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.  67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”  68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

REFLECTION

“Do you also wish to go away?”  Jesus doesn’t mince words when he asks his twelve disciples what they plan to do upon hearing his teaching in the synagogue.   Peter’s testimony in response speaks of what they have come to know and believe as they have journeyed with Jesus.  Jesus has the words of eternal life.  They believe and know He is the Holy One of God.  Peter is bold to speak his faith.  We know that later on after Jesus is arrested Peter is not so bold, even going so far as to say he doesn’t even know Jesus.  Yet at this moment, Peter believes and is not afraid to stand up and say, ‘I believe.’  He is willing to share his faith story with those who will listen.

In the Old Testament lesson for this Sunday, we read Joshua’s testimony to serve the Lord, “Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Like Peter, Joshua has come to know who God is and knows who he will serve and speaks of his faith forthrightly.  His words can challenge us to reflect on what is in our hearts and who it is that we will serve and follow.

Today’s world pulls us in many directions, asking us to serve in lots of places in addition to the many opportunities to serve in our congregations.  Jobs, sports, social media, video games, television and hundreds of other things draw our attention and time away from time spent with our Lord.  The media lifts up the injustice and evils of the world every day.  God calls us to serve, to care for our neighbor, to act and to follow Jesus.  Like Jesus words to his disciples, the work God sets before us is sometimes hard to accept.  Can we say with Joshua, ‘we will serve the Lord?’  Can we stand with Peter and testify, ‘Lord, to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God?’  Are we ready to share this faith story with the world around us?

I am the Resurrection,
I am the Life,
He who believes in Me
Even if he die,
He shall live for ever.
And I will raise him up,
And I will raise him up,
And I will raise him up on the last day. (ELW #485)

Midweek Musings for Sunday, August 16, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, August 16, 2015

  This week’s reflection comes from Patsy Glista, Associate in Ministry
Assistant to the Bishop for Operations

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, by our baptism into the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, you turn us from the old life of sin.  Grant that we who are reborn to new life in him may live in righteousness and holiness all our days, through your son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Gospel: John 6:51-58 (NRSV)

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.  58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died.  But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

REFLECTION

Three words stood out as I read through this week’s gospel reading – Eat, Abide and Live.  Jesus speaks each of these words in the reading.  Eat and live are used multiple times but abide only once.  While I most often believe I know exactly what words I read mean, sometimes I turn to Webster to see what meanings my dictionary offers up.   The definitions found often lend themselves to reflection.  The definition for eat is to put in the mouth, chew and swallow, to use up thoroughly, to consume. What is it that Jesus asks of us when he says, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you?”  How can we eat His flesh and drink his blood, taking in or swallowing the very essence of the One sent by God for our salvation?  Jesus truly shed his blood on the cross for us.  His body was broken, chewed up, through crucifixion.  As you gather around the Lord’s Table for communion this week consider the sacrifice Jesus made for each one of us.  Take in not only the wafer and the wine but take in the true meaning of his body and blood given that you might live.
If we eat, Jesus says we will live forever.  One of the definitions for live is to make one’s dwelling or to reside.  If we take into our hearts, minds and bodies, the Lord Jesus through his teachings, through word and prayer and sharing in the sacraments, we make our dwelling place with Him and He dwells within us. Jesus also uses the word, life defined by Webster as that property of plants and animals which make it possible for them to take in food, get energy from it, grow, adapt themselves to their surroundings, and reproduce.  Indeed taking Christ into our hearts, dwelling in Christ can bring energy and help us to face and adapt to our day to day life challenges.   Knowing Christ’s love living within us, we are able to abide – to stand fast; and to remain with Jesus and He with us.
Unless you eat 
Of the flesh of the Son of Man 
And drink of His blood, 
And drink of His blood, 
You shall not have life within you. 
 
And I will raise him up, 
And I will raise him up, 
And I will raise him up on the last day. (ELW #48)

Midweek Musings for Sunday, March 8, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, March 8, 2015
Third Sunday in Lent

This week’s reflection comes from Rev. Alison L Leitzel
Dean of the Hudson Mohawk Conference and
Pastor of First Lutheran Church, Albany

Prayer of the Day
Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Gospel: John 2:13-22

Jesus attacks the commercialization of religion by driving merchants out of the temple. When challenged, he responds mysteriously, with the first prediction of his own death and resurrection. In the midst of a seemingly stable religious center, Jesus suggests that the center itself has changed.

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

REFLECTION

No wonder people continue to call the church a bunch of hypocrites! It was so even in Jesus’ day. Wasn’t Jesus basically calling the temple leaders hypocrites when he cleared the temple? His actions said, “You are perverting my Father’s house, filling it with the same self-serving values as the world around you.” John doesn’t have Jesus actually use the word hypocrite as we hear come from his lips with some startling frequency in Mark, Mark, and Luke. But the meaning is still here, the leaders of the temple were not conducting temple business with the same righteousness that they were calling people to live out. It’s bad when the greed and corruption present in the world are found in the temple as well. The temple in Jesus’ day was as broken as the world.

And the world around us is indeed broken. Just look at Shelly Silver. Known for corruption and power abuse, Shelly still accomplished decent things, but now he must add to his resume “indicted on federal corruption charges.” We can find the good in things in all systems –and we should look for it them– but let’s not blind our eyes to the bad. The systems that organize and normalize our lives, the very things we need to live in community, are broken. Even the Church.

Dare I say “even the church?” Ha. If you are a pastor, you know about the broken system. If you’re a leader, you may be aware, too. If you’re a lay member, problems in churches may have passed you by, but probably not. You know the good, the caring Christ-centered people who really are trying to embody Jesus in the world. The faithful committed who serve year after year. The compassionate care givers and pray-ers who bring love and hope to people’s lives, You see the good of the Church, but you know the bad there as well: the people who are nasty and out to catch you doing something they can complain about, and the continued breaking of the 8th commandment. –A former Upstate NY bishop’s assistant would cite that commandment as the one most often broken in the church. How many times have you heard a sister or brother in Christ casting dispersions on another, rather than speaking well of them and interpreting everything they do in the best light possible?

The systems of this world are broken, even the Church, because the people who make up those systems are broken. We are broken. Simul justus et peccator. We’ve been given the best guidance possible. Just look to the Ten Commandments, and the self-giving way of Jesus. But guidance isn’t enough when we are broken. Which is why God is Jesus came to this world. To fix what is broken. To bring restoration, newness, another chance. Because the temple was broken, Jesus cleared it out. Because our temples, our bodies, our very selves, are broken, Jesus offered his temple, his very body and blood, to be broken in death and to break the power of the system of this world. In his death, Jesus has started a new thing.

This always brings to my mind the Christian Allegory, the Chronicles of Narnia, with its Deep Magic and Deeper Magic. The Deep Magic gave the ruler of Narnia the power to sacrifice traitors on the Stone Table, a punishment for their wrongs. The Deeper Magic said, “If a willing victim that has committed no treachery is killed in a traitor’s stead, the Stone Table will crack, and even death itself would turn backwards.” When the savior figure, Aslan, gave his life for the world upon the Stone Table, he broke the power of death in Narnia. And the turn around of all that was dying began.

Interpreters of the allegory liken the Stone Table to the stone tablets of the Commandments. Punishment followed the breaking of the commandments to ensure a good life in the community. But when the system of keeping the commandments became so perverted, then even the system had to be broken so that punishment and death would not rule the day, but the gift of life, which is what the commandments were intended to bring.

Hmm… Did the lectionary formers have Narnia in mind when they paired the laws given on the stone tablets in Exodus with Jesus overturning the tables in the temple? Or is this tablet/table thing just a coincidence in the larger theological framework of restoration and making new? Either way, in our gospel this week Jesus is foreshadowing his ultimate work of restoring what is broken.

God, when human bonds are broken
and we lack the love or skill
to restore the hope of healing,
give us grace and make us still.

Through that stillness, with your Spirit
come into our world of stress,
for the sake of Christ forgiving
all the failures we confess.

You in us are bruised and broken:
hear us as we seek release
from the pain of earlier living;
set us free and grant us peace.

Send us, God of new beginnings,
humbly hopeful into life.
Use us as a means of blessing:
make us stronger, give us faith.

Give us faith to be more faithful,
give us hope to be more true,
give us love to go on learning:
God, encourage and renew!

God, When Human Bonds Are Broken Text: Fred Kaan, b. 1929 Text © 1989 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Duplication in any form prohibited without permission or valid license from copyright administrator.

Midweek Musings for Sunday, March 1, 2015

Midweek Musings for, Sunday, March 1, 2015
Second Sunday in Lent

This week’s reflection comes from Rev. Alison L Leitzel
Dean of the Hudson Mohawk Conference and
Pastor of First Lutheran Church, Albany

Prayer of the Day
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life. Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Gospel: Mark 8:31-38

After Peter confesses his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus tells his disciples for the first time what is to come. Peter’s response indicates that he does not yet understand the way of the cross that Jesus will travel.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

REFLECTION
It’s the second Sunday in Lent, and BAM! Here we are already face to face with the cross. Oh come on, you people who put the lectionary together. Couldn’t we make this journey more slowly? Couldn’t we at least wait until Holy Week for this truth? Couldn’t we take our time, getting to the cross? Maybe take a few side trips, for instance, a trip to the Galilean seashore to relax and fish a bit? Couldn’t we take the long route and have a little stopover in someplace, say like Samaria? Stay at a little inn, have a spiritual retreat soaking in more of Jesus’ gentler teachings? But noooo. [Thanks, Obama.] Here we are smacked in the face on the second Sunday of Lent with Jesus talking about his death, and calling us to deny ourselves and take up the cross if we want to follow him.

And that’s the thing. Whether we are at a remote retreat getting spiritually charged, or somewhere on a fishing vacation, or simply trudging through our everyday scenes, the call is always there. Because Jesus has given us life by his cross, we are called to give up our lives, in some way everyday so that others might live. But darn, we don’t want to do that. We want to do our own thing, live for ourselves, make our own way and reap some benefits for ourselves.

Even though we have time and time again made the commitment to follow Jesus, if not in the way of the cross, at least trying to live with compassion, we have failed again and again. We have broken our commitments, even those that are most deeply felt cherished. But God does not break God’s commitment to us. God has made an everlasting commitment to us and to the world: to be our God. And God keeps that commitment, even if it means the cross.

Maybe that’s why this passion prediction and call to follow in Jesus’ way comes so early in Lent. To help us face the reality of our self-serving natures, to once again give US the forgiveness of the cross, and to call us back on the Jesus journey instead of our own.

Our Father, we have wandered and hidden from your face;
in foolishness have squandered your legacy of grace.
But now, in exile dwelling, we rise with fear and shame,
as, distant but compelling, we hear you call our name.

And now at length discerning the evil that we do,
behold us, Lord, returning with hope and trust to you.
In haste you come to meet us and home rejoicing bring,
in gladness there to greet us with calf and robe and ring.

O Lord of all the living, both banished and restored,
compassionate, forgiving, and ever-caring Lord,
grant now that our transgressing, our faithlessness may cease.
Stretch out your hand in blessing, in pardon, and in peace.

Our Father, We Have Wandered Text: Kevin Nichols, 1929-2006
Text from Resource Collection of Hymns and Service Music for the Liturgy © 1981 International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Duplication in any form prohibited without permission or valid license from copyright administrator.

Midweek Musings for Sunday, February 22, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, February 22, 2015
First Sunday in Lent

This week’s reflection comes from Rev. M. Elaine Berg
Dean of the Foothills Conference and
Chair of the Board of Directors, Schoharie Area Long Term, Inc. (SALT)

Prayer of the Day
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Gospel: Mark 1:9-14
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

REFLECTION
Clocks, watches, I-pads, Kindles, Mobile Phones all record time. Even the pictures we take and the texts we send are marked with the time sent and the time delivered. So often we talk about not having enough time. There are countless stories of seniors lamenting that they did not take enough time for… fun? Their children? Exercise? Relationships? Prayer? Bible Study? You name it; we spend time; we squander time; we count time; we take time out. There are scores of phrases that include time. (on line the Free Dictionary lists well over 200 phrases and idioms connected with time.) .
When Jesus said that the time is fulfilled. Did those who heard it shout for joy that he and what they had been waiting for had finally arrived? Or, did they turn away thinking somehow that they were not prepared… that their time had run out?

As you read this week’s musings, you may be preparing for Ash Wednesday or perhaps you have already been marked with the ashy cross. We are stepping into a time of repentance, reflection and renewal. In Lent we are encouraged to devote time and energy to the disciplines of Lent as outlined in Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21… prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

In years past it was popular to discuss with others what we were “giving up” for Lent.. a time of denying ourselves something prized… perhaps a guilty pleasure. Then we experience great relief when Easter Sunday comes and chocolate or other decadence is returned to the table. In my college days, I visited a Czech community where all the youth were urged to give up dancing for Lent. On Easter Sunday evening a big community party was held. All the young people rushed into one another’s arms to sashay around the dance floor while their elders smiled and laughed recalling their own youthful relief when Lent was over.

In recent years many have taken time for their Lenten disciplines to “pay it forward” … to take on a cause… to save money for a cause close to their hearts. Is prayer, fasting and almsgiving an act of “giving up something to remind ourselves of our flaws” or is it a promise of “paying God’s love and grace forward”? As we begin this season of contemplation and recognition of God’s gift of forgiveness, may the kingdom of God be good news to ourselves and those with whom we spend our time.

Gracious and holy God, give us diligence to seek you, wisdom to perceive you, and patience to wait for you. Grant us, O God, a mind to meditate on you; eyes to behold you; ears to listen for your word; a heart to love you; and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen (ELW, those seeking deeper knowledge of God)

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.

Proclaiming Hope
Proclaiming Hope

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