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

Midweek Musings

Midweek Musings for Sunday, February 15, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, February 15, 2015
Transfiguration of Our Lord
Last Sunday of Epiphany

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
Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth shines from the mountaintop into our hearts. Transfigure us by your beloved Son, and illumine the world with your image, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Gospel: ST. MARK 9:2-10

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

I guess you had to have been there! Ever try telling someone about a great experience, a funny occurrence, a special memory? Somehow in the telling, it loses something and then we reply: “I guess you had to have been there!” We cannot seem to capture in words or even photos the emotions of those mountaintop moments. It just goes beyond words.

Then can you imagine the fear and awe that Peter, James and John must have felt when on the high mountain with Jesus? It’s not just the dazzling white of his garments or the presence of Elijah and Moses! The voice from the cloud is loud and clear, This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” And, then that moment is gone and they are alone with Jesus.

Mark’s account of Peter’s words give us the impression that they were said out of his terror. Was he afraid or was this just another case of Peter speaking without thinking? So, what did any one of them say… what did they ask as they made their way down the mountain? It has always seemed to me that Jesus brings them down from the mountain into what we might call the “real world” … the world where all the other stuff happens. The valleys of Lent where those last verses of the gospel reading remind us of what is to come before the rising from the dead:… the moments of journey toward Jerusalem; moments of high exultation as palm branches welcome Jesus into the city; then the moments of absolute fear and devastation as those same disciples witness his beating, his humiliation and finally his degradation on the cross.

But we are there. The words of the gospel writers take us into those moments of high joy and awesome terror at the wonder of who he is. He is more than that baby whose birth we celebrate; more than that young boy learning and debating in the temple; even more than the man who drives out demons and raises old women from their death beds; and, yes, even more the one who models love and forgiveness. He is The Beloved Only Son of the Living God.

We didn’t have to be there to know that story. We are the children of the living God who are called to tell the story about those moments of high exultation as well as the moments of deep sorrow and fear. As we prepare to begin our Lenten journey, may the God of the mountaintop and the valley be our source of hope and promise.

Almighty God, on the mountain you showed your glory in the transfiguration of your Son. Give us the vision to see beyond the turmoil of our world and to behold the king in all his glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, now and forever. Amen. (LBW, p. 17)

Midweek Musings for Sunday, February 8, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, February 8 2015
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

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
Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint. Make us agents of your healing and wholeness, that your good news may be made known to the ends of your creation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen

Gospel: St. Mark 1:29-39

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Last week I was asked to share my story of disaster response to 2011’s Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee at Luther Memorial, North Syracuse.. An important part of my own story of working with Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) Recovery is focused on the ELCA’s motto “God’s Work; Our Hands.” Those words have become a personal mission statement as God calls forth hidden gifts not only from me, but also from others with whom I have been graced to work. Our hands have joined with almost 40,000 volunteers from near and far to lend a hand to over 2000 homes and businesses affected by the storms. And, so I’ve been thinking a lot about hands. And, I’m full of questions about hands!

Our world calls us to focus on the busy-ness of our hands. In the “God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday” now scheduled for September 13, 2015. … God’s work is done by hands in recovery ministry and by hands that stocking food pantries; landscaping yards; readying back packs for school children; painting homes. We value busy hands because we know that busy hands can change the world.

But does God only use busy hands? What about still hands?… quiet hands? Our reading reminds us that God uses quiet hands to bring hope and healing. Consider the hands of Jesus as he takes Simon’s mother in law by the hand and lifts her up. Or the quiet hands of Jesus praying in a deserted place while it was still dark. Jesus’ hands reaching out to touch those considered unclean by society. What of the hands that he sticks in the ear of one who is deaf… or uses to touch the leper.. to draw a line in the sand before a crowd wielding stones… or when a woman’s hands poured oil on his head? ‘

As Jesus took time apart to pray, we also take time to offer quiet hands of contemplation and prayer. When God calls us to lay hands on someone in a healing service, our still hands offer comfort and peace in the midst crisis and illness. When my hands meet the open hands of a child kneeling at the rail, God welcomes that child into the bread of life. When your hands take the hand of your neighbor, praying not only for peace in our time, but also for an end to separation and violence, God’s love is embodied in the community of faith.

In the Service for Healing (ELW p. 276) words of instruction remind us that we are called to use busy and quiet hands to do God’s work. This week as we prepare for worshipful lives, may your hands be instruments of God’s love.

Our Lord Jesus healed many as a sign of the reign of God come near and sent to the disciples to continue this work of healing—with prayer, the laying on of hands, and anointing. In the name of Christ, the great healer and reconciler of the world, we now entrust to God all who are in need of healing. (p. 276 ELW)

Midweek Musings for Sunday, February 1, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, February 1, 2015
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

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 Mark 1:27-28
Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring whole newness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion that all creation will see and know your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Gospel: St. Mark 1:21-28 (MSG)
Then they (Jesus and the disciples) entered Capernaum. When the Sabbath arrived, Jesus lost no time in getting to the meeting place. He spent the day there teaching. They were surprised at his teaching–so forthright, so confident–not quibbling and quoting like the religion scholars.

Suddenly, while still in the meeting place, he was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed and yelling out, “What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you’re up to! You’re the Holy One of God, and you’ve come to destroy us!”

Jesus shut him up: “Quiet! Get out of him!” The afflicting spirit threw the man into spasms, protesting loudly–and got out.

Everyone there was incredulous, buzzing with curiosity. “What’s going on here? A new teaching that does what it says? He shuts up defiling demonic spirits and sends them packing!” News of this traveled fast and was soon all over Galilee.

This week’s text is from Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of Mark 1:21-28. He is best known for The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, which he wrote to make the original meaning more accessible to the modern reader. Peterson explains:

When Paul of Tarsus wrote a letter, the people who received it understood it instantly. When the prophet Isaiah preached a sermon, I can’t imagine that people went to the library to figure it out. That was the basic premise under which I worked. I began with the New Testament in the Greek–a rough and jagged language, not so grammatically clean. I just typed out a page the way I thought it would have sounded to the Galatians.**

The text begins with Jesus and his disciples attending Sabbath in Capernaum. Those who heard him speak were surprised, flabbergasted, bowled over not only by what he taught, but also by the authority and power of his word. After the power of his word rebuked and overwhelmed the unclean spirits, they marveled once more at the power of his word.

Words are common stock in the church. Luther says that “one must see the word of the preacher as God’s Word.” He elaborated on this in his Operationes in Psalmos: “The apostles wrote very little, but they spoke a lot…” The ministry of the New Testament is not engraved on dead tablets of stone; rather it sounds in a living voice. Through the living Word, God accomplishes and fulfills his good news.

As children we often retorted to bullies that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Yet we all know the power of the word to inflict great harm to others, whether it is the word spoken on a play ground or words penned in social media. In the 21st century, we are casual about words. We carelessly let words spoken flow over us as we multi-task with our internet games. We speed read in our electronic books to get the message, often missing the poetic beauty of the author.

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, last week, we recalled how the words of this man moved us and our society to look at ourselves with new eyes… eyes of love and care and compassion rather than words of hatred and prejudice. King’s words began a movement to walk our words into change. How much more powerful are the words of the Word made flesh offering us forgiveness, hope, life everlasting!

So, how do we hear God’s Word in our lives? Do we listen to God’s word with half an ear to the word spoken, the word sung? And, how do our spoken, sung and penned words walk with us into our communities to be the hands and voices of God’s Word, God’s story?

By your word, eternal God, your creation sprang forth, and we are given the breath of life. By your word, eternal God, death is overcome, Christ is raised from the tomb, and we are given new life in the power of your Spirit. May we boldly proclaim this good news in our words and our deeds, rejoicing always in your powerful presence; through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. Amen.

Midweek Musings for Sunday, January 25, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, January 25, 2015
Third Sunday after Epiphany

This week’s reflection comes from Rev. Ernie Varga
Dean of the Southern Tier Conference and
Pastor St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Sidney

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen

Gospel St. Mark 1: 14-20

14Now 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.”
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

I was once asked why I became a pastor. I responded that I felt that I had been called by God to enter the ministry. The response from that person was, “What? Did one day God, just call you on the phone and say”, “Ernie, I want you to be a minister.” I told the person that no, God didn’t call me on the phone one day but that I felt that God wanted me to go in that path. Sometimes God’s call takes a while and other times it is immediate as in our gospel lesson.

It wasn’t by phone that he called his disciples, but he met them where they were at and called them into ministry. We are not certain why these disciples laid down their nets and immediately followed Jesus. Maybe they had been having a bad stretch of luck catching fish. Maybe they were tired of fishing and wanted to change their career path. We just don’t know. The Gospels don’t give us any reason why they did, they just did it.
Did they have any regrets? Who knows? The one thing for certain is they followed Jesus’ call to be his disciples. They did in fact become fishers of men.

We as Christians are all called into the Lord’s service. We are called to be disciples of Jesus. We are not called to just sit in the pews to sing, listen, talk and have a snack. We are called in our baptism to be true disciples. We are not just members of a church. That would imply that the church is a country club. Sitting back is not an option if we take our discipleship seriously.

As part of the priesthood of all believers, we are called to serve. We are called to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, heal the sick and speak up for injustice and poverty. As the disciples were called into God’s service so are we. God calls us to go beyond the walls of our churches. In order to meet the needs of those around us, we have to be a missional church. We can’t rely on the theory that if you build them they will come. Instead we need to take the words of the great commission seriously. “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.”

No doubt the disciples weren’t sure where their following would lead, but they trusted Jesus and left all that they had and followed him. He opened their eyes to new adventures. Opened their eyes to God’s power. They saw and experienced Jesus’ power first hand, sometimes not understanding where all this would lead. As Disciples of Christ in 2015, Jesus takes us on new adventures and down new roads and new ministries. We need to walk by faith and follow were Jesus leads us.

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Midweek Musings for Sunday, January 18, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, January 18, 2015

Second Sunday after Epiphany

This week’s reflection comes from Rev. Ernie Varga
Dean of the Southern Tier Conference and
Pastor St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Sidney


Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,
for the countless blessings and benefits you give.
May we know you more clearly, love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly, day by day praising you,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen

John 1:43-51

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me. ” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”


It is a practice in our faith community to have dramas either around Christmas or Easter. Our organist writes them and our choir along with some of our members presents them to the community around us. They are wonderful experiences. Our members and choir put their hearts and souls into it. After viewing a rehearsal, I told my fellow Rotarians that they have to come and see this drama. That it was a wonderful and heartwarming story and you have to see it.
Haven’t you had similar experiences where something captivated you and you wanted others to experience what you are experiencing. A woman gets engaged and wants to show off her ring says to her friend came and have a look.

When Jesus asked Philip to come and follow him, Philips life was changed. When he sat and listened to Jesus’ words, he knew who Jesus was. That He was the Messiah, the promised one of God. He was so excited that he could not contain himself but had to run and find Nathanael.

In the short dialogue that we have here, Nathanael is astonished in Jesus words. He then also proclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” He had experienced Jesus. He knew exactly who Jesus was. His experience with Jesus, lead him into a deeper faith.

When we come to worship and partake of the sacraments we are experience the power and greatness of Jesus in our lives. I remember the first time I went to a Lutheran worship service and experienced Eucharist, I was in awe. I had felt the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It was a great experience and I knew that God wanted me here. I came and saw. Like Philip, Andrew, Peter, Nathanael and the rest of the disciples did when they were called.

Each Sunday or at any opportunity we should come and see and experience the greatness and power of God. It does change lives if only we be open to the Spirit’s power. Come experience and see what Jesus can do in your life as well.

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.