News and Resources from the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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Midweek Musings for Sunday, August 30, 2015

Midweek Musings for Sunday, August 30, 2015

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

Prayer of the Day
Gracious God, your word of peace stills the storms that rage in
our world. Bring hope to all persons and places living in devastation, war and other perils. Bring comfort to those who continue to grieve the loss of loved ones and property. Let your love be known through those who work to bring order out of chaos, justice and peace. Fill our hearts with your love and grace that we might shoulder the burdens of suffering and be bearers of hope and your light brightly shining into the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Gospel: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands,[a] thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it;[b] and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.[c]) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live[d] according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

      ‘This people honors me with their lips,
          but their hearts are far from me;
      7 
in vain do they worship me,
          teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”[f]
21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  
23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

REFLECTION

As a child I was taught that actions speak louder than words.  Through their actions my parents were daily examples of how they wanted my brothers and me to live our lives – helping neighbors, donating their time and resources each and every day in some way at church and in our community.  I never heard them speak poorly of anyone or anything; they always searched for the good.  In this week’s gospel Jesus reminds us that it is what is in our hearts that is important, not just visible actions of following the rules.  He calls on us to search our souls and consider if it is indeed the love of Jesus that causes us to share with the world God’s love.
Four years ago this week Hurricane Irene flooded many parts of Upstate New York.  This Sunday, August 30 the people of Schoharie County will gather to worship and share a meal together in remembrance of this devastating disaster and in celebration of the considerable recovery work they have accomplished in rebuilding their communities.  Like Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago, Irene’s impact and the floods of 2013 just two years after was devastating leaving desolation and tears in its wake.  The work that has been done in that area over the last four years came from people’s hearts.  It involved thousands of volunteers giving thousands of hours of labor.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised to help with rebuilding costs.   It is work that has been accomplished because of God’s faithful people from all across Upstate New York, from neighboring states and across the country.  It was hard work and very dirty work.  It is work that came, not from the evil of the world or from anyone wanting to see their name in lights, but from the goodness in people’s hearts, the love of neighbor and God’s call to us to walk humbly and do justice.  It was work that came from people not just saying they were church members but actually going out into the messy world and showing they were God’s faithful people.
Yes, Lord, we believe 
That You are the Christ, 
The Son of God 
Who has come 
Into the world. 
 
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 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)

Portico Health Update

By: Patsy A. Glista, AIM, Assistant to the Bishop for Operations

Thanks to plan members who made 2015 benefit selections early, Portico’s president and his wife donated $5,000 to the ELCA Fund for Leaders to help promising seminarians prepare for ministry! Remember, all employees have until Friday, November 21 to log in to MyPortico and sign up for those benefits. Enroll today, if you haven’t already.

Plan members should sign in to MyPortico to generate their specific 2015 benefit elections. Members need to:

  • Enroll in the health benefit option your congregation selected, buy up to another option and pay the cost difference, or waive health benefits if they qualify;
    • Make decisions about contributing to tax-advantaged accounts, purchasing additional life insurance, and starting or changing pretax retirement account contributions;
    • Name life insurance and retirement account beneficiaries.

2015 Portico Health Benefits Decisions

By Patsy Glista, Assistant to the Bishop for Operations

There are 17 days left for employers to make their 2015 health benefit option selection on Portico EmployerLink. All congregations who plan to participate in Portico health plans and offer Portico health coverage to their pastor and/or employees in 2015, even those who may not currently have a called pastor, need to make a selection. It will not be possible to sign someone up after the November sign-up period. That means that if a congregation anticipates calling a pastor in 2015, they need to make a selection now by the October 17 deadline.

Your congregation’s 2015 Custom Comparison Report is available on EmployerLink. Please review the information and be in conversation with your pastor as you consider your choice of health plan option for 2015. On EmployerLink you will also find the Open Enrollment Center – a comprehensive section on the ins and outs of 2015 health care options including:

  • Open Enrollment
  • Health Benefit Options
  • Planning and Tools
  • Support Plan Member Enrollment

Considering looking on the NYS Exchange for other plan options? The ELCA benefit program, Portico, is a comprehensive benefit program that supports members throughout their lives and ministry, from first call or hiring through retirement. It is portable from one synod to another should your pastor change calls. Localized Exchange plans are most often not portable. Guidelines regarding waivers from the Portico health plan can be found in the ELCA Benefit Program Description, January 1, 2014 located on the Portico website. Note that to be eligible to remain in the other Portico benefits including pension, survivor benefits, and disability an employee must “purchase coverage through a state, federal, or state/federal partnership health insurance exchange and receive a premium tax credit (also called a subsidy) in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.”

Remember, your selection is required on EmployerLink by Oct. 17. Your plan members will enter their 2015 benefit decisions Oct. 27 – Nov. 21. If you need assistance Portico Customer Service Representatives are available at 800.352.2876.