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St. James Lutheran
 Pastor Walt's Weekly Email 
Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas 2011

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus the Christ,

Soon we will gather around many different tables to celebrate Christmas.  For many, joy and laughter will be present as families come to be with each other.  Around other tables, there will be grief and sadness as people are missed and chairs are empty.  Emotions will swirl as memories of the past are honored and avoided, dreaded and made golden.  As the beloved Christmas hymn so eloquently states, all the hopes and fears of all the years will be met as we gather round tables in our homes, in the homes of family and friends, in our church home of St. James.

This Christmas there are two scripture passages from the gospel of Luke that are on my mind.  The first is seasonal and will be read as we gather for our Christmas worship;    The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Luke 2: 20).  After they were met keeping watch over their flocks by night the shepherds are invited by angelic hosts to go and see the baby that was born in Bethlehem.  Working through their fear, they go and worship the God who has come to them.  This is their reaction – they return to the place of their daily lives transformed.  They return to praise and glorify God while they watch their sheep and care for their families and live their lives of joy and sorrow. 

The second passage that is on my mind this Christmas comes later in Luke’s gospel story.  The manger is gone.  The newborn child, which shepherds visited, has grown up; and died.  Crèche has been replaced by cross.  Two disciples, filled with deep sorrow and disappointment, have taken the long walk home to Emmaus.  On the way they meet a stranger.  They share hospitality.  At table, in the breaking of the bread their eyes are opened – they are in the presence of the Risen Jesus!  Here is their reaction: That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24: 33-34).  Like the shepherds, the Emmaus disciples couldn’t help but respond to the presence of the Christ.  They too are transformed.  Their lives – though not free from sorrow or struggle – are forever changed because God came to them.  God entered their lives of fear and sorrow, of courage and joy, and that encounter was enough: enough to bring joy; enough to bring meaning and purpose; enough to bring peace; enough to encourage them to respond; enough to empower their discipleship beyond themselves.

As Christians, the centerpiece on our Christmas table, is the simple proclamation that God has chosen to enter our time, our joy and triumphs, our sorrows and struggles, for the sake of bringing healing and wholeness to the whole creation.  God comes to us and to the whole world so that we might respond to this presence in loving ways towards each other and beyond.  Participating in Christmas, we both reach across our tables and set new places for friends/family/strangers; with hands and hearts that are open and filled with God’s love.

As a church we are growing in our response and it is a great joy.   In 2011, we increased the number of worship and education opportunities for all ages.  We have distributed nearly 3000 Comfort Meals to neighbors, family, and strangers – extending our communion table fellowship into homes of those in need.  Our new visitation ministry has shared a listening ear and caring presence as trained Befrienders call on those in need of a visit.   All this happens in the context of our gathering around the table in hopeful anticipation each week to receive the very presence of Christ through weekly communion.

This letter comes with joy and appreciation for the journey that we have traveled together in Christ’s name in 2011.  Thank you for gathering with me and inviting me to many tables this past year.   I look forward with joyful expectation to the coming year – towards the way that God will meet us in the breaking of the bread – towards the new/old ways that God will invite us to respond.    

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

Posted by: Pastor Walt AT 09:19 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, 22 December 2011

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

 

As the final days of Advent wind down, I find myself filled with excitement towards our Christmas celebrations.   This year we have added an additional opportunity to worship for those who might be traveling on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We will host our first Christmas Traveler's Worship on Friday December 23 at 7:30p.m.  For a complete listing/description of all the worship times/services check out our website.

 

My email this week will consist of a link to my Christmas Letter to St. James, 2011

 

 

I look forward to seeing you and your family during these special days filled with Christmas hope.

 

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

 

The Rev. Walt Lichtenberger, S.T.M.
Lead Pastor
St. James Lutheran - Burnsville, MN
cell phone: (952) 836-8588
emergency pastoral care hotline: (651) 354-1883
Posted by: Pastor Walt AT 09:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, 16 December 2011

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

 

Led by the Spirit to praise and serve....  that is St. James mission and should be a phrase that is familiar around church.   What joy it is to be a part of a community that has as part of its core mission a recognition that we are led by the Spirit.  More than correct theology (at least from a Lutheran perspective) this statement looks to God's action in our midst to guide and lead.  

 

One of the ways that God's Spirit moves is through the reflection, compassion, integrity, and wisdom of those that have been selected to positions of leadership within the church.  Although this includes pastors, it is not limited to those who are called to ordained ministry, but extends to all those are called to a variety of leadership roles. 

 

This coming Sunday, the Nominating Committee will be prayerfully discerning nominations for next year's Church Council.  The process seeks to identify a slate of potential candidates who will be willing to run for election to Council at the Annual Meeting.  The Nominating Committee, led by Vice President Jason Hoffa, is entrusted with this important task.  You are invited to submit names to Jason by Sunday of those who you feel would do a good job serving on Council.  You are also invited to attend the Nominating meeting and observe the Spirit-driven selection process (we'll be meeting in the Koinonia Room).   Please pray for the Committee's work.

 

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship.

  

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

 

 
The Rev. Walt Lichtenberger, S.T.M.
Lead Pastor
St. James Lutheran - Burnsville, MN
cell phone: (952) 836-8588
emergency pastoral care hotline: (651) 354-1883
Posted by: Pastor Walt AT 11:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, 04 December 2011
 

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

 

On Sunday we lit the second of our Advent candles. Advent is a time of looking back to the coming of a Christ child in Bethlehem and forward to the ways that the Christ comes and will return to our world. During Advent, time itself is somewhat compressed - with our feet on the ground in the present, we look to the future with hope with deep memories of the past. Through all of our past, present, and future we yearn for the presence of God who comes to us.

 

As we continue in our Advent journey, I have news to share regarding the ministry that we share in Jesus' name.   Last Monday, Jill Schoen, Education and Youth Coordinator, resigned from her position, effective January 22nd, the date of the Youth Worship Service.  Jill has served St. James in this capacity since the spring of 2010 and as the Interim Christian Educator/Shared Ministries Director since 2008. To these positions, Jill has brought a passionate spirit and developed positive relationships with many at St. James. 

 

Over the coming two months, we will have opportunity both individually and as a community to share words of thanks to Jill for her ministry with us.   Until the 22nd, Jill will continue to work with our youth, children, and adults in programs already on the calendar. Within a short while, Pastor Will and I will be meeting with Patty Seewald (Chair of Christian Education Committee), Tammy Hamblin (Chair of Youth Committee), and Lisa Carlson (Chair of Adult Education Committee) to make sure that this time of transition will be planned to go as smoothly as possible.

 

During this time in the life of St. James, this time in our lives, let us be reminded of Advent's plaintive prayer - Come Lord Jesus. Let your life and love allow us to honor and celebrate the past, ground and center our present, and give us hope and the ability to dream for the future.

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship.

  

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

 

The Rev. Walt Lichtenberger, S.T.M.
Lead Pastor
St. James Lutheran - Burnsville, MN
cell phone: (952) 836-8588
emergency pastoral care hotline: (651) 354-1883
Posted by: Pastor Walt AT 04:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, 03 December 2011
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ,

 

Waiting.... waiting... waiting...

 

We began the church year last Sunday with Advent, which has at its heart a sense of waiting.  In recent years this waiting has focused almost entirely on the 'waiting for Christmas' - a final four week countdown to Christmas morning.  

 

The longer tradition of the church, however, has had a slightly different emphasis.   During Advent, the church was invited to wait for Christ to come again... to wait for the kingdom of God to be brought into its fullness... to wait for justice and peace to be made known throughout the earth... to wait for God's will to fully be known and done in our life, in the life of the church, and in the life of the world.

 

Waiting for God's kingdom to come in all its glory, reminds me of Luther's teaching about the Lord's Prayer in the Large Catechism.  We pray, "thy Kingdom come."  Paraphrasing Luther; does God's kingdom require our prayer in order to come?  Absolutely not!   God's kingdom comes according to God's timing and God's desire.  So what are we praying for?  We are praying, according to Luther, that the kingdom of God might COME THROUGH US. 

 

So let's not rush our Advent time of waiting.  Instead of counting down to a single day of celebration, what would it look like if we wait during the coming weeks for the fullness of God's kingdom - with its justice and peace and hospitality for all people - with its healing and repair of the breach caused by our sinful and selfish ways?  Wait in faith, praying that the kingdom might come through us.  Come through our worship and praise - acknowledging that all of our life belongs to God.  Come through our care and compassion.  Come through our giving generously of our time, talent, and treasure for the sake of God's mission.  Come through our faithful response to what God has already given to us and for us to use.        

 

Waiting, waiting, waiting...  its not a passive invitation.

 

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship.

  

In Christ,

Pastor Walt

 

The Rev. Walt Lichtenberger, S.T.M.
Lead Pastor
St. James Lutheran - Burnsville, MN
cell phone: (952) 836-8588
emergency pastoral care hotline: (651) 354-1883
Posted by: Pastor Walt AT 09:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

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