Category Archives: Pastor Lou’s Blog

The Light we need NOW

Advent is over, Christmas is celebrated… what’s next?  Where are we going as we journey towards Easter??  Our theme for the next few months will be: The Light we need NOW!

Jesus whole ministry is about illumination!  He shows us who God is and what he is like.  He illuminates for us how to live by faith, what reconciliation looks like, and he opens our imaginations to the promise of eternal life.  Can we seek that light now?  Yes we can and we will!

In these weeks, we will seek God’s light to shine fully on us and give us the clarity we need in the confusion and darkness of this time.  In the beautiful words of John: “The True light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world…”

Light is a great image of our faith!  Jesus is:

  • the light that shines in the darkness
  • the light of the world
  • the light which lights our path
  • the light so powerful that all the darkness of the world cannot overpower it
  • the light that illumines God and ourselves

In the Sunday readings between now and Easter we will ponder how God’s light can give us the clarity we need to live boldly and at peace in this historical moment.  Make the effort to seek this light in the community at worship in the New Year!

~With much love, Pastor Lou

The Gift and Task of Advent

Advent – the four weeks before Christmas – cuts across the grain of culture.  Advent is an irony and a paradox!

Instead of getting ready for the birth of Jesus, Advent (in the history of the Church) has been a time to get ready for the return of Jesus, the end of the world, and the coming of God’s Kingdom in its absolute fullness!

It actually has something of that Lent vibe of reflection, rededication, and redirection.  It is also an invitation to serve.  Rejoice has looked at Advent as a time to journey out in service as well as a time to reflect.  With Operation Christmas Child, Angel Tree, and Feed my Starving Children, we as a church step up to serve.

However we do want to give Advent some real opportunity to pause, give thanks, and reflect. This can be a great gift to all of us as the pace intensifies towards Christmas.

So… let Advent be a countercultural intrusion into our schedules! Together for the next 4 weeks let’s engage some measure of spiritual discipline.  Here are 3 things to consider:

  1. Take a few minutes every day for silence and creating a space for you to be present to God.
  2. Take a moment to pray a prayer of thanksgiving for people who have blessed your life.  Perhaps you can include a word about this in your Christmas card to them!
  3. Take the initiative to show up with love in a different way at least once in the next four weeks!

Finally pray for our community here at Rejoice. Pray of our Relationships, our Spiritual Growth, our Stewardship and our Community Impact!  Let Advent be a time of intentional prayer!

Here is where we are going… each Sunday in Advent we will focus on the following:

Advent calls us to be:

Fully Alive

     Fully Awake

         Fully Aware, 

and Fully Ready to share in God’s Kingdom!!

From all of us on staff – we wish you a beautiful Advent!  Let’s make the most of it!!

With much love,

Pastor Lou

Thoughts on Spiritual Growth

I wanted to share with you a few of my thoughts on Spiritual Growth.  During last Sunday’s message, we broke up into little groups to define spiritual growth and there were as many answers as people!  And that is exactly how it should be.   We have different gifts, we have unique personalities and we are all on different points on the spiral helix of our faith journey!

As we embrace this topic consider this decidedly Trinitarian way to imagine Spiritual growth:

  • Spiritual Growth is a deepening awareness of God’s indwelling presence.
  • Spiritual Growth is about the longing to understand in ever deepening ways the mystery of Christ’s life, death and    resurrection and what it means for us to act purposefully as his disciples.
  • Spiritual Growth is an evolving communal experience of Grace, power and wisdom from the Holy Spirit.

Our congregation has made it clear that spiritual growth is something we want to reach for boldly in this year.  And because of this, it will mean making choices and decisions to show up to ministry events such as the Concert of Prayer, the women’s retreat, Beer and Bible Study, my Luther class and Sunday Worship as examples!  If we are serious about spiritual growth we have to ratchet up our investment in what we put into it!  We need to ask ourselves: if we want to grow what needs to change for us now?

Here is an exercise to start us off:

For the next 7 days, begin or end each day with making the sign of the cross on your forehead and heart (this is to remind us that in our Baptism we have been claimed by God as his own).  Recite slowly the Apostles Creed, and then pray the Lord’s Prayer… but really concentrate on what you are praying.  Don’t rush through it.  If you do, start over and make it count.  Then take 5 minutes to be silent. Just make yourself available to be in God’s presence.  No phones, computer, or distractions.  5 minutes.  Try it for 7 days and see what happens.

May this week and this year bring us the growth we are seeking.

With much love,

Pastor Lou

All Saints – a Great Devotion for 2015

all saintsAs a new year begins to unfold I want to wish you a beautiful, healthy and happy 2015!

You know I’m not altogether keen on resolutions…but …this year I am planning to re-read the wonderful book “All Saints – Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time” that I talked about in my message a couple weeks ago.  And I want to invite you to join me in this journey!

This book contains 365 fabulous one page biographies on the lives of remarkable people –  Mary Magdalene, Therese of Lisieux, Thomas Aquinas, Mother Teresa, Moses, Martin Luther, Gandhi, and many more – and it shows these saints as human beings… not remote, iconic, other worldly dreamers.

I love biographies and the ones in this book give us many insights into what faith looks like!I have read it before and loved it.  I commend it to you as a great way to start or end each day in 2015!

As we continue to advance our vision in 2015, devotions such as this will inspire us in our  efforts to invite others into our community, grow spiritually, and use our time talents and treasure for God with great love!

God bless you and have a great New Year!!!

With much love, Pastor Lou

The Gifts of the Spirit

As we get close to Christmas I imagine most of us have slacked our gift-buying urges on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday!   My email is multiplying by the minute with additional offers to buy gifts at amazing discounts!!!

Gifts, gifts, gifts!!!!

It hit me once again that God has given us gifts too.  Of course, the great  – and as St. Paul put it, “unspeakable” – gift is Jesus himself.  Christmas, if we can look beyond the mercantile  frenzies, centers on Jesus.  It is here where all the mystery of grace comes together.  It is in Jesus where the unseen God becomes personally knowable and vulnerable.  One almost becomes giddy pondering that paradox.

But here is something else to consider.  The Old and New Testaments of the Bible teach us that there are many “Gifts of the Spirit.”  Just think about that for a moment.  We have all been given gifts “of the Spirit.”

I don’t know about you but I’m not altogether delicate in unwrapping my gifts.  Jeanette takes a lot of care to wrap them, but I make swift work at getting at the gift!  Can I invite you to unwrap your gifts of the Spirit?  You can do this easily and right now on our web site – just click here.

It is fun to do this and I believe you will enjoy seeing where your gifts are now!  I also believe our gifts  change as we change, so if you’ve taken this a couple of years ago I encourage you to retake it.  You may be surprised!  Two things to keep in mind:

  1. Our gifts and our energy are connected and symbiotic – we serve best where our energy is!
  2. This is for you!  Taking this online is for your benefit!  Rejoice is not compiling a data base here!!!!  This is not a church “cookies” thing!

We have created this spiritual gifts inventory as a gift to you.  It is an organic part of our THRIVE stewardship campaign, because when we pledge to give back a portion of what God has given to each of us, it is through our collective prayers, our financial resources, our regular presence & energy, and our service that we fulfill the mission of the Church.  The spiritual gift inventory is a tool to help you hone in on what your God-given gifts are!

St Peter put it like this: “Each of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these graces of God, put it at the service of others” (I Peter 4: 10).

Your gifts matter!  Unwrap them, use them, enjoy them!!

With much love,
Pastor Lou

Advent… God’s personal Vision Advance!

As I was thinking about Advent this year,  it suddenly dawned on me: “That’s it exactly!!  AdventGod is advancing his vision for the welfare of all people!!!!”

In Advent God makes it clear that he is about to do the extraordinary.  He is about to move forward in a bold way for the salvation of the world.  He is about to open our minds to a new understanding of grace, and even more dramatically… of God’s own self!

In the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas Eve we will look at how the Old Testament reaches beyond itself.  God declares he is about to make a New Covenant with all peoples… and he is going to make it happen personally!

The images from Isaiah’s writings are the high-water mark of prophetic literature.  They are supremely lyrical in their poetry and express the greatest depth of meaning!  They are also the key to understanding the mystery of the manger and the meaning of Jesus!
I invite every member and friend of Rejoice be in attendance at worship this Advent.  If we make Advent a  priority  we will experience  Christmas in a deeper and more beautiful way!!!!

With much love,
Lou's signature

Spiritual Growth, part 1

Advance the Vision has given Rejoice some clear priorities:  stewardship, inviting others to church, and spiritual growth.  Spiritual growth can mean different things to each of us.  And it can and should mean something new to us in each stage of our lives.  Spiritual growth is an evolving reality that changes as we age, gain more experience and encounter the joys and agonies of human existence!   As I approach the task of preaching on this theme  I would like to describe spiritual growth like this…

Spiritual growth is:

~ a deepening awareness of God’s presence in our lives, often manifested by wisdom and peace
~ a desire to know Christ and to make him known
~ a power from the Holy Spirit that infuses our lives with grace,  faith, hope and love

Here is a snapshot of how the first Christians grew spiritually:  “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers” Acts 2:42

What is the distilled essence of this?  These initial disciples gave spiritual  growth the energy it deserved, they were  engaged with each other around the teaching and in the fellowship (i.e. hanging out together and serving with love), and they worshiped together consistently.

If we want to renew our spiritual growth it may be wise to remind ourselves what spiritual growth means to us and ask: are we keen to give the energy, the engagement and the participation in worship that is necessary to grow?

In my next blog I’m going to suggest a time honored way to read the Bible meditatively and to pray responsively to that reading. But for now all I’d like to suggest is to take time for silence each day this week.  Remove all distractions and to simply create a few minutes of quiet.  Just 5 or 10 minutes is a good way to begin.  In that time make yourself available to God and see what happens!  Reflect on the Acts 2:42 passage and ponder what it might be saying to you. Think about the definition I have suggested above and see it that rings true with your desire for spiritual growth.  Conclude with a prayer for yourself, others and Rejoice.

See what happens and enjoy it!!!!

A Sign, a Witness, a Foretaste of the Kingdom

In last Sunday’s message I retold Jesus words:

whoever comes to me, hears my word, and acts on them will be like the person who builds their house on a rock…

Listening is not automatic and it’s not easy.  With the multitude of devices, ubiquitous media, and plentiful distractions, listening to Jesus demands intentionality.  I start my day with prayer, silence, guided reflection and scripture reading.

When that is done I read the New York Times … and that is often a ticket to howling despair.  The serenity of the spiritual moment is rocked by the jarring realities of the world.  The stories in the news, like a giant magnet near a fine watch,  can disturb any sense of peacefulness and twist up the insides.

In the midst of a broken world the church is meant to be a sign, a witness, and a foretaste of the Kingdom!  In our own way the great calling we have is to be a community where love, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit is experienced.  And this takes place in hundreds of ways where people are gathered in Christ’s name.

This week I got calls from people telling me how their lives have been blessed by the way they have been welcomed so warmly by others when they came to Rejoice, and how the ministry of meals to the home meant so much.  In these simple acts in concert with worship, Rejoice becomes who we are: a Place where God is experienced, Community is Shared and Lives are Changed.

Never forget that you have a part to play in making Rejoice a sign, a witness, and a foretaste of the Kingdom.  When you show up with love and energy in ways small and large you have no way of knowing how God will bring blessing!!!!  This week take time to come to Jesus, listen to his word, and put it into practice.

Eucharistic Ministry Team

Advance the Vision has been our strategic and tactical planning throughout this year where we have been gathering to faithfully and prayerfully discern our shared hopes for Rejoice, our common concerns, and the ways we can put our ideas into action – and it has been a great blessing to us!  The gift of Advance the Vision has been clarity of purpose and that purpose is simple:  to grow in our ability to invite people into the life of faith, to grow spiritually, and to grow in the stewardship of our time, talents and money.

One aspect of stewardship is to use our gifts and serve others. Many of us are gifted in serving in the ministry of word and sacrament and it is good and NECESSARY for those gifts to be used! To preside at Holy Communion is a great honor and a great gift.  One of the blessings of Luther was he made it clear from the Bible that the priesthood of all believers is vital to the life and health of the church!eucarist

I have wanted for some time to give more people the opportunity to use their gifts to be a blessing to our community in this beautiful ministry.  I believe it beneficial to the church to have more servants of word and sacrament because it is biblical, Lutheran, and enhances the energy of faith in our community.  This is really the reason I want to share this blessing with others in our church.  It’s an authentic witness that we take the priesthood of all believers seriously and give full opportunity for more people’s gifts to be used!  I will continue to preside at communion (and I am humbled and thank God every time for the privilege to serve), but in this year I’d also like to share this joy on an intermittent basis with others.   So for from now on, you will see others stepping up to serve in this beautiful way!

Someone asked: does having others serve Holy Communion mean that Pastor Lou and Jeanette are beginning the process of leaving Rejoice? My answer to that is: absolutely NO!!!!  (You are not that lucky!)  Good pastors are called to raise up all sorts of leaders, and leaders of word and sacrament are part of that calling.  For those of you who grew up Roman Catholic you are not used to seeing “lay” people serve in this way, but it does come from the New Testament itself (Cf. I Peter 2: 9-10) and it is at the very core of Lutheran theology and identity!

Having more eucharistic ministers is one way we are faithful to our call to stewardship! If this is something you feel called to do, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you, God bless you , and the peace of the Lord be always with you,
Pastor Lou