Pastor Paul's monthly message

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Hope and anticipation despite shortened Advent season

Dear Bethanians,

OK it’s a cliché, but as I turn the calendar to December, “I don’t know where the month went.” It may be a product of age, as every year seems to me to pass more quickly. It may be an effect of the weather, when our typically wettest month felt more like an extended summer. It may be November was so packed with activities and a spirit of thanksgiving that a joyful pace sped things up.

However that happened, here in December, marking a new month, but also liturgically welcoming the new church year, the advent of Advent. While December, and the four Sundays of Advent, always fly by (Cold December Flies Away,” ELW #299), this year it poses an even greater risk for the fourth Sunday of Advent is the day before Christmas Eve. This portends a short Advent, an abbreviated season of waiting, but also of preparation.

Let us mark this season with hope and anticipation and not the rush and bustle imposed on us by a truncated calendar and commercial hype. Let us all an extra dose of intentionality and attention lest we lose sight of where Advent went. Prayer – good idea. Winter walks – think of Mary and Joseph on their journey. Time spent in relationship – remember the biblical examples of letters, unexpected visitations, and faithful gift giving.

To assist in your Advent life, Advent calendars are available at Bethany for you and for friends and neighbors. Mark these holy days, this precious journey, with calendars that taste of chocolate, and another variety that tells the Advent message in the words of the ELCA Hunger Program. Create an Advent log, and find a moment each day to light the candles and to pray “Come, Lord Jesus, Be our Guest.”

Let us this Advent be aware of where the month goes, and how Jesus comes.

Posted by Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers with

For all that will be, yes

Dear Bethanians,

The November “Life Together” submission always lands between Reformation Sunday, the last Sunday in October, and All Saints Sunday, the first Sunday in November. The themes of these days work hard to pull us backwards in time, as we reflect on the Reformation and then remember those saints who have gone before us in the faith – the tendency would be to look over our shoulders, to immerse ourselves in nostalgia. And while there is much in our history to celebrate, we do well to remind ourselves that the good ol’ days weren’t always so good (The Plague, child labor, slavery, hunger and famine, a lack of women’s rights …), and to heed the warning of Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson when he visited Bethany for our centennial, ”Nostalgia is the biggest threat to the church.”

And so let us listen to the simple sentiments of another Lutheran, Dag Hammarskjold, who famously said, “For all this has been thanks. For all that will be, yes.”

We give thanks for our rich church history of promoting justification by faith, emphasizing a vocation rooted in baptism, and celebrating a priesthood of all believers. Here’s to an empowered and educated laity! We also give thanks for our commitment to assisting refugees, to combatting hunger globally, to advocating for civil rights. There is indeed much for which to give thanks, including the cloud of witnesses that accompanies us in our journey.

But I am drawn to focus on the “for all that will be, yes.” The parade of roses on the altar, signaling new birth; the assembly of children asking probing questions in our children’s sermons; the impressive young man confirmed this morning (Peter Bang-Knudsen) and the beautiful and energetic confirmation class in progress; we look to the Bethany project for affordable housing, and we hear in our ears the divine music of our worship – YES! YES! YES! For all that will be!

And let us also, as we look forward, continue to build on those things that produce gratitude within us. Let us continue to be a community of grace, and one that welcomes refugees. Let us press on with the noble work of fighting hunger, disease, and resultant poverty across the globe. And let us press on to continue to advocate, as a Reconciling-in-Christ congregation,  the value and the rights of the LGBTQ communities.

For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.

Pastor Paul

Posted by Paul Stumme-Diers with