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Wednesday Words, Nov. 7, 2018

Wednesday Words

Nov. 7, 2018

Pastor Paul Cannon

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the captive free.

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

The LORD loves the righteous. The LORD cares for the stranger;

the LORD sustains the orphan and the widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.

- Psalm 146

I want you to know that at the time of this writing, I have no idea how the election turned out. It may have gone one way, or it may have gone another. You might be happy at the time of reading this or you might be frustrated. In this time of political tension in our country, I try to abide by some wise words, “Always assume the best intentions in others.” I think that would be a helpful motto for all of us as we digest whatever political news may be coming.

Most of us, I think, want similar things for ourselves and for our neighbors. Those things probably aren’t so different from the words that we’ll hear in the Psalm on Sunday. Justice for the oppressed, food for those who hunger, care for the stranger, sustaining the orphan and widow – God’s values.

To say these are “God’s Values” is not hyperbole, it’s scripture. As Christians they are values we all ought to strive for as well. We may disagree on the best path to getting there, but I choose to assume that my brothers and sisters in Christ, who may vote differently from me, are trying to reflect these same values.

It’s a charitable interpretation, but it’s also what I hope people from the other party think of me – not that I’m evil or bad or wicked for voting for a certain candidate or party. We’ve had enough of those kinds of interpretations. Too much, actually. Far too often, it’s somebody sitting on the other side of the internet from you, decrying (or maybe even mocking!) your political opinion or belief.

We are the body of Christ. We may vary wildly from one political party to the next on the best way to achieve God’s goals, but we remain united in the values that God holds close: justice for the oppressed, food to those who hunger, care for the stranger, sustaining the orphan and widow.

Thanks be to God.

Amen

Wednesday Words, Oct. 31, 2018

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

We are Saints and Sinners!

This week Sunday we celebrate All Saints Day, a day to remember and recognize the saints that have gone before us and the saints among us. Some religious traditions determine saints as those who obey God’s will, and sinners as those who disobey. Others set apart saints as super-holy people. Ordinary Christians like you and me aren’t particularly bad, they would say, but we haven’t done anything extraordinary enough to be called saints.

I thought this week would be a good time to review and remember the teachings of the Lutheran Church about Saints. Being a saint isn’t about what I do or don’t do but about who I am in relationship with God. That’s also true of being a sinner. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article II defines sin as the self-centered failure to trust God. Adam and Eve’s problem wasn’t just that they ate a piece of fruit or broke one of God’s rules. Their real sin was their desire to be “like God,” relying on their judgment rather than trusting God’s word. For us, too, our specific sinful behaviors are only symptoms of this self-contentedness.

Martin Luther describes Christians as “simultaneously saint and sinner" aka "Simul Justus et Peccator."  This both/and approach is a unique Lutheran understanding of who we are in God’s eyes. Luther calls Christians “simultaneously saint and sinner" because he redefines "saint" as a forgiven sinner. We are called not because we change into something different but because our relationship with God changes as a result of God's grace. Luther said: "The saints are sinners, too, but they are forgiven and absolved." 

Here's a picture from The Lutheran Handbook published by Augsburg Fortress: 

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This picture makes me laugh but it's also is an excellent illustration of how we understand a saint and a sinner. As the book says, "It's impossible to tell a sinner from a saint, because all people are fully both. The church is filled with them." 

The teachings of the Lutheran Church have brought much comfort to me. For the majority of my life I practiced my faith in the Roman Catholic Church, and for most of that time I lived with the pressure that I thought that I would never be good enough for God. I also believe that many Christians including Lutheran Christians, even with our teachings of grace, struggle with the worry that they are not good enough for God. It's easy for you and me to look in the mirror and see all the flaws in ourselves, but I hope and pray that you recognize and truly believe that you are a Saint, a forgiven sinner! Amen. 

Wednesday Words, Oct. 23, 2018

Stewardship Moment with Phil SMith

Oct. 21, 2018

When my wife Courtney volunteered me for this speech, I told her “I’m more of a behind the scenes kind of guy.” Thinking maybe that would get me out of it.  But her reply was “Perfect! You can speak about volunteering your time!”

So here I am… “behind the scenes”

Courtney and I first came to Bethany shortly after we had our first child.  At our first visit, we were greeted by John and Judy Engebreston. As we entered the sanctuary, we were met with more smiles and welcomes. At that moment, we knew this place was special.  A few months later, we decided to become members. And then I decided to get baptized with my son Nolan.

I never grew up with a church to call home.  We would attend different churches at different times throughout my childhood.  I probably spent more time at my friend’s churches than I did with my own family.  I didn’t know how much a community, such as this, could impact my life. When I was baptized with Nolan, I knew I wanted him to feel a part of a church family.  I wanted to lead by example for my son, as he experiences God’s grace and show him how to live in his faith.

After we became members, we knew we wanted to give back to the church, but by this time we had two children and had double daycare costs.  We weren’t able to give financially as much as we would have liked so I began to give in other ways. We cleaned up the landscaping and I became a counter.  I was then approached by Pastor Cathy to join church council. Again, I knew this was a way for me to give back to the church, even though I couldn’t give as much in the weekly offering like I wanted. Once again, I wanted to lead by example for my sons and show them that volunteering your time can have a big impact in small ways...mini miracles.

We are now in a better spot, day care costs are down, so we intend to increase our annual pledge.  I looked up the definition of stewardship in Webster’s dictionary and it said “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care”   We are that “someone.” We have been entrusted by past and present generations to take care of our church both at a local and a worldwide level.  So I’m not only pledging this year to set a good example for my sons, but to increase our donations and volunteer efforts.

So I look to all of you to lead by example and do what you can whether it be volunteering your time, offering your skills, or donating financially.  

Thank you to all the people of Bethany Church that have donated their time and money.  All of your mini miracles, behind the scenes, help our community of faith continue to thrive.    

Wednesday Words, Oct. 17, 2018

Stewardship Moment with Ellie Pierzina

Oct. 14, 2018

My name is Ellie Pierzina. If you don’t know me, you might know my dad, Todd Pierzina, who is president of the church council. Yeah, he’s the one who you quite possibly have had either the most funny or most awkward conversation with ever. Yeah, now you know who I’m talking about.

My life has always revolved around Bethany. I went to preschool here, came to Sunday School every week here as an elementary schooler, attended confirmation for all three years of middle school here, and as a high schooler I enjoy representing Bethany Lutheran Church at the mission trips we go on every summer. There are several mini miracles I have experienced at Bethany just from volunteering.

The missions trips we go on every summer are always life changing. I have gone on two so far, and I have loved both of them. My first one was to Minneapolis, and the second one was to Birmingham, which was this summer. At both, we helped package food and school supplies for kids and families in need, we helped out at retirement homes, a garden, and so much more. At both, it was a miracle to see all the kids who may have not been super close when the trip started grow closer and closer as the week went on. Through all of our volunteering and hard work, we were able to become such great friends, and at the end of the week it felt like we had known each other our entire lives, and that for sure was a miracle just in itself.

I am currently a sophomore at Crystal Lake Central, and I am in band and choir at school. I also am in the choir at Encore Music Academy, and many times I play flute here at Bethany. Because of my musical abilities, I was offered the opportunity to help out at Vacation Bible School over the summer. I would perform in the opening and closing ceremonies every day, and I would help teach the kids all the songs that they would perform for the parents at the end of the week. It was truly a mini miracle to see the kids come in everyday excited to learn, and although the class I helped teach probably wasn’t their favorite class, I still found it a mini miracle that they came in every day with an open mind, and were willing to try whatever I and the other helpers would throw at them.

One thing that is truly exceptional about volunteering here is what you get in return from it. No, not cash, or a check, or anything like that. Instead, through helping out at VBS, I have realized that when I’m all grown up, I would love to become a teacher for elementary school kids. What I haven’t decided is if that’s a music teacher, classroom teacher, or any other type of teacher, but at least I have it figured out that I want to teach kids in some sort of way. At VBS, I learned the best ways to get kids attention, keep them interested, and how to make what they were learning fun. Figuring this kind of stuff out was exciting, and made me want to keep doing it, which is definitely a mini miracle.

I am definitely very lucky to be attending Bethany Lutheran Church. If I wasn’t a member here, I would not be experiencing so many miracles every Sunday, and I would definitely not be the person I am today without it. So, thank you Bethany for everything you have done for me in my time here.

Wednesday Words, October 10, 2018

Wednesday Words

Stewardship Moment with Kirstin Cannon

My name is Kirstin Cannon.  I am not the member of my family that prefers to talk in front of many people, so it is a mini miracle that I am up here all in itself.  However, I’m really here to tell you all about the mini miracles I witness each day I come to Bethany. That is the miracle of community.  Our village. All of you.

Since most of our family lives in Minnesota, Bethany has literally become our family.  Our multi-generational family that loves us and our children unconditionally. From the middle school kids willing to chase Isaac around the office loop while I change Elin’s diaper, to all the grandparents who give Isaac hugs and Elin snuggles whenever I’m willing to pull her out of her carrier. I feel like it is a mini miracle that I am able to make it through each service with two kids, luckily there is always someone willing to make silly faces at Isaac when he is feeling ready for the service to be over.

We have seen Isaac blossom in ways that amaze us daily and I think it is in large part due to this community.  He is able to love and socialize with people of all different ages and it has helped him develop in ways we could not have fostered by ourselves. When I brought Isaac to Lutherdale to visit Paul and the kids a few summers ago, he quickly attached himself to Michael Effinger, who was one of the confirmation students at camp. Recently I was talking to Isaac on a Sunday afternoon and mentioned something about longtime Bethany member Mr. Bengston, and he responded, “Sometimes we call him Gene”. If you ask Isaac who his best friend is, about half the time he will respond “Tammy”, as in Tammy Nobbe his Sunday School Teacher.  With the shear mention of Tammy, Isaac’s eyes begin to sparkle. Fellow book lover and Bethany member, Corrine Zoellick is responsible for probably a quarter of the books in our home library and Isaac loves to run up and give her hugs every Sunday. I could keep going for the remainder of the service about all the ways our kids have and will be changed by the people in this community, but again, I’m not the Cannon who likes public speaking.

Our immediate family may live far away, but we are lucky to have family right here at Bethany.

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