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Wednesday Words, Dec. 19, 2018

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

This third week of Advent we have been focusing on the Star of Unity. We are united in the anticipation and remembrance of the birth of Jesus that brings hope, joy, and love. 

Today, Wed. Dec. 19 at 7 pm, we welcome and invite you to join us at our Longest Night Service. This worship service is a time that we come together as a community acknowledging the blue feelings at this time of year. For some, this season is a "long dark night of the soul," in which memories of the past and the pain of the present can be overwhelming. We will pray and sing together recognizing that this is not a season of joy for everyone. We pray that you will find hope and comfort knowing you are not alone. We all wait in hope of the Lord's coming. 

Star of Unity

Wednesday, Third Week of Advent

The Bright Star of Bethlehem Devotion

Open Doors

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:5

At midnight on a wintry night, thirteen travelers boarded a bus at the Guesthouse of the International Center of Bethlehem, bound for Tel Aviv airport to return home to the United States. As the bus made its way through the dark and quiet streets, the travelers quietly sang "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The bus slowed to a halt, and the travelers looked out to see a solid metal wall, three stories high, across the road. The driver honked and they waited. To the left, atop the wall, was a lookout tower. The driver honked again and still they waited. Their "hopes and fears were present. The metal wall made a grinding sound as it slowly moved to create a narrow passageway. the driver drove forward, spoke to the armed guard, and the bus was permitted to pass. Our passage was made possible by the connections made between people. 

Within this three-story-high wall still more unifying work is being done. The International Center of Bethlehem is achieving the work of Christ, through education, sports, services to young families, services to the elderly, wellness services and cultural offerings that the lives of 60,000 people in the Bethlehem region. With something as simple as a honk or a friendly wave, you can be the agent of Christian unity in your communities as well. 

Prayer

Jesus, Star of Unity, unite us in our commitment to serve the needs of those in our neighborhoods. Amen. 

 

 

Wednesday Words, Dec. 12, 2018

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

The second week of Advent we focus on the Star of Hope. Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb says, "Hope doesn't wait for vision to appear. Hope is vision in action today. "

Come join us today, Wed. Dec. 12 at 7 pm, as we talk about hope during our Midweek Advent Service. We will take another offering for the Bright Stars of Bethlehem ministries.  Following service there will be a snack buffet. This peaceful service is a time to pray together in the hope of Jesus Christ in our lives and this world. Take time to invite a friend to share this evening with us. 

From The Bright Star of Bethlehem Devotion - Star of Hope

Too Little to Matter? 

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathat, who are too little to be amount the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. - Micah 5.2

My journey to Bethlehem started by plane from St. Louis to Chicago to Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, then continued on a late-night bus into the Holy City, Jerusalem, which was shining and teeming with life and light, music and laughter. Suddenly, as we turned south to Bethlehem, light and sound dissipated. The road narrowed, obstructed by a 35-foot-high concrete barrier, with it barbed wire, gun turrets, massive steal gate and ominous weaponry. We tried to pass through. 

"Passports!" Israeli soldiers demanded. "Why are you here?" they questioned.

"I'm on a pilgrimage; I just wanted to see where Jesus was born," I responded, somewhere between sheepishness and defiance. "I'm an American."

"Americans. Always meddling" was the curt response. 

Yet the crossing point opened, the massive gate parted and in I went, now fully intimidated. We  saw graffiti and refugee camps and poverty, anger, frustration and despair. Deeper and deeper we went into the heart of the ancient, too-little-to-matter-then-or-now-town. Finally, I found the right side street and a door. We knocked. A baby's sweet cry pierced the night. I saw a dim lantern. A gate opened, and heavily accented Arab-English voice declared:

"Welcome to Christmas Lutheran Church. Welcome to the House of Bread, David's City. Welcome to Jesus' hometown."

I then had hope that all would be all right. 

Prayer

Jesus, Star of Hope, give us hope, even when we are struggling to find our way on life's journey, that your door is always to us. Amen.  - John D. Echrich

Wednesday Words, Dec. 5, 2018

December 5, 2018

Pastor Cathy Daharsh

Happy Advent to you! Advent is a time of waiting, anticipating and hoping. Our theme this Advent Season is Bright Stars of Bethlehem and this week’s focus is Star of Creation.

During this month we are encouraging our congregation to join us in reading the devotion book, “The Bright Star of Bethlehem.” We have extra copies at church if you didn’t get a chance to pick one up. The devotion book is written with Bethlehem Pastor Mitra Rahab and the Bright Stars of Bethlehem. “The Bright Star of Bethlehem is a U.S. 501c organization founded in 2003 to promote and to bring awareness to the many hope-filled ministries of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, to build hope and a brighter future for Palestine.” (Pg. 2, The Bright Star of Bethlehem: Devotions for Advent)

You’re invited to join us today, Dec. 5 and Wed., Dec. 12 at 7 pm for our Midweek Advent Holden Evening service where you will learn more about, The Bright Star of Bethlehem ministries. We will also be taking an offering during both of those services to support their ministry. Following service there will be a snack buffet. This is a beautiful service that offers a time for you to breathe and relax for a moment during this busy time of year. I hope you can come.

Star of Creation

Wednesday, First Week of Advent

The Bright Star of Bethlehem Devotion

The Mindfulness of God

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the starts which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him? – Psalm 8:3-4

After church on Sunday in Bethlehem, I was invited home for dinner, by a woman I met at coffee hour. Over dinner, she and her husband talked about their concerns for their children, their own safety and their future in this war-torn place. “We feel trapped like animals in a cage. Are we not human beings?” they said in desperation.

Just then a neighbor came by to take the kids to the pool at Dar Al-Kalima Health and Wellness Center. “If it weren’t for Pastor Mitri and the activities at the Center, our children would have nothing positive to do, “said this mother. “ We are so very grateful.”

It was in that moment when my commitment to support and participate in the ongoing work of the church in Bethlehem tightened its hold on my heart. Our God is mindful of us and works through us to care for all who feel “like animals in a cage.”

The international Center of Bethlehem and the various ministries there offer care and hope to the people of Bethlehem. In a speech giving in acceptance of the German Media Award, Pastor Mitri Raheb spoke about the necessity of “creating spaces for life: spaces where people can breathe,” where children can explore their abilities and stretch their wings, where young adults can learn how to express their dreams and frustrations in music and dance, where God’s mindfulness for us as his creations is expressed and experienced.

PRAYER

Jesus, Star of Creation, thank you for being mindful of us. Help us to create spaces in this world where your blessings can be found. Amen.  – Bonnie Van Overbeke

Wednesday Words, Nov. 28, 2018

Wednesday Words

Nov. 28, 2018

Pr. Paul Cannon

So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Luke 21:31

It’s almost a tradition now.  We load up the car, strap the roof top carrier to the top of the Toyota, snuggle the kids tight into their car seats, and take off for our next adventure.  Inevitably, an hour or two down the road, ‘the littles’ start getting restless, and so we stop for a lunch/stretch break (usually in Madison).  We unload a sleepy-eyed Isaac, and then go for Elin … diaper blowout.  You can almost set your watch to it. 

There were signs, if you think about it: a whine here, a whimper there.  It doesn’t matter.  We should have known.  The little baby gets cozy in her car seat, tilted at just the perfect angle, feeling the meditative vibrations of the road … it’s the perfect storm of baby relaxation.

Forgive my crass comparison, but today, I see some similarities in Jesus’ words about signs.

Jesus warns the disciples “There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and waves.”  At that time, he says, they will see “The Son of Man coming on a cloud.” 

The signs were there for anybody who wanted to read them a certain way and you can see why some thought the end was near. The Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, Christians were being persecuted throughout the empire, and there were certainly natural calamities to point to as well. 

But Jesus’ words to the disciples and his followers were not meant as warnings.  They were meant as words of hope. The Christians in the times of Luke weren’t anticipating hard times, they were living them.  The signs were already upon them.  Forgive the metaphor, but the poop was already in the diaper!

Putting yourself in their shoes (or their diapers, if you will), you understand how Jesus’ words were words of hope. The Kingdom of God is near!  Jesus is coming!  “Raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near.” 

Perhaps you too are in the middle of difficulties.  Perhaps all the signs are pointing towards hardship.  Then perhaps you too should consider Jesus’ words this week as a sign of hope – a sign that God is coming (and has already come). 

Hope will look a little different to everybody: a kind word just when you need it, or peaceful feeling during a familiar hymn.  But the signs are there.  You just have to look for them.

Wednesday Words, Nov. 21, 2018

Wednesday Words

Nov. 21, 2018

Pastor Paul Cannon

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which of course means one thing: Food.  Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, pecan pie, and seven layer salad (any salad with mayo and bacon is okay in my book!) top the charts for me. I’m sure you have your own list of favorite recipes that fill you with almost as much nostalgia as they do calories.  We feast, maybe watch some football, argue politics with our relatives (unless you’re a Midwest Lutheran … then you just uncomfortably avoid eye contact), and head home.  Thanksgiving is an excuse to gather, to celebrate, and most of all – to eat.

But is Thanksgiving really about giving thanks for most of us?  At our house, we might go around the table, each person offering up what they are most thankful for, which is good and important, but I wonder if that practice might miss the full scope of what we have been given (everything!). 

I recently saw a video I wanted to share with you all (click this link to watch the video).  It’s a Christmas Video, but it gets the same point across.  You have been given all you have, and that is indeed a LOT to be thankful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! May we remember to give thanks to God for all he has given us. 

Amen. 

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