From My Perspective

Reflections through a Lens of Faith from Pastor Jen

Proclaiming Good News

Proclaiming Good News

At our Confirmation retreat last week we talked about our baptismal promises and the gifts they can be to others as well as ourselves.

One of the baptismal promises (which those at our 10:30am service heard last week at Harrison Louie Wright’s baptism and those at the 9:00am service will hear next week at Patrick Francis Murray’s baptism) is “Proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed.”

What is good news to you? What is good news to your neighbors?

Over and over again, I’m struck by the realization that for many of us, it’s hard to believe, but the good news of God in Christ is simply that we are good enough; that God delights in us as we are; that there’s nothing we should do to be more acceptable/more loved by God and there’s nothing we have done that would make us less acceptable/less loved by God.

So on Saturday morning, just before noon, our Confirmation youth stood outside of church and held up signs of affirmation: “Yay, You!”; “You rock!”; “It will be okay”; “Breathe…”; “You’re awesome!”.

We got a lot of honks, thumbs up, and smiles.

Proclaiming the good news isn’t hard…but sad to say, it seems quite rare.

You are good enough as you are. God delights in you. Yay, you!

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

When Promises Become Gifts

When Promises Become Gifts

I have promises on my mind this weekend. On Sunday, Harrison Louie Wright will be baptized and his parents and sponsors will make some promises. Harrison will be asked to affirm these promises made for him at the time of his Confirmation.

Sometimes making a promise can feel like a burden. It is a commitment. It is something we are meant to remember and keep. But today I’m struck by the fact that the same promises we make that can feel burdensome at times, can also become gifts in our lives.

At our Confirmation retreat tomorrow, the youth will explore how the promises made at baptism help build resilience in times of difficulty. They are truly gifts.

Research shows that among the things that help people bounce back after setbacks include: community, hope, and meaning-making.

The five promises of baptism are about these same things: community, hope, and meaning-making.

At baptism, we promise: 1. to hear the word of God (hope); 2. to live among God’s people (community); 3. to proclaim the good news of God (hope); 4. to care for others in the manner of Jesus (meaning-making); and 5. to strive for justice and peace in the world (meaning-making).

Community, hope, and meaning-making are part of the mission of the church. Sometimes participating in these activities can feel burdensome, but especially when life throws us a curveball, they become gifts.

See you in church on Sunday – and bring someone else!

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Thinking Theologically About Difficult Things

Thinking Theologically About Difficult Things

The leaked Supreme Court document indicating that the Court may be poised to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion has dominated the news media this week.

Emotions have run high on many fronts.

There is anxiety that the train of thought leading to this draft opinion may overturn other civil rights we have taken for granted.

There is anxiety that women may lose the right to make difficult decisions that affect their health and well-being as well as the health and well-being of their children and family members.

In most media reports that I’ve heard or read, “Christians” are lumped together as if we all believed and taught the same thing about abortion. Spoiler alert: we don’t.

As people of faith of the ELCA Lutheran variety, how do we address difficult subjects? How do we think theologically when confronted with a contemporary social issue? And what has our church taught about abortion?

The Lutheran Church (ELCA) uses the Bible as the authority for the practice of our faith and life. (This is what is meant by a phrase Martin Luther and his contemporaries often used: “Sola Scriptura.”)

That being said, ELCA Lutherans aren’t biblical literalists. We also don’t understand every verse in the Bible to be equivalent. We seek to find Jesus in Scripture. We look for the life and teachings of Christ in the verses we read. As Luther said: “The Bible is the manger wherein Christ is laid.”

The ELCA studied the issue of abortion in the early 1990’s. (Clearly much has happened in the area of reproductive medicine since that time). A social statement on abortion was adopted at the churchwide assembly in 1991. (Voting members are elected by synod assemblies – so you, too could be a voting member to a churchwide assembly.) You may read the full statement here.

A paragraph summarizing the theological grounding of the statement, states “As a community of forgiven sinners, justified by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we are empowered so that we might do what is effective in serving the needs of the neighbor. Inspired by Jesus’ own ministry, our love for neighbor embraces especially those who are most vulnerable, including both the pregnant woman and the life in her womb.”

The statement later states the following:

“Because of our conviction that both the life of the woman and the life in her womb must be respected by law, this church opposes:
· the total lack of regulation of abortion;
· legislation that would outlaw abortion in all circumstances;
· laws that prevent access to information about all options available to women
faced with unintended pregnancies;
· laws that deny access to safe and affordable services for morally justifiable
abortions;
· mandatory or coerced abortion or sterilization;
· laws that prevent couples from practicing contraception;
· laws that are primarily intended to harass those contemplating or deciding for an
abortion.

The position of this church is that, in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, where pregnancy results from rape or incest, or where the embryo or fetus has lethal abnormalities incompatible with life, abortion prior to viability should not be prohibited by law or by lack of public funding of abortions for low income women. On the other hand, this church supports legislation that prohibits abortions that are performed after the fetus is determined to be viable, except when the mother’s life is threatened or when lethal abnormalities indicate the prospective newborn will die very soon.

Beyond these situations, this church neither supports nor opposes laws prohibiting abortion.”

These are complicated times. Our church invites us to think and pray and read and learn and wrestle with these issues, looking for Jesus. Always looking for Jesus.

If news of this week is stirring up something in you and you’d like to talk, please stop by Caffe Nero on Wednesday (I’ll be there 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM this week) or send a text/email (978-806-8255 ) so we can talk.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen