September 2017

Pastor Loren Mai Dear Friends in Christ,

       Greetings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! As we celebrate Labor Day, we rest from our labors. At least most of us have the opportunity to do so. Our celebration as a national holiday dates back to 1894, and it celebrates the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

       This is a good opportunity for the church to celebrate the diversity of gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us to do Christ’s work in this world. Some of those gifts include our labor for the welfare of others in society. Others of those gifts include what we do in and through the church. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish, for some gifts, like those of teachers can be used in society and the church. We have a rite called the Affirmation of Christian Vocation that affirms our use of our gifts as God’s people both in the church and in the society. These are all God-pleasing uses of the gifts God has entrusted to us to use.

       On Sunday, September 3, we will use this rite in our worship. Please bring to church with you some symbol of your work in society. It might be a shirt or hat you wear or a tool you use, such as a hammer, a dustpan, a calculator, or a book. We will take a few moments to give thanks to God for each other and for the gifts we use in the Body of Christ.

       The next week, September 10, we will have an opportunity to use some of our gifts on “God’s work, Our Hands Sunday,” as we join in doing a service project, putting together school kits for Lutheran World Relief. This will also be Rally Day, when Sunday School resumes and we ask God’s blessings on our teachers and students in the coming year.

       These opportunities remind us that we are the hands and ears and tongues of Christ in the world. We are the means by which the compassion of Christ is exercised for the benefit of others. Jesus told his disciples that “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Saving our life is what we in our self-centeredness try to do. Losing our life means using our life for the sake of the world, for the sake of those who need to receive the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. You here at Bethany are a blessed part of Christ’s Body and have many gifts to share, many gifts you do share and use for the building up of Christ’s Body and for the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Always give thanks to God for this grace in Christ that you get to enjoy and share in your community of faith at Bethany.

       To that end, let us pray. Lord Jesus, thank you for your extreme generosity in giving your life to give us life, and for gifting us and empowering us through your Spirit to share this life with one another and others. And we thank you for our sisters and brothers in Christ at Bethany and for the love you give us through them. We pray in your name. Amen.

In Christ’s Love, Joy, and Peace, Pastor Jim

A WORD FROM PHIL

       "What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignifi-cant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels…God with all his angels and creatures is smiling - not because the father (or mother) is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.” - Martin Luther

       I have changed a few diapers in my day. I will admit that I was never thinking about how pleasing that dirty task was to God. Instead I was thinking about how pleased I was when it was over! At the same time I was more than happy to hold my precious, clean baby. It is comforting to think that God and the angels are smiling down on us as we perform those not so pleasant tasks and when we do so out of Christian love. Changing diapers is not always enjoyable. Yet, our love for our children supersedes any ill thoughts on the task at hand. The permanent gift of children exceeds all temporary displeasure. So, we joyfully approach the task at hand. And when the job is done, we hold our babies, sing songs of love and smile as the angels smile on us.

       The month of September kicks off with Labor Day. It is a chance for us to reflect on our own labors in life like our jobs and family responsibilities. We reflect on our labors that we do out of necessity as well as the ones we enjoy. It is easy to do jobs that we love. It is more difficult when it is something that we do not. However, Luther reminds us that all we do is to be done out of Christian love. For Luther this is both our calling and obligation as Christians.

       Why is that? Luther also said,

       "All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government-to what does it all amount before God except child's play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, be-hind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things." - Martin Luther

       As Christians we are called to show Christ’s love in all that we do. It is a hard calling to live into. As we know, there are many times that we are faced with a less than enjoyable task at hand. If we happen to find ourselves stuck in a job or in a situation that is hard to face, it is difficult to do so from a position of Christian love. Yet, that is what God wants us to do. It is both for our sake and for the sake of others. It is for our sake so that we can find the joy that radiates from within to give purpose and meaning in what we do. For the sake of others in that they might experience Christ’s love through us. We are the mask that the Lord hides behind. May that mask show what is really underneath.

Phillip Hett