Pastor's Corner - February

2018-02-03 15:34:51 dporzel

Pastor’s Corner:  The Feast of StephenLove and faith

 

As I write in the cold days of January, a Christmas-season song comes to mind, and with it a very important ministry of Christ Lutheran Church. The song, in part, goes like this: “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen. When the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even….” The song goes on to encourage the helping of those in need and concludes, “Therefore, Christian men, be sure wealth or rank possessing Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.” It is a hymn that remembers the work of St. Stephen, his day being December 26, as a caregiving deacon of the early church. The song and the day lead us to give thanks to God for the Stephen Ministry of Christ Lutheran Church.

 

The motto of the national organization Stephen Ministries of St. Louis is “Equipping God’s People for Ministry since 1975,” and its theme Scripture passage is “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). This one-to-one lay caring ministry that takes place in congregations uses the Stephen Series system to equip and empower lay caregivers – called Stephen Ministers – to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting, often experiencing grief, divorce, job loss, illness, or some other life crisis.

 

On Sunday, January 21, Stephen Ministry leader Gerry Bronzell and I will join with our 14 other Stephen Ministers to commission our newest Stephen Minister, Tammy Marr. Tammy has completed a comprehensive program of training and will join in monthly, continuing training with her fellow Stephen Ministers as she gives care within our congregation and community.

 

We praise the Lord for our very active Stephen Ministry at Christ Lutheran and for the care-full guidance of leader Gerry Bronzell. May God enable us to share the grace and hope of Christ in Christian caregiving in these days after the Feast of Stephen and always!

 

Pastor Ray +

Pastor’s Corner:  The Feast of Stephen

 

As I write in the cold days of January, a Christmas-season song comes to mind, and with it a very important ministry of Christ Lutheran Church. The song, in part, goes like this: “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen. When the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even….” The song goes on to encourage the helping of those in need and concludes, “Therefore, Christian men, be sure wealth or rank possessing Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.” It is a hymn that remembers the work of St. Stephen, his day being December 26, as a caregiving deacon of the early church. The song and the day lead us to give thanks to God for the Stephen Ministry of Christ Lutheran Church.

 

The motto of the national organization Stephen Ministries of St. Louis is “Equipping God’s People for Ministry since 1975,” and its theme Scripture passage is “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). This one-to-one lay caring ministry that takes place in congregations uses the Stephen Series system to equip and empower lay caregivers – called Stephen Ministers – to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting, often experiencing grief, divorce, job loss, illness, or some other life crisis.

 

On Sunday, January 21, Stephen Ministry leader Gerry Bronzell and I will join with our 14 other Stephen Ministers to commission our newest Stephen Minister, Tammy Marr. Tammy has completed a comprehensive program of training and will join in monthly, continuing training with her fellow Stephen Ministers as she gives care within our congregation and community.

 

We praise the Lord for our very active Stephen Ministry at Christ Lutheran and for the care-full guidance of leader Gerry Bronzell. May God enable us to share the grace and hope of Christ in Christian caregiving in these days after the Feast of Stephen and always!

 

Pastor Ray +

Posted in: ArticlesPastor's Corner Read more... 0 comments

Pastor's Corner for January

2018-01-04 18:16:18 dporzel

Pastor’s Corner – Faith and CongregationFaith Talk
Okay, I am leading with a shameless plug for the upcoming Faith and Congregation Class.  In case you missed the announcement in the weekly bulletin:

 

FAITH AND CONGREGATION CLASS  The next session of FCC will be held on the Thursday evenings of January 18 and 25, and February 1 and 8, from 7:00 to 8:30.  Pastor Rohlfs will lead the group in a study of Christianity from the Lutheran perspective and in an overview of congregational life, history, and building space at Christ Lutheran.  A good review for current members, the class also enables those from non-Lutheran backgrounds to join the congregation if they choose to do so.  Class will meet in the office conference room.  To register, phone (708-349-0431) or e-mail the Church Office (info@christlutheranorland.com).

 

Did you see the combination of Christian/Lutheran faith and congregation?  It was with that important tandem in mind that I wrote the FCC materials and update them regularly.  Every congregation is called by the Holy Spirit under the same Lord (Ephesians 4) and with the same Great Commission from the Lord (Matthew 28), but every congregation is not the same.  Read of the variety of congregational personalities and values in the general Epistles of the New Testament and in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.  So by our Lord in a unique way  and with a unique set of values.

 

To help us reflect on our congregation’s blessed “personality,” these excerpts from the FCC booklet are offered:

 

Christ Lutheran congregation was founded in 1888 as an outgrowth of Trinity Lutheran, Tinley Park.  The congregation’s ministry included a parochial day school until the mid-1930s.  In 1965, Pastor Walter Ledogar became pastor of Christ Lutheran Church.  During the following years, God blessed the congregation with substantial growth.  In 1971 the sanctuary was relocated from its original location at 143rd Street and West Avenue to its present location of 14700 South 94th Avenue.  In 1990 the congregation constructed the addition of Ledogar Hall containing the new offices, fellowship hall/gym and the education center.  Part of the education center is home to the Christ Lutheran Early Weekday School – CLEWS.  In 2002, Pastor Raymond Rohlfs joined the Christ Lutheran Staff as Senior Administrative Pastor.  In 2005, Pastor Ledogar entered into Pastor Emeritus status.  In 2007, additions to the offices, education wing and Fireside Room were dedicated.  + Pastor Ledogar was called to his heavenly home on September 20, 2017.

 

    Christ Lutheran is blessed with a caring professional staff including:  Office/Business Manager: Julie Jancik, Director of Music: Sandra Knopp, CLEWS Director: Patti Bareither, Secretary: Jamie Deckinga, and Environmental Managers: Lead-Mike Kut (a.m.) and Mike Wick (p.m.).

 

    Christ Lutheran Church is centered in: 

 

Reaching In…

Worship and Sacraments

Classes for All Ages

Christ Lutheran Early Weekday School (CLEWS)

 

Reaching Out…

Bible Studies

Music Programs

Fellowship

Youth Groups

Stephen Ministry

Senior Group

 

By Reaching Up…

Spreader of the Gospel

Spiritually-Inspiring

Caring  (Home Welfare Fund)

Ministry for all ages

 

    Christ Lutheran expects its members to be faithful in worship, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Bible study; to serve Christ in the congregation, to be involved in the ministry of caring and to offer first-fruit and proportionate financial offerings.

 

Pastor Ray’s Ministry Values (“GIFTS”)

    Graced and Gracious

    Inclusive Ministry

    Fraternal with other Christians

    Today’s Liturgy

    Supportive in Community

 

    FIRST FRUITS OVERVIEW 2016 (2017 edition coming!)

Ten percent of the plate and envelope income is set aside each month to fund the First Fruits Stewardship Program.  These funds are distributed among various ministries.  The distribution of this tithe includes money that is already budgeted for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod-Northern Illinois, Lutheran Church Charities, and Lutheran Child and Family Services.  In addition, these funds contribute to Home Welfare, Haitian Lutheran Mission Project and CLC Feed Haiti.  As our church is blessed, First Fruits becomes a blessing to others.

 

Additional First Fruits Distributions for 2016 include:

Apple of His Eye

Blue Train Leadership Consortium

Community Services Foundation

Concordia Adopt-a-Student Theological Seminary

Feed My Starving Children

Kids Alive International

Lutheran Ministries Media, Inc.

Marklund at Mill Creek

Morning Star Mission Ministries, Inc.

Navajo Lutheran Mission

One Small Step for Prader Willi Research

Park Lawn Association, Inc.

Saint Matthew Lutheran Church (Soup Kitchen)

Sanctuary Manhattan

Together We Cope

Walcamp

Wheat Ridge Ministries

Zion Lutheran Church and School

 

So, a faithful Epiphany question follows:  To what strategies of mission and ministry is our Savior and Lord calling us as a uniquely formed and gifted Body of Christ?

 

Pastor Ray +

Posted in: Pastor's Corner Read more... 0 comments

Pastor's Corner - November

2017-11-05 22:13:19 dporzel

Be Thankful

 

         

Thanksgiving for Jesus and Keyboarding

 

I was taking inventory of my personal holiday favorites and concluded that the National Holiday of Thanksgiving is nearly at the top of the list.  That might seem strange for a pastor to write.  Don’t get me wrong, The Resurrection of our Lord, The Nativity of our Lord, and the Feast of Pentecost are right up there, too.  But Thanksgiving is really important to me – and not because it is the only holiday I get off!  It is important to me as a matter of personal faith.  More broadly, the Thanksgiving Holiday attracts with issues of faith as I reflect on the faith of the Pilgrims in their new land and the generosity of the American Indians that critical pre-winter year, and as I admire the faith of Sarah Josepha Hale in appealing to five- count them, 5- presidents to establish the holiday.  But beyond all of that, Thanksgiving is important on a more personally convicting level of faith.

 

It is a reminder for me to pause and give thanks to God.  I am a doer.  I come by it honestly and in a long line of doers.  I like to work, not as much as I do these days, but I like to work.  So I find myself being more than sympathetic to Martha in the story that closes Luke 10 and need to be reminded that Mary chose what was better in that moment.  And like in the Gospel of Luke 18 for Thanksgiving, I would be inclined to first get things done with the priests.

 

So Thanksgiving is a good reminder for me to pause and thank God.  I suspect that I’m not the only one who needs to be reminded to return thanks.  Maybe Luke 18 is a kind of typical ratio: for every ten blessings we send God one thank-you note.  Our hard work or chance gets the credit too often. Years ago at my congregation of St. Peter’s, Jerry Feil served as our youth group counselor.  During one “Youth-In-Action” devo, Jerry asked if we prayed before taking a test at school.  Yes.  What do you pray?  You guessed it:  we asked for a good score or to remember the material.  I asked Jerry, who was in college at the time, what he prayed.  His answer rings in my ears every Thanksgiving:  I thank God for giving me the ability to pick up the pencil.

 

So many thanksgivings are needed.  For pardon and life in Jesus is at the top of that list.  But Jerry reminds us that the list goes on and on.  When we pause to thank God, we recognize how truly gracious God is and this reframes everything else.  The Lord truly gives a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

With gratitude for Jesus and keyboarding ability,

 

Pastor Ray+

Posted in: ArticlesPastor's Corner Read more... 0 comments

Pastor's Corner - October

2017-10-14 12:55:56 dporzel

Pastor’s Corner         Reformation

The One Ingredient

 

As fall approaches this 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Year, many of us are reflecting upon the readings assigned for Reformation Sunday.   This Noted Chef Jacques Pepin was interviewed recently on an early morning radio program.  A young, insightful interviewer asked him what one ingredient was essential to his cooking.  Immediately he answered, “Butter.”

 

Pepin’s response got me thinking about the essentials of our Lutheran faith.   What is the most important divine concept to us Lutherans?  This is a good question for this article being published during the 500th Anniversary Month of the Reformation.   For most of us, the answer comes:  Grace.   Sola Gratia comes first in the Lutheran By-grace-through-faith-for-Christ’s-sake formula.

 

Over the summer I preached upon the liturgical calendar readings from Paul’s epistles to the Roman Christians.  This was the essential Scripture for Luther during the Reformation.   One of the sections that led him best is from Romans chapter 3, verses 21-25:

 

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,]through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith.

 

It is interesting that verse 24 has that intended repetition:  all are justified freely by his grace.   Grace is a gift, God’s free gift of pardon and peace through Christ.  It is Jesus that paid the redemption price.  Redemption is a word that comes to us from the dark days of the slave markets.  It was the price to be paid to free a slave, a much greater cost than to transfer ownership of a slave.  Only Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, could and did pay the price to free us from sin, death and the devil.   Is it with this in mind that the writers of our hymnal wrote the confession in Divine Service, Setting Four:  … let us first consider our unworthiness and confess before God and one another that we have sinned in thought, word and deed, and that we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.

 

So two things.  As the confession then guides us:  Together as His people let us take refuge in the infinite mercy of God, our heavenly Father, seeking His grace for the sake of Christ, and saying God be merciful to me a sinner.  Luther’s first thesis of the 95 called us to continual repentance, and he continued to direct us in faith to our Redeemer and Savior Jesus.  God in his mercy has given his Son and for His sake forgives us, not partially, but fully!   Let us live in that grace of God.

 

But also let us be careful of the attendant temptation.  Yes, as with every good gift, the devil can and will seek to corrupt it.  Read about that issue in the first part of Romans 6.  While we Lutherans have been the faithful voice in the church in the proclamation of GRACE, I believe that we have also struggled with this issue.   Dietrich Bonhoeffer raised the same caution as he talked of the tendency to make grace cheap.   I know you have Google, so check out the wisdom of this faithful Lutheran pastor martyred by the Nazis.  Grace is free to us, but so precious as it cost our Lord dearly.  Luther wrote it this way:

 

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is most certainly true.

 

Grace!

 

Pastor Ray+

Posted in: ArticlesE-NewsletterPastor's Corner Read more... 0 comments

Pastor's Corner for September

2017-09-09 09:04:08 dporzel

          Jesus Calling?Education

 

As fall approaches this 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Year, many of us are reflecting upon the readings assigned for Reformation Sunday.   This month for me these words of our Lord from the assigned Gospel in John 8 have resonated:

 

    Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

We are preparing to begin our new parish year and have been hard at work on Christian Education. CE includes Sunday School and Youth and Adult Classes. Sunday School Superintendent Karen is readying the Sunday School Teachers Meeting; Jeanette, Monica, George and I are preparing the Midweek Confirmation Classes; I am preparing for Women’s Scripture and Prayer Group and Book Club; Brian and Pete are working on Sunday Adult Class and Saturday Men’s Study, respectively; and Karen and Carol are preparing a great Mommy, Daddy and Me series in September. Summer was also full of CE as God richly blessed our VBS under the leadership of Nancy and her Committee.

 

All of this flows from that Gospel for Reformation. And it connects with Jesus’ later words which He shared just before His Ascension from Matthew 28, verses 18-20:

 

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Baptism is a powerful Sacrament of grace and faith by the working of the Holy Spirit, but faith needs nourishment not only to survive but to thrive. Pastor Walt likes to say, nourishment through “Word and Sacrament.” (At this writing, Pastor is doing well, taking earthly and heavenly nourishment, working hard at therapy and trusting God’s grace and will.)

 

A couple of things:

 

We are privileged to share Baptism with many young families of our congregation and community. Praise God!   But let’s continue to encourage and invite these families to grow in faith with us as we make time to serve in CE ministry.

 

Secondly, let’s listen to and take to heart ourselves God’s Word centered in Jesus through lives recommitted to Word and Sacrament in worship and in CE opportunities. In my pastoral experience, those who are regular congregants and active in a CE opportunity are strongest in the ups and downs of real Christian life and can truly lead others in the way of Christ.

 

Jesus’ promise of John 8 holds and calls to us….

 

Pastor Ray+

Posted in: Pastor's Corner Read more... 0 comments