Some years ago, with the help of the younger generation, I secured a Facebook account. I didn’t use it. Never opened Facebook. If during that time people unfriended me, I was blissfully unaware. When I retired in 2013, I began to check out Facebook. About all I knew to do was press like. Even then I wasn’t sure where like was going in cyber space. Such timidity limited my being social on that medium.
Through art, we are able to break bread with the dead, and without communion with the dead a fully human life is impossible.
A Moment in Time
What draws me to stay on Facebook are pictures. I welcome seeing folks together, observing where they are, peering in on what they are doing. One day I opened Facebook and there to my surprise was a wonderful picture of someone celebrating another birthday. I was jolted. Although the individual was radiant, smiling, and effervescent, this person had died several years before. Unless someone intervenes, as long as Facebook exists, that picture, frozen in time, will show up each year, acknowledging another birthday—a birthday for someone who has ceased with birthdays. It’s happened several times now. May it continue!
Here is yet another way to connect with the communion of saints … on Facebook. Who would you like to show up on your Facebook page? Wouldn’t it be glorious to gaze upon a long gone loved one? To just one more time capture the gleam in their eyes, the color of their hair, the particular features which made them … them? And why stop there? Scroll back through the years, well before you and I were around.
We Lutherans observe the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this year. Let’s go back to Wittenberg and study there Martin, Katie, Phillip, the Princes and the Popes. “We have this cloud of witnesses around us,” declared the writer of Hebrews. We are surrounded by them. We are strengthened by them; bereft without them.
Cloud of Witnesses
Let’s be intentional about those deep, abiding spiritual witnesses. What fun it would be in worship, right in front of our brothers/sisters in Christ, to address such questions as these:
- Who from the cloud of witnesses helped you answer the call to love Jesus?
- Who in the cloud of witnesses is still encouraging you to run the race of
- What obstacles have you had in running the race of faith?
- Who might one day name you as part of the cloud of witnesses who encouraged
To answer such questions, is for us in the body of Christ, a real way to be … social.
Dear Sisters in Christ,
Happy Mothers’ Day! Hope your day was a happy one, surrounded by the people who love you the most, and whom you love the most. Where there is love there is forgiveness, and as mothers we depend on that forgiveness from our children as we get older! Where there is love, mistakes in parenting melt away, depend on it! Our May meeting was held on Tuesday May 9th, and there were nine women present. We planned our activities for the upcoming summer months.
Fundraising Luncheon – May 21
Plans have been finalized for the luncheon on May 21st. This is a fundraiser for our school supply backpack project. If you were at church on Sunday May 7th you saw for yourselves the backpacks made by members of WELCA on the backs of the chairs in the sacristy. They will be filled in August with school supplies. We need your donations to help fill the bags. There is no cost for the lunch, but donations will be very welcome. Our backpack assembly is going very well; at meeting time there were 90 made already and Helen and Lin were predicting at least 10 more by August, when we will get together to pack them up. Thank you in advance for your generosity.
Human Trafficking – Making A Difference in Our Community
Worthy of mention here is a bill to be brought up in the NC House of Representatives regarding human trafficking. House Bill 910 is close to our hearts since it focuses on one of our outreach ministries. The bill would create a pilot program to train law enforcement officers, educate children, and appropriate funds for providing aid to victims of human trafficking.
You can read the full text of the bill at North Carolina General Assembly website We hope that after you read it that you will be moved to contact your State House and Senate Members to voice your support for the legislation. It is hard to believe that such things go on in the modern world; we should be so much more evolved than this. Let your voice and will be heard to bring about change.
Summer WELCA Activities at Grace
July 29 – Family outing on the New Hope Valley Railway
If you are interested in a great ride back in time to when railroads were brand new and the biggest things in technology, please contact Lin Gunnet or Dottie Scott for information.
August 12 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM – WELCA Retreat
We will gather in the Fellowship Hall for bible study, an interesting program, and assembly of our 100+ schoolbags.
Additional Activities – Summer 2017
June 23-25th, 2017 – NC Women of the ELCA 30th Annual Gathering at Lenoir-Rhyne College
July 13-16th, 2017 – Tenth Triennial Gathering at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Minneapolis, MN. Registration is open!
October 13-15, 2017 – All Lutheran Women’s Retreat in Fredericksburg, VA at the Hospitality House and Conference Center.
Looking Ahead – Grace will be hosting the Spring 2018 Gathering of the NCWELCA– Stay tuned for the details.
Catch up on other WELCA news!
This time of year we are granted a special treat — birds singing! Mornings are arrayed in sound — chirping, calling, crackling — as an aerial symphony fills the sky. Likewise, at dusk you needn’t switch on any technology to enjoy a good tune; just sit outside to absorb a free concert. Talk about surround sound!
Barbara Crooker in her playful poem Sanctus considers the gravity of listening to birds. She posits in the ordinary sounds of goldfinch, wood thrush and mourning dove the presence of more. These gifts from the sky become windows into the holy. Even the title Sanctus (Holy) turns us to reconsider what we hear.
That’s just a bird chirping, nothing more
Hearing the Holy Spirit
Sometimes we have our feet too firmly planted on the ground. What is….is just what is. “That’s just a bird chirping, nothing more,” we find ourselves demanding. The poet may not jolt us out of this ‘flat footeness.’ But, she is trying: a mourning dove as ordinary as daylight calling out to you, bearing the voice of the Holy Ghost.
I’ll tip my hat to the poet and the deep sense of life she witnesses. She’s not far from the empty tomb or the dry life suddenly restored or the myriad of people no longer imprisoned by sameness.
What a grace note indeed!
Picture a haggard old visor. It used to be blue, like the sky. Now it’s virtually devoid of color, long clouded over, obscuring any real color. The elastic band is bereft of elasticity. The metal adjustment clasp could use a dab of rust remover. What once snugly sat on a young man’s head could now fit loosely on an Incredible Hulk.
I’ve been unwilling to part with this visor. By reasonable estimates it’s been in my custody for some 50 years now. I wear it only once a year. It doesn’t fit. That doesn’t matter. Some things deserve a proper burial; not this dome appendage. Frankly, it has no real value. And that, at least to me, is the visor’s real appeal.
The potency of Christianity is it’s nevertheless against the givens of life. Jesus renamed the discarded blessed. He snatched a fearful few and built his church on their faith. He called those settled and safe to being born anew beyond their control. Jesus hung out with followers, detractors, and those identified as used up visors. He still does.
Seeking the Fullness of Life in Christ
I’m deeply honored to be the temporary shepherd of Grace Church, Raleigh. Thanks to your congregational council for entrusting me with this privilege. I hope to be among you for a time between Pastor Frye, who served here for some 16 years, and the as yet unknown new pastor called by the Spirit to lead you. Admittedly, I’m hooked by your mission statement: seeking the fullness of life in Christ for all people. It teems with depth…and grace! No one is a cast off visor.
I’ve got a lot to learn about you, Grace’s ministry and history, it’s culture/norms, hopes/hurts, joys/fears, challenges/opportunities. I think it will be fun. And I hope you will say the same.
By the way, I have a name for that old visor: Always being made new! And by the grace of our Lord Jesus the same can be said of you, Grace Lutheran Church.
Freed and Renewed in Christ,
Pastor David Sloop, Grace Interim Pastor
Dear Sisters in Christ,
We opened our last meeting by reading our mission and purpose statements, and went directly to the first of two Bible Studies. They were worth waiting for because they validated our purpose statement exactly. The first one dealt with the theme of His work, our hands, and repeated the message that works were not necessary for salvation but a demonstration of our gratitude for His love.
We all know that many places in the New Testament record this message, but I found it interesting that it is also found in the Book of Habakkuk, in the Old Testament. He and Paul both stated that the righteous will live by faith. The second Bible Study reassured us that we are all God’s adopted children; therefore we are all sisters and brothers, and adoptive sisters and brothers of Christ. Abraham’s domestic situation was examined, where the children of Sarah and Hagar were found to have different statuses because of their mothers. Abraham stated that the child of a wife is a son and the child of a slave is a slave. Abraham recognized Isaac as his son, and God recognizes us as His children. Both programs promoted a lot of discussion and were joyfully received.
WELCA Mission Updates
The School Backpack Mission is ongoing, and to date 70 backpacks have been assembled. To fill them, we will have a luncheon in May, on Sunday the 21st, for all church members. Donations from the luncheon will help defray the shipping costs and purchase of school supplies to stuff in the packs. These backpacks are to be filled with necessary supplies and equipment for the use of children unable to afford these items in the typical school year. We have applied for grants to cover the luncheon and the supplies, but donations are welecome.
Save the Date – Retreat August 12
Our yearly retreat has been scheduled for August 12th. It will take place in the Fellowship Hall at Grace, and we will get together there to assemble the backpacks. After lunch we’ve scheduled a women’s safety course and, hopefully, a program on human trafficking. There is an unbelievable feeling of fellowship that is a result of a program like this, and the support generated among the women for the different ministries we are involved in, and for each other, just keeps growing and growing.
Our meeting closed with a request for joys and concerns, and heartfelt prayers were offered for each of them. We left the church feeling a renewed love for each other, and calls of support echoed across the parking lot. See you in April!
The season of Epiphany encompasses the eight weeks between the festivals of the Baptism of Our Lord and the Transfiguration. During the final weeks of Epiphany we experience some of the most well-known texts in the Bible, from John the Baptists Here is the Lamb of God to Micah’s What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God to Jesus’ powerful Sermon of the Mount, beginning with the Beatitudes.
People often consider this time after Christmas as a long hiatus before the season of Lent begins; but, if they do, they are missing some very important messages focusing on how Christ transforms our lives by calling us to experience the joy, the struggle, and complexities of the Christian life. The Gospel messages throughout this season finds Jesus hard at work teaching, healing, calling disciples, and preaching on the mountain. Again and again we hear the themes of light, baptism, cross, and discipleship.
We are also reminded during the season of Epiphany that the goodness and justice of God extend far beyond our community of faith into all parts of the world and among all people. We are not meant to just hear the words of these scripture passages; we are also meant to be advocates for applying them in everyday life.
Epiphany could well be called a growing season for the church and for its mission. How can each of us cultivate new and exciting ways of serving God and one another? What can we do for the sake of the gospel that we may never have done before. Can we leave our comfort zones in order to minister to the poor, the afflicted, the grieving, the dying, and the persecuted? I should hope so, and I encourage you to give this some serious and prayerful thought.
As the hymn says:
“Listen, God is calling, through the word inviting,
offering forgiveness, comfort and joy.
Jesus gave his mandate: share the good news
that he came to save us and set us free.”
Dear Sisters in Christ,
As you may have observed, we had quite a January! The snow and ice striking right after the New Year did not help, but, with the help of neighbors and friends, we got through that, too. I will always be grateful to a particular neighbor who, with his ten-year-old son, cleared off the ice from our driveway without any pleas from us or any remuneration. The discovery of kindness in strangers is very precious.
At our January gathering we assembled Prayer Beads for the study of Luther’s Small Catechism. We were also finally were able to pick our Prayer Sisters for the coming year! If any of you were unable to attend the meeting, will you please contact me and I will be happy to connect you with a prayer sister. There was also an assembly project to work on our School Bag Mission project. Helen Hauser led the effort with the help of numerous women, many with with portable sewing machines, to assemble the bags. They will be filled, as a separate project, later on this year. Watch the weekly Letter of Grace if you would like to be involved next time around.
Coming Up This Month
February 2nd-4th will see the “Bold Like Jesus Crossing Borders conference taking place at Trinity AME Zion Church, Greensboro. Hopefully, many of you had been watching your bulletins and were able to attend to represent our congregation. Communication is always a valuable tool of God. On February 9th will see the launching of a new ministry of the NC Synod, called the Leadership School; Mission & Renewal. It is a four phase course, weekly classes taking place at Holy Trinity Lutheran, Raleigh, on consecutive Thursday evenings. The charge for the first phase is $90.00, covering four to six evening courses. There is a $20.00 scholarship available for qualifying applicants. To register, visit: www.nclutheran.org/events/index.php.
Bold Women’s Sunday will be celebrated on February 26th. Details of this celebration will be found on the NC WELCA website. There is also a spring course entitled Delving Deeper in Faith. In the Fall, another course titled Leading in Faith.
What are you doing to celebrate Advent?
(Has anyone ever asked you that question?)
I can hear the conversation in my head,
“Wait, you celebrate Advent? I thought all there was to celebrate this time of year was Christmas, with the trees, lights, decorations, and candlelight services.”
“Actually, the season of Advent is all about preparation. We’re watching and waiting for a special event, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
We hope that you will download a copy of the study and gather with your family to share weekly devotions.
The study focuses on the weekly lectionary and includes questions for reflection, prayer and hymn suggestions centered on the theme of World Hunger.
Advent Study Weekly Themes
Week 1: A People of Promise – Matthew 24
Week 2: Bearing Fruit – Matthew 3
Week 3: Healing of the Whole World – Matthew 11 and Isaiah 35
Week 4: God in Unexpected Places – Matthew 1
On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther very innocently posted 95 reasons for there to be debate concerning Roman Catholic doctrine and theology. The doors of the Wittenberg Church were pretty much the bulletin board of the university. Luther was calling for faculty and students to come together to discuss the direction in which the church was heading; a direction that he felt was contrary to scripture and the fundamental principles upon which the Christian Church was founded.
These Ninety-Five Theses were translated from Latin (which was intended for the university’s population) into the German language and widely distributed. Thus, an attempt at scholarly debate became an irritant among clergy, theologians, and heads of state, especially where the sale of indulgences was concerned. In his explanation to this document, Luther wrote that “the law is fulfilled not by our works but through faith, not by anything we offer God but by all we receive from Christ.”
In other words, God’s grace is a gift that cannot be earned by any human endeavor.
Although the five hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation will not officially be observed until October 31st of 2017, the ELCA is encouraging Lutherans and others within both Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church to utilize this intervening year as an opportunity for study and discussion. Long before he posted the Ninety Five Theses on the doors of Wittenberg Church, Luther had carefully studied the scriptures and written countless papers and letters in an effort to express his concerns.
I will be making recommendations to the Equip team in the near future for our providing opportunities within the congregation for study regarding Martin Luther and the impact of the Reformation upon the church and the world over these last five centuries. It is also important for us to view how Reformation history will continue to impact us far into the future. I encourage each of you take note of opportunities that will be provided in coming months within our own congregation, our synod, and among Lutherans and people of other denominations within our own community. It is also important for Lutherans to know, not just the history of where our legacy originated, but also how our understanding of justification by grace through faith impacts our mission, and our service as Christ’s disciples both now and into the future.
In the nineteenth century, Nicolai Grundtvig set these words to Martin Luther’s tune, A Mighty Fortress: “God’s word is our great heritage and shall be ours forever; to spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor. Through life it guides our way; in death it is our stay. Lord, grant while time shall last your church may hold it fast through-out all generations.”
Passing the faith from generation to generation is, indeed, an endeavor worth pursuing.
While having lunch in a nearby restaurant last week, I was aware that the two people at the table next to me were engrossed deeply in conversation. I wasn’t really aware of the topic of their conversation until one person asked with a raised voice: “Well, what are the marks of a true Christian?” At that point I was completing my transaction with the server and on my way out of the restaurant. But, that question lingered in my mind.
How would you answer that question, “What are the marks of a true Christian?” Saint Paul certainly had no problem giving his opinion in his letter to the Christians in Rome:
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (Romans 12:9-13).
Paul’s answer certainly leaves the impression that one’s Christian identity is lived out, not off to oneself, but in relationship with fellow Christians and with others in this world. That is one reason Christians seek out communities of faith in which we can worship and be fully engaged. Our vision for Grace Lutheran Church is that we are fully committed to proclaiming Christ as Savior and Lord by sharing the very things that Paul was describing in those few sentences.
Christian discipleship involves growth – spiritually, faithfully, prayerfully, and in our generosity of our time, our personal gifts and talents, and in our financial support of our ministries in the congregation and in our community. You will be hearing shortly from the Stewardship Team about “Celebrate Generosity,” our fall commitment program. There are many innovative and exciting components to this program, and the team is looking forward to sharing through video, temple talks, and printed information the story of Grace congregation’s discipleship and outreach. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at the far-reaching impact our congregation has beyond 5010 Six Forks Road, as what we are capable of accomplishing through faithful witness and generosity.
“God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (II Corinthians 9:8).
Yours in Christ,