Thursday, July 20

When We Change Course

Dear Friends,

There are moments in our lives that can drastically and dramatically change the course of our future.  Such is the case for Moses at the end of Israel's wilderness wandering.  Finding the complaining of his people, Israel, to be too much, he responds to their request for water in a way that nullifies his ability to enter the Promised Land. His mistake changes the course of his destiny.  The man who led the Jews out of slavery and dedicated his life to leading them to the land of Israel will not cross into the land of milk and honey.  (I honestly do not understand this story and struggle to accept it.  It doesn't seem fair and doesn't reflect the God of love and mercy I trust.  That having been said it's in the Bible and so we get to wrestle with it!)

However, what makes Moses so incredible in this story is that upon hearing this bad news, he does not give up on God or his people.  He doesn't throw up his hands and say, Well, if that's the way it's going to be, then you're on your own.  Good luck and good riddance!"  Instead he keeps pushing forward through more twists and turns and delivers Israel right to the edge of the Promised Land.  

When something happens that alters the course we have set for ourselves, and detours are inevitable, we may want to throw up our hands and give up on ourselves and others.  Sometimes we may even want to lash out and vent our anger and frustration on others.  However, Moses' experience reminds us of a few things.

First of all, giving up is not an option.  We are always being directed toward a Promised Land, detours and all.  Secondly, we need to learn to forgive ourselves and others.  Finally, sometimes we need to compromise our own egos and redefine our own goals in an effort to help our community (family, friends, church) reach new heights.

May you sense God's constant guidance along the journey, may you know forgiveness along the way, and may you be a rich source of blessing to your travel companions.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Mueller

Thursday, June 29

Praying for Our Nation

"One nation, under God, indivisible"

Really?  I don't know about you but I'm just not feeling the unity these days.  In fact, I don't remember a time when the nation seemed more polarized (And then I remind myself that I was not alive during the Civil War.  This, of course, is helpful perspective in the troubled times in which we find ourselves today.)

For those of us who serve in church leadership we are all the more challenged, not only because as a tax exempt religious institution we are discouraged from supporting political candidates but also because we recognize that in our pews are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, as is the case in many of our families.  Our job is to proclaim the Gospel and to not let polarizing political views get in the way of making visible the unity we have in Christ.  So the big question is:  How do we position ourselves as people of faith in an increasingly divided nation?  I would like to offer a few suggestions:

- Pray for our government leaders.  Many of them are also frustrated with the posturing and polarization, the gridlock and the influence of big media and big business on how things do or don't get done in Washington.

- Stay involved in the political process.  Express your concerns to your representatives, work for necessary change in policy, and exercise your right to vote.

- Continue to share and serve in our mission together.  Remember that the Church was birthed in the midst of the Roman Empire.  Regardless of what the Church thought of what was going on politically and militarily, they continued to respond to the call to worship, pray, and invite, as well as to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sick, and so many of the vulnerable of society.  

- Do not be driven primarily by fear.  Contrary to how the non-stop news cycle reports it, we actually live in one of the most peace filled times in the history of the world.  (We just never had the capacity or the will to report such global violence and poverty before).  In  some ways, the world actually is improving.  Do not let fear lead you.  Get out of your comfort zone.  If you have the opportunity, get to know individuals who seem very different from you and grow through those interactions.

- Really listen to the stories, passions, and concerns of those on the other side of the political isle from you.  Listen without an immediate need to respond or debate.  Don't assume the worst about them.  Set some guidelines for conversation if it gets off on the wrong foot.  What you are  doing is sharing  personal stories and concerns, ideas and views.  Do not discuss political platforms and do not entertain negative comments.  (While I am often disturbed by the negative tone and disrespectful comments of President Trump, comments by President Obama and Secretary Clinton regarding those who "cling to guns and religion " in PA. and Trump supporters as a "basket of deplorables" have not helped to advance civil discourse. )  Conversation needs to be about what we are for and why, not what or who we are against. 

In the end, there are people you will not be able to engage or even be around.  You've really tried and nothing positive or constructive ever seems to come out of the conversation.  But we need to see each other as created in the image of God and understand that some of our fundamental concerns for our families, our communities, and our nation, are often not as at odds as social media and partisan politics would lead us to believe.

As we celebrate Independence Day next week, take time to pray for our nation, giving thanks for the incredible ways that we have been blessed and for all the opportunities that we have to share those blessings.  Pray for our country that we will continue to develop and reform policies that provide opportunity and protections for our most vulnerable citizens: the poor, sick,elderly, children, injured veterans, and those with disabilities.  And pray that we will continue to be a people who in our life together promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I hope that if you are not traveling, you will have the opportunity to join us this Sunday @ 9:30 AM as we sing favorite hymns (including a couple of patriotic ones), enjoy special music including some festive trumpet accompaniment, pray for our church, nation and world, and gather to celebrate the unity we share as the body of Christ at the table of the Lord.

A blessed Independence Day and may you know rest and renewal in the days ahead.  See you in church!


Pastor Mueller

Monday, June 5

Shifting Gears

Dear Friends,
    As we enter the month of June with weddings, graduations, and vacations posted on the calendar, many also embrace a change of pace for the summer weeks ahead.  Even here at St. Andrew's, the calendar looks a little different as many of our leaders seek rest and renewal.  However, our calling to lift up Jesus to the community in Worship, Education, and Service remains throughout the year.

Worship  -
This Sunday, we begin our summer worship schedule with one service at 9:30 AM.  This week,  many of our Sunday School children will be assisting with the leadership of worship as we give thanks to God for all that they have learned and shared over this past program year.  Come join us for this spirited celebration with refreshments to follow.
Education -
Vacation Bible School is coming to St. A's June 19-22 from 9 AM - Noon.   If you are available and would like to help, please contact Janice Stickley in the church office. 
Service -
 Hospitality is needed for Lemonade on the Lawn this summer following each 9:30 Worship.  Pick a Sunday and sign up to serve lemonade / iced tea and cookies (please plan to bring napkins and cups as well) for about 50-60  people.  This is a great way to encourage staying connected as a community during the summer months.  Sign up on the sheet in the narthex or call the church office for available dates. 

  As we get into the heart of vacation season and as more of our St. Andrew's community will be away over weekends, we will be offering occasional mid-week services of Holy Communion in our outdoor chapel (and inside if weather conditions are not favorable).  Worship will have a more casual feel outside and will be less than an hour in length (It does get dark!).  Also, these services will not be recycled versions of Sunday worship.  They will have their own simple music, a spoken liturgy and different readings and message from Sunday.  This summer, we will be focusing on the Psalms (which during the church year are simply sung without background, explanation, or reflection).  So even if you are here on Sunday, here's another opportunity to gather again to grow in faith.  We will be sending e-mail reminders to the congregation when we get closer to the dates but here is our midweek schedule for this summer (Mark your calendars).  Worship is on the third Wednesday of each month.

 Psalm 23 - June 21 @ 7PM
Psalm 91 – July 19 @ 7PM
Psalm 98 – August 16 @ 7PM

 God's richest blessings in the summer ahead.  See you in church!

Pastor Mueller

Tuesday, May 30

A Prayer for Pentecost

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we celebrate one of the three great festivals of the church year, the Day of Pentecost.  Coming 50 days after Easter and ten days after the Ascension of Our Lord, it is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit to Christ's followers, the birth of Christ's Church in the world, and our mission together. Historically, Pentecost has been a huge celebration in Europe, where church celebrations take on the tone of Easter here in the States.  Because Pentecost tends to fall over graduation weekends or Memorial Day (but not this year!), our celebrations tend to be more intimate and subdued.  However, in no way does this diminish the importance of this day in the life of Christ's Church. For that may have been the first Pentecost but there have been many more since that time as God's Spirit continues to work in, with, and through us for the sake of the world.

  If you are going to be in worship, here or elsewhere, this Sunday, wear something red as we celebrate the coming of the Spirit.  May God continue to  bless us. empower us, and guide us for the joys and challenges of the journey ahead.

Holy Spirit, come upon us.  Breathe new life into us.  Help us to share this new life in what we do and say.  You are our Creator.  Help us to be creative.  You inspire us.  Help us to inspire others.  Help us to build up rather than to break down.  Help us to be renewed and refreshed when we are torn down and tired.  Call us by your Spirit into the way of New Life, through the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.


Wednesday, April 19

An Easter Prayer

Holy and Living God,
You continue to confound  our expectations and surprise us with your redeeming power in our lives.  Come among us, risen Lord.  Reveal yourself to us that we may know with confidence that nothing in all creation, not even death, can separate us from your love.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

A word of thanks to all of you who offered your hearts and hands and voices to a deeply moving Holy Week and a joy filled celebration of the Resurrection.  It was exciting to see an increase in attendance at special services throughout Lent and Holy Week this year, especially among those who are newer to our faith community.  Several people experienced the three days of Holy Week for the very first time and were so glad they did. 8:15 Worship  attendance on Easter Sunday was the largest we have seen in many years. Indeed hearts were touched and lives were lifted up through the celebrations of this past week. We are truly blessed. Continue to pray for those who were unable to be with us on Sunday, the sick, the struggling, the hospitalized, the homebound, and the dying.  Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, especially those who are persecuted for the faith.  Pray for our faith community, that empowered by the risen Christ, we would be grounded in faith and growing to serve.  This Sunday in worship, we will be reminded of the ways that risen Christ meets us right where we are with his promises and his peace.  I am so grateful and incredibly blessed  to serve among you.  See you in church!

Pastor Mueller