Wednesday, January 7

Opportunities to Grow in Faith in 2015

This Sunday at 9:30 AM, we will also be starting  new offerings in adult education.  Downstairs in Jerusalem Room (classroom at bottom of stairs near church office) we will be gathering for "We Believe: Exploring the Nicene Creed."
Formed at a critical time in the church's history and designed to foster church unity, the Nicene Creed is the most widely used and accepted statement of the Christian faith.  Come explore the history and meaning behind this Creed.

Also at 9:30 this Sunday, we begin a series, "Introduction to the Gospel of Mark" that meets in Daniel's Den (on right side of office wing hallway). The book of Mark is the shortest Gospel of the four to be included in our scriptures, was the first to be written, and presents the most human depiction of our Lord.  Our time together will help us to better understand the author' s style, audience, and context as we study select chapters of this foundational Gospel.
This experience will help you better grasp the Gospels read in worship, largely from Mark in 2015, and will help you with your personal reading of this Gospel as well.  Also, this study of Mark should deepen our understanding of Christ's struggle with human flesh, his mission, and what it means for us today.  Questions posed in this class will inspire and guide group discussion and there will be plenty of time for your own questions as well. 

Finally, if you would like to learn more about Bear Creek Camp, our Lutheran camp and retreat center in the Poconos, Dan Scharnhorst, Director of Bear Creek, will be leading a gathering downstairs in St. Andrew's Hall this Sunday at 9:30 AM.
Our gatherings are designed so that you can drop in any week and not feel like you are "in the middle of the movie."  So grab a cup of coffee and join us as together we are enriched in faith.

Tuesday, December 30

Getting Ready for 2015

Dear Friends,

As I begin to work through my lengthy to do list to get ready for a very busy January at St. Andrew's,  I need to pause to  give thanks for so many of the blessings of 2014 and look forward to the exciting opportunities that await us in 2015.  You, the people of St. Andrew's, have so much to do with our blessings -  past, present, and future.  We are truly blessed!

2014 concluded in wondrous ways for our faith community.  We had a beautiful Christmas Eve with hundreds of people worshiping our new born king, including many new faces and returning ones who we hope to see more of in 2015.  A big thanks to all of you who volunteered so much of your time during the Advent and Christmas season.  Also, a huge word of thanks is extended for your financial support throughout the year and especially during the month of December where we experienced overwhelming generosity from several of our members.  The way you have opened your hands, your hearts, and your voices has brought more blessings to people in this community and abroad than you will ever know. 

This weekend we will celebrate the Epiphany of our Lord as we return to our regular worship schedule with worship at 5 PM on Saturday, Sunday Worship at 8:15 & 11 AM, and Christian Education on Sunday at 9:30 AM (including a combined Adult Education Forum with Deb Cogswell sharing from her mission trips to Haiti).  Next Sunday, January 11, we will have our annual congregational meeting following 11:00 AM Worship. The agenda for this important meeting includes the election of new council leadership for 2015, consideration of  our 2015 spending plan, approval of our church by laws, and an update on our long range planning process.  Also on January 11 at 9:30 AM, we will be launching two new Adult Ed. opportunities with studies on the Gospel of Mark and the Nicene Creed.
I make a sad face as I inform you that Christmas decorations will start coming down next Thursday evening January 8 at 6:30 PM.  Time marches on and while admittedly it is not as much fun as putting the decorations up, the company is just as good.  Please mark your calendars and plan  to come help. It would be greatly appreciated.

The month of December was quite a ride for us.  Now it's time to follow Jesus through the joys and challenges of 2015.  A blessed New Year to all.  See you in church!

Pastor Mueller

Monday, December 15

A Blessed Christmas

Christmas Eve
4:00  PM - Family Worship
A more informal worship experience with familiar Christmas carols, a fun retelling of the Christmas story using puppets, and some of St. Andrew's children participating in the leadership of worship.  This experience, designed to be less than an hour, is perfect for families with younger children, those of you who need to get home to prepare dinner, parties, and family gatherings, and those of you who are young at heart who will have your hearts stirred as we bring the innocent and wise together to praise the new born king.
7:00 and 10:00 PM - Candlelight Communion
Traditional Christmas Eve worship with familiar carols, special music from our choirs, soloists, and instrumentalists, the proclamation of the birth of our Lord, the celebration of Communion, and gathering with lit candles for the singing of Silent Night.  This is a night of reunion for many St. Andrew's families and an opportunity to bring welcome and blessing to many guests, some who are coming through our doors for the very first time.  Be sure to invite family members, friends, co-workers, or neighbors to join you for worship.  Come join us as we give thanks to God for the greatest gift of all, the life of his Son among us.
 Please keep in mind that there will be Christmas music before each of these services.  Come a little early to secure the seating of your choice and enjoy music of the season.  If you do not get to sing all of your favorite Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, join us on the Sunday after Christmas (December 28) at 10 AM we keep the celebration going. with a service of Lessons and Carols.
Our regular worship schedule resumes on January 4 (Epiphany Celebration) with worship at 8:15 and 11 AM, Christian Education at 9:30 AM.  Weekly 5 PM Saturday Worship resumes on January 3 as well.
On behalf of our staff and Church Council, I wish all of you a truly blessed Christmas and a hope filled New Year.

Pastor Mueller

Tuesday, December 9

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

Dear Friends,

In the season of Advent, we hear voices crying in the wilderness.  The wilderness isn't supposed to have voices.  That's what makes it wilderness.  There's the howling of wild animals, the songs of a few birds, and the moaning of the wind, but not voices. Our English word wilderness means place of wild things.  The Bible's Greek word for wilderness can be more accurately translated as "place of abandonment."  The still more ancient Hebrew word for wilderness means literally "somewhere beyond words."

Most of us know that place beyond words, that place beyond what feels like home.  Words like layoff, downsizing, inoperable, terminal, divorce, accident, suicide can banish us to the wilderness, those places beyond words.  We then walk a road we we can't name in a place that is beyond description.  Perhaps this is what Jesus was experiencing as he used words of scripture, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" as even He stumbled into the wordless abyss, a place where there is seemingly no answer to the question, "Why?"

There is only that word calling from the distance, "Come home.  You are my beloved child.  Your place is here."  The road home will  lead to place of beauty and grace, to people who love you and forgive you, to people who will laugh with you and cry with you.  The road will also lead to word and sacrament, prayer and song, and a community of faith. And then it leads us back again into those wilderness places where the voice we need to hear remains and we remember that we are not alone.

Holy God, speak the Word into the silence and emptiness of our lives.  Call us, gather us, enlighten us, sanctify us, and direct us by your Spirit, that we might know the home that we have in you, now and always.  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  


Pastor Mueller

Monday, December 1

A Love that Never Fails

Dear Friends,

Our lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures during the season of Advent remind us that, in many ways, God called  Israel as his chosen people.  However, we are also reminded that, sadly, Israel didn't always choose God.  At times, the relationship seemed woefully one sided.  More often than not, especially in times of trouble, distractions, temptations, and despair led people away.  Perhaps there have been times in your life when you felt like your relationship with God was that way too.

Yet for them and us, God's love endures.  Why?  Well, there are many parents who will tell you that when a child is disappointing and even sometimes disobedient, the underlying commitment remains.  And whether you are a parent or not, a broken heart is the price we sometimes pay for unconditional love.

In this holy season, we see God's love poured out as he sends prophets and then sends his Son in human flesh to dwell among us.  We see God's love from the manger to the cross to the empty tomb to our hearts.  We see God's love in candles and decorations, word and sacrament, prayer and song, and the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. By all of these means, God shares our burdens, reaches out with arms of love, and welcomes us home.  Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.


Pastor Mueller