Friday, July 3

Giving Thanks for Freedom

Dear Friends,

What a remarkable couple of weeks we have experienced as a nation.  I was not with you in worship with you last Sunday and if I had been there, I'm still not sure what I would have said.  I generally do not use the sermon as a place for political conversation or dialogue on social issues.  I have often said that to do so amounts to a verbal hit and run, a ten to twelve minute message where you have no opportunity to ask questions, respond, or give your own testimony (By the way, adult education, meals, and home visits can provide an opportunity for such dialogue).  That having been said, weaving throughout the current events of these past weeks has been an emphasis on love and God's amazing grace.  So with Independence Day approaching (and likely here or passed by the time some of you read this!), let us give thanks as God's children for:

- A nation where we enjoy the kind of freedom that many people in other nations can only dream of and can barely comprehend.   Free speech, free enterprise, and many other human rights are a result of the vision of our founding fathers and the sacrifice of many lives.  We are so grateful for those whose lives have guided and protected the freedom we enjoy.

- A church where we can freely worship, pray, learn, serve, and invite others to be a part of our life and mission together.   There is much talk about how  American Christians are losing their rights and are being persecuted.   In my view, this could not be further from the truth.  While the church once enjoyed a much more privileged place in our culture,still today the government does not prevent us from assembling and in fact our freedom to confess our faith is protected by our government.  We do not suffer from widespread threats and taking of lives for being a Christian, something that far too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe experience. (Which is why we should be ever mindful of the persecuted church and keep them in our prayers)

- A faith community where we can agree to disagree on some issues and continue to work together to lift up Jesus to the community on worship, education, and service.  Unfortunately, American media thrives on examples of Christians with a protest mentality as opposed to the millions of faithful people who are far too busy embodying the Gospel in words and actions  with people who are  hungry or hurting, lonely or filled with despair.  As a people of faith, we need to continue to look at our words and actions and ask if they build up communities or tear them down.  Are we a voice of judgment and division or a voice of compassion and understanding?  Jesus held laws, traditions, and piety up to this lens quite often as he tightened the law or loosened it.  He discerned what was needed for God's love to be known and his kingdom to be revealed.

If you are away this weekend, I wish you safe travels,  If you are celebrating on the 4th, may it be a blessed day of giving thanks and enjoying the good gifts of God and our nation.  I also look forward to seeing many of you in worship on Sunday as we celebrate God's amazing grace in our lives,  In times of dramatic change for our communities, our nation, and our church, we are blessed and truly have what we need to see God's presence and promises in the days ahead.

Giving thanks for you - grace and peace,

Pastor Mueller

Friday, June 19

Prayer for Emanuel AME Church

Dear Friends,

In following this tragic news for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen both terrible evil and amazing grace, heartbreak and hope, profound brokenness and awesome strength.  Please pray for the people of Emanuel AME Church, for family and friends who mourn such tragic and senseless deaths, and the people of Charleston in the aftermath of this shocking event.  May this serve as a reminder of how central it is to our faith to love our neighbors, help each other through the deepest of valleys, live with grief and anger, and wait for joy in the morning.  It is clear from the testimonies coming out of Charleston that the Gospel that gives life to Emanuel AME Church is swallowing hatred and proclaiming Christ in the midst of sorrow.  May the church throughout the world continue to rise up and show that love wins.

Holy God, you do not distance yourself from the pain of your people but in Jesus you bear that pain with all who suffer at the hands of others.  With your powerful love, bring healing and strength to all who have been impacted by the murders at Emanuel AME Church.  And may your church continue to be empowered in our voice against violence and hatred.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Monday, June 1

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.  Following worship, there will be a light brunch in St. Andrew's Hall, to which all of you are invited.
Education -
    Vacation Bible School is coming to St. A's June 15-18 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. 

A word of thanks to everyone who came out for worship in our outdoor chapel this past Sunday.  What a wonderful experience together (with great weather too!)  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 key figures and promises in the Old Testament.  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):

"Noah: Weathering the Storms" – July 22 @ 7PM
"Abraham: On the Road" – August 5 @ 7PM
"Moses: Living Together" – August 19 @ 7PM

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

Pastor Mueller

Wednesday, May 27

Where You Least Expect It

"When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.   Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him." - Luke 24:30-31 
Dear Friends,
    Have you ever had one of the moments when you saw someone where you didn't expect to find him?  Most of you know what I mean.  You run into a co-worker while away on vacation.  You see a neighbor at a ball game.  Or how about that creepy moment that most of us experienced growing up when we saw one of our teachers at the supermarket? After all, you are only supposed to see them at school!  When you really think about it, none of these moments should really be all that unexpected.  However, since most of us have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives, when people in our lives transcend our neat little compartments, it often does come as a surprise. 
    Sadly, there are many people who treat their spiritual life the same way.  Their "God time" is on Sundays and they really don't think a whole lot about what God is up to the other six days of the week.  Of course, all seven days are holy to God and our Creator is busy creating, redeeming, healing, sustaining, and empowering his creation all the time.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect for many between what goes on Sunday morning and the rest of the week.  And during the summer months, when travel takes some people away from Sunday worship, the chasm can grow even wider.  The value of Sunday morning is not so much to focus us on God's presence and power in the moment but rather to open our eyes and ears and hearts to God's presence and power all week long wherever we are: at work, home, school, in the community, or on vacation.  After all, throughout the Bible, God has been known to reveal himself in some of the most unexpected of places among some of the most unlikely of people.
    I hope and pray that worship empowers us to see God and serve God in our daily lives and to understand that our lives really do make a difference in God's kingdom.  I look forward to seeing you in worship in the weeks ahead, running into you in unexpected places in the community (where I probably won't be wearing a collar!), and giving thanks to God for the blessing that you are inside and outside of the church building walls.  See you in church!  (By the way, thank you for a wonderful Pentecost celebration this past Sunday both upstairs in worship and downstairs with our kids in St. Andrew's Hall.  A special shout out to our Sunday School leaders, helpers, and an amazing group of youth who made this a special day.  Also, please keep all of our soon to be HS graduates in your prayers in the days ahead.)


Tuesday, May 19

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 (as is the case 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 traveling this weekend, we pray that your travels will be safe and that your time away will be a source of renewal.  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.