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Topics - Eileen Smith

The following arrived today from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.  Timing is tight but we will be posting it on congregation's social media sites as well as sending out an electronic message to the congregation.

I am writing to extend an invitation we have received from Pope Francis, through the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches to join in the Lord's Prayer tomorrow, March 25, at noon your local time. Please share this invitation through your synods, congregations, ecumenical communities and individual networks.

During the global pandemic of COVID-19, the church can and should give witness to our unity in Christ and express our deep concern for God's creation. Despite social distancing, through prayer we are able to enter together into the presence of Christ and the communion of believers. By praying the prayer that Christ taught us, we are united with followers of Jesus in every time and in every place. When the church gathers in this way, we can be assured that Christ, our eternal hope, is present in the midst of suffering.

In Christ,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Your Turn / Herbert Chilstrom+
January 20, 2020, 01:06:14 PM
While I thought that many on this board are aware of this sad news, I am sharing it as I've not seen it posted yet.  As we give thanksgiving for his service and pray for his family, I hope those of you who knew and/or worked with Bishop Chilstrom might share some memories.  Coming into the ELCA as he was stepping down I admit to not knowing much about him.    Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord.

Dear Church,

With sadness I bring you the news that Presiding Bishop Emeritus Herbert W. Chilstrom died at home early this morning. His wife, Pastor Corinne Chilstrom; his son, Chris Holt; and family were with him.

Bishop Chilstrom was the first presiding bishop of the ELCA. Many of you knew him in those early days when the ELCA was just getting started – there was no furniture at the Lutheran Center, files were in boxes, phones were on the floor, and the skeleton staff worked on card tables and folding chairs. He was once told by a corporate executive sitting next to him on a plane that this was no way to start a corporation and it would never work. Thirty-three years later we are still here, entrusted with the ministry of the gospel and serving the neighbor.

I can't imagine the uncertainty and chaos of those first months, but all I know we were filled with hope for this new church the Spirit had brought into being. And I know that Bishop Chilstrom served out of the conviction that it was God's will to raise up an ELCA witness to the gospel, and with God, all things are possible.

I remember Bishop Chilstrom saying once that his mother told him: "Herb, you might be the only Bible some people read." It was her way of telling him, and his way of telling us, that we are living witnesses to the grace of God.

Bishop Chilstrom chose "Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart!" (ELW, 873) to be the sending hymn at his funeral. Verse five announces:
                      At last the march shall end;
                      The wearied ones shall rest;
                      The pilgrims find their home at last,
                      Jerusalem the blest.
                      Rejoice! Give thanks and sing!

Through tears, but in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, we rejoice.

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop

Unfortunately, some are having a problem with the file I posted last evening.  The message follows below.  May I ask the moderators to remove the initial post of 12/11/2018.  Many thanks.

Advent – A Time To Point To Jesus
Dear disciples of Jesus throughout the North American Lutheran Church:

In a very few days we begin a new Church Year. The season of Advent is a wondrous time of preparation and anticipation. I encourage you to immerse yourself in this season, instead of enduring it as a necessary requirement in order to get to Christmas — the true focus of our energy and attention.

One of the key figures in this season is John the Baptist and his message and ministry.

In thinking about his ministry, I thought about the challenge that Smith Magazine offered its readers — to attempt to write their autobiography in six words. The results were profound.

In reading those very brief autobiographies, I was reminded of the renowned theologian Karl Barth, who was asked at a press conference, "What is the most profound truth you have learned in your studies?" Without the least hesitation he offered six words: "Jesus loves me this I know." He paused and added another six for good measure, "for the Bible tells me so."

What would John the Baptist's autobiography look like in six words? Wilderness preaching, repent and be baptized or Change and transformation, essential Kingdom living. If we follow his life a little further, perhaps we would write, Arrested and imprisoned, lost his head.

Throughout his life, his message was focused on these six words: Jesus, Son of God, world's Savior.

John had an urgent message for this world. Where do you hear this message today? We hear many commercials that make us feel a sense of urgency to buy things we don't need or give things to people they will never use. The commercial message of Christmas is found everywhere, but where is the spiritual message of Christmas? Who will bring a word to this world about the only true meaning of Christmas — Jesus Christ?

The world says this is a time for caring and sharing, and for family and charity. Even churches begin to sound like the rest of the world saying the same things. "Come to our church," they all say. "We are the friendliest. We have the best pastor. We have the best Sunday school. We have the best worship services. Come to us, and you will experience all the love and sharing and caring and hugging and singing that you're looking for this time of the year."

This is not bad, but it is not what God intends or what the world needs.

The witness of John the Baptist reminds us that the goal of faithful living is not to blend in with the rest of the world. It is not to be politically correct or to be led by political agendas, no matter how popular. John is not trying to sell something or convince people to purchase something, as if Jesus were a possession or commodity that could be purchased. His message is focused on reaching the heart of every person he encounters.

John's message is powerful because it comes from God. The priests and Levites from Jerusalem ask, "Who are you?" He tells them clearly that he is not the messiah. He is not Elijah, and he is not a prophet. Then they ask him the most important question of all. "What do you say about yourself?" John says, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord!"

Voice and crying go together. The voice preaches faith; the cry calls for repentance. The voice offers comfort; the cry signals danger. The voice sings mercy; the cry announces judgment.

John the Baptist's entire life and ministry point to Jesus. John removed all false suspicions about who he was. He is not the Christ! The people around him offered him glory. Instead, he deflects all the glory toward Jesus.

John admitted the limitation and incompleteness of his ministry. His baptism was with water, but he pointed to Jesus who baptizes people with the Holy Spirit, providing forgiveness, transformation and new life. John spoke of his own unworthiness to untie the sandals of Jesus, he recalled the imagery in the book of Ruth of the kinsman redeemer removing his sandals in preparation to receive his bride, something that John was unwilling to do because he was not the bridegroom. One of the Church fathers writes, "When Christ does remove his sandals, he leaves his footprint on our souls." John was not the perfect one, but his work was to prepare the way for the One who is the perfect Savior and Redeemer of the world — Jesus Christ.

John's message reminds us that spiritual preparation begins with repentance. The process of repentance begins by recognizing our sins and confessing them to Christ. Whenever we confess our sins, we remember God's promise of forgiveness to us in Baptism. In this process of repentance, we receive forgiveness. The power of Christ's forgiveness is in the cross and the empty tomb. The magnitude of His grace assures us of our complete forgiveness.

Reform, which is often overlooked, is the final part of the process of repentance. Our lives begin to change. Forgiven for impatience, we become more patient. Forgiven for our anger, we become gentle. Forgiven for our greed, we become generous. Forgiven for selfishness, we focus on the needs of others. Forgiven for disobeying God and making excuses, we begin to obey God, not because we have to, but because we want to.

The courage to confess, the assurance of forgiveness and the power to live a transformed life all come from the same source, the grace of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. The answers do not come from within us but are transcendent and come to us from the Holy Spirit of Christ. Often that is where we end our preparation, taking

care of ourselves. But John the Baptist reminds us of our need to be a witness to Christ in this world. We are called to point to Jesus with our words and deeds. We must find ways to tell people who we are! We are followers of Christ, disciples of Jesus, who have only one purpose for living, to point people to Jesus. This is the greater goal of Advent — to share our hope and expectation.

Jesus is the only hope for the world. He is the only way, the only truth and the only life. We live with the constant expectation that He is coming again in power and glory and that one day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

There is no greater love for others than to share the truth of Jesus with them. This is the message of hope that the world so desperately needs: "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ... full of grace and truth" (John 1:14 ESV).

The biography of John the Baptist is not nearly as important as the biography of God. It too is a series of just six words — "For God so loved the world."

The most powerful and important biography of all time: God loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus. Through Him we receive unfathomable grace, infinite love and life in Him that is eternal.

In the midst of our Christmas preparation we often forget that there is a message that desperately needs to be proclaimed! We must use this as a time to point to Jesus! The amazement of the Incarnation will one day be overshadowed by His coming in glory and power. In the meantime, we live in the reality of His presence among us now in the Word read and proclaimed, in the water and the Word of Baptism, and in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

He is here leading His Church, guiding our congregations in mission and ministry. He is Emmanuel, God with us, inspiring us through His example of servant leadership and obedience to the will of His Father. In obedience to His Father's will, He endured the agony of the cross and died the death we deserve. He paid the price of our forgiveness so that our sins might be washed away in Baptism, and the relationship with Jesus by faith in Him secured for all eternity in His glorious resurrection.

He is with us to strengthen us for our witness to this world. John the Baptist knew that he was nobody compared to this special somebody. In a world where leaders want to point to themselves, the number of members, the size of their campus, the number of books sold, honors received, interviews given, and endorsements requested, John shows the nature of leadership in the Church — point to Christ.

Unfortunately, there are many teachers and leaders, even in the Church, who believe they are greater and wiser than Jesus. Mohammed taught that he was a greater prophet than Jesus. The founder of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, taught that his revelation was more authoritative than the teachings of Jesus. There is a long list of messianic pretenders and founders of sects and cults in North American culture, and throughout the world, who believe that Jesus must decrease so that they might increase.

In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He told his own followers, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). John knew that Jesus was not one among many. He was the one and only. You should follow no religious leader who puts himself above Jesus or points to his own accomplishments. We must follow the example of John the Baptist and boldly point to Jesus with all we have and are, even in a world that despises Him and may hate us for proclaiming Him.

My point in talking about the power of a few words is that a few words are all you need to witness to Jesus. You do not have to preach a sermon, teach a course in theology or be able to attract a crowd. With a few words you can point to Jesus. Your decorations can point to Jesus. What you wear can point to Jesus. How you spend your time and what you do can point to Jesus.

Don't be surprised that the world does not know how to celebrate Christmas appropriately. How can it unless people of faith are even more committed to pointing to Jesus?

As we celebrate the Eucharist we hear another group of six profound words that make the grace of Jesus Christ real and tangible — "Do this in remembrance of me." In those words, Jesus is saying that this is the best way to prepare your heart for Christmas and receive power for an effective witness. What we receive is what we proclaim.

The ministry and message of John the Baptist could be summarized in these six words: Christ's the Word; John's the voice.

The implications of this Advent season for our own life is similar: Christ's the Word; you're His voice! May your witness to the world be strengthened this Advent season and throughout this new Church Year.

With you following Christ Jesus,

Bishop John Bradosky
Your Turn / Care of our Jewish Neighbors
October 27, 2018, 05:49:27 PM
The following was sent out by Bishop Elizabeth Eaton this evening.  It seemed worth sharing.   Bishop Eaton advocates reaching out with acts/messages of love to those of the Jewish faith in our communities.  I think it's a worthwhile idea -- not simply on the clergy level but perhaps laity could, as well, be encouraged to share a note, a phone call, an email or an act of kindness with Jewish friends or members of the community.   Could a grass-roots effort of the church encourage civility among us? 

October 27, 2018

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I write to you with a broken heart – for the lives lost, wounded, and shattered by horrific hatred and violence at Tree of Life Congregation this morning. We join our Jewish neighbors and enter into mourning for all that has been lost. In our grief, God is our comfort. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).

From Pittsburgh to Portland, and around the world, Jews are living in fear. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. Public acts of hatred and bigotry against Jews are commonplace. As Christians, and particularly as Lutherans, we deplore and reject this bigotry. "We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us" (1994 Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community).

We are reminded that hate-filled violence knows no bounds – whether a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, a Christian church in Charleston, or a Jewish synagogue In Pittsburgh. As people of faith, we are bound together not only in our mourning, but also in our response. 

Therefore, in this tender moment of grief, let us reach out to those whose hearts are most broken – our Jewish neighbors. I encourage you to contact your local synagogue, or your Jewish colleagues, friends, and family members, to share your words of care, support, love, and protection. There may be specific acts you might offer to demonstrate your care, such as when the members of Faith Lutheran Church surrounded Congregation Beth Israel of Chico, California, serving as Shomrim, or guardians, as they observed Yom Kippur following a hate crime in 2009.

Such simple acts can go a long way to demonstrate our love, as an extension of God's love. As we seek to heal the brokenhearted, we are assured that God is near. There is no greater promise in the face of grief.

In peace,

Your Turn / A Christmas Message from the NALC
December 24, 2017, 12:54:57 PM
Once again a beautiful message from Bishop Bradosky.
Knowing how much everyone on this Forum loves polls, a new poll.  Several congregations have announced that they are moving the Advent I to November 26 allowing Advent to come to a close on December 17th.  (The start of the O Antiphons  :-\) )   There will be no morning service on December 24th with Christmas Eve services that night. 

A friend asked if I'd ever seen this done.  I haven't.  Have you?  What are you doing? 

I was hesitant to start this as a new topic as I know we discussed this commemoration recently, but I could not find it as a topic nor a digression.  Lest I follow the nine who walked away, i want to thank whomever it was who posted the LCMS resources for this commemoration.  We used them yesterday - Propers, hymn suggestions - and the hymn, "Preserve Your Word, O Savior."  The words are beautiful.  We also plan to use, "Though All Our Life is Like a Scroll" on Reformation Sunday.  I've been tasked with much of our commemoration of this 500th year and I'll admit to finding most of my resources on the LCMS site.  Their liturgical resources are excellent. 

I would be interested in knowing if other congregations commemorated this event and how. 

With some hesitancy I start this thread - hesitancy as it may be a time still to raw for Pastor Gard to take part in this discussion.  Yet, it is a worthy (I believe) discussion and one which I hope will not take away from Pastor Gard's thread - one of lamentation and prayer. 

What do you do with congregations in the city where membership has dropped off?  Where people moved away.  Where the remnant left is elderly.  Where the area was once more middle-class or even affluent and now is in an area of poverty.   Close it?  Find a way to support it through the synod or diocese?  What is the responsibility to the people who remain in the church - perhaps more importantly, to the neighborhood?  This is not simply a Lutheran issue, the Catholic church has closed congregations and schools - and I'm certain affects all bodies of faith.

In many areas, but I'll pick the Bronx, there are many such congregations.  These congregations reside in what is considered a hopeless zone (a phrase not coined by me, but established by others).  The church is all that these people have to cling to and, indeed, some do.  But, others do not.  There are few examples of mentors for the younger people.  Crime (serious crime) is an everyday occurrence and the threat of prison really isn't a threat at all for most see this as their destiny - following family and friends before them.   What is common in these areas:  severe poverty.  Poverty that either leads to or exacerbates hopelessness.  Many of these (most?) don't have dreams of college and a future.  Their future is before them - parents, other family members, and friends in prison.  I've heard them speak of incarceration as a given.  Those with dreams often have them quashed as some follow the path of others into drugs and crime and some are the victims of those who lead a life of crime. 

So what does the church do?  Send food?  Send clothing?  Many do this.  I'd suggest it is not enough.  There has to be a presence.  A place where people can go - be fed (physically and spiritually).  I'm not certain that closing congregations is an idea that should be our first defense against what seems to be a dying congregation.  Too often we look at numbers, but not at existing ministry or needed ministry.  I've seen small, 'dying' congregations do far more ministry in relation to some of their larger counterparts.  We use the business model of closing what might be deemed as non-performing churches - but is money the key indicator of non-performing? 

Ideally, we find a way to fund them but we've seen with the Catholic church that this doesn't solve the problem.  Odd as this may sound to our Lutheran ears, I often wish there was a more centralized, authoritative office [of the bishop] and we could find a way to re-distribute income so that some of these congregations could continue.  But that's only the tip of the iceberg.   

May I ask those who have more experience in this to comment?  Pastor Gard's post is so heartbreaking that it seems a discussion on our responsibility to the inner city might be good at this point.

Your Turn / Bishop Bradosky's Holy Week Message
April 07, 2017, 01:38:49 PM
I've shared Christmas and Lent and, one again, sharing the wisdom of Bishop Bradosky in his message for Holy Week.
We are in the process of ordering a new paschal candle.  I should say that the one we've used for years was made by a member who died a few years ago.  All the candles are 2" in diameter.  Our base is 2".  Have any of you run into this problem?  Did you find a solution?  I've called Almy who advised we need an adaptor which we already figured out.  Any suggestions would be welcome.  Thank you!
I just came across this message from Bishop John Bradosky.  Doubtless, some of you have received it, but it might be of interests to posters who do not receive NALC information.  It's a beautiful message on Lent.  I must write, however, that it serves to remind all that the ELCA lost.
Your Turn / Christmas Greetings from the NALC
December 23, 2016, 12:02:18 PM
Though not a member of the NALC, I came across the link below.  Might it be a nice break from the election to consider hte words of Bishop Bradosky.
Your Turn / A Service of Prayer and Lament
July 09, 2016, 08:10:10 AM

If I've not done this properly, you may go to: to see and/or hear the Service of Prayer and Lament led by Bishop Eaton.  The link was shared with people in our congregation and the comments that have come in allow that it was very healing to all who are struggling with the news of yet more Black men killed, and the murder of five police officers. 

This was passed along to me as a very good resource:
Your Turn / Reformation 2017 It's Still About Jesus
October 13, 2015, 08:08:23 AM

I received an interesting survey this morning from a former Walther Leaguer friend.  According to the cover letter from his pastor, the LCMS is carrying out a survey  -- the pastor says it best in his letter.

I thought it interesting and actually appreciate the effort to connect with the thoughts of those in the pew.  May I ask your thoughts.

From the pastor:
I am writing to encourage you to participate in a special program that will lift up and celebrate preaching in Lutheran churches across the country. All you have to do to help is answer a few simple questions about sermons on a short online survey. The goal is to hear from everyone, whether you have been a churchgoer all your life, or whether you just started coming this week.
I highly encourage you to serve ministry leaders and Lutheran pastors across the country who have the desire to see preaching in our churches become even better. Simply click this link when you are ready to begin:
Your responses will be completely anonymous. No one will know your name. Nothing you say will reflect back on you or this congregation or even me as your pastor. It is all completely anonymous.
Thank you for submitting your thoughtful responses by October 16th.
Your Turn / Plus 14
September 11, 2015, 09:03:33 AM
We remember and pray for all those who lost their lives on 9/11 in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.  May they rest safely in God's love.  Be with the families and friends who lost loved ones and with all who still carry the pain of that day in their heart.  May our Lord Jesus lead us into pathways of peace.  In Jesus name.  Amen

After a few unsuccessful attempts in uploading this file, I've attached the link to a review of the movie, "Cinderella."  It was an interesting (and refreshing) take on the fairy tale and a bit different than the review that I read this morning panning the movie for advancing female stereotypes.  I've always found that articles, books, and DVDs coming out of Word on Fire (Fr. Robert Barron, Rector of Mundelein) worthy of taking a moment to consider. 

As our diet has been somewhat heavy for a while now on this site, thought you all might enjoy some lighter fare to consider.

Your Turn / 9/11 - Thirteen Years Later
September 11, 2014, 07:38:35 AM
May we take a moment to pray together for all who lost their lives on 9/11, for their families who grieve, for all who were there - in NY and in Washington who live with horrible memories, for all who worked and ministered at the site for many months and now face health issues both emotional and physical -- for all affected on this day, etched in our memories, may God grant peace.   
Your Turn / Mary, Mother of our Lord
August 15, 2014, 02:54:31 PM
May we take a moment today to honor Mary, Mother of our Lord.  From the Center for Liturgy (and with permission): 

a quiet, demurring handmaiden,
cried out in raucous joy,
extolling God,
singing a radical song of promise.

Spirit of God,
let us join with Mary
and declare your greatness,
and with whole heart's delight pray with her

that you give hope to the lowly, that they be lifted up,
a wealth of good food for the hungry
and your mercy for
all people in
all times.
Your Turn / Family Business
May 22, 2014, 01:03:46 PM
On a lighter topic:  "Family Business" is the title of a great article on Gretchen Mundiger - daughter of our own John Mundiger - in the June issue of THE LUTHERAN.  While I can't access it as I don't subscribe electronically, you can do so at (only a piece of the article is available to non-subscribers).  Gretchen speaks of her growing up years in the church allowing that [the church] shaped both her and her dad and said that she still sings the hymn to her kids that her dad sang to her: "I Am Jesus' Little Lamb."  She credits the consisteny of church life for seeing her through teen years, and mentions her service and appreciation of ritual and music.  Gretchen is now among us in NY and serves as Minister of Music at Gustavus Adolphus in Manhattan. She's also a diakonia student (great, great program).  John gets a nod in the article as well as in June he will be commissioned into the Montana Synod Lap Professional Associates program.  Nice work, John ;)
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