The Vision – November 2015

from the pastor’s desk

See, the home of God is among mortals, He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them. Revelation 21:3

During the month of November in our worship services we will hear some puzzling passages in the Bible. We will hear from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, and from Revelation and Mark, chapter 13 in the New Testament. These passages are what we call Apocalyptic Literature. This is “literature distinguished principally by its ascetic and mysterious allusions to the signs preceding the events to occur in the last days of world history. It usually is written in times of extreme persecution and suffering. Since apocalyptic literature was prevalent before and during the life of Jesus, it is thought to be extremely important as one of the keys to understanding the language and Messianic symbols of the New Testament writers, not to mention Jesus himself.” from A Handbook of Theological Terms, Van A. Harvey,1992.

One of the important things to listen for as we read this ancient literature is the faithfulness of Almighty God. We hear the promises together that no matter what happens in our lives and in the culture around us, God holds on to us and never lets us go. Christians are a people of hope, and we are called to share the promises of forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God as we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet.

God’s peace be with you!

Pastor David Byerly

The Vision – October 2015

from the pastor’s desk

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. Romans 1:8

Yes, I, like St. Paul thank God for all the people I am called to serve in this parish and in this community. Most of all I thank God that I am able to serve the Church of Jesus Christ our Lord in its Lutheran expression in this particular part of God’s kingdom! What a joy it is, and I thank you especially for all of your recent expressions of “Happy Birthday” as my 60th birthday happened a few weeks back. It is a joy to serve among you at Grace and St. Paul Lutheran churches.

One of the joys of being your pastor is delving into the scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions at council meetings and other gatherings in our life together. It is with a great sense of trust and joy that those who serve and worship together in our parish are able to laugh and pray and discuss together what this Christian faith means to us. It is important that we share in our life of faith in a commitment to regular attendance at worship and other church events. We get to know one another and learn to listen to one another, even if we come down at different places on touchy subjects. Our gatherings and discussions need to be civil and respectful.

In order to continue to practice our mutual respect for one another, I am inviting you all to attend the adult portion of our “Sunday School on Thursdays” as we work through Paul’s letter to the Romans. There is a message of hope and salvation for all people in this letter, and we can learn not to judge one another or condemn those who might not be like us. I look forward to our continued respectful conversations, and also to some opportunities to laugh and experience joy together!

God’s peace be with you,

Pastor David Byerly

The Vision – September 2015

from the pastor’s desk

After the more casual attitude of our worship and congregation life this summer, it is time to move together into our fall schedules of renewed emphasis on Christian education and fellowship events. Of course, worship together every Sunday is at the heart of what we do as Lutheran Christians, and I urge every family in both congregations to make a commitment to being present every Sunday. This is what God desires and what sustains us in our life together.

On Sunday, September 13, after we have had our services at both St. Paul and Grace, we will gather at the social hall at St. Paul for our annual combined stewardship dinner. There will be ample opportunities for fellowship and some brief guided conversations concerning how we think about charitable giving (especially to ELCA World Hunger), and our attitudes about money. Please be a part of this important gathering.

Then, on Thursday, September 17, at 6 p.m. we will gather at the social hall of Grace for a simple meal and the kick-off of our intergenerational “Sunday School on Thursdays.” This will be a good opportunity to renew your commitment to the faith formation of your children – the promises you made at their baptism. For the adults their will be a special presentation by Bruce Romanic and me about the recent Supreme Court ruling on same gender marriage and some of the Church’s response to the changes happening in the culture around us. This will include our own Bishop Driesen’s letter concerning some of these changes. There will be a sign-up sheet for the meal and presentation. We look forward to this important conversation.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor David Byerly

The Vision – July 2015

from the pastor’s desk

Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two. Mark 6:7

There is safety in numbers. It is the season of venturing out and exploring God’s creation during the summer as we work in the flower beds and gardens, as we play baseball and other sports, as we go camping and hiking and taking our family vacations on the road or on a cruise ship or in the air. It is always much more satisfying to share our adventures with someone else than it is to go it alone.

This is the same with our callings as God’s people. God does not want us to go it alone; we have been created for community and life together with others. As Jesus sent out his disciples into the towns of Galilee to share the Gospel, he sent them out in teams of at least two people together. We are to model that method in everything we do in our congregations. We learn how to cooperate with each other and work together when we share in the responsibilities, the joys and the sorrows of life. It is also for accountability and support that we work together doing those things God calls us to do.

So let us venture forth into this wonderful world God has given us, hand in hand, joyfully experiencing the gift of each new day!

Go in peace and share the good news! Thanks be to God!

Pastor David Byerly

The Vision – June 2015

from the pastor’s desk

Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One, and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three. Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity, and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Prayer of the Day for Trinity Sunday)

Words like “eternal,” “majestic,” “steadfast,” “endless” and “forever” help us to understand that God is our foundation and our hope in a life full of changes and transitions. During the month of June we experience graduations, many weddings and changes in schedules at work as we engage in the activities of summer. Change is never easy, but life brings us new challenges which we must face and endure. Knowing that we have that steadfast presence of God in our lives helps us face each new day with the hope and assurance that God stands with us no matter what!

Have you ever heard it said by people around you that they feel disoriented or unfocused because they did not take the time out on Sunday morning to attend worship? How are we to rely on that steadfast presence of God when we fail to acknowledge the one who gives us our very life and breath day by day? Please consider putting our worship service on your calendar or list of “things to do” during your week. Make yourself available to your fellow members, who might be looking for some help from you with their changes and transitions. It might be no more than a listening ear that you can offer, and God will use you to bring comfort and peace to someone who is waiting for a word of hope in the midst of their adversity.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor David Byerly

The Vision – May 2015

from the pastor’s desk

“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. Luke 24: 46-51

Easter – Ascension – Pentecost

In this month the Church continues to celebrate Easter (as we do every Sunday of the year!), and we remember the Ascension of our Lord and the gift of the Holy Spirit. One thing to remember about Christ’s ascension is that he has left one place in order to be present in all places through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in the whole world, there is no God-forsaken place. That gift of the divine presence changes our perspective on life and gives us hope now. We are always remembered and never abandoned as we share the life and love of God with those we encounter along the way.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor David Byerly

The Vision – April 2015

from the pastor’s desk

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:8

What can we say as we ponder the events of Holy Week and Easter? These are the most important services of the year, and we stand or sit or kneel in awe at what God has done for us through Christ’s passion and death and resurrection. I hope you will take time during Holy Week to pray and read the Holy Scriptures. I hope you will attend the Holy Week services as well as one or more of the Easter Sunday services. Better yet, bring a friend or family member along with you who normally would not attend church. We have very good news to share with a hurting world in need of God’s guidance and peace. We may be reluctant to share our faith for fear of offending or embarrassing our neighbors, but we are called to a life of discipleship together. That life includes the admonition to share the Gospel. The first visitors to the empty tomb got over their fear as they shared the wonderful news of Easter. Many of you have been very good at inviting and encouraging others to come and worship with us. Thank you for your engagement with the church as you live out your faith in so many ways. Thanks for your faithful attendance at worship. Thank you for all everyone is doing to prepare for these important services!

In Christ’s service,
Pastor David Byerly

The Vision – March 2015

from the pastor’s desk

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Always being made New. The Campaign for the ELCA

During Lent we are called to a life of repentance, which means we are to let God make us new day by day. We cannot do that on our own, and God guides us in our life of faith, strengthening the Church and reaching out to our neighbors. We participate in many ministries through the wider church, and we are called to be mindful of that work through prayer and support. We give our regular mission support through the Upper Susquehanna Synod, and we have opportunities to add to that in this campaign approved by the 2013 Churchwide Assembly. There are four areas of concentration for our consideration:

 Congregations. Many struggling congregations need help to reach out in communities where resources are scarce, and we are always being called to start new congregations in our changing culture.
 Leadership. Seminarians struggle to pay for tuition and living expenses while in school, and the debt load for new pastors is often crippling.
 Hunger and Poverty. This is the familiar ELCA World Hunger campaign, which many of you have been supporting for years.
 Global Church. This is the way we fund our missionaries overseas.

As you can see, the ways we give to the wider church are evolving, but much is still the same. Each family will receive a book that will help us prayerfully consider how we might reach out and be the church together.

In Christ’s service,
Pastor David Byerly

The Vision – February 2015

From the Pastor’s desk:

A Call to Gather
This newsletter goes out to members old and young, those who have been members of Grace of St. Paul for their whole lives, and those who have only been members for a month or two. The call of Jesus to “come and see” which was issued to the first disciples by the Jordan River is the call we all receive to come and hear God’s Word and partake of the sacrament of Holy Communion week after week. That is a call which I rejoice in following as we receive God’s grace together. It is a call which I know is important to many of you by the witness of your regular presence in the Lord’s house.

There is a specific call to gather which I am issuing with this note. Both Grace and St. Paul will gather on Sunday, February 22, 2015 after our worship services. This will be the annual meeting of each congregation where we review our ministry during the past year and look forward to the ways we are called to discipleship and mission in our communities for this year. Please put the date on your calendar and plan to attend worship and the meeting. We will thank those concluding their service on congregation council and welcome our new officers and council members. We will have an opportunity to get to know new members better, and we will challenge each other to more fully live into our call to be disciples in our families, our neighborhoods and our world. I look forward to seeing all of you at our meeting!

God’s peace be with you!
Pastor David Byerly

The Vision – Dec. 2014

from the pastor’s desk

Why Advent?

We begin a new church year, not with a countdown to Christmas, but with a season of hope for all the ways Jesus Christ comes into our lives. Advent always seems to be a confusing season for us, even though we live through it year after year. I guess we should be happy that the world around us places so much importance on the story of the birth of the Messiah, and we share our faith with family, friends and co-workers every time we retell the Christmas story. In Advent the church asks us to step away from the busy shopping and seemingly endless preparations for the perfect holiday experience. We watch and wait together for the rich promises of our gracious and loving God.

From Sundays and Seasons, 2015: “There is a profound sense in which Christ is always coming again and again, more and more, layer upon layer, both in his arrival and in our continuing expectation. Expectation and fulfillment are woven together, and the liturgical calendar witnesses to it in our worship practice. So the coming of Jesus is promised. The coming of Christ is prayed for. In a way, the Son of Man is always coming. Mark more than any other gospel illustrates the truth that everything is always in the middle of things, even the beginning and the end.”

That is why we start Advent reading about the end of time. Then we hear stories of how John the Baptist points to Jesus (the adult human) as the promised one. Then we get to hear about Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. Future, present and past are all described so that we can begin to understand our place in God’s continuing story of salvation. Let us gather together and give thanks for God’s wonderful gift to us!

God’s peace,
Pastor David M. Byerly