The Vision – June 2016

The Time After Pentecost
Some thoughts from Dr. Mark Oldenburg, professor at Gettysburg Seminary:

“When the Sundays of the non-festival season are numbered ‘after Pentecost,’ that time becomes known by (among other names) the season of Pentecost… [This season] has its own fidelity and usefulness. As a time dedicated to the growth of the church (as indicated by its green color), it is indeed the ‘time of the Spirit,’ when the gifts of the Spirit are honed and put into use.”

“For us as for the disciples, Sunday remains a time to meet in the presence of the Resurrected Lord. Sunday is not a time to remember Jesus in his absence, simply calling to mind his teachings, example, and promises. Rather, Jesus’ promise is that, when we call to mind his life and his teaching, he will not be absent. He will be present in evangelism and initiation (Matthew 28:20) and in the reconciliation of Christians to one another (Matthew 18:20). And since he has bound himself so intimately with the church, he is as present in that assembly as I am in my own body (1 Corinthians 12).”

“Most clearly, if Jesus is the Word of God, God’s own self-revelation, then Jesus is present whenever God is self-revealed. Therefore, Christ is not only present and active in every interchange of faithful witness, in every inspired reading of the Scriptures, and in every act of service done in Jesus’ name (since these are all ways in which God is self-revealed). In particular, Christ is present when the church gathers for proclamation and petition, to hear and respond to God’s Word, to receive that revelation audibly and visibly.”

Do you see why it is so important to be in church every Sunday? Jesus is there!

In Christ’s service,
David M. Byerly

The Vision – May 2016

From Easter to Ordinary Time

First of all, ordinary time does not mean boring or routine. In the church, ordinary time is the time when the paraments are green and we focus on our life of discipleship together. It is ordered time measured out as time after Epiphany or time after Pentecost. At the end of May we will be in ordinary time.
What happens from the beginning of May until the end? We are now celebrating the weeks of Easter, which remind us that every Sunday is a little Easter. Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday. This year we finish out our Easter season in May, then we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in a new way as we hear the stories from scripture and decorate our churches with red on Pentecost Sunday. Then, the next week we contemplate the mystery of the Holy Trinity and give thanks for the various ways God has been made known to us in our world and in our lives. In the midst of all of these celebrations is a Thursday festival – The Ascension – which we will consider during one of our Sunday worship services.

The best way to understand the rhythms of the Church Year is to attend worship regularly. In our society the meaning of regular attendance at worship has shifted to once or twice a month. This trend is quite unfortunate for a number of reasons. People who do not attend weekly worship are not fed and nourished by God’s Word and the sacrament of Holy Communion. There is also a sense of people not being literate in the scriptures when not engaged with them weekly at church and daily at home. The life of our congregations depend on your showing up! Let’s renew our zeal for for the praise and worship of God Almighty, who has given us the gifts of forgiveness and life eternal. There is no greater gift!

In Christ’s service,
David M. Byerly

The Vision – April 2016

The Lord is Risen! He is Risen, indeed!

We are celebrating Easter for 50 days from Easter Sunday through Pentecost Sunday. Of course, we worship on Sundays because every Sunday is a little bit of Easter, as we remember that our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on a Sunday morning.

We will be reading passages from John’s Gospel through this whole season, including the scene along the lake when Jesus is grilling fish for the disciples, and they sit down together for a breakfast and teaching about how we are called to live out our faith in the midst of challenges and even persecution. Sadly, that persecution because of faith is not gone from our modern world. Our prayers on Good Friday asked for God’s help in moving past religious persecution as we model and share the unity that God desires for us all.

We also focus on The Acts of the Apostles during the Sundays of Easter. The readings from Acts remind us of how the early Church developed with the spread of the good news of the Resurrection. We are inspired by the outreach of those first witnesses to the resurrection, and we are called to continue that work in our community and in our world. We can be considered to be “Acts 29” people. If you look into your Bible, you will see that the book of Acts has 28 published chapters. It is our call to continue to do those acts in our lives that help to write the story of Christianity. Let us seek God’s guidance as we answer the call to live out our discipleship day by day.

In Christ’s service,
David M. Byerly

The Vision – March 2016

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb….. John 20:1

So begins the story we rely on for our very lives! So begins the story that is central to our life together in our churches. The Easter story is the reason we gather week after week on Sunday mornings (the first day of the week) to worship and give thanks to God for nurturing and sustaining us throughout our lives, from the moment we are conceived until the moment we die and enter into eternal life with God. Our life is connected with this story of how God has shown us how much we are valued and loved.

How can we live out the story in our time and place? There are countless ways we are called to share the gifts and talents we have been given as we fulfill our vocations. And we see life unfold not only in our careers but also in our families, our hobbies and travel and volunteer work and any other pursuits that show us how God has gifted us with this fascinating life we share. There is only one sure way to keep all of this complex life in perspective, and that is to focus on the One who has created us and everything around us!

Yes, we must gather to hear the stories again and again. We must pray together and sing together and learn together what it means to follow Jesus Christ, who has shown us the fullness and love of Almighty God. That means coming to worship every Sunday, not whenever it fits our busy schedules, as this culture around us has determined is okay. That means coming to Holy Week services, even if it seems like too much of an effort to attend one or the other congregation’s service. Gather and hear the promises.

The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you, and keep you in his grace!

In Christ’s service,
David M. Byerly

The Vision – February 2016

Many thanks for the ministries you share!

Soon we will gather in our annual congregation meetings to give thanks for your gifts of time, talent and resources that we share with our neighbors in service to God. We truly practice our ELCA motto – God’s Work, Our Hands. We will honor and thank our outgoing council members and encourage our new leaders. We will reflect on how our ministries are helping people in our community and seek new ways of reaching out as opportunities for ministry are revealed. We give thanks together for the privilege of being part of the body of Christ in these communities of Gowen City and Shamokin.

I must thank you for your prayers and the support you show me, especially during the busy times of Advent and Christmas. Your cards, your gifts, your words of encouragement and your love mean so much to me as I strive to fulfill my call as your pastor. MaryLou is very appreciative of all you do for us as well! We are truly blessed to be a part of the ministries we share with you.

We are called together to move forward in ministries in these communities where our churches are planted. Perhaps we can take a cue from Jesus as he began his ministry in his town. He read from the Isaiah scroll, and this is what is says:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19

Let us strive together to do those things God calls us to do with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit!

In Christ’s service,
David M. Byerly

The Vision – December 2015

Grace Church invites you to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child on December 24.
The annual Candlelight Service of Word and Sacrament will be held at 4:00 pm Christmas Eve. The Service will feature special music and the traditional candle-lighting and “Silent Night”. There will be a special treat for the children.
In an effort to accommodate families with small children as well as those who would rather not be out late, council members voted unanimously to have one Service at an early hour.
Please join us as we celebrate the birth of Christ.


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