On February 19th, 2017–we held a Refugee Sunday at St. Paul Lutheran Church. The Rev. Alice Erickson, a local pastor with long experience in refugee and immigration work preached a marvelous sermon. Here it is! Refugee Sunday Rev Erickson Sermon
During the weeks since, we have sponsored a collection of needed items for NuDay Syria, along with other faith communities on the North Shore. This was successful thanks to the tireless efforts of member Kimberlee Cloutier-Blazzard, and all the members and friends who donated.
We were blessed, as we began the First Week of Advent, to receive three new members to St. Paul Lutheran Church. During the sermon, the three of them offered their reasons for wanting to be a part of this community. The homily addresses the theme of “arriving” in Advent. We give thanks for those who have “arrived” among us, through the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit. You can hear the homily and our new members’ comments below.
This morning’s sermon was a communal sermon, focusing on Mustard Seed faith at St. Paul Lutheran Church. The congregation helped tell the story. The painting below is The Mulberry Tree by Vincent Van Gogh–a mulberry tree appeared in Jesus’ parable this morning from Luke.
This is a teaching on true contentment. It comes from knowing who we are, and the Lord we follow. I never thought of Jesus as particularly content, at least as I understood contentment. But, then, considering the question in relationship to the prophetic voice of Amos, Psalm 146, Paul’s teaching to Timothy, and Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, contentment becomes something like contemplation in action, or prayer in action, or faith active in love, simultaneously resting in God, and active in love of justice and mercy in the world. The whole message is in the old spiritual, “Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.” God’s love is so high we can’t get over it, and so low, we can’t get under it.
St. Paul Lutheran Church has long enjoyed a solid relationship with our Lutheran outdoor ministry, Camp Calumet, in Freedom New Hampshire. As one of the pastors in our Synod, I had the opportunity recently to be a chaplain and a co-leader for a Camp Calumet Lutherhostel in Freedom, New Hampshire, called “Let There Be Light.” The other leader was my good friend, Dr. Kevin Luhmen, an astrophysics professor at Penn State. He has occasionally attended St. Paul when he’s in the area, so some of the congregation know him. Kevin and I have been friends for many years, and our conversations often revolve around theology and science. We decided to see if we could offer a program at Calumet and Judy Hakanson Smith, of Calumet, helped us put it together. Our goal was simple: we wanted to put the most recent research with regard to the beginnings of the universe, time, star formation, life on earth, in conversation with faith. Naturally, in such a conversation, climate change also became part of our discussion, especially as we considered the history of the evolution of seas and the emergence of life on earth.
Kevin and I were delighted by the participation, the questions, the theological musings, and the wonderful program. Among our participants were another astronomer and geologist, a chemist, a mechanical engineer, and an oceanographer; all of us were people of faith. The ancient quest at the heart of theological inquiry, “faith seeking understanding,” was alive and well in our midst. I would say, for me, the four days circled around wonder at the astonishing creativity of God, the beauty, complexity, and sheer vastness of creation, and the preciousness and rarity of life. We came away with a sense of Earth’s unique beauty and possibility, with a renewed desire to protect and love this planet.
This morning, we returned to our 10:00 a.m. hour. Remy and Zoe Blazzard opened the service with a Prelude on violin and cello, and a quartet of men from the choir sang for the Psalm, today. Eva DiLascio led us in worship on the piano. It was beautiful outside, with the wind just starting to pick up from the remnants of a tropical storm. Inside, we were filled with the sweetness of the Spirit. Here’s the sermon for this week.
Below is a sermon preached recently by Dr. Pamela Shellberg. Dr. Shellberg has been attending St. Paul for a couple of years, as her travels allow. She is a New Testament scholar, and has taught at Bangor Theological Seminary, in Maine, and Andover Newton Seminary, here in Massachusetts. She is now the Scholar-in-Residence for the BTS Center in Portland. From their webpage: “The BTS Center is a think tank that sponsors educational events, projects, and research inquiries in the fields of religion, spirituality, practical theology, and ministry. Through thought leadership and vocational development initiatives, The BTS Center equips and supports faith leaders for theologically grounded, effective leadership in 21st-century communities of faith and practice.”
From Sunday, April 24th: For the fifth Sunday of Easter, the Gospel reading from John 13 takes us back to the night before Jesus’ death. Here, Jesus gives the disciples the commandment to love one another. We often don’t get it right, that loving. Yet, we are called and commanded to it. The good news: we’re not alone with this, for where love is, there God is. “Ubi caritas et amor,” sings the church, “Deus ibi est” A translation from our hymnal: “Where true charity and love abide, God is dwelling there”(ELW 642).
On Good Shepherd Sunday, we pray Psalm 23 in several different ways, through music and words, spoken and sung. This beloved psalm informs every lesson this morning, culminating in the promises of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who never lets us go. Blessings pour out like oil, balm of gladness.
For people who live by the sea, and know the lives of fishermen, this morning’s Gospel story, Jesus’ resurrection appearance on a beach, is tangible in its telling. Some of us know what it is to fish all night, figuratively and literally, only to come up empty. For many of us, Jesus’ direction to throw out the net on the other side comes as a welcome surprise for us, just as it was for those disciples so long ago. Later, Jesus will prepare a breakfast for them, a meal of fish and bread, and the disciples gather round, as we do, too, a campfire on the beach fragrant with the early morning catch. Jesus’ loving conversation with Peter changes the course of his life, from fisherman to apostle of mercy.