OUTDOOR WORSHIP PREPARATION

The FLC Council has reviewed plans for worshiping in our courtyard and approved a service for July 5th at 10:00 A.M.! That’s the good news!  …And now (just like those drug commercials on TV) here are some of the details and Frequently Asked Questions to help you prepare for and consider whether to attend.

What is expected of me, if I choose to attend? We need to assume that people attending may have covid-19, so we are asking that anyone in attendance agree to…

1) wear a face mask,

2) bring your own chair,

3) use the restroom before coming to the service (to reduce the need to open and clean the church),

4) maintain a distance of at least 6 feet at all times (No hugs or contact—I know that will be difficult for some of you!),

5) follow these instructions and the instructions of the ushers and leaders at the service,

6)  if you, or any close contacts, are sick or at greater health risk, please stay home,

7) and if you or any close contacts become sick, please let the church office know right away,

8) if you don’t think you can agree to these steps to keep our worship as safe as possible, please stay home.  Everyone else who attends will be expecting others to follow them, as part of their decision to attend.

How long will the service last, and what will it be like?  The service outside will be under 45 min, and initially have no music, to keep it short and reduce the risk of transmission.  The congregational parts of the service will be read by a worship assistant, similar to our online format. The congregation is encouraged to not join the responses or to respond in a quiet voice. 

What if I choose not to attend, will I be left out? If you cannot attend or don’t wish to attend because of the health risk, we will be sharing information about joining the service via Zoom or online recording.  We will have a recording of this service available online later in the day and will email out notifications when it is ready to view.  If you are interested in using your phone to listen to the service, please let us know.

Why are we not worshiping inside? For your safety, we are not planning to worship indoors until the risk to the congregation and community is reduced or we learn that our ventilation indoors allows for minimal risk of spreading covid-19.  We do not yet have reliable ventilation recommendations or information that would allow us to plan a worship service indoors. 

What about weather? If the weather looks unfavorable, we will shift to an online format again.  In the event of rain or other unfavorable weather conditions, we will cancel this live service not later than 1 hour before the scheduled starting time.  Sunny and/or hot weather are not unfavorable weather conditions.  So, if it is raining or threatening rain or storms that morning, we will likely cancel the live service so all can stay home.  We may also respond via email, text or by phone to those who have indicated they will be attending if time allows.

What should I bring? You can bring your offering envelope to the service, but avoid bringing much else besides masks, a chair, sanitizer, water (with a straw if possible) and maybe a hat or umbrella to protect you from the sun.  You also can give online HERE.

When should I be there? Please plan on arriving by 9:45 AM for the 10:00 AM service.  Seating will likely take a bit longer as we want to maintain social distancing and will need to set up lawn chairs.

Do I need to RSVP ahead of time? YES!  We need to know how many to plan for!  If you have not yet taken our poll about attending, please do that now or after you talk to other family members about your decision.  The link to the poll is found HERE.

How often will we worship outside?  We don’t know yet.  After we know who wants to attend and the council reviews the first service and reliable covid-19 information in our area, we will make plans for future services. 

How can I help? If you are willing to usher or assist in worship please contact the church office.  If you are willing to make phone calls to those who do not receive emails please contact the church office.

FREEDOM IS OUR NAME

One of the great additions to the ELCA Youth Gathering in recent years, was the development of the Practice Discipleship Initiative which ran from 2012-16. The PD Initiative invited leaders of youth and young adult ministries to share valuable lessons and introduce tools for daily discipleship. I was invited to write a curriculum in 2014 around the theme of “Framing Community.” I got positive feedback on this introduction to rhetorical listening and community organizing, but many people were also interested in a fun fact I shared about our church.

Martin Luther’s given name was actually Martin Ludder. After becoming a professor and studying the Greek New Testament, he experienced the gospel’s power to free him from the sense of guilt and sin that held him captive. Martin began to sign his name Luther. He wanted to connect his name to the Greek word for free—Eluthero. Luther’s name became one more way he showed that Christ’s love had transformed him. Every time he signed his name he was reminded of that change and shared the good news of God’s transformative love.

It’s been 500 years since Martin Luther wrote his treatise called “The Freedom of a Christian” or “On Christian Liberty”. In Abundant Life Together I studied this short piece of writing with Lutheran young adults. It shares the ways Luther put the concept of “Freedom” at the center of Christian identity. The theme Luther explores is that a Christian is simultaneously saint and sinner and simultaneously a “free lord of all, subject to none” and a “perfectly dutiful, servant of all, subject to all”. We work out that relationship of freedom and service within the grace we know in Jesus Christ, which allows us to trust God rather than fear him.

Sometimes people think we shouldn’t call our churches “Lutheran.” As we are reminded of the freedom we have in America and celebrate our nation’s birthday on July 4th, I hope we also can remember that freedom is also at the center to Lutheran identity. It’s even our name! And to remember that as Luther said, “to preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it.” May we all proclaim the freedom we know in Christ as we celebrate the freedom we continue to cultivate and share here in America.

*Practice Discipleship Archives can be found HERE

Pastor’s CornerJune 22, 2020

37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ ……Matthew 25: 37-40

Part of my Father’s Day weekend was participating in the Poor People’s Campaign, a continuation of the faith-based movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. King called it a “revolution of values” bringing the interconnected issues that led to poverty and injustice to the national spotlight. The Poor People’s Campaign of 2020 is “national call for Moral Revival” in the United States focused on lifting up the voices and experiences of those experiencing poverty in the United States, and the policy decisions that continue to make issues of poor people a low priority. There are over 140 million poor and low-income people in the United States and the rich/poor gap of income inequality is growing. That’s why the Poor People’s Campaign seems so necessary to me. For more information about the Poor People’s Campaign, click HERE

Care for the poor was the value that united the early churches ministry as the Apostle Paul recorded in his Letter to the Galatians:

“James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.” …… Galatians 2: 9-10

Care for the poor is also the societal issue that Jesus was most focused on and it is the most common topic in the Bible is poverty and care for the poor. https://sojo.net/list-some-more-2000verses-scripture-poverty-and-justice

It seems like a simple thing to say Christians care for the poor. We are good at caring for the poor through service, but not as focused on putting effort into actually changing their condition. Christians also get distracted from this call when they prioritize other moral issues, that are barely mentioned in the Bible or by Jesus, as fundamentalist Christians do. This gives the world around us a poor impression of what we are about and what God thinks is important.

Christian’s of all types are starting to see the light when it comes to recognizing care for the poor and working against the forces that create poverty— as central to Christian morality. I hope the Christians at First Lutheran can also be a part of this work and this moral revival!

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond.

Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long over due. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.

Remembering the Emanuel Nine with the ELCA

On June 17th, 2015 I was in the middle of a trip through the Southeastern United States recruiting young people for my Abundant Life Together and other Life in Service opportunities that are offered to ELCA young adults.  I was also researching whether there was interest from those in the Southeast to host a young adult community focused on racial equality and civil rights.  Click HERE for pictures from the trip.

I was in South Carolina the day that Dylan Roof went into Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, prayed with the members of a Bible study and then shot and killed 9 people. The next day, I found out that two of those killed took classes at an ELCA seminary and were friends of many of my colleagues. I also learned that the shooter was a young adult from an ELCA church. As part of my response I vowed to listen, learn, educate and work for racial equity in my role in ALT Year and in my ministry within the ELCA. That is one of the reasons it is important for me to know First Lutheran is able to participate in this conversation and hopefully this work together.

At the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee voting members voted to make June 17th a commemoration of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9 (read HERE) “Our relationship to the shooter as well as two of the slain reminds us of both our complicity and our calling. Together we confess that we are in bondage to the sins of racism and white supremacy and, at the same time, we rejoice in the freedom that is ours in Christ Jesus who ‘has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us’ (Ephesians 2:14). May God continue to guide us as we seek repentance and renewal, and racial justice and reconciliation among God’s precious children.”

An ELCA Prayer Service for Commemoration of the Emanuel Nine will be available for online viewing at 11am CST today. The service will include leaders from around the ELCA and ecumenical partners, as well as a sermon by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. We join in a time of repentance, mourning and prayer as we remember these nine martyrs and renounce the sins of racism and white supremacy. The service can be viewed at HERE at 11:00 a.m.

The Greater Milwaukee Synod will also be streaming the prayer service today on their Facebook page HERE today at 12 pm noon and 7:30 pm Central Time followed by a Zoom conversation following each watch event, to allow participants a space to collectively process and engage in dialogue.

I hope you will find the time to participate in the commemoration and conversation today, or that you can watch the service as a way of commemorating Juneteenth on June 19th, also known as Jubilee Day or Freedom Day, the celebration of the day when the last slaves in the former Confederacy heard of their emancipation. This day has been celebrated, starting with churches in Texas, since 1866.

Please consider ways you can celebrate your personal freedom, how we can continue to live into the freedom we know in Christ, and the freedom we work for in the world as we align with Jesus’ ministry “to loose the bonds of injustice”(Isaiah 58: 6) and “to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18) so that all can experience the same freedom and equality and live without the fear of racial violence.
–Pastor Josh

Alexander Hamilton – The Man Behind the Musical

The seminar hosted by Lutherdale will be led by instructor, Sarah Sullivan. The seminar will be held via Zoom from 7-8 pm, followed by a 30-minute Q&A segment. The smash Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton” will hit Disney Plus (an online, ad-free streaming service), on July 3. This seminar provides a unique opportunity to learn more before you see it again or for the first time!

COST
$15 per Person

Register online HERE.

Sarah Sullivan is an Instructor of History and Department Chair at McHenry County College where she has taught since 1997.  She holds master’s degrees in American History, Management and Human Resources Management. She was McHenry County College’s Faculty of the Year in 2016, is an Illinois Humanities Organization Road Scholar, and has delivered over 50 public programs on historical events and topics. Sarah loves sharing intriguing and humorous stories with people, so much so that she has even incorporated them into the bike classes she teaches at her local gym.

If you have questions regarding the use of Zoom, please contact David Box, Associate Director of Lutherdale Bible Camp, at David@lutherdale.org or (262)742-2352

PASTOR’S CORNER

We are also committed to continue to offer our members ways of connecting with worship and meetings online, especially for those who are more at risk due to age and/or pre-existing health conditions.  We want to remain connected as a community even if we all aren’t able to be together in person. 

I have been back at church more in the past week and was able to participate in the Food Distribution on Friday to pray with and thank the volunteers who have been keeping this essential ministry going for the last three months:  John, Colleen, Mike and Greta!  

There are also two new announcements that will make my life as a pastor feel more established at First Lutheran.  My office will be refurbished in the next two weeks, making my church home more settled.  We will also be finally finalizing my Letter of Call after weeks of attempts, with the help of the synod, so that this document can best establish mutual support and shared mission between council leadership and the pastor.  It will be great to end the anxiety of not having official paperwork behind this call, but I am glad we have been committed to getting it right.  It will be interesting to consider how we might do an Installation during these Covid-times, but I hope we can find a way to do that as well, even if it is delayed.

As our communities and congregation begin to find the rhythm of a new normal during this stage of reopening, we pray that we continue to be wise and safe, while we begin to reflect on the past months and think more about where God may be leading First!  As I get to know each of you more, I am also getting a greater sense of how First has been functioning and some of the roadblocks and possibilities in terms of how it could be organized and opened to others in new ways.  I invite your active participation in the discernment of our collective and individual calls to discipleship, remembering that it is a gift to learn and explore our mission together!

I leave you with the words of a prayer that is used at the Holden Village Retreat Center in Washington State, where I was a creative resident in 2011 and served as pastor in 2017. 

HOLDEN PRAYER:

O Lord God, who has called us, thy servants, to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden and through joys and perils unknown; Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ Our Lord.  Amen.

Camping options at Lutherdale Bible Camp

Lutherdale has a limited number of campsites with water, sewer, and electric accommodations. One of these sites has a cement pad – the remaining sites are on dirt and may not be uniform or level. Waterfront, watercraft, & family-friendly activities available for rental including archery, challenge course, pontoon rides, kayaks, canoes, & paddleboards. Campsites are $70 per Night with Full Electric, Water, & Sewer hookup

Don’t have an RV but STILL looking for a change of scenery? The facilities at Lutherdale provide families a place to rest and renew. From traditional cabins with bunkbeds to hotel-style rooms, groups can pick a lodging style that best meets their preference and budget. All housing rates are based on a per person charge. For more detailed information on cabins and lodging information, click HERE.

With 40 acres to play and explore, nearby access to golf courses, Wisconsin State Parks, bike trails, & hiking trails, plus a beautiful waterfront on the Lauderdale Lakes, this might be your BEST VACATION EVER!

For more information & to reserve your spot today, contact Kathy at (262) 742-2352 or info@lutherdale.org

Pastor’s Corner: When God Calls Us To Address the Sins of the Land

We know that most police officers, including ones that are a part of our church family, desire to protect and serve all people in their communities, and put their bodies and lives on the line in dangerous situations. While we all recognize the need for accountability for actions and lying about encounters with citizens, we cannot solely blame police officers for all the sins of racism and violence in our culture. This is a bigger problem, but police officers are armed people on the front lines of our society’s failures. They need our prayers and our help in changing behavior and being more a part of the solution than the problem.

We hear a lot about bad apples, but when police officers or any of us choose to act on racism or pass on racist thoughts or ideas, whether consciously or unconsciously, whether quietly or loudly, we are sinning against God’s understanding of His children and also feeding the original sin of this country. More and more people are calling for change and I am grateful that so many police officers are naming that too. There is hope that these changes could really make life better and more protected for all people, and create trust where enemy images and dehumanization have too often ruled.

When Jesus rules…when we say Jesus is Lord, we proclaim a way of being that makes a different claim on every human as a child of God. It is a claim that puts responsibility on Christians to not take the easy answer or comfortable choice, when it comes to loving our neighbors as our selves. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but it is hard, and that is one of the reasons we resist it so much and find excuses to not love all of our neighbors the same way. Jesus can help us with this labor of love, that can lead to a rebirth of values that align with the kingdom in our communities and country.

I know some of you may not fully agree with what you have seen happening in our streets. And maybe it is hard to understand why people are reacting this way, and why people are still out there, putting themselves and others at risk of spreading covid-19 along with other risks. These protests have become not just a protest against what has happened to George Floyd and others, but also represents a positive push to really make things better this time. The call is now to not allow systems to go back to normal without reform and perhaps radical change. These invitations may be greeted as threats and may frighten us or draw our ire. But I see this as a call that Lutherans should be responding to and also be making.

As reformation people, Lutherans recognize the value of reform and speaking truth to power at great risk. It is in our theological DNA! But when it comes to issues of race, we have often looked the other way or hoped things would change without our direct involvement. And we let others in the community, politicians, protestors, and even sports teams like the Packers and Bucks here in Wisconsin, take the lead on these issues. Meanwhile, our churches may remain mostly silent and the least diverse of any in America.

Today, we are being invited into more direct involvement to create change so all Americans can be treated as created equal by God with certain unalienable rights. This may make us uncomfortable, but I hope First can engage this and not fall into a fear of these conversations, denial about the need for them, or a desire to insulate ourselves from the hard work of personal and communal change.

Yesterday, our online service concluded with a postlude of “God Bless America” with the American Flag as the backdrop. And it came as a surprise to me as I wondered why it was used and how others might interpret this choice. It turns out it was a delayed request that didn’t get used for Memorial Day, but seeing it now, after two weeks of protests since George Floyd was killed on Memorial Day, makes it more of litmus test about how we, and others who may not look or think like us, may respond to patriotic images in our current cultural context.

On Memorial Day, I wrote about how I remember the veterans and their sacrifice for our freedom and others’ freedom throughout the world. My family members were liberated from a concentration camp by Marines in 1945. America has been a liberating force and hope in the world for a long time, through our diplomatic leadership and military service. But at home, we have struggled for generations to improve the freedom and equality of our own citizens who are non-white. It is acknowledging this struggle that led us to witness, this week, the public shift in how Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saint quarterback, talked about the flag. Rather than holding to his view on what the flag means, which was shaped by relatives who fought in World War II, Brees, through listening and looking beyond his own view, realized how it could be different in the lives of other Americans. For Brees, that led to a confession, many of us don’t want to make, not just because it is hard to admit we are wrong. It also feels like we need to give up our story of America in the process.

We want to believe the American Dream is a reality for all people in the same way, because that is the story most of us were taught, and that many voices in our lives may reinforce. It is not that those efforts of Drew Brees’ grandfathers’ are not valuable or part of our national or personal history, but he acknowledged that it is not the only story, and that others who are people of color see how the promise of the flag has failed in their lives and their family’s lives, as US Citizens, and even veterans, on our own soil.

We have pressed the mute button on these voices for a long time, because we have the power to do so and they are not the stories we want to hear. As this news and these voices are multiplied in our media, I know many of you want to mute them, and I understand the desire to take breaks from it because it can be overwhelming. But this is a debt we have to our brothers and sisters in this country. It is like the sin of Jerusalem that Isaiah talks about in our text today and a “bondage to decay” Paul warns keeps us from truly experiencing freedom. So as Christians, in this land, I believe we are called to not only pay attention, but find ways we can join a movement that brings this freedom to our siblings in Christ and all tour neighbors in this land. That takes prayer and patience with each other, and we all need more of that when we address issues that have so many other interests and voices involved.

I think of “God Bless America” as a prayer and call for repentance and guidance, but these faithful and earnest hymns can often be used as way of wrapping the flag around our problems in the hopes that they will go away and things stay the same. I know many sing patriotic songs and hymns with the assumption that God blesses America more than other nations. Pride in our nation and all the good it has done and continues to do is important, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have problems and sins like other nations and all human beings. Patriotism shouldn’t distract us from being patriotic, which I think means always forming, refining, and reforming a “more perfect union”, as the founders of this American experiment intended.

The way that I live my faith is that our allegiance should not be to the status quo, when we have a God that calls for change and courage to stand up to empires, and the temptations of powers and principalities. Soldiers who have sacrificed for our country have done so with such courage. When we ask for God’s blessings it is not with the assumption of freedoms, but a call to the work of citizens that want America to live into its ideals, especially the ideals that are also Christian values like equality, human rights, and love of neighbor.

For many people especially African Americans, the triumphalism and demand for allegiance to flag and country, without full rights under the law, and with evidence that their lives don’t matter the same as other Americans, creates a separation between white America and their experience. It’s been over 150 years since Lincoln quoted Jesus, saying “a house divided cannot stand”, but unlike the Civil War, the civil unrest we are now entering into is about recognizing that race has been used to divide people in our country since its inception and continues to do so. This division must be remedied if our house is to stand tall, as the beacon I believe we all want it to be. That is the American Dream we need right now, one that combines and values all of our stories as we shape the future of an America that lives up to its promises.

So if we pray God Bless America, let’s remember that it is a prayer and a call for repentance. We all need that. The nation needs Christians to be a part of change not stand in the way of it, or step aside. The values of our Christian creed meet those called for in our national creed, in the ways we love and respect our neighbors. But let’s remember that our call is to God first, and that our nations and flags cannot become idols replacing the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We are shaped by his story more than any other, and I hope we hear our shepherd’s voice louder than any other in these days of racial reckoning, and in all the voices of those he invites us to hear.


Pastor Josh

Statement from West Allis Mayor Dan Devine

“Over the past week, the world has been shocked into action following the senseless death of George Floyd. I, Mayor Dan Devine, on behalf of the City of West Allis, join those around the world raising their voices to bring an end to the violence and injustice that have devastating impacts on our Black neighbors and in turn, our entire community, every day.

The horrific murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers is a condemnable act of violence, racism, and inhumanity. Heartbreakingly, it is one of many. The brutal killings of Black citizens by those who are sworn to public service is an appalling miscarriage of duty and an egregious violation of public trust. These repeated instances cause untold trauma to our Black neighbors who must bear witness to these crimes against their people and live in fear that one day, the same may happen to them or their loved ones. As a nation, we can no longer remain silent and fail to act to ease this devastating burden on the people of color with whom we live and work alongside.

Let me state very clearly that hate has no home in West Allis. We acknowledge the pain our Black neighbors are feeling and we join them in calling for nationwide reform. We recognize that the diversity of our community is its strength. We understand that there is still work to be done, locally, statewide, and nationally, to ensure people of color feel safe, supported, and heard; and we believe Black Lives Matter. We commit to being open to feedback and conversation, and to working harder every day to build a safe and strong community that equally benefits and protects all who reside here.

At this time there are many of you wondering what you can do to help our community move forward, start spurring change, and help healing. We encourage all residents to raise their voices against racism and injustice and roll up their sleeves to get to work building a better world that embraces and empowers our Black neighbors. Contact your elected officials. Most importantly, prepare to vote. Visit https://myvote.wi.gov/en-us/ to register.

And to the people of color in our community wanting to be agents of change in leading us forward, please contact me to discuss joining City committees, commissions, and boards in order to ensure future local decisions are made fairly, justly, and with you, not merely on your behalf. You are welcome, and you are needed.

Change is possible. Reform is possible. Ending injustice is possible. Saving Black lives is possible. We must come together as a community and nation to raise our voices on behalf of our Black neighbors and stand with them as we work to build a better, safer, kinder world for all.