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Newletter

July 2017

 

It’s July! July might be my favorite month of the year. I mean, what’s not to love…it’s warm outside, it’s often sunny, even if it does rain, the rain is refreshing, school’s out for the summer, and vacations are more frequent! Most significant, though, is that July is the month that I most often got to go to Camp Lutherwald…my favorite place in the world!

 

Now, I am not trying to persuade you into thinking that Lutherwald is your favorite place to go or into thinking you have missed visiting an important place in your life, but to get you thinking about places that are meaningful to you. I LOVE going to Lutherwald because Lutherwald is the first place where I felt God’s presence in a very real way. I felt God’s presence in a way that I can’t really describe to you, but can only say that it was the best feeling I have ever had in my life. It was a feeling of pure joy, love, worth, a desire to return the feeling to others, and so much more. Well…maybe I could describe it a little bit after all.

 

I know, now you are thinking, “here she goes again, she loves the environment.” Hang in there, don’t stop reading yet, you might be surprised! For my summer seminary class, I read Almost Christian by Kendra Creasy Dean, a book about what the church can learn from the faith of teenagers. In this book, Dean made many important observations and analyses, but one statement especially stuck out to me. Dean wrote, “We are most open to divine reconstruction when we lose our balance, when the LEGOs® of our carefully constructed selves fall apart so that God can rebuild us in new ways.” [1]

 

“Out of balance…fall apart…do things have to go wrong before I am able to be open to God’s presence in my life?”, I thought. I didn’t feel out of balance or in a state of falling apart when I experienced God so strongly at Lutherwald, so what made my experience of the divine so impactful, so strong? Did I really experience God? Did I imagine the whole experience? What does it mean to lose my balance? Is losing my balance always a bad thing?

 

Maybe losing my balance provides me a new perspective on my current situation. Maybe losing my balance allows me the opportunity to try again. Maybe losing my balance helps me to grow stronger and become more resilient. Despite my initial thoughts, I was actually out of balance at camp, just not in the way I originally thought. You see, camp is a place, rather, a community that demands authenticity and vulnerability from all of its inhabitants. I lost my balance at camp because I expected camp to be the world I knew, only in the woods, but instead it operated from a different set of operating procedures. It was a world away from the world, which operated as close to the way Jesus lived as I had ever experienced.

 

I lost my balance at camp because I was encouraged and empowered to be me. To be serious when I felt like being serious or to be goofy when I felt like being goofy. I had lost my balance at camp in a good way. I was in a community where people didn’t worry about what I was wearing or how good my grades were or who my friends were, allowing me to refocus my attention away from the worldly distractions towards God and God’s creation, and when I was least expecting it, there was God, in my midst, present for me in a way I was able to recognize and to breathe in.

 

This summer I will not be able to go to camp, but I am privileged to be leading two weeks of VBS where we will be exploring how God is present in our lives through the stories in the Bible. We will explore the stories of creation, how Rahab believes in God’s power, how God is with Gideon, how Jesus shows his love through his death and resurrection, and how God used Abigail to bring peace.

 

Psalm 139, the psalm from which the first day’s theme verse originates, celebrates God’s presence in our lives and articulates just how well God knows us.

 

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
   you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
   and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
   O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
   and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
   it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
   Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
   if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
   and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
   and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
   the night is as bright as the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
   Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
   all the days that were formed for me,
   when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
   I come to the end—I am still with you.
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
   and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me -
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
   and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
   And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
   I count them my enemies. 
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my thoughts. 
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

You may not have experienced a camp community like I experienced Camp Lutherwald, but I hope that you are able to find a community that encourages you to lose your balance every once in a while, or even all the time, opening yourself up to God’s presence in your life. I hope that you recognize your ability to be that community, that family, to others, both within the PLUM congregations and outside them. God has created you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Wherever you go, God goes with you. Wherever you go, God is searching you and rebuilding you, just as you were promised at your baptism. How will you fearfully and wonderfully create an off-balance community of authentic Christ-followers which points people to the closeness and renewing nature of God?

 

Vicar Karyn Kost

 

[1] Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian: what the faith of our teenagers is telling the American church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 170.

 

         

   
 

Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110        412-466-7773