Dear Partners in Ministry,
The writer of Luke describes a scene where the disciples are traveling along the road to Emmaus and encounter a stranger. They invite him to walk with them and share in their conversation. Later, they sit to have a meal. It was then scriptures tell us that:
This encounter occurs after Jesus’ resurrection and before he ascends to be with his father. Wait, you say, is that not a Lenten story? What does it have to do with Advent? Advent is a time of reflection when we recall the gift of our eternal salvation that came in the form of a little baby. It is a time of waiting for the promised fulfillment of our savior’s return. It is the affirming of the hope that fills us and strengthens us in our daily journey. And it is also the ‘now and not yet’ of our Christian faith – redemption and hope. Reminding us that the journey to the cross began with the birth of a child. That the promise of eternal life began with the transformation that took place in the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Advent is also strangely nestled in between the commercialization of Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the business of this time of year, it is so easy to get distracted by the many tasks we have. Maybe it is the last-minute gift purchases. Or, getting together for various festivities and dinners that most likely began with light-up night events, pre-thanksgiving/thanksgiving dinners and quickly marching into holiday parties. It is possible to get so distracted, like the disciples focused on their intended journey, who missed that the stranger among them was not really a stranger but their revered teacher and friend. They were caught up in the news of what had happened to him, their pain and confusion, or the unexpected, unplanned loss of his presence. We, too, might miss the reflective moment of waiting in anticipation, due to our ever-growing challenges. We may have missed the opportunities of growth that we experienced this year, because they came as unexpected, unplanned outcomes. What were those moments - God sightings - where we experienced God in amazing ways? Was it God’s abiding peace as we struggled with a loved one’s illness or death? Was it the comforting presence of a family member or neighbor who came to our rescue, by helping with a too heavy grocery bag, or too heavy pan of deliciously prepared soup for the church bazaar? Whatever and wherever, let us take a moment to pause this season and say thank you.
In the spirit of saying thank you, I extend a heartfelt thank you to the members of PLUM. You have journeyed with me in unexpected ways. You challenged me to open my eyes and recognize Jesus in the ministries that you offer, in the comradery of pastors and in the opportunity to be a part of PLUM’s evolving ministries. You welcomed this stranger and made me feel at home. You invited me to walk alongside you. On Sunday, November 3, I was given the gift to be one of your shepherds, to preside at your tables as an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, serving at PLUM. Like the disciples, my heart has been burning with the joy of being a living witness of Christ with and among you. Thank you for helping me to notice God in your midst.
So, as we enter Advent and this new liturgical calendar year, with more changes anticipated, may we, in our reflection, continue to see God present in our midst. May our eyes be opened to the many ways that God is calling us to live out our ministries in our families, our neighborhoods and our communities. May we continue to recognize the stranger among us and offer welcome. May our hearts burn with joy as we listen to God’s voice and guidance. Remembering that, in the midst of it all, we can exclaim with confidence and joy… “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
“THANKS BE TO GOD!”
+Pastor Brenda Henry
on behalf of the PLUM Pastoral Team
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773