Pastor’s Blog

January 28, 2021

Dear Members and Friends of Joy Lutheran Church,

Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.1 Peter 4:10

Recently I was holding my 6-month old grand-daughter, frustrated that once she grabs my hair she won’t let go.   It was a sort of an “ah-ha” experience that not only is HOLDING ONTO items a development step, but also LETTING GO of them.  It made me think of all aspects of life, including stewardship.  What we are given in terms of resources are all ultimately gifts from God, our creator and redeemer and witness to God’s care for us. 

 We are called to “let go” of our time, talent and resources and use them to the glory of God.  I am so thankful for the many examples of people sharing their time, talents and resources here at Joy Lutheran Church!  We are asked biblically to give a tithe or ten-percent of our resources to our faith community or Church.  Thanks to people’s offerings,  Joy Lutheran Church has been able to sustain and grow its ministries even in a very tough year.  Some of those ministries include:

  • Virtual Worship offered both Sunday and Mid Week during Advent and Lent
  • Sunday morning worship using COVID-19 mitigation protocol
  • Drive Through Communion once per month
  • Outdoor Easter and Christmas Eve services
  • Vacation Bible School (virtual style July 2020!)
  • Revitalized Sunday School(a COVID cautious gathering of 4 classes after worship)
  • Our Mask tree
  • A Call Committee set up to discern a new Pastor
  • Food Bank Ministry (we increased our giving three fold during COVID)
  • Earthquake repairs to the interior building
  • Ministry Site Profile completed

 This Spring, Joy Lutheran anticipates calling a new Pastor.  Even now, the Call Committee has received names of possible candidates from the Bishop.  As we are on the cusp of this new chapter, it is important to keep up our giving.  For those of you not severely impacted financially by COVID, I humbly ask you to prayerfully consider raising your giving a percentage amount that challenges you.   In my own personal life, I have found that committing myself to a tithe allows a discipline that has enhanced my family life for over 40-years and helps me keep the perspective that all I have belongs to God not “me.”

Thank you again for your prayers, support and giving of yourself to our Lord’s ministry here at Joy Lutheran Church.  You make a profound difference!

In Christ’s abundant grace,
Karen Sonray, Interim Pastor

 

October 22, 2020

ON FORGIVENESS  — Interim Pastor Karen Sonray

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  (The Lord’s Prayer)

“For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)

Quite a few years ago an elder told me that while he lived in Nome he drove taxicab.  Often he would bring a passenger to their destination and when it came time for them to pay, they would say, “I don’t have the money, can I owe you?”  At that point he had little choice but to say yes.

He began to make a list of each person’s name, keeping record of what they owed him.  He kept that record book in the glove compartment.  The list got long and so did some of the amounts owed.  Many of these “debtors”- Nome being a small town – were his relatives, friends- rarely were they strangers.

How would you feel if someone did that to you? Or better yet, how do you feel when someone does that to you?  Do you resent them – seethe inside when you see them approach?  Do you become angry when you hear that repeated phrase – “Sorry, next time.  I can’t pay you now, but I will.”

How would you feel if you were the one who owed the payments?  Would you go out of your way to avoid the person?  Try not to look them in the eyes?  Would you pretend you didn’t remember? Would you inwardly discount the whole matter as “not really your fault” or “not really that important.”?

Well, that’s what was happening to this elder friend of mine who relayed the story to me years afterward.  It got so it affected what he thought of these individuals and clouded his relationship with each of them.  He had a bad attitude and resented them when he scanned the list.  When he ran into these individuals, their “debt” would be the first think on his mind.  It was destroying his relationships with them and eroding his own spirit.

One day he finally had enough.  He had an “ah ha” moment.

He opened up that glove compartment.  He took out the record book with its long list of names and amounts owed. And he ripped up each page and threw them away.

He said it changed his attitude toward those people and lifted a weighty burden from his psyche.  He could look them in the eye again .He began to treat each as a fellow human being again.

In a deeper and more profound way, God has ripped up that page, that record He has on us.  All the times we have disappointed, all our failures, all the times we have missed the mark, judged others  – the list has been ripped.  God did this that we might me be forgiven our debts (which can also be translated from the original Greek as our sins, our trespasses) and in right relationship with God.  We have been forgiven in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Believe and live in this truth and give thanks to God.

“For while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”  Romans 5: 8

——————–
June 19, 2020

ON COMPASSION   — Interim Pastor Karen Sonray

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.   Matthew 9: 35 – 38

Compassion- it is an important word.  Jesus had compassion as he looked at the harassed and the helpless. I was struck just the other day when I read a Neighborhood Network post offering a big thank you to the people who waited as the writer backed out of her driveway.  She remarked that they did not scowl at her or honk their horns.  I wondered, “is this sort of patience and compassion an anomaly these days?”

Biblically, the word compassion means to feel sympathy within the bowels— the source of human feelings in Greek.  In Latin, compassion (com-pati) means “suffer with.” Someone else’s pain becomes our pain. “Compassion” can directly inform our situation today –  as we seek to work toward a better nation in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death which unmasked a terrible repeated and historical pattern in our society.

God exemplifies divine compassion by sending us his Son.  Jesus looked at the crowds with compassion.  He didn’t ignore them. He didn’t form a study or committee. He sent out those closest to him to multiply God’s ministry to all those who need a Shepherd.

Compassion is a critical requirement in human community.  Studies in Criminal Rehabilitation speak to this.  Without the ability to cultivate compassion toward the victim of their crime, criminals are very unlikely to be able to be reformed.

Martin Luther King changed his course of career largely due to compassion.  An exceptional intellect, striving to be a University professor, King changed course as he saw the plight of his people.  He took pity and went to the streets, leading a non-violent movement toward equal rights.  He said, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.” (Sermon at Purdue, Aug. 1958)

The Christian community is called to be a beacon of compassion in times of comfort and times of controversy.  As you read further in Matthew 10, you read that Jesus sent out those first 12 disciples with very little possessions.  He said to travel light and depend on God and the relationships ahead on your journey.  They were sent out with a message.

“Peace to this house!” and “The kingdom of God has come near.” Peace is more than keeping calm, it is confidence in God’s abiding presence:  God’s compassion to and with us;  God’s  suffering with us. Engaging others means not treating them as objects upon which we act, but as sacred others with whom we are called to be fully and peacefully present; to listen, learn and share.

This sort of presence is greatly needed today in our troubled world.  How can we dismantle racism in our institutions without also having compassion toward those caught within? The oppressed and the oppressor; the victim and the enabler?  How can we reform the Church, Law Enforcement, our Prisons, without also having compassion toward those who have been called to serve there and are unhappy with the situation themselves?  How can we be reformers if we do not listen and learn from those whose freedoms have been pressed down for decades?

Yes, we have a lot of work to do. Without cultivating relationships of compassion as we do this work, it will all fall short.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

——————–

March 18, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

Due to the onset of the COVID-19 virus and mandated precautions, we have cancelled all church activities, including in-person Worship, through the end of March. The Church Council and I have not reached this decision lightly. Love of neighbor is our motive.

On Sunday mornings by 9:30 am, a pre-recorded Devotion or mini-worship service will be sent to you via email/ Constant Contact. (If we do not have your email address, please send it to us at joylutheran@gmail.com)  This Devotion will also be made available  on Joy Lutheran’s Facebook  page.  It may not be “LIVE” yet, but we will re-evaluate  and make improvements along the way.  FYI I also will send out assignments to our Confirmation Class students.

Together we are attempting to slow the virus’ spread. If we have a huge surge of patients our hospitals will be overwhelmed.  We seek to protect those at higher risk of death. God is giving us this opportunity to interfere with the normal course of this virus.

During this time of “social distancing” (or as some have said “social caring”), we are still the Church! As the song goes, “The Church is not a building….the Church is not a steeple…..the Church is a people!” Rather than focusing on “gathering” together in person, perhaps God is giving us a time to re-think Church. How can we worship “alternatively”, lift each other up regularly in prayer, support one another in Spirit, give to those on the edge?

Here at Joy Lutheran Church as staff and leaders we will be putting our heads together on these very concerns. Worship  is a source of solace and a healing balm.  We also trust that God is where we are at. God will lift us up and use us even as we are scattered. God is in control amid all these changes, creating us anew.

At this point of time I ask you to:

  • Follow Public Health advisors’ guidance.  Here in Alaska people who have travelled anywhere Outside are asked to isolate themselves for 14 days.  I urge you to follow all protocols.
  • Pray. Pray for health care workers throughout the world and everyone keeping hospitals going; all workers keeping our infrastructure going – delivery and supply chain, utilities, groceries, airlines, prisons, law enforcement – the list goes on; leaders in each level of government; child care workers and all education staff;  people who have lost their jobs; those who are homeless.
  • Reach out.  Call up, “email” or even write someone. Offer words of encouragement. Listen to one another. Pray over the phone with each other.
  • Give. When you go to the store, don’t forget the Food Bank. They will be overwhelmed I’m sure at this time. Many people in our society cannot “stock up” on any food or cleaning items.
Do you have children at home? Perhaps they could make cards or a little “picture” for someone in our congregation or your extended family who is older and would really appreciate it! Need an address?  Contact us.

Finally, if you have a pastoral care concern, call me (907-434-1862) or the Church! We will be checking messages.  I am available and will want to know if you are sick or in the hospital or need to talk or pray.

In Christ’s love,
Interim Pastor Karen Sonray

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