Weekly Update: 11/14/2017

Sunday, November 19

Word & Eucharist Liturgy – 8:30 & 11 am

Faith formation for all – 9:45 am

Early and Extended Advent

We began to observe the themes of Advent in our Sunday liturgy on November 12. In some early church traditions, Advent was a longer season of preparation much like Lent, giving more time to emphasize the themes of preparation, repentance, and hopefulness. Since the traditional four weeks of Advent usually begins Thanksgiving weekend when many are traveling, and the fourth Sunday of Advent is Christmastime, we have little time to share a season with a more quiet, contemplative listening for how God is speaking to us in our waiting. We hope our longer Advent season gives us space to appreciate the Advent season together more fully. During the season of Advent we will gather around the Eucharistic table for the Great Thanksgiving. We invite all who are able to gather around the communion table at the front of the nave as we pray, praise, and celebrate Christ’s presence among us in the holy meal.

Bible readings for this Sunday  (Year A, Lectionary 33)

Psalm 90:1-12

Lord, you have been our refuge
from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the earth were born,
from age to age you are God.
You turn us back to the dust and say,
“Turn back, O children of earth.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past
and like a watch in the night;
you sweep them away like a dream,
they fade away suddenly like the grass:
in the morning it is green and flourishes;
in the evening it is dried up and withered.
For we are consumed by your anger;
we are afraid because of your wrath.
Our iniquities you have set before you,
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The span of our life is seventy years, perhaps in strength even eighty;
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath?
Who rightly fears your indignation?
So teach us to number our days
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-11
But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Awake to the Grace of God
Linked with the reading from 1 Thessalonians and Psalm 90, Jesus’ parable of the talents invites a full-hearted response to God’s lavish gifts of faith and purpose: “Use ‘em if you’ve got ‘em!” The people of God are meant to be engaged, alert, and ready to share what we have received from our prodigally (wastefully) generous God. While the parable has sometimes been interpreted in the context of judgment, a careful reading also spotlights the beauty of the faith-generated response to God’s lavish grace.

One word for this is stewardship. Presented in light of God’s gift of faith and purpose, this “churchy” term can today be transformed to new understanding in the proclamation of the gospel text. Instead of the weight of obligation and duty we so often associate with religion, we are invited today to another way: What does it mean to be awake to the grace of God?

On the surface Jesus’ parable is a simple premise: the contrast of workers who please and workers who disappoint their master. Psalm 90 sings to us to carefully treasure our lifetimes, for there is something at stake. First Thessalonians is a letter reminding people they have exactly what they need to survive and thrive.

What does it mean to be awake to the grace of God?

In a time in history when so many people are discouraged with work, home, life, and church, a word from Jesus’ parables may be healing, enriching, and startlingly attractive. The gospel text today is an opportunity to remind the people of God that there is a depth to faith that is sustainable. In fact, beneath the parables of Jesus is a depth it will take a lifetime to unpack

Sunday Advent Prayer: Hurts, Healings, and Hopes
The season of Advent is traditionally a time of reflection, self-inspection, and preparation for God to be born again into our world.  It is a time to look both backward and forward, a sacred “interim time” as we pass from the old to the new Church year.

In all years, Advent reflections bring awareness of the brokenness of our world; illness, economic issues, war, conflict, and disasters are perennially present.  The past year in this country has been unusually challenging on many levels; for many among us it has been deeply distressing.

Yet God also calls us during Advent to be aware of the world’s vibrant beauty and resilience, and to look and listen for ways to help bring healing to it and to all of God’s people.  The year 2017 has been no different in this respect; amid great distress we have also seen significant acts of caring and healing, hope and recovery.

We come before God who welcomes us to name our hurts, our need for healing, and our hopes for what is to come. Our assembly will take time to reflect on both the past year and our visions for the coming church year with a different question to contemplate each week. We are invited each week to write or draw our responses on prayer ornaments that will be provided for that purpose.  The prayer ornaments will placed on the communion table and then added to our tree beginning December 10. Responses will be collected and shared, and will help in discerning where God is calling us to minister in the coming year.

The prayer questions for each week are:
Week one:  During the past year, what did you find hurtful, troubling, or fearful (on a personal, community, church, or society level)?

Week two:  During the past year, what did you find healing, or where did you see a need for healing (on a personal, community, church, or society level)?

Week three: During the past year, what has given you hope or brought beauty (on a personal, community, church, or society level)?

Week four:  During the past year, what practices or actions did you take in response to the things you found hurtful, healing, or hopeful?

Week five:  In the year to come, what change do you hope to see in God’s world?

Week six:  What ministries or activities of our church community were helpful or healing (for you or the world) during the past year?

Week seven:  In the year to come, what existing, different, or new activities or ministries might God be calling us to for the healing of the world and its people?

Companion Café: Wednesday, November 15

Companion Cafe is our ministry of cooking delicious, high quality, fresh dinners and sharing them in community with all who are hungry. We serve beginning at 6:00 PM on Wednesdays, until 7:00 PM. Suggested donation of $5 per plate, $3 for children. To go orders are welcome.

The menu for November 15: Tapas Night: Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche, Tomato Basil Bruschetta, Bacon Wrapped Dates, and Seafood Paella with a Spinach Salad and Raspberry Vinaigrette.

Companion Cafe will be closed for Wednesday, November 22 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Advent Event For All AND Men’s Clothing Drive for Micah 6:

Sunday, November 19 at 9:45 am

We’ll host our annual Advent Event in the fellowship hall. Come experience this season of hope and expectation with opportunities to make the Advent wreath for the sanctuary, ice cookies, and more, and enjoy goodies and merriment.  AND, it’s time to go through your closets—or pick up unopened packages of socks and underwear—for Micah 6’s affiliate clothing pantry, Fig Leaf. We’ll kick off the men’s clothing drive at the Advent Event on Sunday, November 19 and end it in time for Christmas on December 10. Questions? Call or text Renee Carlson, 512-657-5540.

FELC Responds to those in need in Sutherland Springs

We invite anyone, of any age, interested in writing or drawing a card for the people of God at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs,

to do so by Sunday, November 19. Please give any cards to Mary Lou Larson at church or contact her at connections@felcaustin.org.

We want to let these beloved know we care and won’t forget.

We will mail any cards on Monday, November 20.

We continue to pray for those in need, and may our prayers move us to concrete expressions of advocacy and action.

Poinsettias Available for Order

Poinsettias will enhance the sanctuary at Christmas.  If you would like to contribute to the cost of the flowers, please complete the online form at: http://www.felcaustin.org/forms/poinsettias.

Paper forms are available at bulletin tables at the entrances to the sanctuary.  Each plant costs $10.00 and will be available to take on Christmas Eve and the Sunday after Christmas on a first-come, first-served basis. To have an honor, memorial, or thanksgiving listed in the Christmas Eve bulletin, payment must be received by Friday, December 15. Please send a check made out to “First English Lutheran Church” with “Christmas Poinsettias” in the memo. Or, you may use our online donations option:  http://www.felcaustin.org/giving.  The plants are purchased from and support Down Home Ranch (http://www.downhomeranch.org) a 10 acre working farm and ranch east of Austin, where men and women with Down syndrome and other disabilities live with friends who work beside them.

Celebrate & Give Thanks as One Community

33rd Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving
Service and Celebration
Hosted by the
Austin Muslim Community 

For the past 32 years, iACT (Interfaith Action of Central Texas) has had the great joy and privilege of bringing the Annual Interfaith Thanksgiving service to the Austin Community. This is a unique opportunity for Austinites of all faith backgrounds to come together to give thanks as one community. We are proud to announce this year’s service will be hosted by the Austin Muslim Community and held at Riverbend Church (4214 N Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78746) on Sunday, November 19 at 3:00pm. We invite you to come hear prayers and practices from all of Austin’s faith communities, learn and appreciate the beauty and diversity of Islam, and share in a reception after the service. For more information, including about the reception following the service, see http://interfaithtexas.org/events/interfaith-thanksgiving-service-3/

Vision of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church Anniversary Service:
Sunday, November 19 at 3:00 PM at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

First English is invited to attend the anniversary service for Vision of Hope AME church. Pastor Coffey and other church leaders will be in attendance. The worship service is being held at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church,

1711 East Oltorf Street. Austin, 78741.

Advent Evening Prayer: Conversations with Zen

Wednesdays, November 29, December 6, December 13, 6:45-7:30 pm

This Advent on Wednesday evenings, we gather together in the Chapel of the Saints to pray with full attention. As we pause together and create space for Jesus in our hearts, we consider some lessons from Zen. What does sitting meditation have to do with waiting for the birth of Christ? What is a Zen koan anyway? What does letting go of preconceptions teach us about the conception of Jesus in our world? Come participate in three quiet evenings of prayer in the midst of an often-busy season.

First English at Austin NAACP Banquet: Saturday, December 2

First English will be represented at the Austin Chapter of the NAACP Annual DeWitty/Overton Banquet on Saturday, December 2 at 6:00 pm at the Hyatt Regency Town Lake. First English Lutheran Church has purchased a table of ten, with five seats remaining. Tickets are $75/plate. The 2017 DeWitty/Overton award recipient is The Rev. Dr. Mark Washington.  Dr. Washington is an Assistant City Manager for the City of Austin and Pastor of Vision of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church. Vicar Travis Fitzgold will be offering the benediction at the banquet. If you are interested in attending in support of FELC’s ongoing partnership and advocacy toward racial justice, please contact vicar@felcaustin.org.

A Word from Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy

From early faith leaders to modern-day congregations, people of faith have always been central to providing healing and wholeness in our communities. Make sure you are taking advantage of any Affordable Care Act subsidies available, which include more affordable prices this year. The Affordable Care Act exchanges at www.healthcare.gov are available now through December 15. The Marketplace will be closed Sundays from midnight to noon. Financial and in-person help to enroll is available.

Being in community

Imagine for a moment that you can no longer drive and have to depend on others to go places.  Maybe you’re using a walker and can’t walk the distances you once could.  Yet, you’re still YOU!  You’re hesitant to ask people for favors.  You have few friends or family still living.  The TV is boring.  If your eyesight has survived, you can enjoy reading, maybe even painting. Connecting with people is more challenging.  What a joy to get a phone call or, even better, a visit.  Thanks to a number of folks at First English, you are not forgotten!  THANK YOU to the following angels who have made time to visit one or more of our homebound this year:  Anne Wiebe, Barbara Schutz, Barbara Wiederaenders, Carl Brockman, Charlotte Gilman, David Klumpp, Judy Moltz, Lee Baker, Liz West, Lois Holck, Margaret Bruesch, Marian Klumpp, Pat Thomas, Penny Baker, Stefan, Kate, and Ada Wanstrom, Teresa Ringness, and Pastor Coffey and Vicar Travis.  Are YOU a visitor that we’ve overlooked?  Please let us know.

Would you like to do this but feel a bit awkward about it?  Ask any one of these folks what it’s like.  Some just chat, some bring a Bible reading to share, sometimes there’s prayer, communion.  There are always hugs and the presence of God.  Give it a try.  You’ll receive more than you give.  Congregational Care Chairperson Barbara Wiederaenders (bwiederaenders@att.net or 512-451-0684) will be glad to hear from you.

Reforming Stewardship

Stewardship is our spiritual discipline of using our whole lives to thank and serve God by loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves. Making stewardship commitments helps us be intentional. What new ways of using your time, your abilities, learning new skills, and sharing your wealth do you feel inspired to commit to for the coming year?

If you have not responded, forms are available online:
Stewardship of Finances: http://www.felcaustin.org/forms/stewardship-of-finances-form
Stewardship of Time and Abilities: http://www.felcaustin.org/forms/stewardshipoftime

For planning purposes, it is helpful to receive the Stewardship of Finances form by December 1, and the Stewardship of Time and Abilities form by January 1.

May God continue to bless us as we live into God’s abundant life.

Weekly Update: October 30, 2017

All Saints Sunday: November 5

Word & Eucharist Liturgy – 8:30 & 11 am

Faith formation for all – 9:45 am

{Daylight Savings Time ends early Sunday morning, November 5. 

Set your clocks back one hour on Saturday evening.}

 

Sunday, November 5, we will celebrate the Feast of All Saints (November 1), a time to remember and give thanks for and remember saints near and far, famous and familiar only to us, those who died long ago, those we have lost recently, and those known to God alone. As part of the observance we will read the names of those from FELC who have died during the past year.  We invite you all to bring pictures and mementos to place on our sacred space of remembrance in the Chapel of the Saints, and to write the names of anyone who has died in the past year in the Book of the Dead. This liturgy can be a helpful part of grief.

Reflections for Sunday, November 5

As we prepare…

Revelation 7:9-17

The book of Revelation is written to seven churches in western Asia Minor during a time of great oppression. This scripture text is a response to the question asked in chapter 6, verse 17: “Who is able to stand?” The writer responds with the assurance of God’s protection and a vision of eventual victory.

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

1 John 3:1-3

God, out of divine love, set us apart to be the children of God. Our holy hope is that we shall see God as God really is.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Comments from the Cloud of Witnesses

Then John saw the river, and the multitude was there. And a sweetness filled John as he heard the sound of singing: the singing was for him. No power could hold this army back, no water disperse them, no fire consume them. They wandered in the valley forever; and they smote the rock, forever; and the waters sprang, perpetually, in the perpetual desert. They cried unto the Lord forever, they were cast down forever, and lifted up their eyes forever. No, the fire could not hurt them, and yes, the lions’ jaws were stopped; the serpent was not their master, the grave was not their resting-place, the earth was not their home. Job bore them witness, and Abraham was their father, Moses had elected to suffer with them rather than glory in sin for a season. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had gone before them into the fire, their grief had been sung by David, and Jeremiah had wept for them. Ezekiel had prophesied upon them, these scattered bones, these slain, and, in the fullness to time, the prophet, John, had come out of the wilderness, crying that the promise was for them. They were encompassed with a very cloud of witnesses: Judas, who had betrayed the Lord; Thomas, who had doubted Him; Peter, who had trembled at the crowing of a cock; Stephen, who had been stoned; Paul, who had been bound; the blind man crying in the dusty road, the dead man rising from the grave. And they looked unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of their faith, running with patience the race He had set before them; they endured the cross, and they despised the shame, and waited to join Him, one day, in glory, at the right hand of the Father.

James Baldwin

[James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain (New York: Dell, 1953), 204-05.]

Reformation Day: Tuesday, October 31

There have been many celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation throughout the past year, including last week.

Join ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton on Tuesday, October 31, as she co-hosts a commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The event, which will include speakers and a service, will be at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Bishop Eaton will be joined by co-hosts Indiana-Kentucky Synod Bishop Bill Gafkjen, ELCA Vice President Bill Horne and Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Synod Bishop Richard Graham.

The event, which will meet under the theme “Looking Back and Called Forward,” will be available online via livestream for all to watch: http://www.elca.org/livestream.

a word from the presiding bishop

Dear friends in Christ,

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32)

On Reformation Day, we gather as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – in our congregations, across this church, and with our Lutheran family around the globe – to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This centennial has provided a welcome occasion to learn more about Martin Luther and the Reformation, while strengthening our understanding and commitment to our ministries. It has given us an opportunity to look back on the history of our tradition and to discern how we are being called forward together in Christ. As the first centennial of the Reformation to take place in the context of our church’s deep ecumenical and inter-religious partnerships, this anniversary is unfolding in a spirit of reconciliation. Together with our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers, and other ecumenical companions, we have taken significant steps on the way to unity, justice and peace. With our inter-religious neighbors, we also have deepened mutual understanding across religious lines and collaborated for the common good. Over the course of this year, in initiatives and events across this church and The Lutheran World Federation, we have been inspired by the ways in which Lutherans continue to share boldly the gifts of our tradition. One of these is Martin Luther’s insistence that the unconditional promise of God’s love in Jesus Christ frees us to love and serve our neighbors. This counter-cultural message is as fit for us today as it was for Christians 500 years ago. On this day, and into God’s future, we are called to be a public witness to how God is continually at work, in and through us, re-forming the body of Christ in a world broken by sin. Thanks be to God.

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton Presiding Bishop

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Reforming Stewardship

Stewardship is our spiritual discipline of using our whole lives to thank and serve God by loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves. Making stewardship commitments helps us be intentional. What new ways of using your time, your abilities, learning new skills, and sharing your wealth do you feel inspired to commit to for the coming year?

Forms are available at FELC to fill out and turn in.    

We also have stewardship forms available online:
Stewardship of Finances: http://www.felcaustin.org/forms/stewardship-of-finances-form
Stewardship of Time and Abilities: http://www.felcaustin.org/forms/stewardshipoftime

For planning purposes, it is helpful to receive the Stewardship of Finances form by December 1, and the Stewardship of Time and Abilities form by January 1.

May God continue to bless us as we live into God’s abundant life.

Companion Café: Wednesday, November 1

Companion Cafe is our ministry of cooking delicious, high quality, fresh dinners and sharing them in community with all who are hungry. We serve beginning at 6:00 PM on Wednesdays, until 7:00 PM. Suggested donation of $5 per plate, $3 for children.

To go orders are welcome.

The menu for November 1: Shepherd’s Pie, Creamed Spinach, Garden Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing.

Café Conversations: Wednesday, 6:30 to 7:30

As a new part of our Wednesday evening ministries this fall, we are inviting local leaders of non-profits and other community organizations to present on what they are doing, and then have time for questions and conversation.

November 1: We welcome Jennifer Long, Director of Casa Marianella. Casa Marianella is a volunteer-driven emergency homeless shelter in east Austin, serving recently-arrived immigrants and asylum seekers from around the world – www.casamarianella.org

Come and enjoy a great Companion Café meal, and then stay for the presentation and conversation as we learn about many great organizations in our community and ways we can connect with and support one another.

A Word from Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy

From early faith leaders to modern-day congregations, people of faith have always been central to providing healing and wholeness in our communities. Your help is needed to ensure that your community receives access to healthcare in 2018. Unfortunately, we are already seeing an increase in the number of uninsured for the first time since the ACA was implemented.  In Texas, we are working to get roughly 1.2 million people covered. (That’s the number of Texans who got their insurance through the ACA in 2017.) You can help inform your local communities by: talking to people in your congregation to make sure they are taking advantage of any Affordable Care Act subsidies available to them. Reminding families that the Affordable Care Act exchanges at www.healthcare.gov are still available beginning November 1. Reminding families that the enrollment period is shorter this year, running from November 1 through December 15. Spreading the word: The Marketplace will be closed Sundays from midnight to noon. Letting families know financial and in-person help to enroll is available.

Sunday Morning Adult Formation in November

In our adult formation at 9:45 am on Sundays in November, we will take time to reflect on a number of issues happening in our nation and how people of faith and the church community could respond. All opinions will be welcomed, and we will practice attentive and respectful listening to each other, rather than a lot of crosstalk and reacting. Throughout this forum, we will explore how it is we are called to live out our faith in the political realm. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has adopted twelve social statements since its formation. The first one was adopted in 1991 and is called “Church in Society.” It provides a helpful framework for thinking about how the church engages in issues of public life and policy. We will use that as an introductory discussion topic. The social statement is available online here: http://elca.org/en/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Church-in-Society

Vision of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church Anniversary Service:
Sunday, November 19 at 3:00 PM

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

FELC participants are invited to attend the anniversary service for Vision of Hope AME church. Pastor Coffey and other church leaders will be in attendance. The service is being held at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 1711 E. Oltorf St. Austin, 78741.

First English at Austin NAACP Banquet: Saturday, December 2

First English will be represented at the Austin Chapter of the NAACP Annual DeWitty/Overton Banquet on Saturday, December 2 at 6:00 pm at the Hyatt Regency Town Lake. Tickets are $75/plate. The 2017 DeWitty/Overton award recipient is The Rev. Dr. Mark Washington.  Dr. Washington is an Assistant City Manager for the City of Austin and Pastor of Vision of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church. Vicar Travis Fitzgold will be offering the benediction at the banquet. If you are interested in attending in support of FELC’s ongoing partnership and advocacy toward racial justice, please contact vicar@felcaustin.org.

Pastor Coffey’s New Book Available

Pastor Coffey’s new book, “Renounce, Resist, Rejoice: Being Church in the Age of Trump,” has been published. It is available online from the publisher’s web site site (https://wipfandstock.com/renounce-resist-rejoice.html) and from Amazon.com.

Copies available for sale at a discount at the church. The cost is $10 (cash or check made out to “Michael Coffey”). If you are interested you can speak with Pastor Coffey during the week in the church office or on Sunday morning.

A description of the book from the back cover:
“The election of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth president of the United States was a watershed moment in American history. In this book, Michael Coffey reflects on major social and religious issues leading up to and following the election. Coffey addresses the political issues of the day, not from a partisan position but from the question of what it means to be faithful as church now. Rather than pit left against right or Republican against Democrat, Pastor Coffey seeks to explore fundamental issues of Christian commitments centered in love of God and neighbor. Coffey shares his personal responses to the events surrounding the election while exploring central biblical and theological themes that have shaped and challenged the church in every age. This book confronts conservative and liberal Christian assumptions and creates space for dialogue about what it means to prioritize the Gospel message of compassion and mercy over partisan politics, nationalism, and ideology. Church leaders will find resources for leading conversation. Church members will find a rich and challenging resource for dialogue. Those outside of religious communities who are politically engaged will find insight for understanding how people of faith live out their commitments in the public realm.”