Catching Up... 2.3-2.7 "What is Incarnational"

Wow... Having a birthday, a beach day, and a Memorial Day weekend is really bad for keeping up with a blog. For those of you who attended the Beach day, thanks for coming, it was great to spend time with you all. And for those who were able to make Bible study on Sunday, thanks for the shared meal and discussion. This week for Bible study I'd like for us to meet and have a meal together, and then have our Bible study around the table like we did on Sunday night. I felt like we were more connected and relaxed that way. As you read through the Gospels, you notice that Jesus is often eating with people. To eat with someone is a way of sharing fellowship. Let's do the same this Sunday. Any ideas on what we should do (Mexican, BBQ, potluck style)?


1.2 [Meditation] "What is Incarnational"

For today's reading, please check out this short essay, especially the last few paragraphs that talk about how we do evangelism:


2.1 [Exploration] "What is Incarnational"

An added thought to today's reading....
Have you ever heard the word "postmodern?" That word brings forth a variety of emotions - some positive, some negative, and if unfamiliar with the definition, perhaps apathy. Although many Christians often react negatively to the broad term "postmodernism" (usually its tendency to downplay absolute truth in favor of subjective experience), we need to recognize that this is our social context. Postmoderns focus on emotion over reason, are comfortable holding onto paradoxes and opposing truths, and are often critical of authority. Whether we know it or not, this mindset has effected all of us in one way or another. Now stick with me for a minute (I know this is getting kind of philisophical...). The movement postmodernism replaced was called "modernism." This way of thinking viewed the world in terms of what can be proved by scientific study and research, reason, etc. How does this relate to the church and culture? Well, how many times have you heard people try to prove the Bible, argue people into accepting Jesus, etc? This has its place, for Christianity is a thinking faith and is rooted in historical events. But can you see how this approach would not work very well with people our age? This is why standing on the corner with a sign or passing out pamphlets on how to get your "ticket to heaven" are innefective, and in my opinion, hurtful. These methods lack relationship, and at their worst are confrontational (My belief system can own your belief system in an argument!") Just as John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us," our Christian witness takes on flesh and dwells among people of all types, inviting them to actually see the life we have in Jesus. It is from here that the truth is offered. My question for you is this: "What might be some challenges that we face as the young adult community at Bethlehem? What attitudes or habits might have to be examined and reconsidered in light of our context?"
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you said that I am the light of the world and the salt of the earth. May our community give light in dark places and flavor to the dullness of existence without you. Amen.


1.7 [Communion] "What is Missional?"

Today we set aside some intentional time to commune with God. This is the very center of our life together. We spend time alone with out Lord so that when we meet, we have something to give one another. In a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "Life Together," he has the following to say about our time alone before God:

"Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ's call to you, and you have no part in the community of those who are called. "The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battles with death by himself, alone... I will not be with you then, nor you with me" (Luther).

But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear the cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ, and this your solitude can only be hurtful to you. "If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me" (Luther).


1.6 [Calibration] "What is Missional?"

Today's reading talks about the adjustments we make in our lives when we realize that we are sent. One of those adjustments consists in making time spent with those on the outside a priority. This priority, which consists in being present, cultivating a relationship of trust, and responding to needs, may even take priority over the time we spend at church (I'm not talking about worship, of course, but church activities). The reason is that being with those who don't know Christ is better than waiting for them to come to us. Back in St. Louis, one of the tax preparation companies advertises by dressing up their poor employees in statue of liberty costumes. During tax season it's common to see them out on the street, waving everyone in. Here in Jacksonville we have the equivalent with the "Cash for Gold!" guy that stands out on Beach Blvd. A friend of mine in St. Louis commented once that the church's evangelism techniques often follow this model. We develop a program or an event and try to wave people in off the streets. This is helpful sometimes, but will never reach a large part of our local community. Like the guys on the side of the road waving signs, nonbelievers sense that we too are trying to "sell something." There is no substitute for going. That one word "go" makes all the difference. And like we talked about last night, we are all sent (our families, jobs, neighbors, etc.). One of the questions that stands out to me in our reflection section is "What activities or hobbies do you love that you could invite them to share with you?" In other words, instead of creating a "Christian biking group" with people that think and act like you, why not go out and join a normal biking group in your community?

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you that where ever I go, you go. I am never alone. Open my eyes to see those opportunities that you have given me. In the name of Jesus, Amen.


1.5 [Community]

This evening at 6:00 we meet at Bethlehem, as we normally do on Sundays, to debrief a bit on what we've learned so far. We'll be taking a look at Luke 15, where we see in three parables how Jesus went out to seek what was lost. See you there.


1.4 [Action] "Crossing the Fence"

Today's reading presents a challenge. Crossing a boundary to get to know someone on your street, in your neighborhood, or where you get coffee. The idea here is that we become intentional about being present to others around us. We pause from our busy lives to be open to opportunities right in front of us. This may happen for you at work. Perhaps when you take your kids to the park. Or maybe even taking the extra time to tell your waiter or waitress that you're thankful for their service. Let me be honest - this can be kind of awkard. It's not really what we're used to. Here's what I'm planning this week. First, instead of writing my sermon in my office, I'm going to try to prepare for Sunday at Dunkin' Donuts. The place is small enough that sometimes conversations start. Second, I'm going to attend a yoga class on Tuesday morning. Yes, I know that's really wierd. But this is completley out of my context and makes me feel uncomfortable. I'm looking forward to seeing you all Sunday to discuss how things have been going.


1.3 [Change] What is Missional?

A few thoughts about today's reading...
Cultural Immersion - We really can't avoid culture. As our reading says about Abraham and the first Christians, "They didn't have much control over these cultures might impact their lives." Culture is at the same time both positive and negative. In the positive sense, whatever culture we are sent to has its own way of expressing and interpretting reality in art, music, food, language, dress, etc. Most of us adapt to these things fairly easily. We're not Amish. But there will always be a point at which we as Christians do not adapt culture, for it goes against our calling to be faithful to God. Can you think of a few examples?One of the interesting things about Christianity is its ability to both shape culture and adapt to culture. On the one hand, much of the Western world is the way it is because of the Christian faith. Concepts like the sanctity of human life, values like family and marriage, just laws, and even major advances in literature and music (Bach, for example.). On the other hand, the message of Jesus has always adapted to its environment. As Christianity left Jerusalem and entered Gentile territory, practice was adjusted (see Acts 15). Unlike the Koran, which must be preserved in Arabic to be truly read and understood, the Christian Scriptures were translated into the languages of the surrounding areas as a living Word. And even now we see our faith expressed in a variety of cultural mediums, such as music, art, etc.
As we interact with culture, we as Christians live in a certain amount of tension. On the one hand, we engage culture and appreciate it as a part of the goodness of God's creation. I think we sell ourselves short when we isolate ourselves by listening to only Christian music, only reading Christian books, only going to Christian events, etc. We even express our isolation with bumper stickers, T-Shirts, and even extend the "Christian" label to our clubs, such as "Christian Art Festival" or "Christian Biking Club." I know the intentions are good here, but perhaps we do this because we're scared of the tension that exists when we engage culture.
The other side of the spectrum is that we do, at times, need to resist culture. For example, I'm not going to endorse a movie like "The Hangover Two" and say, "Hey, we should all go see this because we're engaging culture." And when I read the New York Times in the morning or listen to NPR while driving the car, I do have times when I definitely don't agree with what I read or hear.
I think we're on the right track here. This year we've been immersed in community. We've also been immersed in God. What are some ways that we, as a community at Bethlehem, can creatively engage community, while at the same time exist within the tension?

Prayer: Father, thank you for all you have created. Help me to see your goodness expressed in created things. Remind me today that by the power of your Holy Spirit, you are with me, and you are with us. Go with us into the world, and use us as you will. Through Jesus, the expression of your goodness,Amen.


1.2 [Meditation] "What is Missional?"

A few insights from today's reading....

First - the issue here is not being sent, or whether or not we are sent. The issue is realizing that we are sent right now. Where ever we are, God has placed us there on a mission. All the baptized have received that same mission from God and are sent, whatever their vocation may be. What we do as sent people always flows from a realization of who we are. We are God's people. We are justified and forgiven people, united to him in Word and Sacrament, and having such gifts, we are sent. Do you see a difference here? So often we hear, "You need to tell people about Jesus!" Yes... but never as a burdensome task. This is simply part of who we are as sent people. A life that gives witness to Jesus is a life that has experienced the Gospel in all its goodness, not a thing to check off our list of spiritual deeds.

Second - What are some of the fears you might have about living as a sent person? I'm a fairly introverted person. I enjoy my quiet and space. I don't like that to be messed with. I also don't like akward situations (but then again, who does?). I have a feeling that the more I live out my "sentness," the more I may have to bend in those areas. But then again, we must remember that God has created all of us with different personalities, and none of us live out our "sentness" in the same exact way. However, I do know that my comfort zone needs to be messed with from time to time.

Third - What is your comfort zone? Where do you feel the safest? For many of us, church is our comfort zone. And of course, that's a good thing. We need to gather at church to be refreshed by the presence of Jesus in Word and Sacrament. But what about the other six days of the week? One of the most meaningful sermons I've ever heard described the typical habit of Christians in the following analogy.

Have you ever seen one of those old Western movies, where the cowboys all hide out in a fort in the middle of the desert? Every once in awhile they leave to go get supplies or have a gun fight. But for the most part they stay inside the fort. Everything is safe there. It's dangerous out there in the wilderness - out among the teepees. This is the habit we often develop within the church. The world is a dangerous place! And so we spend as much time as we can within the fort - spending time with people that look, act, and believe like us. We even have our own music, movies, book stores, and radio stations. We live out among the "teepees" (or the world) as a necessity, and hope that maybe they will join us. But remember that Jesus said to his disciples GO, not STAY (Matthew 28:19). And so as the church we are called to go out from the comfort of our fort and live among the teepees. This is what Jesus did (Luke 15!!!) and this is what we do also.


Introduction to our Study

As we begin our new 8 week study, here's a video from the author that gives a good summary of what the Tangible Kingdom workbook is all about.

1.1 [Exploration] What is Missional?

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20)

"Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went" (Acts 8:4)

What does it mean to be missional? It means to be sent. As believers in Christ, we have the greatest of all gifts - the gospel, or the good news about Jesus Christ. This gospel has made an impact on our lives both now and in eternity. And like any gift, it doesn't make sense to keep it to ourselves. We are sent by God to spread the good news. Some Christians are called to devote all of their time to preaching the Gospel. This is why we have pastors. Article V of the Augsburg Confession states, "To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments." But the privilege of being sent does not extend just to pastors, but especially to every member of the body of Christ. Where does this happen? Does it happen on a mission trip? Going to a soup kitchen? Having an "outreach event?" Maybe... But what about the other days and hours of the week? What does it mean to be sent by God on an intentional mission while raising kids and trying to make ends meet? While working two jobs? During leisure time spent with friends? I'm convinved that our mission consists in being the love of Christ where we're at. As we start this 8 week study, consider where God has placed you. Who are the people he has place you around? Your children? Relatives? Coworkers, friends, neighbors, or even strangers, like the cashier at Publix or the waitress at European Street? Where ever you are at now - that is the place God has sent you. Our goal here is to learn how to live intentional lives centered around the gospel of Jesus Christ - not complacent lives slightly moved by his word. As we begin, we ponder the following question: What are some hindrances or challenges to being faithful to our call to be sent? I have to admit that my biggest challenge is my own apathy and love for my comfort zone. I think there's a part of us that always wants to settle for second best in the way we live our lives. What do you think?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for being sent for me. Open my eyes to see where you are sending me. You know what holds me back. Remind me again that you are all the strength I could ever need. Amen.

Vicar John and the BLC 3

Here's a video from the fourth Sunday of Easter. Thanks Tammy for your awesome video skills! She was able to sneak this in while doing the screens from the balcony.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

On Sunday, May 15th, our young adult group had the privilege of leading worship at Bethlehem at all three services. We had a chance to
participate in a variety of ways, including music, Scripture readings, the children's message, and operating the screens.
Our group that led worship consisted of Vicar John on guitar, Kelly on vocals, Robert on vocals, guitar, and mandolin, and Danny on drums. Some of the songs we led were very familiar to Bethlehem, such as "Come Thou Fount" and "Christ be my Leader," which are all found in our Lutheran Service Book (LSB). Other songs were new, yet still easy to learn. For example, we put together a version of "Nothing but the Blood" and "Living Water." In another post I will include a video as well.

Stephanie put together a very beautiful flute piece for "Christ be my Leader," which was performed during the offering of our gifts.

Dane and William helped us out during our practices.
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Vicar Tim and Megan Barone

On Wednesday, May 4th, second year seminarians at Concordia Seminary St. Louis received their vicarage assignments. Students sit on the right side of the chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus, eagerly awaiting the anouncement of their placement. There is definitely a good mix of joy and anxiety in the air. After two years of intense study, the destination of each man and his family rests in an envelope, soon to be opened. Kelly and I were very blessed to see one of our closest friends, Tim and Megan Barone, receive their placement to our very own Bethlehem Lutheran Church. This couple is very dear to us, and as they have been a blessing to us, they will also be a blessing to you as well. Below are a few words about Vicar Tim and his wife Megan:

"Tim and Megan Barone are from Colorado Springs, Colorado and both have family in that area. They both attended Concordia University, Nebraska, graduating in 2008. Tim Graduated with a Bachelors degree in Psychology and Megan with a Bachelors degree in Theology and a Director of Christian Education certificate. After graduation, they spent a year in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While there Megan completed a DCE internship at Zion Lutheran Church. Tim worked as a behavioral facilitator in a classroom for children with behavioral challenges. For the past two years they have lived in St. Louis, MO as Tim attends seminary. During these years Megan has worked both as a DCE at Immanuel St. Charles and as a team facilitator at a Christian catalog company called Christian Tools of Affirmation. Tim and Megan love enjoying God’s creation, reading novels, watching movies, cooking, and playing board games. They are especially excited to see the great things that God is doing at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Jacksonville Beach."

If you have a moment, be sure to check out the placement service video at http://callday.csl.edu/watch/vicarage/
The video takes a long time to load up, but once it does, you can jump ahead to 41:30, which has Vicar Tim's placement announced.

Please keep this couple in your prayers as you anticipate their arrival! You are very blessed by our Lord to have them next year!
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Run for Ducks 5K

As a group, we decided to participate in a local 5K race on the beach. We used the race as an opportunity to raise money for Lutheran World Relief Gifts, which allows people to purchase animals as an economic resource for impoverished people in foreign countries. We ran with the goal of raising money to purchase ducks for rice farmers in the Philippines. The Sunday school got involved by seeing who could raise the most money toward our cause. The members at Bethlehem responded graciously, giving over $2000 toward our cause! It felt great to send a check that big toward a good cause! Praise God! Feel free to check out Lutheran World Relief at www.lwr.org.

Getting ready for the race...

It was a perfect day on the beach for a 5K

Our entire group. This picture made the Lutheran World Relief Blog a few weeks ago




Exhausted after the race...

Headed toward the finish line

Tara and Jackie posing for a picture. Tara put us all to shame and was one of the first to finish out of all the runners.

For many of us, this was our first 5K. We all had a great time!

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March Habitat Build

Getting a little nutrition before the build

The Habitat crew placed the girls on their own house, which was almost done and needed some finish work

They placed the guys on the a house that was still being framed

Danny and Vicar John worked as a team putting up perimeter board

They trusted David and John enough to let them use some power tools to stabilize the framing

No fingers were lost

Jeff worked with one of the future home owners putting in fire guard

Extreme home makeover....

The girls doing some painting on the interior of the house

Our entire group after a good morning of work
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Christmas Party 2010

What's better than a good Christmas party? Equipped with lots of food, good drinks, tacky Christmas ties and sweaters, and a winner takes all round of "Chinese gift exchange" (also known as "Yankee swap"), we celebrated the birth of our Savior.

And if you're not happy with what you get, you can always make a deal...

The Kahlua in the picture on the top became the hot item of the night, causing the game to get a little intense

I got a nice bag of coffee and a mug. This was also a chance to break out my new Christmas tie, which had music AND lights!

All in all, I think everyone went home happy.

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Bethlehem Young Adult Blog

Hey Everyone!

I've been wanting to have a site for our group for a long time, but since I'm kind of technologically challenged and lack the patience to put together a blog, it's taken a long time. However, thanks to Kendra, we've got our new blog up and running. Our blog will serve as a source for information, events, pictures of events, as well as thoughts about our shared faith in our Lord Jesus. This week I will be catching everything up to speed by posting pictures from our past events. Starting this Wednesday, May 18th, I will be offering some daily reflections on our new study titled "The Tangible Kingdom," which focuses on our community together as the people of God, gathered together around the teaching of the apostles, fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and prayer (Acts 2:42). I invite you all to follow along and contribute your thoughts, experiences, and insights as we take this 8 week journey together!


Vicar John