Message from Pastor Jerry

Monthly Message

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Greetings and peace to you all!

Recently I’ve been thinking about “how in Christ, there is a new creation!” I know I speak frequently about the workings of the United Proclamation of the Gospel, but I can’t help projecting our shared ministry into St. Paul’s vision of becoming a new creation!

Paul understood that through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, the “old ways” passed away and reconciliation and forgiveness provided new life to the human story. At this point in our journey together, some of our “old ways” have passed away. However, new life and new creations are abounding within our midst! From a statistical point of view, the United Proclamation through the first six months of the year is averaging nearly 235 people hearing the word of the God proclaimed in their lives each week. Together we have nearly 60 children involved in Christian Education opportunities. Together we have more and more people hearing about God’s Word for their lives through mid-week Bible Studies! These are all wonderful signs of new growth and new beginnings coming from a community of faith focused on proclaiming God’s love to the world.

More and more fellowship opportunities are arising within our midst. Recently between the two nights of Iron Pigs baseball games, over 100 of us came together to enjoy spending time together. At our UPG golf outing this year we had over 50 people playing golf representing both campuses very well and at this point it appears that this was our most successful golf outing to date!

Our Vacation Bible School and our incredible preschool are gearing up to spread the love of God with children in wonderful and profound ways! All in all, I might suggest that there is quite a bit within our community to get excited about! Yet, it’s not just about our internal ministries in this time and place is it?

Recently our Advocacy Ministry Team (St. Peter’s) and our Social Ministry Team (Light of Christ) have come together to form the “God’s Work Our Hands” ministry team. Already this ministry team is hard at work planning “God’s Work Our Hands” day as a shared celebration on Sunday September 9, 2018! Without a doubt, the Bethlehem Emergency Shelter, the Food Bank, and New Beth-any Ministries will all receive some much-needed assistance through this powerful ministry. You can read about the “God’s Work Our Hands” day here.

Recently on our Light of Christ campus, over $32,000 was shared with benevolent causes beyond our walls by offering 10% of the sale price of our Locust Street property (formerly St. Matthew’s) to worthy benevolent causes including the ELCA, the North Eastern Pennsylvania Synod, the World Hunger Appeal, Lutheran Immigration Services, United Lutheran Seminary and Diakon adoption services.

These highlight only a few of the multitude of exciting ministries that are happening right within our midst. In the course of any given month, nearly 130 various ministries occur within our community of faith! Indeed St. Paul’s sentiments about becoming a new creation in Christ apply to the happenings of the United Proclamation of the Gospel in Bethlehem. My hope and prayer is that you too, can feel and experience all that God is doing within our community!

Peace and blessings,

Weekly Message – August 12

Listen to this message from the LORD,
you nations of the world;
proclaim it in distant coastlands:
The LORD, who scattered his people,
will gather them and watch over them
as a shepherd does his flock.
11 For the LORD has redeemed Israel
from those too strong for them.
12 They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem.
They will be radiant because of the LORD’s good gifts—
the abundant crops of grain, new wine, and olive oil,
and the healthy flocks and herds.
Their life will be like a watered garden,
and all their sorrows will be gone.
13 The young women will dance for joy,
and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration.
I will turn their mourning into joy.
I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.
14 The priests will enjoy abundance,
and my people will feast on my good gifts.
I, the LORD, have spoken!”
Jeremiah 31:10-14

Greetings and peace to you all!

As I have been praying this week, I realized how much “hope” I carry in my life! I have this “expectant anticipation” that in God’s time, the children of God will “come home and sing songs of
joy!” I look forward to the time when God’s children’s lives will “be like a watered garden, and all our sorrows will be gone!” I can hardly wait to see the people of God “dancing for joy!” Yet, for now at least, the words penned to paper by the prophet Jeremiah must be waited upon… or do they?

In my personal understanding of reading and interpreting Holy Scripture, I have come to a place of peace that Holy Scripture is NOT JUST HISTORY! Rather Holy Scripture shares with you and me how God has worked in the past, how God is working in

the present, and points to how God will work in the future! In other words, Holy Scripture is truly the living word of God! Always being made new in the light of new time and new places! From the beginning to the end of Holy Scripture, more than anything else, I believe Scripture shares the story of God’s “Hesed” (unrelenting, passionate, pursuing, unconditional love) with humanity. God is always seeking us out. God is always redeeming us. God is always making us holy, not because of the things we do, but rather out of the incredible gift of God’s grace poured out in infinite abundance on the world through the cross of Jesus Christ. For myself… this is most certainly true.

Here’s the beautiful part about understanding Holy Scripture in light of this understanding: you and I get to willingly participate in being part of the vision described in the book of Jeremiah! We
get to see our sisters and brothers “coming to worship to sing songs of joy!” for the gifts God has shared with us! We have an opportunity to participate in people’s lives when they “are like
watered gardens!” We are invited to see the people of God “dancing for joy!” Yes, we still live in a broken and battered world where sin, evil, and chaos abounds, but our Lord graciously shares with each of us and ability to see the “foretaste of the feast to come.”

So it is that today, I humbly come before you in prayer, asking that you too allow God’s Spirit to “open your eyes” to see not only the trials, tribulations, and sufferings of this world. To not be so
critical of yourself and others in this world that you are unable to see how God is at work in your life and the life of your neighbor. To simply allow yourself to find a respite in the arms of our God and see the beauty and glory of what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will do throughout eternity.