Mt. Pisgah

Lutheran Church


9379 Hwy 127 North

Hickory, NC  28601

(Bethlehem Community)

Phone:  828-495-8251

Fax:  828-495-8252


Worship:  8:00 and 10:30 am

(Nursery provided)

Sunday School:  9:15 am

(For all ages)


Church email

 secretary@mtpisgahelca.org


Webmaster email

slgreene13@gmail.com

 


Follow Us On

 

Instagram

mtpisgahelca

 

Events

 

Sunday, August 19th  

New Member Class

9:15 AM Emmaus Room

 

Thursday, Aug 23rd

Preschool Parent Meeting

Preregistered students only

7:00 PM

 

Saturday, August 25th  

Council/Vision Retreat

8:30 AM to 1:00 PM

 

Sunday, August 26th  

Rally and Youth Sunday

Blessing of the Backpacks

New Members Received

Covered Dish Breakfast

9:15–10:15 AM

 

Wednesday, August 29th  

KIC & Confirmation Ministries

Parent Meeting follows dinner

Dinner at 5:30 PM

Confirmation at 6:00 PM


Saturday, September 1st to 3rd

Teens Ecounter Christ

(TEC)

 

 Tuesday, September 4th

Preschool Classes 3-year-olds

Wednesday, September 5th

Preschool Classes 4-year-olds

 

Tuesday, September 4th—10th

Bible Studies Resume

Click here for times

 

Saturday, September 8th

Addy's Giving Heart

Mad Hatter's Gala Event

6:00–10:00 PM

 

Saturday, September 15th

Church Work Day

8:00 to 11:00 AM

 

Saturday, September 29th

Youth Golf Tournament

 

Sunday, September 30th 

Homecoming

Covered dish lunch

One service—10:00 AM

 

Saturday, October 6th

YouthQuake

for 3rd-5th graders

ELCA NC Synod at Mt. Pisgah

 

Saturday, October 13th

BBQ Fundraiser

Boy Scout Troop #275

 

Sunday, October 14th

LRU Concert at Unity Lutheran

 

Saturday, October 27th

Fall Festival

 

Saturday, December 1st

Bethlehem Star Lighting

************* 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul242018

Celebrating a Faithful God in a Fickle World 

CS Lewis, who arguably was the greatest Classics scholar the world has ever known, was an avowed atheist for most of his life.

One day on a walk with his dear Christian friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis explained that he had a hard time believing in the uniqueness of Christianity, as so many mythologies had similar themes of dying and rising, love and sacrifice. Lewis said, “We know that these are not true.” Tolkien put his hand on Lewis’ shoulder and said, “Yes, but what if God decided to use mythic stories in order to share the greatest real story in real life of a God who enters our story.” It was that revelation that totally changed Lewis’ life and his ensuing faith and writings have influenced countless others since. I, for one, am a beneficiary of his new found faith.

I minored in the Classics at Miami University. Enjoy is not the word that comes to mind as I recall my study of the language of the philosophers in Ancient Classical Greek. My seminary study of Koine, fisherman Greek, proved to be much more satisfying. The mythological stories of the gods and goddesses were interesting, but my sociologist side mistakenly made me quickly write off any notion that these sophisticated Hellenistic and Latin civilizations really believed in these anthropomorphic fairy tales. Though these very creative stories helped to create some order in explaining life around them, they also did have a religious inclination towards believing in these anthropomorphic supernatural beings.

This has helped me understand that their relationship to these gods and goddesses was mostly based on the desire to have some bargaining potential against the rather wild and reckless world around them. Their offerings to the gods, as well as their devotion to them, were to attempt a favorable influence on their fate or what they called “Moira”. Their relationship to these gods in their religious obligations and duties was simply to appease, in order to hope for the most favorable outcome.

The Pax Romana assumed that the blessings of Roman culture would ensure peace for all cultures and benefit all. It also had a built–in notion that all must play in this religious placating of the gods or else the delicate apple cart would be upset, and ruin might come to all. Judaism and Christianity, in their complete resistance to paying obeisance to anything but the one true God, upset the Roman balance of power. 

It was perceived that the Christian’s resistance would bring potential doom to the Empire. Thus, even the deadly sacrificing of Christians by the Romans was an act to appease these capricious gods. To these pagans, it became an act of worship and an act to further keep the peace.

The threat of Christianity had both political and religious implications for Rome.

If you play all this out from a Christian perspective, you can see how God might simply be rearranging the furniture on that stage of life in order to give Christianity a grand entrance. Or, as Paul alluded in Galatians, that at the perfect time God sent His Son into the world. Besides the outward physical realities of one common language, relative peace and efficient levels of transportation as the world had never before seen, God was working on the spiritual side of preparing their hearts. He could simply play their same religious game but change both the actors and the rules. The notion of sacrifice, in order to keep the peace, could be changed from a sacrifice not of people and animals, to appease otherwise jealous and fickle gods, but rather a God who sacrifices Himself on behalf of His fickle creation. Such a notion would be so radical it could not be made up, and yet, so appealing it could not be ignored. This explains one of the reasons Christianity took off like wildfire among even the Roman elite population. In a culture so used to dying for one’s gods and country, the idea of a God who would die on our behalf was incredibly unsophisticated yet impossible to completely dismiss.

The idea of constantly offering, in order to appease the fickle and often selfish gods, was now replaced with a God who offers Himself totally and selflessly, in order to make a statement of His unchangeable, constant, steadfast compassion. The early disciples fascinated fixation with reminding everyone that God so loved this world that He Gave His Son not to condemn but to save the world, was a huge contrast to the mythological self–serving gods of the day. This new Word would never get old, as it reverberated a truth that was so radically unique and counter cultural. The unpredictable, whimsical mood of the gods, who might like you today and forget your name tomorrow, was now replaced by a God who had decided before time and forever to claim you for His own.

Period.

Regardless of our faithlessness, He was faithful, and regardless of our decision for or against Him, this God had decided for us on a cross signed in blood. The Greek words Jesus shouted from the cross—Tetelestai—was what was written across every Roman legal document meaning literally “paid–in–full.’ With all of this back drop, it is clear to see why the early church called this good news!

This was not a god who randomly acted upon the players on the stage of life but one who literally got on the stage and was instead acted upon in a undeniable sacrificial act of love. One could decide to be apathetic and uninvolved about this news this but it would now be impossible to label this God as detached and uninterested. Life would be and could never be the same again.

What a great God we have who has changed everything about life; how we see Him and ourselves. As Lewis said after his conversion, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else differently”

 

Monday
May072018

Keeping Track

It seems that the scriptures which are most pertinent and of most value to us are the ones that seem to both affirmingly pat us on the back and also kick us in the behind.

In the census—taking by David it is clear that he gets a real whooping for taking things into his own hands and then at the same time gets a gentle affirming reminder that he’s not in charge and never was, even of the numbers.

For me personally, as a Pastor, this passage is both haunting and refreshing. It haunts me with the truth that numbers can matter so much that they can take precedence over everything else. As a Pastor I can become like a spiritualized bean counter who can easily mistake large numbers of participants in pews and elsewhere and generous budgets as sole signs of God’s good favor, forgetting that the One we serve is always concerned for one of us at a time. Like the Shepherd who foolishly, from a numbers vantage point, leaves the 99 to go after the one stray. Even if that stray on once being found, may not even be in a mood to come home.

Picture a kicking bleating sheep on the shoulders of the Shepherd… But that is the risk and reach of the Shepherd who, as St Augustine put it, “if you were the only One on this sinful planet the Shepherd we know would have laid down His life just for you.”

So it is even in the stewardship realm that He reminds us that the Bread of Heaven, both manna and Jesus, who did not safely hoard but give themselves a way for the sake of the world

I am probably not even a passing student in this lesson of our Lord, and all the more reason why I am so refreshed He’s not into numbers. On those rare occasions when we get so caught up in the compassion of following our Shepherd that we do uncalculated generous acts of kindness, or as the scriptures put it “The right hand not knowing what the left is doing” or at the end we are counted among those who say, ‘Lord when did we do this for You?” Then it is we who who are doing Kingdom work and close to the very heart of our Good Shepherd.

Monday
Apr092018

He's here in Plain View

What were they thinking? As a recent seminary graduate who had just turned twenty-eight, I was asked to be the interim Pastor at my home congregation. It was a daunting task to serve the nearly 3,000 member church, along with the twelve older and more experienced staff. Nevertheless, this unique opportunity constantly reminded me that God does not call the equipped, but equips those whom He calls. Our Lord reminds us that we should, "have eyes to see and ears to hear," because it is easy, if we are not looking and listening, to miss what God is up to. With His help and a gracious staff and church family, it was an amazing learning experience.

Within the first nine weeks, along with other ministry responsibilities, I had eight funerals and was utterly exhausted. Late one night my sleep was interrupted by a phone call from the church, "Vicar Mike, we need you here right now!" The caller's voice sounded desperate and I became immediately aware of the hauntingly hushed voices in the background, especially since there were over one hundred teenagers gathered that evening. The distraught person revealed that Scott, the church's twenty-nine year old youth director, was in serious trouble. The youth group had just finished their recreation time and Scott, who had a heart condition, suffered a massive heart attack during the activities. 

Arriving at the church that night, the darkness of the parking lot was illuminated by the intermittent bright flashing red and white lights of the emergency vehicles. Painstakingly working my way through the church's crowded youth room, it became evident that the EMT's were working to revive Scott. His pregnant wife, Julia's, form silhouetted a doorway she leaned against, to support her in her weakened state of disbelief and shock. By the time I reached Scott, the paramedics were lifting his limp body onto the gurney to transport him to the hospital.There was nothing more to do, but to stay with the teenagers—waiting and praying. Fervent prayers were sent heavenward asking God to please take care of this young youth leader. We found ourselves praying with heartfelt pleas such as, "God, you know how Scott gave himself, despite health concerns, to do the youth work you called him to. Remember his faithfulness, his wife and their child on the way!"

Waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, we finally got the word. Scott had died shortly after arriving at the hospital, "Lord, you can't be serious! How can this happen?" Never had I spoken to God with such frankness and honesty. For the first time, David's Psalms before seemed irreverent and often sacrilegious, now seemed so appropriate. This is how you speak to your closest friend when you really need help. I wrestled with God much of the night over this senseless tragedy. If I could not make sense of this, what word would I have for those teenagers?

The next day something happened that will be forever etched in my memory. Early in the morning, I went back to church and walked into that same room, which just hours before, had been the scene of such disappointment and grief. This time I was angrily muttering under my breath, but loud enough for God to hear. "Lord, how could this happen? Someone who was following you, doing your will. If this is how you treat those whom you call—I am out of here! This whole ministry stuff is already too much, so if you can't even take care of your own—I quit!"

When I reached the back of the room, I fell to my knees and my eyes welled over with tears. The previous feelings of anger had dissipated into utter loneliness. Remaining on my knees I looked up at the wall right above where the paramedics had so frantically tried to resuscitate Scott.Then it happened. On the wall was a huge orange banner with the figure of Jesus, with arms outstretched and the words, "Peace be with you." It had always been there, but I was too blinded by pain and doubt to see what was right in front of me.  Sometimes we need numerous signs or reminders from God before we get it, but this was in plain view, and as I looked up the tears began to roll. Suddenly, it all made sense. Even in the midst of our struggles and fears, the  Risen Lord is always present, with outstretched arms saying, "Peace be with you."

It was so amazingly clear that His love is even bigger than death. He was and is always there, even in the worst chaos and loss. This is a gift that I continue to unpack, even thirty plus years into  ministry—that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God.

As the youth met to make preparations for Scott's service, they insisted that we call it a celebration of the Resurrection. After sharing my experience with them, they wanted the entire youth group to stand in front of the congregation and sing the song, "Have you seen Jesus my Lord, He's here in plain view." It was a healing reminder of how much we can and often miss in this life.

Who wouldn't want to have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to know that each moment is saturated with God's loving presence?

Pastor Mike

 

Monday
Apr022018

Searched and Known, and Still Loved.

Psalm 139 is a favorite scripture of so many. Its appeal may be the refreshing realization that we were a twinkle in our Heavenly Father’s eyes — even before we were born. As the Psalm shares, He keeps meticulous track of our every move, knowing before we sit down or rise  up; who even discerns our every thought and is acquainted with our ways. He even knows what is coming from our lips before we speak.

This is not some Facebook stalker, who wants all the dirt on us, but an endeared Father, who is intimately involved in every detail of His kids. It is humbling and affirming to think that He knows more about me then I know about myself.

Even my limited knowledge about me, can sometimes leave me less than a fan of me, but His intimate interest persists. The One who knows all about us, and insists on loving us with a reckless abandon, is such a contrast to our world, where so many who comparatively know so little about others and themselves, still persist to use harmful labels and prejudices.

God, alone, has the knowledge and right to use such labels and boundaries, but, instead treats us as the dynamic, individually nuanced, children He created us to be. With a word though, we can label each other, and with a phrase, can minimize and marginalize the precious children God has so lovingly and uniquely made. As Danish philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard wrote, "Once you label me, you negate me." Thank God, He refuses to play by our rules.

We can so easily let a negative experience define a whole culture or race. The short-sightedness of such an action was recently confirmed for me. I am a dog lover but recently had a traumatic incident, when a dog bit my nose. Prejudice would inform me to now consider all dogs a dangerous threat. Such a narrow approach would rob me of the many future joys that only dogs can give.

Aren't we so grateful that God does not let one bad action of ours define how He might treat us? Easter would not have happened after the cross, if He did. God models for us and to us, the grace we should share with one another. Years ago, I was Pastor to a family and husband who had lost a mother and wife. There were 5 children from ages 8-16. The children had a question of dad. "Will we recognize Mom and will she us, when we get to heaven?" I was in an adjacent room, but was soon tapped on the shoulder when the father informed me that the kids had a question for me.

When he shared with me what it was, after a quick prayer, I asked the dad a question. "Rich, I know your 5 children very well. They are each very different and unique. Now, if you could make them all identical, would life be predictable and probably easier for you?" He responded with a smile, "Yes, I suppose life would be much less complicated." I replied, "No doubt It would be, but how long before you would miss the uniqueness of little Anna and the energy of your Adam?" He agreed that it he would quickly miss who they really were. Then, with the kids we began by reading Psalm 139 which guarantees our Heavenly Father's passionate interest in each of his special children.

I shared with them the Greek word ‘somos’ as the word used for the body we will have in heaven. Assumed in this new heavenly body, is the reality that our Heavenly Father will retain our individual personalities; idiosyncrasies and all those things which make us uniquely us. A young budding theologian in the room quipped, "Wow! I don't even like everything about me!" Exactly. The One who created you totally and completely as just you, will retain this you into eternity. Even on the other side, you will be easily recognized because there has never been, nor ever will be, anyone just like you.

We cannot give a gift we have not first opened. Psalm 139, when opened, reveals what Abba says about us and all of His children. John so often reminded us that we are all children of God. In 1John 3:1 the last four words are an exclamation mark of how God insists on seeing us. It is a gift, not because we deserve it, or have earned it, or even want it. We are His because He has said so, and so we are.

"See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God, and so we are."

And all is changed...for everyone

Saturday
Mar242018

Easter

The message of Easter is the exclamation mark of love, which God made for us on the cross. Both Scriptures and Christian tradition are clear in reiterating that Jesus “shared with us” His victory over sin and death. I believe the reason for such an emphasis, is in large part due to the fact that quite frankly, He did not have to share at all.

Our natural inclination towards revenge, retribution and justice were denied by Him on the cross. We, who put Him on the cross, should not take this act of generous, forgiving love for granted, anymore than we should take His setting His face towards Jerusalem lightly. 

Both were premeditated acts of love against all human compulsion to do the opposite. Can you imagine having all the power in the world at your fingertips and not using it before or during the ordeal of the cross? Or can you imagine death on a cross, then descending to the dead, then rising again to pleasantly share the peace with those who left you in the dust to save their own skin? Easter, like Good Friday, exemplifies a love this world has never known. After being betrayed, denied, left in the Garden, and left at the cross utterly abandoned by those closest to Him, is it any wonder that the Risen Lord’s triune question to Peter stung to the heart when Jesus justifiably asked, “Peter, do you love me?” 

At the end of this season of Lent that question, I suppose, is our Lord’s question to each of us. If we truly have been touched by His amazing love, we too responsively break out in sharing. Perhaps Isaac Watts in the hymn, “WhenI Survey the Wondrous Cross,” says it best. “Were the whole realm of glory mine, that were a present far too small, Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” 

Amen

“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing. . .the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites, causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.” 

  --from C. S. Lewis “The Four Loves”

Music - Stuart Townsend “How Deep The Fathers Love For Us”

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden