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)

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Saturday, October 27th

Fall Festival

12:00 to 3:00 PM

 Lunch donations to benefit

Farrah Hefner


Sunday, November 18th

Thanksgiving Feast & Worship

Dinner 5:15 Worship 6:30 pm


Saturday, December 1st

Bethlehem Star Lighting

6:30 PM Dinner

 7:00 PM Star Lighting

Sunday, December 2nd

Deacon Consecration

One service at 10:00 am

Bishop Tim Smith preaching


Sunday, December 9th

Mt. Pisgah Choir Cantata

8:00 and 10:30 am 


Sunday, December 9th

LRU Candlelight Concert 

7:00-8:30 pm


Sunday, December 16th

Children's Christmas Program 

8:00 and 10:30 am


Monday, December 24th

Christmas Eve Worship

5:00 and 7:00 pm

























A Bittersweet Christmas to all 

Some Christmas ruminations from Pastor Mike

This morning I was struck with an unmistakable directness sometimes necessary to truly get a needed message across. My morning festive Christmas celebrating with Santa cap on and carol singing was abruptly interrupted with a phone call from a woman who had just become a widow, following her husband’s morning suicide. The fact that I had to move my Santa cap tassel just to put the receiver to my ear made the contrast between the sweetness and bitterness of that moment all the more ruthlessly stark.

Perhaps it is because in this sweetest of seasons, where expectations run high for sweet blessings that the  painful bitter times seem to loom so large in contrast. Ask any good orthodox Jew though and they will let you know that THE meal is not complete without both the Wilderness bitter herbs and the Promised Land honey. One without the other betrays the truthful realities of what it means to be on this journey we call life… regardless of what season it might be

Just in my morning prayer time today I ..

- gave thanks to God for the sweetness of marriage and a dear wife and but could not help but lift up a dear couple who just recently divorced

- blessed God for the special little church He has called me to serve but my attention was diverted to offer prayer for those parishes which are struggling 

- gave heartfelt gratitude for two sons but was quickly overtaken by the prayer for a family whose son has been struggling for life since a tragic accident

- celebrated the sweet comfort of good health when my mind swelled with thoughts for so many whose lives are preoccupied with the challenges of illness.

The sweet and the bitter ..this time of year?

But what is Christmas really all about?

“And this will be a sign unto you that you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Not exactly the sweet experience of a Messiah we were expecting

In fact pretty easy not to find any sweetness in that at all

Born in a feeding trough under the indifferent gaze of animals who probably out numbered the gathered human witnesses

not real sweet

pretty stinky

And just about as bitter a birth scene as one could imagine

So what is the message ..the Sign?

Don’t try to dress it up too much

Don’t get too sophisticated

One does not come in such intentional earthy simplicity

for us to dress up and adorn with heavenly pious niceties

It is

what it is

Nothing more

Nothing less

Nothing else needed

Then Emmanuel ..God with us

There is no bitterness of life we can experience that He has not been through or will not be through with us


This side of heaven there is no news

greater than that.

The One who is with us, Emmanuel wants us to know that the Heaven which awaits us is nothing but Sweet.. no bitter there

No wonder the early Christians were so fond of saying Marantha

Come Lord Jesus

So may your Christmas be bittersweet – always filled with the faithful presence of Emmanuel

As we await with eager longing His sweet second Advent.



This “Glorious Season”

We will soon close our Lenten observance with the beginning of our Holy Week Journey. I am so grateful to be part of a church tradition which takes time to stop and give thanks for our Lord's supreme sacrifice. I am also thankful to be part of a church family which shows, by your faithful attendance, your commitment to Him as well.

Our Men's Bible Study has been studying the Gospel of John these past two years.  It was more than coincidental that our study of the passion in John's gospel coincided perfectly with our  Lenten Season. Each of the 4 gospels has a certain unique flavor, or thematic emphasis, which is one of the many beauties of our church lectionary. John is outside of the other three writers, as he is more interested in painting a picture than the sharing of details.  John's “right brained” emphasis has a powerful uniqueness which deserves special  attention. I am indebted to seminary professor Dr. Bruce Schein, whose shared the uniqueness of  John's Gospel.

These are some of the points he shared with us as students which have taken 25 years of life experiences to finally make sense to me. In John's Gospel we have the joy of seeing our Lord through the eyes and heart of this disciple who was  particularly close; beloved by Jesus.

John goes out of  his way to let us know that Jesus was not a victim caught up in the strong will of Rome or the debauchery of the Jewish religious hierarchy. Jesus was, from his betrayal; denial; flogging and crucifixion , always in control.  He was the Good Shepherd whose life was never taken but was laid down of His own accord.  The way of the cross is the Groom willfully and lovingly coming down the aisle to His Bride, the  Church. As our professor was fond of saying, “this was not a shotgun wedding!” 

In John's Gospel we miss some of the physical agony of this walk to the cross. There is no mention of the sweating of blood in Gethsemane and other gruesome physical details are left out. John, whose heart was particularly close to His Lord, wants us to know that as awful as the physical pain of those days were for our Lord; that was nothing in comparison to the spiritual pain in the separation of the Son from His Father. This Word which had been in perfect harmony and unity with the Father before time began, is now to be separated by our sin which He never knew. It is this pain of loss and separation from the Holy Father as the Son takes on the sins of the world—ours past, present and future—that deserves our real attention and gratitude.

Then there is that recurring word of glory, which particularly surfaces in these latter chapters of our Lord's passion; so what is glorious about this time?  John who, compared to the other Gospel writers, seems to have a monopoly on the understanding of love, wants us to know that behind every step to the Cross is a heartbeat of our Saviours love. When Jesus “sets His face” to Jerusalem it is you and I He is really focused on. It is perhaps those who have lost loved ones and have been at their bedside in those  difficult hours that  know this love best. The love and compassion given by them is not done begrudgingly or with hesitation, but rather it is done in a love that  has its own special glory that appears in those last tender moments. So it is with our Lord; it is not His obligation or duty to go to the cross, as much as His loving joy and glory. No one else could do it and He would not want anyone  else to. It is the Groom gloriously making His way down the aisle to literally rescue and save His Bride (us), The Church.  John wants to make sure that in the blood and sweat of the cross we do not hear so much a heavy sight with the thought that, “some one has to do this for these sinners.” as much as a smile and an unrelenting drive forward for, as Hebrews says because of  “The joy that was set before Him.”  Whenever and however we begin to realize that you and I are that very joy that was set before Him is when the cross makes life changing sense.  His love for us  would  never let us go and it is that great love that captures our hearts and will never let us let go of Him.  It is that love that makes us say with the hymnist “what language shall I borrow to thank thee dearest friend, for this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?  O make me thine forever, and should I fainting  be, Lord let me never, never out live my love for thee.”



Blessed New Year

Perhaps the best way to begin our journey into a New Year is to simply continue our reflecting on our recent Advent walk.  We would do well in the new year to continue 'wondering  as we wander.'
Not only trusting our known gracious God with this unknown future we enter, but also to do so with an Advent eager alertness not to miss the slightest sign of His presence and love along the way.
To ponder with Mary that to be a "Christ bearer" means to carry both at once the greatest joy and the deepest sorrow and heartache the world can know. To journey with the Magi after being told to go home a different way, because now you are a part of the cataclysmic inbreaking  of the kingdom of God; when the unmistakable Holy child like innocence of  light and love is threatened by the Kingly pride of darkness and death. So flee, but do so quietly so you can truly ponder and wonder, and go slowly so as not to  miss a thing.
For the Light shines even in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

In this new year journey give me ears to hear and eyes to see you and all your workings.
Give me wisdom to know that this world is not Home and strength to know that if the King I serve fought on the front lines of battle then who am I not to follow.
In the name of the One who shares both His strength  and His victory over
Sin and death I pray


“ Walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death”

Ruminations about a Confirmation Class I won’t soon forget 

“We have never talked about that before!” That comment from a teenager at Wednesday night Confirmation summarized it well. In his classic book, “Denial of Death” Ernest Becker says that we as a culture go out of our way not to talk about it. That subject is Death. The Wednesday before this meeting I had been called out of Confirmation specifically to go meet and pray with firefighters at the Bethlehem Fire Station who had just lost an 18 year old volunteer firefighter in an accident. The young man was also known by many of our youth present that Wednesday. Though no one was talking the following Wednesday, it was on everyone’s mind. So we talked.

Being blessed with a particularly bright group of Confirmation teenagers with the 25 gathered, I knew they could handle it. They did. I was proud of their candor and sharing.

The only glimpse of humor that night was when I shared about the favorite confirmation memory verse from John 11:35. The popularity of this verse, “Jesus wept,” was due to its easily memorized brevity. Just two words, but what perfect words they are! We began to unpack what it means to have a Lord, a Savior and a Good Shepherd, who weeps with us. Not only does this show how much he cared for Lazarus, but also by doing so He gave us permission, in fact even an example of what we too can and should do. If grief was permissible and necessary to the Son of God on earth, then who are we to think that we might not need to do so.

We talked about the many facts of grief even implied within this short but powerful story. We are told that Jesus spirit was troubled, which translates into including some nuances of anger. To know that Jesus, Himself was incensed at this difficult but real part of life called death actually helps us in our anger. This anger we discussed emerged in part from the realization that despite the stark reality of death it comes to us as a foreign and even alien intruder. It is almost as if it was not part of the original plan. We discussed two Gardens—one where death indeed was not part of God's original plan and intention called Eden. While fully sharing the blame, we considered our first parents as they sacrificed eternal life and the beautiful bliss of staying put in creation for the desire to reach up and aspire to be like God. The second Garden called Gethsemane was when God came down to us to remedy what we screwed up so well in the first garden. By dying in our place He won back the life eternal we had forfeited so many years before. So God is angry about the foreign intrusion of death too. In fact, He is so angry that He sent His only Son to conquer death once and for all. 

There is even more to Jesus weeping than just the loss of his friend Lazarus. He weeps as well because He must bring Lazarus from his bright and beautiful new heavenly home back to this crazy dark world- Jesus even justified such a dramatic reversal “for our sake,” so we would know that He is the Lord of life, whose love is bigger than death itself. We not only have a Good Shepherd, who by laying down His life for us gives us new life, but who also comforts us in the midst of our grief. We have a Good Shepherd who as Psalm 23 tells us, “walks with us in the valley of the shadow of death.” In our world death is something we seem to avoid discussing and grief is something we feel we need to run through to “get over” as quickly as possible. Our Good Shepherd walks by us through this valley, knowing full well that we will be forever changed and will need the constant presence of the Shepherd like never before. His presence is exactly what we need—silently listening; not advising and not judging. There is a Jewish tradition after the death of a loved one called “Shiva”. For 7 days after the death of a loved one, close family members come to the home simply to be present. Called “Sitting Shiva,” they sit for hours just to show the compassion care of a listening presence. Our Shepherd does that as He walks with us through the valley of death together. 

We have a Good Shepherd. The word Jesus chooses for good in John 10 to describe Himself is quite telling . Of the two Greek words for good--- Kalos and Agathos-- He chose the former. The second, agathos means good in the sense of righteous or ethical. The first Kalos which he chose to use, has the added nuance of beauty, compassion and caring. If you have a pet you may act as one or the other of these as an owner. Our Good Shepherd does not just provide for us and expect our obedience, but He loves us and cares for us and wants a relationship with us. If your dog sleeps with you or you talk to your pets you know what kind of Shepherd He is. :) 

The Good Shepherd who warmly met Lazarus outside that cold tomb with open arms and a bright smiling face, is the same one who greets us on the other side as we leave this cold earth. As this truth was revealed to the Apostle Paul it is easy to imagine him quickly scribbling so as not to miss what God was whispering in his ear. The ink on the papyrus must have been dabbed with an occasional moistened blot from tears shed by the amazed Apostle, as he frenetically wrote the absolutely unfathomable answer to his own question--- “If God is for us, who can be against us?

“Certainly not God who did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him for us all! He who gave us His Son – will He not freely give us all things?

And then another question for the ages- “What then can separate us from the love of God?”

And another jaw dropping answer, “ For I am certain that nothing can separate us from the love of God neither death nor life, neither angels nor heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future , neither the world above or the world below – there is NOTHING in all of creation which will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

By the end of that class I learned so much! As Christian people, whether teenagers or older adults it is really a shame that we don't speak more often about this culturally taboo subject; for God certainly is a good listener and He certainly has something Good to say about it.

God Has Blessed us,

Pastor Mike  


Summer Ruminations


This month of August we have Gospel readings which are all centered on Jesus calling Himself the “Bread of Life.” Having just returned from two weeks of blessed, but “busy” : ) weeks with our youth at Confirmation and Work-camp, I have a renewed appreciation of Jesus as the Bread which lasts forever. The retreats and experiences of these young people will always be an eternal part of the fabric of their lives and memories. Why?  Because the essence and substance of what we experienced was this eternal Bread which lasts forever. He truly does provide  sustenance  for our souls and purpose and meaning in our lives like nothing or no one else can. As important as bread is for our nourishment in this body—how much more important is it for us to have the spiritual nourishment which He alone can give.  There are many who have an abundance of worldly  bread but whose lives are broken and torn for lack of the grace and unconditional love He alone can feed us with.

Why is it that I can get so settled on just taking the bread of this world and neglect taking the Bread of life given for me?  After two deaths in our congregation and the senseless shootings in Denver this past week, we have all paused to evaluate what really matters in this life.  We can so easily forget that we are spiritual beings in physical bodies.  Lord, forgive us for so often forgetting that the very best the world can offer us does not hold a candle to what You alone can offer us. As C.S. Lewis put it “Our Father refreshes us on our journey with some pleasant Inns, but will not encourage us to mistake these for our true Home.”


We thank you for giving us what we need –Yourself. Forgive us for those times we put our faith and trust in bread which will not satisfy. Renew us with your spirit as you fill us with the love and grace that will alone will satisfy us and that you alone can give us.

In Jesus name we pray