Dear People of Bethlehem,
Blessed Thanksgiving to you all. I recently offered a house blessing for a new member of the congregation. They have moved to our area and have now settled into that thing that is “home”. Home is both a place of belonging and a place of discovery. As we stood at the door to their home, we shared this poem by John O’Donahue from his book, To Bless the Space Between Us.
“May the door of this home be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love, all who are lonely for friendship.
May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture.
May the door of this house be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity.
May its threshold be no stumbling block to young or strained feet.
May it be too high to admit complacency, selfishness and harshness.
May this home be, for all who enter, the doorway to richness and a more meaningful life.”
I am so struck by the requirements that this door be narrow enough to shut out enmity, as well as too high for selfishness. May this home be no stumbling block, but a place that unburdens the cares of the world, and nurtures hope for all who enter. As we gather in the homes of family and friends in the coming month, I see those doors, lit with warm light and I consider the home and welcome of the church. We are not strictly a home, we are more broadly, a community rooted in God and grounded in love. Our community is defined by the widest door of welcome, the lowest tolerance for harm, the deepest place for hope. We are community, for all who need the comfort that only God’s grace can provide. We are a place of healing for the harms of the world, that only Jesus can heal. We are a place of hope, that only the Spirit can fire among us. Fundamentally, this work is not ours to accomplish, it is God’s work — in our midst. This home is not ours, it is God’s. We are but the ones with the privilege to open the door. We are but the ones who bear witness to God’s work among us.
That day, as we finished the house blessing, we shared a second poem by John O’Donahue, from the same book. I find that as I read it, if I replace the word “home” with the word “community” it is a faithful expression of the purpose and vision of God’s beloved church.
“May this house shelter your life. When you come in home here, may all the weight of the world fall from your shoulders.
May your heart be tranquil here, blessed by peace the world cannot give.
May this home be a lucky place, where the graces your life desires, always find the pathway to your door.
May nothing destructive ever cross your threshold.
May this be a safe place, full of understanding and acceptance, where you can be as you are, without the need of any mask of pretense or image.
May this home be a place of discovery, where the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your soul can emerge, to deepen and refine your vision for all that is yet to come to birth. Amen”
Dear child of God, may this community that is Bethlehem, be a place of discovery, where the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your soul can emerge, to deepen and refine our vision for all that is yet to be — for God is among us.
Blessed Thanksgiving to you all,
Greetings Dear People of Bethlehem,
At its heart, a church is a community of people who gather together to hear the gospel proclaimed; to receive the promise found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and to surround one another with love and provide mutual encouragement. It’s a place where wonderfully imperfect people are welcomed and loved exactly as they are. A place where healing truth is spoken into the broken places inside of us, and into the world around us. And in the midst of countless stories about the demise of the Church, the failure of organized religion, and the futility of faith, stand you, the incredible people of this congregation. You who daily inspire with your steadfast faithfulness. Your dedication, and tireless desire to be God’s hands and feet in the world, can only be described as indefatigable.
In addition to being an excellent vocabulary word to impress your friends and family at parties (vocab is what impresses folks these days, right?), it is also the perfect word to describe our community. Persisting tirelessly, and showing sustained, enthusiastic action with unflagging spirit. It’s also the perfect word to describe the kind of hope that our faith provides. Hope that can see us through stormy seas, and sunny days. Hope that fills our hearts to overflowing, so that we cannot help but go out into the world to share it. Hope that never grows weary, that never runs thin, but is as steadfast as the God who inspires it.
As we do each fall, our attention turns to the coming year, and the financial resources that will be required to do the ministry that we are called to do for the sake of the world. We are grateful for your indefatigable support of this community – for the amazing work that we have been able to do, the lives we have been able to touch, and the hope that has been proclaimed. Our goal for the coming year is to increase giving by 4% – 5%, or around $30,000 total.
If you are able to increase your pledge from last year to help us reach this goal, we ask that you prayerfully consider doing so. If this past year has left you in a position where you need to take a step back, know that we fully understand, and if we can be of any assistance to you or your family please reach out and let us know. For those who give automatically online, we would still greatly appreciate it if you would fill out a pledge card, and prayerfully consider if increasing your pledge is something you are able to do at this time.
Please fill out a pledge card and bring it with you when you come to church for Commitment Sunday on October 8th. You may also return it to the church office by mail, or fill out your intended pledge using the Google Forms link below. Rest assured these responses will be safe and confidential.
Thank you for being the indefatigable people of faith that you are. Thank you for your commitment, passion, and the witness that you bear to the indefatigable hope of the gospel. In a world filled with narratives of scarcity, Bethlehem exists as a place where God’s abundance can be seen around every corner, and for that we say thank you, and praise be to God!
With indefatigable gratitude,
Bethlehem Church Council
Pastor Laura & Pastor Sam