We are a congregation of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Mission Area of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We have returned to worship as of Spring and Summer 2021, join us most Sundays at 11:00 AM, weather permitting.
Operating as usual
[04/08/21] Join us for outdoor worship this Sunday at 11:00 AM! We will be meeting in the parking lot, please bring a chair and a mask.
So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.”
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus gave us a new commandment, to love one another as he loves us. Write this commandment in our hearts, and give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
[04/01/21] Join us this Sunday for outdoor Easter worship at 10:00 AM! Please bring a chair and wear a mask.
A friend of mine, Lauren Cowin, posted this on Facebook earlier this week:
“Around this day three years ago, we were living in a 100+ year old drafty row home in an extra cold winter. We also had a 2 year old and a newborn. So naturally, the water heater went out.
For 36 hours plumbers and electricians were in and out of our home. We were boiling water and taking sponge baths. Did I mention I was 6 days postpartum?
I vividly remember a moment when I was throwing myself a mental pity party that went something like this, “I can’t believe I’m having to deal with this right now. It’s freezing, I can’t take a hot shower, it’s almost Christmas and I JUST HAD A BABY.”
It was the last part that stopped me in my proverbial tracks, as it dawned on me that we wouldn’t have Christmas without a mother giving birth in some much rougher conditions than mine.
I share this now because I imagine most of us aren’t having the Christmas we think we deserve. We’re missing out on going somewhere, seeing someone, and eating that one thing your mother cooks once a year that you know you’d butcher if you tried yourself…
For those of us who celebrate Christmas, perhaps this year’s adaptation is a reminder of what we’re really celebrating—a baby who was brought into this world, in terrible conditions, for the sole purpose of serving a greater good. The sacrifices we have to make this Christmas, and have made this year, in order to protect ourselves and others pale in comparison.”
When we gather every year to read the stories of Jesus’ birth, we imagine the challenges, the improbabilities, the feats of faith to accomplish this work of God. Imagine hearing that you’re going to have a baby somehow sent by God. Imagine preparing for that and then at the last minute finding out that you have to travel to your fiance’s hometown at the last minute. Imagine knowing that maternal mortality is high and now you’re going to a place where you don’t know anyone. Imagine getting there and not having a place to stay.
Imagine that THINGS ARE NOT GOING AS PLANNED. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT? In this year of our Lord 2020, CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT IT’S LIKE WHEN THINGS DON’T TURN OUT AS YOU PLANNED?
A year ago, we were worshipping in the sanctuary, singing carols together and lighting candles as is our tradition, and we expected we’d just keep on doing that forever. But our world has been interrupted by Covid-19, has changed our habits, has changed our plans. And here we are now, kicked out of the sanctuary, looking at the stained-glass windows from the outside this time, worshipping in a parking lot.
We keep our distance to stay safe. We can’t hold hands and share the peace the way we wish we could. We can’t comfort one another in our grief, and there is plenty of grief this year. For the hundreds of thousands who have died from Covid, and the many more thousands who are sick or who struggle to recover, even months later. We grieve the lives lost due to violence, whether related to racism or family violence or police encounters or the increase of murders, like here in Dallas, where homicide is at a new high this year.
We grieve the loss of traditions. This is my last worship service here as pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church, and we don’t even get to have a goodbye potluck, and potluck is my favorite food. I’ve been sad about that.
A few months ago, some words floated into my mind—does this ever happen to you? A refrain, a verse, words untethered to their context, and I remembered “Hope does not disappoint.” Hope does not disappoint? I thought, I disagree. I am disappointed by hope all the time, hoping that things will get better and they just don’t.
But just for fun, I looked up those words, and thanks be to God and search engines, I found where I’d seen “hope does not disappoint.” Do you know? The words come from the apostle Paul, writing to the believers in Rome. Here’s the whole sentence, from Romans, chapter 5 (verses 1-5):
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Aha. It’s hope in God that doesn’t disappoint. The hope that is borne of suffering does not disappoint. Hoping in myself will always disappoint, but hoping in God is what keeps us going.
What other way is there through suffering? Listen to the voices of the ancestors who have been through it—this is why we revisit Isaiah and the prophets in the Hebrew Bible. They knew suffering but they hoped in God, and they lived long enough to tell about the wonders God accomplished.
Listen to Jesus’ origin story, the words of his parents and family members, the strangers like shepherds who showed up just to see if the angels were telling the truth. And listen to the words of Jesus, who didn’t stay a baby forever but grew up and preached and taught and blew our minds with his wisdom and grace, and he healed what was broken and promised to be with us. Jesus suffered, too, and even his resurrected body bears the scars of crucifixion. It’s not because Jesus was born but because he died that we worship him. Our God is a God of resurrection, and that power is strong enough to sustain even our weariest hope. God is the hope that does not disappoint.
In this season, in the coming year and whatever it will bring, may we have the courage of Mary responding to an angel’s proclamation, embracing the challenges and the joys of submitting ourselves to God’s will. May we have the loyalty of Joseph, the father of Jesus, remaining faithful even when it doesn’t make logical sense. May we have the wonder of the shepherds, investigating the stories of the angels. And may we have the blessing of Jesus Christ himself, the light of the world, the hope who does not disappoint. Amen.
—Pastor Cheryl Walenta Gorvie
[12/23/20] Join us for Outdoor Christmas Eve Worship tomorrow at 4:30 PM! Bring your own chair & wear a mask.
Father Nathan Monk
Consider Your Heroes
[Jesus said to the disciples:] “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”
One of the beautiful things about the parables of Jesus is the way the parables can look when you view them in a different light. In the same way, you can hold up a precious stone, like a diamond, in the light and admire its sparkle from different angles. You’d never look at a diamond by saying, hold it just right here and make sure you get it exactly right. Of course not—there are lots of ways to admire the beauty.
Maybe diamonds or precious gemstones are not your thing. That’s fine. I’ve observed people looking at automobiles in the same way. Automobiles are built for their function but can be beautiful to look at, too. You don’t line yourself up in one corner and say “Ah, that’s a nice car.” You always wander slowly around the whole thing, looking at the lines, admiring the design, noticing details.
What if we did the same thing with parables? Held them up, looked at the angles, admired the beauty of different viewpoints?
This is what we do with parables in the tradition of Godly Play—tell the story using tactile materials, pieces of felt to make a background like green grass and a blue circle to signify a pond, like drinking from still water, or a strip of tan felt to suggest the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and flat paper characters which can move around—which character is the neighbor to which character?
I don’t actually know a Godly Play story with this parable about the talents. But if we were to make one, I do know the measure of a talent would be huge. Sometimes when we read this parable, we imagine a talent as one coin. But one talanton, the Greek word used in this parable, is a measure of gold weighing thirty pounds. This is about the amount of money that a manual laborer would earn after working for twenty years. It’s an absurd amount of money. So a single talent would be a giant pile of money. Or, if you want to imagine it: a pile of precious diamonds, or a garage the size of a warehouse full of valuable cars.
But the parable starts with a person receiving five talents—five giant piles of money. The image here is so much abundance of wealth that it’s difficult to imagine even spending it all. How could you not spend even some of it, cutting into the total to get a few nice things for yourself—would anyone even notice?
But apparently the slaves in this parable are faithful enough to their master that they don’t spend any of the talents on themselves; they either invest the huge amount of money or the one hides the huge amount of money.
We’re used to hearing this parable in our own social context, where wise investments are rewarded. We’re supposed to imagine these financial investments correlate with our faith—if we don’t use our faith, it won’t grow, doubling in size as the returns on the money the slaves invested. If we bury our talent, as the third “wicked and lazy” and “worthless slave,” then our faith doesn’t grow and we rightfully deserve to be thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping gnashing of teeth.
We’re used to hearing this parable as an allegory for stewardship—an abundance of money is entrusted in the same way God bestows upon us an abundance of grace. If we could only trust God enough to rely on this abundance of grace, rather than relying upon our own resources, then we, too, would be invited to enter into the joy of our master.
These ways of looking at the parable aren’t wrong at all. Sometimes it’s helpful for us to be reminded of God’s abundance, and it’s good for us to be reminded that God gives us everything we need and we are commanded to use our gift to benefit the kingdom of God. None of this is wrong.
But the beauty of a parable is that you don’t have to look at it in only one way. In these interpretations, there are questions we don’t tend to ask. Are the first two slaves, the ones who invest the talents, are they really the heroes? Is the master really a good, honest, trustworthy person? Is the master really supposed to represent God? Are these talents distributed to the slaves really amounts of money you’d obviously feel good about working with?
What if the third slave is really the hero of the story? How’s that possible? Well, it’s quite possible to look at the parable this way without changing any of it. This is what makes parables just so beautiful—you can admire them from different angles.
There’s a whole arena of theology devoted to liberation—the origins are throughout South America beginning in the 1960s after the second Vatican Council. People who had been oppressed began studying the Bible from their viewpoint and sharing their perspectives. From their viewpoint, they saw a Jesus who aligned himself with the poor and marginalized, speaking of the kingdom of God in such a way that the tables are turned: people without monetary wealth are the ones with the wisdom, and the ones with monetary wealth are not the heroes.
From the view of liberation theology, and Jewish Mishnah teachings would suggest this as well: in this parable, the third slave is the hero. He doesn’t invest this single talent because—the parable itself tells this story—when the master returns and demands an accounting of his money, the third slave is the one who says, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed.” Did you notice the master in the parable doesn’t even dispute these accusations? Could it be true, then, that the master isn’t that great a dude after all?
The reason this last slave is a hero is because he refuses to participate in an unjust system. He sees this master enjoying ill-gotten gains—gathering where you did not scatter seed is essentially stealing. In an agricultural society, this would be terribly unfair to one’s neighbors; perhaps the penalties would be harsh. But this master seems okay with it, having become rich enough to amass enough wealth to play loyalty games with his slaves.
And where does the last slave end up at the end of the parable—in “the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Maybe the question of this parable isn’t how to avoid judgment and consequences. What if this parable about the price of keeping one’s integrity?
Because consider this parable in the light of Matthew’s Gospel, which begins with Jesus’s giant sermon on the mount. What does this parable look like in the light of the beatitudes shining on it? Listen again to Jesus’s words: “…Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
If Jesus is who he says he is, then the outer darkness, with all the weeping and gnashing of teeth, sounds like the kind of place he would go to. If it came down to it, where would you rather be: wealthy and enjoying the good life by spending stolen money? Or suffering in the darkness because you dared to live with integrity?
We can’t get out of the world we live in, and we can’t pretend like our systems are entirely just. We wish they were, but they’re just not. When statistics can report how different your life will be just because of the color of your skin—everything from how likely you are to graduate from high school, to how likely it is you’ll end up in jail at some point, to how much money you’ll be able to earn in your lifetime—this isn’t fair and just. The system isn’t hurting those of us with white skin, so it’s easy for us to ignore it. That makes us like the first two slaves, investing what isn’t ours using money that was stolen to begin with.
Is it possible to follow the example of that third slave, the hero, and refuse to participate in the system? It’s not easy, but I believe it is possible. The work of anti-racism gives us some clues about dismantling a racist system, not because we want to become good people. God already made us good. But because we are aware of God’s abundance of grace, we are free to use it and squander it on others. We don’t have to spend our privileges on ourselves—when we study and learn how to notice what racism is doing to our neighbors and how the system hurts people, we are like the slave burying the talent that doesn’t tell us our true worth anyway. We are refusing to participate in an unjust system.
And just like the parable ends, we’ll probably get thrown into the outer darkness, and we might be weeping and gnashing our own teeth too. But don’t forget that puts us among those whom Jesus specifically blessed: blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Jesus himself went to the cross as a criminal, crucified outside the walls of the city—essentially in the outer darkness, where the firelight of familiar life could not even reach.
As we know well, death is not the end of the story. Integrity may get you nowhere in an unjust system, but it gets you everywhere in God’s favor. Darkness and even death may come, but Jesus Christ is already there. Resurrection awaits. May God’s kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
--Pastor Cheryl Walenta Gorvie
Welcome to Bethany Lutheran Church! We are a dynamic Lutheran congregation located in the Lake Highlands area of Dallas, Texas. We hope you will come and join us for worship this Sunday, so that you may experience the light of Christ in all your joys and struggles. We gather every Sunday at 10:00 AM to hear the Word, sing, and share in Holy Communion. Children and youth are warmly welcomed!
|Monday||09:00 - 14:00|
|Tuesday||09:00 - 14:00|
|Wednesday||09:00 - 14:00|
|Thursday||09:00 - 14:00|
|Sunday||09:30 - 12:00|
We are an open and affirming church that accepts and welcomes EVERYONE who desires a relationship with the Lord. Our mailing address is: White Rock Community Church PO Box 180508 Dallas, TX 75218
Sunday Worship Time: 10:00am
Married Couples will receive Biblical Teachings and Guidance on having a Godly Marriage! Will learn the Vision of our Ministry and know there role as being that Triple Braided Cord as Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 states!
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Service Days & Time Sunday School - 10am Sunday Morning Worship - 11:30am Prayer & Bible Teaching - Tuesday & 7:30pm www.todchurch.org
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Morning Worship Service in English and Sunday Small Groups in Spanish at 9:30 a.m.; Morning Worship Service in Spanish and Sunday Small Groups in English at 11:00 a.m. (Service in-person and live streamed, classes in person)
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