Change of Worship Time, July 2: 8:45am

Please remember that starting on July 2, we will begin worship at 8:45am instead of 9am. This will allow Pastor Johanna more time to be with us following worship, before traveling safely to St. Martin for their 10:30 service. Please note, this is a TRIAL. We will get feedback from the congregation before making this a permanent change. The trial will run for 6 months, through the end of the year. Thanks for your patience as we figure out what is best for our congregation, our pastor, and our covenant with St. Martin.


Strawberry Social, Thurs, June 15

Warm weather is finally here, so it’s time for our annual Strawberry Social! Here are the details:


When: Thursday, June 15, 4:30pm until gone.

Who: the whole family, and all your friends!

Menu: Beef BBQ dinner ($8) or hot dog dinner ($7), which includes main course, two sides/salads, and drink. Desserts (including strawberry shortcake, other cakes, ice cream…) are a la carte, and range in price from $1.50 to $4.50.

Why: For food, fellowship, and strawberries, obviously, but in addition, all proceeds from this event will go to support Mended Little Hearts. This organization helps families of kids born with congenital heart disease. Help us support this important work!

Come enjoy the food and fellowship, and while you’re at it, take a walk in our prayer garden, which is in full bloom right now! Weather is supposed to be great on Thursday – hope to see you!

The wind is blowing…

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” So Jesus tells Nicodemus in the third chapter of John.

Boy, have we experienced some wind in Rochester this year! Some are still recovering from the epic windstorm in March, which caused many to lose power, several trees to fall, and huge waves on the lake. As I listened to the wind roar outside, I was studying this text from John, and, couldn’t help but wonder: is this how the Spirit moves also in us? Not only in our physical world, moving with the power to topple trees and rip apart roofs – but also in our hearts, moving with the power to topple old ways of being and rip apart wrongly-held ideas?

I think sometimes it does. Sometimes God needs to come through our lives and shift the “way we’ve always done it,” to help us think outside of our bubbles, to view the world differently, to listen to God and the needs of our community and the world and to consider how we might respond.

That’s what “transformational ministry” is all about: listening to God and the movement of the Spirit, and responding. It’s about claiming the purpose of the church to share the Good News of Jesus in our neighborhoods and the world. Churches around the ELCA are focusing in on transformational ministry, helping congregations to engage in the Three Great Listenings: listening to God, to one another, and to the world. But it doesn’t stop there – a part of transformational ministry is also to help congregations develop skills for leading their community into a healthier, vibrant, more sustainable future, for themselves and for the Church as a whole.

Bethlehem and St. Martin are taking a leap into transformational ministry, too. You may have noticed a large tree near the entry way for the sanctuary. The tree began with bare branches, just like the trees outside our window. As we made our way through Lent and now into the Easter season – the season in which we celebrate the new life Christ has won for us in his death and resurrection – we have seen our tree bud and blossom with hopes and dreams for ministry.

But just as our trees outside continue to grow and change as spring marches on, our tree is not done growing! You are invited to continue to add leaves to the tree as you feel moved (more is better!). The light green leaves are for telling us what you are already doing to serve your community outside of church (e.g. tutor at-risk kids, or volunteer at food pantry). Here we will see where your heart already lies. The dark green leaves are for sharing your deepest concerns and passions about the world, whether or not you are doing anything about it (e.g. health of the environment, people suffering from addictions, or refugees). This will show us how the Spirit is blowing anew in our hearts.

As we see our trees grow fuller with the Spirit’s movement in our individual lives, we will get a sense of how that same Spirit might be blowing in our congregational life, and how we might respond. Your input will be the basis for our council to set goals for the coming years, as we imagine how God is moving this congregation into the future.

I’m eager to see this growth, sisters and brothers in Christ! May we listen carefully to the movement of the Spirit, as we step forward in faith and mission together.

Wipe clean my heart: Preparation for Ash Wednesday

Like most babies, my little Isaac has chubby little baby rolls on his neck. They are, of course, adorable… until that horrifying moment when he stretches his head back and you realize that, stuck in that sweet baby fat, is some of the milk that had dribbled down his chin, mixed with some of the dirt from when we played outside with sister. Because of all that cute baby fat, the tenderness of the area, and his still stiff newborn body, this space tucked deep in his fat rolls is very difficult to clean, and because it remains mostly hidden, all that gunk eventually causes irritation on his soft skin. The area can’t heal until he lifts his chin, and it can be wiped clean.

It occurred to me that this is a helpful metaphor as we prepare this week for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The penitential season of Lent always begins with this service focused on confession of sins – a confession that continues through the six weeks of Lent until Easter. The Psalm appointed for the day is always Psalm 51, with its well-known line, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

I’ve long loved this image of seeking a clean heart, but seeing what happens in those hidden spaces of my sweet little boy’s baby fat really put a picture to it – for our hearts are just the same. We may not even notice what sins are stuck in those hidden places of our hearts, may not even notice that their presence there is causing irritation. We can’t see that the longer they remain, the more irritation they cause. Eventually it starts to affect us in external ways – in our relationships, our faith, our way of being in the world.

Until, one day, we finally lift our chins, look up to heaven, and ask God to “wash me through and through… cleanse me from my sin… Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.” With our chins lifted toward God in prayer, and that dirt and sin that would irritate our tender hearts revealed, God is able, finally, to wipe us clean. After we are wiped clean, we are able, finally, to heal, to love, to serve God in newness of life.

What gunk is stuck in the tender places of your heart? What sins are irritating you and keeping you from the fullness of life that God envisions for you? What do you need wiped clean?

Join us for Ash Wednesday worship this Wednesday, 7pm at Bethlehem. We will have the imposition of ashes as well as holy communion, as we prepare for the six week journey of Lent.

Lenten Journey through the Catechism

Free Indeed graphic

This year for Lent, we have committed to working through Luther’s Small Catechism. For such a small volume, this little gem is jam packed with food for reflection. We have provided each of you with your own copy (you can also download a free version on the device of your choice – search in Google Play or iTunes store for the Augsburg Fortress version). We have also provided you with your own copy of Free Indeed, a devotional based on the Catechism.

During the 6 weeks of Lent, you could commit simply to reading these two resources. This only takes a few minutes each day (perhaps, a few minutes more than you typically devote to your spiritual life outside of Sunday morning?). Below are some additional ideas:

  • Commit to memorizing the 10 Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, if you haven’t already. These are the foundational building blocks of our faith, and should be written on all of our hearts.
  • Commit to memorizing the explanations for these texts in the Small Catechism. (Remember when this was required for confirmation? Who still remembers?) The explanations are full of helpful language for talking about faith – language that brings life to our own hearts even as it equips us to bring God’s life to the world.
  • Commit to journaling for a few minutes each day. You could reflect on the day’s Free Indeed devotion, or choose whatever part of the Catechism you choose. Ask yourself each day the question Luther repeatedly asked: what does this mean for me, today, at this time in my life?
    • If you choose to do this, here are some tips: 1) Don’t try to be perfect. Streams of consciousness are fine! 2) Don’t write what you think you are supposed to write; write what is in your heart. 3) Begin and end each writing with prayer, simply asking God to guide your thoughts, and then thanking God for speaking to you.
  • Commit to coming to midweek gatherings. This year these are offered over the lunch hour for 45 minutes (or however much you can manage!), as well as our usual evening time. Together, we will dig into the Small Catechism and ask, what does this mean for us?

However you choose to engage in Lent this year, I pray that it is a fulfilling time in which you grow closer to God. Blessings on the journey!

Lent 2017: Free Indeed!

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door, thus sparking a major shift in the Christian Church and western culture as a whole. This year, 2017, we are remembering Luther’s legacy, and all the ways he helped us understand faith and our relationship with God in new ways – how he helped us to understand that in Christ, we are “Free Indeed!”

We’ll dig into this exploration during Lent this year, by studying Luther’s Small Catechism. Each week we will focus on a different part. To aid in this exploration, we are providing everyone with a Catechism, and a devotional entitled, “Free Indeed,” which will be used by congregations all around the ELCA this year. Be sure to pick yours up in the next couple weeks!

Here is our Lenten schedule:

Ash Wednesday, March 1 – Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion at Bethlehem Lutheran Church (1767 Plank Rd, Webster)

Midweek Services (6pm soup supper, 7pm evening prayer):
Week 1 (Mar. 8, BLC) – 10 Commandments
Week 2 (Mar. 15, BLC) – the Apostles’ Creed
Week 3 (Mar. 22, St. Martin) – the Lord’s Prayer
Week 4 (Mar. 29, St. Martin) – Baptism
Week 5 (Apr. 5, St. Martin) – Communion

Holy Week Services:

Maundy Thursday, April 13, 7pm at St. Martin (813 Bay Rd. Webster)

Good Friday, April 14, 7pm at Bethlehem


8:30am at Bethlehem, breakfast to follow

10:30am at St. Martin, breakfast at 9am

It’s New Testament Time!

At the beginning of this calendar year, many of us committed to a program of reading through the entire Bible in one year. Quite an undertaking! But one that has been worth it, I think!

I also know that we lost a number of folks along the way. The Old Testament can be a challenge sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), due to strange names, violence, esoteric practices, and at times foreign theology. We long for the grace and love we are accustomed to seeing in the life and work of Jesus Christ.

Well guess what – it is time! After trudging through the biblical witness chronologically, we have gotten to the point in history where the light of the world makes his grand appearance. Yes, tomorrow we start reading the Gospels, the testament of Jesus’ life on earth, and then we will read about how the Church continued to grow and mature in the years that followed. If you do today’s reading, you will read some background and historical context for this life-changing story.

So dust off your Daily Bible, and jump back on the train. Just think what could happen if we all committed to reading together the story of Jesus at the same time. How might the Spirit move in us and in our congregations?

See you in first century Palestine!

For those who missed our October Joint Bible Study, here is the handout. It is a comparison of the audience, goals, characteristics and themes of each of the four Gospels. Have a look!


A New Sunday School Year


Loved seeing all the kids up front ready to learn about God our first week of Sunday School!!  We had a great time in both classes and we look forward to seeing you in church again next week.

Just a reminder that Sunday School is held during the 9 am church service for pre-K to 6th grade children.   We start the service with our families and dismiss to Sunday School following the children’s sermon with Pastor Johanna.  On communion Sundays we return to finish the service and receive communion with our families.  The 3rd Sunday of the month is family worship and there is no Sunday School so that the children may worship together with their families.  A staffed nursery is available every Sunday for families with young children.

Organist Position: OPEN

Position: Organist of Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Penfield

Small, music-loving congregation seeking organist to play one service at 9am on Sunday mornings. Play our antique pipe organ (a 1905 Hinners organ with newly refurbished pipes and a brand new blower) and/or piano and/or whatever else you like – we are flexible and love new sounds and various musical styles!


1905 Hinners Organ

Responsibilities include:
* Playing for Sunday services, as well as Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Christmas Eve.
* Attend occasional Worship and Music Committee Meetings (4-6/year).
* Possibility to assemble/lead a choir for special services (e.g. Easter and Christmas). This is a chance for someone just developing these skills to learn in a low pressure setting.
* Whatever else you like – we’d love to hear your ideas!

Salary is negotiable depending on experience and responsibilities taken on.

Position is currently open.

Inquire with Pastor Johanna Rehbaum: or 585-270-0712

500th Anniversary of the Reformation


“For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8)

            On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church to spark a conversation about some abuses of the Church at the time. What it sparked was a reformation of that Church – and 500 years later, the Church that bears his name, as well as a slew of other Protestant churches, are still going strong. Next year, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of this world-changing act, and most of all we will celebrate 500 years of living in the knowledge that we are saved by God’s grace and not by works. Praise be to God!

We’d like to assemble a group of people to help plan how we will prepare for this monumental anniversary. This may include particular Bible or Catechism studies, presentations on the area in which Luther lived and worked, a brush-up on the history of the Reformation, new mission projects… who knows what else! This is a great opportunity to learn about and embrace our Lutheran heritage. If you would be interested in serving on this planning team, talk to Pastor Johanna. We’d love a few people from each congregation. The time commitment is minimal – probably just 1-2 meetings this fall to brainstorm and plan, and maybe a couple easy jobs next year (ordering things and whatnot).