Ecumenical Thanksgiving Worship

Our annual Ecumenical Thanksgiving Worship was held on Sunday evening, November 22nd, 2009.  The Ecumenical choir (40+!) did a lovely job with two special pieces of worship music, and Pastor Charlie Leonard preached a touching and challenging sermon.  We raised over $470 dollars in offering for our local families in times of emergencies, along with donations of non-perishable food.  It was a wonderful night to worship with many of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Heartfelt thanks to Red Oak Grove Lutheran and Pastor Gene Leiter for being such gracious hosts.

Photos follow.  Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. 

donations for the food shelf

people at worship

Bishop Hanson’s Online Town Hall Forum Announced

A letter and video from Rev. Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA was released this week (November 19, 2009). 

You can view the video here

Or

Read the letter here.

This Town Hall Forum, scheduled for Sunday, December 6th, 2009 at 4:30 pm, will require a computer with fast internet connection in order to stream the live feed.  Many of you will be able to take part at home.  However, some of you will not.  For those who wish, we are contemplating having a time at church to watch together.  Please watch for details in weekly bulletins.

Back and Forth

The Gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday, November 22, 2009 can be viewed here.

Jesus in on trial before Pilate in the 18th chapter of John.  But as you read even these few verses (or if you’re ambitious and check out the entire chapter!) you will grasp the amount of vacillation, in every way.

Physically, Pilate is the one who travels.  Out to check with the Jewish leaders (they cannot travel inside Pilate’s headquarters or they risk ritual defilement), back inside to talk with Jesus.  Again and again.  Back and forth.  Emotionally, things are at a fever pitch.  The Jewish leaders are firm and fixed, insistent.  Pilate is portrayed, somewhat, as a dimwit who is trying to bridge a cultural and political gap.  Spiritually, there is vacillation as well.  The disciples have now abandoned Jesus; he stands alone and speaks truth to power.  As chapter 18 draws to a close, the excitable crowds insist on one criminal to be let free as was the Passover custom.  And they insist that one be Barabbas. 

No one political system, no single gifted ruler, no well-intentioned process of deliberation will ever meet everyone’s needs, solve every dilemma, or bridge every gap.  It is not human loyalty that is lifted up on Christ the King Sunday.  Jesus spoke of an eternal hope when he answers Pilate in John 18:36 with, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

For our prayer, we meditate on the famous hymn by Isaac Watts, “Jesus Shall Reign.”

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Does its sucessive journeys run;

His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,

Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

 

Large Stones

In 2001 when I traveled to the temple ruins in Jerusalem (often known as the Wailing Wall, sometimes known as the Western Wall), I immediately noticed three things.

1.  The guns pointed at me.  Israeli soldiers take security very seriously.  You just keep moving through security lines and pray you don’t set off any alarms.  (Ironically, I prayed more there than I did at the wall itself.)   Not a suprise.

2.  The hustle and bustle.  I visited the site twice, on two different days.  Each time, there were hundreds of Jewish men cantoring, davening, random cloisters of men celebrating bar mitzvahs on-site, throwing candy.  There were tourists from all over the world, in all different types of clothing and tradition, tucking prayers written on paper into the wall spaces.  And quieter women, also praying, in their own separate section.  (Women and men are not allowed to pray together in mixed company, except in the Reform circles of Judaism.)  In fact, I remember thinking this scene looks exactly like a picture I would study in the encyclopedia, circa 1984.  Again, not a suprise. 

3.  The architecture itself.  This was a suprise.  How did the stones get placed there without modern-day equipment?  How were they cut so evenly?  What are the dimensions and how much do they weigh?  What kind of rock is this, and where did they even find it?  How long did it take to build?  Just how many slaves gave their lives for this temple, anyway?

Though the Temple I am referring to was not yet completed in Jesus’ time, the architecture was impressive enough for the disciples to comment, even to marvel, from the opposite vista on the Mount of Olives.  You will read all about that in our Gospel Lesson for Sunday, Nov 15, 2009 from Mark 13:1-8.

Architecture may impress.  But–marveling over things that you can see, and trusting in the One you cannot see–are two different things.

Lord of all times and places, we trust in your greatness alone.  Amen.

wailing_wall

Life-Giving

A devotion based on 1 Kings 17:8-16 for Sunday, November 8, 2009 

by Spiritual Care Minister Barbara A. Peterson

flour and rolling pin

“Would you bring me a little water … a piece of bread?”

The audacity of Elijah to ask a poor widow, destined to die of starvation, for a little water and a small cake of bread. Asking the poorest of poor for your means of survival doesn’t seem like the appropriate course of action, and it is certainly an unlikely source of help. Yet, these were desperate times. There was a severe drought and an accompanying famine that plagued the land. It was a matter of life or death; it was every man/woman for him/herself. The widow had only a handful of flour and a little oil to feed herself, her son, and now Elijah. If you know anything about being a baker or about flour; one handful will not feed or sustain three people. Elijah’s request must have seemed preposterous! Yet the widow was willing. Why?

It might have something to do with the culture of hospitality at that time, but it more so has to do with God’s words through the prophet Elijah that revealed the life-giving nature of God. Amidst the drought and famine, in this household, the flour will not come to an end and the oil will not be lacking. These are words of hope and words of life; God’s gracious provision will sustain all three people.

Also within the life-giving nature of God, this story shows how Elijah and the widow needed and helped one another. Elijah needed the widow with flour and oil, and the widow needed God’s gracious provision. God provided life and as God worked through each individual, they provided life for one another.

This is true for us today also. As we turn to God for help, he graciously provides for our need. And our gracious offerings to one another provide and sustain life here on earth. We too, in our times of drought or famine /trial or struggle, need one another. Our openness to allowing others, even those whom we least expect, to help us as well as our being willing to help them, has a reciprocal effect. It is mutual life-giving for both. Our very survival depends on this.

Figuratively speaking: What drought or famine are you experiencing in your life? What little bit of water or small piece of bread do you need, or, could you offer someone? Consider the life-giving nature of God both in his provision and his call for you to mutually help others.