A Message from Pastor Dave
Thank you God for the cosmos and all colors. Thank you God for pumpkins, pecans, potatoes (sweet) and all the delicious foods of this season. Thank you God for the farmers and gardens, the soil and harvesters, bakers and cooks and for daily bread. Thank you God for grandma’s recipes. Thank you God for family and faith, freedom and friendships. Thank you God for words and wonders, water and thunder, the seen and unseen. Thank you God for birth and baptism; for voices of laughter and hearts of love and hands of labor. Thank you God for treasures and genes, music and mercy, St. Mark’s and all saints. Thank you God for my dad’s birth on this day. Thank you God for those who serve and for first responders and Psalm 23. Thank you God for trees and shelter, home and homecomings. Thank you God for your most gracious gifts and forgiveness of our sins and Jesus, Savior, Emmanuel and the Holy Spirit. – Pastor Dave (2021)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:4-7
To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything. - Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (1956)
Continue / To let gratitude be the pillow / Upon which you kneel to / Say your nightly prayer / And let faith be the bridge / You build to overcome evil / And welcome good
- Maya Angelou, “Continue” (2016)
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. - Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations for Codependents (1990)
O my God, let me, with thanksgiving, remember, and confess unto Thee Thy mercies on me. - St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions (c. 397-400)
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. - Psalm 107:1-3
15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’[f] feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” - Luke 17
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen. - Martin Luther
A Message from Pastor Dave
Thank you St. Mark’s for your worship, welcome, and witness, especially over the last several weeks that included Reformation/Confirmation, All Saints, and New Members Sundays! We remembered our baptism into Christ Jesus, celebrated and blessed nine confirmands, remembered the blessings of the Saints who lived and served among us, and we welcomed new co-workers into this faith place. Emmie Wemyss was also baptized on November 13 and this weekend we will welcome Mia Alexandra Hatch and Sloan Ivy Cooper into the body of Christ through Holy Baptism! We worship, welcome, and witness with faith, hope and love in Jesus’ name.
Jesus has shown us how to do this, as have others. If All Saints Sunday had not changed the lectionary, we would have read Mark 12:41-44. Those verses tell the story of a poor widow who came to the Temple and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Jesus watched her, then said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."
The widow is an excellent example of worship, witness and faith, hope and love. Who does she remind you of, widowed or single, young or old? Who do you think of – in addition to yourself – as someone who is a model of worship, welcome, witness, faith, hope and love? How often have we heard the widow’s story, and then increased our weekly contribution a few dollars? What this woman did seems to us a leap of faith—a giant mighty leap—and we do not know what happened to her or her copper coins after that. We also are asked to take leaps of faith in our lives, sometimes with our money, sometimes with other parts of our lives. Perhaps that leap is to reach out and get to know a confirmand or a new member, to walk with them in faith, hope, and love. Perhaps it is to contribute a special Thanksgiving offering or year-end financial gift. Like the widow, we often do not know whether our contribution or our actions were beneficial to others or not. Or we may only find out years later. That is also faith and hope. Hope that we were able to help and faith that it was the right thing to do at the right time.
Thank you for returning your “Committed & Engaged” forms for 2022. Thank you for your participation at the Congregation Meeting this past Sunday. Thank you for your worship, welcome and witness, your faith, hope and love. You, the Communion of Saints, make a difference in the life of St. Mark’s, in the lives of the baptized, and in the kingdom of God.
A Message from Pastor Vern
“I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is.” (Ephesians 3:19)
Love…. Christ’s love…. When you think about that love, the love of Jesus, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s a spouse or partner. Maybe it’s the wisdom of a family member or neighbor that was shared with you sitting on front porch swing one Carolina summer evening. Maybe Christ’s love takes you to that view of standing in the surf looking out to the horizon at the beach, or the endless canvass of those rolling blue ridge mountains from a cabin. Maybe Christ’s love is in the smell and taste of granny’s apple dumplings or broccoli casserole. Maybe Christ’s love is that classmate that cried with you when your teammate died in an accident. Maybe Christ’s love is in the pastor, counselor, or friend who held space with you as you opened up for the first time about your parent who abused you at home, or helped guide you through the conversation of if your marriage be reconciled or not. Maybe Christ’s love surrounds you in the melody of singing “Thine is the Glory” on an Easter morning or “Silent Night” in the darkness of a candlelit room at Christmas where the only discernable color was the vibrant red of 100 poinsettias.
Has an experience or moment been triggered in your mind? An experience where Christ’s love was palpable? Ephesians 3:19 is an invitation to experience the boundless love of Jesus, so wonderful that it can’t be measured. This Ephesians text is also the central text for an experience that several of our young people at St. Mark’s are going to have the opportunity to take part in - The ELCA Youth Gathering in the summer of 2022.
Next summer, thousands of 8th-12th graders from all across the country will gather in the Lutheran mecca known as Minneapolis/ St. Paul, Minnesota, at US Bank field (home of the Minnesota Vikings) where they will have the opportunity, the experience to hear, see, know, and feel Christ’s boundless love for them through worship, through service, through prayer, and through building and nurturing relationships.
My hope and prayer is that just as that moment that came to your mind earlier that you quickly recalled, that moment of knowing Christ’s love, this experience, this Youth Gathering will be one of those moments in the minds of our young people for the rest of their lives where they say - “There, at US Bank field, in Minneapolis, in the summer of 2022, that is where I experienced Christ’s love.”
In months to come you are going to hear A LOT about Youth Gathering. You will have an opportunity to be a part of making this experience a reality for 8th-12th graders at St. Mark’s. We will need your prayers, your financial generosity and participation in fundraising, your encouragement and words of support, all so that just as you were able to recall that moment where Christ’s boundless love flooded your memory, together we can create that experience for Christ’s boundless love to be experienced by some of the youth among us.
Think again about that moment where you experienced Christ’s love… and know that love that you felt then, is with you right now, wherever you are, and is with you wherever you go.
Peace to you in the boundless love of Christ,
A Message from Pastor Dave
Mark Relyea spoke Sunday about being called. His story and his words were heartfelt about how he was called to follow Christ with Young Life and with St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Thank you, Mark, for sharing that. You gave and give us a good example of following and serving – using your gifts in finance to help the church, using your gifts in faith, hope and love to help your family and neighbors.
Nine young people were confirmed this past Sunday. They listened to Mark. They heard about being called too. Mara, Kaelyn, Brooklynn, Maggie, Niko, Charlie, Benjamin, Jacob, and Liam – all gifted by God and blessed with the Holy Spirit to “serve all people following the example of Christ Jesus.” (Affirmation of Baptism promise #4). “Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism?” They responded:” I will and I ask God to help and guide me.”
During the Reformation, Martin Luther argued that a HOLY CALLING was not just reserved for those in ordained ministry; it belonged to everyone. We call it the “priesthood of all believers.” Too often we reduce the meaning of that to ministry done by lay people at, with, and for the church. Yes, you are valued and needed here at St. Mark’s!
However, Luther also stated that this holy calling extended far beyond church and into our homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods – that we could and can and do serve Christ in a variety of ways and places. He lifted up his wife Katie as one of many role models living out a holy calling. In Ruth Tucker’s “First Lady of the Reformation” she writes: Katie “was a farmer and a brewer with a boarding house the size of Holiday Inn. All that with a large family and nursing responsibilities. She was far more than a simple housewife. In reality, she was what we would consider today a manager of a mid-size business with low intensity production.”
Jesus, Mark, Martin and Katie are all inviting us this November to consider how, when, where, and to what we are called; how we will serve the Lord again this day. Good and Gifted Confirmands and Good and Gifted Church – to be honest – You are needed to serve Christ in, with, and through St. Mark’s AND You are needed to serve Christ in your home and workplace and world!
Let’s take our lead from the confirmands and also answer affirmatively: I will and I ask God to help and guide me with my financial commitment to St. Mark’s; with my physical commitment to St. Mark’s; with my spiritual commitment to St. Mark’s; and in my personal commitment to Jesus Christ, I will do my part with “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
A Message from Pastor Vern
This week is a busy week filled with all kinds of celebrations, especially if you’re a Lutheran! Sunday is the celebration of Reformation, where we commemorate the work of Martin Luther and the reformers who wrestled with practices and statements by the church in Rome.
In addition to Reformation, Sunday at St. Mark’s we are celebrating “affirmation of baptism” (more commonly known as Confirmation) for nine wonderful young people. When these nine individuals were baptized, their parents and guardians and all God’s people who gathered around them at the time of their baptism, made promises. On Sunday, these nine folks will affirm those promises as they continue to grow in their Christian faith and life.
The celebrations don’t stop there! On Sunday, October 31, many folks observe Halloween (originally known as “All Hallows’ Eve”). Many of us know the celebration of Halloween through costumes, handing out candy at our homes, maybe even a Trunk or Treat event at church (like the one we’re having this Saturday the 30th from 4-7pm). However, the origin of All Hallows’ Eve was celebrated in preparation for All Saints Day. We will celebrate All Saints’ Sunday the following week on November 7, when we remember all the saints, especially those saints in our own lives who have died and gone before us.
One more celebration I want to share with you this week. This is a celebration of an event that has already passed, and still one that needs to be uplifted. Last Wed. Oct. 20, we hosted a “pumpkin painting/carving event” in the FLC at St. Mark’s. I am thrilled to celebrate with you all how much of a success that event was.
Many pumpkins were painted that night, some were carved. Many smiles, laughs, and conversations were shared. Many cookies, cups of hot chocolate, and marshmallows were consumed. Many “ooh’s” and “ahhh’s” were made towards neighborhood decorations while on a hayride to Bellingham park and back. New introductions were made and stories were shared.
As I share a little of the story from pumpkin painting/carving night, I also want to be sure to uplift a few specific voices that were essential in making this night successful. A special thanks to Travis and Terrie Tidwell (for putting together a trailer for a hayride, Susan Uzarski and Jeanne Proefrock (for their hours in helping plan the event), Stephanie Mattingly (for helping communicate the event with St. Mark’s Preschool families), Mandy Kinard (for helping kiddos get paint for their pumpkins), Al Hansen and Jimmy McLean (for helping pull out extra tables and chairs as folks arrived), and our communications coordinator Clare Kluck (for helping promote the event throughout the congregation and community)!
Pumpkin carving/painting was a night filled with fun and joy. Don’t just take my word for that; enjoy a few pictures from this event.
A Message from Pastor Dave
It can be exciting to think about what we would do if we won the lottery, the jackpot Powerball or the lotto, even for those—like me—who don’t play any of those. An old lotto slogan was, “All you need is a dollar and a dream.” I used to wonder who had the bigger dreams. Was it those who really didn’t need the money but would use it for fun – kind of like celebrities playing Wheel of Fortune and their winnings going to a charity of their choice; OR, were the bigger dreams from those who could barely afford the ticket to play?
I was just reading again Psalm 126 - (it is printed below this devotional). Psalm 126 is assigned for this coming Sunday. About 10 years ago I preached on this particular one of the “psalms of ascent” during Lent on six different Wednesdays at six different churches. The fortunes the people of ancient Israel were dreaming about and praying for in this psalm were far greater than any lottery winnings. They were in exile. They longed for their land and homes; longed for their freedom and to practice their faith. They longed to be known again as God’s people chosen to be a blessing to the world. And eventually, after a long while, their prayers were answered, they did get to “come home with shouts of joy!”
It is quite possible that COVID has brought a similar sense of loss and longing to you. Separated from family, friends, and worship of God, we dream of what once was. But we know we cannot go backwards in time; we can only go forward. I invite you to come home to St. Mark’s. I invite you, in God’s love and grace, to march on together with the Lord. Praying. Serving. Ascending. There we find healing, laughter and joy.
As I was writing this, Caroline Tyree was in the sanctuary playing the piano. It was music to my ears and melody for my prayers as she played the hymn tune “Be Thou My Vision.” Let us pray: “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that thou art: thou my best thought both by day and by night, waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.”
In the name of our Triune God. Amen. (Text: Irish, 8th cent)
P.S. If you do win the lottery, after thanking God, also remember St. Mark’s, even our church’s new “endowment” fund.
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them."
3 The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.
A Message from Pastor Vern
For the past two days one of the hymns from the WOV (Hymn 783, to be exact) that I remember singing as an anthem in the children’s choir at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Newberry has played on repeat in my head. It’s based off of the Matthew 7 “Ask, Seek, Knock” text. The hymn reads, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Al-le-lu, al-le-lu-ia. Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened unto you. Al-le-lu, Al-le-lu-ia.”
Thinking about this text, Jesus challenged those who heard him live and in stereo, and Jesus challenges us today to “activate” faith. Ask, seek, knock - these are all action words. And if three actions words in a row isn’t direct enough, Jesus follows this statement in the Gospel of Matthew with another action word - “Do.” If the Bible you use has subtitles, it would be titled The Golden Rule - “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
Last night we had an important Council meeting at St. Mark’s. Council started articulating its vision for ministry next year, specifically through financial planning. 2022 will be here before we know it, friends. And in the closing weeks of 2021, maybe this text from Matthew 7 is helpful to hear again.
Now is a good time to ask, “What is the Spirit inviting us into through our ministry together?” “What goals do we seek to accomplish in the coming year?” “What barriers are God calling us to knock down, or new doors to open?” What other action words is Jesus calling us to see; to be; to do as St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Mooresville, NC and in our greater mission as the body of Christ in the world?
One more note about the “Seek Ye First” hymn. Each verse concludes with the same phrase, “Al-le-lu, Al-le-lu-ia.” Alleluia means “Give thanks/ give praise to God.” I pray that in all of our words, and in all of our actions, that we think, we say, we do, from a place of giving thanks to God for the ways that we are continually and abundantly blessed to participate in sharing and being signs of God’s love.
A Message from Pastor Dave
We share our mutual woes,
our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.
From sorrow, toil, and pain,
and sin we shall be free;
and perfect love and friendship reign
through all eternity.
(by John Fawcett, 1782. ELW 656, Verses 3-4)
These concluding verses are from the last hymn we sang Sunday, Oct. 3.
We speak of God as a God of relationship. (See Psalm 8 from Sunday too).
We are formed in creation for community. And God uses our community – our church, our family, our friendship circles – to witness to the best of God’s love and care for creation and for one another.
In the best cases:
God’s people share their mutual woes in order to help support one another and edify the community as a whole.
God’s people share their mutual burdens in order to lighten their loads together.
God’s people share their griefs in order to cry together.
One of the saddest things I’ve known are congregations that cannot model the reality of a loving community. And some of my most blessed moments have been the expressions of love in faith-filled congregations.
What woes do you need support for today? What burdens can we help one another lessen? For what griefs can we share a sympathizing tear or ear?
Care and compassion is the work of our Lutheran Christian community.
Can you help with that today for someone else? How? Who?
Let us together look forward to the final freedom from sorrow, toil, pain, and sin, - when perfect love and friendship will reign through all eternity - by the grace of God, who unites us all in Jesus’ name.
Let us pray.
God of Community, make us living witnesses to your heavenly reality. Today we include in prayers your creation, and those in our community including Guil, Jim, Ken, Wendy, Carol, Herb, Dovie, Janet, Martha, and all those we now name aloud or silently.
A Message from Pastor Dave
For five Sundays in worship, we read from the New Testament letter of James. We concluded September 26 with James 5:13-20, about prayer, suffering, confession, and even unanswered prayer.
Garth Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers” has this refrain:
Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.
Today I read an email from the organization called Science for the Church.
A sentence stood out to me that reminded me of James 5:15-16 about prayer, confession, forgiveness and healing. The author of “Science” wrote “some science, like that of learned helplessness or forgiveness, can even tell us how God through Christ has worked out freedom from bondage and offers hope for a world where everyone can flourish and find joy.” It linked the word of “forgiveness” with a previous article that I found really helpful, insightful: “God Says to Forgive. So Does Science.”
OK. Let’s talk with the man upstairs: Heavenly Father, You have created us for companionship and have re-created us for fellowship in our Lord Jesus Christ. I confess I often disrupt fellowship by thoughtlessness and selfishness. I pray for forgiveness. Destroy in me the vanity that keeps me from liking others. Help me overcome the timidity that makes me fearful of others. Keep me from the urge to take advantage of others, but discourage in me the feeling that I cannot call on others. Help to find friendship among those who know the constant love and mercy of Your Son. Enable me to be kind, generous, and forgiving. I pray in the name of Jesus, who brought me into the fellowship of the church.
(Lutheran Book of Prayer, p. 194. 1970 Concordia Publishing House)
A Message from Pastor Vern
Have you ever heard the saying up above in the title of this message? I have to admit, growing up in the Carolinas, there are some interesting sayings that my ears have heard. There is of course the infamous “Bless your heart” which can either be one of the most compassionate responses your steeped-in-the-South neighbor might say to you, or the politest way that someone might curse you. And then there’s some other conversational jewels such as: “They ain’t got the good sense God gave a rock,” or someone being “madder than a wet hen,” or maybe you’re “happier than a pig in mud.” The list of these sayings could go on and on.
One saying that I remember hearing many times was referring to someone (or yourself) in a situation being “low man on the totem pole.” What that saying refers to is acknowledging an order of importance. This past week’s gospel says something about acknowledging the importance of one another. Jesus had just told the disciples that he was going to be betrayed, crucified, and rise from the dead. You would think that would’ve been the center of conversation among the disciples for the rest of the day. Alas, the only thing the disciples could seem to talk about (actually more like argue about) was which one of them was the greatest. They got into a debate with each other about who was “high or low man on the totem pole.”
I love Jesus’ response to the disciples quarreling. After they reached Capernaum, and while they were gathered together, Jesus singled out and called children who were gathered with them to come near. WHAT?! Why a child?! If there ever was an easy answer as to who was “low man on the totem pole” in Israel, it was children. Children had little if any social status. They had no voice. They were work hands in the family trade. To some cultures around the Israelites, children were even seen as forms of payment (look up Molech, a deity of the Canaanites).
So as the disciples quarreled among each other, Jesus called upon the children in their midst while saying, “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and servant of all.” Jesus continued, “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me.”
I have to pause for a moment and brag. I’m so thankful for the young people in our midst at St. Mark’s; for their personalities, for their wisdom, and for the ways that they model what it means to be the body of Christ. I recall the words of the 8th Psalm, “O Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Out of the mouths of young ones and infants you have laid a foundation…”
I want to invite all of us into a time to really ponder the words of Jesus: “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and servant of all.” Jesus invites us to intentionally make sure that our neighbors know that they aren’t the “low man on the totem pole.” Rather Jesus invites us into being intentionally welcoming and into seeking out the folks around us who feel like they aren’t important. Because when we intentionally build relationships, when we seek out the person who feels like they aren’t worthy in the eyes of anyone, when we love and serve without priority, that is loving and serving like Jesus.