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.