By Pastor Dave
Monday Morning Quarterback – defined as “a person who passes judgment on and criticizes something after the event.”
Frank Sinatra sang:
“It's so easy looking at the game the morning after;
Adding up the kisses and the laughter;
Knowing how you'd play it if the chance to play it over ever came
But then, a Monday morning quarterback never lost a game.”
But in today’s world we don’t wait until the morning after. So on Sunday, October 2, I drove home from St. Mark’s about 7:45 p.m., and I listened a few minutes to a sports talk station reviewing the Panthers 4 p.m. game and loss to the Cardinals. All the MMQ’s were calling the station to vent their frustrations. “Lackluster offense.” “Inept coaching.” “Bench Baker.”
Then I turned off the radio and did my own MMQ – prayerfully reviewing the events of Sunday as I drove. It was a conversation with just me and Coach Jesus. But here’s the gist: Let’s start with morning worship and the sermon Dave – ugh. 8:30 a.m. was anemic. May need to bench or “pew the preacher.” Shelby’s “Santa” was pretty good along with her message to bless our sisters and brothers in Cherokee. The prayerful hymn by Carolyn Gillette “O God of All Creation” received high marks – unfortunately due to the high-water marks of floods and storms. Priscilla’s piano accompaniment to the Doxology was stormy, strong, inspiring: “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow!” Lisa and the choir were angelic in song. I told myself to make sure and tell Pastor Vern he saved the sermon with his prayers of intercession, voicing the concerns and hopes of the sermon combined with prayerfulness of “O God of All Creation” combined with the melancholy and sadness that followed Hurricane Ian into our lives that morning.
With mixed emotions I then thought about the congregation, remembering your faces in worship, seeing you and Jesus. We were edified in the sacrament of Holy Communion. And there were three more people who also brought a smile to my face. Lorri Monterose escorted Jean into St. Mark’s. Jean worked at Lenoir-Rhyne when I was a student and an employee, and was still there when I served as a pastor. Her deceased husband Roger also served as a Lutheran pastor. It was so good to see Jean again. And the other two, Erik and Edith, recently called St. Mark’s because they moved from Minnesota and are engaged and want to connect with a church. We Zoomed last week and then they came to worship! We talked more in person, and they met Pastor Vern and Mandy too, along with some of you. They said what a friendly flock we are. I don’t know how Coach Jesus graded worship last Sunday morning, but I’m now sure it was worth at least three touchdowns! Hopefully the devil’s side was 0.
Then Confirmation class...five delightful disciples. We were creed-focused and looked up Biblical names for our active God. But next time Pastor Dave, get more creative or crafty with the play calling. Remember, God is active, like a verb, so let’s get these students more active.
Then, pet blessings! Those wonderful, beautiful, handsome dogs – Cookie, Rocky, Chloe and more – and the Martin’s meow. There is a lot of God’s grace in those animals. One of their owners accused me (can you believe that) accused me of holding that St. Francis Day service just so I could pet and play with the dogs. “Alleluia!” Coach Jesus, I thought, I know you loved this part of the day. But next time, maybe add some treats? Kind of like communion for cats and dogs?
And then LMM’s Meat and Greet. I didn’t remember Dan Markley had been around St. Mark’s for 41 years and served in so many ways, and served with Lutheran Men in Mission in many ways too! Thank you, Coach Jesus for Dan and his family! Dan received LMM’s Honorary Lifetime Membership Award! Oh, the steaks, potatoes, salad and dessert were delicious! And over $600 was collected and given to Mooresville’s Christian Mission.
Thank you again Coach Jesus. It is a blessing to be part of St. Mark’s ministries of worship, faith formation, fellowship and service. Not perfect, but a blessing for sure. Amen. Then I parked the car, walked into our house, and said: “Hey honey, I’m home!”
A Message from Pastor Dave
Well, the Rams defeated Bengals. I’m sorry about that Dan and Tristan and other Cincinnati Bengals fans. The Bengals, like our local cats, the Panthers, have not won a Super Bowl…yet. But Rams and Bengals are players with lives and stories. The faith stories that come out during Super Bowl week always fascinate me. An internet search can yield some Christian faith stories about current Rams/Bengals players (Cooper Kupp, Jalen Ramsey, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Trey Hendrickson and more) as well as past NFL players. One of the more “famous” ones: The Rams won the Super Bowl in 2000 when they were the St. Louis Rams and Kurt Warner was their QB. His life and faith movie, American Underdog, was released last year on Christmas Day. When Warner and the Rams won the big game, in his post-game interview he said: “Well, first things first, I've got to thank my Lord and Savior up above. Thank you, Jesus!”
Bengals and Rams are also animals; the former are tigers/cats and the latter, male bighorn sheep. Tigers live in isolation while rams and bighorn sheep usually stick together - up to 50 adult males hang together, like a football team; and do a lot of head butting, also like football players; while female and children bighorns stick together too as family, community. Both animals can run really fast. A Bengal tiger, if it found a ram by itself, would probably attack and eat it a during the amount of time a Super Bowl halftime show takes. Rams might attack a Bengal but, they don’t eat meat. Jesus said he is the Good Shepherd and reminded us we are like sheep – in both bad and good ways.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Pastor Vern read the gospel from Luke 6 where Jesus stated Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Is that Russia? Is that the guy in the car that just cut you off in traffic? Is that someone who did something really terrible to you? Maybe it is Linc Cash. He’s a boy that was a year older than me when we were in the same first/second grade classroom. I don’t remember much except he seemed to be a big bully, a 7-year-old picking on me and my 6-year-old friends. One day during lunch he took Mark’s chips. We were sitting at the same table. Mark was little and didn’t really even seem to care about losing his chips. I grabbed the chip bag back, or tried. Linc yanked them out of my hand and smashed them in an instant with the side of his fist coming down on them. I felt a tear in my eye – out of anger. I wanted to retaliate. But I didn’t really know how to fight. But then one day a few years later I got back at my “enemy.” At least in my mind that’s what happened. The summer after 3rd grade, maybe 4th. Little league baseball. I was shortstop and Linc, on the other team, was a runner on first base. The only thing I remember about the play was that somehow, the ball was coming toward me as I was “covering” second base. I had to jump to catch the ball and Linc came sliding in. I’m not sure if was accidental or on purpose but after I jumped up, I came down from that two inch vertical, with both my knees and all my weight landing right on my enemy, on his hip and side, and somewhere my glove with the ball in it was touching him. He was out. And, the breath was knocked out of him briefly (I think). He stayed on the ground for a moment before getting up and going back to his dugout. Why do I even remember that? Years later I think about the enmity that I had for Linc. I’m aware that I was far from innocent. I don’t really know anything my enemy’s life, but I just did another internet search and sadly, found Linc’s obituary. His birthdate is Feb. 17, this Thursday again, and the same birthday as my sister Charlotte’s, but a different year. I also read that Linc died a week before Christmas in 1987, at age 23. A week before Christmas. With both his parents, two sisters, and a brother still living. Lord, have mercy.
I don’t know if, as a 6 or 8 year-old, I could do much different. But maybe, I could. Or maybe I still can. Perhaps extend an open hand of peace. Maybe say something like “Life sucks sometimes, doesn’t it. But it gets better when we face it together.” Or even, as Jesus said, to love our enemies. I think that means I’m supposed to regard you as a neighbor. Who’s your favorite baseball player? (Or some other question to begin getting to know my neighbor, and learning their story.) I’m also reminded here of Martin Luther’s explanations to the Commandments 5-10 in the Small Catechism where, in all things, we are supposed to help and support our neighbor.
Love your enemies. Yes, there are probably multiple. Jesus loved his, even me, even Linc. And I’m reminded of Jesus’ goal of ushering in a new kingdom / kin-dom. A peaceful one. Like in Isaiah chapter 11, the place where we read about Bengal living with a Ram, kinda. (verse 6 “wolf shall live with the lamb; leopard shall lie down with the kid / goat; calf and lion together, and a little child shall lead them.”) Yes, these are animals for Isaiah, but they also represent people of nations, teams, ethnicities. Isaiah prophesied this hope for all peoples, for his people and for his enemies. Hope for a peaceful world under God’s reign. And his prophecy included that little lamb/shepherd child – Jesus – shall lead them/us/me.
After the Super Bowl, I saw former enemies on the field embracing. Bengals players and Rams players - sharing congratulations, condolences, and some even praying together.
A Message from Pastor Vern
This past week we heard the story from Luke’s gospel of Jesus calling some of his disciples. These disciples were a very specific type of folk…they were fishermen. As someone who shares a love for fishing, I love the progression of this story. Simon (who we come to know later in the gospel story better as Peter) “preaches” to Jesus, “Look here bud, we’ve been fishing all night and all day and we’ve hardly caught anything”! It seems like all the fish seem to be the one that got away for these fishermen. They’ve had rotten luck out on the water.
And then, Jesus says to these fishermen in the boat, “Throw your nets out for one more cast…trust me”. So Simon, James and John (I would offer reluctantly) cast their nets out one more time and what happens “catches” them by complete surprise. Not only do they catch a couple fish, there are so many fish in the catch that the integrity of their nets is being strained.
Jesus shows up and nets that were practically empty all night and all day are filled to the brim with fish. I like to think of the love of God being a lot like this culmination of this fishing expedition. At the end of the day, you and me and all people are caught up in the net of God’s love. The truth is, no matter how hard we try to swim away, we can’t escape the love of God. No matter how much we try to deny God’s love (for ourselves or anyone else), we are all still caught up in the love of God. The net of God’s love is so great that it spans beyond all bounds that we can measure. In the fullness of our life, in our death, and into life in the resurrection, we are caught up, forever held in the love of God.
I think it’s also cool to think about how “caught up” we are in God’s love as we stand at the doorstep of another Valentine’s Day celebration. It’s that time of year where there are hearts, stuffed teddy bears, little cherubs named Cupid with heart-pointed arrows, sugary candies, warm-written cards, bouquets of roses and boxes of chocolate everywhere. All of these symbols are different ways that we might share with loved ones a note of love and as we convey our love for those special folks in our lives, we hear and are also reminded about the love that we are enfolded in through the symbols of fish and nets that are filled to the brim.
I pray that you hear; that you know; and that you feel how loved you are this Valentine’s Day. I hope you are reminded of how much you are loved by friends, by family and the God who created you and said, “You are wonderfully made.”
Friends, happy Valentine’s Day to you. I give thanks for you and send my love to all of you this Valentine’s season!
And most importantly, God loves you too!
A Message from Pastor Dave
Dear Saint Mark’s,
I was asked the other day why Saint Mark’s is named Saint Mark’s. Uhh, because St. Matthew’s, St. Luke’s and St. John’s names were already taken? I don’t know. St. or Saint Mark’s organized on Dec. 13, 1908 with missionary pastor Dr. Jacob Morgan (St. Morgan’s?). And St. Mark’s is one of seven “St. Mark’s” in the North Carolina Synod.
Most Bible scholars agree that St. Mark’s gospel account was the first one written. It is the only one to clearly label itself as a “gospel” or “good news” (Mark 1:1). Maybe that’s why this Mooresville church was named St. Mark’s – we wanted to be first or gospel-centered? Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Maybe our St. Mark’s ancestors in Mooresville just wanted to have shorter sermons and shorter worship services and that’s why we’re named St. Mark’s?
Mark’s repeated message is that no one understands Jesus. No one gets him. Not the disciples, not even his mother. Yet, Mark’s account was written to create and strengthen faith in Jesus, to develop true disciples of Jesus. Maybe that’s why St. Mark’s Lutheran Church was named St. Mark’s?
The gospel according to Mark focuses our attention on the cross and the suffering of Christ, a suffering servant Messiah. After the crucifixion, there isn’t a resurrection scene exactly. Mark ends suddenly, for whatever reason at chapter 16, verse 8, with other additional stuff probably added later. Women run from the empty tomb in fear after a man, perhaps Mark himself, says that Jesus has been raised!; and to go to Galilee to see him “just as he told you.” Even confronted by the message of the resurrection, the disciples don’t get it. Maybe that’s why we are called St. Mark’s – sometimes we just don’t get it and aren’t entirely supposed to.
Perhaps Matthew, Luke and John thought: “What a terrible ending, too pessimistic, too condemnatory of the early disciples and of everyday Christians.”
For many of the early Christian communities, this was just too much. Christians may be sinners but they are not total losers. Maybe they, like Hollywood screenwriters, decided to do a rewrite. Matthew emphasizes the teachings of Jesus and their importance for the life of the Christian community. This was important when Christ did not return as was expected by the early disciples. Luke stresses the compassion of Jesus and the universality of his message. This was important as more gentiles became Christians. And John stresses that Jesus is not a suffering Messiah but the very presence of God. John invites us to have life in Jesus’ name, to have a lifelong encounter with Jesus the Word made flesh, and to abide with him. Maybe we would rather be St. Matthew’s or St. Luke’s or St. John’s Lutheran Church?
But here’s this: Mark keeps us honest. Mark challenges us in our complacency. Mark reminds us that we don’t get it. We don’t understand Jesus or his message. If we think we do, we haven’t been listening. Or, if we think we got it, go serve, and be last, and even suffer and die for Christ’s sake. Of the four Gospel writers, Mark is the one you would not want to invite to dinner. But he is the one who will challenge you to listen more carefully to Jesus, and to serve Jesus more passionately. And maybe that is why this congregation is named St. Mark’s.
A Message from Pastor Vern
I talked about football in my sermon Sunday, and I’m going back to the gridiron for a Wednesday devotion. For those who are not football fans, forgive me 😊!
For a moment I have to brag on my South Carolina Gamecocks. The story of South Carolina football has been a great story to watch this past season. This team went from a two-win season a year ago, to finishing this season 7-6 and in the process, winning a bowl game in impressive fashion! Not only were there more “W’s” on the schedule this season for South Carolina, there seems to be a new feel or atmosphere surrounding Gamecock football. Players have shared repeatedly in interviews about how there is a more optimistic and inclusive identity among teammates. To quote a specific player, “Our team was competing with a ‘me’ mentality and now we compete together with a ‘we’ mentality.” In addition to changes among teammates in the locker room, there is also a new sense of excitement among the fanbase. In addition to those new dynamics, possibly one of the most exciting pieces of the puzzle is the excitement around the incoming recruiting class and transfers that have committed to play next year. All of these ingredients combined starts to build a recipe for success in the life of a football program (and I admit, I’m glad that it’s happening to that group that wears garnet and black in Columbia, S.C.).
This week I’ve had a lot of “planning ahead” conversations: planning youth events farther out into the year, a swanky “sweetheart” dinner for couples in late February (Sat. Feb. 26 to be exact), and already looking ahead to Ash Wednesday, the season of Lent, and some creative worship ideas in Lent and maybe beyond! Friends, there is a lot of promise for the future for St. Mark’s! I say that not only because of events on a calendar, or exciting conversations about worship, or opportunities to serve in the community. I offer that there is a future filled with promise because of the awesome ways that the Holy Spirit is working in and through you, and through the people here at St. Mark’s.
We’ve heard about “spiritual gifts” from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians for several weeks now. In another letter attributed to Paul, to this church in a place called Galatia, we read about the “fruits of the Spirit.” The author writes [Galatians 5:22-25], “22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
I’ve seen the spirit of love in the outpouring of support for the Milholland family. I’ve seen the spirit of joy in the laughter of youth playing together in the FLC. I’ve seen the spirit of kindness in folks walking up to a face they might not recognize on Sunday morning, introducing themselves and sharing a word of welcome. I’ve seen the spirit of faithfulness in an elected council learning and growing together in retreat. And I’ve seen the spirit of faithfulness in youth eager to share their faith by leading in worship (there’s more to come in that regard…mark your calendars for Youth Sunday on Feb. 27). The Spirit is working in a lot of awesome ways and when all of these fruits of the Spirit are united together in one community, it builds a recipe for fun, faith-filled and impactful ministry!
The Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control be with you all this week!
A Message from Pastor Dave
Dear church, thanks be to God for you! We have much to be thankful for at St. Mark’s and much in the works for 2022. We have a Congregation Meeting coming up on January 30 for conversation about new ministry initiatives like starting a Youth Committee separate from the Faith Formation Committee, and to elect an Endowment Committee, among other things to consider.
With regards to the Endowment Committee, I read recently about Grace Lutheran Church in Hendersonville, N.C. They had received a generous bequest from the estate of Millie Poppendick to establish a Facilities Endowment Fund. Millie’s bequest totaled $500,000 of which $350,000 established the endowment and the council later added $150,000 in undesignated funds to bring the total endowment to $500,000. The earnings from the endowment will help care for their church facilities. This very generous bequest came as a surprise to the congregation, council and staff!
St. Mark’s is always open for those kind of good surprises too. However, to prepare for those good surprises, and also to prepare for not-so-good facilities surprises, St. Mark’s is also establishing an endowment committee with some seed money courtesy of David Milholland and Jeff Shoe.
This endowment means that the corpus of the endowment will grow and only the earnings will be used. The endowment will hopefully free up more funds for ministry in the congregation. The unique thing about leaving a bequest in your will or making a planned gift is that you retain use of the funds during your lifetime, and then they go to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church at your death. You don’t have to give $500,000 like Millie did, but be assured that whatever you do share for the church endowment, it will be used to build up God’s kingdom through the ministries of St. Mark’s.
A Message from Pastor Dave
On Monday morning, January 3, after a balmy New Year’s Eve and day, the winds blew, the rain fell, and snow too. The storm knocked out electricity in and around St. Mark’s. The fierceness of the winds through the night reminded me of Pentecost in Acts 2; and Jesus’ story about the house built on the rock. After that thought, I remembered this winter hymn. We did not have “snow on snow, snow on snow” but we did just celebrate “grace upon grace” (John 1:16) on the first Sunday of the new year.
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heav'n and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign;
in the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God almighty, Jesus Christ.
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him - give my heart.
ELW 294 Text by Christina Georgina Rossetti, 1830-1894
What can I possibly give him, the God who came to live among us and even joins us in our bleak midwinters? This is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of us all. Everything we have flows from the gracious hand of the One who breathes Word into our midst and Spirit into our beings.
So what I can give him? What can we give him? Tomorrow, January 6, we remember the Magi bring gold, frankincense and myrrh to him. But the common starting point for anyone who wishes to welcome Jesus and to give him something….is to “give my heart.”
From there flows everything else we do, whether giving a lamb, or money, or sharing our time and abilities. I commend these words of Romans 12:1 from The Message Bible: “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”
Thank you St. Mark’s and St. Mark’s Hearts – for all you gave to him in 2021 through your hearts and hands, your time and service, your dollars and tithes, your prayers and songs, your grace and faith!
Join me in prayer: Lord Jesus, as you have given me your all, I give you my heart. May my everyday, ordinary life be an acceptable offering to you, blessing you and all whom I encounter. Amen.
A Message from Pastor Vern
Of all the things to think about as we approach the new year, roads are taking up a considerable amount of my headspace. For several weeks, I’ve been enjoying my Christmas Spotify playlist which includes a carol about roads, the infamous “over the river and through the woods.” TV commercials are flooded with “end of year” car sale commercials and Chevrolet must be on a mission to try and flip me from being a proud Ford driver because it seems like every time a show goes to commercial, I hear the “find new roads” Chevrolet catch phrase.
Mandy and I traveled several roads on Saturday and Sunday to enjoy Christmas celebrations with her family over the weekend. We will travel several more roads this week. On Thursday, we’ll travel to Charlotte for a bowl game of the “Carolinas” (Of course, to pull for the Carolina of the garnet and black persuasion). And this coming weekend, we’ll travel roads to South Carolina for Christmas celebrations with my family.
While putting some miles on my tires this week, I’ve thought about the transition of a dawning new year this weekend, about roads, and how it ties in nicely with another transition that is soon taking place in the story of the church year. This Sunday (Jan. 2) is still considered the season of Christmas; however, right on its heels is the season of Epiphany. Maybe some of you who have nativity scenes in your homes almost ceremoniously move the wise men into the scene for the season of Epiphany. A quick side note: if that is a part of the tradition in your home, kudos to you! The wise men were not present at the manger that first Christmas night!
The story of the wise men does include something about roads in it. Not only did they travel afar to see Jesus, but after witnessing this wondrous child, “They returned to their homes by a new (or different) road.” Thinking about this verse and thinking about the new year that is quickly approaching, I’ve thought about the new year in a new or different way this time around. Rather than coming up with goals that I may or may not accomplish, I’m asking myself, what new or different roads will 2022 present for me to travel down? What new adventures can I embark on? What opportunities will be revealed in this dawning new year?
I offer those same questions for you and for us to think about as a congregation, as people of God in the dawning new year. What new opportunities will 2022 present for St. Mark’s? What new roads can we travel together? Who can we meet along the way? What adventures in ministry will we have the ability to participate in together? As we travel these new or different roads, may we also, like the wise men, carry with us the good news of the Savior with us.
Friends in Christ, I wish you all a Happy New Year! If you are traveling this weekend, may your travels be safe and you return home filled with joy.
May God bless us as we venture on together down new and different roads as St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in 2022!
The Peace of Christ be with y’all!
A Message from Pastor Dave
One of the things I love this time of year is seeing the nativity scenes, the creche sets. There is one in St. Mark’s narthex and another one underneath the Chrismon Tree. The manger scenes come in all shapes and sizes, from the little ones that sit on an end table – so little Devon can get her hands on the donkey with missing ears – or the stained glass ones that are on my windowsill courtesy of my Rudisill mom.
I’ve seen big “scenes” too – outside homes and churches, sometimes even with the mix-match stories of shepherds (Luke) and wisemen (Matthew) and Santa (culture) and Scrooge (Dickens). Many of these are old and comforting images and reminders - where the creche came from, how long it has been part of your life or family history, the joy of seeing children experience the story of Jesus through the nativity sets, and more. Where did your manger scene come from? Which person/s or animal/s in the creche set do you identify with the most? Which one/s give you a sense of hope, peace, love or joy?
The manger scenes also remind me of family:
+ The family of Kecks and Cunninghams that I know and love so much, and of some of our deceased relatives;
+ Family households of church members and friends that I’ve seen creches in over the years – some of kept them up year-round;
+ The holy family of Mary, Joseph and the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths – surrounded by extended family of outcast shepherds, foreign wise men, extraterrestrial angel/s, manger animals of sheep, cow, ox, lamb, camel, donkey too – maybe even a bird or cat, dog or fish; (not so much Santa or Scrooge); and even in the creche sets – earthly elements of straw, pine, star, and flower.
These characters and items in the creche all represent a kind of kinship – togetherness – a family.
+ A family of God being formed and called together by the Spirit to share in the joy, peace, love, and hope that Jesus, the Christ ushers in;
+ The family that we are baptized into through grace of God; through the love of a Savior being born for us, living and dying for us and our salvation; and through the Spirit, the breath of heaven;
+ A family that reminds us that we are not alone, that we need one another;
+ A family that shares this journey of life and faith with us, in heaven and on earth.
Merry Christmas to all!
“To YOU is born this day a Savior.” Luke 2:11
A Message from Pastor Vern
Seeing the title of this devotion your thought might be, “What in heaven and earth is that word?!” We are one week and two days away from Christmas Eve folks! Christmas is juuuuust around the corner!
The word “theotokos” is a Greek word: theo (meaning God) and tokos (meaning bearer). This word, “theotokos” is a name attributed to Mary the mother of Jesus, by many Christians (especially our orthodox friends) around the world. Mary is revered as the God-bearer who delivers God’s love in the world.
The image accompanied with this week’s devotion is of an icon - an artistic expression commonly used in many Christian expressions, that depicts significant stories or people in the Christian tradition. This image, the “Theotokos,” depicts Mary holding in her hands and within her being, Jesus, the Savior that she bears to the world.
We don’t have many icons around the campus of St. Mark’s, but we do have a lot of God-bearers around at St. Mark’s! Martin Luther has several ideas that I think relate to this idea of being a God-bearer. Luther wrote extensively on the idea of Christian vocation. Part of how we understand that is through the words of Ephesians (4:1-5) which say, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
In Luther’s understanding of vocation, we all have a calling in life (Paul writes about vocation and the marks of a true Christian in the words of Romans 12). For some, that is to teach; some to preach; some to practice medicine; some to engineer; some to share various expressions of art; some to advocate for others; the list of vocations is infinite. In Luther’s understanding, our vocation, our calling, is part of how we live out the very essence of who we are created to be: “Made in the image of God and created for and to be in relationship with God and one another” (from Genesis 1).
In short, you are a “God bearer.” While you didn’t carry in your being the Savior Jesus, like Mary, you carry the image of Jesus in the gifts, unique abilities, and passions that make you who you are. Through your personal and professional vocations, you bear the hope, peace, joy, and love (the elements of the Advent candles) of Christ in the world.
As a congregation, we are also “God-bearers” in our ministry together. In a council devotion Monday night, I talked about the recurrence of the word “proclaim” throughout the Advent and Christmas narrative. I asked the question, “What do we want the message to be both that we (St. Mark’s) proclaim in our community? And what do we want the message to be that our community proclaims about us?”
Think about that in a similar way this week: How can we bear or reveal God to our neighbors, to our communities, to the world, and how can we open ourselves up to seeing God revealed to us by our neighbors and the community around us?
Friends, the peace of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, be with you now and in the days of preparation and celebration that are just around the corner!