SUSPENSION OF IN-PERSON ACTIVITIES EXTENDED

The church council has suspended in-person activities at St. Mark’s until April 5th.   However, it is now pretty clear that it will not be safe to return to communal worship on Palm Sunday.  We are all disappointed to extend this suspension through Holy Week, but it is the only responsible course of action.

Bishop Curry has encouraged the congregations of our synod to follow the CDC guidelines.   The current CDC guidelines were issued on March 16th and recommend no public gatherings for 8 weeks (or longer) from that date.

Therefore, the church council has extended the suspension of in-person activities at St. Mark’s until Monday, May 11th.   We will be monitoring the CDC for any changes in their recommendation and may change our schedule in response to changes in the CDC recommendation, if and when any such changes are made.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to call, text, email, and otherwise stay in contact with each other during our physical separation, and to join us for our virtual services on facebook live (www.facebook.com/StMarksLutheranWaukegan).

Be safe & be well.

Posted in Uncategorized

NOTICE OF TEMPORARY CANCELLATION OF EVENTS AT ST. MARK’S LUTHERAN CHURCH IN RESPONSE TO THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY! Friday, March 13, 2020

Dear Members and Friends of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church,

We are certainly living in anxious times. With each passing day the numbers of those diagnosed with the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) world-wide and in the U.S. has steadily increased. The geographical areas affected by the virus are increasing as well. It causes us to think of ways to protect our own physical health. It also challenges us to consider what steps we should take to reduce the health risk to our family members and friends.

Last week we announced specific steps we were taking to reduce risk during worship. Feedback from that announcement was very positive. Many appreciated the fact that our leadership was taking the initiative on this issue.

However, things have changed dramatically over the past week. Our President and Governor have declared states of emergency. Schools have been closed down for the next several weeks. Sporting events at all levels are being cancelled.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago have announced the cancellation of worship services. The Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the ELCA, which operates under a different hierarchical structure, has made no broad declaration, leaving the decisions up to the local congregations. Across the spectrum of faith traditions and denominations, there is a general concern for protecting the most vulnerable during this time of crisis. Health official have urged us to be very cautious when it comes to participating in group events.

We don’t need to tell you that the majority of members of St. Mark’s are considered in the high-risk category, which includes those ages 60 and above and those who have compromised immune systems. Even those of us not in the high-risk category are vulnerable to coming into contact with someone who has the virus, and then passing it on to others without knowing it or showing any symptoms. Therefore, the church council has decided that additional steps should be taken. The following actions will take place immediately.

1)  All Sunday morning activities will be cancelled until Holy Week, effective immediately

This includes Sunday morning worship, Sunday school classes and Coffee hour on March 15, 22 and 29. It is our hope that the crisis will be reduced so that we can return to our regular Sunday schedule on April 5th, which is Palm Sunday.

2)  All Remaining Lenten Midweek activities will be cancelled.

This includes Soup Suppers and Evening Prayer services.

3)  All educational, organizational and social activities will be cancelled until after Easter.

This includes Confirmation Class, First Communion Instruction, committee meetings, luncheons, and any other events that would typically meet on site during this three-week time period.

4)  The Seder Meal, scheduled for Thursday, April 9th, will be cancelled.

This is based on the potential for the meal to be a high-risk activity. However, the intent is to hold it again in 2021.

5)  Staff will be working from home whenever possible.

The church office will be officially closed during this three-week time frame. Mail and package deliveries will be monitored on a daily basis by staff members or other leaders. Voice mail will either be redirected, or checked on a daily basis. Emergency contact information will be provided.

There is some discussion as to whether or not there might be a way to bring worship to people at home. No decisions have been made at this time. However, Pastor Kelly will make available a printed meditation for members and friends of St. Mark’s to use at home, which will include select items from a typical worship such as opening and closing prayers, the readings for the day, and a message based on those readings. These will be accessible via email and posted on the Friends of St. Mark’s Facebook page.

As we go through this together, please find time to pray.

  • Pray for those throughout the world who have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
  • Pray for the family members and friends of those whose lives have been already lost.
  • Pray for those who have been exposed to the virus without their knowledge and without showing symptoms.
  • Pray for government officials who face critical decisions regarding the safety of the people they serve.
  • Pray for those on the front lines of this disease, including the doctors, nurses, lab technicians, hospital maintenance workers, and countless others, that they might do their important work safely and effectively.
  • Pray for those who fear a negative impact on their financial well being during this time of crisis.
  • Prayer for those families whose lives are turned upside down with the sudden and temporary closure of schools and businesses.
  • Pray for St. Mark’s and for congregations everywhere as pastors and leaders make important decisions about reducing risk for the members of their flock.
  • Pray that we all might find ways to spiritually, physically, and emotionally affirm and support each other in this difficult journey.
  • Pray that we might see the ways that Christ is present in our lives offering us comfort, peace, and hope as we long for this night of dark and sorrow to be over.

Yours in Christ,

Ken Swanson, President of the Congregation

Rev. Dennis Kelly, Interim Minister.

Posted in Announcements

Guidelines for Reducing Risks of an Infectious Diseases While Attending Worship at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church

We are currently experiencing two highly contagious diseases which are putting the population at risk. One is the Influenza Virus. The other is COVID-19 (Corona Virus). Both diseases are easily transmitted through human to human contact and proximity. We are taking the following actions to minimize your risk of exposure when attending worship at St. Mark’s.

Step #1: We encourage you to stay home if you do not feel well.

If you are ill, exhibiting symptoms (runny nose, sneezing, coughing, etc.), or think you might have been exposed to an infectious disease, we strongly encourage you to stay home. This minimizes the risk for you and for others. God will understand. You can view the sermon on the Friends of St. Mark’s Facebook site. Pastor Kelly will gladly email you a copy of his sermon upon request. Unfortunately, we are not able to record the entire service due to licensing issues.

Step #2: Develop lower risk ways to greet each other.

we are trying to minimize potential to transmit or receive an infectious disease by discouraging contact with others. We strongly encourage you to avoid the following types of greetings: hugging, shaking hands, fist bumps, elbow bumps, etc. Yes, we want to greet and welcome each other. However, at this time, it is advised that we greet each other ways that do not put others at risk.

Step #3: Eliminate Sharing of the Peace

Because of the risks of contact stated, we will be eliminating the Sharing of the Peace during worship. Pastor will continue to say “The Peace of the Lord be with you,” and invite you to respond: “And also with you.” However, we will not turn to greet each other. It is not an essential action in Lutheran worship.

Step #4: Eliminate passing the offering plate

It has been our practice of passing the offering plates from one to another down each pew. This is another potential contamination risk. Therefore, we will no longer have a formal collection of offering. An offering plate will be located in the center aisle where you can place your offering as you come forward for communion. There will be no formal presentation of the gifts at the altar. You can also place your gifts in the box in the narthex.

Step #5: Reduce potential risks during communion

We will no longer offer communion by intinction. We will, however, continue to offer communion around the communion rail. The Presiding Minister, Assisting Minister/Communion Assistant, and acolytes will thoroughly clean their hands prior to preparing and sharing the

communion elements. (Consideration is also being given to their wearing of gloves as another layer of protection.)

As you gather around the communion rail, you can avoid potential risk of contamination by refraining from touching the communion rail. You are encouraged to remain standing. If you desire time to kneel in prayer, you can do so when you return to your place in the pew.

The Presiding Minister will offer you the wafer as usual. The Communion Assistant and Acolytes will offer the wine or grape juice as usual. We will, however, space the cups in the trays to reduce coming in contact with more than one cup. When emptied, you can place your cup in the empty tray. We will also be using disposable biodegradable cups to risk contamination.

If, for any reason, you feel you cannot navigate the steps in the chancel area, you are welcome to stand in front of the first pew and communion will be brought to you there.

Those who serve on the altar guild will take additional steps to minimize risk while setting up before and cleaning up after worship/communion.

Step #6: Relocate the Baptismal font

Some are in the habit of dipping their fingers in the baptismal font water and tracing the sign of the cross on their forehead as an act of reverence. This presents another potential risk of transmitting a virus. Therefore, the baptismal font will be relocated to the chancel platform, to the right of the altar. We will only place water in the font/bowl when there is a baptism. During the preparation for baptisms, precautions will also be taken to minimize risk the those being baptized.

Step #7: Transition away from printed materials for worship

Another potential source for contamination is printed materials handed out for worship. We will attempt to eliminate such materials. The service is sent out by email prior to Sunday by email. You can print it out at home and bring it with you. Or you can download it to your electronic device (smart phone, tablet, etc.) and use it during the service. If you are currently not on the bulletin email list, please contact the church office. We will continue to project as much of the worship service as possible on the screen.

Step #8: Assess the way we use microphones for announcements

Handing off microphones during announcements at the end of worship presents another risk. We are exploring ways that you can make your announcement without having to hold onto the microphone.

Step #9: Take other measures to reduce the risk of transmitting a virus.

We cannot guarantee that we will eliminate all potential methods of transmission. The same is true wherever we go, whether to work or school, to the grocery store or the gas station, etc.

We will, however, continue to assess ways that the transmission of a virus might occur during activities at St. Mark’s and seek to find ways to minimize those risks. However, you can be of great assistance by making suggestions to us of how to reduce such risk.

We also recommend your following the advice of medical authorities:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water
  • Avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • Avoid touching your face with your hands
  • Use hand sanitizers and wipes containing at least 60% alcohol to clean your hands and
  • surface areas
  • Stay home if you are exhibiting any of the symptoms of the Influenza virus and the
  • Corona Virus and contact your doctor.
Posted in Uncategorized

Colin Cranmer

Hello!

I have been excited to write our very first hello to you all. The whole Cranmer Crew and I have been waiting to meet everyone in person and start the process of adopting each other as a church family. In case you haven’t heard, my name is Colin Cranmer and I am set to be the new Synodically Authorized Minister (I’ll explain in a minute what the title means) at St. Mark’s Church. I have been a Youth and Family Pastor for twelve years and spent the decade before that as a social worker in Elgin where I directed an after-school center for middle and high school to reduce gang recruitment of that age group. Having felt God’s call to shift directions towards whole church leadership, I started seminary three years ago at Garrett-Theological Evangelical Seminary and recently graduated with my Masters in Divinity. I am so grateful that you all have shown up as the beautiful end to that journey and the start of the next. We cannot wait to meet all of you!

As Pr. Dennis explained in an earlier newsletter, a Synodically Authorized Minister means that the Chicago Synod has endorsed me to begin working as a minister while I am still in the process of ordination. The main portion of ordination is completed (degree, chaplaincy, the Lutheran year of courses) and only time spent leading a church is left. The synod is allowing us to pioneer a new form of internship together, which allows a candidate to lead a church that has the potential to extend the call later—or as my mentor, Mark says—I’m a rent-to-own minister!

You might be able to tell by my profession, but I love theology, learning more about God and our relationship with the Divine, helping a community find its identity, and equipping it to explore being a spiritual and ethical group of people, together. I also love terrible jokes, (I am excited to have a new audience to use them on, I hope you’re ready) I started as a jazz saxophone music major, and am a huge foodie. I love to cook and was taught by my great- grandma Marie who was a chef at the Polish Embassy in Chicago during the Great Depression. I have heard rumors about your pasties and your chili and I am thrilled to find my people and cook together.

Along with me comes my beautiful, awesome little family. My best friend and wife Shay is a gifted musician and writer. She is also a great listener and a wise companion to have on the journey. She is a private vocal instructor and wrote children’s educational curriculum for many years, and is now transitioning into being a historical fiction author and we are supporting her as her first book enters the publication world. Shay and I have been married for twelve years and are parents to two fun kids. Ena (rhymes with Emma) is our oldest at eleven. She is an accomplished artist and painter, loves Minecraft, and has a soft heart for babies and children. She wants to be an art therapist when she grows up. Dessa is our red-headed seven year old and has never met a person she didn’t want to have a full conversation with.

She is spirited, hilarious, and the ambassador of friendliness. She wants to be a Crazy Cat Lady when she grows up. She also has some special needs and sensory issues, so we ask for everybody’s patience if Dessa and Shay are hanging out in the glassed-off area during services sometimes.

I’m sure you will get to know all of us over the next many months and vice-versa. All prayers for us in the transition are welcome, as we are praying for you. So excited for the blessings that God has for us all!

In Christ, Colin

Posted in Uncategorized

“So what’s new?”

I write this article on a date in early December. It seems strange to be thinking about January, 2020, when we haven’t celebrated Christmas of 2019. However, here are some of my thoughts regarding the year yet to come.

Every once in a while someone will greet me with the question: “So what’s new?” I never know how to respond to that inquiry. So, it becomes an awkward moment as I try to think of something that is new in my life that would be of interest to the person asking the question. In that moment, I have a hard time scanning my brain for something new and so my usual response is, “Not much, how about you?”

Why do I find it so difficult to think of something new when asked? First of all, I don’t go through the daily activities of life thinking, “Now that’s something new that I can share with the next person who asks me!” Does it matter that I got a new pillow, or a new pair of shoes, or a new shipment of filters for my HVAC system? Most things that are new in daily life are relatively insignificant and not particularly newsworthy.

However, there are significant things that are new every day. Each morning brings a new day of life.  Each day brings new opportunities to appreciate the wonders of creation, to give thanks and praise to God, and to serve others. Each evening offers a new opportunity to reflect upon the day and recognize the many ways moments in which we have been blessed by God.

On a personal level, it is my intention to retire in June of 2020. I will turn 66 and will have served the church as an ordained minister for 38 of those years. Mary and I plan to travel, reconnect with friends, and find other ways to live a meaningful and rewarding life in retirement. As I near this new phase in life, I find myself with mixed emotions. I am excited for the new experiences and opportunities that retirement will bring. Yet I am also anxious, because being a pastor has been my primary identity since I was 28 years old. What will my identity be after I retire?

2020 will also bring something new to you as members and friends of St. Mark’s. There will be a new person serving you as minister at the beginning of June. His name is Colin Cranmer and he will begin his ministry at St. Mark’s as an Intern & Synodically Authorized Minister.  This arrangement is something relatively new in the ELCA.

It gives a candidate for ordination who has completed the required academic work, but has not completed the requirement of an internship, the opportunity to serve a congregation as an Intern while they are still in the learning process. The Synodically Authorized Minister status allows them to function in the same manner as an ordained minister, including administering the sacraments. The thinking is that following the completion of the Internship, the congregation will consider extending a call to serve as an ordained minister.

Colin’s internship supervisor will be Pastor Mark Borgetti from Joy! Lutheran Church in Gurnee. He will also meet regularly with a new Internship Committee to receive feedback and recommendations. That Committee will be appointed by the Church Council in January. I have also offered to assist Colin in a time of transition and to serve as a mentor to him and I look forward to that new role for me.

So 2020 will bring new experiences, relationships and opportunities to my life. The same will be true for you as members and friends of St. Marks. Let us embrace the newness. Thanks be to God!

Rev. Dennis Kelly, Interim Minister

Posted in Pastors Message

November 2019 – Thoughts On Gratitude And Grace

November is the time of year where we reflect upon those

things for which we are grateful. It begins with the celebration

of All Saints, a day when we celebrate and express our gratitude

for all the faithful saints who have come before us, those who

dwell among us, and those who will follow. In particular,

we remember and give thanks for those members of

our congregation, our family and friends who have died in the

faith during this past year. We offer this prayer:

Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you…                                                                                                                                              [ELW, p. 59]

Towards the end of November, we celebrate Thanksgiving. On that day, we give thanks for the abundant of blessings our Creator God has freely given to us. We offer this prayer:

Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day. By the work of your spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience…                                                                                                                  [ELW, p. 61]

Author Henry Nouwen offered these words about gratitude as a spiritual discipline:

Gratitude…claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.                                                         [Institute for Biblical Worship – September 20, 2017]

New Testament scholar Davis Lose offered this observation about choosing to live with gratitude:

Gratitude…becomes easier to choose as we practice it. Gratitude, like faith and hope and love and commitment, are not inborn traits that some have and others don’t, but rather gratitude is more like a muscle that can be strengthened over time. And as you practice giving thanks and more frequently share your gratitude, you not only grow in gratitude but create an example for others.   

More than that, you create a climate in which it is easier to be grateful and encourage those around you to see the blessings all around us.                                              

David Lose then goes on to ask the question,

What if…we asked folks to start practicing their gratitude and develop greater thanksgiving-oriented “muscle memory” by responding for the rest of this month to the question, “How are you,” with the simple but powerful reply, “I’m grateful.” There’s more we could do, of course…But for now, perhaps just the challenge and encouragement to say “I’m grateful” is enough.                                                                         [In the Meantime, post for October 3, 2016]

Who wants to give this challenge a try? Who will join with me, during this month of November, find ways to express our gratitude? It could be just as simple as responding to the question, “How are you?” with the words, “I am grateful?”

With Gratitude,

Pastor Dennis Kelly

Posted in Pastors Message

Clarification from Bishop Miller Concerning the ELCA as a “Sanctuary Church Body”

On August 5 – 10, the ELCA held its Church wide Assembly in Milwaukee, WI. The Assembly meets every three years. It is the highest decision-making body in the ELCA and is akin to a council. It is made up of voting members elected by each of the ELCA’s 65 Synods. A complete list of the duties of the

ELCA Church wide Assembly can be found on the
ELCA’s website at: https://www.elca.org/About/Leadership/Churchwide-Assembly

One of the recommendations and resolutions decided upon by this year’s assembly one has made the national news media. It is a resolution approved overwhelmingly that declares the ELCA to a “Sanctuary Church Body.” This resolution has created significant controversy as a result of news coverage.

I am forwarding to you a communication that Bishop Wayne Miller sent out in response to the controversy. I encourage you to read it. I welcome conversation with any of you who may have questions or concerns about statement. PK

Clarification from Bishop Miller Concerning the ELCA as a “Sanctuary Church Body”

As many of you know, last week the Church wide Assembly of the ELCA passed an amended resolution which, among other things, declared the ELCA to be a “Sanctuary Church Body.”

This is a highly ambiguous self-designation which is proving to be encouraging for some, disturbing for others, and confusing for almost everyone. Included here are two documents which I hope will be
helpful. The first is a set of “talking points” generated within the ELCA, attempting to explain what we mean when we use the word “sanctuary.” The second is an essay published by the ACLU, which I sent to the roster two years ago, to help clarify the legal implications of declaring oneself to be a place of sanctuary.

As you review these documents, I would like to offer a few interpretive remarks

that may help you in communicating this decision to members of your congregation:

The self-declaration of the ELCA as a “sanctuary church body” is, in its effect, a symbolic declaration. It is the emphatic assertion of a long-held value in North American Lutheranism; namely, that churches should be places of welcome, care, compassion, and healing for all people regardless of their race, nationality, age, gender, or place of origin. Historically, we ourselves are an immigrant church, and we believe in the virtue and obligation of sharing with others the hospitality we have received. We continue to advocate for the humane treatment of families and, particularly, vulnerable children, as reflected in the ELCA AMMPARO initiative. None of this is

new. This is who we are and who we have always been as a church body.

“Sanctuary” is a term that means different things to different people. For some it is an ethical stance of hospitality–for others it is a legal category that involves the civil disobedience of refusing to comply with what is believed to be an unjust law, and then enduring the legal consequences for that disobedience. The ELCA decision clearly and unequivocally falls into the first understanding of “sanctuary.” We mean it as an ethical position, not as a legal category, or as a prescription for breaking the law.

In ELCA constitutional polity, congregations, synods, and the churchwide organization are all independently incorporated entities with discreet boards of directors (councils), who carry fiduciary responsibility for that corporation only. Simply put, neither the ELCA Churchwide Organization nor the Metropolitan Chicago Synod has standing or authority to impose mandatory policies and practices for another expression of this church. We can only require that synods and congregations operate from approved ELCA constitutions. Congregations are categorically NOT bound to change anything in their attitudes or their behaviors as a result of this

declaration. It is a congregational decision.

Because of the values implied or stated by this resolution, I whole-heartedly recommend that congregations use this action by the Churchwide Assembly as an invitation for your congregation to enter a time of prayer, study, conversation, and discernment about what Holy Scripture and Lutheran tradition have taught concerning hospitality to strangers, and the proper Christian response to how the church takes part in

society. Regardless of whether or not this leads you to assume a public

role as a “sanctuary congregation,” the time of study and discernment will enrich your spiritual growth as a child of God and as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We live in a time when both the news establishment and social media thrive on raising public anxiety to the highest possible level and then using that anxiety to manipulate our behavior. I am hopeful that our congregations will be able to resist these forces of manipulation and come to fair, thoughtful, and faithful decisions about how the Spirit is calling us forward in this challenging season.

In Christ, Bishop Wayne N. Miller— Metropolitan Chicago Synod, ELCA

Posted in Pastors Message

Breathe In Us As We Pray

Breathe In Us As We Pray

On Sunday the 9th of June, we will join together with Christian churches throughout the world to celebrate the Day of Pentecost. The word Pentecost means “fiftieth.” The day of Pentecost is fifty days after the celebration of the resurrection on Easter. Our scriptures for Pentecost Sunday tell of God’s Spirit being given to the disciples and other followers of Jesus. This Spirit empowers them to continue to share the message and ministry of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the story of Pentecost is considered to be the story of the birth of the church that gathers in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Hebrew word for spirit in the Old Testament is Ruah, which can be translated as “wind” and “breath.” The New Testament Greek word for Spirit is Pneuma, which can also be translated as “breath,” or “life force.” It is clear that when we speak of the Holy Spirit, we speak of the breath of God and the sacred life force given to us.

Many of the hymns sung on Pentecost speak of wind and breath and life. One of my favorites it the hymn Spirit of Gentleness, found on page #396 in our hymnal. The hymn begins with these words:

Spirit, Spirit of gentleness, blow through the wilderness calling and free;

Spirit, spirit of restlessness, stir me from placidness, wind, wind on the sea.

Another favorite is the hymn: O Living Breath of God, page #407 in our hymnal. The words of the first verse are:

O living Breath of God, wind at the beginning upon the waters;

O living Breath of God, bearing the creation to wondrous birth:

Come now, and fill our spirits; pour out your gifts abundant,

O living Breath of God, Holy Spirit, breathe in us we pray.

We pray for the living Breath of God throughout our lives. We invoke the Breath of God in every baptism and in every affirmation of baptism. We invoke the Breath of God whenever we call a new pastor, or when we take on positions of leadership in the church. We invoke the Breath of God when we have difficult decisions to make in the church or in our lives. We invoke the Breath of God each and every time we pray.

On Pentecost Sunday, we will celebrate the giving the Breath of God at the birth of the Christian church in the following ways:

  • WEAR RED! Red is the color of Pentecost. The sanctuary will be decorated with a sea of red in our paraments and vestments. Similarly, we encourage members to wear red to church on Pentecost Sunday.
  • SPEAK IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES! The language of Pentecost is multicultural and diverse. We will try to capture the essence of the experience of Pentecost, with a simultaneous reading of Acts 2:1-21 in a variety of languages. At present time we will hear those words spoken in English, French, Swahili, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and of course Finnish.

Come celebrate the creative breath of God with all yours friends and family on this festival day!

Dennis Kelly, interim pastor

Posted in Uncategorized

Living In The Resurrection

What a glorious Easter Sunday it was at St. Mark’s!  The sanctuary was filled with people, young and old, who came to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Members commented how good it felt to see so many men, women and children gathered to worship and to give praise to God.

While Easter Sunday has come and gone, the Easter season continues on through Pentecost Sunday, which is on June 9th this year. As we gather together to worship from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, our scriptures will help us explore the impact of the resurrection of Jesus in the lives of his followers and on the growth of the Christian Church.

The Gospel Readings for this season of Easter will come from Luke and John. These passages will share many of the stories of how the disciples discovered that Jesus, who once was dead, was now alive. They also share with us how the followers of Jesus reacted to this discovery. Both Gospels make it clear that one of the fundamentals of Christian discipleship is love; love for God and for each other.

The First Readings for the Easter season will all come from the Acts of the Apostles. These passages will share many of the stories of how Peter, Paul, and others began to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the world, taking that message to the outer edges of the Roman Empire. The passages from Acts also share how people reacted to that message and how their lives were transformed by it. Each generation of Christians has passed this message on to the next generation. That message is now shared with you and it is your responsibility to share that message with the next generation.

The Second Readings for Sunday worship will all come from the book of Revelation. These texts encourage us to look to the future. They speak of that time when Christ will come again. The book of Revelation is filled with visions of that time when Jesus will establish his reign over heaven and earth. When Christ comes again, the distinction between heaven and earth will be no more. There will be a new creation!

This Easter season is a good time to consider what it means to be a Christian congregation. It is a good time to consider the many ways that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is revealed and lived here at St. Mark’s. Moreover, it is a good time to consider the many ways that you, the members of St. Mark’s, can take the good news of Jesus Christ out into your community and thereby make a difference in the lives of others? Where is God leading you as you look to the future?

At the end of this season of Easter, we will celebrate Pentecost. We will be reminded on that Sunday of how the Spirit of God descended upon the disciples and inspired them to speak of the good news of Jesus Christ. Not only were they inspired, but they were also empowered to share this message in ways that everyone could understand it, no matter what region they came from or language that they spoke. Pentecost is the story of the birth of the Christian church that was established not only on the commandment to love but also on the radical idea of inclusiveness. It is also a great time to consider the ways that the Holy Spirit is leading St. Mark’s into the future!

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Dennis Kelly

Posted in Pastors Message

The Power that Flows Within and with All

I write this message on March 20, 2019. It is the day of the Vernal Equinox, or the first day of Spring. For six months or so, day will be longer than night.

This day comes after what has seemed to be an endless winter. Even as I write this, the sky is gray and the temperature is lower than average for this time of year. Yet, slowly and almost imperceptibly, new life is beginning to emerge. It comes with the sighting of new buds on the tree, the first shoots of spring flowers, or the appearance of the first robin of the spring.  Soon to come is the aroma of moist warm soil after a spring rain. All of this is the power of life springing forth in ways both seen and unseen. The force and energy of God’s creative power is at work.

A German language poet named Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) wrote about this creative power in the following untitled poem:

I find you, Lord, in all Things and in all

my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life;

 as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small

and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

The wondrous game that power plays with Things

is to move in such submission through the world:

groping in roots and growing thick in trunks

and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

Rilke, writing in the tradition of Christian mysticism, is presenting a case for the God in all things.  He sees the Lord in all things big and small. He sees the power of God manifested in the life energy of God flowing out in waves, stretching out in all things and in all directions, quietly, almost imperceptibly. It happens at its own pace and in its own time, moving in “submission through the world.” This kind of power is “like a rising from the dead.” Sounds a lot like the resurrection, doesn’t it?

The magnificence of the Grand Canyon was not created in one day. It is the result of hundreds of thousands of years of the flow of water working its way through layers of rock. The Great Lakes were formed by the force of ancient glaciers making their way south and digging into the soil. As those glaciers melted and receded, they left behind mounds of rocky soil and water to fill in the empty spaces. The great reef systems under the oceans were created not in an instant, but in layer upon layers of coral deposited over vast amounts of time. These are examples of the “wondrous game that power plays with Things, moving in submission through the world.”

As you become aware of the signs of spring, allow yourself to reflect upon life that is emerging all around you. At the same time, recognize the life of God that is at work within you. It cannot help but to change the way you view the world!

Have a Blessed Holy Week and a joyful Easter!

Pastor Dennis Kelly

Posted in Pastors Message