Virtual Bulletin – 1/23

January 23rd, 2022 – 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Jan 24th – Jan 30th

Monday.………………..            Timothy

Tuesday.………………..           Conversion of Paul

Wednesday…………….            Titus

                                                 2:30 PM           Confirmation

Thursday……………….           John Chrysostom

                                                 10:00 AM         Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS

The lives of the saints from the get-go have been interesting. Paul’s conversion, the Damascus Road experience, remains the example of the dramatic reversal that the gospel can work.  Saul, the zealous persecutor of the church, turned into Paul, the Apostle who walked the Roman world with the message of Jesus, whom I persecuted.  John Chrysostom was a pastor and eventually Bishop of Constantinople c. 397 AD. He is primarily known for his preaching which can still be read profitably and clearly today.  Chrysostom means “golden tongued.” To this day on Easter Sunday in Eastern Orthodox churches the sermon read is one he preached in 400 AD.  Give it a read (http://anglicansonline.org/special/Easter/chrysostom_easter.html). The one with a golden tongue eventually picked a fight with Eudoxia the Empress over a silver statue of herself she wanted erected. She had him exiled not long after that Easter sermon.  He died in exile, but about 30 years later they brought his bones back. The body of Christ recognizes its own and tends not to forget its saints.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

“Divide and conquer” has been a proverb going back to at least Julius Caesar who used it to describe how he conquered “all of Gaul” by dividing it into three parts. But it is less a description of a military strategy or political program than simply a statement of human nature.  The second we recognize a difference between people we can turn it into a status game or a reason for division. The common reasons for division that Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 12 (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) are “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.” Jews and Greeks is important specifically because salvation comes from the Jews, but everybody thinks they are special.  The Jews in biblical times used “the people” and “the nations” as the division.  The Greeks divided between “Greeks” and “Barbarians”.  Romans between “citizens” and “subjects”. China is the “middle kingdom” which puts the rest of us on the periphery.  Turning to the other division, the ancient world ran on slavery.  There was no more important division than slave or free.  If Paul were to write to us, I imagine the Jew and American line would remain, but he’d probably call out some other divisions as well.

Because what Paul is preaching is that all of our human divisions are nothing in Christ. Anything we might consider as significant or identity defining from this world has to die.  The church, Christians, share one baptism in which we receive one Spirit.  We eat one meal where we receive one Lord. We are all incorporated into One Mystical Body. If your pride stands in the way of acknowledging unity of faith with those this world might look down upon, the one with the problem is you.  In the world divide and conquer is wisdom; in the church it is heresy and not to be tolerated.

Now, looking at the current divided state of the church we might say there are significant problems.  But return to the illegitimate reasons for division.  They are personal characteristics or worldly status.  The Kingdom of God does not care about these things because it is united in the Spirit. But are there legitimate reasons for division? Back in chapters 3 through 5 Paul address these things.  Did they have theological divisions? Sure, “some followed Paul and others Apollos”.  Paul’s conclusion is that “the Day” will disclose the quality of work. Just “let each one take care how he builds upon [the one foundation of Jesus Christ].” “The Day” will surely expose the quality of Lutheran or Dominican or Wesleyan work. But in chapter 5 Paul is more emphatic, not willing to wait for the day.  “Purge the evil person from among you,” he writes.  What brings on this more explicit division? “Anyone who bears the name brother who remains unrepentant.”  It is not the sin that excludes, because repentance is immediately available and we have all fallen short.  It is the hard heart that justifies itself separate from Christ and persists in evil.

The body of Christ is something distinct in this world. It is all of those who share the one Spirit.  There are those who have rejected that one Spirit for their own way and the body is not wrong to recognize this.  It has eyes that can see.  But also, within the body the one Spirit gives a variety of gifts.  That one Spirit appoints a variety of offices.  None of these gifts or offices are for division the way the world divides. They are how God blesses his church. Instead of divide and conquer the proverb of the church might be unite and love, but that is getting to next week’s reading.

CHURCH CALENDAR/WEBSITE

I was forced into doing some long-delayed church website maintenance which included changing the method of keeping the church calendar.  It is now all on google calendar.  You can add the church calendar to your calendar list from the church webstite (www.saintmarkslutheran.org) by clicking on the +GoogleCalendar in the lower right corner.  And while I’m at it, do you know, besides the calendar, everything else that is on the church website? A recording of the lessons and the sermon is posted every Sunday.  Sometimes a hymn or two is included.  There are links to add the feed to your favorite podcast player. (I joke that the feed reaches 3-5x our in person attendence.  Now if I could only get them here.) This newsletter (in shortened form) is posted weekly, along with notes about other events.  Most of the people reading this are connected enough to never look at the website, but that site is the first thing anyone else sees about St. Mark’s. Take a look.

A COUPLE OF LONGER RANGE EVENTS

  1. Spring Beef on Weck is going to be on Saturday, April 2nd.  There will be a couple of workdays prior.  Please put it on your calendar, consider helping, and picking up a meal.
  2. The Elders would like to have a Potluck & Mission presentation following service on Sunday, March 13th.  There are several things that happen in the church. This is an opportunity to fellowship over some food and to learn something about a few missions and how you might be able to get involved.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story”
  • Confirmation: Creed, Article 1, part 3
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  I think I was told Mondays on Zoom for a bit. Jan 31st Next?
  • Sunday Morning: Psalm of the Day for the Epiphany Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

Virtual Bulletin – 1/16

January 16th, 2022 – 2nd Sunday after Epiphany

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Jan 18th – Jan 23rd

Monday.………………..            6:00PM             Women’s Group – Canceled

Tuesday.………………..           Confession of St. Peter

Wednesday…………….            2:30 PM           Confirmation

                                                 7:00 PM           Church Council

Thursday……………….           Sarah

                                                 10:00 AM         Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS

The confession of Peter can be found in Matthew 16:13-20/Mark 8:27-29/Luke 9:18-20. Each one of them captures it a bit differently, but Matthew is probably the fullest. What is the confession? “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” What are the effects of that confession? There are two connected things: 1) that confession is the message of the church and 2) through that confession and that church the sins of mankind are forgiven.  They are the means of the gospel.  And that is still true today.  The church confesses Jesus as the Christ, the son of God, and the forgiveness of sins is had only in His name.  

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

The Epistle Lesson this week starts a continuous reading from 1 Corinthians for the season of Epiphany. And where we pick it up in chapter twelve (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) nicely dovetails with the commemoration this week of Peter’s Confession.  Paul’s discussion of Spiritual Gifts starts with that foundation.  “No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit, the giver of every gift, starts with the gift of confession.  And the gift of confession is also the most basic gift of discernment. If someone is minimizing Jesus, don’t bother listening.  They are not from God. The church is founded on the confession of Jesus.

But the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives are not limited to confession.  Faith expressed in confession is the first and greatest, but there are many and various gifts given to the members of the church.  And the Holy Spirit is neither democratic nor egalitarian.  “The Spirit apportions to each one individually as He wills.”  But “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Individualistic Americans may not like it, but in the church we are bound together because we need each other. If we withhold our gifts from the church, the common good is made that much poorer. If we despise the gifts of others we ourselves will be made poorer.

If you read Paul’s list of the “manifestations of the One Spirit” you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Pentecostal church is probably where we should all be at. The Corinthian context can help think about that.  They were fighting with each other over everything, but especially over worship.  Paul’s list here has the effect of saying, “hey, why don’t you let that guy who is good at preaching do that, and that gal who is quite wise offer advice, instead of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes.” Romans 12:6-8 offers a slightly different list that might be more recognizable amongst us. And there are other lists.  LAF has been studying the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 which read more like virtues.  The One Spirit gives many gifts, but they are all for the common good of His people.

Usually associated with each listing is an apostolic exhortation to “examine yourselves” or to “think with sober judgement.” On the Corinthian side that encouragement might have been taken as cool your jets a bit.  In Galatians you have the encouragement to “keep in step with the Spirit.” May we in faith soberly examine ourselves and make the common good richer.

CHURCH CALENDAR/WEBSITE

I was forced into doing some long-delayed church website maintenance which included changing the method of keeping the church calendar.  It is now all on google calendar.  You can add the church calendar to you calendar list from the church webstite (www.saintmarkslutheran.org) by clicking on the +GoogleCalendar in the lower right corner.  And while I’m at it, do you know, besides the calendar, everything else that is on the church website? A recording of the lessons and the sermon is posted every Sunday.  Sometimes a hymn or two is included.  There are links to add the feed to your favorite podcast player. (I joke that the feed reaches 3-5x our in person attendence.  Now if I could only get them here.) This newsletter (in shortened form) is posted weekly, along with notes about other events.  Most of the people reading this are connected enough to never look at the website, but that site is the first thing anyone else sees about St. Mark’s. Take a look.

A COUPLE OF LONGER RANGE EVENTS

  1. Spring Beef on Weck is going to be on Saturday, April 2nd.  There will be a couple of workdays prior.  Please put it on your calendar, consider helping, and picking up a meal.
  2. The Elders would like to have a Potluck & Mission presentation following service on Sunday, March 13th.  There are several things that happen in the church. This is an opportunity to fellowship over some food and to learn something about a few missions and how you might be able to get involved.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story”
  • Confirmation: Creed, Article 1, part 3
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  I think I was told Mondays on Zoom for a bit. Jan 31st Next?
  • Sunday Morning: Psalm of the Day for the Epiphany Season. Come Join Us in the prayer book of the Bible.
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

Virtual Bulletin

January 9th, 2022 – Baptism of Our Lord

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Jan 10th – Jan 17th

Monday.………………..            The Cappadocians (Basil, Gregory & Gregory of Nyssa)

                                                 5:30PM             Church Undecorating

Monday.………………..            Pastor’s Circuit Meeting

Wednesday…………….            2:30 PM           Confirmation

Thursday……………….           10:00 AM         Bible Study

                                                 7:00PM            LAF

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS

The three men grouped under “The Cappadocians” (central to eastern Turkey today) were two brothers (Basil and Gregory of Nyssa) and their cousin Gregory (sometimes specified as of Nazianzus). They were born around 330 AD and worked roughly through 390 AD.  The fruits of their work are roughly what we say in the Nicene Creed.  That creed was put together in 325 at the council of Nicea but took its final form in 381 at the council of Constantinople. Gregory ended up as the Patriarch of Constantinople and through the preaching and teaching of these three the church affirmed the Nicene understanding of the Trinity contrary to the Arian heresy which subordinated Christ to a creation and not “being of one substance with the Father.”  This was no sure thing, as “the smart set” at the time including an Emperor were all Arian. It is worth mentioning that Saints such as The Cappadocians don’t just come from nowhere.  Their maternal grandfather was a martyr and their understanding as a Christian family stretches back into the churches Paul founded. God typically works through means, like a faithful family to form souls.    

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

When the kids were younger there was a music group called Butterflyfish.  They had a couple of albums and lots of catchy songs that communicated the gospel in a childlike way.  I say childlike, not childish or simplistic or some other term, because it is not about dumbing things down.  In fact that is exactly what you can’t do. Children aren’t dumb.  They can tell better than most adults when they are being condescended to or rolled.  (The TV series “The Chosen,” something of an evangelical world sensation, interestingly has Jesus “working out” things like The Lord’s Prayer, The Beatitudes and his announcement of himself which is the gospel in a couple of weeks with a group of children before he has even started his public ministry.) Childlike is much tougher and Butterflyfish was good at it. 

One of my favorite songs from those albums was “Great and Small.” Call it childlike law and gospel.  “Deep down here inside my pocket is a little piece of paper/I take it out and read it when I’m feeling out of shaper/to keep my fears at bay/it says you are great/deep down in my other pocket there’s another piece of paper/take it out and read it when I’m getting into shaper/when I’m walking tall/it says you are small…” When you ponder creation, if you think of yourself as anything but a speck, you’ve missed something.  But when you ponder God himself, who made himself manifest in a manger, who did not refrain from sharing our humanity, that speck becomes part of the Godhead because you are part of the body of Christ sanctified in Him. Great and small.  Small in the face of the law whether that is the natural law of the universe or the revealed law of Moses. Great in the face of your creator worthy of adoption into the royal household.

Ephesians 3:1-12 was the epistle reading for Epiphany and it has for my money the best “great and small” line of the entire bible. Ephesians 3:8-12 is one long sentence.  The diagram of it takes a full page.  But it is verse 10 that staggers me. “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Eph. 3:10 ESV)”  The basic sentence is up in verse 8, “Grace has been given”.  But why has grace been given?  So that everyone can see (v9), everyone can have the Epiphany. What is the means of everyone seeing? The church (v10). Who is the ultimate audience of the church? When looking at the full sweep of history of the church in this world, who is God trying to show forth to?  “The rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (v10).” The powers that be. The ones God set in place at the start (v9).  The ones that we feel so small against are to look at us and receive the manifold wisdom of God. And that wisdom is that God’s plan has always been grace given.

That grace can make us feel small because what if it is withdrawn? The tower of Babel always read to me like that post flood story of “there is no way we are depending upon His grace.” Even if their project was doomed they were going to try without Him. Likewise Satan himself, at least according to Milton, was not willing to humbly accept grace. It hurt his pride. But that grace is never withdrawn and never will be. Even in the flood God preserved the family of Noah, 8 souls in all. And He has taken out deserved baptism standing in the place of sinners, while we receive His, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. “He, though heavenly high and holy, deigns to dwell with you most lowly (LSB 636).” Great and small.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story”
  • Confirmation: Creed, Article 1, part 2
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  This Thursday (1/13), maybe?
  • Sunday Morning: We are back.
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

Virtual Bulletin – 1/2

January 2nd, 2022 – 2nd Sunday in Christmas

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Jan 3rd – Jan 9th

Tuesday………………..            7:00 PM           Board of Elders

Wednesday…………….            2:30 PM           Confirmation

Thursday……………….           Epiphany

                                                 10:00 AM         Bible Study

                                                 7:00 PM           Epiphany Vespers

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS – Epiphany

There isn’t a saint day this week, but Thursday, January 6th is Epiphany, the official end of Christmastide and the coming of the Magi. You are invited to Vespers (7 PM) followed by a bit of end of season cheer.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

Graffiti is rarely deep, but I saw a bit recently that stuck me. In bright red paint on a stone building: “Merry crisis and a happy new fear.” We tend to think of fear through psychology. To us it is a mental state. But that is not the only way. In Psalm 4 the way of talking about fear is spatial.  And it is something our most modern translations have all but bulldozed.  My Hebrew is terrible, but I took a crack at King David’s first line because like those words painted on a building, the physical nature of it struck me.

ESVKJVMPB
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Ps. 4:1 ESV)Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. (Ps. 4:1 KJV)When I call, Answer me! My justifier.In a narrow space, you made it wide for meBe gracious to me and hear my prayer 

The first line captures the panic. Nobody is going to answer.  Anxiety or fear is like being an animal caught in a corner.  But God has answered before.  I’ve been in narrow spaces.  I’ve been between rocks and hard places. And God has opened them up.  Do so again.  I don’t know how.  If I did, I’d do it myself.  But I can’t justify myself.  God, be gracious and hear by prayer again.

And the rest of Psalm 4 is something of a reminder that this is what God does.  Verse 2 is some gentle chiding, “O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after lies? ( KJV)” We turn to the Lord as a last resort, when the walls have closed in.  But even then, “know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. (Ps. 4:3 KJV)”  This is the promise of the care of the Lord for his own.  God does hear his people.

So how do we calm our anxiety before we find ourselves back in that narrow space?  To me Psalm 4 gives us three pieces of advice:

  1. Be honest with ourselves.  We feel what we feel, but don’t use those feelings as a justification for sin.  Instead ponder those feelings in your hearts on your own beds. Yes, you’ll probably be awake a few nights.  But we must become self-aware of what is causing us our distress.  Do not spread our distress to other weak people needlessly.
  2. Offer the sacrifices and trust in God.  God has made us promises to both hear us and to protect us.  Whatever your heart comes up with on that bed, take it to God.  This is the step of faith.  Actively live the faith.  God has promised to hear and will make the way wide.
  3. Instead of counting the ways that we think God is absent or has failed us, we should instead count the many blessings that he has given us.  The psalmist says, “you have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Luther’s catechism on the first article of the creed is a wonderful place to start that catalog.  Luther’s explanation gives us the general catalog of Fatherly divine goodness and mercy.  Not a sparrow falls without His knowing, and you are worth many sparrows.

If God has opened the way before us in the past, and he continues to this day to watch over us, do we have anything real to fear?  Is there any reason we should be awake at 3AM pondering in our hearts?  “In peace I will both lie down and sleep” is the psalmist conclusion.  “For you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Necessary Bible Stories to Know Our Own Story”
  • Confirmation: Creed, Article 1, part 1
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Next Year!
  • Sunday Morning: We are back.
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

We Need a Little Christmas

The recording is most of our Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols service. The sermon is a meditation on the difference between how we tend to celebrate Christmas and what we are looking for vs. the Christmas gift. This is done through a staple modern carol “We Need a Little Christmas” which has the correct diagnosis, if some standard prescriptions that are ineffective.

Virtual Bulletin – 12/12

December 12th, 2021 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Dec 13th – Dec 19th

Monday……………….              Lucia, Martyr

                                                 6:00pm             Men’s Club

Wednesday…………….            2:30pm            Confirmation

                                                 7:30pm             Council

Thursday……………….           10:00am           Bible Study

Friday………………….            Daniel the Prophet and the Three Young Men

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

LAST WEEKEND    Attendance: 32             Contributions:  $3,755   YTD: $ 114,038

DEDICATED COLLECTIONS (for Year): Organ – $ 1,410  Missionary Support:  $ 1,700/collected

REGISTERING ATTENDENCE: Please help with this. Record your presence in the pew books!

COMMEMERATIONS

Lucia (Lucy) is a name that means light. Her celebration is a big thing in Scandinavian countries. On a day close to the shortest day of the year – under the old calendar it was – the celebration included the young women with crowns of lighted candles entering the dark church. Image google search “St. Lucy’s Day” and you will see a lot of modern examples. But who was St. Lucy herself? Hers is a story that comes from the Diocletian persecution (c. 304 AD). Coming from a wealthy family, she had vowed to never marry. (Yes, Lutherans have issues with that, but roll with it.) Her mother, in bad health, betrothed Lucy to a pagan man anyway. Lucy’s mother was miraculously healed, and Lucy convinced her mother to donate her dowry to the poor. The man she had been engaged to took offence and turned Lucy into the persecution. She was eventually martyred, but not before her eyes were gouged out which did not stop her from seeing. There is a lot going on in that story, but the core of it might be Psalm 36:9, “In your light, we see light.” We might think we see, but it is only in the light of Christ, which enters this world’s darkness at this time of year, that we can truly see. Lucy saw much better than all.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

Thinking about St. Lucy, and last week’s meditation on John Donne, I’d be wrong not to mention one of his best poems. A Nocturnal on St. Lucy’s Day. You can find the full poem here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44122/a-nocturnal-upon-st-lucys-day

I don’t have the space to reproduce the entire thing, neither is it the type of poem for everyone. Current scholars turn up their noses at this kind of mention, but with a good amount of certainty we can say Donne wrote it in 1617 soon after the death of his wife Anne. It is a meditation on Love’s strange impacts. Everyone else is celebrating the solstice “all these seem to laugh” while John feels the darkness “Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks; The sun is spent.”  Everyone else is looking forward to “the next world, that is, at the next spring;” when love might rekindle its alchemy, but Donne stands as a warning, “Study me then, you who shall lovers be.” Love in this world is costly. When revelers think it all things bright and beautiful, “All others, from all things, draw all that’s good, Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have,” Donne knows, “I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave.”

And in this world, under the lesser sun, the lesser love, things do not renew. This does not stop Donne from wishing the best to those living under it. “But I am none; nor will my sun renew. / You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun/ At this time to the Goat is run/ To fetch new lust, and give it you,/ Enjoy your summer all;”  But for John, this night, the thought of such a lesser sun is a memento mori, “Since she enjoys her long night’s festival, Let me prepare towards her”. That lesser sun, speaks a greater one. The remembering of a love that does not renew, points to one that shall. “This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this/ Both the year’s, and the day’s deep midnight is.” The year does turn and renew, and midnight turns towards noon. And all things that are nothing, shall one day see the dawn. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: “The Bible Stories Everyone Should Know”. Come Join!
  • Confirmation: Intro to the Creed. – “What is a Creed”
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Next Year!
  • Sunday Morning: During Advent we will be looking at the OT/Gospel reading that is not the sermon text. Come Join!
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

RHAFT CHALLENGE ADVENT

The season of Advent is quickly approaching, and so is a RHAFT challenge for giving to our local food pantry.  You will find an insert in your bulletin which lists some suggestions for items to give during each of the four weeks of Advent.  (Of course, any donations are welcomed any week, but this method helps us give a variety of items to RHAFT.)  There are many who are “in need” in our community, especially during this time of job losses and rising prices. We thank you for your past generosity in giving, and we pray that you will accept our challenge to help once again!

Virtual Bulletin – 12/5

December 5th, 2021 – 2nd Sunday in Advent

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Dec 6th – Dec 12th

Monday………………..            Nicholas of Myra, Pastor (i.e. St. Nick)

Tuesday………………..           Ambrose of Milan

                                                 7:00pm             Elder’s Meeting

Wednesday…………….            2:30pm            Confirmation

Thursday……………….           10:00am           Bible Study

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

LEADERSHIP ENCOURAGEMENT

As a church we are all accountable to each other before God. When we know of someone who is finding it difficult to attend services because of age or illness, or maybe even someone who has distanced himself or herself from our fellowship here at St. Mark, we congregants, as brothers and sisters in Christ, should be willing to step up and help a fellow Christian who needs encouragement. An encouraging, hand-written note or an email or a quick phone call can go a long way to give someone a spiritual boost. Maybe, as the holiday season is upon us, we might consider adding some church folks to our card list. In particular, remember to pray for folks who we have not seen in a very long time. “Praying…begging and pleading for all the saints” Ephesians 6:18

We are in the process of updating our church directory which is a rather tedious process. Be patient, it will be published in due course. However, in the meantime, if you wish to reach out to someone and are not sure of his or her current information, contact me so I can get it for you. The information that I have is reasonably accurate. 

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

John Donne in our time is best remembered as a poet, maybe for the Holy Sonnets. In his time, Donne was a preacher. His most common pulpit was St. Paul’s cross, the open air pulpit outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Although he was also often a preacher to the Royal household of Charles I. I’ve been dipping into and out of his sermons for a while now, they are great works of meditation. But I read one recently that I wanted to share some from. It was preached to King Charles in April of 1625 on Psalm 11:3, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” England was still in the middle of Reformation which would eventually lead to Charles losing his head in the English Civil War. But already the foundations seemed to be quaking.

Donne’s first words reflected on the verse and those before it, such that “until the foundations are being destroyed, the righteous should be quiet…now this should not prepare, this should not incline any man, to such indifference, as that it is all one to him,” but that “we remain awake, active and diligent, in assisting truth and resisting all approaches of error.” It was a call to faith in God and clear charitable eyes toward our neighbors. “In a word, we charge them with uncharitableness that they will so peremptorily exclude us from Heaven, for matters that do not pertain to Foundations.” Luther would call it “putting the best construction on everything.”  Not everything is truly foundational.

But his second part addressed the Christian calling when foundations are being destroyed. Donne identified four houses, and four foundations, in which God dwells: Church, State, Family, Individual Soul. If the walls of one collapse, there remain the walls of the those inside. Of course THE foundation of all is Christ, who cannot fail, but David in the Psalm was speaking of the foundations we build on that rock. And Donne identifies each: the Scriptures, the law, peace, and conscience. When these foundations are falling, what does the Christian do?

There is lots of wonderful wisdom in his treatment of each, especially in the individual soul portion where Donne sounds like Luther in reminding us that God has pardoned many greater sinners then ourselves “don’t think that he made you because he lacked someone to damn”, but this brought tears as it is the heart of the gospel. “All this then the righteous can do, though the foundations be destroyed. He can withdraw himself if the duties of the place make not his residence necessary. If he must remain, he can pray, and then he can suffer, and then he can rejoice in his sufferings, and he can witness that God is able to deliver us, and he will, but if not, we will serve no other gods. For the righteous hath forevermore this refuge, though the foundations be destroyed, all cannot be. He is safe in God, and then he is safe in his own conscience.”

The church might betray the scriptures, the state might adulterate the law, the family peace might be ripped apart, but by grace through faith in the work of Christ, we have a clean conscience before God Almighty. Rock of Ages, Cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee. And while there, pray. It is not beyond the Father’s care.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Starting a New Series – “The Bible Stories Everyone Should Know”. Come Join!
  • Confirmation: Work on memorizing the commandments and read the 9th/10thth commandment questions.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  Next Year!
  • Sunday Morning: During Advent we will be looking at the OT/Gospel reading that is not the sermon text. Come Join!
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

RHAFT CHALLENGE ADVENT

The season of Advent is quickly approaching, and so is a RHAFT challenge for giving to our local food pantry.  You will find an insert in your bulletin which lists some suggestions for items to give during each of the four weeks of Advent.  (Of course, any donations are welcomed any week, but this method helps us give a variety of items to RHAFT.)  There are many who are “in need” in our community, especially during this time of job losses and rising prices. We thank you for your past generosity in giving, and we pray that you will accept our challenge to help once again!

Virtual Bulletin – 11/21

November 21, 2021 – Last Sunday of the Church Year

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF:  Nov 22nd – Nov 28th

Tuesday………………..            Clement, Pastor

                                                 2:30pm            Confirmation

Wednesday…………….            7:00pm             Thanksgiving Service

Thursday……………….           Thanksgiving

Sunday: ………………….          10:00am           Worship

                                                 11:00am           Bible Study

COMMEMERATIONS

Clement is from what is called the first generation of Church Fathers. The Apostolic Age formally ends with the death of the Apostle John circa 100 AD, but John was the exception.  Most of the Apostles had died martyrs’ deaths by the 60s AD. They had established churches and “appointed elders (Titus 1:5) in every town.”  The three large figures immediately after were: Polycarp (who followed John), Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome who followed Peter. There is one surviving accepted letter from Clement to the Church of Corinth that for a spell was read as scripture. The main subject of that letter dealt with divisions within the church over leadership. (Some things never change. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians partly about that as well (1 Cor 3).) And Like Paul, Clement urged the Corinthians to “fix their eyes on the cross of Christ.” Clement, like most of the apostles, died a martyr around 100 AD. He was first exiled from Rome and then executed by being attached to an anchor and tossed into the sea. The anchor cross is often called a St. Clement Cross.

PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION

Jude is a short letter that probably should get more attention. It appears once in the lectionary, today, and we read a spare 5 verses. Those 5 verses capture the encouragement but neglect why the encouragement is needed. Jude 3 is the point of the letter: “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Why is such contention necessary?  That is verse 4: “certain people have crept in unnoticed…who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny Christ.” Verses 5-16 give the examples and why this contention for the faith is important. Although saving Israel out of Egypt, that generation lacked faith to enter the promised land and so died in the wilderness.  Angels having once been given positions of immense authority were locked in chains waiting for judgment. Sodom and Gomorrah indulged unnatural desires. Yet given these examples of God’s justice to those who fell away from the truth, their actions are repeated today. “People, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme holy ones…these people blaspheme all that they don’t understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.”  Unreasoning animals instinctively know things that we by the supposed use of our reason deny. Why do we deny basic truths of creation? Because we have our own dreams. Does any of that sound familiar?

What are we to do? Contend for the faith. We have been told that this is always the case. “In the last time – the age of the church – there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions…but you, beloved…keep yourself in the love of God…have mercy on those who doubt, save others.” That summary of the vocation of all Christians resonates with me. First, watch yourself. James would say not many should be teachers. Paul would say “watchout for yourselves lest you fall (Gal 6:1).” Then, remaining in the love of God, extend that love to others by showing mercy.  Peter’s comment “love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)” comes to mind. Because it was the love of Christ shown to us when we were scoffers that saved us. Likewise, we don’t know who might be snatched out of the fire by the love and mercy we show them.  What is contending the for the faith?  It surely includes arguments, that is what Jude is doing, but the greatest contention is living it. Live it yourself, and then extend mercy and love toward others. This is the example of Christ.

Lord, you are able to keep our feet from stumbling and to present us blameless before your glory.  Keep us in the faith once delivered to the saints.

BIBLE STUDIES

  • Thurs 10am: Off Thanksgiving; Starting a New Series – “The Bible Stories Everyone Should Know”. Come Join!
  • Confirmation: Work on memorizing the commandments and read the 8th commandment questions.
  • Life Application Fellowship (LAF):  December 2nd?
  • Sunday Morning: Off this weekend, last day of box collection!
  • Catechism Moment: In hibernation

THANKSGIVING EVE SERVICE: 7 PM on Wednesday

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

Thank you to everyone who helped this year. We still have two collection days, today after service and Monday morning.  That Sunday afternoon is usually a blitz, so if anyone is willing to help.

RHAFT CHALLENGE ADVENT

The season of Advent is quickly approaching, and so is a RHAFT challenge for giving to our local food pantry.  You will find an insert in your bulletin which lists some suggestions for items to give during each of the four weeks of Advent.  (Of course, any donations are welcomed any week, but this method helps us give a variety of items to RHAFT.)  There are many who are “in need” in our community, especially during this time of job losses and rising prices. We thank you for your past generosity in giving, and we pray that you will accept our challenge to help once again!