What's on my mind lately? Baptisms and Funerals!
My two favorite parts of being a pastor.
In a period of four weeks I will have officiated at three baptisms and three funerals.
The baptisms will be for Brooks Allan Buccanero, Elizabeth Mae Brainard, and James Greyson Scheuerell. The funerals will be for Marilyn Louise Buck, Steven Charles Graves, and Janet Mae Brainard.
Though each has been given a beautiful earthly name, each are also named and claimed at baptism as a Child of God, and ultimately each is received as a Child of God into that eternal home that the Lord has gone ahead to prepare for them. (John 14) I love reminding families of these promises.
We are so blessed to have the gifts of, and assurance of, forgiveness and resurrection as we journey through this often difficult and treacherous wilderness of faith. There is always hope and love within the united Body of Christ.
I will say, also, that I am continually honored when invited to participate in these sacred and holy times of family's lives. It will never cease to amaze me. It is such a privilege. Please join me in your own personal prayer time, in lifting the families of these saints - these Children of God, up in prayer.
God's good work is being done all around us, all we need to do is stop for a moment, be reminded, take notice, and live life as the Child of God we are.
We'll see you in church!
It seems we're turning the corner.
This is how I feel every year at this time as Winter turns to Spring. There is new pep in our step as we begin to transition with the season.
This year, however, it seems we are turning the corner in multiple, and more significant, ways.
First, and most notably, when on Tuesday this week, former Mpls police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty on all three charges brought against him for the death of George Floyd. There was a communal and palpable feeling of relief and burden lifted that I could feel as I wept alone in my office upon hearing the verdict read. I could not ignore or discount this feeling, nor did I wish to.
The words to a favorite Irish hymn of mine, Canticle of the Turning (ELW 723), immediately popped into my mind as they became real to me like never before. I encourage you to click here to listen to the hymn and the lyrics closely. The words to the chorus say, "My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn."
God's burning justice, peace, and mercy, at the moment at least, feel within reach. Today, and every day, is a new dawn as the world continues to turn. Hold on to that hope as our own tears, and the tears of our communities, state, nation, and world are wiped away, and all begin to heal.
On another significant level, COVID-19 is still very present in our local and global communities. However, with the vaccination rollout increasing, it seems that with the pandemic too, a new dawn draws near. We continue to do our part, be smart, care for one another, and hold onto hope for a semblance of life as we knew it pre-Covid. We'll get there, together.
On a smaller, but no less significant, scale, it feels we are turning a corner at Saint Paul Lutheran, as well. A new dawn has come and our congregation has begun to turn the page into a new chapter. Plans by our Church Council and Covid Response Team have been made for the re-opening of our church building and sanctuary. You can read all about them here.
Weekly worship continues to be exciting and inspiring with many reasons to rejoice, give thanks, and celebrate, seemingly on a weekly basis. Recent weeks have included Easter Sunday, a Hymnsing, and the Church Council's and my official installation. Looking ahead to this Sunday and beyond we have two baptisms, the Rite of Confirmation, Janet Brainard's Celebration of Life, Graduate Recognition, Volunteer Recognition, New Member reception, and the kick-off of an eight-week intergenerational preaching, teaching, and service oriented series, entitled, "Journey Together" beginning on Sunday, July 11.
So you can see why this year, especially, there is new pep in our step. You can see why the words to this favorite hymn of mine have struck a new chord within me. A chord, which on many levels, hasn't been struck in awhile. For that, I am grateful. I pray a similar chord has been struck within you, and within our congregation, as well.
We'll see you in church!
I am so grateful to be your new pastor and am so looking forward to my official installation this Sunday, April 18. I know you will warmly welcome Pr. Justin Grimm from the St. Paul Area Synod as he officiates my installation and preaches the sermon.
I am also grateful for the positive energy and enthusiasm I have witnessed and felt among many of you throughout this new beginning and fresh start at Saint Paul Lutheran. I commit to doing all I can to keep that positive energy and enthusiasm front and center as we continue to move into our future together. I invite you to make that same commitment. Thank you.
Yet while my heart is full of joy and anticipation of and for what God has in store for us at SPLC, this week it has also been filled with pain and despair over what we have witnessed again in our state that has caused such civil and racial unrest. The death of Daunte Wright as a result of a routine traffic stop in nearby Brooklyn Center has shined a light once again on how far we have to go to achieve the unity Jesus prays for in the Gospel of John's seventeenth chapter. This is a lengthy prayer (the entire chapter) of Jesus', often referred to as his high priestly prayer.
As you and I are so readily willing and able to commit to continuing positive energy and enthusiasm at church, I pray that we can each also commit to such positive energy and enthusiasm within our broader communities, nation, and world. It's our calling and responsibility as disciples of Christ Jesus.
I'll remind you, as I have reminded our ninth graders recently, who will be affirming their own baptismal promises in two weeks, of the vows we've made at our own confirmations. A portion of our confirmation promises say this:
"Do you intend to continue your baptismal promises by living among God’s faithful people, reading and listening to the Word of God, taking part in Holy Communion, proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ through word and deed, serving all people and striving for justice and peace in our world?"
I again, invite you to please join with me, and our ninth graders, in committing to living out our baptismal promises - especially as we seek to serve all people while striving for justice and peace in our communities, in our nation, and in our world. And please, pray for the community of Brooklyn Center and all affected by this week's tragic and disheartening events.
Yet, I am still grateful, and I still have joy, because I know you'll join me in being the change that needs to happen.
We'll see you in church!
An excerpt from one of my favorite books by Brennan Manning:
"It was early on a Sunday morning as the sun began to streak across the eastern sky. Jesus’ body still lay stiff, when all at once, his chest began to heave. Then, his hand slowly reached up and removed the covering from his face. His eyes adjusted slowly to the darkness. He stood on shaky legs and walked slowly out of the tomb. Once outside he breathed in fresh air, thrilled at this new experience. And then, he turned, and looked up to the hilltop where he saw three empty crosses. He smiled and winked – and walked away." - Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus: On the Pages of Our Lives (Portland, Or.: Multnomah, 1992), 232-233.
This is the promise of, and the hope we have, in Jesus' resurrection, which we gather across the world this Sunday to celebrate. Jesus defeated death. Jesus arose victorious. Life, not death, had the last word. However, this day, being Good Friday, is a day we must acknowledge Jesus' brutal death and seemingly, defeat, on the cross, in addition to our own role (our sinfulness) in it. While difficult to acknowledge this and even consider, it's necessary, if we are to fully understand, embrace, and experience the depth of the joy and forgiveness that comes with resurrection in only three short days.
On this somber day and night, I remind you of Paul's bold and confident proclamation he made in the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Church at Corinth. They are also words that I share boldly at every graveside internment service before laying the deceased to rest.
“Death has been swallowed up by Life! Who got the last word, oh Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? In a single, victorious stroke of Life – sin, guilt, shame, bitterness, rejection, and death – are all gone! A gift to us
from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
-1 Corinthians 15:51-57
This Easter Sunday, invite a friend, coworker, neighbor or family member to join you at worship at Saint Paul Lutheran, as together we "smile and wink at the empty cross." And be sure to bring enough lawn or camping chairs for everyone!!
On another note, we will also celebrate with two of our young men this Sunday. Samuel Tyler Kroschel and Adam John Stoyke will be receiving their First Communion! Please join me in praying for and celebrating with these families on this special day.
See you in church!