Highlights from our Congregation Council
This past Wednesday, our leaders gathered for the first ever Congregational Council meeting online! Once we got almost all of us logged in and able to see and hear each other, we did our best to face these new realities:
· We cannot be the church for quite some time in the familiar ways that we expect and treasure.
· We must quickly learn new ways of connecting and nurturing faith and community online.
· We have a multi-layered financial challenge to address together, as best as we can.
· MOST IMPORTANTLY, we must learn to trust that God will not abandon us, Jesus can still be present to us and the Holy Spirit is still at work among us through all of this. This is the testimony of the church through the ages, in which Christians have faced much greater trials and challenges than this!
In these first weeks of reacting to the effects of the pandemic and necessary social distancing, your Grace Staff and key volunteers have been busy in the following ways.
· Worship – Although ideas of gathering small groups for music-making have been considered, we have set them aside as too risky, and Pastor V has been producing online worship videos. He invites the participation of others who might produce videos of music, worship or holy moments in their own family settings. David, Pastor, and Kath are imagining Holy Week and Easter online. Angie is writing daily Lenten devotions.
· Website – These and other resources are linked through our website at the “Purple Button” – check it out! – and our Facebook page. Thanks to Meghan Kelly and Angie for helping us use technology in new ways.
· Community – Vicki continues the effort of updating email addresses to expand our ability to communicate with all members and friends in an efficient and reliable way. We have nearly doubled the number of working addresses in the database over the past few weeks! We must begin to train other leaders in the use of ZOOM and other applications to enhance community and connectivity.
· Checking in – Grace members volunteered to set up a team to make regular phone calls to all members and friends of Grace. If you didn’t receive a call or a message over the past week or so, call the office to make sure we have your correct contact information.
· Financial Support – it remains unclear how our church finances will be affected during this time when everyone’s finances have been constrained. Our Finance and Stewardship and Capital Campaign leaders will be communicating soon! Some of you have taken the initiative and made special gifts or paid pledges in advance to keep our ministry strong…Thank you all for your ongoing support of Grace!
As you can imagine, Pastor , David, Kath, our Choirs and Worship Team are still dismayed that we will be unable to lead the congregation through all the sights, sounds, smells, songs, prayers and praises of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter, these central celebrations of Christ’s death and resurrection.
We are doing our best to provide Holy Week online. Check the website and watch for Pastor’s emails in the days to come. We hope to celebrate Easter together, on the first Sunday when we can BE together again!
We don’t have it all figured out yet, but we know that the virus will be hitting us hard during Holy Week and Easter, and despite the wishful thinking it will not be appropriate to be celebrating at church. Since so many of us have already ordered flowers that are already growing and already being prepared, we have decided that we will use them to make our Easter garden on the front steps of the church, if possible, weather permitting. Our hope is that you may be able to safely retrieve them, one at a time, later that day or early in the Easter week, and Pastor can greet you from a safe distance and offer an Easter blessing. Watch, wait and we will see! Easter Flowers are $10. Orders are due in the office by April 3, 2020.
Mindi Graver and Pr V, for the Worship Team
The list of Memorial Easter Flowers will be included in the Grace News!
April 5, 2020 (Passion/Palm Sunday)
Matthew 27:24 – So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.
When the enormity of the world’s problems – such as climate crises, war, hunger and refugees — becomes too much, it is tempting to do like Pilate, to wash our hands and do nothing. May we instead strive to be people of action who follow the example of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
From the Pastor’s Desk
The Lord’s Prayer – A Prayer for Peacemaking?
In our previous four segments of teaching on the Lord’s Prayer this Lent, we have learned that:
· Luke’s gospel shows Jesus offering the Lord’s Prayer as an all-purpose prayer, a direct answer to a request from the disciples.
· Very differently, Matthew sets the Lord’s Prayer in the midst of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, after an extended introduction.
· We have seen how Jesus’ teaching there focuses on the gentleness, mercy and peacemaking in the Beattitudes, deepens through his consideration of different kinds of human conflict, and culminates in his commandment to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
· In this context, the Lord’s Prayer then appears as an instruction on how to pray in obedience to this command, beginning in the very address to God as “Our Father” – very specifically understood as the father of me…and my enemy.
But now we notice: the vast majority of commentary on the address “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer is focused on the word “Father,” not the word “Our.” Commentators, theologians, devotional writers all communicate a point that I will summarize informally: Look, they say, Jesus talks to God like a parent! Amazing that Jesus addresses God with an Aramaic word that might best be translated “Daddy!” No one else ever did this before. How new, how different, how non-traditional, or something like that.
It is true: the word “Abba” (Aramaic for Papa/Dad/Father) does seem to be a deeply personal form of address for God into which Jesus invites us – precisely in his role as “the only begotten Son of the Father.” But such intimate address for God on our part only “works” in contrast and in parallel with the many other forms of address that are found in the Bible. For example, titles like Lord, King, Sovereign, Ruler, Almighty, etc… all point to the majesty of God, a completely different idea or emphasis that goes missing in the intimacy and familiarity of calling God “Our Father.” Creator, Redeemer, Holy One of Israel, Spirit of Life, Eternal One, Holy Trinity, are all biblical titles for God and expressions of God’s lively and active relationship with us and through the ages, calling us and challenging us even through the words we use to call upon God. And the more descriptive titles and metaphors used to address God are too numerous to mention; some familiar ones are Shepherd, Fire, Light, Mother Hen, Eagles Wings, Wind, Breath, Vine and Branches. This whole subject provides much to ponder. But in all the fuss about the word Father, not to mention the feminist critique that says, “Isn’t there also a mothering side to God?” to which the biblical answer is also yes, there just isn’t much notice taken of the word “our.” Without paying close attention to the Sermon on the Mount as we have been doing, we may easily assume that “our” just means, “mine and everybody else’s.” God, Our Father, everybody’s heavenly Father.
It seems very likely that, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is offering this prayer at least somewhat differently. Here, he introduces it, teaches it and offers it as a gift for those who are wondering: how on earth will I ever be able to “love my enemies and pray for them?” Do it like this, Jesus seems to be saying. Start by remembering that you, and your enemy, are both children of your heavenly Father.
Next week we will look at some of the implications of praying the word “Our” in this specific way. How does the Lord’s prayer take shape if we pray it especially with “my enemy” in mind? And who is my enemy, anyway? And how might God answer such a prayer, offered in obedience to Jesus? We will take up these questions in Holy Week, when we hear Jesus praying: “My Father, let this cup pass from me…” (Matt 26:39), and in Luke, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) I look forward to meeting you in the Grace News again, next week!
God’s Peace, for peacemaking, Pastor Verkouw
From the Programing Office
The idea behind this project is to reach out to our wider community. It is our hope that this project will transcend denominational and religious affiliation lines. The current pandemic has socially distanced us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t connect to others and make new friends. As I keep reminding the members of Grace, “We’re in this together- and God’s here too!” “To all God’s beloved” comes from St. Paul’s salutation to the church in Rome (Romans 1:7). With that being said, I cannot stress enough that this project is not restricted to the church. My faith compelled me to start this project and it is the same faith that desires for this to be an interfaith gathering of all God’s beloved.
While this is a pen pal project at heart it’s not restricted to snail mail. You have the option of signing up for email or phone calls from another person. We want this to work for as many people as possible. If you don’t have an email/do not want to fill out the Google Form you can mail your information to Grace Lutheran Church 517 N. Queen St. Lancaster, PA 17603 or call 717-397-2748.
The more people that sign up the better! I will do my best to make sure that your pen pal is not a member of your congregation and give you your preferred method of communication. Please note, if you live outside of the United States, I cannot promise that you will receive a phone call, even if that is your preferred method of communication.
If you sign up by April 10, 2020, you will have your pen pal by the end of the day on Easter Monday. Only your pen pal will receive your contact information from our office.
You don’t need fancy stationery to participate in this project. You don’t need to have fancy handwriting for this project. You don’t need the latest and greatest technology to participate in this project. All you need is an open heart. You can contact your pen pal as often as you want. You can write about whatever you want. You can share recipes, family stories, artwork, pictures, whatever you’re comfortable with.
We are encouraging families to participate in this project. There’s a chance that your new friend might be of the finger paint/ can’t write their name generation. If you do not want to take the chance of having a younger pen pal, please let us know. Again, we are going to do our best to make sure that this project works for all of us.
If you are filling out the Google Form, please fill out a form for each member of your household that is participating. If you have any questions please reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org), you can also call the church office (7173972748) and leave your information with our Office Administrator, Vicki.
If you are a religious leader looking to get your congregation involved please email me (email@example.com).
Pax et Bonum,