Our Easter tradition at Christ Lutheran includes a Sunrise Communion Service with Procession to the Outside. People keep their coats for the first part of the service so as to be prepared to go out into God’s awakening creation to recall and celebrate the rising of our Lord and Savior on Easter morn. Most years we bask in the bright dawn light as we hear the Sunrise Gospel from John, chapter 20, and sing Easter hymns that resound into Orland Square Mall.
The Gospel for the Sunrise Service is the account of our Lord’s personal appearance to Mary Magdalene and His sending of her with the news of His resurrection to the disciples. Mary became an unlikely herald. She bears the first personal word of the resurrection from our Lord to the world. Jesus just keeps giving his grace and hope to her, as she was delivered from demon possession (Luke 8: 2) and is now especially comforted with the wonder of the resurrection. At Easter Jesus gives his grace and hope to her and through her to others.
Often Jesus creates unlikely bridges for the Gospel. Our WSPG (Women’s Scripture and Prayer Group) is now reviewing Saul’s conversion and call to be the unlikely apostle to the Gentiles. We began this Lent by considering the sinful struggles of David and his preparatory role for Jesus only by God’s mercy.
Unlikely bridges. As I write this article for the April edition of the enewsletter, we are planning for our Easter Eggstravaganza here at Christ Lutheran on Saturday, April 8. My thoughts go back to the establishment of the first Eggstravaganza (Egg Hunt and Real Story of Easter Event) about 30 years ago. (Thank you, Sheryl Barnhart for coming up with the “Eggstravaganza” name! We hope all is well with Joe and you and family.) That first Eggstravaganza was a push in pastoral and church terms. What do you mean, pastor? Are you going to bring the Easter bunny into our sacred celebration? No, but maybe a symbol of new birth and spring like the egg can provide a bridge to the real story of Easter. Getting volunteers was not easy in those early days, but God worked and has worked now for three + decades of real blessing in the Gospel of the crucified and risen Savior.
God yet surprises us. Jesus lives and brings comfort in the surprising forgiveness of sins assured as Christ is risen. Jesus lives and surprises us with His presence in His word and in Baptism and Holy Communion. Jesus lives and surprises us with the message from Mary Magdalene and with Gospel bridges like the Eggstravaganza and the …..
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her (from John, chapter 20:16-18).
A Blessed and, even, Surprising Easter to you,
Pastor Ray Rohlfs+
Does Your Church Have Lent?
I recently talked with a young couple who was looking for a church home. They were worshipping regularly at an active Christian congregation but were looking for more. I listened for the “more” they were seeking as they talked. One of their questions: “Does your church have Lent?” In the broader Christian church there are liturgical and non-liturgical churches. Ours is liturgical, following the tradition of the church calendar, so, yes, our church observes Lent. The seasons of the church calendar add a kind of depth to our faith life in Christ, so it’s not uncommon to meet people who are looking for the “more” of a liturgical congregation.
In the season of Lent, Almighty God directs our steps to follow our Savior to Calvary. We journey together as the people of God to “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We journey together, but we also go as individuals. Lent is a time for personal reflection, repentance and assurance of God’s grace and presence for real life with Him. This Lent we will consider God’s presence in the critical crossroads of life-loss, transitions, choices, uncertainties and disappointments. At these times faith and real life intersect, and we become more aware of our Savior’s presence, strength and guidance. The assurance voiced by St. Paul in Romans 8: 31-39 will be a blessed companion with us: What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Plan on being a congregant with us this Lent as we “rise from the ashes” on Ash Wednesday and meet our Savior At the Crossroads.
On Ash Wednesday, March 1, three Communion Services with Imposition of Ashes will be conducted: 6:20 a.m. (in Duehr Memorial Chapel), 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. During the rest of the Lenten season, Thursday Lenten communion services will meet at 11:00 a.m. (a lunch after) and 7:00 p.m. on March 9, 16, 23, 30, and April 6, under the theme: “At The Crossroads.” The evening Lent services will take place in Duehr Memorial Chapel.
Available in the narthex during Lent is the daily devotional that complements our Lenten Series: “At The Crossroads” from Creative Communications for the Parish.
Pastor Ray Rohlfs+
Words have complex meanings. Maybe no word expresses a more complex reality. Some wonder if it is that: real. What is real love?
St. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to describe it in I Corinthians 13:1-13
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
I have read that passage at countless weddings. Some reflections: Love is essential to faith and life with God. Patience is its first quality: Lord, I pray, give me patience and give it to me right now! Second: Love is kind. Not so complicated; just hard. And, then, the “nots.” A bunch of “nots.” This higher love is expressed in contrast to what comes too naturally. The “nots” make us pause in repentance. And like the Lord’s Prayer petition, “Give us this day our daily bread,” next comes an intended redundancy: “always perseveres.” Even to eternity. When faith is fulfilled and hope realized, love abides.
Wow. Tall order. Not so much what love is but WHO love is. His name is Jesus and when he is received in the heart, to quote Noel “Paul” Stookey out of context: “There is Love!”
May Jesus be present in your heart this Valentine’s Day and always,
I am writing this just before Christmas and heard an ad for the Cubs re-broadcasts running at this time. (Congrats again and in an ongoing way to our Cubs fans. Don’t tell my fellow Sox fans, but I am envious.) Anyway, at this time, for the 12 days before Christmas, 670 AM is replaying important Cub Ws which led to their World Championship. From their website: “In a celebration of the Cubs’ championship season, 670 The Score will carry the “12 Days of Cubsmas” during the holidays. Starting Dec. 14 and running through Christmas Day, The Score will re-air 12 of the best Cubs games of the 2016 season, with one playing in its entirety each day. The idea was the brainchild of Boers and Bernstein producer Chris Tannehill and will include lead-in narration from Cubs pregame and postgame host Mark Grote, with the help of production work by Russ Mitera and Brendan McCaffrey.” Cubsmas”? Okay, Cubs fans are still a little excited.
But the real 12 Days of Christmas follow the Nativity of Our Lord celebration. And they lead to the Day of Epiphany on January 6, for those of us in the “Western” tradition. (Or to a “Merry Christmas” about then for our Orthodox brothers and sisters!) The 12 Days of Christmas usher in the New Year with the Birth and Naming of Jesus and the arrival of the Wise Men entourage. And these events are important and hope-inspiring.
Jesus’ name is given: Yahweh-saves. Indeed, in this gift of Son of God and Son of mankind. Paul reminds us in Galatians 4: But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” (from The Message paraphrase). Those verses move us from the wood of the manger to the fullness of the redemptive work of Jesus on the wood of the cross.All of this is foreshadowed in our Lord’s Birth milah. Moreover, in those verses Paul was writing to Gentile and Jewish Christians, so the birth announcement of “His Star” and the eventual arrival of the Magi to worship the Christ-child calls all to the side of the One who has come as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
So, as we enter into a New Year praying for peace and harmony among people, the 12 Days of Christmas usher us to Jesus, Savior and Redeemer for the world. There is hope…
At a recent Women’s Scripture and Prayer Group meeting, I asked why so many count Thanksgiving as one of their favorite holidays. Responses? Family gatherings, food, weekend timing. Then this one: We don’t have to exchange gifts and worry about all that! We all appreciated the honesty of that responder who is, I hasten to add, a very generous person.
Hopefully our gift giving at Christmas is a reflection and response to God’s greatest gift, but all the rushing around and worry about our gifting can lead us away from what, Who! it’s all about.
So let’s just meditate a bit on the Word made Flesh. From Luke’s Gospel in King James, the version of Sunday School Christmas Program memory passages for us oldsters:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
It is about the Gift giving of God for the world. Then and now. We call it Christmas. Jesus, Savior and Lord, invites you to celebrate his incarnation and birth on Christmas Eve at 4 and 11 and Christmas Day at 10. We call it Christmas for the crucified and risen Jesus will be present where two or three are in His name and in Holy Communion “Christ-Mass.” Let us truly celebrate Christmas together!
Peaceful and Faithful Christmas to You and Yours!