Missing St. Mark’s? A ‘critter congregation’ has saved your seat

Bob and Cindy Maser with the critter congregation

Church families — including ours here at St. Mark’s Lutheran — are really missing each other during this grievous COVID-19 pandemic that has swept our world. We love to be together, worship together, serve together, laugh, weep and grow together.

In this very special week — Holy Week — the separation is palpable, with grim realities all around us, great loss, great need and also the living and powerful hope that Easter represents to those who follow Jesus.

Our own Bob and Cindy Maser saw a photograph of the empty pews at St. Mark’s and were inspired to do something. Those empty pews represent our respect for the guidance of health care officials and our commitment to do all we can to stop the spread of this virus and protect our community and each other — even if it means we must be apart for a while.

“But Easter should be a time of rejoicing,” Cindy said, “and we need to bring a smile to everyone at a time like this.”

So they conspired — remotely — with Interim Pastor David Mueller, drawing inspiration from a Facebook post Cindy had seen.Pastor David Mueller with Leroy and Lion and Larry the Sheep

“In these increasingly difficult and sad times, we felt a little fun might help!” Pastor Mueller said. “So while we cannot get to church these days, my good friends Larry the Lamb and Leroy the Lion invited a few of their friends to come by.”

And they came, all right — some two by two, some solo, all with appropriate social distance.

“They were very enthusiastic and wanted to come but I only had room for two bags full,” Cindy said.

Pews with stuffed animals

And a critter congregation — sort of a Zoo Lutheran fellowship — assembled for just a few minutes of “togetherness.”

It’s true that the pews and the buildings have no humans in them — for now. But we’ll be back soon. And the heart of the Church is beating and full of love and hope for the future.

“As you can see — the church is not empty!” Cindy said. “And God loves His creatures, great and small. Spread the message to all!”

Mickey and Minnie

A couple of critters sitting atop hymn books

“He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge:” Palm Sunday message from Pastor David Mueller

Palm Sunday banner

[Editor’s note: We thank Interim Pastor David Mueller and John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, for again recording this message and music for us during this season of Coronavirus pandemic when we are unable to meet together. You can follow the text below and listen to the audio by clicking on this link:]

 

Opening Hymn: Ride On, Ride On In Majesty (verses 1, 2 and 5)

Download hymn sheet music here

Words and sheet music for Ride On, Ride On in Majesty

Good morning, people of St. Mark’s.

It is Palm/Passion Sunday morning. Please imagine being in church at St. Mark’s this morning. We have read the Palm Sunday Gospel about Jesus humbly entering Jerusalem. One of the regal hymns appropriate to Palm Sunday is being sung. The crucifer is processing, followed by the choir. You have turned and faced the cross as it passes you and have placed your palms in the aisle.

This imagination and the memories from which it comes is what we have today. But worship on in a humble but hopefully faithful way we will.

Listen now to the passion, according to St. Matthew:

NARRATOR: Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked Him:

PILATE: “Are you the King of the Jews?”

NARRATOR: Jesus said,

JESUS: “You have said so!”

NARRATOR: But when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He made no answer. Then Pilate said to Him:

PILATE: “Do you not hear the many things they testify against you?”

NARRATOR: But he gave no answer, not even to a single charge; so that the governor wondered greatly. Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them:

PILATE: “Whom do you want me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?”

NARRATOR: For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him:

PROCULA: “HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT RIGHTEOUS MAN, FOR I HAVE SUFFERED MUCH OVER HIM TODAY IN A DREAM!” 

NARRATOR: Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the people to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them:

PILATE: “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”

NARRATOR: And they said:

CROWD: “BARABBAS!”

NARRATOR: Pilate said to them:

PILATE: “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

NARRATOR: They all said:

CROWD: “LET HIM BE CRUCIFIED!”

NARRATOR: And he (Pilate) said:

PILATE: “Why, what evil has He done?”

NARRATOR: But they shouted all the more:

CROWD: “LET HIM BE CRUCIFIED!”

NARRATOR: So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washing his hands before the crowd, said:

PILATE: “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves!”

NARRATOR: And all the people answered:

CROWD: “HIS BLOOD BE ON US AND ON OUR CHILDREN.”

NARRATOR: Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe upon Him, and plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and put a reed in His right hand. And kneeling before Him they mocked Him, saying:

SOLDIERS: “HAIL, KING OF THE JEWS!”

NARRATOR: And they spat upon Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe, and put His own clothes on Him and led Him away to crucify Him.

NARRATOR: As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry His cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of the skull), they offered Him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when He tasted it, He would not drink it. And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over Him there. And over His head they put the charge against Him, which read,

ALL: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS!”

NARRATOR: Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one at the right and one at the left. And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying:

RIGHT SIDE: “YOU WHO WOULD DESTROY THE TEMPLE AND BUILD IT IN THREE DAYS, SAVE YOURSELF! IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD, COME DOWN FROM THAT CROSS.”

NARRATOR: So also the chief priests, with the scribes and the elders, mocked Him, saying,

LEFT SIDE: “HE SAVED OTHERS; HE CANNOT SAVE HIMSELF. HE IS THE KING OF ISRAEL; LET HIM COME DOWN FROM THE CROSS AND WE WILL BELIEVE IN HIM!”

ALL: “HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD DELIVER HIM NOW, IF HE DESIRES HIM; FOR HE SAID, ‘I AM THE SON OF GOD.’”

NARRATOR: And the robbers who were crucified with Him also reviled Him in the same way. Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice:

JESUS: “Eli, Eli lama sabach-thani?” [That is…] “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

NARRATOR: And some of the bystanders hearing it said,

RIGHT SIDE: “THIS MAN IS CALLING ELIJAH.”

NARRATOR: And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with vinegar and put it on a reed, and gave it to Him to drink. But others said:

LEFT SIDE: “WAIT, LET US SEE WHETHER ELIJAH WILL COME TO SAVE HIM.”

NARRATOR: And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.

NARRATOR: And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from the top to bottom, and the earth shook and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of their tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said,

ALL: “TRULY THIS WAS THE SON OF GOD!”

Hymn: “Ah, Holy Jesus” (verses 1, 2 and 5)

Words and sheet music for Ah, Holy Jesus

 

Grace to you and peace from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. amen.

As the week we call “Holy” is about to begin, along with fellow Christians around the world, we are unable to worship together physically. We read in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

Ours is an incarnational faith with Jesus having entered our history. It feels very non-incarnational to be away from each other in the flesh and for Christians to be “meeting” in some virtual manner. Better that, however, than to allow the Feast of the Resurrection and the events of the prior week to go utterly unacknowledged.

Please pray with me:

Oh God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, may the Holy Wind blow mightily among us and our Christian family the world over today and into the days ahead. Grant us wisdom for dealing with our reality, which unfortunately includes a deadly disease. May we remain trusting and caring in the midst of crisis, and in this precious season, may we be renewed in our hope. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

I have believed for a long time that a most significant scene in this Passion Drama is Jesus standing before Pilate. Freeze frame this image for a minute or two. Just stare at it: A Representative dignitary of the then most powerful Empire on the planet, sent to Palestine precisely because he was so good at dealing with crises, and The Son of God sent to this world precisely because God so loved the world, facing each other. Stare some more at both men, one having at his hand the power of empire; the other whose power was made perfect in weakness.

“Stare some more at both men, one having at his hand the power of empire; the other whose power was made perfect in weakness.”

Earlier, Pilate had asked Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus simply said:  “You say so!” Now, seconds later, in response to Pilate’s asking of Jesus about the accusations against him, Jesus “gave him no answer, not even to a single charge.” In Mark’s Gospel account of the same scene, “Jesus made no further reply.” (Mark 15:3). Luke also has Jesus saying only “you say so.”

John reports Jesus as having said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews…. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” (John 18:33-38)

Without denying Divine inspiration, it seems to me that John simply couldn’t accept the quiet of the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke), and couldn’t resist adding at least some qualifier in this his much later Gospel.

Generally, we are stuck with this quiet even poignant scene, the seeming helplessness of Jesus against this worldly “Goliath,” known as Pilate and everything he represented.

“For God’s sake, Jesus, say something!” “For Jesus’ sake, God, do something!”

This plea has come from countless people throughout history since Jesus’ time on earth, when injustice was occurring, when diseases were spreading, when Jews were dying in the camps, when Armenians were being slaughtered by the Turks, when illness or accident had taken a loved-one, when marriages were breaking up, when financial ruin was rampant, when, when when…. In the face of human tragedy, God seems so silent, so powerless, perhaps even so indifferent. DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! Lord God, where are You when most we need You?

One of His disciples would betray Jesus, another would deny Him, the others  abandoned Him — and we? Clearly, we would surely have operated differently, better somehow, more faithfully! Yeah, right! The human condition is portrayed in living color here, with us like them — but what of the Divine position?

The very fact of Jesus having died FOR us reveals that God is still dying WITH us, at least for now. Ours is a faith of apparent defeat, of cross-centeredness, not yet one of triumph and victory. The victory can be hoped for and believed in but not experienced just yet. The Kingdom is not of this world! We may not rule here. We may not get our way here! We may not insist that others share our perspective on anything here! And we will need to die rather than kill, bear our crosses before we wear our crowns.

And that is what takes so much faith, gobs of grace, mounds of mercy, loads of love and pounds of patience. The Kingdom has not yet been fully realized and we must continue to pray: “Your Kingdom come” and in the meantime: “Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.”

In our rather quiet way this year, we will celebrate the Feast of the Resurrection, as the victory it was for Jesus and one day will be for us! In His holy and precious Name, Amen.

We love you — stay home!

St. Mark’s Church BUILDING is Closed

I can’t believe I am writing this. In the course of two weeks the way we do church has changed dramatically — at least for now. New words and ideas are now part of my daily life —pandemic, social distancing, Coronavirus, CDC, stay safe. Maybe stay safe should always be there! It’s happened fast and for many of us it’s a little hard to keep up. Watching the news makes me crazy. Not watching the news makes me uninformed. It’s hard to know what to do. I know my sons want me to turn it off.

St Mark’s Leadership Council had an emergency meeting on March 17 to discuss the Delaware State of Emergency and the best course of action. We want to do the right thing — for the larger community, for St Mark’s and for each other. We decided that we had to close the church building. It’s the right thing to do. We are sad, but we don’t want to get each other sick. It’s really that simple. STAY HOME. It only takes one person with no symptoms. We decided to re-evaluate the decision on April 19. Council will meet remotely via a web call. If that sounds very techie to you — it does to most of us, too. It is new for us but it is the right thing to do. I am grateful for technology right now. This will pass. In the meantime – STAY HOME. We will be communicating with you.

IN THE MEANTIME:

  • A brief sermon and music will go out with a link in an email each Sunday afternoon. The website will also be updated.
  • Each day from 6 p.m. through 6:10 p.m., we ask members to be praying for each other, the church, and the world.
  • We will update and send out emails as needed. Please be sure to check the website daily and check your email spam (or junk) folder. We know that not everyone has email. Call the office and let us know if you need USPS mail.
  • We are trying to creatively establish ways to keep our spirits up during this crisis. Be patient, please, as we learn together what is most effective.
  • The Transition Team is still meeting! Please mail your Green Sheets including the first one, if you did not already do so. This is absolutely essential – especially now!
  • Help us help you! Let us know if you need anything including Pastoral Care. The office will remain open (Cheryl is answering the phone during office hours even if she is working remotely sometimes.) The office number is (302) 764-7488.

We love you!  Stay home! Stay Safe!

Kitty Dombroski, president, Leadership Council

The Rev David Mueller, interim pastor

‘Astonished by a Woman:’ Sunday message from Pastor David Mueller

Pastor David Mueller

Good Sunday to you! We visit from a distance during this season of Coronavirus, having canceled services at the recommendation of health officials who hope to curtail the spread of the pandemic.

This morning, Pastor David Mueller and John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, met in our conference room to record Pastor Mueller’s sermon. We include a link to the audio here and also the text.

Lay low for now. Watch for weekly communication! Take care of yourself and others. Rest assured that God is with you and in the midst. We’ll be back together soon!

Here’s the link to the audio:

You can follow along with the text here:

“Astonished by a Woman”

Pastor David Mueller

It is not often that we cancel church worship services, but today is one of those occasional days when environmental circumstances require it and there may be more until the Coronavirus, as it is commonly known, is controlled and a vaccine is developed and produced.

Let’s begin with a word of prayer:

“Lord God, Gracious and Merciful Father, on behalf of and most probably with all of the citizens of the world You created, protect and preserve us all from the harm and danger this germ could cause. Teach us humility in the midst of this crisis so that we will realize anew that there is so much is beyond our control. Allow healing

and hope to happen universally. Turn us to You and, Lord, please help us all. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Now please bear with me as I learn with you to speak and hear a sermon in a communal vacuum. It clearly is odd for me not to have faces to see or expressions to notice, I trust that some instruction and inspiration will occur even though we are not here together.

John Lasher and Pastor David Mueller
John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, met with Pastor David Mueller in St. Mark’s conference room to record his sermon.

I presume that you have a Bible handy and can turn to John 4:5-42. It is the first of three quite long Gospel lessons from John during the next three weeks. I am not going to read it here. Actually, I was not going to read it in planned worship at St. Mark’s anyway. I had a song ready to play about this encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman.

This story is jam packed. Given its content, I must admit that I believe it would be better to have a woman and not a man interpreting it. Hard as I may try and diligently as I may pray, it is nearly impossible for me to relate to this woman’s life. And as we all know, I am not Jesus either. But as usual, let’s jump in.

After a long morning haul, Jesus was traveling through Samaria on His way back to the Galilee region to the north. He was tired and was sitting by Jacob’s Well at the noon hour, a usually quiet place at that time of day when it began to get hot.

Earlier in the morning, the area around the well would have been noisy and busy as the women of Sychar, the town, came both to get water and to catch up with each other about scuttlebutt and such. They had long since gone back to their homes, but a lone woman came to draw water when Jesus was there.

Freeze frame this scene for a moment, for a woman alone encountering a man, let alone a Rabbi, was itself rare, risky, and even inappropriate. This may sound benign in our day but back then in that culture. The disciples later on were astonished that Jesus was talking with a woman — any woman. Set aside, please, the water part of this encounter and we will pick it back up in just a bit.

The conversation leads to this woman’s marital history and present state: five previous husbands and now living with a man who was not a husband. Now it is no longer benign. Most of us view her, initially at least, as pathetic, perverted, promiscuous, not a very nice lady. That, by the way, is exactly how the other women in town saw her. Had she gone to the well with the others earlier, she would have been scorned, belittled, shamed and laughed at.

In taking a closer look at her, mindful of life back then, she is also a victim. The prerogative for divorcing was exclusively the man’s. And because of economic circumstances back then, a woman would have to prostitute herself in some fashion to survive. Perhaps one or more of these five husbands died. But that changes nothing. A woman would essentially be destitute. So if you are into blaming, blame the husbands as well as the woman.

Jesus in no way was pejorative with her. He states the facts and treats her with a certain quiet dignity she may never before have known. And what soon becomes most incredible is Jesus’ revelation to her that genuine worship of God has little if anything to do with where — there in Sychar or in Jerusalem — or with whom — Samaritans or Jews. Worship, He freely shares with her — having not yet shared it with anyone else, male or female — is of Spirit and Truth, for God is Spirit.

Next thing we notice here is that this woman ran right into the village where she was usually scorned and badgered and became the very first know evangelist, evangelism at its root meaning “Good News.” To make a still long story a but shorter, people in the village believed her so very authentic testimony and later went to check out this “Messiah” for themselves, becoming even more convinced.

Now, please move with me back to the early water wonder here. After asking her to give Him a drink, Jesus brought up the issue of “Living Water.” Water from this well or any other physical source would have to be drunk every day, but not living water “gushing up to eternal life.” Here Jesus treated this scorned, abused, and misunderstood woman with more dignity and respect and opportunity than she knew existed. “Sir, give me this water.”

I am reminded of the Prophet Amos (5:23 & 24) when he said on the Lord’s behalf: “Take away from me the noise of your songs. I will not listen to the melody of your harp. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

This woman asked for this water and it would have been cruel and unreasonable for Jesus to have denied it to her. So at this moment this water would have gushed up within and without her and whatever sin she had committed in her obviously sad and sorry life were washed away, making her righteous and granting her justice.

This is powerful, beautiful, and terrifically loving stuff. The disciples were astonished that Jesus was talking with a woman and a Samaritan to boot, but we get an even better look than they did at the time and I hope we can be astonished as well, but by the righteousness and not the risk of it. And may we remember our Baptisms when living water was offered to us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Altar during Lent

In search of: Director of Music and Worship Arts

Organ console and pipes

Are we looking for each other? We are looking for a Director of Music and Worship Arts. Are you the one? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

A bit about us:

• We are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
• Our beloved music director passed away in 2018 after more than 50 years of devoted service.Sanctuary and altar
• We have two services—a traditional 9 a.m. liturgical service, which incorporates our pipe organ and adult choir, and an 11 a.m. contemporary service, led by our praise band “Souls On Fire.”
• We have a 16-voice adult choir.
• The “Souls On Fire” band includes keyboard, guitar and several vocalists.
Choir• Our music-making inventory includes:
o A pipe organ, installed in 1971. It has approximately 1,200 pipes in three divisions, 20 ranks, with eight pipe chests.
o Two baby grand pianos, one in the sanctuary for use in our Sunday services, one in the basement Great Room for use with large gatherings.
o A console piano in the second-floor choir room, which is used in Adult choir rehearsals on Thursday nights.
Worship band vocalistso An electronic keyboard in the sanctuary, used primarily by the “Souls on Fire” contemporary worship band on Sundays.
o Hand chimes, kept in the second-floor choir room, approximately three octaves, used rarely by the adult choir on Sundays.
• We are eager to develop and expand our worship experiences and are looking for a skilled musician to lead us—planning, organizing and directing the music and other artistic elements of our worship services, always pointing us to the One who is worthy of our praise.
• This is a 30-hour, part-time position. Salary and benefits are competitive and negotiable.
• We are a collaborative congregation and value partnerships with our greater community. We love sharing music arts and worship opportunities with others.

Position Description

The Director of Music and Worship Arts serves as the primary musician and coordinator for worship experiences at St Mark’s Lutheran Church. This position has overall responsibility for planning, organizing, leading and directing the music and other artistic elements of all services enhancing the worship experience for all. The candidate must have the musical ability to support both traditional and contemporary services.
Position Expectations:

1. Principal Musician and Accompanist
• The Director of Music and Worship Arts will develop, direct and oversee the musical life of such choirs and ensembles (including hand chimes and instrumentalists) as are needed to provide for a wide variety of musical involvement and expression within the congregation including both traditional and contemporary services.
• The Director will play the organ/piano/keyboard during worship services and rehearsals.
• The Director will be proficient in vocal leadership for both traditional and contemporary worship services. The Director will oversee, schedule and recruit all vocalists.
• The Director will prepare for worship services and rehearsals through practice and enhancement of personal proficiency in accompaniment.
• The Director will serve as musician/accompanist for weddings, funerals, memorials and other celebrations (additional compensation may be possible).
• The Director will identify and secure vocalists, instrumentalists and other worship artists for participation in selected services, including Christmas, mid-week/Holy Week services and festivals as appropriate.
• The Director will work with the Pastor to attend to Scripture and use the Lectionary as a guide to plan worship services in accordance with the seasons and community life of the church.
• The Director will compose, transpose and arrange music as needed.
• The Director will strive to incorporate a full range of artistic expression to enhance and add meaning to the worship experience.
• The Director will manage the musical instruments and music library.
• The Director will maintain licenses, copyrights, subscriptions and financial resources for the Worship and Music Department.

2. Colleague, Collaborator and Coordinator
• The Director of Music and Worship Arts will serve as a partner in ministry with the pastor, staff and congregation.
• The Director will connect the choir/ensemble/congregation with the greater community.
• The Director will create a network of colleagues and a list of substitute musicians.
• The Director will oversee and serve as the principal staff liaison to worship team leaders as a member on the Worship and Music Committee, including the altar guild, ushers, greeters, liturgists and nursery.
• The Director will determine and submit the annual budget requirements for the Worship and Music Committee and administer the expenditures of the approved budget.
• The Director will pray for, support and encourage members of the congregation to discover their personal gifts for leadership as well as participation in worship art expression.
• The Director will oversee the design of bulletins, programs and audiovisual effects (e.g., screen projections) to assist the community in worship.

Desired Skills:
• Proficient on the pipe organ, piano and electronic keyboard.
• Proficient in vocal leadership.
• Proficient in directing choirs, instrumentalists and bands.
• Proficient in management and administrative skills.
• Proficient in the use of MS Word and MS PowerPoint.
• Strong organizational and interpersonal skills.
• Self-starter and able to follow through on specific tasks.
• Able to conceptualize and explain his/her work as ministry.

Professional Requirements:
• A degree in sacred church music, a degree in music or a musician with equivalent experience.
• Familiarity with a wide range of church music, including classical, traditional hymns, Gospel and contemporary Christian, rock, pop and country genres.
• Basic knowledge of sound amplification, mixing and recording technology.

Professional Relationships:
• The Director of Music and Worship Arts reports directly to the pastor.
• The Director of Music and Worship Arts is supported by the members.

Notes:
This position requires a criminal background check and drug test. The above position description and duties stated are not all-inclusive. Additional duties and responsibilities may be assigned as needed.

To apply:
Does this strike a chord with you? Do you feel called to this kind of ministry? If so, let’s get to know each other and see where God leads.

We invite you to respond in either of these ways by April 30, 2019.
• Mail your resumé with a cover letter and contact information to: Worship Search Committee, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 501 Duncan Rd., Wilmington DE 19809
• Send your resumé with a cover letter and contact information electronically to resume@stmarksonline.org.