UPDATE: Christmas at St. Mark’s

Peace on Earth

Yes, Virginia, there is a Christmas Day coming — even in the year 2020! We don’t want you to miss any of the opportunities St. Mark’s has as we commemorate the birth of our Lord in that humble stable setting in Bethlehem.

Of course, 2020’s indelible mark comes with these holidays. Most of us will not be gathering in person, because of the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to ravage our world. But we can still gather in both real and virtual ways, thanks to the faithful, multifaceted efforts of our St. Mark’s family, led by Interim Pastor David Mueller and John Lasher, our director of music and worship arts.

Here’s what’s coming:

  • Christmas Eve. We will have ONE in-person service at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24, with a chime choir and violinist Maria Rusu. Attendance is limited to 45 people in order to maintain social distance requirements. Those with reservations should arrive 15-30 minutes early to allow for registration and seating. The service will also be available by livestream on our YouTube channel. The link is embedded below..

  • Join us for worship at 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 27 for a service of  Lessons & Carols. Join us in person or enjoy our livestream broadcast on our YouTube channel at the link below:

  • At noon on Sunday, December 27, we will rebroadcast the Delaware-Maryland Synod’s service of Lessons & Carols, featuring musical offerings and readings from churches throughout the Synod. Two selections from our Virtual Choir will be included. Join in at the link below. If you’d like  a copy of the Synod’s bulletin, you may view and download it by clicking here.

  • Catch up on our pre-recorded Advent Devotions if you missed any of them. They also are available on our YouTube channel.

 

Midweek Extra: Joseph Wisniewski of Bellevue Community Center

Interim Pastor David Mueller and Joseph Wisniewski, executive director of the Bellevue Community Center
One of our closest neighbors, the Bellevue Community Center — located across Duncan Road from St. Mark’s — has served the community for more than 40 years, offering educational, recreational, self-enrichment, athletic, cultural and family support services and programming.
In this week’s Midweek Extra,  Interim Pastor David Mueller talks with Joseph Wisniewski, executive director of the center, about its programs and plans.
Among the topics: Bellevue’s community garden, athletic programs, drug and alcohol abuse recovery programs, video production studio and (coming soon) an annex of the Wilmington Public Library. They also discuss how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the center and the plans to reopen the newly renovated front entrance, which has a new hydraulic elevator instead of the previous long, winding ramp.
You can watch their conversation on our YouTube channel, using the link below.

Praying together for St. Mark’s

Praying hands with a laptop

Join us for real prayer in a virtual context, as we launch a new series of prayer meetings for our church, St. Mark’s Lutheran.

We’ll meet by way of the Zoom video conferencing software on the first Saturday of the month, starting November 7. We’ll pray from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. If you can’t join us online, we hope you’ll pray with us wherever you may be.

All are welcome. To get your Zoom link, fill out this form to contact organizer Margie Dodson.

Midweek Extra: Rob Gurnee of Lutheran Community Services

Interim Pastor David Mueller and Rob Gurnee of Lutheran Community Services

Interim Pastor David Mueller welcomes Rob Gurnee, executive director of Lutheran Community Services of Delaware, to today’s Midweek Extra.

LCS has been serving low-income families in Wilmington and New Castle County since 1959, assisting with emergency food, housing and many other needs.

The men discuss the ministries of LCS and how its work and that of other nonprofit agencies have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Rob also talks about the “Pick Your Own” LCS Walk/Run for Hunger and the new format for the popular annual fundraising event that many at St. Mark’s have been part of — as donors, runners and walkers. (Check out a few photos from previous events below.)

It’s a good time to make your plan for participating in this year’s Walk/Run for Hunger. As the name of this year’s event suggests, you can “Pick Your Own” route, pick your own day, pick your own starting time. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The event is open until September 19. Register and gather sponsorships now. YOU decide when and where you walk or run. It can be around your neighborhood, block, favorite walking trail, your back yard, wherever you wish to walk or run. Be creative!
  • Pick up your T-shirt at LCS headquarters at 2809 Baynard Blvd., St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church at 1301 N. Broom St. or at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1530 Foulk Rd.
  • Take pictures or video of your walk if you are able (wearing your T-shirts, of course) and send them to LCS by email
  • Join the Zoom celebration online at 4 p.m. September 19 to culminate the event

REGISTER NOW! Individuals, churches, teams, dogs — you name it! — can register and collect sponsors OR support someone who is fundraising. If you need help, contact Alex with any questions. All proceeds go to LCS food programs.

Today’s message: Paul’s instructions for Christians

Interim Pastor David Mueller

In today’s prerecorded worship service, Interim Pastor David Mueller explores Paul’s instructions to Christian believers and urges us to consider the implications for our lives and our community.

“Be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers.” Who of us would argue against any of that litany of goodness? Who would not want to be a member of a family like this?

Also participating in today’s service are John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, and Brian Schmidt, worship assistant. This week’s virtual choir includes Dave Herrmann, Allen and Myrna Kirk, John Lasher, David McClure, John Nichols, Cheryl Powell, Paige Stebner and Teresa Stebner.

Today’s prerecorded service may be the last as St. Mark’s aims to reopen on Sunday, Sept. 6, with the doors opening at 9:45 a.m. The service will also be streamed live online. More details to come. Be sure to check out the “reopening” video to see how things will work.

You can access today’s service below using the link to our YouTube channel. The text of Pastor Mueller’s sermon is also included here.

“What is the Point?” (Romans 12:9-21)
Interim Pastor David E. Mueller

I confess that Romans 12:9-21, today’s appointed second lesson, is one of my favorite sections in the Christian Scriptures. This is not because I believe myself to be an example of its fulfillment. It simply challenges me in a major way.

Leviticus 19 is known as “The Holiness Code” for the Hebrew people. It is a summary of sorts of the other 600 or so laws commanded in the Pentateuch. We would most likely agree with most of it with a few exceptions like: “Nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials,” or “You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you.” That tattoo prohibition would get a whole lot of folk in trouble now.

Romans 12:9-21 in a similar way summarizes expected behavior of Christian believers. It might be an interesting exercise for each of us to look over these prescriptions to see if there are any we think are outdated, incredibly difficult to perform, or not of interest to us. Let’s look together today, mindful that almost any passage herein is a sermon or a study on its own.

We pray: Lord God, gracious and merciful Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, empower us by the Holy Spirit to understand Your Word for us written by Your servant St. Paul, and by the same Spirit lead us to living out these precious instructions for Your faithful people. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

One of my three grandsons came to me about six years ago and asked me if I would pick his Confirmation verse. I recommended Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.” He liked it!

We begin with this verse. Sometimes, it is not possible; that must be said. There are many people in the world who do not want to live in peace and will not accept peace if offered to them. They seem to be so accustomed to violence or conflict that they do not know how to live without it. That is a real shame but it can be true in families, in communities, in countries, and most unfortunately in churches. The end of the verse stands, however, that there are no exceptions. If possible, live peaceably with ALL!

At the beginning of this portion of Romans, Paul writes: “Let love be genuine!” Here is “agape” again, unconditional love, which exists in the subject and requires nothing of the object. It is to exist in us authentically whether others accept it or not. It is impossible to fake agape. It is the love with which God loves us and the love we are expected to offer others, even if our expressions of it are less than perfect; only God’s love is without blemish.

It starts within the Christian community: “Love one another with mutual affection.” Here the word for love changes to “phileo,” familial love. Being in a relationship with each other of unconditional love allows familial love to develop. Just look at what also follows in a flowing and growing way: “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers.” Who of us would argue against any of that litany of goodness? Who would not want to be a member of a family like this?

There is still more. “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.” Like I said previously, there is a sermon or a truly lengthy study in each of these expressions. But guess what? None of it will work, certainly not without love but also not without discernment. I believe this may be more necessary these days than ever.

“Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” The Greek for devil is “diabolos,” meaning “deceiver.” Distinguishing between good and evil is difficult to say the least. Evil is sometimes obvious, but more often is masked, presenting itself as good, valuable, worthwhile, etc. One gets sucked in and in short order is captured with no escape. Is it any wonder that we are to pray: “Deliver us from evil?”

When one considers feeding, giving drink and expressing care toward enemies, which means by implication that helping friends is already happening, then the absence of these expressions toward friends and enemies alike is at best wrong and at worst evil! Do not repay evil for evil; it never helps! If we have discerned what is evil and hated it, and are holding fast, “cleaving” to good, that is, “what is noble in the sight of all,” then we are being God’s and not the devil’s servants.

One can take almost any modern invention or technological capacity and use it for the good of others and not just self; or, the same can be used for evil and the detriment of all. Social media is shown to be quite detrimental to teens who overuse it, and to adults who seek political truth and are led into all kinds of falsehoods and half-truths. We must learn as Christians to discern, to scrutinize from a Godly perspective what is good and true and what is evil and wrong.

We might just be served by looking at current reality and asking whether it is good or evil. It can be as simple as that! Is it good or evil that a black man was shot in the back seven times by the police? Are almost 180,000 deaths due to COVID good or evil? Is political division filled with animus good or evil? Is a major evangelical figure preaching family values and living opposite good or evil? The litany could continue ad infinitum. Ask the question of issues concerning you.

At the same time, ask of yourselves: are we rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep? The matter invites intimacy and genuine empathy. Are you overcome by evil or overcoming evil with good? The reason I appreciate this section of Scripture is — as stated — not because I am good at it but am challenged by it. I am challenged by this biblical assessment and not some other.

Peter, in the Gospel for today, took physical as well as spiritual issue with Jesus having to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Ironically, this is immediately after Peter gave his simple confession that Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Interestingly, we have learned long ago to refer to the day on which the suffering and dying took place as “Good” and not “Evil” Friday. Let that sink in.

A hymn which comes to mind, a favorite of mine, is “Lift High the Cross, the Love of Christ Proclaim.” It was written in England by George Kitchin in 1887, but was not published in America until 1974. At first wash, we, like Peter, may have resistance about Jesus having to suffer and die. What a way for God to go! Yet it is the love of Christ that is proclaimed on it.

The Cross of Christ is both what covers our sins of falling short of God’s glory and motivates us to faithfully live into Scriptural mandates to love and care ourselves. In this, Christ’s suffering and death is good and not evil.

As in any era, we Christians have some significant discerning to do!

Amen.

Midweek Extra: Finding joy and making reparations

Interim Pastor David Mueller

Where’s the joy when we’ve got a virus?

Where’s the joy when we’ve got storm troopers in Oregon?

Where’s the joy when we have such animus between various peoples in our own country?

Where’s the joy when we have economic concerns about how we’re going to manage economically and financially?

Where’s the joy?

Interim Pastor David Mueller attends to that subject in today’s Midweek Extra, an informal video discussion of questions sent to him and his thoughts on assorted issues of the day.

He also discusses making reparations for slavery and other injustices.

Have your own questions for Pastor Mueller? Send them to the church office for future consideration.

Thanks to John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, for producing these videos.

 

 

March and Rally for Justice

Synod leaders marching in Washington D.C. with a banner that reads 'Racism is a sin.'

Bishop William Gohl of our Delaware-Maryland Synod ELCA and others in our family of faith plan to participate in the March and Rally for Justice in Wilmington on Friday evening.

The event starts at 6 p.m. at Tubman Garrett Riverfront Park, 80 Rosa Parks Drive.

If you participate, look for the Synod’s banners and wear a mask.

Ash Wednesday

Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return

Please join us for a special Ash Wednesday worship service as the Lenten season begins. Pastor David Mueller will be preaching.

We will meet for worship every Wednesday throughout Lent.

Service of Lessons & Carols

Christmas star

Gather with us at 10 a.m. Sunday as we join our neighbors at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant for a joint Service of Lessons and Carols.

Savor the readings, the special music and the fellowship we have in Christ.

PCOC is at 503 Duncan Road, Wilmington 19809.