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.

Midweek Extra: Chaplain Mindy Holland of Lutheran Campus Ministries

Chaplain Mindy Holland and Interim Pastor David Mueller

In today’s edition of the Midweek Extra, Interim Pastor David Mueller talks with special guest Mindy Holland, chaplain of Lutheran Campus Ministries at the University of Delaware, one of St. Mark’s ministry partners.

Chaplain Holland talks about her background in the ministry, how campus ministry connects with students’ lives and how things have changed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Students want to engage deeply with Scripture and to engage deeply with complex questions,” she said. “… They want to look at the hard stuff and say how does this relate to me and how do I then turn it around so it can bless others? It’s a rich gift to be with them as they engage these new questions.”

If you have questions you’d like Pastor Mueller to address in future weeks, feel free to call the church office or send an email.

John Lasher’s guide to St. Mark’s new ‘livestream’ worship option

St. Mark's sanctuary

If you have shared in our prerecorded worship services, you have seen the technical prowess of John Lasher at work. John, who is the music and worship arts director at St. Mark’s, and Interim Pastor David Mueller, along with our Leadership Council, Worship Committee and many others, all have worked hard to keep our connections alive during the long separation made necessary by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A few weeks ago, John produced a video explaining the new procedures that will be in place for those who return to in-person worship in the sanctuary,

Now, he has information about how things will change for those who worship online and how to access our first “livestreamed” service, which begins at 9:55 a.m. on Sunday, September 6.

St. Mark’s is going live!

John Lasher, director of music and worship arts

 

John Lasher at the piano
While we were unable to meet in our sanctuary because of the coronavirus pandemic, John Lasher, director of music and worship arts at St. Mark’s, planned and performed music and produced the prerecorded worship service videos that helped us stay connected.

Sunday, September 6 is the day St. Mark’s will reopen the church building in a limited capacity to resume worshipping together in person. This will also change how our services are presented online, since they will no longer be prerecorded, but streamed live, in real time.

The link to our live stream will remain the same from week to week. This link — which you can easily find on the homepage of our website — will be used for Sunday services, Christmas Eve and other special services and possibly other events such as weddings or memorial services which take place in our sanctuary (though these latter two will depend on the wishes of the families). We are also tentatively planning a few special live episodes of our Midweek Extra series , which will also be streamed over this same link.

If you happen to visit the link at a time when we’re not streaming, you will either be directed to our YouTube channel page or to a livestream “placeholder” page with suggestions for other videos you may wish to watch (the top suggestion will be one of our most recent videos).

Our Sunday services will always be at the same time (10 a.m. initially, then back to 9 & 11 once things get back to normal), and any other livestream events will be announced well in advance, so you will know when to “tune in.” We will typically take the stream “live” with background music about five minutes before a service/event begins.

Our live streams will be archived on our YouTube channel, so those who are otherwise occupied during the 10 o’clock hour may still view the services later, as they have with the prerecorded services.

Printed copies of the sermons will still be distributed to those without internet access and DVD copies of the service videos are still available to these same members. Once we begin streaming live the DVDs will not be available until sometime after the service ends on Sunday.

In addition to allowing our own members to attend our services online, when unable to do so in person, live streaming is a wonderful means of outreach. Those in our community who may be unable to attend services in person for one reason or another can view our services online (live or archived), and newcomers to the area who may be seeking a new church family may choose to “look in” on St. Mark’s.

We hope you will join us for these live services, and look forward to the outreach potential afforded by this new ministry tool.

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.

Today’s message: ‘Who do you say that I am?’

The Rev. Barbara Melosh

There is much to love about our prerecorded worship service today, including a guest message from the Rev. Barbara Melosh, a visit with Interim Pastor David Mueller’s menagerie, wonderful music and Scriptures.

We also have important news about our reopening day (September 6!) and a new video — starring our own Teresa Stebner and Nancy Wilkerson and produced by John Lasher, director of music and worship arts — that demonstrates the procedures that will be in place to protect the safety of all.

Also participating in today’s service are Beth Miller, worship assistant, this week’s virtual choir — Dave Herrmann, Allen and Myrna Kirk, John Lasher, David McClure, John Nichols, Cheryl Powell and Teresa Stebner — and soloist Arden Shindel.

Our guest speaker, the Rev. Barbara Melosh, is a second-career pastor, ordained in 2005 after a teaching career (English and history) spent mostly at George Mason University. Her first call was to a small church in Baltimore city, a story told in her 2018 book “Loving and Leaving a Church: A Pastor’s Journey.”

Since her retirement in 2014 she has served as interim pastor at Grace in Hockessin, St. Stephen’s in Wilmington and Hope in New Castle. She is dean of the Delaware-Maryland Synod’s Delmarva North and Delmarva South conferences, convening colleagues for Bible study, shared ministry and mutual support.

You can access the prerecorded worship service on our YouTube channel through the link here and find the text of Pastor Melosh’s message below, too.

“Who do you say that I am?”

The Rev. Barbara Melosh

 

This question marks a turning point in the gospel of Matthew, and in the life of Jesus. It’s spoken as Jesus’ ministry is growing at a phenomenal rate—from a few people gathered from almost accidental encounters, called from their boats or, in the case of Matthew, called from their jobs as tax collectors, and now spreading like wildfire, with huge crowds that are following Jesus everywhere.

The carpenter from Nazareth has become the miracle worker of Galilee. He’s hosted a picnic for more than 5,000, out of just a few loaves and fishes, and a few days later, a replay — feeding 4,000 men, plus women and children.

Everybody’s talking about him, and Jesus turns to his disciples to check out the buzz.

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

The disciples give their briefing. “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

So they report that some see Jesus as part of a rogue movement, those followers of the strange wilderness prophet John the Baptist. Others place him in the long line of God’s prophets known in Hebrew scripture, from Elijah to Jeremiah.

Jesus goes on, “But who do you say that I am?”

And then Peter takes a breathtaking leap. Others have called him a prophet, many have called him “Lord” — a title of honor, used for God but also for people in positions of power. But for the first time, Peter calls him Messiah — the anointed one, the long-awaited savior foretold in Hebrew scripture. “Messiah” is a Hebrew word, and in Greek that word is “Christos” — Christ. And “Son of the living God.”

A bold proclamation, pronounced defiantly at a site that the gospel’s first hearers would have recognized. The story takes place at Caesarea Philippi, located 20-some miles from the sea of Galilee, part of the foothills of Mount Hermon. It contains a massive rock face that is still there today.Hermon Springs

That rock face held religious and political significance. It had been a place for the worship of the ancient god Ba’al, god of the storm. Then it was a place sacred to the worship of Pan, the Greek god of wildness, woods, and sexuality. And then, in the time of Jesus, the site had become a monument to the conquest of the region by Rome. Herod built a temple there to Caesar — and so for Jews, this site was a bitter reminder of of the triumph of Roman power.

Peter called Jesus “Son of the living God.” That was treason. “Son of God” was a title reserved for the emperor, wielding power by divine right.

“Messiah, Son of God.” Those same words got Jesus killed. Religious leaders brought him to trial. At the turning point, the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “ ‘You have said so. But I tell you from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Matt 26:64)

That answer sent him to the cross.

Right after Peter calls him “Messiah, son of the living God,” Jesus tells the disciples, for the first time, what will happen to him. That he will suffer, be killed and rise again.

“Who do you say that I am?”

In Jesus’ own day, there were many answers to that question. His disciples called him Teacher, Rabbi. His opponents called him a blasphemer, a heretic. His critics called him a glutton and a drunkard.

“Who do you say that I am?”

Christians have had many answers to that question.

    • Prince of Peace; for some Christians to be a Christian is to be a pacifist, standing in opposition to all wars.
    • Mother — maybe you never thought of that one, but there is a medieval saint whose ecstatic visions of Jesus revealed him as a nursing mother, milk coming from his breasts.
    • Good Shepherd, the one who cares for his sheep and will stop at nothing to find the one who is lost.
    • Defender of the weak, advocate for the most vulnerable.
    • Liberator, come to set us free.
    • Healer of our every ill.
    • Mighty Counselor.
    • Judge of the nations.
    • Ethical teacher and example.
    • Comforter.
    • Lover.
    • Friend.

“Who do you say that I am?”

It’s a question that takes us to our foundation. For three centuries, Christians struggled and fought and sometimes killed one another to work out an answer they could agree on and that’s what the creeds are — the church’s effort to say who Jesus is, and how Jesus can be God for people who worship one God, not three; but one God who IS three.

Before the creeds we use got written, early Christians used a shorter one in their worship. “Who do you say that I am?” Their answer was the three-word creed, “Jesus is Lord.”

Jesus is Lord. It’s still a good answer. Jesus is Lord, calling us to turn away from all our own false gods — money, success, power, security, self-improvement, even religion itself. Not Donald Trump. Not Joe Biden. Not even Anthony Fauci!

“Who do you say that I am?”

Over the centuries there have been many answers to that question, just as there are today. But Peter’s answer gets down to solid rock. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” The Messiah, the anointed one, the Christ. “Son of the living God”—not the gods of pagan worship, not the idols of our own day, not a God who made the world and then left us to work out the mess we’ve made of it; but the Son of the living God.

Where is that God at work in this time of pandemic, when we are separated from one another; worn thin with pandemic protocols; frustrated and angry and fearful about what is happening to our country?

That God meets us at the cross. The place where we come face to face with who we are — and who God is. The place we come to when we get all the way down to rock bottom, to stand again on solid rock.

Thanks be to God.

Midweek Extra: The Rev. Clarence Pettit

The Rev. Clarence Pettit and Interim Pastor David Mueller

Interim Pastor David Mueller welcomes a special guest to this week’s Midweek Extra — the Rev. Clarence Pettit, pastor of Unity Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

Pastor Pettit has served in the ministry for more than 47 years. Before coming to Wilmington, he served the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Seattle, Washington, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

He has been active in religious and social service organizations in Delaware and recently served on the Delaware Maryland Synod Council.

He and Pastor Mueller are friends and in today’s video, they discuss church growth, race relations and what it takes to be a good pastor.

 

Today’s message: ‘God’s beautiful tenacity’

Rose blooming on a wire fence

When everything seems shaky, it is good to remember the steadfast love of the Lord — and that is the message Interim Pastor David Mueller brings today in our prerecorded worship service.

Join us for this sermon, Scripture readings, prayers and special music during this time of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Our building remains closed for a while longer, but our ministries and worship continue.

In addition to Pastor Mueller, the service is led by John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, and Jeannine Herrmann, worship assistant. Also participating is this week’s virtual choir, including: Dave Herrmann, Allen Kirk, Myrna Kirk, John Lasher, David McClure, John Nichols, Cheryl Powell and Teresa Stebner.

The service also features a solo by John Lasher, singing a new setting of the Lord’s Prayer that he composed.

You can access our prerecorded service using the YouTube link below. The text of Pastor Mueller’s message is also available below.

 

“God’s Beautiful Tenacity!” (Romans 10:1-2a, 29-32)

Interim Pastor David E. Mueller

In the midst of any personal difficulties or needs of any kind as well as in the midst of difficulties or needs we are all experiencing, it is essential that we hold tight to the promises of God. We must acknowledge and learn to appreciate that God will fulfill his promises in his own way and at his own time. God is our Heavenly Father.

“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:9-11)

The relationship which has been established between God and a person or persons allows us to trust God, to believe God has our best interests in mind and heart, and will in his time and way, act. Try to relax and be patient.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust him, and he will act…. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:5 & 7a) As shared a few weeks ago, when speaking of prayer, based on Romans 8, we read in verse 28: “We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God….”

It may take a good while, but the good will come. In the meantime, don’t stop loving God!

A word that has significance in both Testaments is “covenant.” There is the “Noatic” covenant in which God promised never again to destroy the earth with a flood. There is the “Abramic” covenant in which God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations. There is the “Davidic” covenant and others, each having God’s assurance of one promise or another.

In our Baptisms, God calls us by name, makes us his own in Jesus Christ and promises never to leave nor to forsake us. Baptism is such a wonderfully simple act with the basic substance of water and the spiritual promise of God’s Word. It is a sad reality that so many of the Baptized forget or forsake that rebirth.

Let’s pray: Lord, renew us in our appreciation of and belief in your promises, sealed in the blood of Jesus, serviced in the power of the Holy Spirit. Forgive us for in any way treating lightly or casually this eternal hope. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

On what basis are you a Christian? Hopefully we all know it is not on the basis of our imperfect behavior. Hopefully we all celebrate that becoming and remaining a Christian is purely on account of God’s amazing grace. Hopefully deep within our hearts, we have faith — that is, confidence —in God precisely because of Jesus.

On what basis was an Israelite an Israelite? Did a bunch of tribal people out of the blue in the desert one day decide to call upon God to save them? Hardly! God decided to call them and mold them into His chosen people, as resistant, hesitant and intransigent as they tended to be all along the way. The “covenant” was sealed for the male children in the act of circumcision. The male children were only 8 days old, not quite yet of an age of personal decision. God decided!

Somewhere along the line, did God decide to forsake his promises to the Israelites, later, the Jews? Had God finally had it with them, after sending prophet after prophet and blessing after blessing? Perhaps it was not until most of them rejected Jesus as the Messiah? Unbelievably, there are those who count the Holocaust as punishment for killing the Christ. Articulating this nauseates me.

The point is that we human beings — Jews and Gentiles alike — forsake our part of the covenant God has in some form or another made with us, but God never forsakes his part. If God does, we are all in very deep trouble.

Romans 11:29: “FOR THE GIFTS AND THE CALL OF GOD ARE IRREVOCABLE.”

Earlier, before writing this incredible statement, Paul about his Israelite family wrote this: “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” (11:2)

If God is given to breaking promises, what do we have left in our relationship with God? If God had finally had it with the Jews for whatever reason, what is to keep God from forsaking us when we so consistently fail in doing our part?

When I read the Hebrew Scriptures, I am invariably struck by the vivid contrast between the unfaithful behavior of the Jews and the constant grace of God.

Listen to Isaiah (63:7): “I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”

Listen to David the Psalmist (92:1-2): “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing your praises, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night.” There are dozens of Psalm verses which say the same.

Listen to Jeremiah in Lamentations, a book seldom quoted (3:22): “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.”

In Romans 11:30-31, Paul makes a fascinating claim, namely, that the disobedience of the Jews occasions the broadening of God’s mercy to include us. It is as if to say that had the Jews done their righteous and obedient part, we might not have gained access to God’s grace, mercy and love.

Anyone, however, Jew or Gentile, then or now or in between, who takes God’s grace and twists, abuses or uses it as an excuse to behave as we please has not known the depth, breadth and height of God’s grace to begin with. Just because God is as God is, that is, tenacious in his love of humanity, does not give humanity an excuse to hate, hurt and harm others because we will be forgiven anyway.

At the same time, when we fail and fall short of God’s glory, what we trust is not our capacity to make amends, but God’s promise to forgive in Christ. In my ministry, there have been times when the only resource I had was God’s grace toward me and toward whoever I was ministering to, especially in the midst of great tragedy or grievous sin. God is so gracious, tenacious, loving, merciful and good that what we can and must do is depend upon God and rejoice in His Name.

Especially in our day, there remains a profound issue which is extremely important to me: the condition and fate of the Palestinian people. Just as Paul did not trade hates when he became a Christian, so also I need not cross borders and take a side as I have become committed to justice for the Palestinian people. Technically, the Delaware Churches for

Signpost in Israel

Middle Eastern Peace and its national counterpart, stand as neutral in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I participate in and support that organization.

There are all sorts and kinds of tensions and conflicts the world over, at least 40 skirmishes going on at any given time. Some are relatively minor, others are major and deadly. None is seemingly as complex and significant as in Israel.

It tends to be that as things go in the Middle East, so goes the world. I have often said that when someone in Israel/Palestine eats garlic, the world burps. It is a geopolitical nightmare, for which there is no easy solution.

I once heard in a national Jewish-Christian conference from a Jewish scholar and rabbi that if Jews, here and over there, disagree, sometimes profoundly, about the policies of the government of Israel, we Americans and others are free to disagree as well. It would be difficult to avoid calling Israeli policies toward the Palestinian people as anything other than oppressive. While I have political concerns herein, there is an even greater issue for me.

The Christian population between 1948 and the establishment of the modern state of Israel and the present has nose-dived from 17% to less than 1%. I genuinely and passionately believe that there must remain as strong a Christian witness there as anywhere else on earth.

Mrs. Mueller and I have two goddaughters there, who with their parents are Arab Israelis, that is, Arab citizens in the Jewish State. They matter to us as do other Palestinians we know and care about, even as we know and care about Jews there as well.

I could go on and on about this, but allow me to finish by suggesting that a resolution to this problem is as “God-sized” an issue as any other on earth. If you believe that, then please with me remember the Jews and Palestinians in your prayers, pay attention to our own American political positions toward peace there, and allow the Lord to use you in whatever way as agents of peace. That is, I so very strongly believe, as Jesus would have it. Amen.