Midweek Extra: The Rev. Clarence Pettit

The Rev. Clarence Pettit

The Rev. Clarence Pettit of Unity Lutheran Church in Wilmington joined Interim Pastor David Mueller for another Midweek Extra discussion of race.

He talked about protests, about the January 6 riot at the Capitol building in Washington D.C. and about changes needed in the church and society to make good on the principle that “all are created equal.”

Pastor Mueller chose to begin this video with Pastor Pettit asking the questions, rather than the other way around.

Here’s a link to the conversation:

 

 

A Christmas meditation

Stylized star of Bethlehem

Interim Pastor David Mueller shared a four-part meditation on Christmas Eve. We include the text here and a link (below) to the archived service on our YouTube channel. Our worship, led by John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, included a chime choir and guest violinist Maria Rusu.

Christmas Eve 2020

Interim Pastor David Mueller

PART I: JOSEPH

In Matthew’s report, I would like to focus on Joseph. The predicament he was in was hardly simple and easily dealt with. Especially back then, the appearance of an unmarried young woman carrying a child would have been more than a disaster. The shame and shunning would have been severe.

Mary came to Joseph and reported that she was pregnant and the Father was God. She claimed that the Holy Spirit impregnated her. We cannot be sure that Joseph would have understood that because the Holy Spirit’s advent would not come until Pentecost over three decades later. Perhaps this was a special appearance. Joseph’s first impression had to be “Yeah, right!”

We are told, however, that he was a “righteous man.” We learn here he was also a sensitive and compassionate man, for he had no designs on embarrassing or disgracing her or himself. His design was to resolve his dilemma privately. We can call Joseph not only righteous but honorable.

Enter a messenger from God, which is what the word “angelos” means. The angel shared past prophesy and present purpose in a dream leading Joseph to do what was righteous and honorable in the extreme by sticking with Mary.

It is important to be righteous and honorable, which does not presume perfection and without sin. It is equally important to believe in angels, one of whom you could experience one day.

PART II: MARY

“In those days Mary set out ….” (Luke 1:39). “In those days, a decree went out ….” Joseph went with the pregnant Mary. Their political pilgrimage took them over 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We are not offered a time frame here, knowing only that they made it just in time, for upon arrival her baby was born. Please understand that there were no hotels, motels, or Air B&Bs in those days. Many houses had a niche in the back on the ground floor with a roof over it as a place for animals at night. Bethlehem is over 2,800 feet above sea level and got quite cool — even cold — at night.

A great deal, all of it positive, was to be said about Mary, this early teenager, now married to a man most likely in his late 20s or early 30s, which was typical back then. None of these accolades means she was perfect. What stands out to me, having made the same trip any number of times in a car, is how tough and resilient this young woman must have been. The pregnancy was difficult in a contextual way. The trip was grueling to say the least. At the end of the journey, she was not rushed to delivery and then given a comfortable bed in maternity with the nursery right next door.

When Mary began this saga, she was visited by an angel, this time named “Gabriel.” “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you … Do not be afraid.” Gabriel went on to share the holiest of Holy Spirit activity, being told that “The power of the Most High” would overshadow her and she would give birth to the “Son of God.”

It is a very good thing that God was with her to empower her because she would need every ounce of God-given strength, courage and, yes, resilience.

To be favored by God is often not easy. It is a very good thing that this favored one came quickly to believe in angels.

PART III: SHEPHERDS

Speaking of angels, A WHOLE HOST appeared to some number of shepherds — of all people — making all kinds of heavenly racket with heavenly light shining bright enough to make it seem like day. These guys in this humble duty might typically get to see a wolf or two or some other beast of prey from which they needed to protect the sheep. It was usually a quiet and possibly boring a task. Not on this night! Boom! Heaven opened up to be witnessed not by the upper crust but to shepherds. We should not be surprised by this for, indeed, the One born would grow up to proclaim himself among other things as “The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep.”

It was a good thing that prior to the throng of angels making themselves seen, heard and known, just one appeared first to soften the shock. The Angel spoke those incredibly inviting words, spoken previously also to Joseph and Mary: “Do not be afraid!” The angel then shared: “I have GOOD NEWS of great joy not only for you and all people; you are getting not just any savior but the Messiah!”

It is a very good thing that these shepherds came to believe in angels. It was an even better thing that immediately following their encounter with the majestic they said to one another “let us go … and see.” And after seeing they were given to “glorifying and praising God.”Going to praise and share the news is our privilege as well.

Take the angels out of the carols we usually sing — but cannot this year — and we get musical Swiss cheese, with holes one could drive a herd of sheep through. That said, heavenly racket is one thing and blasting out the carols is another, but especially now what we long for is a little light and a quiet night. Nothing else we traditionally do on Christ’s Mass is more precious than to dim the artificial, light the candles and quietly sing “Silent Night.” We will do our best with that in a few. If even in an unusual way, we failed to give this a try, something quite essential would be missing. At a time in history where heavenly racket seems strangely absent but the volume of hellish racket has been turned up, do enjoy, indeed, rejoice in the relative quiet and peace!

PART IV: THE WORLD

The Gospel of John is absent the characters of Matthew and Luke. There is this cosmic beam of light that invades darkness, along with love that invades hate, and life that invades death.

Those then and now who see and welcome the light are “given power to become children of God, born not of blood, the will of flesh, or the will of humanity, but of God.”

Jesus here is not “the babe” but the “Word” (logos in Greek, THE word), who “became flesh and lived among us … full of grace and truth.”

On this Christ’s Mass Eve, I pray for each and all of you to be full of gratia and alaethea, grace and truth. Beware, however, for in Matthew 24:23/24 we read:

“Then if anyone says to you, ’Look! Here is the Messiah’ or ‘There he is!’ — do not believe it for false messiahs and false prophets will appear …  to lead astray even the elect.”

In faith and with joy, we need to avoid the “pseudochristoi” (false Christs) and celebrate the aleatheachristoi (true Christ). May it be so with all of you!

May you know the peace and the power of God in the presence of His Son, God’s personal Word.

Amen.

Link to the service:

 

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: With Bishop William Gohl

Bishop William Gohl of our Delaware-Maryland Synod

We were delighted to welcome Bishop William Gohl Jr. of our Delaware-Maryland Synod to our worship services on Sunday, December 13.

After the service, Bishop Gohl sat down with Interim Pastor David Mueller to tape a conversation for the Midweek Extra, which is produced by John Lasher, St. Mark’s director of music and worship arts, and then posted on our YouTube channel.

Bishop Gohl and Pastor Mueller discussed the role of a bishop in our denomination — the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — and how it compares to a bishop in the Episcopal or Roman Catholic church.

They also discussed the “call” process, which St. Mark’s is pursuing now as we look for a new pastor,  and how the church can grow and minister into the future.

Here’s a bit about Bishop Gohl, according to his profile on the Delaware-Maryland Synod website:

Bishop Gohl was elected bishop at the 2016 Synod Assembly. At the time of his election, he was pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church and intern supervisor/vice pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, both in Baltimore. Before that, he served at Peace Lutheran Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland, in vice pastorates at Our Saviour, Lansdowne, Maryland; Zion, City Hall Plaza; Faith, North Avenue and assisted at All Saints, Loch Raven, and Peoples Community in Baltimore.

He attended Gettysburg College, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1996, and earned his master’s at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2000. He is now between a master of sacred theology (STM) and doctor of ministry (DMin) at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Bill is married to the Rev. Arwyn Pierce Gohl and they have four children, Saliese, David, Andrew and Joyanne.

The Gohls make their home in the northeast corner of Baltimore City and enjoy time with their families; the Gohl side in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania (by way of Long Island, where the bishop grew up) and the Pierce side in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

Here’s a link to the Midweek Extra on our YouTube channel:

Other videos related to this conversation (as provided by John Lasher) are listed below:

Clarence Pettit
Lutheran Campus Ministry
ELCA World Hunger 
The Interim Process
Service video from Sunday, Dec. 20 (Gospel reading)
Camp Mar Lu Ridge YouTube Channel

Bishop William Gohl to visit St. Mark’s

Bishop William Gohl

St. Mark’s welcomes Bishop William “Bill” Gohl Jr. to our worship service on Sunday, December 13!

The 10 a.m. Sunday service will be livestreamed on our YouTube channel. The link is below. (Have you subscribed yet?) And Bishop Gohl also will be featured on Interim Pastor David Mueller’s “Midweek Extra” later this week.

Here’s a bit about him, according to his profile on the website of our synod, the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the ELCA:

Bishop Gohl was elected bishop at the 2016 Synod Assembly. At the time of his election, he was pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church and intern supervisor/vice pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, both in Baltimore. Before that, he served at Peace Lutheran Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland, in vice pastorates at Our Saviour, Lansdowne, Maryland; Zion, City Hall Plaza; Faith, North Avenue and assisted at All Saints, Loch Raven, and Peoples Community in Baltimore.

He attended Gettysburg College, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1996, and earned his master’s at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2000. He is now between a master of sacred theology (STM) and doctor of ministry (DMin) at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Bill is married to the Rev. Arwyn Pierce Gohl and they have four children, Saliese, David, Andrew and Joyanne.

The Gohls make their home in the northeast corner of Baltimore City and enjoy time with their families; the Gohl side in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania (by way of Long Island, where the bishop grew up) and the Pierce side in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

Join us for worship in the sanctuary or by way of our YouTube channel, where the service will be livestreamed and available for viewing later, too. Here’s the link:

Pastor Mueller’s Message: ‘Are We Serious?’

Washing machine

If you had a disgustingly grimy rag and someone else had one that wasn’t quite as grimy — does that comparison really matter if both come out of the washing machine as white as snow? Interim Pastor David Mueller challenged us to reconsider our tendency toward “justification by comparison” in his sermon on Sunday, November 29.

Pastor Mueller is providing the text of his sermon again and plans to continue doing so for those who appreciate the written format during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic..

The link to our service video on our YouTube channel is below, followed by the text of the sermon.

We thank all who contribute to our ability to worship together — whether online or in our sanctuary — and are especially grateful for the leadership of Pastor Mueller and John Lasher, our director of music and worship arts, who makes these videos possible.

 

 

“Are We Serious?” (Isaiah 64:1-9)
Interim Pastor David E. Mueller

I have opted during Advent to preach based on Isaiah. Isaiah was evidently the favorite prophet of Jesus, because He quoted Isaiah most frequently. Obviously, this is a look back, when Advent invites us to look forward. True prophesy, however, always looks back, at the present and then on to the future. In any event, “Rise and Shine,” for your redemption draws nigh! (PRAYER)

At the risk of repeating myself, a growing liability of people — including preachers my age — I find reading nearly all the Hebrew Scriptures a study of contrasts.

On the one hand we have the rather constant intransigence of the Hebrews, the stubbornness, the sins. On the other hand, we have the constant love and care of God toward his chosen people. They may not have been good at keeping their covenant promises, but God is perfect at keeping his.

God chastised them for sure. Jeremiah the Prophet reminds us, however, “’For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to save you; I will make an end of all the nations among which I scattered you, but of you I will not make an end. I will chastise you in just measure and I will by no means leave you unpunished.’” (30: 11).

We read a similar statement in the Christian letter to the Hebrews (12:5b & 6): “My child, do not regard lightly the disciplines of the Lord or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.”

When God is chastising, we do not need to feel ourselves unloved. One cannot help but wonder whether or not the whole world is being chastised right now. This, however, is a part of why I trust the Scriptures. No people writing about themselves have been as hard on themselves as were the Hebrews. In most instances, nations writing their history are much kinder and tend to overlook or cover up the nasty stuff. God, while loving, can be plenty hard on those he loves.

Often in the Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Psalms, God’s majesty and magnificence is lifted up in praise. Here in Isaiah 64, God’s might and power is accentuated. God “tears open the heavens,” and “mountains quake” and there is “fire,” and “awesome deeds.” All this is directed toward God’s adversaries.

It is here that many of my questions about God arise and cause me grief.

“Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” So just where were you, Lord, when the Christian Church embarrassed and misrepresented you in five Crusades? What about the Spanish Inquisition? There your chastisement on the Church surely would have helped and saved lives! How about the Holocaust? Six million of your chosen were murdered in some form, along with four million others. Could you not have torn the heavens opened and come down to help? And right now, besides the virus, why do you allow such political nonsense to go on? By the way, I have some folk I would like you to smite wiping them off the face of the earth. If only I was God!

Not only is none of us a god, but on our behalf as well, Isaiah proclaims. “You meet those who gladly do what is right, those who remember you in your ways.” Is that us? Hardly! “But you were angry and we sinned … we have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.” Do you believe this castigation? Who us? We are the good people. We attend worship, support the church, feed the poor, pay taxes. Are we the ones to take the hits?

The Reformation mantra was “Justification by faith” and we Lutheran Christians and others still lift up the banner of those words and the theology behind them. But we are so quick — and I will not exclude myself — to practice “justification by comparison.” We are of this political persuasion and not like those jerks on the other side. We are better than them! We do not rob banks, cheat on our taxes, mistreat our spouses, abuse our children, neglect elderly adults, curse, swear, lie and use witchcraft. Lord, smite the others and spare us any further inconvenience or pain. Thank you very much.

Sorry, it does not work that way.

I gave a children’s sermon decades ago, held up an oily rag, and asked the kids how much they thought I paid for it. After a number of guesses, I told them “a million dollars.” One kids cried out: “Boy, did you get ripped off.” But if you had a disgustingly grimy rag, someone else had one with far fewer spots on it, you both put them in the wash and they came out white as snow, what good would any further comparison be? Hold on to that notion for a few moments.

“There is no one who calls upon your name or attempts to take hold of you.” No one! “For you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.”

Is COVID-19 God’s chastisement on us and the whole world? Did God cause the deplorable condition and division in American politics? Has God removed himself and left us to contend with present reality on our own? Perhaps! In any event, now is for certain a time for genuine humility and the absolute death of any pride remaining in us!

With Isaiah, our prayer must be: “Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember our iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.” Note: “we are all your people.” Yep! God loves all those others, too. You know, the ones I and perhaps you would have God smite!

But Lord, where are you? Will you tear open the heavens and come down? God already has!

Instead of coming in power, God came in peace as the Prince of Peace. Rather than come as a punisher, he came as the Redeemer. Rather than come as a victor, he came as a victim to be with us in our suffering, our wondering, our confusion, even our all too often misplaced anger and especially in our deaths.

He came as “God with us (Immanuel),” for us and not against us. He came not to kill but to die! He is coming again! I hope we can rise, shine and anticipate with great and abundant joy! Are we serious yet?

Oh, by the way, in the meantime why not pray and work for allowing the oily rags of everyone we can find to be washed in the blood of the Savior and be made white as snow?

Amen.

Midweek Extra: With the Very Rev. Bill Lane

Interim Pastor David Mueller and the Very Rev. Bill Lane

In this segment of the Midweek Extra, Interim Pastor David Mueller is joined by the Very Rev. Bill Lane, rector priest at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Newark and pastoral associate at Christ Church Christiana Hundred.

Rev. Lane has been a priest for more than 50 years. He came to Delaware in 1975, assuming responsibilities as vicar of St. Nicholas Church in Newark and coordinator of Christian Education for the Episcopal Church in Delaware. Eleven years later, he joined the clergy staff of Christ Church and remained there until 1997 when he became dean of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

After retiring in 2006, he and his wife, Beverly, returned to Delaware, where he has served at Ascension Church in Claymont, the Cathedral Church of St. John, Sts. Andrew & Matthew, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Middletown and Christ Church.

The two pastors discuss the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from a political and religious perspective.

Here are two links related to this conversation: A book recommended during the discussion — “The Other Side of the Wall” by Munther Isaac — and Pastor Mueller’s chat with Rabbi Peter Grumbacher.

Here’s a link to this conversation on our YouTube channel is below.

Midweek Extra: With Chaplain Stephen Dutton

Interim Pastor David Mueller and Chaplain Stephen Dutton

In this Midweek Extra, recorded on November 17, Interim Pastor David Mueller talks with Stephen Dutton, manager of pastoral services for Christiana Care Health System.

They discuss the pastoral services program, its history and how hospital chaplaincy has had to change during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

You can watch the interview on our YouTube channel at the link below. (And if you haven’t subscribed to that yet, please do!)

Midweek Extra: With PCOC’s Kathryn Morgan

Interim pastors Kathryn Morgan and David Mueller
In the Midweek Extra for November 11, Interim Pastor David Mueller was joined by the Rev. Kathryn Morgan, interim pastor at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, our next-door neighbor.
Rev. Morgan grew up in Pitman, N.J., and attended First Presbyterian Church of Pitman. She and her husband, David Wible, live there now.
She and Pastor Mueller discuss how church has changed — for better and for worse — this year, plans for Advent season activities and opportunities for continued church collaboration, even with churches many miles away discovered because of the lockdowns.
Here’s a link to the video on our YouTube channel: