Join us for an outdoor St. Mark’s hymn sing!

John Lasher's portable keyboard and a hymn book. Photo by John Lasher

UPDATE: Because of rain this morning, John Lasher has postponed this. We will try again on Sunday, April 18.

Music will always be a big part of life at St. Mark’s. We love the time-honored hymns of our faith, we love the choruses and the new music our worship band brings. We love our choirs, our special vocalists and our concerts. We just love to worship our Lord with song!

The pandemic punched a hole in a lot of our singing over the past year, but all was not lost. John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, and the Worship & Music Committee have worked hard to provide music each week that was both meaningful and accessible. Our faithful “virtual choir” and other musicians led us in worship and many of us sang along with gusto at home as we participated by way of YouTube.

Sunday we get to sing together again as St. Mark’s hosts an outdoor hymn sing, starting at 1 p.m. in the parking lot.

This will be good medicine for all of us and you’ll be part of something that has been part of our Christian tradition for centuries.

“There are hundreds of Bible verses about singing,” said John Lasher, who has a degree in music composition from Cairn University. “We are commanded in Psalm 98, ‘Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!'”

God loves the praises of his people! And he deserves to hear them!

“One thing the Protestant Reformation accomplished was the re-establishment of congregational singing as a central part of Christian worship, after it had been banned in the Catholic church,” John said. “Our denomination’s namesake, Martin Luther, wrote many hymns himself. We are even told in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn at the Last Supper. So, outside and socially distanced, we will once again engage in this vital form of worship.”

John has prepared a booklet with the songs we will sing. Almost 40 hymns were requested — too many to fit into this one event — so John says there may be a sequel! All hymns requested by more than one person have been included in the booklet.

You’re welcome to sing in your car or sit outside (bring a chair, if you want one).

If the weather gets cranky, we’ll move it back a week.

We hope you’ll join in! We think you’ll be glad you did!

Holy Week at St. Mark’s

Image of palm frond by Gini George from Pixabay

There are many opportunities to prepare our hearts as we approach Easter and the commemoration of our Lord’s death and resurrection. We hope you’ll join us this week. All in-person worship requires a reservation. All livestream services may be found on our YouTube channel.

Easter-season hymn sing!

Outdoor Hymn Sing with sheet music illustration

We have missed singing together during these days of pandemic. But take heart! John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, has a plan for a new and wonderful way to rejoice this Easter season!

At 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 11 (the week after Easter Sunday), St. Mark’s will host an outdoor hymn sing in our parking lot.

All are invited to submit their requests for hymns or contemporary worship songs to John via email, phone call or text message. He will make the selections and assemble a music packet for distribution.

If the weather goes south, the event will move to Sunday, April 18.

Get ready to sing your heart out!

Icy forecast closes St. Mark’s Sunday Feb. 14

Interim Pastor David Mueller

Because of a predicted ice storm, St Mark’s building will not be open Sunday February 14.

Instead, the 10 a.m. worship service was recorded Saturday and that recording will be available on our YouTube channel. You can also access the service by clicking the link below. Many thanks to Interim Pastor David Mueller, John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, and Greg Landrey, liturgist, for their quick response.

Don’t forget: The Annual Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, February 21, immediately following the 10 a.m. service.

Ash Wednesday observance

Sketched cross

We plan in-person and livestream worship on Ash Wednesday, February 17, starting at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

If you plan to join us in the sanctuary, remember that reservations are required. Please call the church office at (302) 764-7488. Ashes will be provided at the service and will be self-imposed in a safe manner. Those wishing to impose ashes at home can obtain them from the church office prior to the service or use whatever ashes they may have at home. Please remember office hours are weekdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Snow forecast moves Feb. 7 worship online, postpones annual meeting (again)

Coffee mug in the snow

Because of a predicted snowstorm, St Mark’s building will not be open Sunday February 7.

Instead, the 10 a.m. worship service was recorded Saturday. That recording will be available at 10 a.m. Sunday and you can join us by clicking the image below to reach our YouTube channel. Many thanks to Interim Pastor David Mueller and to John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, for their quick response.

In addition, the Annual Meeting has been postponed to Sunday February 21, immediately following the 10 a.m. service.

Join us on YouTube this week and stay safe everyone!

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.

 

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:

Christmas Eve

Poinsettias at the altar

Christmas Eve at St. Mark’s will be quite different this year, because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

We are planning ONE 7:30 p.m. service. Attendance is limited to 45 worshippers.

For those who have reservations, a reminder that we will follow all safety precautions and ask that you arrive 15-30 minutes before the service begins to allow for the check-in process, social distancing, retrieving your communion packet and finding your seat.

The service will be livestreamed on our YouTube channel for those preferring to worship from home. The link to our Christmas Eve service is below, for your convenience.

Thank you!

St. Mark’s Worship and Music Committee

 

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.