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Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Olive Branch: July 26, 2010

This Sunday, August 1, 2010 - 4:30 pm
“Baptized Children of God,” a hymn festival featuring the singers from the Youthful Voices Choir Camp
David Cherwien, organist
Free and open to the public - all are welcome!

Accent on Worship

There was a story in the news recently about a billionaire. Unlike Warren Buffett, who is working to give away all his billions before he dies, this person gave away his fortune today. He purchased a small parcel of land in the woods, built a very small cabin on it and, I imagine, set aside a certain amount of money to live on. He told a reporter that as soon as he unburdened himself of all that wealth and moved into his little place, he felt one hundred percent better.
Most of us would never think of great wealth as a burden. We would be happy to have it. However, even the affluence we do have can be a burden. We have to take out insurance in order to protect our assets, we fuss about remembering to lock up the house, the car, or the cabin. If we get burglarized we have to fill out all sorts of forms in order to be compensated. We lose sleep when our stocks or pension take a hit on the market and wonder how we are going to make it in our old age. If we have more than others in our family, we may have to fend off all the hands that are out. We are often pressured into buying more, even though it gives us little or no joy. Like the man in Jesus' parable for Pentecost 10, who had the hassle of tearing down his old barns and building bigger ones in order to store his over-abundance of grain, we, too, are willing to put up with the burdens and inconveniences of affluence.
There is a real relationship between poverty and wealth. When our brothers and sisters are forced to go without, it means that the rest of us have too much. This imbalance in our world and the suffering of the poor are symptoms of a collective spiritual disorder. The burden of affluence is a small price we are willing to pay. The larger price is the discontinuation of our reliance on God. We begin to believe that we are the captains of our own destiny and, like the man in the parable, we may learn too late that we are not.

- Donna Neste

Special Congregation Meeting
A special meeting of the Mount Olive congregation will be held following the morning liturgy on August 8, 2010. The Call Committee unanimously recommended and the Vestry voted to place the name of the Reverend Joseph G. Crippen, Senior Pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church-Northfield, MN before the voters to be called as the next Pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church.
All voting members of Mount Olive are invited and encouraged to attend this special meeting of the congregation, to hear and discuss the recommendation of the Call Committee before voting to extend the call during the meeting. Because of Pastor Crippen's current Sunday morning responsibilities and in keeping with common call practices, he will not be present at the August 8 meeting.
Due to the anticipated attendance at this meeting, the significance of the sole agenda item, and the work currently being done in the Undercroft, this special voters' meeting will be held in the nave.
While the proximity of Northfield to Minneapolis may prove tempting to visit Pastor Crippen’s current congregation, you are encouraged to respect both his (and his family’s) privacy and their relationship with the people of St. John’s. A good alternative to making the trip to Northfield would be to check out St John’s website, for public information.
We are currently in conversation about the possibility of arranging an informal social gathering with Pastor Crippen before the Congregation Meeting. If we are able to schedule such a gathering, you will be notified via email, or by a postcard (for those who subscribe to The Olive Branch via hard copy) for details.

A Note About Mount Olive's Prayer List
We recently removed several names from our prayer list, because many have been on this list for a very long time, and we are unsure if they are still in need of our intercessions. If we have removed them prematurely, or if there are others whose names should be added to or removed from the list, please let us know.

Men’s Ensemble
Cantor Cherwien is forming a choir of men to sing in the liturgy this Sunday, August 1. This group will come together on Sat., July 31, at 10 a.m. to rehearse. If you would like to sing in this group, please contact Cantor Cherwien – or just come to the rehearsal.

Midsummer Hymn Festival
"Baptized Children of God," is a Hymn Festival which will be held at Mount Olive this Sunday, August 1, 2010, at 4:00 p.m.
Children from local congregations will lead this hymn festival, which features Cantor David Cherwien at the organ. All are encouraged to attend.

Special Offering for Our Neighbors
On Tuesday, July 20, our neighbors the Quintana family (Juan, Laura, and their children Juanito, Avi, Lupita, and Laura), who live on the 3100 block of Chicago, lost everything in a house fire. Laura (the mom) works at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. This family has many immediate needs, especially clothing for themselves and their children.
Mount Olive is receiving a special offering to help the Quintana family. Last Sunday we received almost $1,500. This Sunday, August 1, will be our final Sunday to receive offerings to help them. Please give what you can. You may make your check payable to Mount Olive and in the notation write "fire victims." You may use one of your a blue envelopes for the offering, but be sure it is clearly labeled for this purpose. And please remember this family in your prayers.
Thanks for whatever you can do to help!

Mid-Year Financial Update:
As of June 30, 2010, general giving year to date totals $217,745.00. This giving total is $16,631 less than the actual amount received last year for the same period. Our budgeted income for June 30, (what we planned on receiving and the amount approved during the budgeting process last fall), totals $287,900.00. Comparing actual income as of June 30 to budgeted income places us $70,000 behind - ( I would like to note that the church’s operating expenses have been lower through June 30, which has lessened the impact of budgeted income being behind the planned amount).
Mid-year contribution statements are available to be picked up in the narthex at church. Please pick yours up and prayerfully consider Mount Olive as you review your statements and your giving plans for the remainder of the year.

- Paul Sundquist, Treasurer

Tuesday, July 27
12 & 1 pm Music Lessons (Mount Calvary Academy of Music)
10 & 1 Summer J.A.S.

Wednesday, July 28
10:00 am Staff meeting
10:30 & 1 Summer J.A.S.
8:00 pm N.A.

Thursday, July 29
10 & 1 Summer J.A.S.

Friday, July 30
8:30 am Youthful Voices rehearsal
10 & 1 Summer J.A.S.

Saturday, July 31
9:00 am Men of Purpose
10:00 am Men’s Ensemble rehearsal

Sunday, August 1 – Ordinary Time: Sunday 18
9:30 am Holy Eucharist, with Reception of New Members, followed by fellowship & coffee
11:00 am Adult Education / Altar Guild meeting
11:00 am Theological Discussion Group
4:30 pm Hymn Festival: "Baptized Children of God”

Monday, August 2
10 & 1 Summer J.A.S.

Tuesday, August 3
10 & 1 Summer J.A.S.
12 & 1 pm Music Lessons (Mount Calvary Academy of Music)
6:00 pm Capital Campaign Committee meeting

Wednesday, August 4
10:00 am Staff meeting
10:30 & 1 Summer J.A.S.
8:00 pm N.A.

Thursday, August 5
10 & 1 Summer J.A.S.

Friday, August 6
10:00 am Summer J.A.S.
1:00 pm Summer J.A.S.

Saturday, August 7
9:00 am Neighborhood Ministries/Men of Purpose
Noon Community Meal

Sunday, August 8 – Ordinary Time: Sunday 19
9:30 am Holy Eucharist, followed by fellowship & coffee
6:45 pm Mount Olive serves Our Saviour’s Meal

Monday, August 9
7:00 pm Vestry Meeting

Neighborhood Ministries Newsletter: Summer Edition
This Sunday, August 1, the greeters will distribute the summer edition of the Neighborhood Ministries newsletter, Greetings from Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries, after the liturgy. If you will not be present and would still like to pick one up, they will be available at the church office window.

Bargain Box
Bargain Box is a very affordable way to help families provide good, useable school clothes for their children at a very affordable cost. If you have donations of gently used children’s clothes, please bring them to church and place them in the receptacle provided. Cash donations are also welcome.
Bargain Box will be held at Mount Olive on Saturday, August 7, from 8 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Adult Education: Sunday, August 1
Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl will report on a continuing education event she recently attended at the Summer Institute for Ministry at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, “Disability and Theology: The Call and Promise of Pastoral Leadership and Theological Education.”

Mary, Mother of Our Lord
The Feast of Mary, Mother of Our Lord is August 15. Because it falls on a Sunday this year, it will be celebrated at our regular Sunday morning Eucharist. There will not be a separate service later in the day with Gethsemane Episcopal Church this year.

Meals on Wheels Delivers!
Many thanks to those from Mount Olive who delivered Meals on Wheels during the week of July 12: Connie & Rod Olson, Gary Flatgard, Al & Margaret Bostelmann, Elaine & Art Halbardier, John Cegielski, Mary Rose Watson, Mary & Bob Lee, Lillian & Howard Rand, Naomi Peterson, Liz & Joe Beissel, Harvey Hanson, Andrew Andersen, JoAnn & Stan Sorenson, and Dan Adams.

Attention, Women!
Gail Nielsen cordially invites all women to her home for a Garden Luncheon on Wednesday, August 18, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Men are welcome, too! There is no charge for the luncheon, but a freewill offering will be received to help defray the cost of the food.
Please RSVP to Gail Nielsen if you are interested in coming, 612.825.9326 – feel free to leave a message.

Book Discussion’s Upcoming Reads
For its meeting on August 14, the Book Discussion Group will read and discuss, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, by Mark Kurlansky. For the September 11 meeting it will be Troubles, by J.G. Farrell

The New Mount Olive "Wish List"
Stemming from discussions regarding bequests, the Worship Committee proposed the idea of creating a "Wish List" for those seeking a vehicle for donations over and above their usual giving. There are many reasons to donate; i.e. celebration, in memoriam, in honor, or perhaps in end-of-life preparations. Currently all non-designated gifts go directly to the Mount Olive Foundation. The Vestry is reviewing this procedure, but would also like to encourage donations that might capture more of the essence of the one donating or the one for whom a donation is being made.
As Vice President of the Vestry, I'll be administering this Wish List and will fine tune how and when to publish it and advertise the opportunities for giving. I envision it being similar to the altar flower donations list, hung in a prominent location, listing all of the opportunities. I invite all Vestry officers and directors, any ad-hoc committee chairs, and any persons in groups who have suggestions for additions to the list to contact me by e-mail, in person, or by church office mailbox. You may submit your ideas for items your group needs that are not currently in the budget. An example would be for the Building Committee to submit the number and cost of furniture items needed. Another example would be for the Worship Committee to list the number of vestments needed, along with estimated costs. A final example would be for the regular workers in the kitchen to request new cookware. Please submit ideas no later than September 1, for publication of the first list in October.
I plan to publish the list quarterly. How donations are handled accounting-wise will be ironed out with our Treasurer. Perhaps you would like to honor a loved one who attends all of the in-church dining events by donating new kitchen utensils. Maybe you would like to see some actual new furniture in our brand new space and would consider donating a chair or table. Or maybe you hold an intense interest in the colors and beauty of the church year and wish to donate a size-appropriate vestment for our new pastor in honor of the Call Committee. Let's get behind this and support this exciting new way of giving. May this help all of our work to be done with more heartfelt donations given freely, based on our unique interests.
Brian Jacobs, Vice President

Highlights from the Vestry Meeting
The Vestry met July 12, at 7 pm, with new president, Adam Krueger presiding.
We revisited the date set for our building re-dedication, which will be September 12. The Worship and Congregational Life Committees are preparing for the celebration. Stay tuned!
Adam updated us on the Call Committee efforts. Final interviews and social events with candidate semi-finalists have been completed and the committee will meet Wednesday, July 14, to formulate the time line from here on. The committee has met 27 times so far, with ALL in attendance for every meeting. Both David Cherwien and Adam have expressed their faith in the committee and their impressions of the candidates.
The Vestry revisited the topic of non-designated bequests. The discussion will continue and we will work to find a satisfactory solution to allow donations to flow either to the Foundation or to other accounts. This discussion precipitated the introduction of a "wish list" to fund items not currently in the budget. It was decided that the Vice President will monitor and publish the wish list, which will be open to all for suggestion and donation.
Andrew updated us on the new website and reported that Steve Berg and Beth Gaede will stay on the project as long as they are needed to fine-tune the work. Cha Posz will be the webmaster and is receiving training on how to keep it updated. Ann Sorenson will continue her work with updating the video, especially once we call our new pastor.
All directors reported on their current events. Most notably, Diana noted that the new Godly Play curriculum for church school will begin in the fall. She's seeking donations and invites all to attend any Godly Play Adult Forums and workshops. Andrew outlined his new approach for Evangelism's outreach and in-reach with in the congregation.
Paul Sundquist presented his monthly report and again reported that giving is down substantially. We are still able to generate cash flow to pay our bills, but our deficit is widening. Capital Campaign giving is still on track, but he reminded us that we need to receive 100% of our pledges to meet our goals. Art Halbardier is coordinating continued Capital Campaign blitzes that will be necessary to close out the building projects, including the Undercroft kitchen.
New members were confirmed by the Vestry. Warren brought up the idea that we might be able to hand out a "Parish Event" page when worshipers are exiting the sanctuary, to keep people up to date on scheduled events. There was discussion of streamlining use of and logging of office keys and that the office should be staffed and open on Sunday mornings. Ann Sorenson was designated as signatory backup to Adam Krueger for York Securities. We again discussed refining The Lutheran subscription list. This could save us ample money. Metro Lutheran is seeking donations, but a suggested "door offering" was replaced by a suggestion that envelopes designated for donations to Metro Lutheran could be made available in the narthex.
The August agenda will include calendar planning for the remainder of the year. Budget planning will begin in October. Brian Jacobs, Paul Odlaug and Paul Sundquist have been appointed to the Salary Review Committee.
- Brian E. Jacobs, Vice President

METROLutheran Needs a Boost
Mount Olive supports METROLutheran newpaper with an annual gift and shares its members, Ken Siess and Mike Edwins as members of the Board of Directors. Mike Sherer, former editor, was a member of Mount Olive. METROLutheran appreciates such faithful and generous support.
Because of the downturn in the economy, some of our advertisers have scaled back the size of their ads which has hurt our “ad income.” Gifts from congregations are also a bit behind previous years, perhaps also influenced by the downturn in the economy.
Our current income is about $6,000 behind expenses. If members of Mount Olive can make a special offering to METROLutheran at this time, it will help immensely. With the approval of the Mount Olive Vestry, envelopes for your use are available (outside the Church Office in its newly-remodeled location). Thank you for your generosity and continued faithful reading of METROLutheran.

A Note of Thanks
Anne & Warren Bartz wish to thank all who came to their house on a recent summer evening to help them clean out their basement: Dan & Julia Adams, Brenda Bartz, Joyce & Kristina Brown, Dave Cherwien, Allan & Lora Dundek, Bob Lee, and Mark Pipkorn.
Your help is tremendously appreciated!

Monday, July 26, 2010

This week's liturgies

Sunday, August 1, 2010
Ordinary Time: Sunday 18
Holy Eucharist with Reception of New Members, 9:30 a.m.

Special Congregation Meeting: August 8, 2010

A special meeting of the Mount Olive congregation will be held on Sunday, August 8, immediately following the morning liturgy (approximately 10:45 a.m.). This meeting will be held in the nave.
The purpose of this meeting is to hear the recommendation of the Call Committee and the Vestry on a candidate to serve as the next pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, and to vote on extending a call to this candidate.

All voting members are encouraged to attend!

Sermon from July 25, 2010

"A Grasp of the Future"
Mark 10: 35-45

Today is special day for us, we celebrate St. James the Apostle, oh, and there is also something else going on today, we get the name of the person who may be called to serve as the next pastor at Mount Olive. I feel like a school teacher trying to teach in the final days before summer break. I know all minds wander a bit during sermons, but I wonder, with this long anticipated excitement before us, how much tracking will be going on today?

It is easy to get distracted with thoughts of the future, both known and unknown. That is what is going on in the minds of students before summer break. “What will the coming summer be like?” “What does this future have in store?” So, too, as a congregation we may have thoughts of our future in our minds this morning, if it is not for the future of the congregation and the future pastor, it might be a focus on our personal future, or our family’s future, or our friend’s future. The prospects of our future can be scary or exciting or both. But even if our future may be exciting there is so much unknown of the future that we want certainty, we want a grasp of the future, just a little control of what it might be.

With that in mind let us turn back to this festival day of St James and our gospel. The brothers James and John are looking for certainty. They want Jesus to do whatever they ask him. They are looking for a grasp of the future, something they can count on or control. They want to share in Jesus’ glory so they ask for positions of power in Jesus’ glory.

James and his brother John were ambitious. They appear to be from a family with a higher social status, because their father was well enough off to employ hired servants (Mark 1:20). They were seeking for the highest place in Jesus’ earthly corporation.

It is interesting to note that Mark’s telling of this story differs from Matthew (Matt 20:20-23), in that version James and John’s mother requests for her boys to receive the places of honor. Maybe Matthew thought the request was unworthy of a follower of Jesus. But in Mark’s version we see James and John as ordinary people. They are people with whom we can identify. If we could ask Jesus the question, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask you” what would it be? Do we want positions of power, money, control, certainty, security?

Even though James and John had followed Jesus for a while they failed to understand Jesus. This request takes place right after Jesus’ third passion prediction. They just didn’t understand what we has saying that this is not an earthly thing. However misguided they might have been they still believed Jesus, their hearts were in the right place. They never doubted Jesus’ ultimate triumph.

Jesus tells them they do not know what they are asking, but using two Jewish metaphors, he asks them a question, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

It was the custom at a royal banquet for the king to hand the cup to his guests. The cup therefore became a metaphor for the life and experience that God handed out to people. "My cup overflows," said the Psalmist (Ps.23:5), when he spoke of a life and experience of happiness given to him by God. "In the hand of the Lord there is a cup," said the Psalmist (Ps.75:8), when he was thinking of the fate in store for the wicked and the disobedient. Isaiah, thinking of the disasters which had come upon the people of Israel, describes them as having drunk "at the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath" (Isa.51:17). The cup speaks of the experience allotted to people by God (William Barclay.)

Jesus speaks of the baptism with which he was baptized. The Greek verb (baptizein) means "to dip." Its past participle (bebaptismenos) means "submerged," and it is regularly used of being submerged in any experience. For instance…a grief-stricken person is said to be submerged in sorrow. A student before a cross-examining teacher is said to be submerged in questions. The word is regularly used for a ship that has been wrecked and submerged beneath the waves. … The expression, as Jesus used it here, had nothing to do with technical baptism. What he is saying is, "Can you bear to go through the terrible experience which I have to go through? Can you face being submerged in hatred and pain and death, as I have to be?" He was telling these two disciples that without a cross there can never be a crown. The standard of greatness in the Kingdom is the standard of the Cross. It was true that in the days to come they did go through the experience of their Master, for James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa (Ac.12:2), and, though John was probably not martyred, he suffered much for Christ. They accepted the challenge of their Master--even if they did so blindly (William Barclay).

But the ultimate end (future) belongs to God, our density is in God’s hands. Jesus knew his role as God’s son, who sits at his right and left hand is not for Jesus to grant. His own life was a long act of submission to God’s will and he knew in the end that it was God’s future into which he was being called. And this is what makes difference for those of us who follow Jesus. God is calling to is into God’s preferred future, it is God who takes care of the future for us, and that future is wrapped in the grace of Jesus by his death, resurrection, and ascension. We may not know what that future is but we do know the One calling and ultimately it is that One who has the last word, not us. We can and will request but it is God who gives.

Dear friends in Christ, we may want a grasp of the future but God has the future in his grasp, meanwhile Jesus teaches us that greatness is not in being served but in serving, it is humbling but it is also mighty powerful.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sermon: "Hospitality: Martha, Mary, and Jesus"

Sunday, July 18, 2010
Luke 10: 38-42
Bradley P. Holt

I was 16 years old and I had just wrecked my Dad’s car. I had driven three friends to a youth meeting at a church 30 miles from home. I waited for the police and for my father, with dread in my heart. None of us were injured, but there we stood on the highway in the dark. But someone invited us in. They had the space to give a place to be. They welcomed us as strangers in need, into their house.

I was 32 years old and had begun to teach at a Protestant Nigerian seminary. In Ibadan, perhaps 10 hours drive from home, the Catholic Dominicans welcomed me warmly and I felt at home, worshipping and communing with them.

I was 48 years old and I was burned out in a mid-life crisis. I was teaching at Augsburg College. I went to a man known for spiritual direction, and poured out my heart for two hours. He showed me hospitality, listening with empathy and wisdom.

I invite you today to think of your own stories of hospitality, hospitality given and hospitality received, that is to say, love given and love received. Today we will consider in turn, first the hospitality of Martha, then the hospitality of Mary, and finally the hospitality of Jesus.

Before we do that, let us remember two facts. First let us remember the immediate context of this story. It is the third of the three important accounts of Luke chapter ten. As you may remember, two weeks ago we heard of the mission of the seventy, preaching and healing, and how the Kingdom of God is the central point in Jesus’ teaching. Last week we heard the story of the two great commandments and the Good Samaritan, and how in effect we are the wounded travelers, and how Jesus is really our Good Samaritan. This third story completes the first two. We might oversimplify them by saying the first is about evangelism, the second about social action, and now this third one about spirituality. We need all three of these elements as we experience the Kingdom of God.

The second fact is that Jesus took women seriously. According to Luke 8, it was women, including Mary Magdalene, who made Jesus’ ministry possible by their donations. There are at least six Marys in the gospels; it is important to distinguish the Mary of this story, Mary of Bethany, from Mary Magdalene, Mary Jesus’ mother, and the others. This story shows that Jesus broke cultural boundaries, both by entering the house of a woman who is not his relative, and by behaving to a woman as a rabbi to a disciple.

I. The Hospitality of Martha
Martha, the first person in our triangle, seems to be the older sister of Mary. It is she who invites Jesus to her house. According to the Gospel of John, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are siblings who live in Bethany, less than 2 miles east of Jerusalem. Bethany is located on the Mount of Olives, for which our congregation is named.

Martha, after inviting Jesus into their house, busily prepares, perhaps not only for Jesus, but also for his followers. She is the model of the active life, the life that many of us know all too well. She is stressed, anxious, divided, multi-tasking, and irritated. Her work is good and necessary. It may well include other things outside the house, such as evangelism and social justice, the sorts of things done by the 70 and by the Good Samaritan. I am reminded of Alvin Rogness, who warned that when we invite Jesus into our lives, he invites all his friends in with him! Those who are in need follow inevitably after the friend of sinners, the friend of the poor. Or to remember Matthew’s way of putting it, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”

Martha gives the physical hospitality we usually think of when we hear the word “hospitality.” Yet she is not happy, and it is not only her seemingly lazy sister that is bothering her. Everything about Martha in the text is double, not single, even Jesus’ address to her, “Martha, Martha.” She is a multi-tasking person. When he reproves her, I would like to think of Jesus’ look as a loving smile, rather than a frowning reproach. It is the same way he looks upon you and me. He sees that she is close to burn-out. I think we can all identify with Martha, in our lives that do not seem to have any space to breathe, but are crammed full of activity, much of it good activity. I think of us Marthas like a refrigerator that is so crammed full that there is no space left for the air to circulate. Marthas are so busy with the cleaning and the food that we would abandon the honored guest to sit alone while we finish our extensive lists of tasks.

II. The Hospitality of Mary

Jesus praises Mary, who has chosen the better part, the one thing needful. Mary’s is the contemplative life, Martha’s, the active life. Martha is a manager; Mary is a mystic. Whereas Martha’s posture is standing and scurrying, Mary’s is sitting and hearing; sitting at the feet of Jesus. She has seen that there is a time for everything under heaven: a time for serving and a time for listening, a time for making things happen, and a time for pondering what is happening; a time to act and a time to just be. Martha’s word is, “Don’t just sit there, do something!” Mary’s word is “Don’t just do something, sit there!” This is a deeper way of thinking about hospitality, a spiritual way. Mary is hospitable to Jesus not by putting food in front of him, but by welcoming him into her heart. She gives him her time and attention. She makes an empty space in order that he may enter.

In Revelation the risen Christ says, “Listen! I am standing at the door knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” We too can show hospitality to Jesus, as both Martha and Mary did; we can invite Jesus in to our houses and hearts too. In fact many of us say this very thing when we say at table, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.”

Another way to look at Martha and Mary is to see them as fulfilling the two great commandments Jesus talked about earlier in the chapter. Mary loves God with all her heart--in the person of Jesus; Martha loves her neighbor as she loves herself--in the person of Jesus.

Like the Norwegian farmer who loved his wife so much that he almost told her so, we are also invited to love Jesus, and to tell him so. We do it through words of praise in this very church. I like to think that when we praise God singing “heaven and earth are full of your glory,” we are loving God for God’s beauty and the beauty of the creation. Our praises reflect a personal relationship. When we say “Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” we are saying “Welcome, Jesus, we love you!” When we listen to the sermon with attention and prayer, we are listening. When we are silent, for example, after the sermon, we are taking time to ponder the meaning of it all. When we do this, we are Marys. In these and other ways, the liturgy of our church when we are gathered is a short model of our times at the feet of Jesus when we are scattered.

At home, alone or in our families, when we take time to spend with God, we are remembering the one thing needful. We are making space for Jesus in our lives, and also for all his friends! I know that some of you do this by centering prayer, or by the examen of your day, or by lectio divina with the Scriptures, or by keeping a spiritual journal. By giving space in your day and your heart, you are showing hospitality to God.

III. The hospitality of Jesus
Up to now, I have spoken of the hospitality of Martha and the hospitality of Mary, as they welcomed Jesus into their home. But looked at in more profound way, it is the hospitality of Jesus himself that is the key element in the Christian life. He says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He says, “Come to my feast, the wedding feast of the lamb.” It is he who welcomes Martha and Mary into an intimate relationship with himself. His welcome, his hospitality is a form of his love. He welcomes us in Baptism and in the meal we are about to share. We are invited to express our love for him in many ways, including by words in this assembly. We are invited to say to Jesus and to God, “I love you, because you first loved me. We love you, because you first loved us.”

We take delight in God. God takes delight in us. My friend Tim recently described how he came to experience this. He was on a long hike with his son, and became aware of how much he delighted in seeing him studying the plants and the landscape along the way. Then came the thought, “If I can take such delight in my son, then God must also delight in me, God’s child; in us, God’s children!”

Our Old Testament lesson is an example of this two-sided hospitality. Abraham and Sarah welcome the three visitors, whose identity changes in the course of the story. When Pastor Hollie preached on this event on Trinity Sunday, she showed us the famous icon painted by Rublev, on the cover of our bulletin. She stood in this pulpit and said, “the three visitors, who are the Holy Trinity, invite you to table with them.” God is the ultimate host.

Here is the bottom line: We are all Marthas. We are all Marys. We are all invited by the loving hospitality of Jesus, called to show that hospitality to one another, and reminded that the one thing needful is to sit at the feet of Jesus, listening and loving.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Olive Branch: July 12

Accent on Worship
Now as [Jesus and his disciples] went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42
We all experience distractions in our life. Some of us are easily distracted, others are not. Sometimes we might even look for distractions so that we can delay facing what is currently going on in our lives. Sometimes distractions are ever before us so that it is difficult to attend to that which we need to attend.

At Mount Olive right now we have many things going on which may distract us. We are in the midst of the process of calling a new pastor and we are in the midst of a building project to remodel the parish house and kitchen. Through the call process some of us may be distracted with questions like, “when will we know who will be our pastor?” or “when will the new pastor be able to start?” Through the remodeling process some of us may be distracted with questions like, “when are we going to move into the offices?” or “when will the kitchen be finished?” Distractions are a part of life, there is nothing wrong with being distracted, but when it gets in the way of focusing on what God is saying to us through Jesus then it is not helpful.

Worship at Mount Olive is a time where we seek to limit distractions so that we focus our attention on God who comes and inhabits our worship. As you enter our sanctuary for worship may your distractions melt away as we gather in song, praise, and prayer and may the word of God strengthen and empower you.

- Interim Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl

Call Committee Update
The committee has reached an important phase of the call process. We will be meeting this week to consider one candidate to present to the Vestry and the congregation for consideration as Mount Olive’s next pastor. The call committee has concluded its second interviews with the three pastors who emerged from the first round of interviews. The second interview format included a 45 minute session in which the candidate led the committee in a educational “class” on the topic of “Why do we worship?” Also included in the second interview were two hours of questions and a meal at one of the committee member’s homes with the pastor’s spouse. The committee has been given the gift of three very talented and experienced pastors, each of whom has particular strengths. The committee has also visited the three congregations served by these pastors, with at least three members attending a Sunday morning service.

We are optimistic that we will be able to decide on a candidate in the near future, but we are also open to the Spirit’s guidance that we may need more time, more information, or another process. Thank you for your prayers and for your trust.

New Members to Be Received
New members will be received at the morning liturgy on Sunday, August 1. If you are not a member of Mount Olive and would like to join, please talk with Pastor Hollie as soon as possible.

Rest in Peace
It has pleased almighty God to call his servant, +Harold Diersen,+ into eternal rest. Harold died on Wednesday, July 7.

A funeral liturgy will be held at Mount Olive on Monday, July 19, at 10:00 a.m. (please note change of day!)

Rest eternal grant him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on him. May +Harold+ and all the blessed dead, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Men’s Ensemble
Cantor Cherwien is forming a choir of men to sing in the liturgy on Sunday, August 1. This group will come together on Sat., July 31, at 10 a.m. to rehearse. If you would like to sing in this group, please contact Cantor Cherwien – or just come to the rehearsal.

Foundation's Annual Gift
Earlier this year, Mount Olive Lutheran Church Foundation’s Board of Directors gave its annual gift to the Church--$17,375.00--the second largest in its history. The Foundation's Board recommended that these funds be apportioned as follows:

Capital Campaign $ 5,000.00
Coffee Machine $ 1,500.00
Bach Tage $ 3,500.00
Neighborhood Ministries $ 4,000.00
New Dishwasher $ 1,000.00
Music Scholarships $ 1,875.00
Our Savior’s Meal Provisions $ 500.00
TOTAL $17,375.00

This is the third year in a row that the Foundation has increased its gift to Neighborhood Ministries based on the continued significant need and Donna Neste’s exceptional work.
During its history, the Foundation has given nearly $220,000 to the church. As our endowment continues to grow in the coming years, we look forward to furthering Mount Olive’s work and mission in even more creative and significant ways.
-Keith Bartz, President

A Note of Thanks
Anne and Warren Bartz wish to thank all of those from Mount Olive who prayed for them, who sent cards and well wishes, and who brought meals and food to them during their recovery, and are grateful for your continued prayers for them and their recovery.

School Supplies Giveaway
It’s time for our annual collection of school supplies! Each year at the August Community Meal, we distribute 100 bags of basic school supplies to our neighborhood children. Your donations toward this effort will be greatly appreciated! MONAC members will be available at coffee hour on Sundays, July 18 and 25, to receive your donations. Monetary gifts for this projects are preferred, but ALL contributions will be gratefully received!

A Centennial Celebration – Last Chance to Order!
Paul Nixdorf, Mount Olive member and professional photographer, has produced a photographic documentary book of scenes from Mount Olive’s Centennial celebration, observed just a little over one year ago. You can preview the book online at: (you may have to copy and paste the entire web address into your browser.) This is your last opportunity to purchase your copy! Please call the church office as soon as possible if you wish to order one.

This Sunday’s Adult Education
1. July 18: Diana Hellerman, Director of Education, will share information about the new Sunday School curriculum, Godly Play. Godly Play is not a new curriculum, but it does approach children’s learning styles in ways that are fresh and new to the church. The foundation of Godly Play is the belief that children don’t just want to know about God, they want to know God. Join us at Adult Forum this Sunday to learn more about Godly Play and how you can help in our Sunday School transition.

2. Loss & Grief Discussion and Support (see information in this issue of The Olive Branch)

Bargain Box
Bargain Box is a very affordable way to help families provide good, useable school clothes for their children at a very affordable cost. If you have donations of gently used children’s clothes, please bring them to church and place them in the receptacle provided. Cash donations are also welcome.
Bargain Box will be held at Mount Olive on Saturday, August 7, from 8 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Midsummer Hymn Festival
"Baptized Children of God," a Hymn Evensong will be held at Mount Olive on Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. This hymn festival and service of Evening Prayer concludes the "Youthful Voices Choir Camp" being held July 26-30 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Paul.
Children from local congregations will lead the service, which features Cantor David Cherwien at the organ. All are encouraged to attend.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sermon from July 11, 2010

“The Journey”
Luke 10:25-37

"Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The question sounds simple and innocent enough. However Jesus was not fooled by this lawyer, and he turns the question back at him, "What is written in the law/in the scriptures?" Jesus asks, "What does it say there?" The lawyer replies with a well rehearsed and polished declaration, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." "Good answer," Jesus said, "do this and you shall live."

Suddenly there was a burning in the man's heart, a burning that something that was not right. This Jewish Lawyer spent his lifetime separating himself from the Gentiles, he believed that his neighbors were only fellow Jews, but what stirred him was the thought that this Jesus might consider the Gentile a neighbor. The Lawyer had to find out where Jesus stood on this matter (and maybe proving that he was doing the right thing by excluding Gentiles), so he asks Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Jesus replies with a story. "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho...." (pause)

The road to Jericho was a notoriously dangerous road. It was a 20 mile journey that descended 3,600 feet, so one literally went "down" to Jericho. It was a road of narrow and rocky passage ways, a road of sudden turnings that made it the happy hunting-ground of roving robbers and bandits. Bandits and robbers would hide behind rocks and cliffs to jump out upon many unsuspecting travelers. Many people would travel in groups or caravans to lessen their chance of attack. However, for some reason, the man in Jesus' story was traveling alone. Maybe it was out of stupidity, maybe it was out of necessity, we do not know. So with the scene in place, this lone traveler fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.

Unable to move the man laid there awhile. Then mustering as much strength as he could, he tried to move. He groaned. He was only able to lift his head enough to see a figure coming on the road, but just then his strength gave out and he collapsed into a pool of his own blood. Now, by chance, this approaching person was a priest, who could certainly be a trust worthy person. Yet when he saw the heap of flesh and blood, he thought the man to be dead, so he passed by on the other side of the road. If he would touch the body of a dead person he would be considered unclean for 7 days and he would not be able to perform his duties in the temple, nor could he be out in public. The priest just did not want to take the risk. Likewise with the Levite who passed by, the cleanliness code applied to him and he didn't want to take the risk. Both the priest and the levite were considered representatives of God, by virtue of their office, but both of these men considered their office more highly than the man on the road.

But a Samaritan, while traveling, came near the man who lay on the side of the road in a pool of his own blood. To the Jews a Samaritan was worse than a Gentile because a Samaritan was part Jew and part Gentile - the mixed blood brought about strong feelings of disgust and distrust. A Samaritan was considered an outcast by the Jews. Yet when this Samaritan saw the man, he was moved with pity. This outcast was moved with pity for a man who was more than likely a Jew. The Samaritan went to him and finding him not dead, poured oil and wine on his wounds bandaged them. Then the Samaritan put the wounded man on his own beast of burden, brought him to an inn and took care of him that night, bathing him and giving him new clothes. The next day he took out enough money to cover 24 days in the inn, and gave them to the inn keeper. The Samaritan not only helped once the man, but he was spending some of his money to continue to care for the man. He was also investing some time to come back to check and see how the man was doing.

Then Jesus closes his story with a question to the lawyer. "Which one of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" The answer was obvious, it was the Samaritan, but the lawyer could not bring himself to say the name, so he says, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus says to him, "Go and do likewise." (pause)

This is a well known story. We have heard it in many ways and in different times. Where do we dins ourselves in this story? We can be anyone of these characters, the traveler, the robber, the priest, the Levite, the Samaritan, the innkeeper. But for now let us consider ourselves as the traveler from Jerusalem to Jericho. Let us consider our journey not as a journey of a few miles but as a life time journey.

Our journey starts joyous with birth, high in Jerusalem, and ends sorrowful with death, down low in Jericho. We are the traveler who makes the notoriously dangerous journey of life to death, a journey down to the grave. This road on which we travel is not smooth, there is dangerous terrain with robbers and bandits, ready to steal away the joy of life. We descend into the depths of human life - heading toward death and the grave. But on the way to the grave we are attacked by the robbers and bandits of this world, who want to steal our very life blood away from us. We are stripped of our good name, by gossip or slander. We are beaten by illness, disease and injury. Or we are beaten by the government, our job, our friends. We are hurt by our loved ones, parents, children, spouse, partner. These robbers and bandits beat us and leave us for dead along side of the road. Then we are attacked by vultures, who, disguised as friends or neighbors, seek to destroy our sense of self so that nothing is left of us. Unable to move we lie. We lie part way to the grave, wishing that we were dead instead of this living death we are now experiencing.

But, mustering as much strength as we can, we try to move. Groaning, we are only able to lift our head enough to see a figure coming on the road, we try to callfor help, but just then our strength gives out and we collapsed into a pool of our own blood. Now by chance this approaching person belongs to the priesthood of all believers, an active member in the institutional church, who could certainly be a trustworthy person. Surely this priest will do something, but alas this one passes by on the other side. Perhaps you have been passed by when you were hurting, passed by, by a friend or a member of your own congregation. Someone who probably wanted to help but was not able to respond to your needs, someone who didn't know what to do, so left you in your pool of blood and pain. This happens. This is our life journey.

Likewise the pastor of our church, a leader of the institutional church, looks at us and passes by on the other side. If we were conscious enough to recognize this person, we would most certainly be angry, why did our pastor pass us by and not help us. Maybe this is your life experience. I or another pastor was not able to respond to your needs, maybe due to lack of knowledge or due to of lack of ability. Yet, perhaps if you could see, you would see your pastor hang her/his head low, knowing that this is outside her/his abilities.

But along comes a Samaritan, who is of mixed blood human and divine, Jesus Christ, himself. He is able to respond to our needs and he has the resources available to him for he is God's only son - sent to this world for this purpose: to bind up our broken hearts and to restore to God people who are beat down by this life journey. Jesus comes to all of us who are traveling to the grave. He comes to give us a future and a hope. He gives us a future of a life beyond the grave. He gives us hope to believe in that promise while we are still on this journey. And in the promise, he also gives us strength for our journey now.

Christ, the true Samaritan, takes us to himself as his own. Christ comes to us and does not require us, who are helpless, to come to him; for here is not merit, but pure grace and mercy; and he binds up our wounds and cares for us. Christ Jesus pours oil and wine on our wounds, to cleanse them, taking away infection than may fester and kill. Jesus cleanses the wounds so that even though a scar may remain the wound is completely healed. Then the Samaritan lifts our limp and wounded body on his beast of burden. This beast is also Christ the Lord himself, and he carries us, while we lay upon his shoulders, neck and body. He bares us again as he did bare the sins of the entire world on the cross. Then He takes us to an inn where he bathes us in the waters of baptism - giving us a new life - removing the dirt and filth from the rest of our body, you see he is concerned for our whole self. And he dresses us in the new garment of his promise - we are clothed with forgiveness, humility, and new life. But he does not stop there, Jesus continues to care for us, and look after us. Jesus is a neighbor to us - showing mercy to we who need mercy.

But then what happens? What happens when we have been picked up, cleaned and clothed by Christ? What happens when our wounds heal? What happens when we are strong enough to leave the inn? We leave the inn. We go back out to engage in the journey of this world. But now we go with the new life that we have been given in Jesus. By remembering our experience of being taken and clothed by Christ, we engage the world. We engage the world by helping those who need help. We engage the world by helping our neighbor. We do not do this because we are so good, but we do this because of what Christ Jesus has done for us. Because of what Jesus has done for us we are now able to help our neighbor, those who need help, those who need mercy.

We were not saved from certain death just to hide out in the inn and keep the gifts of God to ourselves. Jesus has saved us to share his message of grace and mercy, love and acceptance. We are now workers for the kingdom of God. We are to go and proclaim. What do we proclaim? We proclaim what Jesus Christ has done for us. What do we do? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." Not only are we to proclaim, we are to go and do.

Dear friends in Christ, You have been shown mercy, now go, go and do likewise.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sermon: Jesus Formed a Task Force

Ordinary Time 14 – Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 - July 4, 2010
by Rob Ruff

Jesus formed a task force.

Twelve apostles weren’t going to be enough for this job, because as He said, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”

So He selected 70 followers – a task force of 70.

(Although, according to one commentator, one wonders why anyone in his right mind would sign on with a Messiah who seemed determined to get himself killed.)
-Robert Farrar Capon in Kingdom, Grace, Judgment

And indeed, Jesus told the 70 that He was giving them a dangerous task: “I’m sending you out as lambs among hungry wolves” was the way he put it.

And to make those 70 lambs even more vulnerable, Jesus instructed them to take nothing with them – nothing! Not a backpack, or a sack lunch, not even a pair of shoes.

It’s as if He wanted them to rely on only what he provided. And what did He provide? Only a couple of words.

And so He sent them down the roads
He himself planned to travel,
he sent them out two by two,
empty handed and barefoot,
to prepare his way.

“Don’t talk to anyone along the way” he instructed.

And to each house you enter, say “Peace be upon you.” “Peace be upon you.”

There’s the first word Jesus gave the 70 – a word of peace.

“My peace I give you, not as the world gives.”
“The peace of God which surpasses all understanding.”
A foretaste of Easter’s peace.

He gives them a word that not only describes peace but bestows it, a blessing: “Peace be upon you.”

“See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves”, he told them.
  • Which is to say that some will accept you but others will reject you.
  • Some will welcome but others will oppose.
  • Some will be fellow sheep but others will be enemy wolves.
And so, to those who welcome and accept you, he said, cure their sick and say to them
“The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

And to those who reject and oppose you, shake the dust of their town off your feet in protest but say to them as well, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

To friend and foe alike: “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

And there is the second word Jesus gave the 70 to carry with them – a word announcing the nearness of God’s kingdom.

Which is also is a word that not only describes the kingdom’s nearness but bestows it – a word of good news (and, I suppose, also of warning) that the realm where God reigns is nearby.

Now the kingdom of God was one of Jesus’ favorite topics. He spoke of it often.

And what did Jesus say about the Kingdom of God?

He said things like this:
  • I was sent for this purpose – to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.
  • Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.
  • How hard it is for those with riches to enter the kingdom. Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
  • Whoever does not receive the kingdom as a little child will never enter it.
  • Let the little children come to me and do not stop them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
  • To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like a mustard seed that someone planted in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.
  • And again he said, the kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until the entire batch was leavened.”
A curious and mystical place this kingdom of God:
  • Lots of poor folk there and precious few who are rich;
  • A place filled with children. (Are there any adults??)
  • The kingdom starts small like a tiny seed or a grain of yeast – hard to see and easy to miss – but it grows and matures into something large and substantial and bountiful.
And it is apparently costly to enter the kingdom. Everything must be surrendered: wealth, maturity, pretensions, power, family obligations, national allegiance, and in the end, life itself.

We have to die in order to be reborn into the kingdom of God.

Theologians William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas put it this way:

When you join the Rotary Club, they give you a handshake and a membership card. When you join the church, we throw you into water, bathe you, …drown you, (raise) you up, and tell you that you have been born again. We thus signify that being a Christian is not natural, not a by-product of being an American. To be Christian is to be adopted by a new nation, the kingdom of God.” (Lord, Teach Us page 54)

To each house you enter, Jesus told the 70, say “Peace to you”.

Doesn’t that peace often seem in depressingly short supply these days, amidst all of life’s worries and fears, pains and heartaches?

To those who welcome you and to those who oppose you say “The Kingdom of God has come near you.” Doesn’t the kingdom of God often seem frustratingly far away here in this world where wars and oil spills, suffering and violence seem never to end?

If so, then isn’t it good news to hear Jesus say that the kingdom of God, and the peace it brings, has come and is near??

One of my favorite writers, Frederick Buechner, says this about the kingdom:
If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God…is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born within (us) and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it is what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all homesick for it. (The Clown in the Belfry, pages 152-53)
The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and we are homesick for it.


Long ago and far away Jesus formed a task force and sent them out carrying only a word of peace and a word announcing to a homesick world that the kingdom of God, our true home, is near.

In all the years since, Jesus’ task force has grown and expanded. It now includes believers in every land around the globe, believers of every time through the ages down to this present moment, including you and me.

That task force is now called the church, that mystical and curious body of Christ, made up of little children and adults, the poor and the wealthy, outcasts, and sinners who are simultaneously saints.

The task force called the church is equipped with very little. We have only a loaf of bread and a cup of wine, a bowel of water, a book of words, and each other.

But thanks be to God, that loaf is the bread of heaven, that that wine the cup of salvation.

The bowel contains holy water with the power to wash us clean and give us new birth.

Our book contains the words of eternal life.

And together we are members of the communion of saints.

So out you go, Brothers and Sisters, out those doors and into the city, Christian lambs in a world of wolves.

Out you go, as Jesus’ task force taking nothing with you save what he’s provided.

Speak peace to all you meet.

Tell them the kingdom of God – our true and final home – is near.

And rejoice! Rejoice, I say, rejoice in the grace and certainty and wonder that, because of Jesus’ love, your names are written in heaven.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Expect Subtle Web Changes

Comments on the newly-remodeled website continue to roll in. Reaction has been overwhelmingly favorable, but special attention is being paid to constructive criticism. The site’s editors and webmaster are evaluating all comments, so expect subtle changes in the site over the next several weeks. Routine updates to the NEWS and WEEKLY LITURGY sections will begin as early as next week. We hope you’ll be patient until then. We the editors (Steve Berg and Beth Gaede) greatly appreciate the participation of the Mount Olive community in this project, as well as the expertise at the site’s design firm Adsoka.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Liturgies This Week

Holy Eucharist 9:30, July 11 (Ordinary 15)

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

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