Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Home About Worship Music and Arts Parish Life Learning Outreach News Contact
Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Olive Branch,. 5/31/11

Accent on Worship

He ascended into heaven

Thursday night we gather at Mount Olive at 7:00 p.m. for Eucharist celebrating the Ascension of our Lord. The Church Year has six major festivals – Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and Holy Trinity – and Ascension is certainly the one Lutherans neglect the most. At the risk of spilling some of the beans for the sermon I will preach Thursday, I’d like to suggest that neglect is unwise and unhelpful.

In the first place, the Ascension of the risen Jesus marks a powerful shift in the Gospel story. Jesus appears, risen from the dead, again and again to believers in those forty days after Easter. Following the Ascension there are no records of his appearing in this way again, save for Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. As we celebrate the key events in the life of the incarnate Son of God, gathering for his Meal on the night he returned to the Father seems a worthy thing.

But in the second place, this powerful shift is critical to the mission Jesus has for the Church. It is clear from Jesus’ calling of the disciples and his direction to them after the resurrection that he intends to bring about the salvation of the world not only through his death and resurrection, but through the work and ministry of his followers. By ascending to heaven, Jesus leaves the work to his believers, to us. The angel’s question of the disciples on the Mount of Olives, “Why do you stand there, looking up toward heaven?” is our question as we ponder the meaning of Christ’s Ascension. Do we stand around looking for God to fix all things, waiting for God to show up, deus ex machina, and make all things right? Or do we understand that the power we are given by God, the gift of the Spirit, sends us out to be a part of the healing of the world in Christ, and not just a part, but the key workers in that healing? Celebrating the Ascension prepares us to welcome the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives, prepares us to eagerly embrace Pentecost ten days later, prepares us to take on our role as active participants in God’s work in the world.

There is another good reason for the believers who are the people of God at Mount Olive to celebrate the Ascension. Our parish is named for the Mount of Olives, the place of Jesus’ ascending into heaven. It is the closest thing we have to a parish name-feast, a feast day for the congregation. We will have Eucharist, and a reception following, to recall that our founders saw fit to name this parish for the place Jesus gave us his mission. Perhaps their hope was that we might continue to embrace that mission, to gather in worship at the Mount of Olives and recall that from here we are sent as God’s grace to the world. God give us the strength and courage to do this!

- Pastor Crippen

The Ascension of Our Lord
This Thursday, June 2, 2011
Holy Eucharist at 7:00 p.m.,
followed by a festive reception

Help for North Minneapolis: Here’s What We Can Do

1. Donate Money: In light of the recent tornado damage in North Minneapolis, we encourage all Mount Olive members and friends to donate to Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) as a way of helping alleviate the suffering of our neighbors to the north. If you wish to make a gift and would like it recorded on your giving statement, write the check to Mount Olive and designate the gift as “Minneapolis tornado relief,” and the church will send one check to Lutheran Disaster Response with that designation. (People may also give directly to LDR if that’s their preference, but they should send the check to the Minneapolis Area Synod offices.)

2. Donate Time and Labor: 2,000 volunteers are needed to help with clean up effort this Saturday, June 4. Those interested in working must sign-up with the city. For additional information or to volunteer for this crucial effort, please call the City of Minneapolis Information Line at 311.

Sunday Readings

June 5, 2011 – Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:6-14 + Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
I Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 + John 17:1-11

June 12, 2011 – Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21 + Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
I Corinthians 12:3b-13 + John 20:19-23

This Weekend is Bach Tage!

Each year, a group of Bach-lovers from around the country gather at Mount Olive to learn about the life and work of Lutheranism’s greatest composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, and to rehearse and present a Bach Cantata. The following Bach Tage events are free and open to the public – all are welcome!

 Saturday evening, June 4 – 4:00 p.m.An All-Bach Organ Recital, presented by Mount Olive Cantor David Cherwien. This recital will include Prelude and Fugue in c minor (BWV 546) and Fantasia and Fugue in g minor (BWV 542)

 Sunday afternoon, June 5 – 4:00 p.m.Service of Evening Prayer with Bach Cantata 106, Gottes ist die allerbester Zeit (Actus Tragicus).
Vigil of PentecostSaturday, June 11, 2011at 7:00 p.m

Congratulations to Our High School Graduates!

After the morning liturgy this Sunday, June 5, we will gather to celebrate this important milestone with our high school graduates. Those (that we know of) who are graduating from high school this year are Jacob Ruff (Irondale High School, New Brighton) and Erika Penas Thurston (Southwest High School, Minneapolis). Plan to be with us to share your best wishes with them!

Praying for our Graduates

On Sunday, June 19, we would like to remember all of Mount Olive’s graduates in the Prayers of Intercession at the morning liturgy. If you, a member of your family, or someone else from Mount Olive is graduating from an post-secondary school (college, seminary, graduate school), please drop a note to the church office so that they may be named in the prayers that Sunday.

Foods of Many Nations

This MONAC fundraiser will be a great opportunity to sample foods of a variety of countries and cultures right at your church! This event will be held following the second liturgy on June 19, in the Undercroft. It will feature samples of some signature foods of many different countries. Participants will be invited to visit various stations to sample a small serving at each station. (We promise you will get enough to eat!) Cost for this event will be $12 for adults and $5 for children. The proceeds will be used to purchase needed kitchen equipment. Come prepared for an eating adventure!

Olive Branch Summer Publication

During the months of June, July, and August, The Olive Branch is published every other week. This is the last weekly issue until fall. The June issues will be published on June 13 and June 27. Information for the Olive Branch may be submitted anytime before these dates.

Music & Fine Arts Bonus Event: Arias, Duets, and More!
Sunday, June 26, 2011 – 4:00 p.m.

An afternoon of delightful singing is planned for June 26! Angela Neiderloh (mezzo soprano) and Matthew Hayward (lyric baritone) team up for a summer afternoon concert.

Angela Niederloh has been acclaimed by The New York Times as “a charismatic mezzo soprano,” and Matthew Hayward is rapidly establishing himself as one of the most versatile young artists of his generation. Both travel singing in prestigious opera productions across the country including Baltimore, San Francisco, and the Met in New York.
Don’t miss this unique opportunity!

Book Discussion

For its meeting on June 11 the Book Discussion Group will read Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger, and for the July 9 meeting, they will read Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. The Book Discussion group meets on the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. All readers welcome!

Summer Worship Schedule

Please note that from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, we celebrate one Sunday Eucharist at 9:30 a.m.

The Day of Pentecost is Sunday, June 12.
Wear red to church!

Thanks From Elaine

Elaine Stender wishes to thank everyone from Mount Olive for the beautiful flowers, the hugs, and the well wishes given to her as she celebrated her 90th birthday this past Sunday. She is grateful to God for the gift of your friendship.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sermon from Sunday, May 23, 2011: Fifth Sunday of Easter (A)

John 14, 1-14
Rev. Rob Ruff

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…” Today’s gospel reading from John is familiar to many of us because we’ve heard it read many times at funeral services. It’s included in funerals as words of consolation and comfort to the bereaved, assuring them that their dear, departed loved one is going to the place in God’s great, heavenly mansion prepared just for him/her.

This gospel reading is set before us today in the context of the Easter season because in it Jesus is comforting and consoling his inner circle of followers, who were upset to learn that he would soon be leaving them. He tells them that he will be taken from their midst by death and later he will leave them once again to return to heaven.

They are saddened and confused to hear this.And so he says to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust me. I am going away for your sake, in order to prepare a place for you. And when I return I will take you to myself so that you can be there with me. And you know the way to that place where I am going.”

Lovely words from Jesus. Comforting, reassuring words. You can hear His love for his friends in those words. But what is striking to me as I read this passage is how Jesus’ disciples just don’t get it. They don’t understand.

Thomas says, “Jesus, we have no idea where you are going. How can we possibly know the way to get there?” Jesus responds by saying, “All you need to do is focus on me, and trust in me. I am the way I am the truth I am the life. In me you have all you need. In knowing and seeing me, you also know and see God the Father.”

Again, lovely words. Comforting, reassuring words. But Phillip is still clueless. He says, “Speaking of God the Father, could you show him to us, Jesus?”

It’s at this point that I imagine Jesus puts his hand up to his forehead to rub his temples for a moment.

Despite sitting in Jesus’ very presence, despite walking and talking and working with him for years, the disciples don’t get it. In fact it seems, more often than not, Jesus’ inner circle was rather clueless. They didn’t seem to truly understand just who Jesus was, or where he was going, or what mission he was on.

For example:

• The argued amongst themselves over which one of them would be the greatest – even though Jesus told them that in his kingdom the least will be the greatest.

• They wanted to stay on the top of the bright mountain where Jesus was transfigured – even though he told them that he needed to travel down into the dark valley.

• They drew a sword to defend Jesus when soldiers came to arrest him – even though he had called them to be peacemakers and had told them he would need to suffer the cross.

• They did not recognize the risen Jesus while he walked beside them on the road – even though their hearts were burning within them all the while. Jesus called them “foolish and slow of heart”.

It seems that the only time that the disciples were not ‘foolish’ or ‘slow of heart’ was when Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter came up with the right answer: “You are God’s chosen One come to save us.”

But only a moment later when Jesus explained that his saving work would come in and through his death, Peter tried to block Jesus’ path. And Jesus had to say “Get behind me, Satan.”
Clueless. Foolish. Slow of heart. So often not understanding.

It’s a bit of grace for us, I suppose, that His disciples were so often slow to understand Jesus because we too can be slow to understand Him.

• Like the disciples, we too would rather stay on the mountaintop where it is bright and safe, rather than follow Jesus down into life’s dark and foreboding valleys.

• We too often argue amongst ourselves about self-centered matters rather than reaching out in love to those in need.

• We too are often inclined to wage war rather than make peace.

• And we too often fail to recognize the risen Christ who walks right beside us.

And yet we should remember that Jesus then built his inner circle of disciples, and today constructs his Church with the only raw materials available here on earth: Ordinary, fallible, often slow to understand, human beings, like Thomas and Philip, Peter and Stephen, Mary and Martha. Like you and me.

And the wonder and mystery of it, is this: Jesus relies on us ordinary, fallible, human beings to be his very body in the world. He relies on us to help him bring about his kingdom. In fact, theologian and poet, Dorothee Sölle in a section of her poem, “When He Came”, goes so far as to put it this way:

He needs you.
That’s all there is to it
Without you he’s left hanging
Goes up in Dachau’s smoke
Is sugar and spice in the baker’s hands
gets revalued in the next stock market crash
he’s consumed and blown away
used upwithout you

Help him
That’s what faith is
he can’t bring it abouthis kingdom
couldn’t then couldn’t later can’t now
not at any rate without you
and that is his irresistible appeal

But just how are we ordinary, fallible human beings to be of any real help to Jesus in bringing about His kingdom, prone as we are to slowness of heart, to misunderstanding? Might we not, in some crucial moment fail Him or deny that we even know Him?

Well, we must remember this: God, in Jesus, has unleashed Easter on the world, Has cracked open the tomb of death. The risen Jesus is the first born of the dead and through him, in him, and with him nothing is ever the same again. Death has been overcome by life. Darkness is turned to daylight. Sadness is transformed into joy.

And in addition, God has unleashed Pentecost, blowing the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth, setting the faithful afire. Tongues are spoken, flames burn brightly, the church is born. And nothing is ever the same again.

Nothing is the same. Including us, Brothers and Sisters.

Because of Jesus, because of Easter, because in baptism we have been infused with the Holy Spirit, we are not the same. We are not just fallible, sinful humans. We are also saints.

In the words of our 2nd lesson: “Once we were not a people but now we are God’s people.”We are not the same, just as the disciples were not the same after Easter, after God’s Spirit was breathed into them. They were transformed from cowering in fear behind locked doors to boldly traveling throughout the known world proclaiming God’s good news and founding the church.
They were transformed from ones who failed to understand Jesus to ones who served him in love and faith, like Stephen, the first martyr, who was moved to pray forgiveness for those who killed him. We too, Brothers & Sisters, like the disciples, have been transformed by our sweet savior. Because of Jesus, because of Easter, because of baptism: We have become “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, … God own people” - and we have been chosen, transformed, & loved in order that we might help him – “in order that we might proclaim the mighty acts of the Holy One who called us out of the darkness of our misunderstandings into God’s own marvelous Easter light.”

So help him, Brothers and Sisters, help him who is our way, our truth, our life – help Him. That’s what faith is.

Follow him through the land of unlikeness. Serve him in this world so beset by anxiety and despair. Love him and those he calls you to love in his name: neighbors, the lost, the lonely, outcasts, our enemies.

“You who believe in me, He said, will do the works that I do, and, in fact, will do greater works than these because I have gone up to God the Father.”

In other words, He needs us, we who have received his life-changing mercy, He needs us to bring about his kingdom. That is, indeed, his irresistible appeal.


The Olive Branch, 5/23/11

Accent on Worship

Deeply Woven Roots

We are in the Easter Season when we can declare with certainty and joy “He is Risen, Heis Risen Indeed!” This past Sunday was the 5th Sunday of Easter and we heard in both the Psalm and the Gospel what keeps this congregation coherent, concise, concrete, constant and sometimes conflicted.

Psalm 31 names God as our rock and our fortress to whom and in whom we commit our livesand our spirits. The Gospel of John tells our hearts not to be troubled but also contains the seeds of trouble for neither Thomas nor Philip can understand what Jesus is telling them. The questions both of them ask betray our own fear and uncertainty, always filled with potential conflict.

So how does Mount Olive keep itself coherent, concise, concrete, constant and agile when conflicted? It is the worship service at Mount Olive! Some of you may have heard me comment on the worship at Mount Olive and how I am often brought to tears in the midst of worship. I know that I am not alone in this. So you may well ask, “Why? What happens in worship that brings worshipers to tears?”

I am brought to tears when the presence of God is so palpable. The reverence built within this congregation over many years manifests itself throughout the worship: in the procession the cross is processed followed closely by the candles and the Book advancing with grace and dignity; the gracing of the altar; the preparation of the altar for the Eucharist which includes our bowing to one another as holy things are passed between us. All this is possible because God is at the center and not us. All this is possible for we believe and trust that The Wholly Other, the Ground of Being, God, the Ultimate Presence to whom we seek to relate is present for us.”

Another reason for the tears in worship is made clear by Gary Gunderson, author of Deeply Woven Roots, who writes “Congregations are where people come together, gathered by God to serve God’s intentions of renewing and redeeming the whole world, not in domination but in love.” The way folks at Mount Olive greet others is testimony to this whether friends are greeted or first time worshipers. We greet one another heartily for we trust that God is in the midst of us and our life together to bring life out of death.

Over the past 100 years Mount Olive has been in the process of creating DEEPLY WOVEN ROOTS. Gunderson also writes about a forty foot circle of Redwood trees within Muir National Forest in the Bay area of California, each of which was 250 feet tall and ten to thirteen feet in diameter. The author, lying on the ground, could see the very tops of the trees, almost out of sight, touching one another, as if they were one tree.

One of the most important things about a Redwood tree is about how it passes life on. Redwood trees don’t spring from individual seeds but from the roots of older trees. Therefore Gunderson understood that he was lying in the middle of what had been a giant of a Redwood tree and that the trees surrounding him were in fact the young ones. They reached 250 feet tall but they were the children. Not only were they touching one another at the top, they were inseparable at the bottom where their roots were deeply woven together.

This is what is happens at Mount Olive every day and certainly in the midst of worship. The worship at Mount Olive roots us deeply with each other and all those who have gone before us and all those who will yet come. It is worship that keeps this congregation coherent, concise, concrete, constant and sometimes conflicted and it is blessed for it provides the vision of God’s reign of justice, generosity, and joy for all people. For this I give thanks!

- Elizabeth Beissel

Summer Worship ScheduleBegins This Sunday

Please note that from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, we celebrate one Sunday Eucharist at 9:30 a.m. This year, summer schedule begins this Sunday, May 29, and runs through Sunday, September 4.

Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Holy Eucharist at 7:00 p.m.

Sunday Readings
May 29, 2011 – Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 17:22-31 + Psalm 66:8-20
I Peter 3:13-22 + John 14:15-21

June 5, 2011 – Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:6-14 + Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
I Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 + John 17:1-11

Olive Branch Summer Publication

During the months of June, July, and August, The Olive Branch is published every other week. Weekly publication continues through May 30. The June issues will be published on June 13 and June 27. If you have information to be included in these issues, please have it in to the church office before (or by) these dates.

Summer Jobs After School Volunteers Needed

Summer is almost upon us and I am preparing for the Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries youth program, Jobs After School. It will run from June 27 through August 12.

This program is in need of volunteers to help supervise the many projects in which the JAS kids will be involved. If you can volunteer one day a week (that's 7 total days for the summer) for two to three hours each day to mentor four youth this summer, please call me at Mount Olive,

- Donna Neste

Foods of Many Nations

This MONAC fundraiser will be a great opportunity to sample foods of a variety of countries and cultures right at your church! This event will be held following the second liturgy on June 19, in the Undercroft. It will feature samples of some signature foods of many different countries.

Participants will be invited to visit various stations to sample a small serving at each station. (We promise you will get enough to eat!) Cost for this event will be $12 for adults and $5 for children. The proceeds will be used to purchase needed kitchen equipment. Come prepared for an eating adventure!

Book Discussion

For its meeting on June 11 the Book Discussion Group will read Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger, and for the July 9 meeting, they will read Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese.

The Book Discussion group meets on the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. All readers welcome!

A Building Committee Update

There’s an old adage that the last 10% of the work on a project takes as long to complete as the prior 90%. That’s the phase of the remodeling project that we’re in.

The Building Committee has a few things left on the list, and these will be completed as time and money allow. Thanks to the generosity of the congregation in the most recent fund appeal, we are confident that this work will be finished soon. The major pieces remaining are:

1. Directional signage around the building. We have met with a sign designer and should have some potential designs shortly.
2. Completing a wall to divide the downstairs room nearest the elevator into two sections. This will provide space for both the Diaper Depot and storage for Donna’s many ministries. Off-season worship items will also be placed here.
3. Putting a door between the upstairs kitchen and the galley kitchen area, to help manage sound as people work in the kitchen.
4. Extend the track lighting in the east and central hospitality areas.

Projects that are now complete include the library shelves installation, purchase and installation of a new coffee maker in the kitchen (including installing a 40 amp electrical service), installation of the picture rail and hanging the art, and numerous other smaller tasks.

Thanks to everyone who has helped get these tasks finished.

Wish List Update

We have received some very generous anonymous donations recently. A library table, a chair for the women’s restroom for nursing mothers, and ten additional upholstered stack chairs for the East Assembly Room have all been donated by interested members. Also, Lora and Allen Dundek have donated a fifth folding table for the East Assembly Room, as well as half of the new palm planters in the West Reception Area. The remaining planters were donated anonymously. That means that we have only 7 more stack chairs on the Wish List, as well as some Godly Play items. Thanks be to God that our Wish List is dwindling. However, one item remains to be researched and was brought to my attention by Gary Pagel and our sexton. They both have the idea that our welcome/event sign on the front lawn could be changed to an electronic version that can be programmed from inside the church office. I have no idea where to source this product, but if anyone does, please let us know.

I want to thank all of those donors who have been so generous in donating nearly all of our new furnishings, the banner stands, other worship items, as well as many of the Godly Play items. It is with such kind generosity that we are all able to enjoy the continuous renewal of our spaces and of the way we worship at Mount Olive. In July, I will pass the Wish List baton on to the new Vestry Vice President, Lisa Nordeen. Please continue to support the Mount Olive Wish List in the future. It has been a terrific tool and I look forward to many more years of increased support!

Respectfully submitted,
Brian Jacobs

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sermon for May 15, 2011, Fourth Sunday of Easter (A)

Rev. Arthur Halbardier
Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2:19-25
St. John 10:1-10

* *

Relationships are complicated…we know.

Some relationships are REALLY complicated.

But it would seem the relationship of sheep with their shepherd would be fairly straightforward.
Jesus is our shepherd, and we are his “sheep.”

Perhaps some of you may not take kindly to being called “sheep.” Sheep are …typically cast as notoriously dumb critters.

My personal knowledge about sheep and sheep keeping is essentially nil. But one writer, who knows a great deal more about sheep than I, suggests that the notion “sheep are dumb” is an ugly little canard spread by cattle ranchers, who typically have fairly low regard for sheep, primarily because sheep don’t behave like cattle. (1)

Example: Cattle are herded from behind by cowboys who hoot and crack whips to make the cattle move. Stand behind a flock of sheep and make loud noises, and they will run around behind you, because sheep prefer to be led. Unlike cattle, sheep have the good sense to not go anywhere that someone else – their shepherd – does not go first, to assure them it is possible…and safe. Which doesn’t sound “dumb” at all.

No wonder Jesus chose to be known as “the good shepherd” rather than “the good cowboy.” Jesus went before us; faced death and hell before us… We face life and even death trusting God in Jesus has already won the victory over them … FOR US.

Today in Palestine, you can still witness scenes similar to the one Jesus described in today’s Gospel. Bedouin shepherds bring their flocks at dusk to a safe protected place, a sheepfold, where there is a watering hole. The flocks become all mixed up together – eight or nine small flocks become a convention of thirsty sheep.

But shepherds don’t worry about the mix-up. When it’s time to move on the next day, each shepherd gives his or her own distinctive call – a special whistle, maybe a distinctive tune on a reed pipe – and that shepherd’s flock will step from the crowd to follow their shepherd.

The flock knows to whom they belong; they know their shepherd’s voice; and it is the only voice they will follow. So, sheep may not be so dumb after all. They seem pretty sensible in fact: they know they can’t go it alone, and that they need to rely on someone they can trust.

If sheep and the shepherd is to portray our relationship with God, then it’s important to note here the key to the relationship is not how smart the sheep are or what the sheep do.The critical point in the relationship is that the shepherd knows each of them by name. God, our shepherd, knows each of us by name. Perhaps we were not paying attention at our baptism when our name was spoken – but God was paying attention!

And on that day, God who declared at the baptism of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased,” declares that you and I are “children of God” and “inheritors of eternal life.”
Whether we have lived as we promised in baptism (unlikely) - or have failed miserably(probably) - we are part of his flock.

God knows us by name, and will not let us go: There is no more consoling word we can hear at the funeral of one we love, no more comforting thought to hold on to at 2:19a.m. when the troubles and worries of the day deny the possibility of sleep, than that we belong to God, who does not forget us.

But, Jesus goes on to say, “when the sheep hear the shepherd’s voice, they know it, and they follow him.”

…..It was going so well…. until that point, wasn’t it? Isn’t it remarkable how the very gospel that comforts us, also frequently questions us? And I wish for better answers.

For there is a cacophony of voices that daily vie for my attention, that tempt me with sweet-sounding alternatives, and I often listen to them – not to the voice of my shepherd. And what of following him? I am more inclined to choose my own path rather than the way he is leading me. And, even when I try to follow his way, I’m often simply stuck in place by fear. And by doubt … I doubt myself, and I doubt him. Is it somewhat like that with you, also?

Perhaps this relationship – our relationship with God – is not so straightforward after all. Not because God’s isn’t straightforward and consistent. It’s our side where things get messy.
Clearly the twelve disciples who first heard Jesus use this figure of speech didn’t find it
all that straightforward, either. The Bible says, “They did not understand what he was saying to them.” (2)

So, Jesus tries a different tack. “OK. Think again about the sheepfold. I am the gate for the sheep.” Jesus evidently thought this was an improvement - that this would help them understand. “I am the gate.” I’m sure that clears everything up for you, too, doesn’t it?
“Gate” isn’t a particularly engaging image. Gates stand between those who have a right to be inside, and all the others. Gates say – KEEP OUT – This place is restricted. This gated community isn’t for you. You're not welcome unless you can prove you belong.

Yet Jesus regards it great “good news” that he is “the gate” for the sheep. Jesus tells his friends, “you must enter by the gate.” You can’t climb in through a window or a crack inthe wall. You can’t work your way in by being good, or doing right, or by serving fifteen terms on the finance committee.

This gate is open for you. I AM THE GATE! You come in through me. Through my life and my death on the cross, which incredibly God says is your life and your death in Holy Baptism. You come in hanging onto my coat tails. I am the gate and the only to get through the gate also.”
There’s another aspect to the image of “the gate.” Again, having the understanding of those folks 2000 years ago who first heard Jesus sheds some additional light.

Sometimes, when sheep were out in the fields for days at a time, coming back to a sheepfold wasn’t an option. Sometimes the shepherd had to improvise, lead the flock to some other safe place for the night – a cave perhaps, or a small box canyon. Then the shepherd would take his place at the entrance. The shepherd’s body was the “gate,” not so much to keep the sheep in, but to keep out thieves and predators.

Our shepherd still places himself between us and the things that threaten our life. Evil that would have us has first to take on our Lord Jesus. Our shepherd remains there at the threshold of daily life standing with us… for us.

The relationship is complex, yet so very simple. Let me sum it up: Though we often ignore God’s voice and hesitate to follow it, God, our shepherd knows us by name and declares us his own. It will never be a matter of what we do, but a matter of whom God says we are. And God, our shepherd, continues to stand with us to support and defend us.

After a statement like that, we know Martin Luther would have continued, “And what does this mean for us?” Our hopeless existence has been transformed by a gift we didn’task for nor deserve. What does this mean for us?

It means what we heard in today’s second reading: “Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness.” (3)

“Live for righteousness” means that because we are the body of Christ in our present world,we are open gate to all who would come to him. And, “live for righteousness” means we now join our shepherd in the lives of others, encouraging and defending them.

And, what does this mean for us? Perhaps an example can help our reflection.

This week, our brothers and sisters in the Presbyterian Church USA voted to remove the language in their constitution that created a double standard of behavior for clergy whoare gay and lesbian. We Lutherans know the unpleasant journey ahead for our Presbyterian friends. We’ve been there. Despite the hurts and losses the ELCA has experienced since making a similar decision in 2009, I think that decision stands out as one of our best moments as a church body. That decision, and the one by our Presbyterian sisters and brothers this week were decisions made solely for the sake of the gospel as we can best understand it, knowing full well the cost of that decision.

This is the “enduring” our second reading described – “when we do right and suffer for it.” (4)
Lutheran theology refers to this kind of act as “bearing the cross.” Bearing the cross is what it may mean for us, when we heed the voice of the shepherd.

Elaine and I recently had the chance to witness the social change in South Africa. Thirty years ago, people of faith around the world took the lead in declaring the system of apartheid an atrocity, determined that fighting apartheid was a matter of conscience. Eighteen years after apartheid was officially dismantled, the legacy of that ugly system is not completely erased, but good things are happening.

There was great potential cost in taking a stand against apartheid; all of us with a church pension fund knew the cost might be personal, since one tool was church divestment incorporations doing business in South Africa. But the cross of resisting evil was taken up, and our shepherd sustained his flock in their witness to the gospel.

These have been significant events in recent history. But, what of the future?

Today, we face a national budget and debt out of control. Same at the state level almost everywhere. Unemployment is high, cost of basics like food and fuel are up – and no one wants higher taxes. The solution from some quarters is to weaken environmental protections, reduce support for education and human services, cut non-military foreign aid, to pull back the ever more costly social safety net.

But, who would most feel the effect? We know. It would be the elderly, children and the poor, here and abroad. The future generations who will live in the spoiled environment we leave them. The disabled, the unemployed… all those who have no lobbyists or organized voice. The ones who are ignored by some, and easily forgotten by all of us.

But, our shepherd knows them. By name. They also belong to him.

What does this mean for us? How can the church possibly make a difference? What can individual citizens do? What will be the cost to us, to take their side?

On this and so many other tough issues I do not have clear answers for myself, and certainly not for you. Joe Sittler once described the practice of Christian ethics as “taking a stand with both feet firmly planted in mid-air.” It feels that way, most of the time, as we try to discern “what does this mean for us?”

This I do know. There is the one, who knows my name and yours. Who promises God’s grace will be sufficient for us, and God’s strength will be revealed in our weakness. (5) When I think of occasions when the church has risen up to advocate for victims of injustice and discrimination, the truth of that passage is clear and sure.

A little girl was offering her evening prayers. She had been working on the words of the23rd psalm. This evening she began, “The Lord is my shepherd; that’s all I want.”

She didn’t have the words just right, but, friends, but she truly had the point.

In the end, when we don’t have the answers, we have our shepherd. When we despair because we have no idea what to do, we still have the shepherd. Humiliated by our own timid efforts to follow his lead, or when we give in to self-doubt or despair, still there will be our shepherd, who knows us by name, and does not forget, nor will ever let us go.

Who else could we want…or need?

1. Barbara Brown Taylor, The Voice of the Shepherd
2. John 10:6
3. 1 Peter 2:24
4. 1 Peter 2:20
5. 2 Corinthians. 12:8

The Olive Branch, 5/16/11

Accent on Worship

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

In the Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter Jesus claims his Godhood with the Father. He says to his disciples, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”

If we are to focus on the mission and ministry of Jesus and believe them to be the work of the Father, then we must conclude that our God is merciful and forgiving. The public life of Jesus exuded mercy and forgiveness and, as written in the book of Acts, the early church celebrated the life of their Savior by living lives of mercy and forgiveness.

“The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” How could we ever do greater works than Jesus? But the church that Jesus began has and does do greater works. These are the works of mercy that have come down from Jesus, through the early church and continues into the present.

Jesus’ followers are all over the world doing works of mercy. We cannot raise the dead, but we have certainly rescued millions from pain, misery and indeed death. Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Charities, ChurchWorld Services and Bread for the World are just a few of the many Christian based organizations doing Jesus’ works of mercy, by feeding the hungry, healing the sick, housing the homeless, empowering and alleviating the suffering of millions of the worlds poor.

Stephen, as written in the this Sunday’s first reading, was the first martyr, but not only was his life a model of the ultimate sacrifice to God, but one of forgiveness. Like his Lord, Stephen forgave those who were executing him. “Lord do not hold this sinagainst them,” he cried out before he died. It is no casual observation, in this story of Stephen’s martyrdom, that Saul was one of the witnesses to this incredible forgiveness. Forgiveness generates peace, love and power. As the Book of Acts unfolds, we witness the spiritual power of forgiveness, when the early Christians were called to forgive Saul.

Without the forgiveness and trust of Jesus’ followers Saul would not have gone on to become the powerful evangelist of the early church he was. What the Church is all about comes from the works of Jesus and the lips of Stephen this Fifth Sunday of Easter.

- Donna Pususta Neste

Sunday Readings

May 22, 2011 – Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts 7:55-60 + Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
I Peter 2:2-10 + John 14:1-14

May 29, 2011 – Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 17:22-31 + Psalm 66:8-20I Peter 3:13-22 + John 14:15-21

Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Holy Eucharist at 7:00 p.m.

Summer Worship Schedule

Please note that from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, we celebrate one Sunday Eucharist at 9:30 a.m. This year, summer schedule begins on Sunday, May 29 and runs through Sunday, September 4.

Adult Education, Sunday May 22

Bob Lee will lead the second part of a discussion entitled, “Responsible Enterprise.” Jesus commands us to love our neighbors and this presentation will outline the difficult, but possible, path to accept Jesus’ command and end the immorality of poverty.

Summer Jobs After School Volunteers Needed

Summer is almost upon us and I am preparing for the Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries youth program, Jobs After School. It will run from June 27 through August 12. This program is in need of volunteers to help supervise the many projects in which the JAS kids will be involved. If you can volunteer one day a week (that's 7 total days for the summer) for two to three hours each day to mentor four youth this summer, please call me at Mount Olive, 612-827-5919.

- Donna Neste

Foods of Many Nations

This MONAC fundraiser will be a great opportunity to sample foods of a variety of countries and cultures right at your church! This event will be held following the second liturgy on June 19, in the Undercroft. It will feature samples of some signature foods of many different countries.

Participants will be invited to visit various stations to sample a small serving at each station. (We promise you will get enough to eat!) Cost for this event will be $12 for adults and $5 for children. The proceeds will be used to purchase needed kitchen equipment. Come prepared for an eating adventure!

Highlights from the May Vestry Meeting

The Vestry met on May 9 with all members in attendance.

Under unfinished business, an update on the Staff Support Committee was given, as well as the Capital Campaign RFP process regarding our tithe commitment. Also addressed was the transition of Building Committee tasks. The Staff Support Committee is still in the stages of finalizing the committee structure and processes. The process for discovering the right recipients of our remaining tithe monies from the Capital Campaign is underway. The Building Committee is finding that the remaining 10% of the building project has been the most time-consuming and unrelated to the actual building process, so they will meet on Thursday to discuss how to turn over the remaining items, such as interior design, building use, art displays, etc., to the proper interested parties.

There were several items discussed under new business. Pastor Crippen gave the names and terms of the members of the 2010-2011 Internship Committee. Those on the committee are Liz Beissel, Warren Peterson, Steve Manuel, Miriam Luebke, Linda Hafemeister, and John Crippen.

Warren Peterson brought up the idea of our renowned photographer, Paul Nixdorf, to stage a revolving photo gallery in the East Assembly Room of seasonal liturgical photos. The Vestry approved of this generous offer. Pastor Crippen and David Molvik indicated that our sexton William's probation period is up and they will be doing an official performance review by the end of the month. All agreed that William has been somewhat of an amazing blessing, as his work has been outstanding and done with a great deal of pride.

TRUST, the new community social services group Mount Olive belongs to, has asked that we supply mailing labels of our member names so they can send a one-time newsletter to our members. The Vestry felt that protecting the privacy of our members was more important, and we will respond to TRUST that we prefer to announce our involvement with TRUST and possible donation opportunities via electronic means.

All of the members who joined Mount Olive last Sunday were officially approved by the Vestry.
It was stated that this large "class" of new members has already given a great deal of momentum to our community and many of the members have taken advantage of service opportunities.

There was some discussion of our tax-exempt status. We were reminded that, although the ELCA is a 501(c)3 entity, Mount Olive is not. That status can affect certain gifts and donations given to various of our auxiliary organizations.

Pastor Crippen, Ann Sorenson and Adam Krueger commented on various highlights of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Synod convention. A detailed report will be given soon.

Pastor Crippen assured us that Liz Beissel and Neil Herring will assume pastoral care duties while he is travelling to the Holy Land this week. Art Halbardier and Rob Ruff will preside over worship services. All staff reported very busy days leading up to, during and after Holy Week. The Vestry is most appreciative of all of the hard work done during this busy time of year.

Director Reports were offered. Most notably, Diana Hellerman reported that Sharon Baglyos is offering her services as a Godly Play teacher! Diana is also most grateful, as we close out the school year, for Susan Cherwien's and Dwight Penas' terrific support with the Adult Education program. Andrew Andersen reported that the church web site is being updated continuously. He also said that the several new member events were excellent and well-attended and that he's looking forward to keeping the momentum going. Paul Schadewald reported that Don McLellan will be a new member on the Missions Committee. He also had several bullet points for us to ponder regarding his committee's hard work. He distributed a global map with labeling of all the points worldwide that benefit from Mount Olive's generosity. Eunice Hafemeister reported that the Neighborhood Ministries Committee is planning to have its fundraiser on Sunday, June 19. Members of All God's Children Community Church will be assisting with the 2nd community meal each month. After surveying the frequent diners, it was decided that the 2nd meal will be a noon luncheon as well. David Molvik stated that Metro Blooms will continue to work on the rain garden project near the parking lot during the month of June. He said the Properties Committee is working on a clearer labeling system for identifying electrical circuits. He also found a rider in our insurance coverage that covers acts of terrorism. By eliminating this rider, we can save nearly $800 annually. The Vestry wholeheartedly agreed that we should eliminate this language in the contract. Paul Sundquist reviewed the treasury report and indicated that he will set Mount Olive up for Simply Giving offerings to be accepted with credit accounts. Brian Jacobs reported that an additional donation by Margaret and Al Bostelmann has been received for Godly Play items on the Wish List.

The meeting adjourned at 9 pm with the reminder that June's Vestry meeting will be held on June 13th at 6:30 with a light supper to welcome the 2010-2011 new Vestry members.

Respectfully submitted,
Brian JacobsVice President

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sermon from May 8, 2011 + The Third Sunday of Easter (A)

“Open the Eyes of Our Faith”

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: Luke 24:13-35; Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Sisters and brothers, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

I keep coming back to one compelling moment in this Gospel story. Two disciples of Jesus have spent 7 miles walking and talking to him on the day of his resurrection, but somehow they don’t yet recognize their companion. As they come near their home, Jesus keeps walking, continuing his journey. And they stop him: “Stay with us, for it is almost evening, and the day is now nearly over.” They invite him into their home for a meal, and when they offer him the hospitality of asking him to say the customary prayer over the bread, their eyes are opened, they recognize him. And then he vanishes.

But what if they hadn’t invited this erudite and conversational stranger into their home? What if they hadn’t asked him to stay for dinner? What if they’d simply said, “It’s been very good to talk to you; God be with you on your further journey”?

I only wonder this because I suspect that’s what I might have done. I don’t easily welcome strangers into my home, I’m too private. I’ve had interesting conversations with people I’d only just met, but I don’t know if I ever considered inviting them to dinner. And it’s not just this scenario that troubles me. I am sure there have been times when if I had done something, or acted on something in my heart, I would have seen Jesus in a new way. But I didn’t.

So that’s my question this morning: what happens to this story if the couple from Emmaus simply sends Jesus on his way with a blessing? And what happens to us when we miss our opportunities for seeing Jesus in a deeper, more powerful way?

There’s an interesting thing about two of our readings this morning. In Acts and Luke people are moved in a deep spiritual way – and then something else deeper happens when they act.

Both these readings are by the author we know as Luke. And the language is even the same. As Peter finishes his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, his hearers are “cut to the heart,” Luke says. Something about what he has said has driven to the very center of their being. And they ask Peter what they can do about this.

As Jesus speaks to the Emmaus couple on the road, their hearts are also deeply affected. Luke says they describe it as their hearts burned within them as Jesus explained the Scriptures to them. They were set alight at the very center of their being. And they invited this teacher to have dinner with them.

Both of these encounters powerfully moved the hearers, who heard something that changed everything about how they looked at themselves and the world. And in both cases, the hearers act on this new sense that has riven them at their core. And as a result both experience a second reality as transforming as the first:

In Acts, 3,000 become new believers, baptized into this brand-new church Jesus has created. They receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Luke, the believers see alive before them, sitting at their table, their beloved Lord and Master whom they knew was killed. And they begin to understand what he is all about.

And this is the part I fret about: how often has God spoken to my core, my heart, and I have not followed where that led? And what have I missed as a result? What have you missed?

The problem seems to be in the seeing, and that’s something we just considered in Lent.

In the healing of the man born blind, Jesus uses that occasion to reflect on seeing – on understanding – what God was doing. And this couple from Emmaus has similar vision problems.

First, they don’t recognize Jesus in their midst. Though their hearts are burning as he teaches, they don’t realize who is with them. But they also don’t see what Jesus is really about – which is closer to the Pharisees’ problem with the healed blind man.

The Pharisees expected the Messiah would be completely obedient to the laws of God, to the Torah. Jesus was not, therefore he cannot be the Messiah. This couple says it this way: We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel. And clearly that’s not the case since he allowed the oppressive Romans to crucify him.

In fact, Luke reminds us again in Acts chapter 1 that the disciples in general hoped for political redemption from Jesus. Or at least that in Jesus God had come to help, to make a difference. That the Romans would be driven out and Israel restored to its proud glory by Jesus, the Son of God with so much power. That the difficult life of suffering and privation that so many led would be changed by Jesus, the Son of God who healed and fed in miraculous ways. Then evil destroyed him. “They stood still, looking sad” might be the understatement of this whole story.

The question becomes this: what do we expect Jesus will do? Are we, too, disappointed, standing around looking sad? And does that keep us from acting, and so seeing Jesus? Are we disappointed because it’s been 2,000 years and the world still seems a mess? Disappointed because Jesus’ way of self-giving love sometimes seems impotent, and the powers of evil and strength dominate the world? “We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel” they said. What did we hope from Jesus?

In some ways modern faith has become completely individualized – if we hope for anything it’s personal enlightenment, personal salvation, personal strength of faith. We want to see Jesus for ourselves. It sometimes takes a great deal of effort to remind ourselves that Jesus did not come, teach, suffer, die, and rise just so we all could have peace in our hearts and hope for eternal life. The witness of the Church is that Jesus’ coming and all that Jesus did and does were for the sake of the restoring of the world – that he did come to redeem all. And since the world still isn’t looking very restored, if we do recognize that was the goal we find ourselves in the same camp as the couple from Emmaus.

But what if we act in faith, like they did? They didn’t see Jesus, but they did what I might not have: they responded to the burning in their hearts. They invited him into their home, into their lives.

If the problem is that we don’t see as Jesus sees, if we misunderstand what his call is, what his goal is, what he hopes for from us and from the Church, and how he will redeem the world, then the only solution is to invite him in and ask him to teach us. Those Emmaus disciples might have struggled to believe, and struggled to see Jesus, but they did the right thing inviting him in.

And when we do this, when we respond to the times he’s touched our hearts and invite him in, we discover he is willing to teach us, too, and open the eyes of our faith just as he opened theirs.

Luke says he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread, which we rightly see as what happens to us when we eat of the Eucharist. But there is more to Jesus’ being known here than just this. It isn’t just that we know Jesus is there, that we receive his real presence. It is in the breaking of the bread that he reveals his plan to redeem the world, and when we eat and drink we begin to see that as well as Jesus himself.

We are called the body of Christ by Paul. The being of Christ, the very existence of Christ. As he breaks the bread in our Eucharistic meal, we see Jesus with us. But we also find that he breaks us for the sake of the world.

He takes us, breaks us – opens our lives to all the pain and suffering of the world – and then gives us to the world saying, “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you.” When we eat of this bread and drink from this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death, yes. But we also proclaim our own. That we do not live for ourselves at all anymore – that we are broken and sent into the world to be the food for the world.

And we begin to see that this is all part of the gift – as God is given to the world in Jesus, God is given to the world in us, too. And that’s what Jesus means by redemption – not necessarily political, though as we are broken and shared with the world, politics might change. Not necessarily the ending of all suffering and pain, though as we are broken and shared with the world we will be a part of the easing of suffering and pain where we are placed.

But in this: there is no need for us to stand there looking sad, saying “we had hoped.” Because as we are broken and shared with the world, as we are the body of Christ, we are part of God’s salvation, part of God’s self-giving life for the world. And we see Jesus before us, and in us, and among us. And we know.

Here’s the hard part. We might not want this job.

If we know that Jesus’ plan, Jesus’ redemption, involves breaking us and sharing us with the world, we might rather stay away. Let Jesus keep walking down the road and not invite him in, not ask him to come and stay with us because it is evening. We might insist on not seeing Jesus, if that means sacrifice and loss for us, even if it is for the sake of the world.

But here’s the truth we cannot avoid: it is only with Jesus that our hearts burn with joy and life and understanding, only with Jesus that we see and know true life, only with Jesus that anything makes sense. We can send him on his way, close the door, and breathe a sigh of relief that we’ve dodged something. I suppose if our goal is to lock the door and keep to ourselves, that’s an option.

But if we want to live, truly live, and know the joy that God is working to redeem this world after all, we’d do better to invite Jesus in. He’ll do what he usually does, and insist on changing us completely, for the sake of the world. But we will see him. And we will know what life really is.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

The Olive Branch, 5/9/11

Accent on Worship

Setting Nine

You’ve probably noticed: we’re singing setting nine during the Sundays of Easter.

Since I served on the liturgical music committee for the ELW up to about a year before the publication of the book, I can share with you some of what went into its development. At the time this committee was disbanded, we were still thinking two or three settings would be included and it was difficult deciding which they would be. It was quite the surprise to find ten settings when it was released! What is now setting nine, however, was at play during my time on the committee.

It seemed a difficult time for the church to create a common resource for worship as the musical language of its individual communities included a very wide spectrum of style and cultures. One question we raised as a committee was whether it would be possible for a composer create a set of melodies for the ordinary of the mass (Kyrie, Gloria, This is the Feast, Gospel Acclamation, Great Thanksgiving, Lamb of God) that could be transported across several stylistic lines. In other words, a set of melodies which might sound “at home” equally with an Anglican organ/choir language, a praise band culture, Black Gospel, with Latino rhythms, or even unaccompanied. Quite challenging indeed! We commissioned a small number of composers to attempt this very thing. One composer politely declined saying it was not possible. Another tried unsuccessfully. Yet another was Marty Haugen, whose setting became setting 2 of ELW, but is really not a multi-styled piece, it’s Haugen. As it should be.

Setting nine came the closest for several of us on the committee. We sang it several ways: without accompaniment, with organ/style accompaniment, with Black Gospel accompaniment – it seemed at home in all those “clothes.” But it stood out to me above the other 100 or so settings we looked at for some additional reasons. It was one of the few that was distinctive. It wasn’t a re-make of a former success. It was a trajectory language, not one that looked back to a recent popular era (this is what settings 2 by Marty Haugen, and 8 -an attempt at folk, “contemporary” styles do.). Even the two ethnically based settings (6, Black Gospel and 7, Latino) designed for those communities are not new settings. Setting 10 is supposed to be the “easy” one for churches without many resources for musical leadership, and it utilizes supposedly familiar hymn tunes. The concept is like Martin Luther’s Deutsche Messe. The chorales of Luther’s settings are such high quality, I’d want to opt for them when we use this concept at Mount Olive. Setting nine, by Joel Martinson was a new style that combined some of the input of our convergent musical languages on this continent in a mature way.

It also had other attributes that some of us felt important. It WAS NOT immediate. We sang the Sanctus, all looked at each other with a sense of “well…..” (uncertainty). We sang it again, and perked up a bit. Again and we started to get more excited. It really grew on us. This is a good thing, as in our time and culture everything that is immediate leaves us just as quickly. We need mature things to grow into, and this is the closest we came to finding that kind of setting.

I think of “This is the Feast” (one of the more difficult canticles in the setting) in a modern Anglican style, not unlike William Mathias. The music has some angularity to the melodies, crispness to the almost percussive use of the organ with the chords and rhythm. And there’s an integrity to it that does not try to be anything other than what it is! Of all the musical styles it might fit, I find our particular setting (organ/choir, Anglo-Catholic Liturgical expression) a very comfortable home for this musical style.

Give it time. I remember vividly how “angular” folks thought setting 1 of LBW’s Hymns of Praise felt to folks at first. Now they are unbeatable. They will remain in the canon of the church’s song, no doubt. A colleague and church musician friend talked about being careful with what we “try”- our time in song is precious and not to be wasted. But one of the things we should be mindful of is longevity – we should try something, he says, for seven years before evaluating. So we have to choose carefully even what we “try”. But I think this is a worthwhile setting that will find its place for us as one of the many options we will use on a regular basis.

- Cantor David Cherwien

Summer Worship Schedule

Please note that from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, we celebrate one Sunday Eucharist at 9:30 a.m. This year, summer schedule begins on Sunday, May 29 and runs through Sunday, September 4.

The WolfGang This Sunday, May 15, 2011 – 4:00 p.m.

The WolfGang was formed in 1996 as a collaboration to perform music from the Classical Era on period classical instruments. The group consists of Stanley King (oboe), Mary Sorlie (violin), Steve Staruch (viola), Laura Handler (cello), Gail Olszewski (fortepiano), and Paul Jacobson (flute).

They return to Mount Olive’s Music and Fine Arts series this year to present an all-Beethoven program.

A reception will follow the concert.

Neighborhood Ministries Newsletter

The spring issue of Greetings from Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries is printed and will be distributed this Sunday, May 15, after each liturgy. If you are not in church that Sunday, you may pick one up any time at the window of the main office.

Adult Education, Sundays May 15 and 22

Bob Lee will lead a discussion entitled, “Responsible Enterprise” over the next two Sundays. Jesus commands us to love our neighbors and this presentation will outline the difficult, but possible, path to accept Jesus’ command and end the immorality of poverty.

Summer Jobs After School Volunteers Needed

Summer is almost upon us and I am preparing for the Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries youth program, Jobs After School. It will run from June 27 through August 12. This program is in need of volunteers to help supervise the many projects in which the J.A.S. kids will be involved. If you can volunteer one day a week (that's 7 total days for the summer) for two to three hours each day to mentor four youth this summer, please call me at Mount Olive, 612-827-5919.

- Donna Neste

Meal Serving Volunteers Needed!

This coming weekend, May 13-15, an RIC (Reconciling in Christ) training event is taking place at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at 2730 E. 31st St., Minneapolis (our neighbor to the east).

Mount Olive is a leader in the RIC program and we need help serving two of the meals at that training. The food and food preparation have been taken care of but we still need three helpers at each meal to set up, serve the meal, and then clean up for the dinner on Friday evening May 13 at 6 pm, and also for the lunch on Saturday, May 14 at 12:15 pm.

If you can help at one or both of these meals please call or email Paul Nixdorf as soon as possible. Paul’s phone number is 612-296-0055; his email address is
Thank you.

A Message from Pastor Crippen

Greetings, sisters and brothers! I wanted to give a little more details about my trip (so you know just what your pastor is up to while gone) and also about who will cover for some of my pastoral duties while I’m in Israel.

Liz Beissel (612-245-7067) and Neil Hering (952-938-9568) will be covering pastoral care concerns during my time away, so please call if you have need of a pastor. Art Halbardier will preach and preside on 4 Easter, May 15, and Rob Ruff will preach and preside on 5 Easter, May 22. Thanks to these faithful servants for helping the congregation in this way!

Some have asked about my itinerary. I’ll spend Tuesday May 10 in travel, and will arrive in Tel Aviv May 11. It looks as if we will stay every night in Jerusalem, and have day trips to various other cities. We’ll visit Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Sderot, as well as sites within Jerusalem. We’ll have a meeting with people at Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives, with leaders of the Palestinian Lutheran community, Palestinian Authority officials, Israeli defense forces members, Israeli and Palestinian journalists, and groups working for peace between the two peoples. It should be an enlightening and challenging trip. There will be eight days actually spent in the Holy Land.

I will keep you in my prayers as I am gone, and I would covet your prayers as well, my sisters and brothers, and invite you to keep all these peoples in your prayers as they seek the peace and justice God desires in this Holy Land.

In Christ,

Foods of Many Nations

This MONAC fundraiser will be a great opportunity to sample foods of a variety of countries and cultures right at your church! This event will be held following the second liturgy on June 19, in the Undercroft. It will feature samples of some signature foods of many different countries. Participants will be invited to visit various stations to sample a small serving at each station. (We promise you will get enough to eat!) Cost for this event will be $12 for adults and $5 for children. The proceeds will be used to purchase needed kitchen equipment. Come prepared for an eating adventure!

Questions? Call or email Eunice Hafemeister: 621-721-6790,

New Members

Mount Olive’s newest members, received May 1, 2011, are pictured below. Within a few weeks, we will begin to introduce them in The Olive Branch. In the meantime, when you see them, extend a warm welcome!

Back row, left to right: Gary Wilson, Bob Wick, Ann Becker, Adam Peterson, George Ferguson, Oswaldo Ferrucci-Villalba, Ken Shortridge, James French, John Marty, Timm Schnabel, and Tim Lindholm.
Front row (seated) left to right: Berta Wick, Cynthia Prosek, Don Nelson, Rhoda Nelson, Janet Moede, and Connie Marty.
Not pictured: Bjorn Gustafson, Karen Mohrlant, and Craige Knutson.

Report of Mount Olive’s Voting Members to the Synod Assembly

The annual Synod Assembly of the Minneapolis Area Synod was held on May 6 and 7, 2011 at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Eden Prairie. The assembly’s theme was “A Community Gathered by Christ from Stranger to Neighbor.” Friday night the assembly celebrated the Eucharist and Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was the preacher. Mount Olive’s voting members were Adam Krueger, Ann Sorenson, and Pastor Crippen. Adam Krueger provided this report of the assembly for the Olive Branch.

Assembly Highlights
One of the first orders of business was to welcome the Rostered Leaders who joined the Synod in 2010, including our own Rev. Joseph Crippen and member, Rev. Sharon Baglyos and former Cantor, Mark Sedio. Milestones recognized included rostered leaders who retired in 2010 (including former Mount Olive Pastor, Rev. Mark Wegener), those celebrating significant anniversaries of ordination, and congregations celebrating anniversaries.

The 523 voting members of the assembly passed resolutions to:

• Speak and act to prevent bullying, harassment and related violence (and memorializing the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to do the same)
• Increase the number of youth representatives on the Synod Council to two
• Authorize the Office of the Bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod to call upon national leaders to investigate FBI raids on local peace activists (and memorialized the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to make a similar call upon the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA)
• Approve budgets for 2011 and 2012
• Join with others in opposing the introduction of casino gambling in downtown Minneapolis.
Delegates also defeated a resolution to limit assets derived from the disposition of North Minneapolis congregations to ELCA mission initiatives in North Minneapolis and deferred a resolution to increase the quantity and quality of resources for young people who are considering their relationship to the military back to a committee of the Synod Council.

Bishop Johnson’s Report

Bishop Johnson reported that 13 of the Synod’s 167 congregations conducted a 1st vote to leave the Synod following last summer’s actions of the Churchwide assembly, 10 of which passed and moved on to the required 2nd vote, 9 of which passed. Nationally, 4% of congregations have taken similar action. One new congregation in our synod (in Elk River) also began from these actions. They have called a Pastor, Youth Director and average 200-300 worshippers a week and contribute 10% of their offerings to missions. Bishop Johnson gave thanks for the Pastors and congregations of the Synod who welcomed refugees from departing congregations and urged the Church to move forward to be light and life to our cities and world.

He also shared work being done on the Mission Engagement Initiative to pursue a shared leadership model for growing missions in the Synod. With the living Christ by our side, nothing will hold us back.

To date, 55% of our congregations have participated in the Malaria Initiative contributing $65,000.

Keynote Speaker

Vivian Jenkins Nelsen, co-founder of INTER-RACE, a diversity think tank located at Augsburg College, addressed the assembly on Strangers & Angels based on Hebrews 13:2. While Lutherans are generally great at hospitality, she reminded delegates that being a stranger can be risky and that we are all (including Jesus) strangers to someone.

But when we are hospitable, we receive gifts (angels unaware). The way we do hospitality becomes radical when we do it as Christ did. Not all strangers are angels, but all are created in the image of God. Sin obscures and distorts that image of God and prevents hospitality. So we must always guard against discriminating against those who are different (strangers). And when we discriminate, we fail to love the stranger and we fail to love God.

Most of us don’t know what to do with our guilt because we often confuse guilt (I did something bad) with shame (I am bad). It is important that we confess our sin, get over ourselves, and move on with the work of hospitality. As we live in the grace of our baptism with its accent on forgiveness, it has the power to make strangers into a community of neighbors, who
• Remove any notion of superiority
• Remove exclusion of others
• Live beyond self for the sake of our neighbor
• Absolve and are absolved by one another
• Work for reconciliation and restoration
• Persevere when the task is difficult
• Do not seek vengeance or become embittered

Bishop Hanson’s Report

Bishop Hanson compared the ELCA to an ecology of inter-dependent ecosystems (congregations, universities, women, youth, etc.). The tendency in most ecosystems is to turn in and focus on itself which leads to the death of the ecology. This is not the case with the ELCA when 55% of our giving is focused on growing the ecology. We can do much more together than we can do alone and what defines us as a church is our relatedness to others (ecumenical and evangelical) in Christ and not our separateness. He stressed that the body of Christ is a gift to us, not to be dismembered, but to find ways to come together in mission and ministry for the world.

Adam Krueger

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

This Week's Liturgies

Sunday, May 8, 2011: Third Sunday of Easter
Holy Eucharist, 8:00 & 10:45 a.m.

Sermon from May 1, 2011 + The Second Sunday of Easter (A)

“Witness of Doubt”

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Sisters and brothers, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Doubt is something of an unwelcome guest among people of faith. Somewhere along the line we got the message, spoken or unspoken, that having doubts was a sign of weakness, a sign of lack of faith, and something to be avoided. Thomas the apostle in this story is far too often referred to as “doubting Thomas,” as if that’s a bad thing.

Well, there are two problems with that title. First, Thomas is hardly a doubter, and in John’s Gospel is one of the disciples who truly shows faith. But second, who ever said that doubt was a bad thing? Where is that written in Scripture? If we look at all the people of faith in the Bible, doubt seems to be a pretty regular companion. The same for believers in the centuries since Jesus. Recently Mother Theresa’s lifelong doubts and struggles with faith were revealed, and I, for one, was very glad to hear of them. If the great saints can admit their own doubts, it gives the rest of us room to breathe as well.

It seems important that we find a way to embrace our doubt as a normal part of our lives of faith. Because there is a disconnect in this story of Jesus’ appearance in the Upper Room on the Sunday of the resurrection, and it’s not Thomas’ questioning. And even though for Thomas the disconnect is healed a week later by Jesus himself, it’s still worth our considering. The disconnect is this: how do people who believe in the risen Jesus share that faith with those who do not? The other disciples had seen Jesus alive; Thomas had not. How can they help him to faith?

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Of course, that’s us. But how do we witness – which is a central part of our call – to others who also have not seen and yet do not believe? Peter’s first letter says today “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.” Wow. That’s a beautiful description of our faith. But is there any way we can witness to this that’s helpful to others?

The reason I like Thomas so much in John’s Gospel, and certainly this story, is that Thomas simply reveals our reality: faith is hard when you haven’t seen.

He’s not being intransigent – he just isn’t sure he can believe something so outlandish without some evidence. In that he’s not alone. All of us are here on the Sunday after Easter – we’re not here today just because it’s Easter Sunday, we’re here because it’s once again Sunday and this is where we come to be fed by God, strengthened in faith. But we all likely have Thomases we know in our lives – good people, people even who might believe in God, or a notion of God, but who do not understand our faith and our regular worship life and our hope in Christ. Friends, family, co-workers – it wouldn’t take long for us to put together a pretty good list to join Thomas.

And Thomas misses the evidence for no apparent reason – as do many of the people we know. Maybe he drew short straw to go and get supplies – they all were locked up. But it seems random that he missed Jesus’ appearance and the others didn’t. And when we think of what has brought us to faith while others struggle, it can almost seem as random. Why do you believe, come here regularly, seek God in this place, and some of your loved ones do not? What did you get that they didn’t?

And the disciples who did see – they have a challenge. As do we. I wonder what this week was like for them and Thomas. John only gives the barest details. But they must have tried to convince him between Sundays, tell him that they really did know the truth. And that’s a really difficult task, one that we share.

And what I’m wondering is, might the reality of doubt in all our lives be the connection we can make with others?

“Blessed are those who believe without seeing,” Jesus says. But not necessarily those who never doubt.

What would happen if we could embrace doubt as a normal companion to faith? If we were more willing to admit that there were days we didn’t feel secure in our faith, where we wondered, days where we had more questions than answers. I wonder what kind of witness that might be for others.

That instead of fearing doubt – or despising it in ourselves or others, we admitted it, were open about it. It’s not like we’d have to create it in our lives – we all experience doubts. Some days we feel stronger in faith than in doubt. Other days it’s the other way around.

But perhaps if we were able to be OK with that we might be more effective and helpful witnesses. Because ultimately that’s our call – to witness. And a witness should be honest and true. The first letter of John begins with witness: “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have touched with our hands . . . we declare to you.” That’s all we can do – tell others what we’ve seen, heard, touched, felt. Some of that is faith. And some is doubt. And all should be part of our witness.

So we witness by our lives and our actions, and by our faith and doubt.

And we witness because what we have found, why we’re here this morning, is what John promises at the end of this chapter. We have come to believe, as he hoped we would, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in that believing we have found life in his name.

We are here for that life – to be fed at Jesus’ Table, led by his Word, made joyful by his love and forgiveness, strengthened by the Spirit. For one of the rare times in the Gospels, we are actually included in the story – we are those blessed Jesus talks about who have not seen and yet believe. And like the other disciples, we know we have a task ahead of us: how do we share this with others we love who do not know, do not believe?

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? We do this so others may believe and find the life we have found. Those who, like Thomas, just aren’t sure what to do with what seems to be a lack of physical evidence, especially 2,000 years after the fact. Who want to believe, perhaps, but don’t know how. Who have been hurt by believers, and don’t know how to let that go. Who struggle for answers to the pain and suffering of life and don’t see how God could be real. Or who have simply not experienced God the way we have and don’t know why. Thomas just wasn’t with the others when it happened, simple as that.

And all we can do is live our lives of faith, live the love we have come to know, and tell what we know and what we don’t. We can invite people to “come and see” and bring them here with us to worship. Or we can simply love them in the name of Jesus and trust that witness. Or we can gently tell them of what we have found, of the life that is rich and full that we have from Jesus.

All these are witnesses. But perhaps we can also tell them of the doubts we have at the same time. To let them know that faith is a gift of God and sometimes we don’t always find that gift. Ultimately, if we’re looking for connections between us and those who struggle with faith, it is precisely that struggle that unites us. It is our doubts and fears that we share. That’s the one place where we all are in the same place. And from that place, since we know it so well, maybe we can help someone else to find their way into life in Christ.

I thank God for Thomas – because of him we learn that even those who do not see as those first believers saw can believe and have life.

That’s our Good News. That’s what we can share. Faith, doubts and all – it’s what we know. What we experience.

And more to the point, even in our deepest doubts we have found that God comes to us with life and grace and resurrection. That even when we feel most lost the risen Christ has reached out and found us. And that this life in Jesus we know is abundant and rich and extends even beyond death.

And wouldn’t that be something to share with someone who does not yet know, does not yet believe? To say to someone who has more questions than answers not that we have all the answers, but rather that we have been found by the One who is the Answer, and we trust him to truly give us life. We can do this – so that they too might have life in Jesus.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

The Olive Branch, 5/2/11

Accent on Worship

They were together . . .

On that first night, the evening of the day when everything changed forever, the disciples were together in the Upper Room and Jesus appeared to them. As we heard yesterday, Thomas wasn’t with the others, though he was the following Sunday evening when Jesus once again came. This Sunday, we hear the story of two disciples who are walking the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day of resurrection and Jesus meets them. They run, together, back to Jerusalem and meet the other disciples who are, as we can now expect, together. Apart from Jesus’ encounter with Mary Magdalene which John tells in chapter 20, all of the resurrection appearances we hear are group settings.

Some people call yesterday “Low Sunday.” The Second Sunday of Easter is thought to be a Sunday of low attendance, because of all the infrequent worshipers who came the Sunday before and don’t come twice in a row. I suppose it is true that some congregations experience a drop off in attendance on the Sunday after Easter. As for this community, I rejoiced to worship at Mount Olive yesterday and see a full sanctuary. I was not surprised, however. I am coming to understand that this is a community of believers who need to be together, who are regular in worship attendance and not just on the High Holy Days, because we know how important it is to be together in worship. I have been delighted to worship with you, my sisters and brothers, in these months I have been your pastor. This is a fellowship which takes worship seriously, but not for its own sake, rather because it is in worship we meet almighty God, are fed by the grace of the risen Christ in his meal, and are filled with the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that the people of Mount Olive understand and cherish what a gift that is.

Because it is a gift, isn’t it? Jesus appears, risen from the dead, among group after group of disciples who have gathered together. They have gathered to speak of him, to pray, to hold and support each other through a horrible week which culminated in their Lord’s brutal execution. They cannot imagine being apart at such a time. Into the midst of these gatherings, Jesus comes and brings peace. He brings the gift of the Holy Spirit. He brings the joy of his presence. He feeds them with his grace.

After the Day of Pentecost, the first thing we hear of the nascent Church is that the believers gathered for prayer, to hear the apostles’ teaching, and to break bread, to share the Lord’s meal. Jesus had risen, had ascended, and now the Spirit had given birth to the Church. And the only thing the Church, newly born, could think to do was gather together. Hear the teaching from God’s Word. Share in the meal. Be together and wait for Christ. They cannot imagine being apart.

2,000 years later we still are doing that, because we still cannot think of anything better to do, anything we need more, anything which could give us life like this. Because we cannot imagine being apart in such a time. The miracle is this: the risen Jesus still appears in our midst when we are together (even when it’s only two or three of us as he said), still brings the gift of peace, still feeds us, still gives us grace and forgiveness, still sends us out to feed his lambs, to witness to what we have seen and heard, just as he did that very first day of Easter life. We continue the practice of those first believers because together we find life, together we are fed, together we are loved, and together we meet our Lord. Because we cannot imagine doing anything else. For Christ is risen, indeed – and we rejoice in his coming among us!


Sunday Readings

May 8, 2011 – Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 + Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
I Peter 1:17-23 + Luke 24:13-35
May 15, 2011 – Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:42-47 + Psalm 23
I Peter 2:19-25 + John 10:1-10

Summer Worship Schedule

Please note that from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, we celebrate one Sunday Eucharist at 9:30 a.m. This year, summer schedule begins on Sunday, May 29 and runs through Sunday, September 4.

Neighborhood Ministries Newsletter

The spring issue of Greetings from Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries is printed and will be distributed on Sunday, May 15, after each liturgy. If you are not in church that Sunday, you may pick one up any time at the window of the main office.

New Members Received

This past Sunday, May 1, Mount Olive was pleased to welcome the following persons into membership: Janet Moede, Timm Schnabel & Tim Lindholm, Karen Mohrlant, Gary Wilson, Cynthia Prosek, Don & Rhoda Nelson, Bjorn Gustafson, Oswaldo Ferrucci-Villalba, John & Connie Marty, James French & Ken Shortridge, Craige Knutson, Ann Becker & Adam Peterson, and Bob and Berta Wick.

Some of these folks are new faces, some have been around Mount Olive for quite awhile, some are returning to Mount Olive after an extended absence, and some simply changing their status from Associate Member to Member. All were received with joy.

Wish List Update

The Mount Olive Wish List has seen little action in recent weeks. We are still hoping for an additional 17 upholstered stack chairs to complete the set to be used in our East Assembly Room meeting space. A library table will help us complete the library by its June 26th “grand opening.” As our palms have remained with us since Palm Sunday, and as they seem to be adding a bit of color and life to the gathering spaces, we'd like to place the greenhouse pots into decorative plant holders, which estimate at about $30 per pot.

Anyone wishing to donate matching decorative planters would be welcome to sign up! Diana Hellerman is still hoping to find donors for five additional Godly Play sets. Those are duly listed as well. Again, the Wish List is posted on the bulletin board just inside the church office. If you would like to donate one of the listed items, please sign your name and number next to the item you wish to donate and you will be contacted regarding the total amount. Delivery costs may apply to certain items. Your check may be written to Mount Olive and there should be a notation on the check as well as the envelope as to what you're donating. We appreciate all of the previous generous donations and we very much hope to continue the Wish List tradition for many years to come!

Brian Jacobs-Wish List Coordinator

Bach Tage - For You

In just six weeks, June 4 and 5, Mount Olive will host our Fifth Annual Bach Tage.

That weekend, we will again welcome guests, both professional church musicians and ordinary music lovers, from the local area and far away. Over the past four years, members of Mount Olive have also participated in Bach Tage, and again this year you are invited. Mount Olive members are entitled to a special discounted rate of $50.

Kathy Saltzman Romey will again be conducting the Bach Tage singers and orchestra. Kathy Romey is well known locally as faculty member at University of Minnesota and conductor of the Minnesota Chorale, but she is an internationally recognized conductor as well, especially for her work with the Oregon Bach Festival and her many collaborations with Bach specialist, Helmuth Rilling.

Bach’s cantata 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit also known as Actus Tragicus, plus one of his motets will be on the program for this year. Musicologist Alfred Dürr wrote, “The Actus Tragicus belongs to the great musical literature of the world.”

Participants will study and rehearse on Saturday and Sunday, and then perform the music with orchestra and soloists during a service of Evening Prayer on Sunday, June 5. Scores will be available to all who register in advance to allow time for preparation.

Bach Tage brochures with more information, the schedule for the days, and a registration form are available around the building. Invite friends you think may enjoy this experience to share it with you. Be sure to register soon to allow yourself time to learn the music before Bach Tage.

Of course the Evening Prayer on June 5, and the all-Bach recital on Saturday, June 4, presented by Cantor David Cherwien are public events, and all are welcome.

Consider being part of this memorable event at Mount Olive, June 4 and 5.

Mount Olive Music & Fine Arts to Present The WolfGang
Sunday, May 15, 2011 – 4:00 p.m.

The WolfGang was formed in 1996 as a collaboration to perform music from the Classical Era on period classical instruments. The group consists of Stanley King (oboe), Mary Sorlie (violin), Steve Staruch (viola), Laura Handler (cello), Gail Olszewski (fortepiano), and Paul Jacobson (flute).

They return to Mount Olive’s Music and Fine Arts series this year to present an all-Beethoven program.

A reception will follow the concert.

Pastor Crippen to travel in May

Pr. Crippen will be traveling with a group of ELCA Lutherans to Israel and the Palestinian territories this month as part of a group invited and organized by Christians for Fair Witness in the Middle East.

Christians for Fair Witness is a group headed by Sr. Ruth Lautt, a Dominican nun, and the group seeks to expose American Christians to a more even-handed understanding of the situation in the Holy Land than often is offered. Christian groups tend to polarize between being completely pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli, and Christians for Fair Witness hopes to invite the church in American to speak in a voice which might encourage peace with justice for all involved.
Pr. Crippen will leave on May 10 and will return to work at Mount Olive on Monday, May 23. More information about pastoral coverage during his trip will be included in next week’s Olive Branch. All are invited to keep Pr. Crippen and his group in prayer during these days.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

Copyright 2014 Mount Olive Lutheran Church