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Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Olive Branch, 6/25/12

Accent on Worship

Time After Pentecost 14

Because I have taken a position of leadership in stewardship at the church I attend, I have been
reading and thinking a lot about this subject. So, when I read the Second Reading for Sunday’s Time
after Pentecost 14, it was like I read it for the very first time, and I was truly taken by it. Paul is writing
to the Corinthians, asking them to honor their pledge to help the Christians in Jerusalem, who had
fallen on hard times. I do believe that this is the first recorded stewardship drive in the early church,
and it is not too different from today’s stewardship drives.

Paul wrote, “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet
for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty, you might become rich.”

This isn’t much different than what T. A. Kantonen wrote in 1955. “Stewardship is the reenactment
of Christ’s life in Christ’s people.” Paul wrote, “It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need,” which is pretty close to something that Milo Kauffman wrote in 1975: “Stewardship is receiving and sharing God’s bounteous gifts and managing them for the best promotion of God’s purposes in the world.”

From the very early days of the church Christians were asked to be generous as Jesus was generous.
They were asked to be grateful for the gift of Jesus’ life and work and through that gratitude be
generous toward those in need. If we are to model our lives after Jesus, our generosity would be
sacrificial. It takes a great deal of faith to give sacrificially. Jesus certainly had to draw on his faith
in the Father when he gave everything by going to the cross.

So I will leave you with one last quote, which is my favorite.: “Stewardship is what we do after we say
we believe.” Clarence C. Stoughton (1949).

- Donna Neste

Urgent Need for Worship Assistants

If you have considered taking on the role of acolyte, greeter, or communion minister at worship,
now is your moment!

We are in need of volunteers in all three of these areas. If you are interested in becoming an acolyte,
greeter, or communion minister, please contact Al Bipes or Peggy Hoeft, and they will help to get you
trained and involved.

Praying for our Graduates

On Sunday, July 8, 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 a high school,
post-secondary school (college, seminary, graduate school), please drop a note to or call the church
office by Monday, July 2, so that they may be included in the prayers on that day.

After liturgy, we will all have an opportunity to extend our congratulations and best wishes to the
graduates at coffee hour.

Sunday Readings

July 1, 2012 – Time after Pentecost, Sunday 13
Lamentations 3:22-33 + Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 + Mark 5:21-43

July 8, 2012 – Time after Pentecost, Sunday 14
Ezekiel 2:1-5 + Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:2-10 + Mark 6:1-13

Garden Tour Fundraiser

See some beautiful gardens and support a worthwhile project!

This garden tour is a fund raiser to purchase a rolling overhead door for the serving window in the
east assembly room. This would allow folks to work on the counter without disturbing those who may be
meeting in the East Assembly Room.

The tour will take place on Sunday, July 22, after church. Participants will be served brunch at the
first garden stop, travel to another garden or two, and end the tour with a garden party at the last
stop. The charge for the tour will be $25.00 per person. More information will be available soon,
but in the meantime, mark your calendar! We hope many will be able to attend. We had a great time
with this fundraiser two years ago and we are sure that this year will be just as much fun.

The Bargain Box

Each August, Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries sponsors The Bargain Box, an affordable
way for neighborhood families to obtain good quality clothing (new and gently used) for children of all
ages to wear as they return to school in the fall. This year, the Bargain Box will be on August 4, from 8-
11:30 a.m.

You can help by donating new or gently used children’s clothes or money to purchase clothes
(please include “Bargain Box” in the memo line of your gift), before August 4.

If you have any questions about Bargain Box, please contact Irene Campbell at 651-230-3927.

Guatemala Trip

Mark, Lisa, Jessinia, and Kaiya Ruff will be on a mission trip in Guatemala June 23-30. Please keep
them in your prayers as they participate in a vision team with Common Hope, a non-profit organization
that partners with families to improve their lives through education, health care, and housing. If you
want to follow their activities throughout the week, here is a link to a photo diary:

Missing the Font?

Mount Olive’s baptismal font is being restored and re-built. It will be back in the nave by midsummer.

Don’t Forget the Toiletries

Now that school is out and summer is almost here, many of us are planning summer vacations.
We ask that in your travels, you keep any unused complimentary toiletries from hotels or motels to
give to the homeless. (Payment for your accommodations includes these items.) Also needed
are trial-size personal items that can be purchased. Those who are living in homeless shelters, or on
the street have great need but little space for personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, etc.
You may bring your donations to church and place them in the box marked "Our Savior’s" on the shelf
in the coat room. These items will be delivered to Our Savior’s Shelter for those in their homeless
program. This is one simple way we can remember the poor.

Book Discussion Group

Mount Olive’s Book Discussion group regularly meets on the second Saturday of each month at
10:00 a.m. For the July meeting, they will read The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope, and for
August 11 they will read The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham. All readers welcome!

Suggestions for Capital Campaign Tithe

As the Capital Campaign nears its conclusion, we turn to the good stewardship of the capital
campaign tithe, which can be a gift to share our blessings with the wider communities of which
Mount Olive is a part.

Mount Olive invites you to use the “suggestion form” to suggest nonprofit organizations or
initiatives outside of Mount Olive that might be good matches for funding through the capital
campaign tithe.

Suggestions can be local, national, or international nonprofit organizations or initiatives.
We anticipate that there will be more suggestions than can be reasonably funded, but this form will
raise awareness for future possibilities as well as immediate funding possibilities.

Please print out and return the attached/included suggestion form to Congregation President Adam Krueger’s box in the church office or e-mail the form to the church office at All suggestions must be received by noon on July 1. Then after July 1, appropriate organizations will be sent a form to propose projects to Mount Olive.

If you have questions, please contact Adam Krueger at or 612-414-7167.

Every Church a Peace Church

The next bimonthly potluck supper meeting of Every Church a Peace Church will be held on
Monday, July 9, 6:30 p.m., at the Twin Cities Friends Meeting House (1725 Grand Ave., St. Paul,
651-699-6995; The topic of discussion will be "From Death to Life: A Story of
Forgiveness and Reconciliation," presented by Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel, and moderated by Mark

From Death To Life is an organization which was founded by Mary Johnson in 2005, shortly before
she came to forgive Oshea Israel, the young man who took her only son’s life 12 years earlier. She
now claims Oshea as her “spiritual son” and together they share their inspiring story of healing
and reconciliation in the community.

From Death to Life is dedicated to ending violence through healing and reconciliation between families of victims and those who have caused harm. We offer support groups empowering parents to come to terms with the impact of homicide through emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical healing.

For more information about this organization, visit them on the web at

Trust Annual Appeal

As you may know, last year Mount Olive joined with like-minded congregations in south Minneapolis as part of Trust, Inc. We partner with Trust, Inc. and its other members in a variety of endeavors including CoAM and Meals on Wheels. They also offer other opportunities for shared ministry that we continue to explore (Youth Ministry, Grief Work, Parish Nurse, etc.). Mount Olive member, Carol Austermann, represents us on the Trust Inc. board. 

As part of our continued collaboration with them, this week you will receive a separate mailing from the Mount Olive church office for the Trust Inc. Annual Fund Appeal. Please consider the needs of Trust Inc. as part of your overall stewardship of resources for the good things we can do together.

School Supplies Drive

Summer's just begun and for the Neighborhood Ministries Committee that means looking forward
to the beginning of .... school!? That's right!

Summer is when we start thinking about gathering school supplies for distribution to 100 neighborhood children at the August 4 community meal. While this is an item in our budget, the generous contributions we receive each year from the congregation help us to provide as many supplies as possible. Please look for a Neighborhood Ministries Committee member during coffee hour on July 15, 22, and 29 and offer your support to this vital neighborhood ministry.

- Kathy Kruger
Neighborhood Ministries Committee member

Adult Forum July 29, 2012

“All this is from God, who reconciled us through
Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5:18

Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?

Join the conversation on Sunday, July 29. Our guest is Tim Feiertag, Grassroots Organizing and Training Coordinator at Lutherans Concerned North America headquarters (LC/NA) in St. Paul. Tim holds a degree in Social Work from Valparaiso University and a Master of Divinity degree from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. His involvement in Lutherans Concerned includes being co-chair of the Kansas City/Lawrence Chapter, serving on the national board of directors and as Regional Director for the Central Region. In 1998, he was elected co-chair of LC/NA, a position he held until 2002. Across time he has participated in and conducted various trainings, from I-Wheel to RIC and Building an Inclusive Church. He comes to LC/NA and St. Paul from the Missouri Children's Division in Kansas City where he served as a
caseworker for abused and neglected children and their families.

Your Foundation at Work: Bach Tage

I’ve been asked to write the first in what may be a series of articles due to my involvement with Bach
Tage, one of the many ministries that have received support from the Mount Olive Lutheran Church

In 2006, a dream became reality thanks to a gift from the Foundation. For the past six years, grants
from the Mount Olive Foundation have made the annual Bach Tage at Mount Olive possible. As a
result, more than 120 choral directors, organists, and vocalists have been able to participate in this
conference, from as far distant as Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York and
Ohio, as well as Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Illinois nearer by. These examples of comments
from past participants say so very well why the Bach Tage weekend is important:

1. “Bach Tage is a high point of my musical year, and this year was no exception. This is a precious gift you give to all of us who partake.” (Susan Stageberg, Iowa)

2. “… These are the best two musical days of the year for me. In many ways these Bach Tage weekends are the finest continuing education opportunities I have had since leaving graduate school thirty years ago, …The planning, the valuing of community, the sharing of what is obviously treasured… all of this perhaps can be boiled down to one word: “love.” There is an air at Mount Olive of love, of respect, of mutual care of people, of the music, of the tradition that manifests itself in patience under pressure and compassion in the face of limitations.
…This is a wonderful example of what music making in the church should be.” (Larry Christenson, Iowa)

3. “Thanks with all my heart--you have given balm and succor, joy and uplift to this faithful, if occasionally isolated, church musician!” (Margaret Gohman, Mount Olive Associate member)

The Mount Olive tradition of worship and mission is a blessing to those of us privileged to be part of it week to week. Bach Tage invites musicians from throughout the church to experience the liturgy and music which is at the core of our parish life, as they study, rehearse and perform the music of the most significant Lutheran composer of all time.

Often, they also experience Mount Olive’s equally vital commitment to our community as well, as they
share the lunch time with those who gather for the monthly Community Meal.

Without the annual grant from the Foundation, as well as support from Mount Olive Music and Fine Arts, it would be impossible to offer this program without charging a prohibitive fee. Church musicians are not a wealthy lot. But, with generous support, we are able to welcome all who would come.

Genesis 12:2 reminds us, we have been blessed that we may be a blessing to others. At the core, this
is why we have programs such as Bach Tage. Sharing this blessing is what the financial support provided for the past six years has made possible.

- Art Halbardier

Church Library News

If you were at church yesterday, you likely enjoyed refreshments served after the liturgy by our library committee. We were happy to do this as part of the observance of the first anniversary of our Louise Schroedel Memorial Library in its new location.

I recently learned some information about a nonprofit organization organized here in Minnesota and
I am sure you will find it an inspiring story. Read Indeed was founded 4 years ago by 8-year old Maria 
Keller (with the assistance of her mother, Maura) of Hopkins, MN. Maria's vision was to collect and distribute a million books, even one at a time, to the needy children of the world who don't normally
have children's books in their homes. Amazingly, Read Indeed has already distributed 80,000 books
through local food shelves, schools, churches, and Rotary Clubs.

A special children's book drive is being held June 18 - July 15 and books (new or gently used) can be
taken to any M&I Bank in the Twin Cities area. Persons, groups or even neighborhood friends who
donate as many as 25 books will receive a pass to the Water Park near the Mall of America. Think
about it - perhaps you can help this worthy program!

We have just learned that our Mount Olive church library is the recipient of a special gift in the amount of $1,000, given to us by Jack and Lillian Olson, in memory of Jack's mother, LaVern Olson. We are deeply grateful and honored to have this special gift and express our sincere thanks to the Olson's for their kindness.

For more details about library plans, watch for our column next time!

- Leanna Kloempken

Thank You!

Many thanks to all who attended the Art Shoppe meet and greet on June 17.

Special thanks goes to those who prepared the food (the artists thought it was great!), to those who
purchased the art (providing the artists with income!), to the artists for sharing their stories, and
to all who came and listened.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pointing to Christ

Baptized and freed by God's love, our mission is to name the whole world graced by God and to let our whole lives - in church or not - point to Christ with freedom, love, and justice.

Vicar Erik Doughty, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist; text: Luke 1:57-67

A strong woman. A baby in a non-traditional family, with an unusual name. Gossip spreading through the area. A catchy song. What a great excuse for a festival, huh?

I’m talking about the birth of John, of course. John who was born to an infertile mom and an elderly dad; John who was named “graced by God,” instead of “Zechariah Jr.” John whose priest father burst into praise of God, in a song we still sing at Morning Prayer (page 303 in your hymnal, if you were wondering). And yes, all this set the neighbors chattering. Whoever heard of anything like this?

Today is about John, but John’s life and mission always pointed to Christ. So today is really about Jesus. And therefore it’s about our lives together and our mission in the world. How do we point to Christ with our whole lives? How do we name one another “Graced by God”?

Have you ever been named as a “bad kid” or “problem child,” or “difficult to manage,” or “stubborn,” or some other thing like that? Someone assigning you a name or role you did not want?

This past week I was chatting about my wedding liturgy with a pastor, who decided it was his role to rebuke me for the grave sin of living in a committed, loving, spousal relationship with my partner Scott. That pastor named me “Impenitent, unrepentant sinner,” and bound for hell.

While I find that I tend to live up to (or down to!) expectations, in this case I chose a different route. I told him that I was quite glad that all my sins had been forgiven just that Sunday, here at Mount Olive, by Pastor Crippen, by the authority of Jesus Christ. I don’t doubt that God’s grace to me is absolutely undeserved . . . I mean, I could list my sins for you (but I won’t) . . . there are enough to keep me humble . . . and yet, those do not become my identity. My identity comes from Christ even though, like John, I’m not worthy to untie a thong of Jesus’ sandal.

And I can say that my identity comes from Christ because my baptismal name is “Erik, child of God.” You can do the very same thing, claiming Christ’s identity, because Christ has claimed you. Each of you out there shares that “child of God” surname with me. Christ claims you in your sin, claims you in your difficult relationships, claims you in your issues with body image and health, claims you in the midst of joblessness or the job you dislike; claims you with your anger issues or your drug problem. You and I who know very well our own list of sins . . . we are together in Christ, all of us, children of God. We all are named with the gracious name of Christ that overrides any other label life in the world throws at us, the name of Christ which forms us into a holy community of faith and love despite all the reasons why that should be impossible, and Christ gives us a new focus, a mission together.

So when the forces of fear say, “You should be scared of gay civil marriage because your children will be taught about it against your will,” you, forgiven child of God, can laugh at such a ridiculous idea and you can tell people that you know lots of fine gay and lesbian folks, some of whom would love to be legally married to one another-- including your vicar and his guy! And you can take on a mission of telling people how your faith in Christ leads to a loving welcome of GLBT people in your congregation, and your life in general. And you can even be in a pride parade with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, the Atons leather club or with Dykes on Bikes or with PFLAG - parents, friends and family of lesbians & gays - or even with a whole bunch of Lutheran congregations. And you can continue in daily life to talk to your friends and neighbors about a welcoming faith in Christ - Christ whose light, love, and baptismal grace has welcomed you and continues to welcome others.

And when the forces of division say, “You should stick to doing things yourself, so you can control everything,” you, redeemed child of God, can affirm that control is not faith; you can say you are free in Christ to serve and to work with others for justice and peace, for the common good of all; you may speak about how we are stronger together as a body of believers; the body of Christ, in fact. You can tell about the Trinity, our God who values community so much that God chooses to live in community with us and even internally: Three persons, one God. You can speak about this congregation’s work with other local churches and organizations to serve our neighborhood; and about how the ELCA as a whole does amazing stuff around the world which one congregation could not do alone. You can relate our mission to love and serve neighbors here in this sometimes-struggling neighborhood and everywhere, our mission which is born of faith in Christ who did not lord it over us but who chose to become one of us, to live WITH us; to die and be raised FOR us; to reconcile and redeem the whole cosmos, even you and me.

Even if death comes around saying, “I am the end, and you can’t escape,” then you, baptized and cross-marked child of God, can bear the light of Christ which beams through even the darkness of death; and you will see that death is powerless against it, and against the community of the Church. We claim the dead as living fellow saints at our Lord’s table; they live, as we will, eternally in the love of God. Our mission is to share that love in word and action, wherever we are.

We here are baptized into community in Christ, and not just any old community, either. We are not an exclusive club but a hospitable and welcoming group, because it is not OUR welcome we extend, it is Christ’s. We know ourselves as a hodgepodge of quirky characters and stubborn sinners who are become brothers and sisters in Christ, sinner/saints by baptism, and so we care for one another, visiting in the hospital, helping in daily life, teaching the faith, modeling love of neighbor, feeding hungry people egg salad sandwiches at our community meal. We are living in the light and love of Christ, together, not because we are sinless or even perfectly repentant, but because Christ unites us as one people, frees us from the power of sin and death, feeds US with his very body and blood. And our mission, children of God, is to carry Christ’s freedom and strength and justice and peace out to the world.

So if you are marching with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus or the Atons or PFLAG or if you are riding with Dykes on Bikes today, or if you are staffing the Lutheran booth at Loring Park, do so in such a way that points to Christ.

Or if you are spending time with family and friends today, do so in such a way that points to Christ.

In all things, live in grace and freedom, share love, do justice. Not because you have to, but because Christ’s grace and freedom, love and justice is for all people, to build community, to give abundant life, to be light conquering darkness, and to cast out fear.

And if you hear of someone being named some awful thing, like “hellbound” or “impenitent sinner,” tell them you’re a sinner/saint, your church is glad to have sinners around, and this room is full every Sunday with slightly-odd and somewhat-quirky and absolutely sinful people who are saved and redeemed and beloved by God, marked with the cross of Christ. Gay folks are welcome here, the entire alphabet-soup of ‘em. And in fact ALL people are welcome here, sinners, saints, doubters, skeptics, the faithful, because if we’re honest, we’re all of those things, all the time. Our Triune God claims us in baptismal love, calls us to new life in Christ, feeds us at this altar, and sets us out on our mission together.

Our mission, like John’s mission, is to let our whole lives point to Christ, to “verb” the grace of God which names us, to make the Word of life, Jesus Christ, the light of the world, known. Children of God, you have heard and lived the good news that Jesus is light and life and love for all the world. As we walk together down Hennepin Avenue with rainbow flags to advocate for equality, or as we stand together in the undercroft feeding hungry people sandwiches or as we spend time together with friends and strangers, family of origin or family of choice, you and I are freed by Jesus Christ to celebrate this festival: to love and serve in every part of our lives. So whether you are strong or delicate, ordinary or a bit queer, whoever and wherever you are: Take up the duty and delight that is your Christian mission: name the whole world “Graced by God”; act and speak your faith. Do justice, point to Christ, sing Zechariah’s joyful song; and set your neighbors chattering with amazement at the fantastic and fabulous love of God.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Trusting the Grower

God’s rule and reign is growing and saving the world, though we don’t always know how, we don’t always see it happening, and the time of waiting seems interminable.  We trust the Grower, and we learn from Jesus to see differently, to watch for the signs of God’s new creation.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen, Time after Pentecost, Sunday 11, year B; texts: Mark 4:26-34; Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15; Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17

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

“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.”

The seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.  That’s how Jesus describes the working of God’s rule and reign in the world, a rule and reign he, the Son of God, came to proclaim.  “The kingdom of God is near,” Jesus told people.  He preached in his home town and declared, about a prophetic word concerning God’s restoration of all things, “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:21)  When people saw Jesus heal, heard him teach, listened to his wisdom, were given new hope by his forgiveness, they thought they were seeing the explosion of God’s rule and reign.  There was no mysterious growth for which to wait; all this was coming to pass, right now.

But then he was crucified, which destroyed their hopes, until he rose from the dead.  Yet only forty days after he was risen, he left, leaving his followers in charge, and promising power from God which would continue this rule and reign.  But now instead of the immediacy of what they saw in Jesus, the growth of God’s healing of the world seemed much slower, and often hard to see as the years passed.  Sometimes it looked as if nothing was growing, other times it just seemed interminably delayed, sometimes it seemed as if the world was actively seeking to destroy the growth.  With each succeeding generation, the hope that all would come to pass in their lifetime faded more and more.

But the grace was that when they thought about all Jesus had taught, they remembered parables like these today, images he gave of God’s rule and reign, stories which pretty much promised a long wait, a mysterious growth, and which suggested patience was going to be needed.

This is good news for us.  Because the truth is, sometimes it feels as if we have a great divergence between what we say and hear in this place and what we see in the world, in the papers, on the news, in our lives.  Here we speak of hope and healing on a weekly basis, we proclaim God’s salvation for us and the world, we declare, as Paul does today, that God is making a new creation.  But once we walk out into the sunlight, we find a world where it’s hard to see any signs of all this good news, it’s hard to know if anything is getting better, it’s difficult to know if God’s healing of the world is working, or if we’re just getting worse and worse.

To us, then, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is like when a seed would sprout and grow, but you do not know how.”  But he says, trust the grower.  It’s happening.  God is changing everything.  God’s gracious love is bit by bit transforming the world.  You don’t know how.  But one day you’ll see the harvest.

I think the most important point of this all is Jesus’ reminder of who’s in charge of the growth.

It’s clear from the agricultural image of both parables, and the similar word from Ezekiel and the psalmist, that these are not parables putting the weight on us to make the growth happen.  The farmer simply sleeps and rises in this story, nothing else.  In fact, it’s so out of our control that it happens without our knowing, and in this example, the farmer thinks, Jesus says, that the earth “produces of itself.”  It’s like magic.

Now remember, Jesus isn’t giving gardening advice, and even in his first parable we can assume that the farmer does his normal farming things, weeding, watering, tending his crops.

But even in modern agriculture there is a bit of mystery.  We can break it down as scientifically as we want, but it is still a little miracle to think of a dry seed, one which could sit doing nothing for years, suddenly producing a plant which grows to hundreds of times the size of the seed, and produces dozens of new seeds.

Even if we are supposed to be farmers and keep working on the land, the only one who can do the growth is God.  We can’t will the seeds to grow.  We can’t will the healing power of God to change the world overnight, either.  But if the first happens, Jesus says, we can expect the other to happen as well.

And that’s Jesus’ first point, shared by Ezekiel: God can do things that seem completely impossible.  In fact, God’s doing it all the time.  The Bible says that the true God is the one who makes dead things live, even dry bones, who makes dry land in the midst of seas, who brings health and life into the face of disease and who has created all that is.

So if we are concerned that God’s rule and reign, God’s authority over this world, is decreasing, struggling, going nowhere, we are to trust that we just don’t see everything.  Even if we think that the powers of evil are far more potent than God, Jesus urges us today to have a little patience.  He says, remember who’s doing the growing.  It will happen.  Trust the Grower, the true Farmer, who will make a new creation just as he said.

But of course, trusting the Grower is only the first part.  I think Jesus also wants us to learn how to see better.

The truth is that how we think the world is doing depends a lot on how we look, and at what things we look.

You could make an argument that hatred and oppression are growing, that we are heading toward an age of chaos, if we’re not already in it, where human rights and justice for all are decreasing.  And you could find ample evidence for this point of view, from the devastating killing of the people of Syria, to the persistent civil wars blowing through Africa, to the increasing class warfare in the United States.  Everywhere you look, you could argue, things are getting worse.

Unless you look in differing ways.  Because you can find evidence for the spreading grace of God everywhere you look, too.  You can cite example after example of people leaving comfortable lives to be relief workers in war-torn areas who are saving the world one person at a time, one child at a time.  You can speak of non-violent resistance movements gaining power by standing up to wicked leaders and decades of oppression, all throughout the world.  You can find ample examples of places where healing is happening, where grace is flowering in deserts of pain, where God’s people are making a difference.

It all depends on where you look.  Are you looking at the field, Jesus says, and frustrated that it’s not yet harvest?  Look closer and see what is happening.  First the stalk, then the head, then the grain, that’s how it happens, he says.

The new creation is happening.  Paul said it, and Jesus knows it is.  He came to begin it.  But maybe in places it’s just that little bit of green growth breaking out of the husk of the seed, underground.  Maybe it’s just peeking above the surface of the ground.  Maybe it’s just a stalk or two.  But, Jesus says, never doubt it will happen.

I think this way of seeing is critical for those of us who come here each week and hear proclamations of God’s Good News.  If somehow we’re supposed to go out and just expect the new creation to be reality, we’re going to start losing our faith, struggling to make sense of what we hear here and what we see out there.

But if what we hear here is the promise of the harvest, the shape of the whole new creation, the promise begun in Jesus’ resurrection, and we know that when we go out we won’t see it yet, but we’ll see bits and pieces, we’ll see starts and beginnings, then we have something.  Then we have hope.  Then we can continue to have faith.

We don’t look at things from a human point of view, Paul says.  So we believe the new creation is happening.  We just see it from a different perspective than the world.

And I think it’s important to know that this new creation is both small and great.

God’s kingdom, God’s rule and reign can be seen in the small canvas of individual lives of believers and painted broadly across history on the life of the Church, the world, the universe.

And both are legitimate places for us to look.  In our lives, we hope that we are growing to be disciples, to be more and more the new creation we are promised to be.  God has planted seeds in each of us, and there are days when we think a harvest will never come.

And yet, if we know how to look, there are days when we see signs of growth, progress, new life from God.  When once we might have been unloving, somehow we do the loving thing, the Christly thing.  When once we’d have kept to ourselves, somehow one day we talk about God’s goodness with another person.  Or even better, we are God’s goodness to another person.  The full harvest of our lives is a long way off.  But it’s coming.

And the same goes for the larger perspective, whether we’re talking about the Church, or the whole world.  There are certainly times when we despair about the activities of Christians in the world, how again and again we don’t seem to witness to God’s grace, rather, we see the Church seeming to work actively against God’s grace.  This is an argument we can make.

Unless we know where to look.  Because if we look at the Church throughout the world we can see wonderful examples of how God is making all things new through these believers, through this kingdom.  Wrongs are righted, people stand in solidarity with others because of Jesus’ love, and God’s good grace is lived throughout the world.

And the same can be said about the greater world beyond the Church.  If we look for the right things, we can see the grace flowing.  If we learn patience, we can even see the harvest approaching.

So the promises we gather to hear in this place each week speak both to our lives and to the world.  As does the call we hear – we are not only shaped as disciples for the life of our life, for our loved ones, our small circle.

We all are part of God’s greater plan to heal the world, and in a world of immediate global connections we not only know about what’s happening on the other side of the world, we are also called to do something about it.  Together, as people of God, we are each a part of the harvest of God’s grace and life for this world – both in our local lives and throughout the world.

One more thing we should remember, though.  This could take some time.

A growing season is just a few months.  But the kingdom Jesus established has been growing and working in the world for 2,000 years and there’s still much to be done.  In our lives, in the life of the world, God is growing a new creation.  But it may be thousands of years off.  This might be the hardest thing about the kingdom.  In God’s time, things don’t move as quickly as we think they should.  That brief time Jesus was on the earth was not the norm but the exception in the speed and visibility of the growth, because the Son of God himself was with us.  For this reason I am eternally grateful that patience, Paul says, is a spiritual gift.  It’s one I need badly.

But knowing how to look, and more importantly, knowing whom to trust, the Grower himself, we do not lose heart, as Paul said last week.  We do not lose heart.  Because all things are being made new.  And our eyes have seen this for ourselves.  Even though we don’t know how God will do all this.

You see, “the kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.”  We don’t know how.  But we know it is happening, and who is doing it.  And in that grace, we go from here to be a part of that new life, that new creation, until the day it arrives.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Olive Branch, 6/12/12

Accent on Worship

     The love of Christ does what?

     The love of Christ, for Paul, sunexei us.  Look at 2 Corinthians 5:14 in a few different Bibles and you’ll see many translations:  RSV: controls us. NRSV: urges us on. New Jerusalem Bible: overwhelms. King James: constrain-eth. TNIV: compels. All of that, in one word, and even those translations don’t quite suffice to describe what the love of Christ does to us.

     We all are baptized in the name of the Triune God, and surely from that moment on (if not also before!) we live within the love of Christ, a love which holds us together, which holds us captive, which overwhelms us, and at the same time, a love which urges us on, which makes us entirely new people. Have you ever gotten a huge hug from someone and then felt like you could do just about anything? That is a brief glimpse of how Christ’s love works in us. It holds us together; it sends us out to serve.  Just like our liturgy does, come to think of it.

     It is the love of Christ that urges us to see the world becoming new in Christ, and to share the love of Christ which was given us.  Whether we are at our workplace, doing advocacy for the oppressed, visiting those who are ill, offering a welcome space for the unwelcome, we do all this because it is our mission to do so, individually and as a congregation.  The love of Christ does that!              

- Vicar Erik Doughty

Sunday Readings

June 17, 2012 – Time after Pentecost, Sunday 11
Ezekiel  17:22-24 + Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15
2 Corinthians 5:6-7 + Mark 4:26-34

June 24, 2012 – St. John the Baptist
Isaiah 6:1-8 + Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17 + John 3:1-17

Thank you very much!

     Mary, our children and I are so grateful for the lovely brunch and reception held in honor of our 25th wedding anniversary Sunday, June 10.  It was beautiful.  Thank you to all who came, thanks for all the kind notes and gracious words.  Thank you very much to all who organized this, who cooked for it, served at it, helped our daughters set up their things, and in general made this all happen.  It was a wonderful day, and thank you to all our sisters and brothers who continue to make us part of the family at Mount Olive!

- Pastor Crippen

Lost and Found

     Are you missing a bowl? A sweater? A pair of readers? An umbrella? A hat, scarf, or glove? Anything that you may have left at church?

     This Sunday, June 17, we hope to reunite all of the items in our Lost and Found with their owners.  These items will be on display for two Sundays (June 17 and 24). Plan to stop and see if anything in the Lost and Found belongs to you!  Those items not claimed will be donated to a charitable organization after June 24.

Hymn Festival: A Thousand Voices Sing Praise
5:30 p.m., Saturday, June 16
Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

     The National Lutheran Choir will perform a signature program that combines creative hymnody, exemplary choral literature, and poetic meditations. The Hymn Festival is the closing event of Chorus America’s 35th annual conference and it’s free and open to the public. NLC Artistic Director (and Mount Olive Cantor) David Cherwien is organist and director for this event, and Susan Palo Cherwien will offer reflections.

Meet the Artists!

     During the Education Hour this Sunday, June 17, you will have the opportunity to meet artists from The Art Shoppe and to view some of their work.

     Mount Olive sponsors the Art Shoppe jointly with A Minnesota Without Poverty and the Jewish Community Relations Council.  By establishing an entrepreneurship, the artists are able to show and sell their work with the goal of overcoming poverty and becoming financially independent.

     Several from Mount Olive will soon begin volunteering at the shop.  If anyone else is interested, please speak to a Neighborhood Committee member.  The shop is located in the Midtown Global Market.

     The artists are grateful for your support and are eager to meet you! We believe that you will be impressed with the quality of their work. So come enjoy meeting the artists, hearing their stories and viewing their work.  Art work they display will be available for purchase.

Urgent Need for Worship Assistants

     If you have considered taking on the role of acolyte, greeter, or communion minister at worship, now is your moment!

     We are in need of volunteers in all three of these areas. If you are interested in becoming an acolyte or greeter, please contact Al Bipes or Peggy Hoeft, and they will help to get you trained and involved.

Praying for our Graduates

     On Sunday, July 8, 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 a high school, post-secondary school (college, seminary, graduate school), please drop a note to or call the church office by Monday, July 2, so that they may be included in the prayers on that day.

     After liturgy, we will all have an opportunity to extend our congratulations and best wishes to the graduates at coffee hour.

Book Discussion Group

     Mount Olive’s Book Discussion group regularly meets on the second Saturday of each month at 10:00 a.m. The book they are reading for the coming months are:

  • June 16: (postponed one week due to Bach Tage): Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
  • July 14: The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope.

The Bargain Box

     Each August, Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries sponsors The Bargain Box, an affordable way for neighborhood families to obtain good quality clothing (new and gently used) for children of all ages to wear as they return to school in the fall. This year, the Bargain Box will be on August 4, from 8-11:30 a.m.

     You can help by donating new or gently used children’s clothes or money to purchase clothes (please include “Bargain Box” in the memo line of your gift), before August 4.
     If you have any questions about Bargain Box, please contact Irene Campbell at 651-230-3927.

Don’t Forget the Toiletries

      Now that school is out and summer is almost here, many of us are planning summer vacations. We ask that in your travels, you keep any unused complimentary toiletries from hotels or motels to give to the homeless. (Payment for your accommodations includes these items.) Also needed are trial-size personal items that can be purchased.    

     Those who are living in homeless shelters, or on the street have great need but little space for personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, etc. You may bring your donations to church and place them in the box marked "Our Savior’s" on the shelf in the coat room. These items will be delivered to Our Savior’s Shelter for those in their homeless program. This is one simple way we can "Remember the Poor."

Garden Tour Fundraiser

     See some beautiful gardens and support a worthwhile project!

     This garden tour is a fund raiser to purchase a rolling door for the serving window in the east assembly room. This would allow folks to work on the counter without disturbing those who may be a meeting in the East Assembly Room.

     The tour will take place on Sunday, July 22, after church.  Participants will  be served brunch at the first garden stop, travel to another garden or two, and end the tour with a garden party at the last stop.  The charge for the tour will be $25.00 per person.  More information will be available soon, but in the meantime, mark your calendar! We hope many will be able to attend.  We had a great time with this fundraiser two years ago and we are sure that this year will be just as much fun.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Restoring the Broken

We live in a world where we have broken the good relationships God intended for us with God, with each other, with the creation.  The powerful gift of Jesus is a restoration of all we have broken, and a healing of the whole creation.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen, Time after Pentecost, Sunday 10, year B; texts: Genesis 3:8-15; Mark 3:20-35; 2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1; Psalm 130

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

When I was a child I remember being angry with Adam and Eve.  I remember talking about it at Sunday School and Bible camp, how they ruined it for all of us.  If only they hadn’t sinned, I used to think, we’d be fine.  Everyone would get along, the world wouldn’t be ruined, God wouldn’t be angry.  Jesus even wouldn’t have had to die.

Of course that’s foolishness, but not just because the obvious truth is that all of us have and would have perpetrated the same sinfulness, regardless of anyone before us.  But the deeper flaw in my thinking is the very problem Adam and Eve have in this story today, a problem which, if not addressed, only perpetuates our broken, sinful world.  The biggest flaw in my childhood thinking was blaming someone else for my problems, for my sinfulness, for my brokenness, instead of myself.  It’s at the heart of what’s going wrong in this terribly sad story.

As we consider our lives, and the world as it is, the way to healing and restoration lies in maturing into people who take responsibility for our actions and our inactions, people who recognize and confess our own wrongdoing.  Because when we do that, we find ourselves able to receive the glorious good news that our God has begun to restore what was broken by forgiving us and renewing us, and thereby the whole world.

This is a tragic story from Genesis, filled with a great deal of pain.  And it’s a story of increasing brokenness.

It starts beautifully, which only makes the rest of it worse.  The LORD God is walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, looking for Adam and Eve.  It’s hard not to covet such a moment of peace and joy, walking with the LORD God and sharing such an intimate relationship.

But Adam and Eve are hiding.  They hid themselves.  They have disobeyed God and eaten of the forbidden tree.  And so they avoid doing something that each of us here would long to do: walk with God in a lovely garden and talk.  They avoid it because they are afraid.  And because they are guilty.

This is the first break: their joyful, intimate relationship with God has been broken by their sin.  God’s first question is perhaps the saddest of the whole story: “Where are you?”  The reason they’re not with God is not that God has left them, but that they are hiding from God.

And that’s not the only break which happens.  Next, we see the damage to their own relationship.  When God finds them, and asks for an explanation, Adam blames God and Eve before admitting that he ate.  Adam just throws away that phrase, “the woman whom you gave to be with me.”  But remember how powerful and wonderful a gift that was?

In the previous verses Adam was painfully lonely and God made that statement which still gives us joy today, “It is not good for him to be alone.”  From Adam’s loneliness came God’s gift of relationships with other human beings, including the deepest relationship of two committed lives, of marriage between two people who love each other and are helpmeets to each other for the whole of their lives.

And this Adam tosses aside to protect himself:  That gift you gave me was flawed, he says, and she gave me the fruit and I ate.  So either it’s God’s fault or Eve’s fault, but not Adam’s.  His precious relationship with Eve is now as nothing to him, because he’s afraid.  And because he has sinned.

And the destruction of all God’s good is completed by Eve’s words.  Eve passes the guilt on to the serpent.  Notice that never in Genesis is the serpent identified as the devil.  Here it’s just another creature of God’s, but one who convinces Adam and Eve that God wasn’t to be trusted.  In many ways that makes it far more like our lives, doesn’t it?  We live in a complicated world, and lots of times what happens, whom we meet, who speaks to us, affects our faith, our judgment.

Eve’s mistake, like Adam’s, however, is not to take responsibility for her sinfulness.  She blames the other, the one who led her astray.  And the result of her tossing the serpent aside is the breaking of their relationship with the creation, with the animals and plants and all God made.  From here on out, the creation will not be a safe, caring place for humanity to live.

So every good relationship God gave them is destroyed: between them and God, between each other, between them and the world.

But what I needed to learn, what all of us need to learn if we’re ever to grow up, is that they are us.  We are Adam and Eve.  It’s why the story is so powerfully sad.

We know the same pain of broken relationships with God, with each other, even with the creation.

We can’t even imagine what it would be like to have such an intimate connection and love with God that we took walks of an evening with the LORD.  At best we fret that we are unacceptable to God; at worst we figure God must be the one who isn’t doing enough to communicate and be with us.  But the relationship is broken, we know that.

And look at what people are doing to each other in this world.  Look at the broken human relationships.  We live in a world ruined by broken relationships.  We know what it is to have broken relationships with those we love, and to blame others for our own failures.  We live in a world where people throw away their committed marital relationships at an exhausting rate while at the same time some people work hard to prevent others from having such committed marriages because they are gay or lesbian.  We live in a world where broken relationships between people create crime, poverty, hunger, despair, oppression, war, violence, abuse.

And we live in a world where our relationship with the creation is also damaged, a world where death reigns, where we face decay and brokenness and tragedy and a good beautiful creation destroyed.  The intimacy of living in God’s good creation, at peace with the world, with nature, with each other is something we can’t even dream about.  There’s far more evidence of brokenness in the creation than of the good sometimes.

And worst of all is that deep down we know that we have sinned and caused much of the pain of our lives and of others’ lives.  Even though we also recognize ourselves in Adam and Eve’s attempts to shift the blame to someone else.

And it isn’t that we don’t know how to get back.  We get back by confessing our part in this.  We get back by obeying God once again.  Even Jesus in today’s Gospel says that those who do God’s will are his brothers and sisters and mother, restoring the relationships of family we broke.  To get back to the joy of Eden, we need to begin to obey God, and admit our part in the pain and brokenness of the world.  We need to learn to pray Psalm 130, as we did today, as honestly and openly as we can.

The problem is, we can’t do it.  And it isn’t that we don’t try.  Most of us try hard to be good Christian people, and obedient to God.  We try to be honest about ourselves.

It’s just that we seem trapped, unable to really change what is deeply wrong with us.  If you’re like me, for every step in the right direction you take, you sometimes feel like you slip two back.  Even with the best of intentions, we don’t live as we know God wants us to live, and as we want to live as well.  We’re people whose nature has been warped by sin, and that seems to direct us even without our wanting it to.  That is why Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians today are so important.

You see, God has decided to fix the problem instead of waiting for us to do it.

The thing Paul says today is that we believe that death is not our Lord, nor can it be.

We may live in a world of decay and death, and may even see it in our own bodies and our lives, but we know something very important.

We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and will raise us also, says Paul.  Even better, in being raised, we will be brought back into the presence of God, which is the greatest gift of all, since it is the greatest loss of all that our sin has removed us from walking with God face to face.  Can you think of a greater joy than knowing God as the Bible says Adam and Eve did originally?

Because of this promise in which we believe, Paul says, we do not lose heart.  We do not lose heart.

Though our human nature is broken, wasting away, Paul says, and though it traps us in sin and denial, there is in our baptism a new nature inside each of us.  That inner nature, says Paul, is being renewed day by day.  The real us, the new us, the beloved child of God that God has made in each of us, is being renewed and fed by God every day: as we gather around God’s Word and Sacraments, as we share this blessed community of believers, as we live with the Spirit in our hearts.

Knowing that, Paul can call all of life a “slight, momentary affliction.”  That doesn’t diminish the reality of suffering nor dismiss it.  It doesn’t take away our responsibility for the brokenness of our lives and of the world.  It just recognizes two things.

One, that this will all pass one day into a new life for us all, a life of intimate loving relationship with each other, with the creation, and joy of joys, a life of grace and love with our good Lord God.  We can endure here, knowing what we have to look forward to.

But secondly, there is a deeper joy for us here: that eternal life is not a future thing only.  Because we have this new nature from God inside us now, given at our baptism, we can live in this world with joy and peace, and even know God intimately now.  Not as we will of course, but in a way impossible under our sin.  In our forgiveness and grace in Jesus, we come to know God so that we have our Lord with us even on this side of the grave.

So we do not lose heart.  God is restoring all that we have broken.

Our God is with us, renewing our nature, and blessing us with love and forgiveness.  We do not lose heart, for even when we fail to live in obedience to God, despite our good intentions or our bad ones, our God forgives us and restores us.

And we know this: this restoration is happening right now, in this life, it’s not just something for which we hope.  So our relationships with each other can be renewed by the same healing of God.  And our relationships with all God’s people and all God’s creation can also be renewed and restored, so all will know God’s love and grace, from those closest to us to those children dying of hunger or murdered in war on the other side of the planet who are also part of our care and concern.

So we do not lose heart.  For when all seemed lost, when all seems lost, here comes God looking for us, picking us up and bringing us home, healing all that we broke, and bringing life once again.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Love Is No Mystery

We confess a faith in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which we know because Jesus has revealed this to us about God.  Though this will always be deep mystery, what Jesus revealed about God’s love for the world is not a mystery at all.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen, The Holy Trinity, year B; text: John 3:1-17

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

Humanity is always looking for God, it seems a consistent theme.  The beautiful Psalm 27, which begins, “The LORD is my light and my salvation,” says it best in verse 8:  “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!  Your face, LORD, do I seek.”  We look so we can better understand God and God’s purpose for us.

But let’s be honest.  Most of humanity is a mystery to us.  Each one of us doesn’t really understand our own motives, or true essence, let alone that of others.  Our parents, or children, or loved ones, while we know them, and think we understand them, even try hard to understand them, are at their core a mystery to us.  And what of our existence as a species?  Biologists and chemists can tell us what makes up a human being, but can anyone really explain what a human is, or what makes us different from other mammals, or other, more distant species?  And if that’s true about human beings, how much more so is it true for God?

Today Christians celebrate the reality, the essence of God, what God has revealed to us, that the true God, creator of the universe, is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  But let’s not mistake ourselves.  God is a deep mystery, deeper than we can fathom.  We never have a handle on who God really is.

But here’s the Good News.  Today we celebrate not what we don’t know but what we do.  That somehow the God of the universe has shown us a glimpse, a picture, of the true divine essence.  Enough that our small brains can grasp part of the picture, only part, but a true picture nonetheless.  And the source of our picture, our glimpse, is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus, whom we claim was God himself, and who taught us what we need to know about God.

And this is what we learn from Jesus: The true God is known by loving relationships within God, and with us.

It’s no accident that Jesus uses relational language to describe God.  So first, Jesus teaches us to call our Creator “Father,” a relational word, and invites us to a life of prayer in that loving relationship.  I want to suggest that it’s very important that we keep this language, if for no other reason than that it was an abiding experience of the only One who can truly tell us about God, the Son himself.  It’s clear that many people struggle with masculine language for God, because it’s often used exclusive of others.

But let’s say two things about that.  First, the Father, the Creator, the first Person of the Trinity, is not male.  And yet second, he was known to the Incarnate Son in such a way that Jesus could only describe as Father, and Jesus invites us to use that intimate, parental language ourselves.  Within the Trinity, the Second Person relates to the First Person in a relationship Jesus best could describe for us as Father-Son.  And as God relates to God within the Trinity, we’re invited into that relationship ourselves.

This is a gift, my friends.  Whether or not we had good fathers or bad fathers, to know the Creator as our Father, to be able to intimately pray to the same Father Jesus prayed to, this is gift.  In fact, I think the bigger problem we have is that too often people equate “Father” with the entirety of the Triune God, not just the First Person.  And that is too small a concept, too limited a language, to speak of “Father” as equal to all that God is.

Because it was Jesus himself that opened up a deeper understanding of who God is, once people after the resurrection began to confess that Jesus himself is the Son of God.  It was inescapable for those first believers.  Jesus’ language about abiding in the Father and the Spirit, Jesus’ power over death and his resurrection, Jesus’ very risen presence among them all led them to the conclusion that Jesus was fully God.  And showed them, and us, the true depth of God’s love.  Of course, that led to several centuries of debate and conversation about how there can be one God and yet Father, Jesus and the Spirit, centuries which led to our Nicene Creed which we still confess today, 1,700 years later.

And as we began to consider last week, in many ways the Spirit is our Mother.  As Jesus says to Nicodemus today, the Spirit is the one who gives us new birth and life in God’s kingdom.

Thinking of the Spirit in this way doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit is female, any more than the Father is male.  And even though some have good mothers and some have bad mothers, the idea that God comes to us in ways we traditionally have understood as maternal is a great gift.

Because the truth about God is so complex, even as Jesus revealed it to us, so mysterious, what we want to be sure we do with our language is not limit God’s reality in any way.  We who were created in the image of God, male and female, surely must understand that every aspect of the gift of humanity can be found in God, things we stereotype as “masculine” and things we stereotype as “feminine.”

The fullness of good that we find in each other finds its source in the Triune God, who lives in and with each other and in our lives.  If using both “he” and “she” to refer to God’s presence in our lives helps us remember that, well and good.  We’re not talking about a holy family here – Father, Mother, and Son.  We’re not talking, as some pundit once said, about two guys and a bird.

We’re talking about a complex, impossible-to-understand God about whom we know nothing except what that God has revealed to us through Jesus.  A God who embodies the best of what we call male and female, and far beyond even that, and whom we know as Father, Son, and Spirit – one God, yet three Persons, all of whom live and move in us.

In truth, Jesus spends almost no time explaining the mystery, explaining God’s way of existence.  If anything, he heightened the mystery with what he revealed.  It took centuries to come to the conclusion that Trinity was the only way to do justice to Jesus’ revelation, to Paul’s proclamation.  It’s easy to get confused.  This is such a deep and abiding mystery, we had to make up words just to encompass all Jesus told us.  But I believe that it’s OK to be confused.  Because I don’t think Jesus’ goal was our full understanding.

Jesus came to tell us what God seems to think we need to know most: God is love.

This is the truth about God that we most confess today: God’s primary essence, God’s reality in the universe, is love.  Just look at what Jesus says today about God’s love.  It’s a love for the whole created cosmos that is so deep the Father is willing to risk everything, even losing the Son, to bring us back.

It’s a love for all people that is so powerful the Son is willing to risk everything, even death, to show it.

It’s a love for all people that is so creative and living that the Spirit’s main goal is to give new birth to all people, to enliven and enrich the world with the essence of God’s love.

And according to Jesus again and again, God’s main hope for us is not that we understand the mystery or grasp the essence of God’s existence, but that God and we live together in a relationship of love.

And really, that makes sense.  Because it’s the only way we ever understand anyone else, when we give and receive love with them.  Those people in our lives whom we love, we may not understand them at all.  What they’re thinking at any given time, what motivates them, why they make decisions they do.  Sometimes we know each other well enough to predict or understand.  But all people have the capacity to surprise us, no matter how well we think we know them.

But when they reach out in love to us, we know what we need to know.  They have found the way to us, and we understand what was most important to understand.  And so it is with God.  We know God by God’s love, by the relationship of love God wants with us.

The whole reality of God will always be a mystery to us.  But the face of God is shining on us in love.

And that’s all we need to know.  Psalm 27 urged us to seek God’s face.  As it turns out, it is God’s face which seeks us out in love.  And that’s enough.  God’s face of love shines on us.  That is no mystery, it’s what has always given us life.  Now, through us, may God let that love shine on others so they see God’s face, too, and know the truth about God’s love for them and for the world.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Olive Branch, 5/29/12

Accent on Worship

     Once upon a time I found myself in Poland.  While on one hand I was having a “roots” experience (my grandfather emigrated from Poland when he was 6 years old), I was lost with regard to the language.  Reading the signage all around, all I saw were long words – mostly consonants – without a clue as to what they meant.  The thought, “I’d like to buy a vowel” did occur to me.  Few people spoke English, most of the communication happened by speaking German which many of them knew.  Otherwise, I had no idea what was being said.

     While there on a Sunday we attended a Lutheran service.  Most of the time I did not know what was being said, but at one point I suddenly knew exactly what was being said, as I recognized the melody to All Glory Be to God on High (Allein Gott in der höh sei ehre).  If ever I experienced music as a universal language, that was the moment. I could then participate consciously.

     Many European Lutherans have sung that melody since Luther’s time – 500 years!  I remembered it well from the time I lived in Germany.  German Lutherans in North America might remember it as well.  This melody, along with several other hymns formed a vernacular setting of the songs of the ordinary which could then be sung by the congregation.  The other hymns include Kyrie, God Father (ELW 409),  The Nicene Creed (ELW 411),  the Sanctus (Isaiah in a Vision Did of Old,  ELW 868),  and Lamb of God,  (ELW 357, or 196).

     It warmed my heart to hear this melody sung in Polish.

     This Sunday we will use several of these “golden oldies” since they are very Trinitarian: – Kyrie, God Father,  All Glory Be to God on High,  We All Believe in One True God,  and Isaiah in a Vision Did of Old at their respective places in the liturgy.  Through their use, we are connecting ourselves with 500 years of tradition.  Perhaps even more, since some of these are adaptations of Gregorian Chant, which may be adaptations of Hebrew chant!

     For me, that makes these hymns time-less.  It makes them universal or global.  I imagine saints of old in our midst (the “hosts of heaven”) singing along, thinking “I remember this one”.  And I imagine someone from Poland joining us this Sunday, knowing exactly what we’re singing when they hear these melodies familiar to them.

     How connected and inclusive is that?

     Let them all find us singing our hearts out.

- Cantor David Cherwien

Sunday Readings

June 3, 2012 – The Holy Trinity
Isaiah 6:1-8 + Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17 + John 3:1-17

June 10, 2012 – Time After Pentecost 10B 
Genesis 3:8-15 + Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13—5:1 + Mark 3:20-35

Bach Cantata Vespers, 
with Cantata No. 75
Die Elenden sollen essen
Sunday, June 10, 2012 - 4:00 p.m.

Summer Worship Schedule

     From now through Labor Day weekend, Mount Olive worships on summer schedule: one liturgy each Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. We return to the regular (2 liturgy) schedule beginning Sunday, September 9.

Wanted: A Few Good Men or Women

     This summer Jobs After School will take place from Monday, July 2 – Friday, August 10 (with the 4th of July off.)  We are in need of a few volunteers to help pick up 3 or 4 youth, supervise them on a job, and bring them home one day a week, during those 7 weeks. The summer jobs take about 1-2 hours. We will hold an orientation lunch and meeting at noon on Tue., June 26 and an organizational meeting with the youth and parents at 1:30 p.m. on Thur., June 28.

     You may pick your day and your hours, morning or afternoon.  If you will be on vacation one or two of those weeks, we can cover that time for you.  For more information, please call Donna @ 612-827-5919.

Meet the Artists!

     During the Education Hour on Sunday, June 17, you will have the opportunity to meet artists from The Art Shoppe and to view some of their work.

     Mount Olive sponsors the Art Shoppe jointly with A Minnesota Without Poverty and the Jewish Community Relations Council.  By establishing an entrepreneurship, the artists are able to show and sell their work with the goal of overcoming poverty and becoming financially independent.

     Several from Mount Olive will soon begin volunteering at the shop.  If anyone else is interested, please speak to a Neighborhood Committee member.  The shop is located in the Midtown Global Market.

     The artists are grateful for your support and are eager to meet you! We believe that you will be impressed with the quality of their work. So come enjoy meeting the artists, hearing their stories and viewing their work.  Art work they display will be available for purchase.

Summer Benefit Concert

      A Minnesota Without Poverty is pleased to present a summer benefit concert, “2020: Enough For All.” This event will benefit the efforts of A Minnesota Without Poverty. The concert will be held on Monday, June 25 from 7-9 p.m. at the Capri Theater, 2027 W. Broadway, Minneapolis. Featured at this benefit performance will be Regina Marie Williams, T. Mychael Rambo, Thomasina Petrus, and others. Ticket price is $33 each and are available by visiting

Book Discussion Group

     Mount Olive’s Book Discussion group regularly meets on the second Saturday of each month at 10:00 a.m. The book they are reading for the coming months are:

June 16: (postponed one week due to Bach Tage): Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
July 14: The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope.

Walk Against Weapons

     If you think our nation spends too much in funds and human lives on military madness and weapons, the Walk Against Weapons is the perfect opportunity to express this opinion and to raise funds for Women Against Military Madness (WAMM). They will sponsor a Walk Against Weapons on Saturday June 2, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The check-in point will be at Baker’s Square Restaurant, 928 Prairie Center Dr. in Eden Prairie.  This is a highly visible three mile walk encircling Eden Prairie Center and ending at Alliant Techsystems, Minnesota's largest employer of weapons production. This walk is a fund raiser for Women Against Military Madness in which pledges will be solicited by the walkers.  All checks are to be made payable to WAMM.

     If you would like more information about participating or would just like to make a pledge, please contact Donna Neste at 612-827-5919.

Bach Tage – There’s Still Room!

     June 9 and 10 are the dates for this sixth Bach Tage weekend at Mount Olive. Many of you have participated in the past, or have come to the Saturday afternoon concert or the cantata vespers on Sunday afternoon.

     There is still room for additional participants! If you would like to join with other Bach-lovers to learn and sing BWV 75, Die Elenden sollen essen, register now!
Brochures with schedule and registration forms are in the narthex at church.

     The two concerts during Bach Tage are free of charge and open to the public – invite your friends!

Saturday, June 9, 4:30 p.m. All-Bach Recital
Sonata in g for Oboe and Harpsichord (BWV 1030b), Stanley King, oboe; Arthur Halbardier, harpsichord
Toccata & Fugue in d (“Dorian”) BWV 538) Cantor David Cherwien, organ

Sunday, June 10, 4:00 p.m. Evening Prayer
Cantata BWV 75, Die Elenden sollen essen, and Motet BWV 118, O Jesu Christ, meines Lebens Licht, Kathy Romey, conductor, with soloists and orchestra

     Plan to be part of Bach Tage VI, June 9 and 10.

The Bargain Box

     Each August, Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries sponsors The Bargain Box, an affordable way for neighborhood families to obtain good quality clothing (new and gently used) for children of all ages to wear as they return to school in the fall. This year, the Bargain Box will be on August 4, from 8-11:30 a.m.

     You can help by donating new or gently used children’s clothes or money to purchase clothes (please include “Bargain Box” in the memo line of your gift), before August 4.
     If you have any questions about Bargain Box, please contact Irene Campbell at 651-230-3927.

Walker Methodist Update

      On Sunday evening, Walker Community Methodist Church had a catastrophic fire which destroyed their entire building, and injured five Minneapolis firefighters.  Walker is our neighbor to the east eight blocks on 31st Street.  On Monday morning the congregation and community met at Spirit of the Lakes (another Methodist congregation), and Vicar Doughty and congregational president Adam Krueger attended on behalf of Mount Olive.  At this time we don’t know what needs the congregation will have that we can meet, but through conversations Adam led with Vestry and staff on Monday, we’ve offered to help with office space and equipment use, help with their community meals, and if needed, worship space.  There are a number of Methodist congregations who have also offered similar things, so the next weeks will determine how the neighborhood will help.  Please keep the people of Walker in your prayers.

Library News
     We are always happy to have browsers come into the library to look at our special displays or to search for a particular book or an author's latest, however, we have seldom had someone ask to find or use our special reference materials.  Therefore, we would like to feature some of the fine materials that make up the bulk of that section and invite you to come in soon to check into everything yourselves:

Luther's Works -- 52 volume set, plus Table Talk, Liturgy and Hymns and Index
New Interpreter's Bible ( 9 volumes)
Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (4 volumes)
The New Oxford Dictionary of the Bible
The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church (3 volumes)
Peake's Commentary of the Bible
Harper's Bible Commentary
Bibles --- The New Oxford, the New English Bible, The Amplified Bible, Today’s Parallel Bible, The Harper Study Bible, The Jerusalem Bible, the New Testament in Four Versions, Good News for Modern Man, The New Testament in Modern English, and The Sacred Sixty-Six. 

      Other reference items include: Halley’s Bible Handbook, Encyclopedia of Bible Life, Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity, Atlas of the Christian Church, The Golden Bible Atlas, Pictorial Bible Atlas, ABCs of the Bible, Atlas of the Biblical World, The Complete Gospels, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament (13 volumes), and Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

     If summer's somewhat shorter open hours for the library make it difficult for you to find time for use of our reference materials, please let me know directly or leave a message in the church office and we can arrange for our library door to be opened for your use sometime during the week.

     To close this article, a worthy quotation:  "The library is an arena of possibility, opening both a window into the soul and a door onto the world." (Rita Dover)

- Leanna Kloempken

A Note from Our Vicar

     THANK YOU to Mount Olive for taking me to my first Festival of Homiletics in Atlanta.  I was able to hear a lot of different styles of preaching, listen to good lectures on various preaching-related topics, and meet a whole bunch of good people.  Several of us with Mount Olive history (Pr. Crippen, me, and several former vicars and pastors) met for conversation; that was great!  Since the Festival of Homiletics happens yearly, I'm hoping to get there next year in Nashville, too, and perhaps I will be among the many Mount Olive folks there.  Thanks again!

     A word of clarification:  In my most recent sermon, I mentioned I would be preaching four more times during my vicarage.  HOWEVER, I will still be here until my last Sunday, August 12!  Some folks thought I was leaving in four weeks, and that is not the case.  I will be around for the summer too; fear not!

-Vicar Erik Doughty

Thank You, Way to Goals Tutors

Thank you to our tutors for making Way to Goals a very special year!  Your dedication and faithfulness is most appreciated.  Thanks to Yvette Berard, Emily Boldischar, Diane Brown, Peter Bunge, Vicar Erik Doughty, Sierra Parham, Catherine Pususta, and Amy Thompson.


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