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Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Olive Branch, 11/6/13

Accent on Worship

Transferring a wee little man

     For those of us who pay attention to little details, there might be something that looks like a typographical error in this Olive Branch.  In the little shaded box in the lower right corner of the page, where it lists the readings for the next two Sunday Eucharists, it says Sunday 31 followed by Sunday 33.  So either this is a typo or we have to ask, what happened to Sunday 32?

     Well, the simple answer is that it was overridden by a transferring of Sunday 31’s readings to this Sunday.  “Transferring” is the word we use when we take the lectionary assigned to one day and move it to another.  Some Lutheran churches, for example, rather than celebrating Epiphany on January 6, the actual day, will transfer the Epiphany lectionary to the next Sunday.  The same is often done to Ascension Day.  Mount Olive typically doesn’t do this.  If a lesser festival (of one of the apostles and Biblical saints) falls on a green Sunday, we celebrate it.  We always celebrate the Epiphany and the Ascension on their proper days, even if it means (as it always does with Ascension) coming here on a weeknight to celebrate the Eucharist.  They are important feasts in the life of the Church and here we have appreciated the rich and ancient tradition of stopping our daily lives when they arrive, and gathering to worship.  We also value the lectionary’s assigning of texts so we never replace the Sunday readings with other readings of our choosing to suit our needs.

     The one exception is that for decades here we’ve followed the traditional Lutheran practice of transferring the Reformation Day (Oct. 31) lectionary to the preceding Sunday and the All Saints Day (Nov. 1) lectionary to the following Sunday.  While there has been good reason for that, the outcome that is often unseen is that we never read the actual lectionary readings assigned to those two Sundays, and there are some important words of Scripture we never get to hear in worship as a result.

     This year it seemed worth our while to rectify this at least in one way.  The readings for Sunday 31 are powerful readings that help us consider our stewardship of our wealth and our relationship with our neighbors, and it is the time of year for us to consider such things with a little more intentionality.  So we’re going to read Sunday 31’s readings this week (and you can see a little more reflection on stewardship in my pastoral letter in another part of this Olive Branch.)  This year, Sunday 32 will take the back seat because of All Saints instead of Sunday 31.  [It’s worth noting, by the way, that the numbers don’t refer to “Sundays after” a specific date, as the lectionary used to count.  (Most will remember “The 24th Sunday after Pentecost” style.)  In the revised common lectionary which we use, the numbers are simply a consecutive numbering of the lectionary readings for the green seasons, ordinary time.  So the Sunday after Holy Trinity this year wasn’t “the Second Sunday after Pentecost,” it was “Sunday 9.”]

     What this means is that we hear the story of Zacchaeus this Sunday, and he will invite us into a passionate way of considering how we steward the resources God has entrusted to us.  It will be good to hear from this old friend who has been absent from our liturgies for too long.

Sunday Readings

Nov. 10, 2013 – Time after Pentecost, Sunday 31
Isaiah 1:10-18 + Psalm 32:1-7
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12 + Luke 19:1-10

Nov. 17, 2013 – Time after Pentecost, Sunday 33
Malachi 4:1-2a + Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 + Luke 21:5-19

Adult Forum 

November 10: “An Introduction to Matthew,” part 1 of a 3-part series, led by Pastor Crippen.
November 17 & 24:  Parts 2 and 3 of this series.

Thursday Evening Bible Study Begins Tomorrow!

     In Psalm 13, David cries out, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” No doubt David is not the only one to ask God these questions, for here is not a household untouched by pain or suffering. Thursday evenings starting on Nov. 7, Vicar Beckering will lead a topical study on the Biblical witness to suffering and who God is for us in the midst of that suffering. This Bible study series will meet Thursday evenings in the Chapel Lounge from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and run for six weeks, with the exception of Thanksgiving. Each gathering will begin with a light supper. All are welcome!

Volunteer Opportunities Abound

     This Sunday, November 10, during both coffee times representatives from various Mount Olive groups will be available to talk about volunteer opportunities with their committees and groups. Please come see what volunteers accomplish at Mount Olive, what opportunities exist for service at Mount Olive, and how you can get involved. Volunteering is a great way to serve our congregation and our neighbors.

Attention, Bakers!

     We will again bake communion bread for our liturgies from Advent through Holy Trinity.  There is currently a regular group of five bakers, but additional bakers are always welcome. If you are interested in baking communion bread, Please contact John and Patsy Holtmeier either by email to, or by phone: 952-582-1955.

Book Discussion Group

     Mount Olive’s Book Discussion group meets on the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at church. For Nov. 9, they will read Parade's End, by Ford Madox Ford, and for December 14, The Optimist's Daughter, by Eudora Welty.

A Word of Thanks

     As the photo directory project is winding down, I’d like to thank the many people who helped make it happen: Andrew Andersen, Paul Nixdorf  for heading up the project and Cha Posz for lots of support; Elisabeth Hunt, Marty Hamlin, and Bonnie McLellan for registering appointments; Marcia Burrow for recruiting hosts; and all those who helped me with hosting: Steve Pranschke, Mary Rose Watson, Elizabeth Beissel, Don Johnson, Kate Sterner, Margaret Bostelmann, Sue Ellen Zagrebelsky, John and Patsy Holtmeier, Kathy Kruger, Tim Lindholm and many more who were willing but whose schedules didn’t match with the photo session times. I am truly grateful for everyone’s help and I apologize if I have left anyone out.

- Sandra Pranschke, Congregational Life

Mark Your Calendars for NovemberFest!

     On Sunday, November 17, the Congregational Life Committee will hold a NovemberFest Fundraising Dinner. This event will be a fun opportunity for Mount Olive members and friends to visit with each other and guests, eat a wonderful meal of German food prepared by members of our church, play some games (led by Hans Tisberger), all to help raise money for new ovens for the Undercroft kitchen.  A freewill offering will be received. If you want to come and haven’t signed up, call Gail Nielsen at 612/825-9326 to RSVP, so we know how much food to prepare.

Theology on Tap
Faith journey conversations for folks 21 and up

When: Tuesday, Nov. 19, 7:30pm
Where: Longfellow Grill, 2990 W. River Pkwy, Minneapolis
Topic: That “small, quiet voice”-- how and when do you hear it, what does it tell you, what gets in the way?
Contact: Bob Anderson, 952-937-8656

Sign Up, Sign Up for Coffee!

     On Sunday at the Stewardship event, there will be a new sign up chart for hosting coffee hour. Please consider signing up for this important time of food and conversation. Willing to host but don’t want to do it alone? Let us know and we’ll pair you with someone. See you at the Congregational Life table on Sunday.

Two Events for Every Church a Peace Church

Monday, Nov. 11, 6:30 p.m. at
United Church of Christ in New Brighton
1000 Long Lake Road
New Brighton, MN     (651 633-1327)

     Every Church a Peace Church bi-monthly potluck supper meeting presents "An Introduction to Nonviolent Peaceforce and Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping."
     This international organization originated here in Minnesota. Its mission is to train civilians to accompany people who have been targeted in various foreign countries to provide nonviolent protection for them.

Thursday, November 14, 7-8:30 p.m. at
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
1895 Laurel Ave., St. Paul

     Every Church a Peace Church, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Veterans for Peace and Fellowship of Reconciliation invite you to an evening with Fr. Michael Lapsley.

     Father Lapsley became chaplain of the African National Congress in 1976. He survived an assassination attempt by the South African Apartheid government. It destroyed both of his hands, one eye and his eardrums. Fr. Lapsley believed God was with him and he was able to move from victim to victor. During his lengthy recovery he became a staff member of the Training Center for Survivors of Violence and Torture and later was involved with Bishop Desmond Tutu in the Truth and Reconciliation effort in South Africa. Fr. Lapsley helped develop the  Healing of Memories (HOM) American. He leads HOM retreats in Minnesota for returning veterans.

Thanksgiving Eucharist
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28
10:00 a.m.

     Bring non-perishable food items to help re-stock local food shelves. Monetary donations are especially welcome (for every $1 donated, food shelf personnel are able to buy about $9 worth of food!)
     The entire offering received at the Eucharist on Thanksgiving Day will be given to Sabbathani Community Center and Community Emergency Services.

Please Note

Church offices will be closed on Friday, November 29 (the day after Thanksgiving).

Special Request from CES

     Community Emergency Services has informed us of some current special needs: computers, a 2-stage snow blower, shopping carts, fans, and a vacuum cleaner. The most important need, however, is people! The need volunteers for their mail crew, clerical assistance, drivers, and painters. If you can help, please contact CES at 612/870-1125. CES is the local recipient of our food shelf donations.

CoAM Fundraiser

     CoAM (Cooperative Older Adult Ministries) will have a fun fundraiser on November at, beginning at noon, at Bethel Lutheran Church (4120 17th Ave. S.). The musical group From the Heart will perform songs from the Great American Songbook. Plan to come, share a meal, and listen to the music! For reservations, call the CoAM office at 612/721-5786. CoAM is a program of TRUST, of which Mount Olive is a part (TRUST sponsors our Meals on Wheels program).

A Word From Your Pastor

Sisters and brothers,
     In the second of these letters to you on stewardship I’d like to consider the possibilities that could be before us when we learn to think of our stewardship of financial resources in a deeper, more profound way.  In particular, what might happen if we were to deepen in our understanding of the spiritual discipline of tithing.

     In some Christian settings, tithing (the giving of a percentage of one’s income to the work of the church, often set at 10% due to a biblical precedent) is nearly a law, a requirement.  Other Christian groups teach tithing as almost an investment scheme: give a certain percentage and God will turn your investment into much more, you will be even more wealthy and blessed.  Neither of these approaches are faithful to Scripture.

     What is truer to Scripture is the biblical tradition of the faithful people of God committing – joyfully, gratefully, enthusiastically – a percentage of what they have been blessed to receive from God to share with God for the work of ministry.  That’s the place of discipleship we could find more fully at Mount Olive, and the accompanying blessing of deepening faith that results.

     We are already a high-commitment community.  We commit a great deal of time and energy to worship, to caring for our neighbors, to supporting each other in this congregation.  In our visioning process the leadership team continually heard the desire of members to deepen in that commitment of time and life to work together for the ministry God needs us to be doing here.  Learning the spiritual discipline of intentionally committing a percentage of our income to the work we do together flows along the same lines, and is in keeping with our other understandings of the work we are called to do together.

     What is interesting is to dream about what it would look like if we, the members of this congregation, deepened in this faith practice.  The most recent numbers this fall state that the median household (not individual) income in Minnesota is now $58,000 per year.  Clearly not all of our households are at that level and some are at a higher level.  But let’s use that and play with the numbers a bit.

     We have roughly 230 households who give to Mount Olive every year.  Assuming that averaging those households’ income would be close to the Minnesota median, if each of those households began in 2014 to give 10%, we as God’s people would have $1,335,000 to use for the work of God.  Just for 2014.  Now we know it takes us about $600,000, give or take, to keep our own things taken care of, building, staff, utilities, necessities.  So what would happen if we found ourselves next year with over $700,000 to give away, to invest in the neighborhood, to transform this world?  What kind of a congregation would we be in 5 years, in 10 years, if every year we were sending nearly three quarters of a million dollars out into the world to bring God’s justice and grace to the world?  Do you see?  We barely scratch the surface of the joy we could be a part of when we just “take care of business.”

     The transformation in our life together would be equally profound.  What Christians have discovered in two millennia is that letting go of the things of this world that seem so important opens us to rely ever more deeply on the grace of God in which we live and move, and when we share the resources God has entrusted to us in our wealth we find a joy in participating in God’s grace for the world we might never have dreamed possible.

     This is a theology which assumes God has abundantly blessed the world with enough for all, and certainly abundantly blessed us.  This is a theology wherein we are overwhelmed by the many and various ways God’s grace has blessed and enriched our lives and can only respond by an outpouring of our own.  This is an ancient spiritual discipline which, like so many others, helps us learn ever more to rely on God and not ourselves.  The astonishing bonus to all of this is the wonders that we will be able to do together when we share our resources in such a way.

     This Sunday we will consider our stewardship in our Sunday liturgy, and between liturgies.  All of us will have opportunities after each liturgy to sign up for ways in which we feel called to commit our time to this shared ministry we do.  In our Eucharist, the readings for the day, the hymns, the preaching will help us listen to what God is saying, and think deeply about what we are each called to do with the stewardship of God’s wealth entrusted to us.

     We have not sent out pledge cards yet.  This is intentional.  I wanted us to have some time to consider these things, both in these two Olive Branches, and next Sunday.  A letter from Dennis Bidwell, the stewardship director, and from me, will go out next Monday with pledge cards for 2014.  I invite all of us to look at this card and, whatever each has done in the past, ask ourselves what new things God might be calling us, calling you, to commit to do with this pledge.  I knew a couple once who was giving at 10% and felt that they needed to risk more in faith and began to push to increase that percentage by a percentage point each year.  Because the percentage isn’t a magical thing.  The grace comes from the moving in faith, the committing.

     So let us continue to pray about this together.  When we each get our invitations to pledge to our shared ministry, let us ask God for the courage to let go and trust.  And then let’s be ready to be astonished even more than we have been by what God’s powerful grace can do among us.
In the love of Christ,

- Joseph

A Reflection on Volunteering

     Last Sunday in church we heard this from Vicar Emily:
"In the fullness of that story, an end will come to poverty, and hunger, and pain, and weeping, and hate, and we and all the faithful dead will be united with God.  But here and now, God is in our very midst putting to death our harmful beliefs and behaviors and raising us once again by the power of the Holy Spirit to live as Christ—to fill and be filled by the hungry, to weep with the weeping, to return hate with love, to forgive and lift up before God those who hurt us, and to give of ourselves and our resources for the joy of being apart of what God is doing. When this happens, all around us the clouds part and God’s future breaks in now."

     I was sitting in the pew reflecting on these words when a finger gently tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to come.  It was the usher asking if I could help out and carry the sacraments to the altar.  Now, you must know that I have never done this before.  Last time I walked down that aisle was at my wedding more than 3 decades ago (other than communion each Sunday).

     So my first reaction was slight terror.  I would not know what to do; when to bow, stop, turn, follow, lead, etc.  I have watched but not been attentive to the details.  But I had just heard this incredible sermon and been moved by it.  The words came to my mind again (paraphrased).   "Stop your harmful beliefs and patterns that limit Gods work and rise up with the power of the Holy Spirit to live as Christ!"

     So I was being asked to get off my duff and be part of something wonderful.  Now I know many of you do this regularly and it is no big deal but we cannot see one another's inner fears and I would never have offered myself for this volunteer activity.

     I nodded a yes but was not comfortable as the elements were placed in the palm of my hands.  But as I moved down that aisle toward the altar an amazing presence filled me.  I forgot myself and my fears seemed way behind me and even silly. I felt the fullness of the body of Christ surrounding me.  I sensed being a part of something much bigger than me.  I was no longer a bystander but I was in the midst of the Holy and I felt the presence of God deeply.

     Outwardly all I did was walk down an aisle.  All I did was hand over some bread to another member.  Yet from the moments of being asked, saying yes, taking one step at a time and walking into the midst of the people of God gathered for worship, I knew without a doubt that my fear was gone and a deep joy came to my heart because I knew I belonged to the body of Christ.

     This Sunday during the social hour you will be tapped on the shoulder and invited to see, hear, touch, taste the opportunities to volunteer in this congregation.  Will you be attentive to what God is asking you to do or be in this place?  Will you take some time to perhaps burst out of some of your old patterns and say yes to try something new?

     As Vicar Emily stated in the sermon:  "This God who has made us saints and called us blessed, will continue to call us back, to put to death harmful patterns, to raise us again to live as Christ, and to remind us whose we are until that time when before the throne with all the saints in light, we will know in complete fullness, the God to whom we belong.”

- Connie Jaarsma Marty

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