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Sunday, August 31, 2014

So Far As It Depends on You

There is only one way to take up our cross and follow: it is to do just that, to follow Jesus’ example and offer our lives to others, to the world, as Paul describes, so that God’s love and grace can continue to transform and renew the whole creation.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 22 A
   texts:  Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

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

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  (Romans 12:1-2)

So Paul begins Romans 12, a claim for which our reading today provides the real-life example.  Be transformed, not conformed.  Present your body as a living sacrifice.

In Romans, we prefer other words of Paul: chapter 3, about God’s righteousness draped over us; chapter 5, saying that while we were still sinners, God loved us; chapter 8, promising that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Paul preaches God’s grace that is unearned and freely given in Christ’s death and resurrection.

If that’s all we need, then why chapter 12?

Peter is thrilled that Jesus is God’s Messiah, but when he hears that will lead to Jesus’ death, Peter tries to turn him in a different direction.  He is rebuked as “the opponent”, told to get out of the way.  We’re so similar to Peter: after the resurrection, we incorporated the cross and empty tomb into Peter’s hope for a life of victory and success following Christ.  Don’t talk about crosses, Jesus, unless it’s your cross; that means we get to live eternally.  Don’t talk about sacrifice, Paul, unless it’s Jesus’ sacrifice; then, praise God, we’re saved.

Jesus and Paul say, however, that our life in this world matters to God, because this world matters to God.  Following Christ is not about getting heaven, though we believe we have eternal life with him.  Following him is as Paul says, seeking to be transformed into new minds, new hearts, by the Spirit.  Becoming like Christ.

That’s going to be a sacrifice.  There’s no way to avoid it.

“Take up your cross,” Jesus says to all who wish to be his disciple.

He is not saying, “life will have difficulties you can’t control.  That’s your cross.”  The cross is not disease, or misfortune, or things that make us different from others, or troublesome people who get in our way.  Let’s put aside that piety once and for all.  Taking up one’s cross has nothing to do with the difficulties of life we may face.

For Jesus, taking up the cross meant this: set aside use of your divine power in order to love people, even if they kill you for it.  Taking up the cross meant this: let people kill you, and love them enough to ask God to forgive them, while they’re nailing you to a cross.

Taking up the cross is the only way to begin our discipleship, to live our discipleship, Jesus says.  It means willingly entering into a way of life that costs us, that’s sacrificial.  It means not only facing all life’s difficulties with patience, but also choosing a way of love and grace with people that will inevitably hurt us.  Maybe not kill us, but who knows.

Taking up the cross means never saying “that’s not fair,” at least when it applies to us.  Of course it isn’t fair that we lose while others win.  How is choosing a life of sacrifice ever going to be “fair”?

Taking up the cross looks like . . . well, it looks a lot like Romans 12.

This transformed life Paul talks about costs, even if we aren’t killed.

If you want to understand this in your guts, take Paul’s words and hang them in your home where you see them every day.  In every situation, from your relationships with those you love most to your encounters with strangers, from your personal decisions to your political views, start using these words as your template, your answer.  Seek every day to live by them, instead of whatever rules you normally have.

It will certainly be a transformed life.  It will also be a radically sacrificial life; you might not like it at first.  So far as it depends on you, Paul says, live peaceably with others.  So whenever the other person is angry, hurtful, you respond in kindness and grace.  You act peaceably.

Do you have enemies?  Fine.  If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they’re thirsty, give them a drink.  Repay evil with good, not with evil.  What will that mean?  That person who doesn’t like you, you love them.  That bad thing that happened to you, you answer with good.

If you don’t think you have enemies, fine.  But what about when someone you love hurts you, neglects you, is hard on you?  Can you return that with grace and love instead of your usual response?

There’s so much more here, but that’s enough to start.  These words are a powerful vision of what taking up the cross means to the disciple of Jesus, of what Jesus means by “losing one’s life”.  If our walk of faith doesn’t cause us to sacrifice, if only to those in our families, to say nothing of the rest of the world, Jesus and Paul would say it’s not much of a walk of faith.

We need to change our language.

Too often we’ve said the Christian life could be a challenge, might cause us to have to give up things, possibly could lead to sacrifice.  Jesus and Paul leave no such openings, no “coulds” or “mights” or “possiblies”.  Sacrifice and loss in our journey of faith are expected.

The Son of God came to show us the way of loving God and loving neighbor that leads to life for the whole world.  Because the world is what it is, caused by human beings, we ourselves included, doing things our own way for our own benefit, following the way of Christ will be uphill, against the grain, upstream, whatever metaphor you like.

It won’t be easy.  Try Romans 12 for one day and see for yourself.

Here’s a fair question: Why would we want to follow, then?

Many Christians teach discipleship that involves no sacrifice, only speaking of the success and winning God wants you to have.  If Paul’s right, why would we want to follow?  The Church has used threats of eternal hell to keep people in line, radically unlike Paul or Jesus.  Is our only incentive so that we aren’t punished forever?  Since we’re forgiven fully by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, that no longer works.

What is our motive, if threats or fear aren’t valid, to choose a life that costs us everything?

Apart from simply to obey God, which would be best, the only way a sacrificial life is something we’d be willing to do is if it led to a way of life that is richer, fuller, more joyful, even amidst the sacrifice.  If the Son of God came to restore us to a way of being with each other that, while it means we put others before us, is a path to a world of hope and grace and love among all people.  That’s exactly what believers have claimed for two millennia.

Consider this: the life of Christian love, sacrificial and self-giving as it is, has inspired billions to change the world, even in their homes; has led millions to be willing to die to love others in Christ; has changed whole societies; has been an abundant and real way of life for billions.  The way of this world, self-centered, get-my-own, do what I want to others, retaliate for wrongs done, offer no peace unless the other offers first, has led to Ferguson, the Middle East, ISIL and government beheadings, centuries of war; has led to uncountable tragedies in families, abuse, abandonment, death, hatreds that last entire lifetimes, broken relationships; has led to rampant economic selfishness where those who have keep, and those who haven’t go without; has nearly destroyed this world.  You want to conform to that?  Or do you want to be transformed to the other?

It’s no exaggeration to say that God’s new creation can only begin with each of our lives as we begin to learn to take up the cross, to offer ourselves first to those closest to us, and then beyond, to seek the Spirit’s transformation that we might begin to be Christ.  This is a life or death question, not just for the world, for each of us.

“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, this is your spiritual worship.”

That’s the mystery, that as we learn this life of Christ, this is our worship: our lives of service and sacrifice.  As we are transformed, we offer ourselves as a sacrifice to others, that the world might be healed, and we worship the God in whose love we are bound forever.  The cross and resurrection of Christ Jesus brought life to the whole world; our own dying to self and living for others will do the same.  So that this becomes a world of love and grace as God has always intended.

If we know and live this, Paul says, we know the will of God, what is good, and acceptable, and perfect.  Now we know.  So let’s ask the Spirit to make it so among us, for our own sakes, and for the sake of the world.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Anything Good?

We cannot defend Christianity or Christians, or even God, with words; only by lives transformed by the Holy Spirit into Christly, self-giving love, can we truly witness to the grace of God made known to the world in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Festival of St. Bartholomew, Apostle
   texts:  John 1:43-51; Psalm 12

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

I read a book by an atheist last week.  It was witty, hilarious, really.  Also very profane and vulgar, shocking, even.  I found myself liking and respecting the author from the very beginning, as different from me as he is.  He seems like a good person who loves his wife and children and friends, who tries to live as a good person.

He also makes deeply pointed and painful observations about Christians that are impossible for me to brush away.  There is far too much truth behind them, truth I’ve seen myself.  What surprised me was the growing sense as I read that while I grew to respect and like him, I wondered if he would respect and like me.  From this reading, I think he probably wouldn’t pre-judge me.  He’d give me a chance to be a jerk first.  But there is this truth, that I am a Christian, a person of faith, not something he’s had good experiences with.

It’s strange to realize that our very identity as baptized children of God in Christ could be what drives people away.  Simply because we are who we are.

This isn’t new for us, it’s something many have experienced from society and others, over many things more than just one’s faith.  It’s sometimes even true for me.  I am a white, straight American male from European ancestors.  I have lived a life of privilege, privilege that includes a good education, ample resources, ability to get and keep jobs, and respect of others.  In most of my encounters, these attributes have given me a leg up, an insider’s path.  Not because of anything I did, simply because of who I am, most of which is not of my doing.

There have been places, however, where these attributes have inspired a Nathanael-like comment or thought from others.

Nathanael Bartholomew says of Jesus, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

It’s hard to know what he meant, but clearly he had ideas.  In the greater church these days white, straight, European-American males are sometimes treated as if we cannot know or speak truth about issues such as race in the church or society because we are part of the problem.  “Can anything good come from such people?”  I’ve run into that since seminary.  I say this not to complain; how can I complain given my privilege?  I say it as truth: in a diverse church there are places where people like me are not trusted.  That’s certainly fair.

There were likely some of these attributes that might have caused some of you to wonder about me when I came here.  What overrode all was that you called me as your pastor.  From the first day I came you have received me as that, whatever doubts you may or may not have had.  But for this atheist author, adding “pastor” to my attributes is adding more gasoline to the fire.  How many people trust a Christian pastor these days, except people in the pews?  (And there are plenty of them who have come to not trust the clergy, for good reason.)  If there’s any characteristic that might inspire “can anything good come from him,” it might be that I am a pastor.  That which leads you to trust me can lead others to write me off.

So it is with our Christian identity.

Nathanael raises a question we must take seriously.

“Can anything good come from a Christian?”  “A Lutheran?”  “Someone from Mount Olive?”  There is another direction to this, our own prejudices.  Who are the people, what are the places where we’re tempted to say, “Can anything good come from them?”  We need to be aware of those and address those.

However, we first need to ask this today: what does it mean that we bear the label “Christian” in a world where so many Christians have done horrible things?  What does it mean that we sit in privilege and wealth, bearing Christ’s name, and by our very lifestyles and attitudes prove that people shouldn’t trust good to come from us?

The last thing we want to do, the last thing we should do, is spend time saying, “We’re not like those other Christians.”  “We believe something different.”  It’s tempting; I’ve said it myself.  I no longer think we can do that, not with integrity and honesty.

Because in this case, words mean nothing.  If people can’t tell by who we are that we belong to Christ and who Christ truly is, any protestations or proclamations we make have no meaning, no value.

But Jesus’ way of handling Nathanael’s critique might be worth examining.

Jesus answers his prejudice with this: “I admire your honesty.”

The way John tells it, Jesus didn’t hear Nathanael’s dismissal.  Somehow he had a vision of him under the tree, but his opening statement clearly implies he knew something of Nathanael’s attitude, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Jesus says, “Here’s someone who doesn’t lie.”

Interesting.  Jesus doesn’t try to convince Nathanael he’s wrong about Nazareth.  Jesus simply is himself.  Since he likes honesty, he praises Nathanael for not holding back on his views.

What is impressive is that Jesus lets Nathanael come to know him as he really is, leaving his own actions to be what Nathanael learns to trust and see.  “You will see greater things than these,” he says, and it’s true.  Visions are nothing compared to the grace of God Jesus reveals to Nathanael and the rest of the twelve in the years ahead.

Jesus is our model.  Actions, not words, are the only thing we can bring into the world.

We simply can’t say, “That’s not us.” We must earn respect and trust by how we embody Christ.  As the psalmist said today, lots of people lie about who they are, and the needy go hungry.  In fact, Jesus suggests that we start by acknowledging the honesty and mistrust of people who have good reason to think we’re not worthy of trust.

We’re in the middle of our interview process for our new staff person to lead us in our outreach and ministry in this neighborhood.  We’ve had very good interviews, and I’m hopeful that God is leading us to find the right person God needs here.  But this encounter with Nathanael only underscores that we need to take seriously what we said throughout the visioning process about our presence in the world as the people of God.

What we heard from each other was a real hunger to understand how meeting God in this room each week, worshipping and being blessed by the grace and love of God, connects with our meeting God out in our lives, in the world.  How the life we cherish here of being blessed by God in our worship might become a life we cherish in our daily lives, of also being blessed by God.

We need to realize that whomever we ask to do this job among us, we are telling him or her to help us get to work, to embody Christ.  To help us listen to the movement of the Holy Spirit who would transform us into people whose lives are deeply rooted not just in here, but in our neighborhood, and the neighborhoods we live in.  We’re not hiring someone to do our Christly work for us, but to walk with us and help us into our ministry and mission in this world.  Into becoming people who expect to meet God not just here in Eucharist but in the streets where our Lord Christ has said he will be.

I am convinced the Holy Spirit has led us to this point, to where we discover in new and powerful ways who we can be in this city, what it means to be Christ.  We’ve done much over the years.  Now we are feeling a call to find deeper integration between our worship and our service, deeper awareness of how we are shaped to be Christ.  And to act on that shape, that reality.

This is tremendously exciting.  And it is our answer to our Nathanaels.

We have no right to tell others to trust us.  We only can ask the Spirit to make us trustworthy.

That’s a really good thing.  The death and resurrection of Christ Jesus began the overturning of this world, began God’s new resurrection life poured into believers.  For all the evil spoken by Christians, hateful actions done, countless reasons the world has not to trust us, there have also always been faithful followers of this Lord who lived embodied as Christ in the world, living sacrificial lives of love, quietly offering a witness of the One who has ended the power of death and brought God’s love to the whole world.

This, then, will be our answer: our lives lived as Christ, bearing the love of God in the world. Since Jesus has said he is in our neighbor, we will also find our lives blessed in receiving the love of God from our neighbors as we walk with them.

It would be wise for us to keep our mouths closed for a while.  Those who don’t trust us have legitimate reasons.  Like Nathanael, they’re only being honest.  Let us rather pray that the Holy Spirit so transform us that at least when people meet us, they begin to see the love of God for this world, and we begin to see it in them.  Then God’s healing can truly begin.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Olive Branch, 8/20/14

Accent on Worship

Come with me

     I missed you all.  It’s as simple as that.  The two weeks’ vacation I took at the end of July was restful, good, helpful.  I did almost nothing during the days but read and do crosswords.  We took a couple days out of town.  It was a successful vacation as well, in that I was able to forget about work, forget about duties, trusting that all was being done well in my absence.

     But then Sundays came.  We worshipped in two different places, an Episcopal church in Wisconsin one week, one of our neighbor Lutheran congregations the next week.  Both times we were blessed, not only by the worship we were welcomed to join, but because we did feel we worshipped, and we certainly were fed by God’s grace.  But.  It wasn’t the same as it is with you, my sisters and brothers.

     There is something about a worshipping community that is irreplaceable, wherever one worships.  We come to need each other alongside as we approach God, and while it can be done elsewhere, something about who we are together makes it different, good, blessed.  I missed you all.

     Is this the generative impulse behind all evangelism, that once we’ve experienced something important, been blessed by the grace of God in a community, we want to invite others to come with us?  It’s not enough that we know; we want to welcome others to know and see what we do.

     On Sunday we celebrate the feast day of St. Bartholomew, who most likely was also the disciple who bore the first name “Nathanael.”  In John’s account of Nathanael’s calling, Philip is what draws my eye this morning.  Philip has met Jesus, believes him to be the one
Moses and the prophets foretold.  But he can’t stop there.  He has to run and find his friend, Nathanael, and tell him to come and see.  Philip doesn’t want to keep this to himself, it’s just too important, too wondrous.  It wouldn’t have been the same for Philip if his friend did not come and see himself.

     That’s the deal.  That’s why we invite others here (and so many of us do this so often!)  For no other reason than this Good News of God’s abundant grace for us and for the world is too good to keep to ourselves.  We want all the people we know (and even those we don’t) to come and see for themselves.  So that they, too, become part of this community.  So that they, too, become the ones we miss when we are away.

- Joseph

Sunday Readings

August 24, 2014: St. Bartholomew, Apostle
Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

August 31, 2014: 12th Sunday after Pentecost (Lect. 22A)
Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Olive Branch Summer Publication Schedule

     The Olive Branch resumes weekly publication with the next issue which will be published on September 3. Information for that issue is due in to the church office by Tuesday, September 2.

 Andrew Siess to Speak at Mount Olive This Sunday

     Andrew Siess, a young member of this congregation, has set himself the goal of walking, alone, around the entire globe. He has almost completed his journey, and has stopped off in his hometown to visit friends and family and to assure them that he is doing well.

     Andrew will address the Adult Forum this Sunday, August 24, following the coffee fellowship time after Eucharist. He will tell of his journey – including tales of some of his adventures and challenges, music he has learned along the way, and lessons he is drawing. He will also be willing to answer questions. Please join Andrew and the fellowship of Mount Olive on Sunday.

Childrens Choir

     Dear parents and helpers of our young!

     The results of the poll are in - we're going to give it a go!

     WEDNESDAYS, 6:00-6:45 pm, with Cantor Cherwien as director.  Children grades 2 to 8.  (roughly - these lines can be blurred - first graders can participate if you feel they can)
     Starting:  Wednesday, September 10, 2014.  6:00 pm.
     This will be preceded at 5:30 with an optional simple meal.  RSVP will be necessary until we have a handle on how many might be eating.  It's offered as a help to you who will be spending more time than we wish transporting!  Least we can do is offer the meal. When we did this in the past, it became a really fun time for some social interaction between the children, me, and parents.  We'll need volunteer help preparing and cleaning up, but it will be very simple.

     As to choir, the children will sing in the 10:45 Eucharist,  on October 12,  November 16,  and December 14.  They'll vest just after Godly Play and stay the entire service in the choir loft (except for the procession or Eucharist, of course).  They will likely sing several short things each time; perhaps a Psalm antiphon, a hymn stanza, maybe even an anthem.

     More information and RSVP instructions will come the first week of September. But if you can let me know your intentions - either way - at this point, it would be very helpful.

     I'm very hopeful, as I find this an extremely important thing to be doing.  We always hope for all ages - including our youngest - to be engaged in what we do in worship, and to have every opportunity we can to get to know them.  And the gift of music, which is such a tremendous value to us at Mount Olive is something we wish to ignite in the young as well,  and the best way to do this is through this ministry.  It's tremendously worth going out of our way to accommodate, isn't it?!      Send me a note.

- Cantor David Cherwien


     Summer is almost over. As autumn approaches, many of us are planning our future activities. TRUST has many programs to brighten our days and enhance our lives! Here’s a list!

Thursday, October 9:  CoAM’s Fall Colors Tour
Thursdays, Sept. 25-Dec. 4: Grief Support group
Sundays, Sept, 14,  and 21: Flu Shot Clinics
First Thursday of each month:  Memory Loss Caregivers Group
Thursday, December 11: CoAM’s Christmas Tour

    Posters with more information on these events are posted on the bulletin board downstairs near the Neighborhood Ministries Office. Additional information on any of them is available by calling TRUST at 612-827-6159.

Transitions Support Group Continues

     Any who would like an opportunity to discuss concerns and receive support are welcome to attend the Transitions Support group. Their next meeting is on Wednesday, August 27, at 6:30 in the Youth Room. Amy Cotter and Cathy Bosworth are the facilitators.

     Since our last 4-week session concluded in May, the group members decided they wanted to continue meeting, as needed.  Since May, we will have met on an every six-week basis.

     All are welcome and encouraged, especially by those who have been meeting for support regularly, to participate whenever we meet.

     If you have questions, please call Cathy at 612-708-1144 or email her at

Welcome Vicar McLaughlin!

     Meagan McLaughlin is our new vicar for this year, serving her seminary internship with us.  She will be at Eucharist this Sunday, and her Internship Committee will be commissioned to work with her this year.

     Meagan grew up in the Twin Cities and is a St. Olaf graduate.  She is currently a student at Luther Seminary and United Theological Seminary. She and her wife Karen have been together for 14 years, have lived in the Longfellow neighborhood for about 8 years, and have been worshiping at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

     Serving on her Internship Committee are Elizabeth Beissel, John Crippen, Ro Griesse, Peggy Hoeft, Joe Kane, and Warren Peterson.  Please take time to greet her Sunday, and welcome her to Mount Olive!

     At the first Adult Forum on Sept. 7 the congregation will have an extended opportunity to hear from her and ask her questions.

Anniversary Open House

     Walter & Lydia Iverson are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary and cordially invite Mount Olive members and friends to celebrate with them!

     An Open House will be held on Saturday, September 6, from 2-4pm at their new home, Minnehaha Senior Living: 3733 - 23rd Ave S., Minneapolis, MN  55407.

     Plan to stop by to greet the Iversons and enjoy some light refreshments.

Join in Prayer for the Middle East 

     As people of Mount Olive, your mission dollars have supported the work of the Lutheran Federation in Jerusalem. We share with you a request from Rev. Mark Brown, regional representative for the LWF there. "I invite you to join the ACT Palestine Forum's international prayer vigil for peace.  Prayer vigils devoted to peace in the Middle East are held on the 24th of every month."

     From the Forum's website:  "This global ecumenical prayer vigil began on 24 December 2012 and will continue across the globe, on the 24th of every month, until the Israeli occupation is dismantled, violence in the Middle East ends, and all can celebrate a just and lasting negotiated resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
     We urge people to see this prayer vigil as an outpouring of concern for Palestinians and Israelis – Christians, Muslims, and Jews – whose lives are overtaken by broken relationships and the conflict that flows from these divisions."

     We will join the vigil on Sunday, August 24, and our prayer chain ministry will continue on the 24th of each month.  You are invited to add your prayers.

-Mission Committee

Neighborhood Ministries Tutoring Program Is Gearing Up for Fall 

     Would you like to help a grade school child excel in school this year?  Would you like to have a part in closing the Achievement Gap in Minneapolis?  Do you have 1.5 hours available on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 -8:00 PM September 30th through May 26th?  

     The Mount Olive Tutoring program is recruiting tutors for the 2014-15 school year.   This summer several members had a chance to experience short term relationships with community youth. Tutoring provides the opportunity to build a longer term mentoring relationship with one or two youth and a chance to get to know their parents while building academic skills   We hope to increase the number of tutors this year and are looking forward to these enhancements:

Frequent contact with parents and teachers
Internet access for homework/ education sites for skill building
New Resources by grade level
School curriculum information
New (used) books

     Several families have already asked to enroll their children.  If you can tutor or have questions, please call Connie Toavs, Interim Coordinator, Neighborhood Ministries or email to

Good News From The Art Shoppe

     The Art Shoppe has now fully paid off their loan from A Minnesota Without Poverty to develop The Art Shoppe in the Midtown Global Market!

     As you recall Mount Olive and Jewish Community Relations Council each contributed $2000 toward the start-up of The Art Shoppe at the Mid-Town Global Market, just a block away from Mount Olive. A Minnesota Without Poverty (AMWP) contributed $8000, for a total of $12,000 to support the build-out and rent for the first 6 months. AMWP decided to designate $6000 (of the $12,000) as their loan. That is the amount they have now repaid, plus more. This is a very significant milestone for The Art Shoppe and the entrepreneurs who have developed it, along with us who are the sponsors who helped in this venture!

     The Art Shoppe’s loan repayment includes more than the actual loan and thus will support further micro-enterprise partnerships as we continue to assist entrepreneurs in develop-ing businesses and fighting poverty’s growth.
     The Micro-Enterprise Partnership Work Group and A Minnesota Without Poverty invite you to celebrate this accomplishment with a reception at Mount Olive at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, September 2, in observance of this special milestone of the Art Shoppe.

     Please mark your calendars and RSVP by Friday, August 29, by calling the church office if you plan to attend.  Contact Elizabeth Beissel with any questions.

Capital Campaign Update

     Now that summer is drawing to a close, it's time to take another look at the effort to put Mount Olive on a more secure financial footing by fully funding our designated accounts and creating a reserve fund for challenging financial times.  Please pledge or donate to our capital campaign goal of $182,000.   We are almost half way to our goal, and need everyone's participation - small amount to large amount - to complete this campaign.  If you can't find your green pledge card - that's okay.   You can pick one up in the office or simply mail/email your pledge to the church office at   Help us get this important work done!

Book Discussion Group’s Upcoming Reads

     For their meeting on September 13, the Book Discussion group will read The Woman Behind the New Deal, by Kirstin Downey. For the October 11 meeting they will read The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid.

 Summer Worship Schedule Comes to an End

     Labor Day weekend is the last weekend of Summer Worship Schedule.

     Beginning Sunday, September 7, we resume our regular worship schedule of two liturgies every Sunday morning at 8:00 and 10:45 am.

     Sunday Church School and Adult Education resume that day, also.

Diaper Depot in Need of Year-Round Funding

     The funds to provide this much-needed Neighborhood Ministries service are part of our church budget, but until now, the Diaper Depot has never been open in the summer. Additional funds are needed to provide this service to our neighborhood families year-round.

     The blue Missions envelope from the offering envelope mailing has a blank line under “local missions.” Please consider making a gift to the Diaper Depot (by writing “Diaper Depot” on that line), or by using an envelope designated for this. You may also want to consider becoming a sustaining member by providing regular weekly, monthly, or yearly gifts to this important ministry (thanks to those who are already doing this!). We would also welcome volunteers to work in the Diaper Depot. It is open on Tuesdays from 4:30-6:30, and on Thursdays from 1:30-3:30.  Please contact Connie Toavs at church if you would like to volunteer!

     This neighborhood need does not take a break for the summer – and neither should we!  Please be generous, as the need continues throughout the year. Thanks in advance for your generosity.

TCAGO Organ and Choral Vespers

     The Twin Cities chapter of the American Guild of Organists is pleased to host an Organ and Choral Vespers service, led by the St. Olaf Cantorei under the direction of James E. Bobb.

     The service will be held on Sunday, September 21, 4:00 pm, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (700 S. Snelling Ave. in St. Paul).

     The event is free and open to the public. A freewill offering will be received.
     Bring your friends!

Five Ways We are Fighting Ebola 

Through our support of these international programs, we join Lutherans around the world in fighting this dread disease.

#1 Treat ebola patients. Through partnership with the Lutheran World Federation, two Lutheran hospitals in Liberia were treating infected patients.

#2 Sending protective gear. The ELCA,  the Lutheran Church in Liberia, and Global Health Ministries are partnering to deliver five pallets of protection equipment to the hospitals.

#3 Health care training. Lutheran World Relief is partnering with others to conduct prevention training for health care workers in Liberia, training them to also train others.

#4 Raising Awareness. Through LWR and its partners, community volunteers are trained and materials (posters/flyers) prepared to spread accurate information.

#5 Strengthening ties between religious and community leaders. This partnership is also training these leaders to reach out and disseminate timely, accurate information to their members.  Lutheran World Relief "works with local partners to provide lasting solutions."

You may add additional support by using the blue mission envelopes and marking them "Lutheran World Relief."

 -Mission Committee

Sunday, August 17, 2014

There's a Wideness in God's Mercy

Even in the most difficult times and unexpected places, Christ’s mercy is enough for us all.

Vicar Emily Beckering
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 18 A     
   Text: Matthew 15:10-28 

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

After hearing that gospel, we may be left wondering where in that there was good news. It can be shocking to hear Jesus speak this way. Can this really be our Lord who seemingly so reluctantly offers his compassion to this woman who only asks for her daughter to be healed?

We are not the only ones to have been shocked by Jesus’ behavior or his teachings. The disciples, the Pharisees, or anyone else in that crowd would have been equally as surprised to watch this interaction between Jesus and the Canaanite woman.  Racial stereotypes and mutual disdain characterized the relations between Jews and Gentiles, and “dog” was a familiar derogatory term. Whereas it would have made perfect sense to the crowds for Jesus to say that he was only sent to the Jews, and that it wasn’t fair to give this woman what God had promised to Israel, the crowds would not have expected Jesus to engage the woman or to praise her faith. By the end of this encounter, however, Jesus turns expectations on their head.

In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges the Pharisees’ and the disciples’ notions of who God is for them and for all people. Today, our Lord Jesus does the same for us. He meets us in this gospel in order to challenge our beliefs and to quiet our fears about the limits of God’s mercy. God’s mercy is wide enough, God’s love broad enough, for us and for all.

We cannot separate this story from the rest of Matthew’s gospel or from whom Jesus has revealed himself to be on the cross. 

Mercy is central to the gospel of Matthew and core to Jesus’ proclamation and teaching. The same Jesus who speaks so harshly to the Canaanite woman is the One who told a parable of the unforgiving servant who when rebuked, was asked, “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you?” (Mt. 18:33). This is the Jesus who taught Peter to forgive not seven, but seventy-seven times (Mt. 18:22). This is the Jesus who, when he heard the Pharisees ask why he was eating with tax collectors and sinners replied, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ for I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Mt. 9:12-13). And in the end, Jesus gives the commission to baptize people of every nation (Mt. 28:19).

Jesus doesn’t restrict his mercy; he doesn’t reduce people to judgment. Instead, as we have heard throughout this summer, Jesus scatters seeds with abandon, lets the weeds grow with the wheat, gives rain to the righteous and the unrighteous, and catches people of every kind, welcoming them to live in the kingdom of God.

In this encounter with the Canaanite woman, Jesus enacts his parables. He offers mercy rather than demands sacrifice. He illustrates what he just taught the crowd in the first 10 verses of today’s gospel: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth—that which comes from the heart—that defiles. The Canaanite woman is the embodiment of this teaching. Where she comes from, what she eats, and her ethnicity ultimately do not matter. What counts is her heart, which Jesus can see. In that heart, she holds an unwavering faith in Jesus’ mercy. She knows who he is, what he is all about, and by persisting until her daughter is healed, she holds him accountable to be who he has revealed himself to be, not only for Israel, but for all people.

The woman is like Moses who reminded God to be faithful to Israel by forgiving, rather than punishing them for the golden calf (Ex. 32:7-14). She is like Abraham who petitioned until God agreed to be merciful to Sodom if 50, then 40, then 30, or only 10 righteous people remained in the city (Gen. 18:16-33). She is prophetic in that her faith reveals that God is a God of mercy. She didn’t have to deny the place of the chosen people in God’s story in order to claim her own. Instead, she honors it and uses it as the basis of her faith. She understands that although mercy starts with Israel, it cannot end there because of the very nature of God. The woman knows that the foundation of Israel’s relationship with God is God’s decision to be merciful, which is what Moses learned when God told him: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Ex. 33:19; Rom. 9:15).

This is who the Triune God has decided to be and how the Trinity has chosen to relate to us—through mercy: by responding to our brokenness with forgiveness, our hatred with love, our rejection with acceptance.  God will be merciful because God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

God will show mercy! We can’t control it, we can’t contain it!

This story exposes the ways in which we behave as if there are some people who are beyond the scope of God’s love, Christ’s forgiveness, or the power of the Holy Spirit. 

We do not harbor animosity for an entire ethnic group; our ways of limiting God’s mercy are much more nuanced than that. It happens when we withhold love and forgiveness, when we judge others as unworthy of representing Christ, or when we assume that there are some people through whom God can’t possibly work.

Who might our Canaanite woman be? The serial rapist? The fundamentalist? The bigot? Through this woman, God confronts us with anyone and everyone whom we have excluded, criticized, or condemned. Everyone who offends us. The people who we don’t have time for because they rub us the wrong way. The people who we refuse to forgive because they have hurt us or those whom we love and they don’t deserve it.

But to withhold our love or forgiveness, to refuse relationship, and to define ourselves against others is to live in opposition to who Christ has called us to be. These old ways of defining ourselves and others are dead. We don’t get to choose who is in and who is out. We don’t get to choose whom we love or whom we forgive. As Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died” (2 Cor. 5:14).

Today, Christ offers us a new way to live and his love urges us on. 

We are not to be the church of our own whims and preferences, but rather the church of Jesus Christ. We are to scatter seeds, offer forgiveness, and give grace even when—and perhaps especially when—it doesn’t make sense or it isn’t deserved.

We can’t restrict God’s mercy. We can’t control it. We can’t contain it. But we can cling to it.

We can cling to it just like the Canaanite woman who was convinced that God’s mercy was enough for Israel and for her daughter and herself. Because Christ has died, all have died, and so we trust that God’s mercy is for everyone and that Christ is enough to redeem every situation.

Clinging to Christ’s mercy might mean that when we are tempted to write that person off at the office or the one who lives down the block, as completely ignorant and unworthy of our time, that this time, we make time, and make an effort not only to better understand that individual, but to open ourselves to the possibility that God might have something for us to learn from that person.

Clinging to Christ’s mercy might mean that rather than giving up and cutting ourselves off from that family member who always makes us feel foolish, unappreciated, or like we are less than, that we reach out to that person instead and try once again to build a relationship.

Clinging to Christ’s mercy might mean that when we are confronted with that Christian who, according to our standards, could not be further from the truth or represent our Lord any less accurately, that we trust that God can work in them, too, and that that person is Christ for the world, in ways that we can’t or won’t be.

Trusting in Christ’s mercy means that whenever we feel like holding back, we risk forgiving anyway, making room in our hearts anyway, and giving ourselves a chance to see how God is at work.

But when we fail to do this, as we have and will, Christ’s mercy is for us, too. 

No one is outside God’s love—not even us—broken as we are. Others’ judgments or criticisms of us—no matter how valid—don’t have the last word.

Of this we can be certain: God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. We can cling to this when we fear for our loved ones who don’t believe or when we fear for ourselves because we know how far we stray. We can pray with complete confidence, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” and trust that he will, that we are forgiven, just as he promised.

We can trust that Christ will heal us and keep changing us, making us new, until we do reflect him—the One who gave his life for all and the One who now invites us here to this table, where no one is a dog and there are no crumbs because his mercy is enough for us all.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Yes, God

We learn from Mary to say “yes” to God’s call, and to joyfully live into that yes with our lives, and we learn from Mary that it is God, not us, whose power transforms and upends the world through us.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The festival of St. Mary, Mother of Our Lord
   text:  Luke 1:46-55

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

What might we learn from our sister Mary who walks with us on our journey of faith?

There are saints who live in our lives, model faith to us, teach faith to us, walk beside us in the flesh for part of our own journey, pray for us, love us, and are God’s love to us.  These continue to be our inspiration, our guide even after their path has left ours and we walk on without them.

The great saints of the Church are more remote to us, they can’t compete with such closeness, such life as those blessed ones we knew.  But the Church has lived for 2,000 years knowing that all the blessed saints continue to be our fellow travelers on our journey.  The crowd of witnesses surrounds us, walks with us: those near to our lives and those, like Mary, further away.  In the mystery of the Body of Christ, we know they celebrate Eucharist with us, but we don’t know how.  They are with us.

Like those whom we knew ourselves, these great saints of the Church are as important as teachers, as fellow travelers, as guides.  Not because they were more special than we, but because, like we, they walked the great journey of faith in the Triune God, blessed by the resurrection life of the Son of God, our Lord Christ.  They, like we, stumbled.  They, like we, were faithful.

What, then, might we learn from our sister Mary when we realize she still walks with us on our journey of faith?

Perhaps she can gently remind us that we can also answer “yes.”

God asked something of her, and she agreed.  She didn’t bargain.  She didn’t say, “I’m not qualified.”  Mary simply pointed out the biological difficulty: she was a virgin, so how she could bear a child?

Father Richard Rohr says this:

“[Mary’s] kind of yes does not come easily to us. It always requires that we let down some of our boundaries, and none of us like to do that. Mary somehow is able to calmly, wonderfully trust that Someone Else is in charge. All she asks is one simple clarifying question. Not if but how, and then she trusts the how even though it would seem quite unlikely.” [1]

Whatever we might speculate about why God chose Mary, this openness is the truly remarkable thing about her.  We know the many difficulties she would face with her yes, possible death, almost certain ostracism by her family, her betrothed.  But she said yes.

What might happen if we let Mary teach us such openness and trust?

We are called to bring the Good News of God’s love in Jesus into the world.  To let our lives be turned upside down by the Holy Spirit, changed utterly, that we become bearers of God’s love into the world.  That in our bodies, in our hands, in our voices, in our hearts, God’s incarnate Love might continue to be in the world.

Our sister Mary, walking alongside us, hears our Lord ask us her question: will you do this?  And she gently says, “say yes, without bargain, without argument”.  She says to us that it will be all right, because we can trust that Someone Else is in charge, and all will be well.  In our fear, our selfishness, our anxiety, our reluctance, this fellow companion calmly opens up the possibility that we could also be a part of God’s saving the world.

Perhaps Mary can also encourage us to see that God did bring life to the world through her.

She said “yes,” and God did what Mary was promised.  From the beginning, she knew and sang, in her beautiful song, that it would be “the Mighty One who does great things” for her.  Even in her yes, she claimed that strength: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.”  She knew she wouldn’t be doing this, God would.

And with God’s gracious strength, we, too, will see God do wondrous things in us.  Our sister Mary’s life alongside us reminds us that even saying “yes” with confidence doesn’t stop the path from being difficult.  Mary’s path certainly wasn’t easy, nor should we expect ours to be.  Once we face the reality of what it might mean to be changed into Christ, our desire can weaken.  There will be times we are tempted to falter and believe God cannot do anything through us.

Mary speaks to us graciously, encouraging us to trust that God is charge, not us.  That this Spirit-changed life is lived in Christ, not in ourselves.  She reminds us that, as she stayed with her Son and Lord, that is where we need to be for our strength and life, to live out our “yes”.  To live the Word, to come to this great Meal of life and forgiveness, to seek out this body of Christ in which we are blessed to live, our fellow travelers in God’s community of love here.

This is how the Triune God will shape us to bear Christ in the world in our own flesh and blood.  To give us power and help to do what we say “yes” to, to forgive and bless us in our failure, that we might start bearing Christ into the world anew.

We rejoice in the mystery that our sister Mary is among those saints who surround us, pray for us, and support us.

The goodness and mercy of the Triune God is almost more than we can comprehend, that we are not left to walk alone, we are surrounded even by those who have passed through death into eternal life.

It is that Triune God whose call to us to be the same to others on their journey, to be Christ-bearers, love-bearers, that our sister encourages us to answer with a “yes”.  May the Holy Spirit likewise give us her courage and grace, for the sake of the world.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

[1] Fr. Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation for August 3, 2014,

Sunday, August 10, 2014


What really challenges our faith is not doubt, but fear; the reason even a tiny bit of faith is enough is because it’s about the death-defeating, eternally loving Triune God in whom we believe, and what God can do, removing our fear and doing wonders through us.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 19 A
texts:  Matthew 14:22-33; 1 Kings 19:9-18

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

Is doubt really the main problem Elijah and Peter have?

Elijah has just stood alone on Mount Carmel against 400 screaming, dancing prophets of Baal, 400 with royal support and encouragement.  Elijah’s absolute trust in the one true God lets him stand before them; the power of fire from heaven consuming his altar and sacrifice shows there is only one God, the LORD of Israel, and no other.  This is a man of faith.

Peter, alone among his fellows, dares to speak to this being that looks like a ghost walking on the water.  He absolutely trusts his Lord and Master, stepping out into the wind and waves, alone walking on water while others cower.  This is a man of faith.

Yet Jesus says Peter’s problem is doubt; Elijah’s looks much the same.  Jesus gives Peter a new nickname, calls him “Littlefaith.”  “Littlefaith, why did you doubt?”

But is doubt the real problem?  The word for doubt carries connotations of “waver,” “hesitate.”  Maybe that’s what Jesus meant.

Because Elijah and Peter are filled with fear, not doubt.

Oddly, though 400 prophets didn’t frighten Elijah, the queen’s death warrant and threats against him did.  He fled into the wilderness, to Mount Horeb, afraid for his life.  Elijah is the greatest prophet Israel ever had.  Yet fear, not doubt, drives him to panic, to struggle with his faith, to run.

Peter doesn’t doubt, he walks on water in faith.  But he looks at the fierce wind, the high waves, and becomes terrified.  He sinks.  Peter, the acknowledged leader of Jesus’ disciples, is always the one who steps forward boldly.  Yet fear, not doubt, drives him to panic, to struggle with his faith, to sink.

There is a question of how much faith these two have, Elijah and Littlefaith.

Jesus once compared a little faith to a mustard seed.  We might’ve missed his point.  The disciples, weak in faith, come to Jesus; he tells them if they had faith only as big as a mustard seed they could uproot mountains.  (Matthew 17:20)  It’s tempting to think of faith this way, dwell on its size, assume more is better.  To compare ourselves to others, thinking they’ve got more than we do.

Maybe that’s not what Jesus meant.  Maybe the size of the faith is irrelevant, unimportant.  Mountains can be uprooted only by the power of God; maybe Jesus is saying God is the important thing, not the amount of faith.

Elijah and Peter are surprising, how quickly they act as if they have no faith.  How can such heroes falter: from a dominant performance on a mountaintop to quivering in a wilderness cave; from walking on water to sinking like a true “Rock”?  Maybe our mistake was thinking either of these were giants in the faith.

Jesus calls Peter “Littlefaith.”  That could just be the truth, about him, and Elijah.

All this suggests two important things.

If Elijah and Peter only had a little faith, the things they did are astonishing.  If they’re not faith giants but people who have only a tiny, seed-sized, faith, the great deeds both did, the honor two major faith traditions accord them thousands of years later, the faithful discipleship they lived, is even more impressive.  Jesus was right: even a tiny bit of faith goes a long way.

Second, fear is the great opponent of faith, of whatever size, not doubt.  Believers have had doubts for millennia and still lived in faith: Peter himself, Mother Teresa, Luther, even mentors we’ve known.  We worry about our own doubts, but we have seen that because people doubt doesn’t mean they don’t believe, that you can act in your faith even with doubts.

Fear is what has the ability to stop us in our tracks.

Fear can freeze what little faith we have, make us start to sink, or crawl into a cave.  Fear like Elijah’s, of a world where people attack innocents and seek to destroy others, a world we know well.  Fear like Peter’s, of external and internal circumstances, storms in the world outside, storms in our hearts.  Fear we aren’t good enough for God or for others, fear the world is out of control, fear of illness, fear of death, fear we cannot be loved, fear we aren’t loved.

Fear creates enemies that threaten us, enemies that weren’t there when we weren’t afraid, enemies that are real people, enemies that are thoughts in our head.  That’s what pushes faith away.  Elijah and Peter don’t doubt God – both cry out to God in their situations – their fear is what immobilizes them.

In the end, Elijah and Peter had just enough faith to say, “Lord, save me.”

In the depth of fear, they called out to God for help, knew where to turn in darkest terror.  They only had a little faith, a tiny grain, but it was enough.  That’s when they heard, “don’t be afraid.  I am with you.”

Elijah is so afraid he needs it twice, to hear the LORD God is with him.  He’s promised retirement, told whom he will anoint as his successor.  God says, “I know, it’s been tough.  So you’re coming to the end of your service, I’ll give it to someone else.”  Afraid, he receives comfort, strength, and promise of rest.

When the disciples are afraid of ghosts, Jesus says, “Be of courage, it is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  Peter acts in that courage.  When, afraid, he starts to sink, he calls out in faith, and finds a hand reached out, a beloved voice speaking.  Yes, the voice calls him “Littlefaith.”  But the hand pulls him up out of the water, into the safety of the boat.

Jesus looks at you and at me today, and says, “Littlefaith, why do you hesitate?  Take heart, it is I.  Don’t be afraid.”

“Littlefaith” isn’t an insult, it’s just the truth.  We don’t have much faith.  That’s OK.  It is the God in whom that little faith is lodged who has the power and ability to change the world, to love evil back into good, to turn death into life.

Our faith is little, but it’s always enough because it’s never been about what we have, what we bring, what we can do.  It’s always been about the Triune God who made heaven and earth and who wants to heal this broken, terrifying world.  Whatever frightens us, from within or without, whatever freezes our hearts, we belong to the God whose love for us and the world cannot be stopped by anything, not even death.  The one who says, “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid,” who brings us into the safety of the boat, who has entered our existence and, as one of us, has passed through even death to love us and the world.

Here’s the wonderful thing:  If we are “Littlefaiths”, if our weakness of faith isn’t a hindrance to God’s work, what astonishing things can we expect God to do through and with us?  If Peter and Elijah were who they were with tiny faith, well, that’s something to think about.  If they were told not to be afraid so that they, with their little faith, could not just be freed from fear but continue to be vessels of God’s power and grace in the world, well, what does that say about us?

Two Sundays from now we will hear Jesus say this to Nathanael, inviting him to follow: “you will see greater things than these.”  That’s God’s promise, that through the children of God the healing of the world will happen, even through us, even with our little faith.

And that’s a marvel to consider.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Olive Branch, 8/6/14

Accent on Worship


     It is with a full and grateful heart that I prepare to leave Mount Olive.

     I thank you for myself, and on behalf of all the vicars before me and yet to come who have been or will be blessed by your ministry. You have forever shaped me and how I will serve congregations.
     Saint Paul’s words to the Philippians immediately come to mind as I think of this year together: “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ.” (Phil. 1:3-6).

Of this I am certain: God is at work in you, not only for your vicars, but for this city, your neighborhoods, and you as well so that everyone might see, and hear, and know the love of God. You proclaim the gospel as you relentlessly care for one another, risk speaking the truth in love, attend to the presence of the Holy in worship, patiently journey with vicars, and live out your compassion and commitment to this neighbor-hood. Through you, by your love and your patient under-standing, Christ has revealed to me even more of his love and grace. In you, I have seen the face of God.

     For all that you have taught me, for sharing your lives and welcome, for your generosity, and for your faithfulness to the gospel, I thank you.

     The peace of Christ will be with you always, just as he has promised.

- Vicar Emily Beckering

Mary, Mother of Our Lord
Friday, August 15, 2014
Holy Eucharist at 7:00 p.m.
All are welcome.

Sunday Readings

August 10, 2014: 9th Sunday after Pentecost  (Lect. 19A)
I Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33
August 17, 2014: 10th Sunday after Pentecost (Lect. 20A)
Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Psalm 67
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15:10-28

Olive Branch Summer Publication Schedule

     During the summer months, The Olive Branch is published every other week.

     The next Olive Branch will be published on Wednesday, August 20.  Information for that issue is due in to the church office by Tuesday, August 19.

     Weekly publication resumes September 3.

Neighborhood Ministry Coordinator Search Update

     The deadline for applications for the new Neighborhood Ministries Coordinator position has passed, and the search committee has narrowed the list of candidates to six people.    

     Interviews will take place during the weeks of August 11 and 17, and we hope to have a candidate to recommend to the Vestry soon after.   We are on track to have someone in place by the second half of September.  In the meantime, Connie Toavs is busy getting our fall programs off the ground.

     Thanks to the committee for such good work  (George Ferguson, Gretchen Campbell-Johnson, Sue Ellen Zagrabelny, Cynthia Prosek, Neil Herring, Kathy Thurston, Pastor Crippen, Vicar Beckering, and Lora Dundek)!

Summer A.C.T.S. Recap

     The Summer ACTS five-week program ended July 18. 23 volunteers, including 20 Mount Olive participants had the opportunity to interact with 18 community youth over the course of the program.

     Volunteers participated with youth in 6 different types of service to the community and to the church, enjoyed lunch together and shared experiences. Volunteers helped introduce youth to this church as a place of peace and acceptance and a place where community counts. A very diverse group of 10–14 year olds experienced helping to meet community needs, a new experience for many. Each youth had the opportunity to earn up to $150 during the program and most never missed a day. Youth learned to relate to adults and to each other and hopefully learned some work “soft skills.” Each left with a reference letter to present to a future potential employer.

     The program ended with a celebration meal prepared and served by volunteers. Youth, their family members, volunteers, church staff and organizations that benefitted from the youths’ work came together to share a meal, watch a power point presentation showing each of the activities, and view the art work that now brightens the undercroft. Stop down and take a look at “Seasons of the Heart.”

Transitions Support Group Continues

     Any who would like an opportunity to discuss concerns and receive support are welcome to attend the Transitions Support group. Their next meeting is on Wednesday, August 27, at 6:30 in the Youth Room. Amy Cotter and Cathy Bosworth will act as facilitators.

     Since our last 4-week session concluded in May, the group members decided they wanted to continue meeting, as needed.  Since May, we will have met on an every six-week basis.
     All are welcome and encouraged, especially by those who have been meeting for support regularly, to participate whenever we meet.

     If you have questions, please call Cathy at 612-708-1144 or email her at

Book Discussion Group’s Upcoming Reads

     For their meeting on August 9, the Book Discussion group will read, All the King's Men (restored edition), by Robert Penn Warren.  For the September 13 meeting, they will discuss, The Woman Behind the New Deal, by Kirstin Downey.

Food and Personal Items Needed!

     Remember your contributions to the food shelf during these summer months.  You may use your blue envelopes and designate "food shelf" as the recipient.  Non-perishable food items may be placed in the shopping cart in the coat room.

      We are also receiving donations of small toiletries (like the complimentary items provided by hotels and motels) for distribution to homeless persons, who have little space for such items. Bring your unused/unopened toiletries to the designated basket in the coat room.

2014-2015 Vestry

     New Vestry members were installed at the morning liturgy on Sunday, July 20.  The current Vestry is now as follows:

President – Lora Dundek
Vice President – Robert Gotwalt
Secretary – Peggy Hoeft
Treasurer – Kat Campbell-Johnson
Congregational Life – Sandra Pranschke
Education – John Holtmeier
Evangelism – Andrew Andersen
Neighborhood Ministries – Carol Austermann
Missions – Judy Hinck
Property – Brenda Bartz
Stewardship – Donn McLellan
Worship – Al Bipes
Youth – Amy Thompson

Diaper Depot in Need of Year-Round Funding

     Several years ago, as the Neighborhood Ministries Committee considered ideas for a program which would directly help families in our neighborhood, they decided that a service to provide low cost diapers to area families would be a practical and much-needed service.  They held a fundraiser with a “name that program” contest, and so the Diaper Depot was born. This has been a very popular program with neighborhood families for a number of years. Two elderly grandparents who are raising their three young grandchildren recently said, with tears in their eyes, “You don’t know how much this helps!”

     The funds to provide this much-needed service are part of our church budget, but until now, the Diaper Depot has never been open in the summer. Additional funds are needed to provide this service to our neighborhood families year-round.

     The blue Missions envelope from the offering envelope mailing has a blank line under “local missions.” Please consider making a gift to the Diaper Depot (by writing “Diaper Depot” on that line), or by using an envelope designated for this. You may also want to consider becoming a sustaining member by providing regular weekly, monthly, or yearly gifts to this important ministry (thanks to those who are already doing this!). We would also welcome volunteers to work in the Diaper Depot. It is open on Tuesdays from 4:30-6:30, and on Thursdays from 1:30-3:30.  Please contact Connie Toavs at church if you would like to volunteer!

     This neighborhood need does not take a break for the summer – and neither should we!  Please be generous, as the need continues throughout the year. Thanks in advance for your generosity.

Calling All Worship Assistants!

     The Servant Schedule for the 4th quarter of 2014 (October-December) will be published at the beginning of September 2014.

     The deadline for submitting requests to me is August 15, 2014. Please email your requests to me at

- Peggy Hoeft

Our Going Out and Our Coming In: Staff Summer Schedules

Cantor Cherwien is on vacation August 1-6, and August 21-27.
Administrative Assistant Cha Posz will be on vacation August 11-15.

Summer Ensembles Forming Now!

     Cantor Cherwien is assembling two ensembles to sing for summer worship.

     A men’s ensemble will meet, rehearse and sing for the liturgy on August 10, and a women’s ensemble will meet, rehearse, and sing for the liturgy on August 17.

     In each case, the plan is to meet at 8:00 that morning and rehearse until 9:15, singing for the morning liturgies at 9:30.

     Come and lend your voice to the choir(s)!

Help Us Keep in Contact!

     Please remember to contact the church office with your updated address, phone number, cell phone number, or email address!

     Help us stay in touch and keep you in touch with each other.

A Note from Former Vicar Neal

Dear Friends at Mount Olive,
     I am writing to let you know that after graduating from Luther Seminary in St. Paul in May of 2014, I have received a call as Associate Pastor of Youth and Family Ministry at Christ Lutheran Church in Belvidere, Illinois.  I am extremely excited to join in this ministry that God has called me to.  Mount Olive played a major role in bringing me to this point.

     Serving as your vicar was one of the most rewarding times in my life.  I truly loved preaching, teaching, and working with the community at Mount Olive. Even more, I was blessed by your presence in my life.  Not only did you all go out of your way to welcome me to your church, but you also shaped me as a future pastor.  You encouraged my preaching by giving careful feedback.  You taught me what it means to truly love all people.  You became my friends and family during my time there.  I am especially grateful for the hard-working staff and internship committee at Mount Olive who mentored me and taught me what it means to work in a church as the Body of Christ.  Thank you for your love and care!

     I am extremely appreciative for the gifts of love you have shared with me.  You have shaped my faith and affirmed my call to pastoral ministry.  I can never pay you back, but know that I am eternally grateful for the gift Christ has given me in you.

In Christ,
Neal Cannon

Neal's ordination will be on October 26, at 4:00 p.m., in Illinois. The place is yet to be determined. Installation will be at Christ Lutheran Church, Belvidere, Illinois, on November 16.

And Another Note …

To the people of Mount Olive:
Thank you for the faithful prayers for healing for my cousin Janet Prokosh.  She has been on our list of concerns for many months following a serious brain bleed that left her with many significant challenges.  Due to the diligent care of many wonderful people she has recovered significantly and life is returning to normalcy.  Thanks be to God.

- Kathy Thurston

Share a Meal with the Manuels

     While Julie is undergoing chemotherapy, Mount Olive members and friends are helping make life a little easier for their family by delivering meals on Fridays.

     Since the TWIG notice fir went out, response has been great; meals are now scheduled for delivery through October 10.   If you would like to schedule meal delivery after that date, please contact Marilyn Gebauer at: or by phone:  612-306-8872.

     It is suggested meals be dropped off between 5:00 - 6:00 p.m. for this family of three.  Their home is in St. Louis Park - directions and other information will be shared when a delivery date is scheduled.
     If you cannot reach Marilyn, a second contact is Cathy Bosworth.  She can be reached at 612-708-1144 or by email to

Bread for the World Summer Newsletter

     Those who are interested in reading Bread For the World’s summer newsletter, Legacy of Hope, are encouraged to find it on the bulletin board outside the Neighborhood Ministries office and take a look. (This issue features a nice photo of former Neighborhood Ministries Coordinator, Donna Neste, who serves on their national board.)

Capital Campaign News

     We have raised nearly half of our goal for the capital campaign to be used toward fully funding our designated funds and establishing a "rainy day" cash reserve.  

     We would like to wrap up this campaign by the end of the year - or at least have all pledges in by then.   If you haven't yet indicated that you'll give, please do so as soon as you are able.  

     Just send a note to the office, or use the green pledge card (extra pledge cards are available in the office).    This campaign is important to the secure financial footing of Mount Olive.   Thanks for your generosity.

Church Library News

     The current display in the church library includes a few books that come from the Inspirational section and you are invited to stop in soon to view these (or other areas which may interest you) as follows:

LET THE EARTH BRING FORTH -- a moving story of faith regenerated and a marriage restored, by Mary Warren
SMALL BLESSINGS -- by Celestine Sibley
WHY DOESN'T SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING -- what 20 women are doing about such areas as government, education, leadership, decency and morality - by Daisy Hepburn
THE DIVINE YES by E. Stanley Jones
THE JESUS STYLE by Gayle D. Erwin
TRAVELING LIGHT - releasing the burden you were never intended to bear, the Promise of Psalm 23, by Max Lucado
OLDER LOVE by local author, artist and illustrator Warren Hanson

     I have mentioned before the special non-profit project called Little Free Libraries, a movement begun in 2009 by Todd Bol and Rick Brooks of Wisconsin, when Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former teacher who loved reading.  He filled it with books and put it in his front yard, with the great idea of "take a book, return a book." The marvelous growth of this special inspiration includes at least 1,000 Little Free Libraries in Minnesota and the idea has spread as far as Ukraine, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, and Brazil. (That is why an article in the Star Tribune and also featured on TV - last July 11, detailing a Little Free Library located in the South Minneapolis area that was torched, infuriated so many of us that love good books and the whole idea of sharing that idea on a free, "come as you can and share as you will" kind of basis).

     Make it a point to look for one of these special places in or near your own neighbor-hood and stop by often to visit before the snow flies.  If you get a chance, thank the person or family who provided that Little Free Library in front of or very nearby their own home.

     I will close this article by repeating a great quote from the Reading is Fundamental organization: "Book People Unite -- Read to a child today and spark a lifetime of ambition!"

- Leanna Kloempken

Thank you!

     One of the joys of serving as pastor of this congregation is that there are several members of the parish who are able and willing to preside (and even preach) in my absence, making it so much easier to take vacation and really rest.  Thank you to the Revs. Beth Gaede, Art Halbardier, and Rob Ruff for presiding on several Sundays this summer in my stead, and special thanks to Art, who also preached.  I always hear good reports, and know that things are being well handled while I’m gone.  Thanks are also due to Vicar Beckering for taking care of pastoral care in my absence and all the other things she does.  It’s good to be back, but even better not to have worried about anything while I was on vacation.

– Pr. Crippen

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Signs of Your Gracious Love

As Jesus Christ is the embodied love of God for us and for all, the Triune God calls us to now embody that love for the world.

Vicar Emily Beckering
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 18 A
    texts: Matthew 14:13-21; Is. 55:1-5  

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Let us consider this morning three portraits. Three stories. Three witnesses to how the Triune God works in this world in order to reveal an unsurpassed, unfailing love.

The first: a modern-day account of the feeding of the 5,000.

It did not happen in a desert, but it was a wilderness of sorts: the wilderness of South Dakota’s prairie in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A friend of mine from seminary went there when she was in high school on a mission trip with her church youth group. One morning, their group was entrusted with the task of making caramel rolls for a communal breakfast. It was my friend’s job to make sure that there was enough caramel to keep the rolls coming. To her dismay, she discovered early the morning of the breakfast that they were short on corn syrup. They had one pint: what she thought was nowhere near enough to bake the hundreds of caramel rolls needed to serve the whole community. They sent out word for anyone who had corn syrup to bring it along, but as the other volunteers arrived, it was clear that there still would not be enough. My friend informed her youth director, who simply said, “Pray about it.” Though surprised that she could pray about something so small, my friend did. Soon, families who lived on the reservation started showing up with corn syrup by the tablespoon, by the cup, in jars and plastic bottles, and the youth group went to work. By the end of the morning, there were still containers of corn syrup lined up on the counter, everyone was fed, and there sat the original pint of corn syrup: unopened.

The second: a tale of transformation a little closer to home.

You may have heard of or volunteered in A.C.T.S this summer, that’s “Adults and Children Teaming in Service,” the summer jobs program launched here this year for neighborhood kids. One of the children who participated in the program had not chosen to be there, but was instead required to as part of their education, and it showed. The first week for them was difficult: they didn’t know any of the other kids, and so sat off by themselves. They didn’t talk to anyone except to express how unpleasant the work was. The second week of the program, God changed all that through a member of Mount Olive. When the child protested that the work was too hard, the Mount Olive member encouraged them until the task was complete. When the child isolated themselves, the Mount Olive member sought them out. When the work was done, they played games together, and through it all, the volunteer never gave up on that child. By the end of that second week, rather than separate themselves from the rest of the kids, the child became the life of the party. Rather than complain, they began to ask how they could help. But what is more, they noticed and sought out another child who was shy and didn’t know anyone either, and soon the two of them were working and laughing together: and so the Holy Spirit left her mark.

The third: one voice among many.

When I found out that I would get to be the vicar this year at Mount Olive, I knew that I would learn a great deal from you about worship, preaching, teaching, and caring for one another and the neighborhood. What I didn’t know was how God would take this year and transform it into a greater gift than I could possibly imagine. What I wanted was a successful internship, which meant getting approved, not making any mistakes that were too catastrophic, and learning what I need to be able to lead faithfully. What I got was a resurrection: a year overflowing with grace and joy. Through you, Christ has revealed to me and to many, more of who he is for us all. Christ is with you, and Christ is at work in you when you worship, when you love one another, as you seek after justice and feed the hungry, when you welcome strangers, and when you prepare your vicars by offering an abundance of understanding: this all witnesses to God’s love.

I daresay I am not the only one who has had that experience here in this place. We can probably each name people here at Mount Olive through whom we have heard, seen, and felt the love and forgiveness of the Triune God. This experience is not unique to our community.

This is how God brings healing, transformation, and faith: through Christ who is at work in us all for the sake of one another and for the world.

These stories and today’s gospel testify to us that God is at work in this world in real and tangible ways.
This, in fact, is what the incarnation is all about: embodied love, forgiveness in the flesh.

The Triune God did not redeem the world or restore our broken relationship with the wave of a hand, but with an offering of love, by entering into that world and living that love to the point of death on a cross. Through Jesus Christ, we are promised love that we cannot end and forgiveness that we cannot not earn. All this has been done so that we and the entire world could know without a doubt, God’s love, mercy, and desire for us and for all.

We are reminded of that love and offered that forgiveness week after week in another embodied way, through something to which we can cling: the Eucharist. At this table, we see, hear, touch and taste these promises in his blood and body. At this table, the Holy Spirit unites us to be that same body.

Now, you are that body, the body of Christ. You are the visible sign and the tangible love of God.
God feeds great crowds through the generosity of a few, God comforts the lonely through attentive adults and compassionate children, and reveals the greatness of his love through congregations, through you.

That day in the desert, it might have been a lot more impressive of a miracle if Jesus had made bread and fish rain down from the sky or suddenly appear in people’s laps. The same is true of the corn syrup at the community breakfast. But God does not use magic tricks. God works in intimate and tactile ways: by opening the hands and transforming the hearts of people, turning them—turning us—to the needs of one another and the world so that all people might be given what they need.

Notice how Jesus responds to the disciples when they ask for him to care for the crowd: he says, “You give them something to eat.” He calls them to share what they have with their neighbors, but he gives them what they need to do what he has asked. Jesus took what they had to offer—five loaves and two fish—and made it enough for everyone. The disciples even objected saying, “We have nothing here, but…” All they could see was deficiency, inevitable failure, but Christ saw a way to reveal love, a mustard seed that would soon become a great tree, a bit of yeast that would leaven measures and measures of flour.

The same is true of the three other stories this morning. None of us– the disciples, my friend, the student worker, nor I— knew how God was at work. None of us thought that we had enough, but Christ saw to it that we did through the people around us. And all of us got more than we expected. God took care of our human needs, but even more, used those moments to draw us closer into relationship.

Think of the times in your life when you were going about your business, checking things off the list, perhaps even serving as you thought ought, when Christ showed up in someone else and drew you closer to his side.

If you can’t think of any such times, then be on the lookout this week.

God is always working to reveal to us again the depth with which we are loved, to show us that we can trust our Lord, and thus, to meet our deepest need, that for which we were created: to live in relationship with the God who loves us.

In these three witnesses and in today’s gospel, we see just what God can do when we are willing to let go, to share ourselves, our time, our possessions as signs of God’s gracious love. We see just what can happen when we trust that God has something to say and something to do, even when it seems like there is not enough, even when we don’t fully know or recognize the movement of the Holy Spirit.

In the words of Isaiah, we will call upon people who we do not know and those who do not know us shall run to us because God will lead us to one another. As God works in our midst for our mutual transformation, all will see the glory, the abundant love, and the mercy of the Triune God.

Today our Lord asks us, “Are you beginning to realize how much I love you? Are you beginning to know that you can trust me? Are you beginning to see that I will give you and all people what you need?”

May we pray these questions in return: How are you calling us anew today? Of what are you asking us to let go? To whom are you sending us or inviting us to receive? And how are you tugging at our hearts to show, to share, to be signs of your gracious love?

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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