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

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Clothing of Discipleship

We all want to be model disciples, but we are broken people. Our clothing of discipleship is broken, too. It’s ripped. Torn. Frayed. Sometimes there are big holes. But relationships are the only way we can live, and as we practice community, we grow.

Vicar Anna Helgen
   First Sunday of Christmas, year C
   texts: Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52

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.

We all have stories of getting lost or searching for someone who is lost. A child roams off at Disney World to find Minnie Mouse. A confused man with Alzheimer's wanders out of his home at night. A teenager makes a wrong turn and ends up in a neighborhood he’s never seen before. We know what it’s like to be lost. Or to worry about someone who is lost.

In my family, we tell a story about a time when I got lost, or, I should say, when I got lost according to my mother. My mom was talking on the phone with a friend while I played by her. I was content and happy, but after awhile I wandered off. My mom didn’t follow me because those were the days when phones were on cords and you were stuck to phone. She could still hear me playing, but wasn’t sure where I was. Well, after a few minutes, she got off the phone and then went to find me to put me down for my nap. But I was nowhere to be found! Panic took over. She searched high and low in all my favorite hiding places--under the beds, in my closet, in the pantry, but she still couldn’t find me. It was as if I’d been snatched into thin air. After a frantic phone call to the police, she found me: curled up in a ball, nestled beneath a huge collection of stuffed animals at the end of my bed, taking my nap. Just where she wanted me to be.  I, of course, was totally oblivious to her search, her phone call to the police, and her feelings. After finding me, her fear and panic subsided. Everything went back to how it should be.

Mary went through something similar when she couldn’t find Jesus after they left the Passover Festival. She searched for three days for her son. Three days! Imagine the agony, the panic, and the terror of not being able to find your child for that amount of time. It’s awful to think about, and yet we can understand what it would feel like because it’s an experience we know.

I wonder how Mary spoke when she scolded Jesus and what sort of response she was looking for. “Child, why have you treated us like this?” 

Did she shout?
Did she whisper?
Did she beg for an answer?

We’ll never know how these words left her mouth, and that’s okay, because this story invites multiple interpretations. And all of them speak truth. Mary acts out of love, but her love is wrapped in anger, fear, and desperation. When Jesus finally responds, it’s clear that he is oblivious to the situation and his mother’s feelings. I’d love for him to be more sensitive, but he didn’t think he was lost!  I like to think of him here as a young boy who got caught up with something that interested him, like a bookworm getting lost in a book for hours without realizing how much time has passed. It makes sense that Jesus would end up in the temple, among teachers, talking their talk. He’s a natural! And they are his people. And yet for Mary, this was quite a different situation. Most parents learn to distance themselves as their children grow into their own and find their identity. Jesus challenges the status quo so things are bound to get complicated! Family dynamics are real even for the Son of God!

And they’re real for us, too. This story speaks to our human experience in the world and the range of emotions that accompany our life together as we live in relationship.  To be in relationship with another person is messy, especially when it involves families--those people whom we are supposed to love, those people to whom we are forever linked.

I find myself reflecting on family relationships after the holidays. I often go into these times of year hoping that everything will go fine, that there won’t be any major disruptions. And then something happens and I find out I’m wrong. I have high expectations, and forget about all the baggage that we each bring with us to holiday celebrations. People disagree. Feelings get hurt. We say things we regret. We forget that there are consequences for our actions. Healed wounds are exposed again, and new ones form. Being with family is stressful! Sometimes I want to use Mary’s line, “Why have you treated me like this?!” And others, no doubt, have wanted to use it on me.

Our relationships with others extend beyond our families though and into our work life, our school life, the places we live, and the places we spend time. These relationships also need tending. Relationships with colleagues, coworkers, and managers. With friends and neighbors. With teachers and social workers. With grocery store check-out clerks, mail carriers,  baristas, and those people we encounter on a regular basis. It’s not an easy job, tending relationships. We get into conflicts over differing opinions, we’re rude when we don’t mean to be, we make mistakes that affect others. We set unreasonable expectations. To live in community, as God intends for us to live, takes time and patience and presence.

Paul paints a beautiful picture of what it looks like to live in community with others. He makes it sound so simple: “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience...Bear with one another...Forgive each other...Clothe yourselves with love. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Be thankful.” The image of clothing is helpful, but more often than not, I find that I forget to put on my compassion sweater. Or when I do put it on, I discover it is tattered. My pants of patience are ill-fitting. And my meekness turtleneck is lost somewhere at the bottom of the laundry basket. We all want to be model disciples, we strive for it, but we are broken people. Our clothing of discipleship is broken, too. It’s ripped. Torn. Frayed. Sometimes there are big holes.

The reality is that relationships are the only way we can live, and as we live with one another in relationship, as we practice community, we grow. We grow in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We learn more about one another, about ourselves, about the quirks and idiosyncrasies of those we interact with daily, and thus we learn better ways to live in relationship with others. Like Mary, we treasure these experiences and realizations about ourselves and those whom we love, because they help us in our journey together. They teach us how to not just live in community, but how to thrive. How to give up ourselves for others. How to find ourselves when others do the same for us.

Most of all, we grow in our capacity for grace. Jesus grows in divine and human favor, and we too grow in our understanding of God’s grace. We learn to trust the rough edges of relationships. We know when to rip out the seams and to start again. We find ways to patch the holes and practice forgiveness. And over time, we come to better embody God’s grace in our lives. We learn to wear it as clothing.

As the holiday parties come to a close and as the decorations get packed up, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Trust that God works through you and those around you. And next time you put on your compassion sweater and your pants of patience, don’t worry so much about the wrinkles.

Amen.

Friday, December 25, 2015

There's a new neighbor in town!

Have you heard the news? There's a new neighbor in town! The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Vicar Anna Helgen
   The Nativity of Our Lord
   text: John 1:1-14

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.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new neighbor in town!
He lives on Chicago Avenue--right here in our neighborhood! He loves the Midtown Global Market and hangs out there. He owns a condo in St. Paul, too, down by the river. He likes to watch the people walk and bike on the trails over there. He says it brings him joy.

He travels a lot. All over the world. To Kenya, Brazil, and Cambodia...Syria and India...to Panama, Ethiopia, Australia, Thailand, and Germany...to Scotland, Tanzania, and Norway...and to every place under the sun. He’ll stay wherever there is a place for him: in apartments and cars, mobile homes, shacks, and villages. He likes to stay with friends and people he meets along the way, but he’ll take up a dwelling anywhere because he loves all places around the globe. He loves to sleep outside in a hammock, looking up at the stars. When he falls asleep admiring the constellations, he dreams about all the places of the world that he loves so much.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new neighbor in town!
She’s quite the cook. She’s mastered the art of all types of cuisine! Probably from all the traveling she does. Samosas, kung pao chicken, falafel and hummus, even lutefisk! She makes the best bread, too. Crusty, hot from the oven, sourdough...the kind of bread you want to dunk in a bowl of hearty tomato soup. She prepares each meal just for you, how you like it, with the right amount of salt and pepper, spice, and flavor. But sometimes, when she feels like it, she pushes you to try something new, to take a risk, to be more adventurous. I’m grateful to her for that. Sometimes I can get stuck in my ways.

She has the best dinner parties. She invites everyone, those she knows and those she’s just met, even strangers. All are welcome at her table--the powerful, the ordinary, and those down on their luck.  If you haven’t been to one of her dinner parties, you need to go. Her meals are not to be missed! She has the longest dining room table I’ve ever seen, with these long wooden benches. There’s never a need to fuss about fitting extra chairs around the table! She’ll just say, “Scootch over! We need to make more room!” And there is always room for more.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new neighbor in town!
Everyone has a story about him. My friend told me that he shoveled her sidewalk a few times, after she’d sprained her ankle and was having trouble getting around. He’s very generous, willing to lend a hand when you need it. I saw him help a blind man across a busy intersection one time. Then the two of them got to chatting and ended up sitting in the park for hours, like old friends. He knew all about this man, even before he told him. He’s just like that...it’s easy for him to connect with others. He’s become close friends with his Muslim neighbors who live next door and he’s learned spanish so he can talk with the Latino family while they all wait for their kids to get on the bus. He’ll smile and wave to you when he sees you taking the garbage out. He’s so friendly! And his love for people is contagious!

I’ve seen the neighborhood change since he moved in. People are nicer. They look out for each other. They treat one another with respect and care. He’s a good example for all of us. I’m glad he moved here.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new neighbor in town!
She shows up when you need it most. At your doctor’s office. On the bus. During an intense work meeting. As you sit with your dying mother. While you wait for your friend to call. When you’re being bullied. When your money has run out and your paycheck doesn’t come for another week.

She’s there when hope is lost, when despair engulfs you, when your experience leaves you feeling like nothing will ever be the same. There she is, with tissues, a frozen casserole, and her arms open, ready to embrace you, to hold you, to comfort you, to listen. She’s not afraid of the dark. She’ll stay there with you as long as you need--and then she will return again before you know you need her.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new neighbor in town!
He always has his porch light on and is ready to welcome you. His house smells like my grandparents’ house -- it’s hard to describe, yet recognizable, like home. I sometimes go to see him after a long day. He doesn’t say that much, but he listens, and it’s nice to know he’s there and will let me unload. Before I leave, he’ll pat me on the back, and say, “I’m here for you, Anna.” It helps.

Lots of my friends and family go to visit him, too. They share their joys and frustrations about work and life, missed opportunities for forgiveness, moments of despair. The real life stuff that we sometimes wish we could do without. He understands. He’s been hurt by the world, too. He knows what it feels like to experience loss and pain, more than any of us. So he invites the tears and the anger. He welcomes the confused, the broken, and the questioning.

Somehow he is able to carry it all--the anxiety, the shame, the grief, the loss. You never have to worry about what you say to him, or like you have to pretend to be stronger than you are, because he can take it. All of it. The darkness isn’t dark to him. Whenever you leave it’s like a weight has been lifted. There is hope again. The light shines, even if it’s only a glimmer.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new neighbor in town!
She challenges the powerful and the privileged. She stands up for people on the fringes--the ones who linger in hopelessness, who are abandoned by others. She protests when people are discounted by the powerful.  She works to change a culture that allows human beings to be bought and sold. She pushes to see that others are fed, clothed, housed. Her voice can’t be silenced--but lots of people try. She often gets in trouble. She’s ended up in jail a few times, but she always finds her way out.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new neighbor in town!
Today is the housewarming party. Someone made a sign: “Welcome to the world!” it says. You’re all invited to the party and there is no need to RSVP. I’ve heard there will be singing and dancing. Probably another delicious meal, too. Bring a friend if you want, but don’t worry if you come alone. You’ll fit right in: we’re all family here.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new neighbor in town!
His mother gave birth to him under some amazing circumstances--no fetal monitors or doctor or midwife. Sheep, cows, a donkey, and a bed in a feeding trough. Starlight.  He was quite the baby. As she held him in her arms, his mother looked at him, smiled, and treasured this moment in time. “Nothing will ever be the same,” she said.

Have you heard the news? There’s a new neighbor in town!
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Welcome, Lord Jesus.

Amen.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

Where?

All the signs of this story have told us for two millennia the kind of rule God intends to establish on this earth: a rule that is won heart by heart, in the most powerless places, until life is full and abundant for all.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   The Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord
   texts:  Luke 2:1-20; 1 Corinthians 1:20-30 (not appointed for the day)

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

We should have known. We could have known.

It was always Bethlehem, not Jerusalem.

There was a lot of confusion about it then. Ever since, the Church has often remained confused.
In Jerusalem, in the seat of power, the great Herod fretted over news that another king was born. No divine announcement was made to him, though. In Rome, not even the Emperor knew anything was happening.

But on a hillside outside a tiny little town in the Judean wilderness, bright messengers of the One True God announced to outsiders that a child was born who was the Anointed One, who would rule the world in peace, peace for all, not just a few.

It was never going to be Jerusalem where God would rule.

We just seem to forget that we know this.

Maybe because the Jerusalems, the Romes, the Washingtons, seem to run our world.

They always have. People with power oppress and dominate others to get what they want. The world has worked this way for so long, it’s not surprising this way of the true God gets missed or ignored, even by those of us who claim to follow this Child, this Son of the Most High God.

People like the trains to run on time. We like to be comfortable, not messy. We like order, not chaos. We want to feel safe, and that means people in every generation are willing to let whoever’s running the world run their lives. As long as we think we’re OK, don’t ask too many questions.

Systems get built over decades and centuries that keep the majority of the world’s people in poverty and suffering while a small number prosper. Policies disguised as progress destroy the environment in just over a century, and again, the ones whom it costs most are those already suffering. Colonialism is replaced by capitalism, and those in power remain the same, they just rule in subtler ways than Herod or the British Empire. Demagogues rise in every generation who incite the poor and struggling by giving them someone to hate, someone to blame for their problems, while acting in ways that only exacerbate those problems.

If this Child is the way God is coming to rule this world, it’s hard to see how.

But if we’d been paying attention, we could have known.

From the beginning, it was Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, where God would rule.

It’s interesting, Micah’s prophecy of Bethlehem tells the truth: Bethlehem is one of the little clans of Judah, but from that smallness will come God’s ruler. Matthew seems influenced by the world’s ways and edits that, says Bethlehem is “by no means” the least. Bethlehem actually was small and insignificant, though. That’s the point.

The world’s seats of power, where people run the show, are ignored when God comes to rule.

God comes to a small town, overlooked by the world, and is born among us. The people who come and see are the small people, the ordinary.

This is where the King still truly lives. That’s where we will be, too, if we want to follow.

From the beginning, it was in poverty, not in wealth, in weakness, not in power, that God would rule.

This family from Nazareth is unremarkable. Like the majority of the world’s peoples, they lived day to day, as best they could, in deeply insecure lives, always on the edge of hunger.

The wealthy have built a world that protects their wealth. It’s taken centuries, but the system is running powerfully these days. The wealthy think they’re in charge, and since we’re also among them, sometimes we think the same. We might consider letting go of a little for others. But somehow we never quite do the overthrow it would take to make all people be able to live.

But God chooses the poor, the weak, as the place of coming. God wants nothing to do with people of wealth, who think they control, who won’t let go of what they have while others starve.

The true King is born to a family who has no influence or control, no wealth or power. That’s where we will be, too, if we want to follow.

From the beginning, it was in a refugee family relying on the kindness of strangers, not in secure people, that God would come to save.

This little family is pushed around by foreign powers just before the birth of the child, and treks to Bethlehem. Just after the birth, their own ruler wants the child dead, so they become refugees, fleeing to another country. They are homeless, like so many.

While those in charge rail against such people as a threat, from Herod to today, this is the way God chooses to come to us. To identify with the outsider, the alien, the refugee, and become one.

The true King willingly leaves the refuge of heavenly power, lives as a refugee from earthly power, dies at the hands of earthly power, to show the truth about power, that it’s a lie, and destructive, and death. This is the King’s path, and ours, if we want to follow.

The Triune God reigns in this world upside-down, always.

Looking for where God will reign means looking to the weak, the vulnerable, the lost, the poor. That’s who God became to be our King. That’s where God continues to be, at Bethlehem, not the seats of power.

God’s whole plan of rule is to win over our hearts by coming among us as the least, and showing us that identifying with the least and the last is the way of life for the universe, and for us. When we give our hearts to such a God, such a King, we follow the same path of vulnerability and weakness for the sake of the world. The path that the Herods of today mock as one for losers.

But when we follow such a King, such a God, with all our hearts, the reign of God actually comes to be in this world.

We have known this from the beginning, if we have sometimes forgotten.

One of our brothers in faith told us long ago that people demand signs and wisdom, “but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.”

God has chosen, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save the world.

A Lutheran theologian in this country recently wrote:

“In this sacred space, on [the] holy ground [of this world], God’s kingdom is realized on earth as in heaven when our hope for a contrary way sends us stumbling, falling towards goodness; we make our haphazard and unsure way through the darkness of human reality towards something hoped for, naively and bravely, in a world which desperately needs more courageous, outrageous love and kindness. . . . Our lives, though they feel small, have the power to change and heal our world, in all our imperfect stumblings through the expansive darkness.” [1]

Our lives, though they feel small, have the power to change and heal our world, in all our imperfect stumblings through the expansive darkness.

Because however small our lives may feel, it’s always to Bethlehem we stumble with the shepherds to see the true King, who became small to save us all.

God only works with the imperfect, the poor, the frail, the haphazard, the unsure, and from there brings life. We could have known this all along; it was always there in this story.

God only reigns in this world as one who wins our hearts by coming to us in all the unexpected and powerless places of the world. One at a time, as people give their hearts to this upside-down King, this ruler of stables and refugees, the world is changed, and we find hope. We could have known this all along, too; our King rules from a cross.

It’s always at Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, where we find the Lord, the King. In small, not great. And slowly, surely, God’s healing life spreads from there to all people.

Because to you, to all, is born this day a Savior who is the Christ, the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find God a little child, lying in a manger.

Go, look for Bethlehem. You’ll see.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen


[1] Rachel A. Crippen, unpublished paper, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota; December 2015.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Olive Branch, 12/23/15

Accent on Worship

     Monday morning the 21st, some very good friends of mine were scheduled for an induction to have their 7-day overdue baby. Upon arriving at the hospital at 7:00 am, they were told that there is a “flurry of babies” already that morning and their schedule was pushed back a few hours. All of the anticipation and anxiety that they are already holding is now postponed, if only hours, while many other families participate in the same miracle and cycle of life all around them. As of this moment that I’m writing they are still waiting at the hospital, and we do not know how this will all turn out for them. It makes me ponder many things, especially how some of these stories may not turn out so well, or that by tomorrow the lives of my dear friends will be incredibly different than today.

     They do not know the gender yet, but of course everyone has their guesses. They have a few names picked out, but are waiting to see their baby to find one that fits. How different it was for Mary, who, being told she would have a son, and his name would be Emmanuel, was then left to wait and to wonder. What would he be like? What does the son of God look like? Will he have his father’s nose, or his heavenly father’s eyes? What will the day after he comes be like? It reminds me of “Mary, did you know?,” my sister’s favorite Christmas time song.  It asks the questions that may have fluttered in Mary’s mind, though she could not have known the answers. “Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.”

     The time will come for my friends today, and soon enough all the waiting will seem like a distant dream and hopefully, Lord willing, they will hold their new baby with a new sense of hope and anticipation, just like Mary did. Tomorrow will come and they will get to wonder about their baby, its future, and the world that will surround all of them. But those are all thoughts for tomorrow.

     May we all find peace amidst our anticipation, whatever it may be, trusting that God is working in us, through us, and all around us. Amen.

- Anna Scott



Christmas at Mount Olive

Christmas Eve: Thursday, December 24
Choral Prelude at 9:30 p.m.
Holy Eucharist at 10:00 p.m.

Christmas Day: Friday, December 25 
Festival Eucharist at 10:00 a.m.

First Sunday of Christmas: Sunday, December 27 
Holy Eucharist at 8:00 and 10:45 a.m.

The Name of Jesus: Friday, January 1, 2016
Festival Eucharist at 10:00 a.m.

Second Sunday of Christmas, January 3, 2016
Holy Eucharist at 8:00 and 10:45 a.m.

The Epiphany of Our Lord: Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Festival Eucharist at 7:00 p.m.

The Baptism of Our Lord: Sunday, January 10, 2016
Festival Eucharist at 8:00 & 10:45 a.m.



Sunday’s Adult Forum

December 27: A Christmas Carol and hymn sing, led by Cantor Cherwien.



Christmas Carry-In Breakfast 

     Celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, December 25, with a carry-in breakfast preceding the liturgy.

     Bring a favorite Christmas food and enjoy a time of conversation with fellow Mount Olive worshipers from 9:00 to 9:45.



New Opportunity for Ministry

     The Congregational Life Committee is looking for people who would be willing to assist members who have difficulty or are more cautious walking from the south parking lot to church.

     For more information, contact Sandra Pranschke at spranschke@gmail.com, or 612-859-5448.



Winter Gear Drive Continues

     Neighborhood Ministries is receiving donations of winter gear for children and adults.

     New or gently used items can be donated in the box near the coat room. There is designated space for coats in the coat rack. Items will be given away at the Community Meal throughout the winter or brought to the Central Lutheran Free Store. Thank you!



Give Stock or Mutual Fund Shares

     Instead of using cash, make your year-end gift to the church or Mount Olive Foundation with appreciated stock or mutual fund shares.  In addition to receiving an income tax deduction for 2015, transferring these assets to the church or the Foundation enables you to avoid capital gains taxes on their appreciation.  Giving stock or mutual fund shares also allows many people to make a larger gift than might have been possible with cash.

     To learn more about stock or mutual fund gifts, please contact Andrew Held, Thrivent Financial, at (952) 475-9700 or andrew.held@thrivent.com.  With all gifts of appreciated assets, you are encouraged to consult with your tax advisor prior to making any gift.



Book Discussion Group Update

     Mount Olive’s Book Discussion Group meets on the second Saturday of each month, at 10:00 a.m. in the West Assembly Area at church. All readers are welcome!  For the January 9 meeting, they will read Grand Opening, by Jon Hassler, and for February 13, they will read God's Hotel, by Victoria Sweet.



Help Wanted for Our Saviour’s Meals

     It's sign-up time for serving at Our Saviour's Shelter!

     Mount Olive serves on the second Sunday of every month.  If you have served before you know how rewarding it is to meet the residents and to have dinner with them.  There is a 2016 calendar where you can put your name down for the month that is best for you.      

     More hands are always welcome!



Advent Centering Prayer

     Centering prayer is offered on Wednesdays during Advent, from 6-6:30 pm, in the north transept (near the columbarium) prior to Advent Vespers services.

     Dec. 23 will be the last session until Lent. Centering Prayer will resume in Lent, on Wednesday, February 25 and continue throughout Lent.    

     Questions? Call Sue Ellen Zagrabelny at 612-875-7865.



Olive Branch Publication Schedule

     There will no Olive Branch published during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Regular weekly publication will resume on Wednesday, January 6.



Thanks!

     Many thanks to Steve Manuel, Gary Pagel, Dan Adams and Peggy Hoeft, for procuring the greens and organizing their hanging this past Sunday as we prepare the nave for Christmas.

     Thanks also to the many volunteers who gathered to decorate the trees, and to Paul Nixdorf who organized the display of Nativity scenes in our public spaces.



News From the Neighborhood
Anna Scott, Coordinator of Neighborhood Outreach & Ministry

     The Mount Olive Youth and a few neighbors spent a Sunday afternoon making lefse and Christmas cookies together. The cookies were served at the last Community Meal where they received high praises from our guests, along with the place mats the kids had decorated. Thank you!

Nextdoor is a website built to connect neighbors with one another to share news, information, and help. Mount Olive is participating in Nextdoor for the Powderhorn Park neighborhood and it has given us a unique insight in to what are the needs and concerns of our neighbors. To be involved in your own neighborhood, go to Nextdoor.com to see if there is already a network going and register to get connected!

Thank you for continuing to pray for our neighborhood throughout Advent. If you have any thoughts or insights please share them with me over the phone, an email, or I would love to get tea or coffee to discuss what you've discovered! Contact me at neighborhood@mountolivechurch.org



Nativity Set Display

     During the Christmas Season and for a short time after Epiphany there will be a display of Nativity sets in the display case, the West Assembly area and in the Chapel Lounge.  All of the sets have been graciously loaned to us from Mount Olive members and friends. Also, please check out the Christmas tree in the West Assembly area which is filled with Nativity ornaments and the hanging German Christmas Pyramid. There is a card with each Nativity set with a description and origin.

     Because these sets are on loan to Mount Olive and are fragile we are please asking that no one touches or moves any of the pieces.  They are there for viewing only.

     Leanna Kloempken has assembled a set of books from the church library about the Nativity and they will be part of the display, too.

     If you own or know of other Nativity sets that could be displayed next Christmas please let me know.

     A Blessed Christmas to all.

- Paul Nixdorf, Aesthetics Committee



Hennig Endowment Fund

     Near the end of Gene Hennig's life, he and Kristie created the "Gene H. and Kristin C. Hennig Endowed Fund for Mount Olive Lutheran Church."  Annual income from the Fund is unrestricted and may be used to address any ministry and/or need of the Church.  In their fund agreement, Gene reflected that Mount Olive “has allowed us to worship God throughout our marriage in a way that has been a great blessing to us.”  Creation of this fund remained a high priority through Gene's final days.

     Gene and Kristie made it clear that the announcement of the Hennig Fund was not an opportunity for self-promotion but instead a chance to highlight the Mount Olive Foundation and to encourage others to establish a similar fund.  This is now the fifth such fund created for the Foundation's benefit, joining those established by Eleanor Krumerich, Harold and Marie Sulzbach, anonymous donors, and Warren and Anne Bartz.  With a gift of $25,000 or more, donors can establish a fund which provides perpetual unrestricted support or benefits a specific Mount Olive ministry.  All fund assets, like the Foundation's overall endowment, are managed by the ELCA Foundation.

     If you would like to learn more about this opportunity, please contact Keith Bartz at albsinmpls@yahoo.com or (612) 823-3572.



Give Stock or Mutual Fund Shares

     Instead of using cash, make your year-end gift to the church or Mount Olive Foundation with appreciated stock or mutual fund shares.  In addition to receiving an income tax deduction for 2015, transferring these assets to the church or the Foundation enables you to avoid capital gains taxes on their appreciation.  Giving stock or mutual fund shares also allows many people to make a larger gift than might have been possible with cash.

     To learn more about stock or mutual fund gifts, please contact Andrew Held, Thrivent Financial, at (952) 475-9700 or andrew.held@thrivent.com.  With all gifts of appreciated assets, you are encouraged to consult with your tax advisor prior to making any gift.



Study of Daniel Begins Jan. 7

     Pr. Crippen will begin a six-week series on the book of Daniel Thursday, Jan. 7. “Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land” will be the theme, considering the richness and strangeness of these stories and of this prophet’s ministry and reflect on faith in an alien culture.

     The Thursday Bible studies begin with a light supper at 6:00 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome!



Transitions Support Group

     All are welcome at the Transitions Support Group. If you’re looking for new ideas or encouragement to meet the challenges or uncertainties that are before you, please consider joining us on January 13, 2016.

     This is an opportunity to share in fellowship, prayer, and discussion with others in the Mount Olive community.

Transitions Support Group meets on Wednesday, January 13 from 6- 7 pm at Mount Olive in the lower level Youth Room, and will be facilitated by Cathy Bosworth and Amy Cotter.

     For more information, please contact Cathy 612-708-1144, marcat8447@yahoo.com or Amy 612-710-1811, agate651@gmail.com.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Waiting Together

Each of us bears God into the world, like Mary, in ways only we can do, and we witness this to each other so together all can see the Magnificat promise coming to birth among us and in the world.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   Fourth Sunday of Advent, year C
   texts:  Luke 1:39-45, plus Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat, appointed as the psalm for today)

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 have no idea what it feels like to have a child leap inside me.

I have laid my hands on Mary’s stomach and felt it. But unlike her, I had to wait nine months to hold my child for the first time.

Some of us – men and women – just aren’t able to be pregnant. We can’t know what it’s like. Some of us choose not to be pregnant. Some have to wait far more than nine months to hold their child, and some who want to never get the opportunity.

So there is much some of us don’t know. We don’t know what it’s like to have another person growing and moving inside us. We don’t know what the signs feel like that things are changing, becoming. And I, for one, sometimes feel I’ve missed something important.

That’s a good thing to remember this Advent. Not sensing the signs, unable to feel the changes, unaware of growth and becoming, this mostly seems to be where we live today in a world waiting for God’s healing.

This beautiful song of Mary is full of promise. But is it happening?

Now, if the lowly are lifted up and the mighty cast down, the rich sent away empty while the hungry are fed, that means we’re likely going to lose some position, we know. Overturning everything about how this world works means we who are close to the top of the world’s order are going to lose ground.

But I believe, deep down we’re actually fine with that. We might think we’d fear it, but who among us wouldn’t be glad of a lesser lifestyle for the sake of peace and harmony in the world, and no poverty or hunger anymore? We’d get used to a simpler way pretty easily, and be able to see the joy of God’s grace filling everyone.

The problem is we don’t see signs this beautiful song is more than Mary’s dream. The proud are still full of conceit, the rich are getting richer, and the lowly are falling further behind. The hungry, well, let’s just say they’re not sitting back satisfied after being filled with good things.

What are we to make of this? Are we just repeating centuries of wishful thinking by singing with Mary?

Our answer might be in one simple truth about these women today: they’re pregnant. As we’ve said, pregnancy for many of us is waiting without direct experience of what’s going on. Only the pregnant ones can sense what’s happening.

So do you remember that Jesus and Paul both used the image of pregnancy and birth to describe God’s activity in the world?

Two men, who, like me, were never pregnant, saw pregnancy as a perfect model for how God is healing the world. They speak of longing for the birth of God’s kingdom, and the pain of the birth pangs as it arrives. Thinking about the Magnificat as pregnancy reveals something important about God: the Triune God’s going to take time to heal this world.

Pregnancy is necessary in animals because it takes time, in every species, for an infant to grow to the point where it can live on its own. God apparently feels the same thing about the kingdom. It can’t simply be dropped into the world. It needs to grow and develop and become what it needs to be.

Look at where we are right now in this story of the Incarnation. God begins this salvation by living in a womb for nine months. That’s patience. The Son of God takes years to grow to adulthood before beginning ministry. That’s patience. God continues this ministry by calling and inspiring and transforming people one at a time to bear Christ in the world. That’s patience.

The Magnificat will be fulfilled by God’s plan, as more and more bear God into the world. It just needs time.

So: if we’re a part of this pregnant grace of God, what can each of us bear and know that others can’t?

What movement of God can any of us feel that we can invite others to feel in us?

The remarkable thing about how God is bringing life and healing is not only that it takes time. It takes a lot of people, each gifted differently. These two women, Mary and Elizabeth, give birth to two astonishing sons, John and Jesus, who transform the world. That’s impressive. But not unique. Because we are all called to bear God’s life into the world.

So, what are you able to carry of God to full birth that other’s can’t? Do you bear God’s mercy? God’s patience? Can you carry God’s wisdom? God’s joy? Are you one who can help others see it’s OK to let go of things, to be a part of this Magnificat overturning?

God continues to be born in this world in us, and each of us will see signs others don’t, and bear God in ways others can’t.

Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, remind us to do this.

These four are unremarkable people, ordinary people. But when they were asked to be a part of God’s birth into the world, they agreed.

If we’re waiting for someone else to do this, the world will have an even longer wait for God’s reign of peace. So each of us can follow these four and listen for where we are needed, for what we can do that others can’t, and then say yes.

What’s also lovely is that they support each other.

Mary goes to see Elizabeth, and these two women who’ve never done this before rejoice with each other. Help each other.

This we can do. We can help each other in our God-bearing in the world.

Because it’s not just helping others. It’s also how we get to see, feel, know from another person. Both these women are helper and helped. Elizabeth’s Spirit-given insight helps Mary know that her child is in fact what she was told. And Mary gives Elizabeth hope that her God is coming into the world.

This birthing of God’s grace and love into the world isn’t going to be easy to see. Sometimes we might not even know what we’re called to do. Sometimes we’re not going to feel strong enough to do what we’re pretty sure we’re called to do.

So we support each other, rejoice with each other, help each other. And we see things we could never have seen on our own.

In a way, the whole healing reign of God is a pregnancy.

That puts us all, and the whole universe, inside the womb of God. When Paul says in Athens that God is the One “in whom we live and move and have our being,” that’s a deeply feminine image of God. We live and move and have our being in God because we are in God’s womb, along with the whole creation, waiting for the birth of what God is doing.

But at the same time, each of us is bearing God in our own ways, pregnant with God’s life for the world, witnessing to what we’re experiencing, listening for signs of what we’re waiting for.

So let’s wait together, and tell what we see. Let’s let others feel God leap within us. Because then we’ll all know that we’re waiting for the real thing, for life, for God. And that God’s reign is being born even now among us.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Olive Branch, 12/16/15

Accent on Worship

Advent People

     “Advent may be one of the most counter-cultural things we do. Waiting, anticipating, patiently watching for God’s blessing to blossom in the world – this is not the way of the world. We live in an instant gratification culture, where people loudly declare what they want and then expect someone to provide it. Our culture lacks the patience to work through the ills of society in a wise and careful and fruitful way, preferring short term answers which may or may not be good for the long term. Our culture teaches us to embrace our entitlement instead of our responsibility.”

     I wrote that in this space in my first Advent with you, and came across it recently. It seems even more true today. Given the frantic and frightening times in which we live, I find myself wondering what might happen if we truly embraced being counter-cultural? That is, if we prayed that the Holy Spirit might make us so like Christ we looked like Christ and not like the world that surrounds us? If we weren’t afraid to be different?

     Might we begin to be people whose Advent reality seeps into the culture? A friend at a time, a co-worker at a time, a family member at a time, could others perhaps see our lives and learn to watch for and work with God for this world’s healing?

     We follow the God who came among us as a vulnerable child in poverty, to a family like millions around the world with very little to live on. What if we welcomed such families today, even if loud voices around us shout, “they don’t matter!” We follow the God who became a refugee among us, dependent upon the kindness of strangers to welcome a family running away from violence. What if we were such kind strangers, even if loud voices around us shout, “keep away!” We follow the God who suffered death unjustly to bear love into a world of hate. What if we became such sufferers in love in this world, even if loud voices around us spew hate daily?

     We can only know what would happen when we actually do this. When we become bearers of Advent in this world in our bodies and voices and hands and hearts and lives. When we pray, “Amen, come, Lord Jesus,” and by that mean we seek the spirit of Christ to make us Christ.

     But we have this promise: as Christ continues to be born among us and shape us, all flesh will see God’s salvation. Surely that’s worth praying for. Surely that’s worth being different for.

     Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

- Joseph



Sunday Readings

December 20, 2015: Fourth Sunday of Advent
Micah 5:2-5a
Psalmody: Luke 1:46b-55
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]

December 27, 2015: First Sunday of Christmas
I Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Psalm 148
Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 2:41-52



Sunday’s Adult Forum

December 20: “Elizabeth and Mary: Bearers of Hope,” presented by Vicar Anna Helgen.



Hanging the Greens to be Held This Sunday

     Many hands make light work, so all are invited to come and help decorate the nave and chancel for our Christmas celebrations at Mount Olive.  This Sunday, Dec. 20, after second liturgy, is the hanging of the greens, where all wreaths and roping are placed.  Any who wish to help, just come to the nave after coffee time – BYOB (bring your own broom!).



Fair Trade Sale – Last Week

     The Missions Committee will continue to host the fair trade sale for one more week.  Purchase beautiful and unique fair trade items made by artisans in developing regions around the world.  These items are available from SERRV, a nonprofit fair trade organization whose mission is to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.

     The handcrafted fair trade items will be available for purchase after both services on December 20 (cash and check only).  See the attachment to view some of the items that will be for sale.  Fair trade coffee, chocolate and cashews from Equal Exchange through Lutheran World Relief’s Coffee Project will also be available.  This is not a fund-raiser, just an opportunity to buy good products for a good cause.  



Give Stock or Mutual Fund Shares

     Instead of using cash, make your year-end gift to the church or Mount Olive Foundation with appreciated stock or mutual fund shares.  In addition to receiving an income tax deduction for 2015, transferring these assets to the church or the Foundation enables you to avoid capital gains taxes on their appreciation.  Giving stock or mutual fund shares also allows many people to make a larger gift than might have been possible with cash.

     To learn more about stock or mutual fund gifts, please contact Andrew Held, Thrivent Financial, at (952) 475-9700 or andrew.held@thrivent.com.  With all gifts of appreciated assets, you are encouraged to consult with your tax advisor prior to making any gift.



New Opportunity for Ministry

     The Congregational Life Committee is looking for people who would be willing to assist members who have difficulty or are more cautious walking from the south parking lot to church.
     For more information, contact Sandra Pranschke at spranschke@gmail.com, or 612-859-5448.



Staff Christmas Gifts

     As is our tradition, this is the time of year that we gather monetary gifts for our terrific church staff. If you would like to contribute, please note “staff gifts” on your check and deposit it in the offering plate on Sunday morning or send it to the church office. Please have the gifts in by Sunday, December 20.

     Thanks for your generosity.



Christmas Carry-In Breakfast

     Celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, December 25, with a carry-in breakfast preceding the liturgy.
     Bring a favorite Christmas food and enjoy a time of conversation with fellow Mount Olive worshipers from 9:00 to 9:45.



To the Wearers of Albs

     ‘Tis the season! Joy, peace, hymns, and wax.

     All of the server’s albs have been laundered. Some of them have reached their final resting place. Please inform me if you have a wax accident, and I will clean the alb as quickly as possible.

     Thank you for your service.

- Carol Austermann
   


Deadline!

     The deadline for information for the weekly Olive Branch is on Monday of the week it is to be published.  Please have all information to be included in the newsletter in to the office by Monday of that week.

     Thanks for your help!



Vestry Update

     Tim Lindholm has stepped aside as Mount Olive Treasurer. Kat Campbell-Johnson has agreed to handle the Treasurer’s duties and the Vestry is develop-ing a plan for accomplishing this work until a new Treasurer is elected at the semi-annual congregation meeting in April.

     We will update the congregation as these plans develop.



Book Discussion Group Update

     Mount Olive’s Book Discussion Group meets on the second Saturday of each month, at 10:00 a.m. in the West Assembly Area at church. All readers are welcome!  For the January 9 meeting, they will read Grand Opening, by Jon Hassler, and for February 13, they will read God's Hotel, by Victoria Sweet.



Advent Centering Prayer

     All are welcome to participate in an opportunity for contemplation during the season of Advent.

     Centering prayer will be offered on Wednesday during Advent, from 6-6:30 pm, in the north transept (near the columbarium) prior to Advent Vespers services, beginning December 2.

     New to Centering Prayer? Each session begins with a short instruction. A brief reading from the Psalms and the sound of a bell will signal the beginning of a 20-minute period of silent contemplation. The bell will then signal the end of the session which will end with the Lord's Prayer.

     Questions? Call Sue Ellen Zagrabelny at 612-875-7865.



Olive Branch Publication Schedule

     There will no Olive Branch published during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Regular weekly publication will resume on Wednesday, January 6.



News From the Neighborhood
Anna Scott, Coordinator of Neighborhood Outreach & Ministry

     Another big THANK YOU to all who have helped fill our donation corner to the brim!    

     Deliveries will be made to our partner organizations this week, and some used for ministries here at Mount Olive. Here's a snapshot of who we work with and support with these gifts!

Food goes to: Sabathani Community Center on 38th St and 4th Ave and CES on 11th and Franklin;
Coats go to: Central Lutheran Church downtown. Central runs a Restoration Center with resource assistance and a Free Store - a great place to send household donations throughout the year!
Home Care baskets go to: Our Saviour's Housing for their transitional housing residents. Hygiene supplies (like hotel shampoo and soap) are collected year round for use in their emergency shelter;
Hats, Gloves, Scarves go to: Neighborhood Ministries to be distributed at the Community Meal throughout the winter.

All collected supplies are also used in our daily “direct care” ministry here. Any day that someone comes in I can speak with them about what needs they may have. It may be help paying a bill or rent, but often includes basic needs like a warm meal, a pair of gloves, or a supply of soap. It is a blessing to offer these things as people need them because they are readily supplied by you. If ever anyone comes to this church, please feel free to use these items to serve their needs. There are cans of soup stored on the top of the coat rack or please reach right in to the grocery cart and ask what they can use. Warm it up for them in the kitchen. Offer a kit of shampoo and soap and toothpaste. If they don't have gloves, feel free to offer some. It is there to be given away. If they have more pressing needs, please give them the office phone number and have them contact me. Please keep in mind that these services and offerings are not only for neighbors, but for the Mount Olive community as well. If you or your family are experiencing hardship in any season, please feel encouraged to contact me or Pastor Crippen in confidence about ways we can offer support and community.

    Thank you for your help in serving our friends and neighbors!


Alternative Gift Giving

     Are you looking for something different to do this year for Christmas gifts?  Take part in a growing tradition by giving gifts that help those in need.  The Missions Committee is promoting the idea of alternative gift giving this Christmas.  For example, in honor of a loved one, you can buy playground toys for refugee children in Kenya through Lutheran World Relief.  We have catalogues from different charitable organizations that you can use or you can order from the organizations’ websites.

Some of these organizations are:
Lutheran World Relief:    http://lwrgifts.org
Heifer Project International:   http://www.heifer.org
Common Hope : http://commonhopecatalog.myshopify.com
Bethania Kids:   http://bethaniakids.org/creative-giving-catalog
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: www.elca.org/goodgifts

(We will have ornaments during the fair trade sale that you can use to make a donation).



Youthlink Donations -

     I am still taking donations of clothing items and toiletries for homeless teens.  The following items are most needed currently by homeless teens who are on the street: travel- sized toiletries, adult sized winter clothing, jackets, coats,  men's jeans, hand and foot warmers, thinner gloves.  Please leave any donations in the coat room in a bag labelled "Youthlink" by this Sunday Dec. 20.  If you have any questions, please contact Julie Manuel via email to julie.a.manuel@gmail.com or by phone at 612-695-6198.

- Julie Manuel



Hats, Scarves, Mittens Oh my!

     Neighborhood Ministries is receiving donations of winter gear for children and adults.

     New or gently used items can be donated in the box near the coat room. There is designated space for coats in the coat rack. Items will be given away at the Community Meal throughout the winter or brought to the Central Lutheran Free Store. Thank you!



Images of God: Thursday Bible Study     

     The second session of Thursday Bible Study is underway and runs through  tomorrow evening, December 17.  The study, “Images of God,” is led by Vicar Anna Helgen and explores how we talk about God through the language of image and metaphor. The sessions will reflect on common images of God and participants will have the opportunity to share a creative presentation of an image of God that speaks to them. The sessions begin with a light supper at 6:00 p.m.

       Pr. Crippen will begin a 6-week study of Daniel on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.



A Recipe for you!

Some people have requested the recipe for the chocolate drink served at the Fair Trade sale on Sunday, Dec. 6. Here it is.

Barcelona Hot Chocolate

2/3 cup boiling water
2 ounces good-quality dark or bittersweet (60 to 70 percent cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee (regular or decaffeinated)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 2-inch piece orange rind strip
1/4 cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
Cocoa powder (optional)

Preparation

Combine 2/3 cup boiling water and chopped chocolate in a medium saucepan, stirring until chocolate melts. Add milk and next 4 ingredients (through rind); cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk. Heat 5 minutes or until tiny bubbles form around edge of pan, stirring frequently (do not boil). Discard rind. Pour 1 cup mixture into each of 4 mugs. Spoon 1 tablespoon whipped topping over each serving. Dust with cocoa powder, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.







Sunday, December 13, 2015

Geocaching for God

Luke invites us to name the good news we see in the world for one another. In so doing, we shape God’s coming to us. We come to meet God as God meets us.

Vicar Anna Helgen
   Third Sunday of Advent, year C
   texts: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

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.

Have you ever been geocaching? I haven’t yet, but I have plans to start because it sounds super fun. Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity where you plug in a set of coordinates into your GPS device (like a smartphone), and then you go to those coordinates to find a geocache, or what most people call, a cache. Each cache contains a logbook where you can write down your name and sometimes they contain other trinkets and toys that previous geocachers have left behind. It’s like going on a treasure hunt, but for all ages, and you can do it just about anywhere. Chances are there is a geocache hiding somewhere in this neighborhood, maybe even several!

My friend tells a lovely story of her first experience with geocaching. She was sitting on a bench near Lake Harriet, overlooking the rose garden when all of a sudden two dads and their sons approached and said, “We think there might be a geocache where you’re sitting. Can we look under this bench?” She moved, of course, and then witnessed the joy and celebration of these young boys finding the cache, recording their names inside, and then returning it to its place under the bench for the next geocacher to find. What a delightful moment of rejoicing to witness.

On this third Sunday in Advent, Paul invites us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Lately I’ve found that it is hard to rejoice though because we’re confronted daily by the harsh realities of this world. There is so much to worry about. So many lives to grieve. So many broken systems. So much heartache and sadness. So much fear. How I’d love to feel like those young geocachers, finding joy in something so simple: following GPS coordinates, finding a box of treasures, and signing my name in a book.

Instead, I feel burdened. Burdened by what I hear on the news about violence, terrorism, and xenophobia. Burdened by this world, where it feels like everything is going wrong. Burdened because I don’t always know what to do in the midst of such conflicts and crises. Burdened because I can’t escape. We can’t escape. We are a part of this world, too.

I know there is hope in Advent, as we wait for Jesus to come to us in this world, in a human body. Because it reminds me that God gets it. That God knows what it feels like to have a sliver or to ache for those who are hungry even though our own bellies might be full. The realities of this world are embraced and understood by God. And God, too, feels burdened by the burdens that we carry.

We live in a time when rejoicing feels hard, and yet our scripture readings today invite us to rejoice, shout aloud, and sing for joy! God, too, is the subject of these verbs which is a fun thing to consider:  our God is one who sings and shouts and rejoices!

So let’s ask ourselves this same question as the crowds ask John the Baptist: what are we to do? How can we rejoice like those young geocachers? How can we sing praises in a time when the burden is so heavy we don’t feel like lifting our voices to sing? How can we shout aloud when all we can muster is a small quiet whisper? How can we join God’s voice in rejoicing at the goodness of God’s coming kingdom into our world?

John invites those gathered to share with one another, to be fair, and to be kind. These are simple behaviors, behaviors we learned as children, but ones that we all can practice in our daily lives. I love how John has a specific piece of wisdom for each group, like he knows exactly what they need to hear. We’re invited to practice this ordinary kingdom work, too--to share with our neighbors, to act with justice, and to be kind to one another. When we do so, our lives become places of holiness, thin places, where God’s presence is made known more clearly.

But we’re also called, like Luke the Evangelist, to claim this as good news. To name the promise of Advent...that God is near...that God is coming to us. When we name it, we are more likely to notice these encounters with the sacred, and then our hearts will be moved to rejoice--to sing with joy and celebrate the coming of God!

God’s incarnation is a strange reality, though. Because it is here, and yet it’s not. It is coming. It’s on the way. It is a work in progress. Our invitation from Luke is to inhabit this holy space, this already and not yet space, these moments pregnant with hope, joy, love, and peace. Those experiences of the ordinary that somehow transcend what seems possible given the world we live in. It’s about noticing the times when everyday people like you and me bring kindness and love to others. In so doing, we shape God’s coming to us. We name it for ourselves and for others. We come to meet God as God meets us.

This is why we pray “your kingdom come” Sunday after Sunday...so that our hearts and lives might be shaped by God and that we might better embody God’s justice and mercy in the world.

This is why we sing hymns, the young and the old, singing with one voice…so that the words we sing might join together and become true in our own lives and in the life of the community.

This is why we live as John invites us to live with kindness and love toward our neighbors…so that all might become participants in God’s reign of peace.

This is why we are able to shout with joy as we name this as good news. God’s incarnation is breaking in even when the powers of this world try to restrain it. There is reason to rejoice! Both for us, and for God!

When we act like God is actually coming into this world, then we somehow come to believe it. God shows up. God’s kingdom breaks in. We see it! And suddenly we become a witness, not just to God who is coming, but to God who is here, in our midst.

Perhaps for these next few weeks of Advent we might become something like geocachers for God. We can study the world with our Advent senses...living with an awareness of how God might be coming near to us through what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. You won’t need a GPS or a map; just yourself and your ordinary life. The goal of this Advent geocaching adventure: to seek the treasures of God’s coming into the world and name them as good news!

And, in case you need a little help along the way, a friend of mine who has logged many hours geocaching gives these words of wisdom: “Don’t just give up if you don’t find the cache right away. Sometimes it’s right there and you just have to keep looking for it. It might look different than what you thought. Sometimes it’s a really small container or it’s hidden in a funny spot.”

Whatever you do, don’t just give up. God is here. So keep looking. Keep sharing insights with one another. Keep spreading the joy and light of God’s coming into this world. And don’t forget that God often shows up in the most unexpected places!

Amen.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Olive Branch, 12/9/15

Accent on Worship

Now the natural world
is dormant
now is the time of darkness
sunlight is waning
life is in seeming stasis
and in this dark time
this time of dormancy
and twilight
the church
moves into Advent.

Longing is at
the heart of the
darkness
in Advent.
longing
for possibility
longing
for fulfillment
as children
it is a longing
for Christmas
and the birth of the baby Jesus
and that is enough
But as we age
the longing
broadens
deepens
includes
more than ourselves
and family
it is a longing
for
completion
justice
for peace
in the dark time of the year
woven in the darkness of time
fulfillment is growing a body
in the dark time of the year
in the dark.
all earth is hopeful.
                   
Excerpted from “Longing,” a text by Susan Palo Cherwien from her book, “From Glory Into Glory: Reflections for Worship.”



Sunday Readings

December 13, 2015: Third Sunday of Advent
Zephaniah 3:14-20
Psalmody: Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

December 20, 2015: Fourth Sunday of Advent
 Micah 5:2-5a
Psalmody: Luke 1:46b-55
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]



Midweek Advent Vespers
Wednesdays, Dec. 2, 9, 16, and 23
7:00 p.m. 



Sunday’s Adult Forum

December 13: No teaching forum this day. All are invited to the St. Lucia Scandinavian Brunch.



Hanging the Greens

     Many hands make light work, so all are invited to come and help decorate the nave and chancel for our Christmas celebrations at Mount Olive.  On Sunday, Dec. 20, after second liturgy, is the hanging of the greens, where all wreaths and roping are placed.  Any who wish to help, just come to the nave after coffee time – BYOB (bring your own broom!).



Fair Trade Sale

     The Missions Committee fair trade sale continues.  New items have been ordered for the next two weeks.  Purchase beautiful and unique fair trade items made by artisans in developing regions around the world.  These items are available from SERRV, a nonprofit fair trade organiza-tion whose mission is to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportun-ity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.

     The handcrafted fair trade items will be available for purchase after both services on December 13 and 20 (cash and check only).  See the attachment to view some of the items that will be for sale and to read an artisan’s story.  Fair trade coffee, chocolate and other food products from Equal Exchange through Lutheran World Relief’s Coffee Project will also be available.
     This is not a fund-raiser, just an opportunity to buy good products for a good cause.



Welcome, New Members!

     This past Sunday, December 6, Mount Olive was pleased to welcome the following folks into membership:

Dan & Janelle Wade, Harry & Jeanette Eklund, Col Erlandson, Janet Meeks, Emily Hellerich, and Chandler & Tricia Van Ee Molbert and their daughter, Elena. Jerry Ostlund (previously received as an Associate Member) moved into full membership.



Staff Christmas Gifts

     As is our tradition, this is the time of year that we gather monetary gifts for our terrific church staff. If you would like to contribute, please note “staff gifts” on your check and deposit it in the offering plate on Sunday morning or send it to the church office. Please have the gifts in by Sunday, December 20.

     Thanks for your generosity.



TRUST Youth: Aliveness Project Holiday Baskets

     This past Sunday, Eric Manuel participated with TRUST Youth in the annual Aliveness Project Holiday Baskets activity.  Over $1000 was raised for the kids to purchase gifts for families living with AIDS.  The kids had lunch at Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer, headed to Target to make their purchases for 11 individuals, and then headed back to wrap the gifts.  Our group had a mother we purchased for, and we were able to get her a vacuum, a coffee pot, some kitchen knives, and pans.  All in all, it was an awesome time - thank you to those who donated to this event!



Tending the Family of God

     Duty and delight.

     We Christians tend to use those two words together. For example, it is our duty and delight to give God praise and thanks. Similarly, it is our duty and delight to care for one another.
     If someone you have seen at worship has started to be missing, care for them. Make a phone call, write a note, send an email.

     Duty and delight.



To the Wearers of Albs

     ‘Tis the season! Joy, peace, hymns, and wax.

All of the server’s albs have been laundered. Some of them have reached their final resting place. Please inform me if you have a wax accident, and I will clean the alb as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your service.

- Carol Austermann
   


Deadline!

     The deadline for information for the weekly Olive Branch is on the Monday of the week it is to be published.  Please have all information to be included in the newsletter in to the office by Monday of that week.

     Thanks for your help!
   


National Lutheran Choir Christmas Festival Concerts: "The Spotless Rose"

Fri., December 11, 2014  (4:30 pm & 8 pm) and
Sat., December 12, 2014 (8pm)
Basilica of Saint Mary, 88 N. 17th St., Minneapolis

     Immerse yourself in the beauty and majesty of the Basilica
of Saint Mary for the National Lutheran Choir’s signature
Christmas Festival Concert. During this busy season of
parties, shopping and rushing around, take time to reflect
upon the true meaning of Christmas through sacred song,
poetry and readings.

     Tickets: $28 Adult, $25 Senior, $10 Student, age 17
and under FREE. For tickets or more information
call (888) 747-4589, or visit www.nlca.com.



Book Discussion Group Update

     Mount Olive’s Book Discussion Group meets on the second Saturday of each month, at 10:00 am in the West Assembly Area at church. All readers are welcome!  For the December 12 meeting they will read The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. For the January 16 meeting they will read, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.



Advent Centering Prayer

     All are welcome to participate in an opportunity for contemplation during the season of Advent.

     Centering prayer will be offered on Wednesday during Advent, from 6-6:30 pm, in the north transept (near the columbarium) prior to Advent Vespers services, beginning December 2.

     New to Centering Prayer? Each session begins with a short instruction. A brief reading from the Psalms and the sound of a bell will signal the beginning of a 20-minute period of silent contemplation. The bell will then signal the end of the session which will end with the Lord's Prayer.
     Questions? Call Sue Ellen Zagrabelny at 612-875-7865.



News From the Neighborhood

Anna Scott, Coordinator of Neighborhood Outreach & Ministry

Advent Perspectives

     The last two weeks has been both relieving and frustrating at the same time. The calls are flooding in for direct care as funding from the federal government has dried up and any organization that helps with emergency assistance needed to use it by November 30. That means there's not much wiggle room for people if they get behind, which is tough always, but especially in December. As my brain starts reeling in efforts to meet people’s needs and see in to the future and plan and prepare and work, my eyes glance to the now hanging neighborhood map with its tiny colored dots. Or they rest on my devotional book on my desk or I may smell the fragrance of the often burning candle I light at home for my evening tea. I am reminded to Advent. I am reminded to not just wait, but anticipate - to know that something is coming and is ahead for us, and hopeful amidst the chaos and frustration and heartache. That's what we (me, neighborhood ministries, you, this church) are doing. We are praying and resting in the wait for how we are to work and move in our neighborhood and world. It's been a gift and relief to let go of that consistent pressure to move ahead, and this process has created a place to lay down those winding plans and know that God is working and moving in us, through us, and for us. Please continue to pray with us for this neighborhood and the lives that it holds. Thank you.


Home Baskets for Our Saviour’s Housing

     Give a home basket to a resident in Our Saviour’s Transitional Housing. Their 100 permanent supportive housing residents (73 men, 27 women) have all gained their own apartments after years of homelessness and health problems. The residents’ limited budgets make it tough for them to afford many essential items to really make their house a home. Brighten their holidays and ease their budgets by providing a festive gift basket! Please note that we serve primarily men and no children. You may choose what to include, but we suggest items such as:

• Kitchenware (including cooking & eating)    • Shower curtains and liners    • Mini desk fans
• Basic tools    • Throw blankets and pillows    • Towel and full bed sheet sets    • Headphones  • Household d├ęcor items such as picture frames   • Calendars or day planners   • Clock radio  
• Socks, gloves, hats, scarves, or slippers    

*For an extra special gift basket, you might also include: • Gift Cards for Target or Cub Foods/Rainbow   • Personal hygiene items     • Candy, cookies, snack mixes, cocoa, coffee, tea, or other treats     • Costume jewelry, make-up, or wallets

Gifts can be packaged in any way: a laundry basket, reusable shopping bag, gift bag, plastic tub, etc. Consider a foldable personal shopping cart for an extra special gift! Feel free to decorate the gift or include a card.  ***Can be dropped off in hallway by the coats/kitchen



Alternative Gift Giving

     Are you looking for something different to do this year for Christmas gifts?  Take part in a growing tradition by giving gifts that help those in need.  The Missions Committee is promoting the idea of alternative gift giving this Christmas.  For example, in honor of a loved one, you can buy playground toys for refugee children in Kenya through Lutheran World Relief.  We have catalogs from different charitable organizations that you can use or you can order from the organizations’ websites.

Some of these organizations are:

Lutheran World Relief:    http://lwrgifts.org

Heifer Project International:   http://www.heifer.org

Common Hope : http://commonhopecatalog.myshopify.com

Bethania Kids:   http://bethaniakids.org/creative-giving-catalog

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: www.elca.org/goodgifts

(We will have ornaments during the fair trade sale that you can use to make a donation).



Youthlink Donations 

     I am again collecting donations of clothing items and toiletries for homeless teens.  The following items are most needed currently by homeless teens who are living on the street; Travel size toiletries, adult sized winter clothing, jackets, coats, men's jeans, hand and foot warmers, and thinner gloves.

     Please leave any donations in the coat room in a bag labeled "Youthlink" by this Sunday Dec. 13.  If you have any questions, please contact Julie Manuel either by email to julie.a.manuel@gmail.com or by calling her at 612-695-6198.

- Julie Manuel



Hats, Scarves, Mittens Oh my!

     Neighborhood Ministries is collecting winter gear for children and adults.

     New or gently used items can be donated in the box near the West assembly area. There is designated space for coats in the coat rack. Items will be given away at the Community Meal through-out winter or brought to the Central Lutheran Free Store. Thank you!



Care within the community: a pastoral word  (part 3)

Sisters and brothers,

     “I know you’re busy, but . . .” I sometimes hear that from people at Mount Olive, usually by way of apologizing for “taking my time” with something of concern. I understand why people say it. People want to be supportive of me, and they recognize that a pastor’s life is often full. I’m also a person who moves quickly and can seem preoccupied because my mind is thinking of one thing while my person is doing something else. That’s something I’m working on. But we’re also conditioned not to “bother” other people with our problems. So I understand why people say it. But I really wish you wouldn’t.

     This third pastoral word regarding our care for each other as a community is about how we work together as pastor and people. And I need this to be said above all else: I am never “too busy” to have a conversation with you, or listen to your concerns or cares. It’s my job. It’s part of why you called me here. Having someone call and ask for time to talk doesn’t take time away from my work. It is my work. Or at least part of it.

     Within this congregation there is a great amount of care that happens apart from my direct involvement. Often if I or the vicar visit someone in the hospital we are not the first Mount Olive visit, and we won’t be the last. This is good, that we care for each other. The more people here reach out to each other in need, offering help, receiving help, being gracious listeners and fellow journeyers, the more this community is shaped to be Christ in this world.

     But you have called me to be your pastor, and that means you’ve also asked me to be someone who is “pastor,” someone who offers the care of Christ in a pastoral way. I share that ministry with all of you. In a more formal way, I share that pastoral care role with our vicars who serve here. But if you need to talk with me, I want you to know that is one of the graces of this ministry among you people that I love. (And remember, as I said last week, our conversations are confidential.)

     The best way to meet is to set an appointment, by phone or e-mail. Random drop-ins work, but are subject to whether I happen to have time free at that moment. I respond to e-mails within a day, and phone messages as soon as I can after I get them. I keep my own calendar, so Cha Posz isn’t able to schedule these, but I’m pretty easy to reach at the church number (612-827-5919), my e-mail (pastor@mountolivechurch.org), or my cell phone (612-280-4593). Mostly folks meet with me in my study at church, but I can go wherever it makes the most sense.

     When should we talk? Whenever you have need of spiritual conversation with your pastor. It might be a major crisis, but it doesn’t have to be one. Perhaps you’re in a time of transition spiritually or otherwise. Maybe there are things you need to sort out and a pastoral ear could help. Perhaps you just are wondering about your place in the world and what God is doing with you. Maybe you seek forgiveness from God and want to make confession. There are endless reasons you might wish to talk, so don’t discount it if you’re drawn to want a conversation.

     It is a privilege to serve you as pastor, and I thank you for your trust. Let me know if I can help walk alongside you in your journey as we all seek to be faithful to Christ and bear Christ in the world.

In the love of Christ,

- Joseph

 

Corrections Department

     The December 2, 2015, edition of The Olive Branch, in an article entitled “Yes, You Can Make a Difference!,” preliminarily reported that “around $36,000 in `over and above’ giving had been contributed to Restoration 2015,” the fund which is being used to help pay for the restoring the brickwork, roof and stained glass of our beautiful church building.

     The “about $36,000” figure was considerably off the mark! It was actually more than $42,000!  The discrepancy is the result of A.D.D. on my part (“Arithmetic Deficiency Disorder”). My apologies for misrepresenting the generosity of the wonderful people of Mount Olive.

     A principal payment of $22,985 was made in November. The balance, plus whatever gifts are received in December, will go to reduce the amount that is borrowed as well. The current loan balance is $182,012.

- Art Halbardier, Director of Property



Images of God: Thursday Bible Study  
 
     The second session of Thursday Bible Study is underway and runs through December 17.  The study, “Images of God,” is led by Vicar Anna Helgen and explores how we talk about God through the language of image and metaphor. The sessions will reflect on common images of God and participants will have the opportunity to share a creative presentation of an image of God that speaks to them.

     The sessions begin with a light supper at 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Into the Way

We have always known what God is doing to bring peace to this world. Here, once more, we remember. And we also remember that our lives are Advent, so it will take time. So we pray for God to direct us on the path to peace, and one day, all people.

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
   Second Sunday of Advent, year C
   texts:  Luke 1:68-79 (the Benedictus, appointed as the psalm for today); Luke 3:1-6

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

“In the tender compassion of our God, the Dawn from on high shall break upon us:
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
And to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

You see, don’t you? We already know what we need to know to live in these times. We’ve sung it with Zechariah for 2,000 years.

Sometimes we forget we know this. So we come here to remember, to be reminded by each other.

Sometimes we remember we know this, but fear it’s not enough to stand in these times. So we come here to stand with each other in this community of Christ, and be encouraged – given hearts.

As distressing as these days are, the Good News is, we already know what God is doing in us and in the world to make all things new. The Good News is, because we are Advent people we already know this will take time. The Good News is, because once more we meet the Triune God here, and are healed by God’s Word and grace, we can remember again what we already knew. And once more find God’s peace.

The Dawn from on high is even now shining on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. We know this.

Because the Dawn, the Light of God’s coming into our own bodies and living with us, comes from “the tender compassion of our God,” we sing. Compassion, like our words “patience,” and “empathy,” is rooted in the ancient word for suffering. In the grief of our world today we come here to remember this deepest truth we know about the Triune God: this God enters our suffering.

Yes, on the cross, but not only there. No, God’s con-passio – God’s “suffering with” us, begins in this birth we will celebrate. Dawn from on high is in our world because whatever we know about those who suffer, we know the Triune God who made all things, galaxies, microorganisms, light, joy, life, this God is with them. With us.

We live in darkness, under the shadow of death. Our whole world does.

But God is with us in this darkness, and has destroyed death’s permanent power. So we are not alone. And death cannot survive.

The Dawn from on high is even now revealing the path of peace. We know this.

The evangelists saw in John’s preaching the voice of Isaiah’s promise, preparing for God’s coming by announcing a highway in the wilderness, a safe, level, smooth path for all. In our day we leave wilderness pristine. For most of human history, walking through the wilderness was life or death. A winding forest path meant threat of bandits or wild animals. A long desert journey meant if water ran out, people died.

So a highway in the wilderness, safe, level, smooth, for all people to find safety and life in God, this is Good News. And Zechariah says it’s the path of peace God’s Dawn reveals to us.

We already knew this. We’ve prayed a prayer for it for 1,600 years.

In Vespers, Lutherans have prayed it for over 200 years, Anglicans for more than 500.

“O God, from whom come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works: Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness.”

We will pray this again on Wednesday; come, pray it with your sisters and brothers. We have prayed this for 1,600 years because it is what we need God to do to give us life in such times of grief and pain. This world needs the peace this world cannot give. We need help to walk that path.

This peace of God comes when our hearts are set to obey God’s commandments.

Listen to that wisdom: there is agency here, God is setting our hearts. That’s in our song, too. “Guide our feet” isn’t strong enough for what Luke writes. There is an agency in this word, we are being moved, straightened into God’s path of peace.

We know what needs to be done, we always have. We know our lives are shaped by love of God and love of neighbor. We know this is the path of peace, that we do this love, act this love in all our moments.

But we need God to set our hearts to do this, or we will fail.

We will fail in fear of this path. While a highway is being built, it’s not fully safe. Builders, and the first walkers, can be harmed in the wilderness. Walking the path of peace means we might be hurt. So we ask God to set our hearts. So we’re not afraid.

We will fail because we are overwhelmed by the size of the task. All we can see is wilderness ahead, the pain, the brokenness, the fear of this world. It’s too much. But we’re not asked to build the whole highway ourselves. Neither can we walk away from it. So we ask God to set our hearts that we take the steps we need to take today, to do what we can do. Tomorrow is another day, another prayer.

And this peace of God comes when our hearts are defended from the fear of our enemies.

Listen to that wisdom. Zechariah sang of being saved from our enemies. This wise prayer names our true need: to be saved from fear of our enemies.

We’ve known this, too. Eight decades ago, President Roosevelt told us the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. We have forgotten this in our culture’s fear mongering. When those who tell the news pander to our fears without challenging our leaders, our society, or even us, to change our ways, when there is no limit to the amount of fear politicians will manipulate to achieve power, when the sheer volume of news that we now receive from all over the world overwhelms us with terrifying pain and suffering, we need not to be saved from our enemies. We need to be defended from our fear of them.

So we pray that God would take away our fear. So we see no enemies on this path at all, only sisters and brothers.

We have always known what God is doing to bring peace to this world. Here, once more, we remember. And we remember that our lives are Advent.

This path of peace God is making will take time. God is willing to take the time, even to the point of being in a womb for nine months and growing into adulthood with us. The Son of God sees the only way to God’s peace is by the joining of all God’s children into this path of peace, one person at a time, one community at a time. There is no quick path, no short-cut, that avoids the healing need of all people walking God’s highway together.

But the Dawn from on high is shining, even if the Day of the Lord has not yet fully arrived. Muslims greet one another with “Salaam,” Jews with “Shalom,” we with “Peace,” and we name for each other this path, this hope, that all will walk together.

We remind each other so we don’t forget. We walk with each other so we don’t stumble. And we pray, we pray for God to set our hearts and take away our fear so each of us is able to walk in this path of peace.

Because we know, though it will take time, one day all flesh truly will see the salvation of God.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Olive Branch, 122/2/15

Accent on Worship
Vicar Anna Helgen 

Einstein, Spacetime, and God***
 
     Two weeks ago, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Without going into the nitty gritty details (because I don’t know them!), Einstein proved in this theory that space and time are not two separate entities. Instead, they’re connected and constitute one unified whole called spacetime. David Tenant, of Doctor Who, explains, “Mass causes spacetime to curve. The natural motion of things is to follow the simplest path through spacetime, but since objects with mass curve spacetime, stuff moves towards the most massive object. That’s what you feel as gravity -  it is warped space and time that’s keeping your feet on the ground.” Cool, huh? Here ends this brief physics lesson.

     During Advent, we wait in joyful expectation that God comes to us as Emmanuel. It is a
season of waiting and wonder. Einstein’s theory of relativity provided a new way of looking at the universe. In the same way, Advent is a good time to slow down and consider new ways of looking at God. What if God is like spacetime?     

     Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe, calls the theory of relativity the “most beautiful theory in the history of science.” He explains, “It is a mathematical, as well as conceptual masterpiece. It’s something that can be visua-lized as bodies telling space and time how to curve and the curving of space and time telling bodies how to move, and then the math goes with it.”        

     This is a theory of interconnectedness. Spacetime and mass depend on one another, just like we rely on God and God relies on us. It’s fun to imagine that God, like spacetime, warps, bends, and stretches to enter our lives.And thus God is with us, always, filling our bodies with God’s own space and time, and meeting us where we are.

     May this season of Advent fill you with wonder at God’s constant presence in our lives.

***I apologize for any errors regarding Einstein’s theory of relativity. I am no physicist!



Sunday Readings

December 6, 2015: Second Sunday of Advent
Malachi 3:1-4
Psalmody: Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6
______________

December 13, 2015: Third Sunday of Advent
Zephaniah 3:14-20
Psalmody: Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18



TRUST Youth: Aliveness Project
 
     Again this year, TRUST Youth will participate in the annual Holiday Baskets activity for The Aliveness Project on Sunday, December 6. 

     The youth will purchase and wrap gifts to give to families living with AIDS.  If you would like to make a cash donation to help purchase Christmas gifts for these families, please contact Julie Manuel at 612-695-6198 or via email to julie.a.manuel@gmail.com.



Get Involved in Climate Change
     Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light is one of the newly adopted mission projects for Mount Olive in 2016 as we strive to become involved in climate change advocacy and to be better stewards of our earth and its resources. MNIPL works together with people of faith to educate ourselves, change our practices to be earth friendly, and advocate in the public arena for responsible policy.
     If this is a passion of yours, the Missions Committee needs your help and ideas! Contact Judy Hinck via email to judyhinck@gmail.com.



New Members to be Welcomed This Sunday
  
    
     Mount Olive will welcome new members and associate members this Sunday, December 6, during the late liturgy.

     A welcome brunch will follow the liturgy for new members and for all who would like to be part of the welcome festivities.



Sunday’s Adult Forum
December 6:  "Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Vocation," presented by Lori Brandt Hale, Associate Professor of Religion at Augsburg College, Minneapolis.

     Dr. Hale has served as Secretary of the International Bonhoeffer Society. Her book, Bonhoeffer For Armchair Theologians, is published by Westminster John Knox Press.



Staff Christmas Gifts
     As is our tradition, this is the time of year that we gather monetary gifts for our terrific church staff. If you would like to contribute, please note “staff gifts” on your check and deposit it in the offering plate on Sunday morning or send it to the church office. Please have the gifts in by Sunday, December 20.

     Thanks for your generosity.



National Lutheran Choir Christmas
Festival Concerts: "The Spotless Rose"

Fri., December 11, 2014  (4:30 pm & 8 pm) and
Sat., December 12, 2014 (8pm)
Basilica of Saint Mary, 88 N. 17th St., Minneapolis


     Immerse yourself in the beauty and majesty of the Basilica of Saint Mary for the National Lutheran Choir’s signature Christmas Festival Concert. During this busy season of
parties, shopping and rushing around, take time to reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas through sacred song, poetry and readings.

     Tickets: $28 Adult, $25 Senior, $10 Student, age 17 and under FREE. For tickets or more information call (888) 747-4589, or visit www.nlca.com.



Images of God: Thursday Bible Study    

     The second session of Thursday Bible Study is underway and runs through December 17.  The study, “Images of God,” is led by Vicar Anna Helgen and explores how we talk about God through the language of image and metaphor. The sessions will reflect on common images of God and
participants will have the opportunity to share a creative presentation of an image of God that speaks to them.

     The sessions begin with a light supper at 6:00 p.m.



Fair Trade Sale
     The Missions Committee will host a fair trade sale again this year.  Purchase beautiful and unique fair trade items made by artisans in developing regions around the world.  These items are available from SERRV, a non-profit fair trade organization whose mission is to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.

     The handcrafted fair trade items will be available for purchase after each liturgy on December 6, 13, and 20 (cash and check only).  See the attachment /insert to view some of the items that will be for sale and to read an artisan’s story.  Fair trade coffee, chocolate and other food products from Equal Exchange through Lutheran World Relief’s Coffee Project will also be available. 

     This is not a fund-raiser, just an opportunity to buy good products for a good cause. 



Book Discussion Group Update
     Mount Olive’s Book Discussion Group meets on the second Saturday of each month, at 10:00 am in the West Assembly Area at church. All readers are welcome!  For the December 12 meeting they will read The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. For the January 16 meeting they will read, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.



Advent Centering Prayer
     All are welcome to participate in an opportunity for contemplation during the season of Advent.
     Centering prayer will be offered on Wednesday during Advent, from 6-6:30 pm, in the north transept (near the columbarium) prior to Advent Vespers services, beginning December 2.

     New to Centering Prayer? Each session begins with a short instruction. A brief reading from the Psalms and the sound of a bell will signal the beginning of a 20-minute period of silent contemplation. The bell will then signal the end of the session which will end with the Lord's Prayer. 

     Questions? Call Sue Ellen Zagrabelny at 612-875-7865.



News From the Neighborhood
Anna Scott, Coordinator of Neighborhood Outreach & Ministry


Our Neighborhood
Mount Olive sits on the border between two Minneapolis neighborhoods: Central and Powderhorn. The borders of Central are Lake St. to the North, 35W to the West, 38th St. to the South, and Chicago Ave. on the East. Powderhorn is also Lake St. to the North, Chicago Ave. to the West, 38th St. to the South, and suns over to Cedar Ave. to the East. This puts us in a wonderful spot to positively impact two vibrant communities. Here are a few statistics to help better understand who the people are living here.

                                Powderhorn Park               Central
Population:               8,529 people                     8,307 people
Ethnic makeup:        4% American Indian         2.2%
                                 1% Asian                           3.6%
                                 13% African American     25.1%
                                 26% Latino                       44.4%
                                52% White                         21.1%
            ** 51.2% speak another language other than English at home

Median Income:        $44,979 (42% below $35,000/y)    $47,505 (37% below $35,000 year)
Housing:                 1,686 Owners                   1,021 Owners
                                1,560 Renters                   1,201 Renters

     We are diverse, multi-generational, and urban.
     What stresses us out: Struggling urban diversity (racial tensions and competition), struggling urban life (more expensive, less safe), struggling black households (avg. income for black family went down last year)
     This is information that gives us better understanding of our neighbors and ourselves. Please pray for our neighborhood (Central and Powderhorn Park) throughout Advent as we continue to seek God’s will in the opportunities we have to be the presence of God and in the presence of God.

 
Thank you for the continuing donations of food, coats, hats, mittens and scarves. The coats will be distributed here at Mount Olive and also sent over to the Central Lutheran Church Free Store - a great place to send household items, good clothes (large men's sizes and belts!), etc. The food and offering received at the Thanksgiving Eucharist will go to Sabathani Community Center on 38th and 4th Ave. and to Community Emergency Services (CES) on Franklin and 11th Ave.



Alternative Gift Giving
     Are you looking for something different to do this year for Christmas gifts?  Take part in a growing tradition by giving gifts that help those in need.  The Missions Committee is promoting the idea of alternative gift giving this Christmas.  For example, in honor of a loved one, you can buy playground toys for refugee children in Kenya through Lutheran World Relief.  We have catalogues from different charitable organizations that you can use or you can order from the organizations’ websites. 

Some of these organizations are:
•    Lutheran World Relief:    http://lwrgifts.org
•    Heifer Project International:   http://www.heifer.org
•    Common Hope : http://commonhopecatalog.myshopify.com
•    Bethania Kids:   http://bethaniakids.org/creative-giving-catalog
•    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: www.elca.org/goodgifts

(We will have ornaments during the fair trade sale that you can use to make a donation).



Youthlink Donations

     I am again collecting donations of clothing items and toiletries for homeless teens.  The following items are most needed currently by homeless teens who are living on the street; Travel size toiletries, adult sized winter clothing, jackets, coats, men's jeans, hand and foot warmers, and thinner gloves. 
     Please leave any donations in the coat room in a bag labeled "Youthlink"  by Sunday Dec. 13.  If you have any questions, please contact Julie Manuel at julie.a.manuel@gmail.com or 612-695-6198.



 Yes, You Can Make a Difference!
 
     Restoration 2015 is mostly going into hibernation, with the approach of winter. Most of the masonry and roof repair is complete. About one-third of the stained glass windows will have new protective glass.  Our beautiful church will be safe and sound for the winter. The remaining work will be completed as soon as the arrival of spring allows.

     Here’s something you need to know: In the past few months, around $36,000.00 in
“over and above” giving has been contributed toward Restoration 2015. These special gifts make a huge difference. We have budget-ed funds to cover the interest on our building loan, so special gifts like these directly reduce the amount that is borrowed.

     If year-end donations are something you are considering, think of making one toward Restoration 2015 also. Be sure to mark your envelope or check with the words “Restoration 2015.”      
     Thank you!!



Minneapolis Area Interfaith Initiative December Program
     MAII  holds monthly educational programs at the Southdale Library.  All who are interested in inter-faith dialogue and relations are welcome to attend.

     Their next program is this Sunday, December 6, at 2 pm. It will be held in the Ethel Berry Room of the Southdale Library, 7001 York Ave. S. in Edina. The program is free of charge.
This month's program, "Interfaith Landscape in the Twin Cities," will be presented by The Rev. Dr. Tom Duke.

     Rev. Duke is the founder of Saint Paul Interfaith Network (SPIN), former Executive Director of the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches (now Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul), and former pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the Midway in St. Paul.  Rev. Duke will discuss the history of interfaith relations in the Twin Cities, ways that faiths have worked together, the current situation and thoughts for the future.

     Presented by MAII (Minneapolis Area Interfaith Initiative).
 

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

Copyright 2014 Mount Olive Lutheran Church