Dear friends and members of Resurrection Lutheran,
March 2nd is Ash Wednesday this year—the day our journey into Lent begins. Many of us grew up viewing Lent as the season when we “gave up” something, when music was dreary, and preaching was harsh. And yet, this season is meant to be the time when we live most deeply into the fullness of love, love given by Jesus to the whole world, even to those who did not love him back.
How did we lose the mercy and unconditional love of this season? How did we reduce it to giving up chocolate? Why do we spend so much time looking at our sinfulness and not our blessedness? Why is it so much easier, in our private moments, for us to name what is wrong with us rather than what is right?
I think it is because we have our eyes looking in the wrong direction. And surely, the church throughout the ages, is partly to blame. We look inward at ourselves and see all the flaws, all the failings, all the ways we have lived as “less than.” Instead, I think Lent is meant to remind us to look outward at Jesus, who knows everything there is to know about each one of us and still walks toward the cross, proclaiming that we are worth it.
This unconditional love is given to us and expressed in many different ways. In the church, we baptize people—even babies—not because of what they do or believe, but because God claims them as God's own and declares that they are one with Jesus. When God looks at us, God sees a beloved child as surely as when God looks at Jesus.
We are called, through what we say and do, to be those through whom the unconditional love of God flows. The focus is not to be on us, but on the God we point others to.
A sidenote: the recent story about the Roman Catholic priest who “invalidly” baptized people by using the “wrong” words is a clear example of the church focusing on the wrong direction. The declaration by the church that these baptisms are “invalid” puts the focus and power on the priest rather than on the God whose gifts flow through the priest.
There are not “magic words” that make a baptism “work.” This is the same kind of thinking that led to the Reformation in the 16th century. God's grace, God's unconditional love, is not conditioned by the conduct or words of the purveyor of that grace.
You and I can be those through whom God's love flows. It is not because we live perfect lives, but because God loves and works through imperfect people. We are holy because God is with us and shines through us.
So as Lent begins this year, I invite you to look outward toward Jesus and only then, inward toward the beloved person for whom Jesus was willing to die. Let yourself be overwhelmed, not by your failures, but by God's abundant mercy and love.
Your imperfect, beloved sister in Christ,
Dear friends and members of Resurrection,
I don't know about you, but I am often confused when I hear about “Christians” backing certain
political candidates or policies. I am tired of being identified with a kind of “Christianity” that I do not
believe in or practice. I don't see much that points to a group of people trying to follow Jesus and—at
this point in my life—that is all I care about when it comes to this faith journey.
The Christian faith, as I understand it, is about the invitation to know God at a very personal and
accessible way through Jesus. We can read about Jesus in the Bible and learn how he lived his life and
we can pray to him and receive his living presence in our lives. This relationship is saving in that it
frees us from the fear of whether we are loved, whether we are good enough, whether we can trust the
one who has given us the gift of this life for whatever comes next.
I do not believe that the Christian faith is exclusive or condemns anyone. I also know that there are
many Christians who do not agree with me.
As many of you know, I was raised in a white evangelical Protestant church where altar calls and
required witnessing were a part of our weekly life together. There was much fear about judgment and
hell. The God presented in this version of Christianity had made a very narrow way to escape eternal
damnation for a very few. I was afraid of this God and struggled to feel the kind of certitude and
gratitude that our minister called us to.
This kind of Christianity is on the rise in our country today. I think we should all understand what its
basic components are: 1) the Bible is the inerrant Word of God—it is meant to be read literally, 2)
every person must accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and be born again, 3)
Christianity is the the only way that leads to eternal salvation, 4) each Christian is to share the message
about Jesus with the goal of converting others.
None of these four components are a part of the self-understanding of the branch of Lutheran
Christianity (ELCA) that we belong to.
In the ELCA we read the Bible as a collection of writings through which God's living Spirit continues
to guide us. It is improper to read the Bible literally—we do not live in the time or place in which it
was written. However, we learn from our ancestors' experiences of God as we pray and struggle to
discern what God is calling us to in our time and place. Our faith is not in the Bible, but in the God the
Bible points us toward. We act in our context, not certain that we are “right”, but certain that God is
loving and forgiving and calls us to act.
We trust this about God because of Jesus. We believe that Jesus was the clearest “word” that God has
spoken to the world and so, we read the whole Bible through the lens of his life. We interpret stories
that attribute certain actions and attitudes to God based on their congruence with what Jesus revealed
about God in his life, death and resurrection.
This revelation includes the consistent testimony that all people are beloved of God. Jesus, over and
over again, goes out of his way to notice, speak to, help, and include those who are overlooked--
especially by the religious insiders. He invites them into a relationship of love with the God he calls
Father. He does not issue threats about their need to accept him as their personal lord and savior in
order to be loved by God. He helps them see the truth about themselves: they are already loved and
valued by their creator—as is.
While we in the ELCA do believe that Jesus is a pathway to God, we do not automatically discount the
possibilities of other pathways. We are grateful for the invitation we have received to know God
through Jesus and so, we nurture and strengthen that relationship through many means. However, we
do not think that we are “right” and others who do not hold our same beliefs are “wrong”. We look to
the actions a person's beliefs lead them to in order to evaluate the worth of their religious beliefs.
Hence, we do not share our faith in order to convert others as though it is their only hope of salvation.
Rather, we share our faith because it is such good news—too good to keep to ourselves. We announce
that everyone is beloved by the God who created all that is. We work together with people of all
religions or no religions in the faith that we are already children of God, members of the same family.
The faith of those of us who know God through Jesus is meant to set us free to serve one another,
without fear or judgment.
That is not what I see happening in our country today. Many who claim the title “Christian” are
elevating certain groups of people over others, are accepting and even supporting leaders who belittle
others. There is fear being spread regarding people of different races or nationalities or religions.
I am tired of divisiveness. I am tired of people fighting and calling each other names. I am tired of one
group elevating itself by denigrating others.
I no longer will identify as a Democrat or a Republican. If forced to say, I will claim only to be a
citizen of the world. For now, anyway, these former titles do not explain a position but rather, seperate
people, one from the other.
I choose not to participate in such separation. That does not mean I will disengage from the process of
ordering our life together in this country. However, I will do so based on what I perceive will help this
world to thrive, to be a place where people of all abilities and incomes, races and religions, will have
enough to live a full life.
My participation will be directly influenced by my faith that God has made this whole world and loves
every part of it. No human being is of more importance than any other, nor is any country. There is no
value in making America great over and against Tanzania or Mexico or Israel or Palestine.
I am a citizen of the world who is trying to follow Jesus in living a life of compassion, mercy, inclusive
love. Beyond that, I claim no other identifying titles.
Your beloved sister in Christ,
Dear friends and members of Resurrection,
As October begins, there are several upcoming opportunities I would like to bring to your attention. On
Tuesday mornings, Oct. 5, 12, and 19, from 10-11a.m., we will be holding in-person Bible study in the
multi-purpose room at church, discussing the book, “What is the Bible?” by Rob Bell. He asks such
questions as, Why should we bother with such an ancient book? Isn't it all myths and fairy tales? What
about all that violence? And the contradictions? Isn't it dangerous to take it seriously? Is it inspired? Can
it help us?
All questions regarding the Bible are welcome at our discussions! I have several copies of the book
available for $12. Otherwise, you are able to buy it on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble. I hope you will
consider joining us!
Also, on Thursday nights, beginning October 14 we will be holding a Grief Support Group from 6:30-
8:00p.m. Anyone is welcome to join the group for help in dealing with recent or past losses. While I lead
the group, most of the healing comes through shared vulnerablity and insights that group members offer
to one another. Please let me know if you will be attending so that I can purchase appropriate materials.
My email address is email@example.com.
In October, we will be having guests from our various partnerships present during worship to speak
briefly about the ministry they are doing and the ways we can be involved in that ministry. A chief
characteristic of Resurrection is that we look outward together, beyond our walls, to find ways that we
can participate in making the loving presence of God visible. While our particular partners and
opportunities for service change over time, our commitment to outreach does not. I hope you will be
present in worship during October, as often as possible, to help welcome these guests.
Finally, on Sunday November 7, we will be having a memorial service at 10:00 am for Rose Ellington,
Joannie Lager and Ken Strecker. These beloved members died during the past 18 months and, due to
Covid-19, we were unable to hold services to remember their lives and commend them publicly to God's
eternal care. This Sunday, in the church year, is All Saints Sunday. It seems an appropriate Sunday to
hold this service. If you have any pictures of these friends or other items that you would like us to display
during the service, please bring them to the church by October 31.
While we will not be collecting or reading a list of all of our loved ones who have died during this year's
All Saints Day worship, there will be an opportunity for you to light a candle and/or say a silent prayer for
those who you remember on this day. While we cannot “go back” to before the pandemic, we can find
new ways to “tell the old, old, story of Jesus and his love.”
Thank you for your creativity and patience in discovering together these new ways to express our faith in
the God who was, who is, and who is to be. With us. In love. Always.
Dear friends and members of Resurrection,
What keeps you going, day after day? Where do you find the strength you need to keep trying? In the
face of disappointments, where do you find hope?
I think it is worth reflecting on these questions. Identifying what it is that gives us strength and hope can
help us to turn to those people or practices as we continue to face ongoing challenges.
The specific direction of the year ahead with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic is unclear. It is not
“behind us.” As we make plans for the year ahead, we do so with contingency plans in the background.
It can feel overwhelming. For me, it forces me back to my foundations: what and who gives me strength
I know that many have fallen away from organized religion in the past year. No judgement here.
Organized religion has done a lot of harm over the years—often being very vocal about what it is against
and who is excluded.
However, at its best, it has invited people into loving relationships with God and with one another. For
that I am grateful.
In my own life, I grew up in a tradition that spent a lot of time talking about hell and all the sinners who
were going to end up there. I was told to be glad that I wasn't one of them—but I never felt certain that
was true. And, truth be told, I wasn't sure I wanted to go to a heaven run by the kind of God who would
send so many to hell.
When I went to college, I was introduced to the concept of “grace”--freely given, unconditional love. I
was taught about a God who loved all people—sinners included, sinners especially. I began to consider
that maybe I could be saved from all of my fears and heartaches and lies and losses not because I was
good enough, but because God was.
My relationship with God began to change as I began to trust that the gift that was given to the world in
the person, Jesus, was a revealing of the heart and intentions of God. While some of the accounts about
God found in the Bible make God sound vindictive and cruel— Jesus never does so. His ability to
forgive others astounded me and began to transform me.
I found myself being able to let go of some of the hurts that others had done to me, to actually begin to be
curious about what those people's lives would look like if they lived as God hoped. I let go of a lot of my
anxiety about the future: I trusted the God who gave me “now” for whatever “then” might be.
What I am describing is a process that repeats itself many times over in my life. Especially in times of
stress and uncertainty like the ones we are living in now. I talk to this God that I have come to know
through Jesus and I ask for peace and strength. I experience this God's presence in many places,
including in the love and laughter of this community named Resurrection.
Am I certain where we will be as a congregation in 2022 and beyond? No. But I am curious about how
God will work through us and bring unconditional love and forgiveness and inclusion to all. I am
challenged to speak this truth when others, in the name of God, speak words of judgment and exclusion.
And I am hopeful that, one day at a time, God will renew our strength when it falters and will love us
even during our darkest days.
With love and hope,
Dear friends and members of Resurrection,
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You have been amazingly faithful, generous followers of Christ and members of this community of faith throughout this strange time of a world-wide pandemic.
As summer draws toward a close and plans are being made for the fall, there is so much to be grateful for—some of it due to the lessons we have learned during the pandemic.
One of those lessons is that we can use technology to stay connected and to learn—not as a substitute for in person gatherings but as an addition.
Beginning the first week of September, we will embark on a year-long journey through some of our favorite Bible stories—hearing, reading, praying, discussing, asking questions, sharing insights about one story a month. This is meant for all ages and can be done either alone or in small groups.
Much of the material will be sent each Sunday evening via email or our website. There will be an interactive forum where we can share questions and insights with one another!
Then, all are invited to be present at RLC for worship on the last Sunday of every month when we will make that month's Bible story the centerpiece of our reflections. Our hope is that children will complete a craft project that is given for that month and bring it to worship to decorate our space! Sunday School (40 minutes) for all ages will follow worship with snacks and conversation for all on that last Sunday of the month.
Your feedback is essential. This new format will be a “work in progress”. But we have learned that families have found ways to learn around the table with their children. Many of us have had deeper conversations with our families or friends during these past months and we don't want to go back to “busy”. We have taken walks, explored God's beautiful creation, played games together, read more.
And we have connected to resources and to each other using the internet or social media. So, we at RLC are going to try to blend our use of in-person participation and online participation! Try it out in September and give feedback to me or to our Education Chair, Margo Greer, on what is fun and helpful and what we can adjust for the next month.
As a “kick-off” of this program, we will be giving out Bibles to our children and youth on September 5th during worship. I hope as many of you as are able will be present that morning! We will also have a special gift for all the grown-up children of God!
Watch the calendar for other education opportunities: some in person, some via zoom. Any ideas you have for topics or times is welcomed!
We will continue to grow and change together as all living things do. This is the time and the place and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Together, let's grow toward God's vision of the beloved community in which all are valued and included. And let's use what we learn along the way.
With gratitude and love,
Hi friends and members of Resurrection,
I hope your heart is beginning to feel lighter as the dark days of the Covid-19 pandemic are coming toward a close.
It has been a long while since we have been able to gather in person without worrying that we could either spread or receive a disease with the potential to kill each other. How difficult it has been to feel this kind of danger, even among those we love. How much more natural it feels to be able to hold those we love in our arms, and smile and laugh without fear.
At Resurrection, it has been a beautiful thing to be able to gather again in person for worship. We are still being careful of germs: we have hand sanitizer, an air purifier, social distancing and individual fellowship cups for communion. Even so, to see one another in the same space, to sing and pray together, to visit one another after the service—these are amazing blessings! I hope I never take such things for granted again.
As we re-envision our life together going forward, I am asking that each one of you participate in a small reflection group in the multipurpose room at church. Each group will consist of 6-8 people and will focus its conversation around the two questions: What have we lost during this pandemic? What have we learned that we want to remember going forward?
There is an on-line sign-up sheet for these reflection groups on our webpage. Please sign-up for a time that works for you. The group will meet for 90 minutes. Here is the link to that document, Small Group Reflection Sign-up. Your input is really appreciated!
More informally, our Wednesday night parking lot socials will be resuming for the summer. Join in beginning at 6:00 p.m.--bring a chair and food or drink, if you choose, and talk with one another about your life and our life together and our hopes moving forward. Feel free to invite any friends or neighbors to join you!
Our Bible study group which has met on zoom all year will be taking a break for the summer. I would love to hear from any of you interested in participating in a Bible study next fall as to what format you would prefer. We have learned that we have options! Would you want to meet in person at church either in the morning or evening? Or via zoom either morning or evening? Let me know! Your input will help determine our fall schedule!
Our outreach ministry also continues this summer with our participation in the ministries of Divine Intervention Homeless Ministries. We will periodically be preparing bag meals to share with those who live under the bridges of our city, as well as volunteering with the Arts and Science Literacy Camp that meets on the campus of Tippeecanoe Presbyterian Church. Watch for announcements concerning these opportunities!
You have done a beautiful job staying connected to each other via phone/emails/texts/meals. I encourage you to keep doing these things! Love is able to be known and received when it is offered in such concrete ways. Thank you.
Thank you Resurrection Lutheran community for your hope-filled generosity this past year. I am in awe of the many ways ministry has happened in and through us! Praise God!
I look forward to seeing and hearing from all of you in worship and in small reflection groups.
With love and gratitude,
Dear friends and members of Resurrection Lutheran,
As we continue living these seven weeks of the Easter season, the transformative power of the resurrection appears more and more brightly. Life wins!!! Death—and all its destructive power—has been conquered!
There are signs of this promise becoming embodied among us. The horrendous death rates from the coronavirus have gone way down. Many have been able to get vaccinated against this virus. Families and friends are being able to see one another in person and even hug each other!
And we at Resurrection are going to resume in person worship this month! Alleluia!
We are still asking that you observe proper precautions at these gatherings: wash your hands, wear a mask and keep appropriate physical space between you and others. But feel the joy of being together, of having made it through this past year, of bringing all that we are into the healing presence of God.
In the next couple of months, as we live into this new reality, I invite you to be reflective about what you have learned and what you have lost. There will be opportunities to share these reflections in small groups. I hope you will all join in. I believe it will be essential to take the time to acknowledge and grieve our losses before we can truly move forward with joy and purpose.
This congregation is about being real: no need to put on your “church clothes” when you come here. This honesty will aid us on our road to recovery. We don't have to become “busy” right away, but we do need to sit beside one another and pray and cry and laugh. And together ask the question, what next? What is God calling us to next? How have we been changed and prepared for the future?
I imagine those early disciples had to do some of this work. They were filled with joy when they experienced Jesus' resurrection, but their lives were radically changed when Jesus left the earth, leaving them the Holy Spirit and the continuing mission of making God's love known even in the face of powerful hatred.
Now that mission has been passed on to us. Pentecost Sunday—this year on May 23—is the day the church remembers how Jesus gave the Holy Spirit and the Christian church was born. We will celebrate that birthday together with a party after worship on May 23. During worship, we will celebrate Joanna Wick's confirmation, receive new members and reaffirm our baptism. There will also be an opportunity that morning to sign up for one of the small reflection groups.
Pray for one another. Pray that the Holy Spirit lead us into a future that is faithful and filled with great love.
I am so excited and so grateful for the opportunity to be the body of Christ together—in person as well as in spirit!!
If you have any questions or concerns you would like to share with me, please feel free to call or email me: 262-930-2726, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In peace and joy,
Dear friends and members of Resurrection Lutheran,
The forty-day journey of Lent is nearly over. When last I wrote to you, my challenge was to let die what needed to die in your life and let be born what needed to be born.
So where are you? What is changing? Where are we? What is being re-formed?
For many of us, the Covid-19 vaccine has begun to return our lives to “normal”. We are able to be near those we love without fear of making one another ill. When your turn comes to receive the vaccine, I encourage you to do it for the good of all of us.
This Lent, five of our members have shared their stories on Sunday mornings regarding their journeys with particular mental disorders. They have encouraged all of us by their words and brave example to bring into the light the things we hide in the darkness. There need be no shame in mental illness. In this community of faith, we are called to support and love one another. No judgment on another's journey.
The church is preparing to celebrate Easter: the unexpected gift of resurrection following death. This year as I prepare to share the story of Easter, I am aware of the 540,000 people in this country who have died due to the pandemic. The collective grief is heavy. I don't want to speak glibly in the face of this loss.
As I write this, seven mass shootings have happened in this country in the past seven days. 10 dead in Boulder, 6 dead in Atlanta. Scores of others wounded in many ways across this country. Hatred of “the other” on full display.
In our words and actions, we continue to be death-dealing rather than life-giving to one another. It would seem there is more in us that needs to die in order that more in us can be born.
If our celebration of Easter is to be anything more than simply another liturgical observance, we need to live as if Christ died for each person we meet. Each person must matter. African American lives must matter. Asian American lives must matter. LGBTQ lives must matter. Mexican lives must matter. Muslim lives must matter. White-Supremacist lives must matter.
If any are left out, our vision of resurrection is too small.
It hurts me to imagine such a world: it is so vastly different from the one in which we live.
Yet as a person who trusts that God's vision for the world is the vision that matters, that God speaks a word of life and it conquers death, I must step out over and over again in faith and make decisions based on that vision.
My fear of speaking up for those being put down needs to die so that courage can be born. My weariness at how large and how many the problems are needs to die so that a step forward can be born. I (we?) need to let resurrection become the reality that guides my life, not death. Then fear vanishes and hope is born.
Those are my musings as I near the end of this 2021 Lenten journey. I hope for Easter. I hope.
From the grave I say with my ancestors in the faith, “He is not here, for he is risen!”
Dear friends and members of Resurrection,
As hard as it is to imagine, we have lived through an entire church year, physically distanced. When we closed the doors of our building last year, it was Lent. On February 17, we begin Lent 2021 with the observance of Ash Wednesday.
This 40-day season reminds us of other significant times recounted in the Bible: Jesus fasting in the wilderness for 40 days before he began his ministry, Moses on Mt. Sinai for 40 days before the Lord “spoke” the 10 commandments, the people of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years before they entered the Promised Land.
These periods of preparation pushed those living them to their limits. They needed God to come through for them; they were not sure they could endure much more. That is what the number 40 signifies in the Bible.
Lent—the season in the church year when we prepare to face the awful beauty of the cross and resurrection—is meant to push us to our limits, to cause us to realize anew the truth that without God we cannot endure.
This year that truth is not hard to grasp. We have struggled as individuals and as a community to endure. The Ash Wednesday words, “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” have become chillingly obvious.
Yet ashes are not only a reminder of our mortality, but are also a symbol of new beginnings. In the springtime, farmers often burn their fields to prepare the soil for a rich new harvest.
So too, I want us to think about the possibility of new beginnings coming from the ashes of this past year. Can we imagine an abundant harvest coming from the seeds that have been planted? Are there old ways of living that have “burned” to make way for God's newness?
This year, the Ash Wednesday worship service will be recorded and available for you to watch anytime on February 17. In the midst of that liturgy, you will be invited to mark your forehead with a cross while hearing those words, “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
I also want you to hear the words, “child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” For those are the words that were spoken at your baptism when your forehead was marked with a cross of oil.
Both of these truths about the one cross, matter. We are mortal and we are eternal. We die and we live forever. This holy mystery is glimpsed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, where we see the culmination of both hate and of love.
Do not be afraid to enter Lent. You will not walk it alone, though the journey is often lonely. Let it be a time when what needs to die, dies, and what needs to begin anew, begins.
Ash Wednesday 2021. Where will we be 40 days later?
Dear friends and members of Resurrection,
What a year it has been. As we prepare to welcome in 2021, we are saying good-bye to the most unusual year any of us have lived through. Who could have imagined what would occur when we stood on the brink of 2020 one year ago?
One of the messages I have heard from many of you throughout this year is to appreciate the people in your lives and the opportunities before you while you have them, because there are no guarantees. It is sound advice. As many of us have learned, life is a precarious, precious gift.
My prayers are with those of you whose loved ones have died this past year, whether from Covid-19 or any other causes. My prayers are also with those of you whose lives have altered drastically during this year due to health issues, unemployment or isolation. 2020 was a hard year.
Yet, in the midst of the difficulties, there has been true beauty. The generosity of each one of you and of this congregation has been amazing. I, like many of you, wondered how our congregation could survive financially and how we could continue to do ministry together. The weeks apart dragged on into months—what would that mean for the mission of RLC?
We continued to reach out to one another and to the larger community through worship, nurture and outreach. We continued to live out our mission. The countless acts of kindness that you have done for others during these months has been inspiring. I have found great joy in sharing some of those during the weekly “offering” at worship.
Where we have become aware of a need, we have pulled together to address that need, whether it was chrome books for our partners at Journeys School, meals for the beloved Marlins, masks for care facilities, meals for those served by Divine Intervention, baking supplies for the New Berlin Food Pantry—the list is endless—we pulled together and made a difference.
And financially, we have continued to support RLC and our Outreach partners. We are finishing 2020 in a strong financial position and with abundant gifts gathered on “Harvest Sunday” to give away to our neighbors around the community, city and world. Tidings of wonder and joy!
My hope as we move into 2021 is that we do not grow weary of the challenges before us, but hear the call of God to continue to love one another as we are able. I am confident that when we stand on the brink of 2022 in one year, we will do so arm in arm—able to physically be together again, grateful to God's Holy Spirit for bringing us through these days of physical separation.
Until then, do what you are able to express your love and gratitude to one another. Make phone calls, send notes, pray for each other. Join together in worship on Sunday mornings at 10:00a.m. through our live streaming service. Look for the presence of God in your life each day.
As many of you know, my last name, ubuntu, means “I am because we are.” I have never been so certain of the truth of this statement. Or so grateful that you are part of my “we”.
The Rev. Dr. Mary Ubuntu is the spiritual leader of Resurrection Lutheran Church and has served in that capacity since 2003. More on Pastor Mary can be found HERE.