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, email@example.com.
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”.
Dear friends and family of Resurrection,
A new church year is about to begin. Unlike the calendar year, the church year begins four weeks before Christmas with Advent: a season whose designated color is blue-- the color of hope.
I don't know about you, but I am ready for some hope!! This time of year is filled with so many precious traditions and memories, most of them involving celebrations with family and friends.
While many of these traditions will be modified this year, they can still be meaningful and help remind us of the source of our hope: Jesus-- God's love born among us!
Here at RLC, our theme to unite our prayers and worship this year is: Journey into the Light. Most of you have or will be receiving an Advent devotional by that name. Each day, there is a devotion to help you journey with hope toward the light of Christ. If you have not received one and wish to, please email the church office.
You have also received, via email, a guide for making an Advent wreath. Our hope is that you will daily light the candle(s) on your wreath and read the devotion. If you are able to access our web page, I will be leading that devotion online each day to help us feel connected to one another in Christ's light.
In addition, Wednesday evening prayer will be available. We have recorded the Holden Evening Prayer Service using as many candles as possible! As you watch the recording and sing along from home, I hope you are filled with the longing and hope of the season. Christ was born for us and for the whole beloved world. He is with us even now when it seems so dark. And he will come again when the time is right and all will be transformed and gathered together in light and life.
On Thursday, December 17, at 6:30 p.m. we will be live-streaming The Longest Night Christmas service. This is a Christmas service that is designed to enable us to worship Christ while simultaneously mourning our losses. We know that many of you have lost loved ones this past year and been unable to recognize that loss in a traditional way. We hope this worship service will allow you to do that as you watch from home, lighting a candle and saying your loved one's name out loud.
We will also record a Christmas Day service that includes many of our favorite joy-filled Christmas carols. This will be available, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Christmas morning.
On Christmas Eve, many of us will miss our traditional gathering at church with a service of lessons and carols. However, there will be an opportunity to gather briefly outside on Christmas Eve. We are inviting you to come, dressed warmly, and gather around a huge bonfire that will be lit in our field. There we will hear the Christmas story and then sing Silent Night by the light of that fire.
This will not be a long service, but it will be memorable. It may be one of the things that our children will tell their children about in years to come! The light of Christ will blaze brightly!
Finally, on January 6—the day of Epiphany, following the twelve days of Christmas, we will follow another ancient tradition and gather together once more outside around a great fire. Those of you who put up real Christmas trees are invited to bring them to be used as part of that blaze. When the fire is out, some of the ashes will be gathered and used on our foreheads when Ash Wednesday arrives.
Many things change; the church year reminds us that Christ does not. The seasons cycle around and find us in different places, but the living word of God heard in the life of Jesus speaks to us anew and brings us messages of hope and glimpses of light even in the midst of our current realities.
Praying with and for you in hope and light and love,
Dear friends and members of RLC,
These are strange days we are living through. My Dad, who is 92, says he has never lived through such a time as this: one so fraught with loneliness, anxiety and greed. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, despondent.
Yet as people of faith, we trust that God walks with us—even through such days. And we trust that God can bring something beautiful even out of this darkness.
“We have come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in his holy word, he's never failed us yet.” This has been our theme for the past several weeks at Resurrection. It has been a good reminder to me to remember where we have been and so, to hope for where we are going.
It is lonely living physically distanced from one another. I miss being able to gather safely in large groups. I miss worshipping with all of you in person. Yet, I know that we are doing what is necessary at this time to protect one another. I know that by God's Holy Spirit we are connected. I know that this will not last forever.
And I am aware of how blessed we are to live in a time of advanced technology. It matters that we are able to talk with one another on the telephone, to e-mail each other, connect on social media. It matters that we are able to record our worship services and play them each week. And we have been blessed by an anonymous gift to our congregation to update our recording capabilities. Even as I write, new equipment is being installed. It is true that we sometimes feel lonely; but the truth is that we are never alone.
As for anxiety, it is like it floats in the air we breathe. There is so much unknown. When will this pandemic end? Will my loved ones survive it? Will I? Will I find another job? Will my kids and grandkids get a good education? Will we citizens of the United States ever feel united?
As such questions swirl in my brain, I force myself to do a simple exercise. I breathe and repeat the following: “Breathe in the Holy Spirit, breathe out fear and doubt.” I visualize my fears and doubts floating away. I remember that I have all I need at that moment, that I am a beloved child of God, filled with God's Spirit.
And as for greed, it is easy to feel as if people only want to take care of themselves. Our unwillingness to inconvenience ourselves for the well-being of one another by wearing a mask, staying physically distanced, avoiding large gatherings, can be discouraging.
Yet remembering the generosity of the members of RLC through this very difficult year can act as a remedy. I have been inspired these past few weeks as I have reflected with you in worship about RLC's support of Divine Intervention Ministries, Journey's Lutheran School, Outreach for Hope, Kikwe and Kaarangai parishes in Tanzania, the New Berlin Food Pantry. We, as a congregation, have not let fear rule us, but rather have lived from faith.
I pray that we will make our pledges toward next year's ministry from the place of faith. Faith that knows 2020 will not last forever. That God who creates us has a future and a hope for us.
Sometimes it feels like loneliness, anxiety and greed define us. They do not. Faith, hope and love do. For they are of God-- and so are we.
Peace, my friends,
Dear Friends and Members of Resurrection,
The diagnosis of President Trump and First Lady Melania with COVID-19 was a grim reminder that this coronavirus draws no distinction between rich and poor or powerful and weak. The First Lady had mild symptoms. President Trump had to be hospitalized. He has had the benefit of the best healthcare possible. Not all those afflicted with COVID-19 have been so blessed. In fact, a disproportionate share of the poor and people of color have suffered the consequences of the coronavirus. We pray for full recovery of President Trump, Melania, and all afflicted with COVID-19. Our hearts go out especially to those who have lost loved ones to this deadly virus.
The affliction of the President and so many in his administration with COVID-19 has been a reminder in a negative way of what can happen when we do not follow what Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), refers to as the three “W’s”: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Watch your distance. A couple of days ago on CNN Christopher Murray of the University of Washington said that their COVID-19 model is forecasting another 200,000 deaths by the end of the year. When asked what could be done to lower that number, the first thing he said was “Wear a mask.” Right now just under 50% of the populace is following the guidance on when to wear masks. If 95% of Americans would follow the guidelines on mask-wearing, 86,000 lives would be saved in the next three months. Wearing a mask seems like such a small sacrifice to save so many lives.
Some were hoping that the President’s bout with the coronavirus would serve as a wake-up call for him. So far that does not seem to be the case. We may wish that he would take the lead in calling for a comprehensive, effective strategy to address the pandemic we are mired in. We may wish that he would at least consistently wear a mask. But we have to deal with the actual President before us. No matter what happens in the Presidential election, he will be the President for these next three months when 200,000 more people are predicted to die of COVID-19 in our nation. We may grow weary in doing what we need to do when so many around us are not. But the irresponsibility of those around us does not excuse us from doing the right thing. At the very least we can wear a mask, wash our hands, and watch our distance. Lives are depending on it.
Until we work together, listen to the advice of the scientists and take this pandemic seriously, we will be unable to return to anything like “life as normal”. The Wisconsin Council of Churches and the Greater Milwaukee Synod recommend that virtual worship in congregations continue as the norm at least until the middle of November. We miss one another. We miss gathering in person for worship. However, we are called by Jesus to do what is best for the most vulnerable among us. We are able to praise God and pray together even while being physically distanced. Please do what you are able to contain this virus. This is not about political affiliation, but about loving your neighbor as you love yourself.
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.