Dear friends and members of Resurrection,
I believe this is the time for our individual and collective hope and imagination! We have been living through the waiting time: the time for staying safely at home and being physically distanced. Something new is coming: what exactly it will be, is yet to be determined.
What seems clear, is that it will not be a return to the old ways. We will need to patiently and creatively live into our new future. This will call on each of us to try new things, to be open to changing long held practices and dream new possibilities.
I invite each of you to deliberately write down what you have learned during these weeks of intentional separation. What have you observed that has encouraged you? What have you most missed? What do you hope will last when we are able to gather together again?
How have you experienced God's presence? What has strengthened your faith? What goodness have you experienced in your life?
When we are able to gather back together, I hope to hold “listening circles” where we share our experiences and insights with one another. We do not want to lose what we have learned during this extraordinary time.
This is a time that has reminded us that we are one world of fragile, vulnerable human beings. But also that we are beings created in the image of God with great possibility for courage and self-sacrifice. Differences that used to seem so significant have been like smoke. The nationality or race or religion of a person does not matter. The age, health or income of a person does not matter. Each person is vulnerable to the ravages of this virus and each person is capable of contributing to the common good or ill of us all.
Begin to imagine what you think our life together will look like in the months ahead. How do you see us gathering for worship and other communal events? What will school look like for our children? What will social gatherings for holidays and other celebrations be like?
What values are most important to us as a community that is committed to following Jesus? Will the well-being of the most vulnerable be clear in the decisions we make?
This feels like a birth to me. Like something new is about to be born after the waiting and labor pains. And there will be no going back. We will have this new life among us that will be an incredible blessing and wonder—though sometimes tiring and disruptive. But it will be God's “yes” to the continuance of life and love.
As with a birth, ready or not-here it comes! As with a new life, we will learn how to receive and nurture it along the way. Family of God, may we be open to this new life, and be willing and creative co-creators of it with God.
With hope and longing,
Pastor Mary's Blog
“O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”
Dear friends and members of RLC,
These words from Psalm 51 are the first words spoken in the church's traditional morning prayer service. In religious communities, these were to be the first words spoken together each morning.
I learned of this practice back when I was in college and would attend morning prayer in the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University. As a personal discipline, I would avoid speaking until I had gone to worship and sung these beautiful words.
These days, in the isolation of my own home, I find myself returning to this practice. I sit in my chair by the window with a hot cup of coffee and utter these words aloud: O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
It is a way of orienting myself to the coming day, of praising God for what is before me, of praying that what comes out of my mouth is praise. I invite you to try this practice yourself and see if it changes the way you view the day before you.
Macrina Wiederkehr, a woman who has lived monastic life for more than forty years with the sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas, offers this guidance for morning prayer in her book, Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day.
"Gently lay your hands upon your lips, longing for the grace to speak only words that are helpful this day. Remember the words that you have already spoken. You cannot take them back. Bless them and let them go.
O Word Made Flesh, stand guard at the gate of my mouth. Be my voice this day that the words I speak will be healing, affirming, true, and gentle. Give me wisdom to think before I speak. Bless the words in me that are waiting to be spoken. Live and abide in my words so that others will feel safe in my presence. Surprise me with the words that have come from you. Oh, place my words in the kiln of your heart that they may be enduring and strong, tempered and seasoned with love and resilience. Give me a well-trained tongue that has been borne out of silent listening in the sanctuary of my heart. May my words become love in the lives of others."
I know it is easy to feel disconnected in these days of social distancing, but there are still ways we can connect with one another through words: written or spoken. And there is power in the words we speak. Perhaps your words of encouragement, of solidarity, of comfort, may be just what another person needs today.
At the conclusion of the traditional morning prayer service, the following prayer is often said. I share it with you for your own meditation and prayer:
"O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
With praise on my lips and love in my heart,
As we struggle with being isolated let us reflect on these questions above. Let's turn anxiety into hope!
Let us also continue to keep Tanzania in our prayers. We received this message a few days ago from our partners there.
"A Tanzanian visited a person in Belgium with the virus, has returned to Tanzania (Arusha), and is currently hospitalized with a positive test result for the virus. It is also in Kenya and Rwanda--and probably other neighboring countries even as I write this--all changes so quickly. We have also been told that all Tanzanian schools are shut down beginning tomorrow for 30 days. Let us pray that early and significant containment measures like this will prevent the kind of spread we are seeing here."
As we continue to pray for our sisters and brothers in Tanzania let us say this prayer together:
Merciful God, your healing power is everywhere about us. Strengthen those who work among the sick; give them courage and confidence in all they do. Encourage them when they are overwhelmed with many pressing needs or when their efforts seem futile. Increase their trust in your power to bring life and wholeness even in the midst of death and pain and crying. May they be thankful for every sign of health you give, and humble before the mystery of your healing grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Stay healthy and remember that you can reach out if you are in need of anything!
Dear members of RLC,
As I said in my previous email, the situation with the coronavirus is fluid and changing rapidly. In light of the most recent information sent to me by our Bishop, Paul Erickson, I have make the decision to cancel worship and all other activities at RLC for the month of March.
It may be that this timeframe will need to be extended, but we will do that when it becomes necessary. April 5 is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week: we will hold out hope that we will be able to remember these events in Jesus’ life in a communal setting. However, if not, we will do so connected spiritually in prayer and, to the best of our ability, through social media.
You will soon be sent information about a phone tree: we are asking that you all participate so that we can stay in contact with one another, especially those who live alone or have health issues.
Also, continue to check our webpage for updates and a place to interact and share prayer requests.
I chose the name Ubuntu over 10 years ago. It is a word that reminds us that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us. It means that “I am because we are”. This time in our collective history reminds us of the same thing. We are in this together. We are blessed to be a blessing.
God has and will continue to find a way to bring blessing, even through the coronavirus pandemic.
Peace and love,
Pastor Mary Ubuntu
Dear friends and members of RLC,
In the calendar of the church year, we have crossed over into Lent. It is a 40-day season preceding Easter: a season for Christians across the world to intentionally focus on Jesus and follow him in ever deeper ways.
The traditional practices of Lent have included repentance, fasting, prayer, and works of love. These practices have not been aimed at making Christians “good enough” to receive God's salvation, but aware enough of how good the God is who freely offers salvation.
It seems to me that so much of what we have been taught about God over the years has to be “unlearned” as we live this life. I, for one, was taught that God was all-powerful: in control of all that happened. Over the years, as life has presented one unfair situation after another, this belief has been challenged. Does God really cause or allow all the horrible things that happen? Could God stop them if that was God's desire?
Or do some things happen on this earth that break God's heart?
I know some things happen that break my heart. And I know that when they do, it is the strength and presence of God that gets me through.
It is the example of Jesus—the way he lived and loved and forgave and trusted—that gives me direction. I am inspired to follow him—but more than that, I am transformed over and over, bit by bit, more and more into his image.
It seems to me that this is the heart of the mystery which is the Christian faith. We living people together make up his living body in the world-now. And it isn't that we escape the unfairness and pain of the world, or understand it, but rather—with Christ—bear it and are not overcome.
How do we bear the unbearable? With Christ.
He is the one who hung on a cross dying and prayed for God to forgive the very ones who put him there.
He is the one who died and three days later was raised from the dead.
He is the one who promises that just as we are united with him in death, so too we will be united with him in never-ending life.
How did he bear the unbearable? Through intentional, transforming love.
He chose love instead of hate. He chose forgiveness instead of revenge. He chose hope instead of defeat.
Perhaps this Lent, as we struggle to bear what is unbearable in our own lives or in the life of this world, we can do so, following the example of Jesus. Choosing intentional, transforming love. And in the process, we may find that we are the ones transformed. We may discover joy where we only saw sorrow. We may find hope where we thought it was lost for good. We may discover life even in the ashes of death.
As a spiritual discipline this Lent—for the sake of experiencing the presence and goodness of God—I invite you to do acts of intentional kindness for others or for yourself. Do them to remember or honor or transform your losses and pain. Allow something beautiful to come to be through what was only dark and ugly.
There is an international program called the Kindness Project that was begun in the 1990's as a mother's way to remember and honor her baby who had died. And to transform what seemed like a meaningless death into something beautiful. The program has flourished and millions of acts of random kindness have been done in service of the transformation of the doers. And the blessed memory of those who have died.
The feedback that the Kindness Project has received has been overwhelming. Those who have participated, as well as those who have received the acts of kindness, have reported astonishing healing and joy.
This year, at Resurrection, we have cards available for you that say: This Random Act of Kindness was done in memory of, or in honor of, or in celebration of.... We invite you to take them, fill them in as you are led, give them anonymously to others as you offer them acts of kindness. Our website address is on the back of the cards and we hope to have an ongoing conversation during these days of Lent about the transformative nature of love, as it is given and received.
As this happens, the living presence of the resurrected Christ is made visible. Together we embody the miracle of life even in the presence of death.
Here's to the journey through the valley of the shadow of death into the place of sunshine and life!
Dear friends and members of RLC,
This past Christmas, our children presented the program, Sleepover at the Stable. In the program, the children played the parts of animals, present at the birth of Jesus.
In preparation for the program, the children received small banks and were invited to collect funds to buy animals for people around the globe through the ELCA Good Gifts initiative. The day of the Christmas program, the children were asked to place their filled banks in the manger: their gift to Jesus.
Several adult members of the congregation also participated and the result was beautiful! RLC was able to purchase 1 fish farm, 3 piglets, 1 goat, 6 flocks of chicks, 2 roosters, 1 hive of honeybees and 2 goats for our partners in Tanzania. Thank you, children, for leading us in this effort!
It was an example of the kind of generous, joy-filled activity that is at the heart of this congregation. Generosity and joy, however, do not always translate to “happy”.
There is great generosity in our sharing of our lives through discussion and prayer on Thursday nights at 6:30 as we reflect on the topics presented in the book by Brene' Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection. All are welcome to attend; there will be three meetings this month: February 6, 13 and 20. For a list of the chapters being discussed each night, please see last month's blog.
Also, there is great generosity in the sharing of time, conversation and a meal as members participate in the Divine Intervention Homeless Ministries on behalf of us all. Hold all involved in this ministry in prayer and sign-up to help out as you are able.
The season of Lent begins this month on Wednesday the 26th. What we remember during this season is Jesus' generous gift of his very life. Following Jesus, we are invited to “spend” our lives in loving service to one another. This year, we will encourage acts of kindness as our spiritual discipline for Lent. Rather than giving up something for Lent, you will be invited to take on specific acts of kindness. Listen for more information as the month progresses.
The kind of generosity and joy that include a very happy celebration will be on full display on Sunday, February 23rd. RLC celebrates “Fat Sunday” on this day at a potluck meal following worship. All are welcome! Bring a dish to share and join in the festival celebration!
Visitors: if you want to speak with me more about this place, please contact me at email@example.com or at 262-930-2726. Members: watch out for each other. If someone has been absent for a while, reach out and check on them. Remember those who grieve: their pain and sorrow continues. You do not have to “say the right thing” but simply be present in love.
Peace, my friends,
Dear friends and members of Resurrection,
As we move into a new year—and even a new decade—many of us will be making resolutions. I have one I would like to suggest: embrace the gifts you receive because of your imperfection!
That sounds counterintuitive: most of us think about our imperfection as that which should be “fixed.”
But I am encouraging you to look at what you offer to the world because of your “broken places.”
To aid in such reflections, I will be leading a teen/adult study based on the book by Brene' Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection. We will meet three Thursdays in January and three Thursdays in February from 6:30-8:00p.m.
The schedule is listed below. The book is available at Amazon or at Barnes and Noble. I hope you will consider joining this conversation!
Also, if any of you are available on Tuesday mornings from 9:15-10:30, we offer a bible study at Resurrection. The group meets three weeks each month; check the calendar on our webpage to see when we will be meeting, usually it is the first three Tuesdays of each month.
If you have been away from church for awhile, I invite you to come back. “Perfect attendance” is not required, any more than a perfect life! But this is a place where you are likely to find your relationship with God and with others will grow in the midst of your imperfections. Worship is every Sunday at 9:15 am. If you need a ride to get here or want to talk about some aspect of your life, please call the church (262)-786-8880 or call me (262)-930-2726.
And for those of you with young children, we offer First Sunday Sunday School on the first Sunday of each month immediately after worship. This gathering includes a snack, craft and Bible study. And children are always welcome in worship! We have “Blessing Bags” available at the entrance to the sanctuary to help keep young children occupied and have a children's sermon nearly every week. We do not mind a little extra noise and movement in worship! It is such a blessing to all of us to have children of God of all ages present!
Hope to see you at worship and perhaps at one or more of our educational offerings!
Peace and joy,
Pastor Mary Ubuntu
Dear friends and members of RLC
As we enter December, I want to call your attention to our upcoming Kids' Christmas Program: Sleepover at the Stable. In this program, our children and youth will “become” the animals that were present in the stable at Jesus' birth. We will hear the story from the perspective of these humble ones--present, but often overlooked.
This seems especially appropriate as we remember the story of this humble family: Mary, Joseph and Jesus. And as we remember the ones whom this Jesus continually held up as precious to God: the unseen, the unheard, the discarded, the despised.
The gift that God gave to the world was a helpless baby who needed others to survive, who grew up poor, who died young—and yet, was the means through which God saved the world from all which separated it from life itself, including death.
In response to this incredible gift, we give gifts to one another, including to those whose needs are great. This year, our children are invited to give gifts of animals through the ELCA World Hunger program to people around the globe whose lives can be changed by the reception of a goat, some chicks, honeybees or a piglet.
The children received “God's Global Barnyard” banks at Sunday School in November (if they have misplaced them, there are more available in the narthex) along with a list of the prices of various animals and other gifts they can offer. I am asking that the children fill these banks before the December 22nd Christmas Program and bring them as their offering at the Program.
If any of you reading this wish to make a contribution toward animals for poor families around the globe, you are welcome to participate. We will see what kind of menagerie we assemble at the Christmas Program on December 22nd!
Another way you can offer gifts to local folks who need help with the necessities of life is to provide gift cards for me to share: gas cards, Pick'n'Save, Walgreens and Walmart cards are most needed.
Christmas is a time of year that holds memories for most of us-many of them beautiful, some tinged with great sadness and longing. I wish you the love of others, light in the darkness, the presence of God's peace and joy.
You are invited to participate in worship on both Thursday, December 19th at 6:30 when we have our Longest Night Christmas Service as well as on Tuesday December 24th at 5:30 when we hold our service of Lessons and Carols. Holy Communion will be served at both of these worship services.
Whatever your circumstances this particular year, know that you are loved with an everlasting love by the God who creates, saves and guides us out of darkness into light.
Dear friends and members of RLC,
On Sunday, November 3, the church will celebrate All Saints Day. This is a day on which we remember those we have loved who have died. Yet we do not remember as those who have no hope, for we trust that the promise of Jesus is true: that when we are united with him in a death like his, we are also united with him in a resurrection like his. And so, we are freed to both grieve our loved ones' absence while also celebrating their presence in the “community of saints”
This year, you will receive slips of paper as you enter the worship space. You are invited to write the names of any people you would like remembered aloud in worship. Please prayerfully hold onto these papers until you are invited forward by the dancers to place these names on the altar. A bit later in the service, they will be gathered together and read aloud.
The dance during the All Saints service will be to a song by the Irish songwriter/singer, Damien Rice. It is a song called Trusty and True. The first time I heard it, I told my son that if I could choose a song to have playing while I died, this would be the one
The first half of the song speaks to me of the distance between my intentions and the actuality of my actions. So many times in life, I meant to do or be far more than I accomplished or was. This includes in my relationships with those I have loved who have died. But-as the song reminds us-”we can't take back what is done, what is past, so let us start from here.”
Maybe this also captures some of what you feel when you remember those who have died—regret as well as love—and the decision (hard as it is some days) to start from here.
The second half of the song speaks to me of the graciousness of God who says, “come, come with fear, come with love, come however you are, just come.” During this part of the song, you will be invited to come forward to the altar and lay the names of your loved ones on this holy table. You are also invited to lay any regrets or pain you feel down on that table. You are invited to “come with sorrow and songs, come however you are, just come.”
When we gather a bit later in the service around the altar to share the “holy community” meal, let your heart imagine the presence of those we have named. They are not gone; their life in Christ is simply being lived in the fullness of the presence of God, as will ours one day when we too are gathered with our ancestors.
In the meantime, we are living as those who have already died and been raised. We have been united with Christ through baptism into death and resurrection: one day our life on this earth will be done and this body's work will be finished and then we will be given a new resurrection body, fit for the kingdom of God where our resurrection life will continue.
We are all “more” because of our relationships—including those we have with loved ones who have died. May their blessed memory be shared among us with tears and with joy. And may we live fearless lives in Christ until we too come fully into his presence.
Peace, Pastor Mary
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.