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.
Dear friends and members of RLC,
“We've come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord;
trusting in his holy word, he's never failed us yet.
Oh, can't turn around, we've come this far by faith.”
These words from the hymn, We've Come This Far by Faith, are a reminder to us to keep moving forward, trusting the One who has walked with us every day leading up to this moment.
We never expected the changes that the past year has brought. We members of Resurrection who gathered for Lenten evening prayer on March 11, had no idea that it would be many months before we were able to gather again for in-person worship. Children who began virtual school did not know that it would last through the academic year and play a vital role for many in this present academic year. Jobs that were suspended have ended for many. Visits with friends and relatives have been put on hold.
And yet, here we are; we have come this far by faith. God has not failed us; in fact, many of us have seen signs of God's presence even in the midst of difficult days. And together, we have been able to bear witness to God's never-failing generosity and love.
In past years, we have gathered as a community in October for Harvest Sunday. On that day, we placed gifts intended for our outreach and partner ministries into a wheelbarrow as an act of worship and a celebration of our abundant “harvest” of abundance. Afterward, we gathered for Harvest Faire: a celebration of being together in ministry, with food and games for all!
We will miss being together this October, but the ministries that the funds generously donated that day support continue. And so, this year, we are asking you to again give generously as you are able to the outreach and partner ministries of RLC.
In our neighborhood, we support Hales Corners-based Journeys Lutheran School (formerly Lutheran Special School), a ministry that provides a caring, quality education to children from across the city who have learning challenges. We also support the New Berlin food pantry: a place that provides food to those within New Berlin and Waukesha county who are in need.
City-wide, we support Divine Intervention Ministries, located in the Bay View neighborhood. In the past, this ministry provided overnight shelter and a hot meal to those who were homeless. Because of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic preventing the overnight shelter from operating, this ministry is finding new ways of caring for those without homes. Hot meals are being handed out every Saturday afternoon in a program called “Hungry Hearts.” These meals are purchased each week from three small local restaurants, and so hungry people are fed and local businesses are supported. Watch next week for an eblast outlining specific needs of Divine Intervention for the homeless being served this winter, along with the date and time you can safely drop your donations at RLC..
Another city-wide ministry we support through our support of the Greater Milwaukee Synod (GMS) is Outreach for Hope, a ministry of the GMS that supports seventeen urban ministries within the boundaries of our Synod. One of these ministries is Reformation, a long-time partner of RLC, with whom we have participated in the “R&R Team” raising funds in the annual Outreach for Hope Bike Ride through a joint team in the past. Other supported urban ministries are throughout the city of Milwaukee,Racine and Kenosha.
World-wide, we continue in partnership with Kikwe and Kaarangai parishes in the Meru Diocese of Tanzania. We offer prayers for one another each month, buy coffee to support fair wages for coffee farmers, provide funds that the pastors can use to care for the needs of their parishioners, including the children’s school fees. We hope for the day when we can again visit one another, person-to-person.
We are asking that you prayerfully consider making a donation to these partner ministries of RLCYou will receive a mailing in early November asking for financial donations for outreach work. Our hope is that we will be able to gather on November 15 to worship and make these donations in person, utilizing technology enhancements in the works that would allow us spread out throughout the building. For those of you who do not feel comfortable returning to in-person worship,, RLC’s worship service will continue to be available online through our website on Sunday mornings.
When you receive the appeal mailing, you will also receive stewardship forms requesting your 2021 commitments of time, talent and money. While we are aware that there is still much uncertainty about what the upcoming year will bring, we are asking that you make these pledge commitments from a place of faith. We have come this far by faith; God has never failed us yet. Our council is planning ahead and your commitment forms will help us do that responsibly.
We have been tremendously blessed as a faith community by the steadfastness of your ongoing support, allowing us to have an oversized impact in our neighborhood, city and world through our outreach and partners.
This is no time to turn around and try to return to where we have come from. This is a time to look forward and to step out in faith, trusting that God, who calls us to ministry, will provide what we need to do that ministry.
It is my honor to walk with you in faith and in love,
Around the globe, Christians everywhere are coming together to celebrate the Season of Creation. This season begins on September 1 and ends on October 4. Leaders of a diverse group of both Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic and Protestant churches have issued statements calling for their members to love God as well as God's earth and all its peoples.
The Season of Creation is a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all of creation through repenting, restoring, and rejoicing together. During the Season of Creation, we join our sisters and brothers in prayer and action for our common home.
This year, amid crises that have shaken our world, we are awakened to the urgent need to heal our relationships with each other and the world. The Season of Creation unites the world's 2.2 billion Christians around one shared purpose. With so much injustice all around us, now is the time for Christians everywhere to come together and show the world how to love each other and creation.
This would be a powerful witness to the reality of the living Christ among us. Nothing and no one is meant to be disposable. All that is created is precious to the Creator. This truth—if we believe it—could change the way we speak about and treat nearly everything.
If water, which can be changed to wine, can also become the blood of Christ in our shared gathering, how can we pollute the water and not care?
If bread can be blessed and broken and shared so that there is enough for all, how can we let so many go hungry in this beloved world?
If we are created from the elements of the earth itself, why do we plunder the earth for its resources rather than treat the earth with reverence?
This season is a time for repenting: for recognizing the ways we have sinned against creation by what we have done and by what we have left undone. To repent means to turn in a new direction. It is not enough to confess how we have failed in the past, rather we need to go in a new direction moving forward.
Together, the church needs to make new commitments. Individually, we need to as well. What particular actions might you take to better care for our common home, the earth? What ideas do you have for our congregation?
During this pandemic, as industry has been unexpectedly slowed and people have driven and flown less, levels of pollution have gone down. This is a hopeful sign, in that it shows that the damage we have done to the earth can be, at least partially, reversed.
While we are hopeful that the pandemic will come to an end soon, one of the positive commitments we can make moving forward, is to use the resources we have in a way that restores the creation. Too often we are driven by greed and convenience. Can we learn to share more and be willingly inconvenienced for the good of the earth and all its people?
Finally, we are called to rejoice together during this season of creation. These have been heavy days for many of us. We are weary. And yet: if we lift up our eyes and see the beauty of this created world and breathe deeply and slowly, we may find our hope restored. If we look around at all the people trying-imperfectly-to make this a more just and loving world, we may find reason to rejoice.
Perhaps, during this month-long Season of Creation, we can take time each day to say a prayer of thanks for what we have received that day from the gracious hand of our Creator. And we can look for ways that we might live differently so that this good earth will flourish for generations yet unborn.
Peace be with you,
Dear friends and members of RLC,
How are you?!? Each day I pray for your well-being, for your comfort and strength. I never imagined days such as these! I most definitely did NOT have a class on this at the seminary! Yet here we are—learning new ways of connecting, of worshiping and of serving. Thanks for your patience with me as I have recorded worship services for us to use on our church website. Many thanks to Linda for selecting such inspiring music and to Jess for all of the daily prayer connections.
Beginning on June 7, we will move to a somewhat different worship format. We will record our services in the church sanctuary. Linda will play the piano and I will lead the spoken parts of our liturgy. We will also be sharing Holy Communion, so you are invited, before you view the service, to have bread and wine before you. Also, earlier in the week, a worship supplement will be e-mailed to all of you with the words to the hymns so that you can sing along, as well as any other parts of the service for which you need the words to participate. We hope this more interactive format will allow you to engage even more fully in worship each week and to experience the connection which is ours in Christ. As we lead worship from our space, it is hoped that those dear and familiar symbols of our faith will be comforting and inspiring. I know that we long for the day when we can be safely present with each other in person. Remember, we are closer now than when we began!
Our church council is also considering other ideas for fellowship: stay tuned for updates!
I also want to share a couple of updates on our partners. Lutheran Special School has changed its name to Journey Lutheran School. It has a beautiful new symbol with the cross at the center. It is a visible embodiment of their mission to accompany children and their families on their life journeys, realizing the potential in each child of God. Continue to pray for them.
Also, Divine Intervention Ministries has begun a new food ministry where 300 meals are given out each Saturday afternoon to those who are hungry. The meals are prepared by a local restaurant so they are being sustained as well as the hungry. Continue to pray for them.
Our partners in Tanzania face many challenges due to the coronavirus, the weather, and a corrupt government. The children are still home from school and the number of people becoming infected with covid-19 rises. Pray for these partners.
And please, continue to reach out to care for one another in whatever ways you are able. I heard that our group who have been making face-masks has now made and delivered over 1000 masks! Well-done! I hope to continue to hear your stories of the ways that you are making a difference. They don't need to be “big” things: sometimes a well-timed note or phone call makes all the difference!
My friends, look for the good in each person: be quick to complement and slow to criticize. What we feed will grow stronger. Remember as we move to more regularly sharing the sacrament of Holy Communion together, that what unites us is far greater than anything that divides us.
May the peace of the Lord be with you always,
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
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.