Happy New Year
December 3rd is the day the Church starts a New Year, and it is a day of great joy and anticipation. This is the first day of Advent, a season of waiting and hoping– looking to toward the Manger, awaiting the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child!
When this new Church Year starts, what might you do to mark the occasion? Are you interested in starting a new spiritual discipline? Or, are you ready to make a renewed commitment to participating in worship and Sunday School more often? I hope you’ll consider making some sort of New Year Resolution for your spiritual life, starting on December 3, 2017. Doing so will help you connect more deeply to the God who loves you more than you could ever know. And, being more connected to God brings a joy in life that is often difficult to describe.
Here are just a few possible ways you might resolve to be more deeply connected to God. You may think of your own, instead. You can do more than one if you’d like. But, the most important thing (beyond trying at least one of these!) is to commit only to a reasonable amount of change. You don’t want your church-related New Year’s Resolution to go the way of most people’s resolutions...nowhere.
Read the whole book of Mark now, and then read the upcoming readings for each week in worship ahead of time. We will be reading from Mark for the majority of this year, and it is the shortest gospel. The readings for the following week can be found in your worship bulletin. If you want to be able to look up the readings yourself,
click here*. On this resource page, you’ll even find suggested readings for each day!
Commit to worshiping at least one more week per month than you currently do now.
Commit to attending Sunday School at least one more week per month than you currently do now.
Commit to growing your financial generosity towards the church by 1-3% of your weekly or monthly wages.
If it would be helpful for you, know that signing up for electronic giving is an option and it helps many people
stay on track.
Commit to intentional service towards others at least once per month or more. Feeding Lents is
a great place to start off!
Commit to praying daily for others. You can use our congregation’s prayer list (found in the bulletin) if you
would find that helpful.
Explore and try a new prayer practice. Some meaningful practices include Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina,
Prayer Labyrinths (either finger or full-sized), or even praying while doing something else that grounds you
(like coloring, painting, knitting or walking.)
You might have other ideas. Get creative! If you want some support from me, or if you have questions
about how to get started, just reach out...I’d be happy to walk with you!
With Hope and Gratitude,
*If you are reading the print version, here is the web address for the weekly readings resource:
Celebrating 125 Years
As you may have heard, Macksburg Lutheran Church will be celebrating 125 years of ministry in 2018! I don’t know about you, but I feel extremely blessed and grateful to be able to take part in this incredible milestone! Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to take part in this year-long celebration. We will, of course, have a feast together at some point in the year. We will also be looking at other ways of commemorating our history as we look towards our future. Several ideas have been floated, including one of my favorites: Performing 125 acts of grace as a congregation. I don’t know what those 125 acts will be, but I hope and pray they make a difference in our surrounding community!
Also, plans are already underway for a process of evaluating who we are, where we have been, and where we might go as a community of Jesus followers. Your church Council has begun the process of thinking about ways we might engage in deeper reflection about our mission and purpose, especially in this rapidly and ever-changing landscape of religious life. I, personally, am taking part in a leadership initiative that brings together pastors from all over Clackamas County for the purpose of deepening our spiritual lives and growing as leaders who help to form leaders within our own congregations.
Part of the work this cohort of pastors will be assessing how our congregations are doing, and evaluating the culture and climate of our congregational life. This is important work, as you may know, because it is impossible to plan for the future if you don’t really know where you are in the present! Of course, I won’t be doing this alone. The Council is prayerfully coordinating a team of people to work at my side to spend intentional time growing spiritually while also learning about leadership and healthy practices for congregations.
Your participation in worship this weekend, as we have been announcing in worship for the last few weeks, will be critically important for the work we are doing as a congregation. We will all be taking part in a “Vitality Survey.” This brief survey, to be conducted during worship, will allow you to share your thoughts and insights about how congregational life is going. You’ll also have the opportunity to share your views regarding how our leaders are doing in our work with you. As a bonus, the information gleaned from these surveys will help the Synod Leadership (of which, I’m a part) understand better how congregations across Oregon are feeling about their ministries. The goal is for all congregations to take part in the Vitality Surveys.
Please join me and your siblings in Christ this Sunday. If you can’t take part this weekend, please email me to let me know so we can work something out. Lorin@MacksburgLutheran.org
With Gratitude for 125 Years of Ministry So Far,
Q: How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: WHAT?! CHANGE?! Lutherans don’t change!
I find it strange that this joke is so frequently shared within our Lutheran communities. In so many ways, it seems to be very true. Throughout the United States, and I’m sure beyond our borders, we claim this way of being for ourselves. And, when healthy change does happen, we look back and say, "Wow! Lutherans can, indeed, change! Who would’ve thunk it?"
͟ When and how did this happen to us? I really don’t know. And, truthfully, to me it makes no sense at all.
500 years ago this month, The Reverend Martin Luther instigated some of the most tumultuous and magnificent change the world has ever seen. The Church had grown drunk with power, had fallen away from the grace of Jesus Christ, and had been (among other things) charging people for their own salvation and for the salvation of their loved ones. Father Luther, inspired by the Holy Spirit, set out to change this for the better.
Luther’s deep love for the Church caused him to want to change it. He didn’t want to form a new church, he simply wanted to reform –to change –the Church as it was.
Seriously, friends: Our entire denomination was (accidentally) founded on the principle of change! Why do we find it so hard to live into this beautiful history? It should be in our DNA!
We at Macksburg Lutheran could easily be lumped into this un-changeable and unmovable stereotype. We are a smaller church and we have been here for 124 years. Churches like ours often get a bad rap for being stuck in our ways. Thanks be to God that we don’t live into this stereotype! I’ve been genuinely blessed and grateful to witness a spirit of openness to an unknown future here at Macksburg over the course of the last three years. We have been willing to change little things and larger things, with the hope of growing our own faith and with the hope of sharing it with the wider community.
While lots of little things have changed in recent years, two rather visible changes have happened on Sunday mornings: First, we implemented a new Liturgy last year –the Heartland Liturgy. Second, we started an experiment with Inter-generational Sunday School this Fall.
For me, the most significant part of both these changes is NOT that when introduced they were overall fairly well received. Rather, we as a community decided to take a calculated risk by trying something new!
While it seems clear to me that the implementation of the Heartland Liturgy was and is successful, the success of Inter-generational Sunday School (at least in its current form) is still to be determined. This experiment may end up growing our faith and blessing the wider community, or it may end up failing and falling flat on its face. We don’t yet know. But, I am simply thrilled that we are open to where the Holy Spirit might be leading us. Because, if we are not trying new things, we really aren’t living into our heritage–or into our future. Let’s keep up this great work: trying new things, risking failure, and trusting that God is working through it all!
Thank you for your part in making Macksburg Lutheran Church an amazing community. You, yourself, are amazing, too.
Seeing the Need
You might not know the name Jonathan Davis, even if you’ve heard of his band, KoЯn. I have a hunch only die-hard fans of the band would recognize him. He has intrigued me since they released their first album during my early college days in 1994. Jonathan tells a harrowing story with his music.
…a terrible story, even. A story filled with pain and abuse. While I never suffered the kind of trauma that he experienced growing up, I resonated with the raw emotion and hard-driving bass and guitar that KoЯn blasted through my speakers.
I’m certain he has done good stuff with his life, but only recently have I become aware of a particular “good deed” Jonathan is accomplishing at the present moment: He is becoming a vocal advocate against bullying and for suicide prevention.
Speaking of people you haven’t heard of, meet my friend Danny Heinsohn. Danny was a close friend of mine during those same college years, and I still call him a great friend. Danny is and was a pretty amazing guy: Caring, thoughtful, and always striving to live life to the fullest.
He was just leaning into living as a college graduate, full of hope and adventure. He was going to kick off this new season of life with an amazing trip overseas. But, just a couple of days before his flight took off, he received a devastating and life-changing diagnosis: Brain cancer.
The future was not bright, the path forward was not easy, and the prognosis was not good. The median survival rate for his particular cancer was 5%.
I still can’t imagine what those moments, days or weeks were like, let alone the year of treatment. And, though I know his character and capacity, I couldn’t have imagined how he would eventually face his future…
Danny’s journey through cancer was filled with hope – hope that was given to him in large part by those who surrounded him. He believes a large part of the reason he survived was because of the people who instilled hope in him, and encouraged him to hope for the future.
To celebrate his 10-year anniversary of remission, Danny did several things, including becoming an Iron Man competitor. He also committed to starting a foundation that would intentionally give hope and support to young cancer survivors. My Hometown Heroes was born with the mission of providing scholarship support to young cancer survivors. His new non-profit met the initial goal that first year of raising $10,000 of scholarship support. They are now pursuing the goal of $1,000,000 by the year 2020.
Danny and Jonathan don’t have tons in common, from what I can tell. But, they do have at least one thing in common: They decided to make something out of traumatic experiences. They saw the world as it is – much more so than many of us could even imagine. Yes: they see brokenness in the world, but they don’t see the world as hopeless.
They also see the world as it could be, maybe even as it should be. They see the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many people who are experiencing serious difficulties. They live into the hope that though they can’t right the world completely, they can actually move the needle.
Danny and Jonathan also have at least one more thing in common: They bring other people alongside them to make a difference in the world. They don’t go it alone – they enlist the support and power of other people to help them realize new dreams.
That is our opportunity as followers of Jesus Christ! We see a broken world that God so desperately loves. And, we realize that God has called us – yes, us! – to see this very same world both as it is, and how it could and should be… so that we might take action to make a difference!
What needs do you see? Who are you going to enlist to help you make a difference?
With Hope for the Future,
Pastor Lorin Darst
A Carabiner Kinda Week
We are coming up on my favorite week of the entire year: Holy Week. It wraps up my second-favorite season of the year, Lent, while gracefully ushering me into my absolute favorite season of the year, Easter!
Holy Week is like the carabiner of the most exciting parts of the journey of faith and life: It connects us to our deepest needs for renewal and repentance (Lent), while at the same time connecting us to the amazing gifts of actual renewed relationship with God and life lived with confidence in the resurrection promise here and now (Easter).
Especially if you haven’t experienced the fullness of Holy Week week as an adult, I am really hopeful that each of you will engage the opportunity to jump head-first into this holy and powerful seven days, whether you are local or thousands of miles from Macksburg. (If you need help finding a church near you – let me know and I’ll connect you!)
Here are links for you to peruse for a brief look at what you might expect and why. That said, I’ve found that if I enter into such experiences with an open heart, I often experience even more than I would have expected!
Click Here for Palm Sunday
Click Here for Maundy Thursday
Click Here for Good Friday
Click Here for Easter Sunday
Pastor Lorin Darst
Serves alongside the awesome people of Macksburg Church, is passionate about following the dual commandment to love God and love God's people, and strives to make a real difference in this world God so loves...