Category Archives: From the Pastor

A blog of thoughts from Pastor Karl

Violence and the Kingdom of God

I had just gathered a group of girls to practice a praise dance for Sunday when they decided they’d walk to their friends’ house to recruit more dancers. “Okay, walk over together and come right back,” I told them. They ran away giggling.

Just a couple minutes later I suddenly heard a series of “pop, pop, pop.” Gunshots. I ran outside wildly looking around, trying to guess which direction the sound came from. Was it a couple blocks away? It sounded further away, right? The girls walked west. Did it come from the west?  

My heart was pounding, especially since this was a week after I’d had my own life threatened by bullets. There was nothing to do but walk back inside and wait for them to return. Except there was one other thing to do. I sat in the Sanctuary and I prayed. I heard the sound of ambulance sirens, and I prayed.

When the girls returned, safe and sound, breathless to tell me about the shots, I hugged each one of them. I got them into a circle. We held hands and prayed again. I thanked God that they were okay. I prayed for those who had been shot, and I prayed for the shooters. We said, “amen.”

And then we danced.

 

We all want safety. We need safety. We need to be safe in our homes. We need to be safe on bus stops and in grocery stores. We need to be safe in churches, mosques and synagogues.

“Those who live by the sword die by the sword,” Jesus says. A powerful statement that does not guarantee that those who don’t live by the sword don’t die by the sword. Jesus died by the “sword.” Early Christians died by the sword. Our safety is not guaranteed when we follow Christ. Our safety is not guaranteed as human beings in this world.

And yet we need safety – violations of our safety have lasting effects on us.

As people of faith, how do we respond to a world so broken that our safety is not certain?

Questions like this arise in faith communities when events like the recent Pittsburgh shooting occur. Should we have armed guards? Should we lock all our doors? Should we ask ushers to keep an eye on strangers? How do we respond to violence?

In Chicago, there is a group of mothers who responded by pulling out lawn chairs and sitting on corners of streets that have the highest incidents of gun violence. In Pittsburgh, Muslim leaders raised money and volunteered to escort those in fear. In Charleston, clergy linked arm-in-arm to face white nationalists openly carrying weapons. My girls and I held hands and prayed together.  

Here is what I first believe: We respond together.

We do this together, because safety is for all of us. Safety is for my family. Safety is for my neighbor. Safety is for my Muslim siblings and my Jewish siblings. Safety is for those who are marginalized. Safety is for the inner city and the suburb. Safety is mine when all are safe.

But even more so, as Christians, we respond by continuing to live out the Kingdom of God even when the kingdoms of this world threaten to break us. We take Jesus’ words to be “peacemakers” seriously. We speak out, together, against words of hate and fear. We welcome the stranger even when the stranger frightens us. We take the hand of the sibling next to us and we pray. We worship God even in the places where we are least safe. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness;” Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This is not easy. This does not come with an instruction manual, but we are siblings in Christ called to figure out what this kingdom-living looks like. Because of this, I do not support arming ourselves in church or treating visitors with suspicion. The need to take precautions for the sake of our safety is important, but I believe that our precautions cannot become barriers to the calling that Christ gives us. Kingdom of God living comes first. And safety isn’t guaranteed.

So, how do I respond to a shooting in a place of worship? I am convinced that I must walk the way of the cross, the way of Christ, for the sake of my neighbor and for my own sake. I must love where there is hate and I must make peace where there is violence. I must put myself in positions where I am actively seeking peace, justice and safety for all. And while this may not guarantee my safety, I am guaranteed that my life and death is held by my Savior. In him, I seek to put my trust.

My hope today is that this reflection engages your own reflections. How is Christ calling you to respond? Together, may we pray for the families of Tree of Life synagogue and all those who suffer from violence – maybe you too are one who has suffered. And then, may we pray with our feet. May we go and live out the Kingdom of God. May we dance.

Peace,

Pastor Liz

From the pastor…Compassion for Miriam

Matthew 25:35  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

Miriam is from Honduras, with two American children. She arrived in our country fifteen years ago. She fled her home and made that dangerous journey north, because of violence that she endured and fear of her future if she stayed. She hopes to become a citizen. In the midst of her legal pursuit of asylum status, she was given a notice of deportation. Instead of reporting to be deported, she moved into offices at First English Church with her children while she continues her appeals for asylum. First English has informed law enforcement of her location while she fights to stay. Past administrations have not entered a church to arrest and deport people and our current administration has not yet, either. Continue reading From the pastor…Compassion for Miriam

Really Trying at Loving our Neighbor

From the pastor…

I John 3:23-24 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

On the fourth Monday of the month, I lead a bible study called Pub Theology at Prost on Main Street. January’s lesson was on Working-what God hopes from us in the jobs and careers we work. Towards the end of the lesson, member Lois Beery said to her small group, “You know as I get older, I just think it is about loving people. Whoever God puts in front of me when I worked or now when I am retired, I need to figure out how to love them.” I drove home that night what beautiful and wise words these were.   Continue reading Really Trying at Loving our Neighbor

Fourth Grade First Communion

February 4 at the 9:30 Worship Service, we will be celebrating with our children and parents as they come to the Lord’s Supper for the first time. There are three first communion classes the children have completed, 9:30 AM Sundays, January 14, 21, 28 in Fritz Hall. If you would like your child to attend just contact the church office at lthompson@messiahlutheran.net.  Any child fourth grade or over is welcome.

They are always so excited with this early step in their long faithful baptismal journey. Come and celebrate with them!

Renew Your Promise to God!

This Sunday, January 7, 2018 at all three services, everyone in our congregation will have an opportunity to come forward and renew their promises to God. We will do this with a meaningful ritual at the baptismal font. One by one, we will come to the front of the sanctuary, make our promise aloud, then with a splash of  holy water and words of assurance, hear God’s embrace of us again.

Start 2018 off with God at the center of your life. Come and worship and renew your promise to God.

The Best Way to Keep Christ in Christmas

From the pastor…

It seems an irony to me that all of America goes gaga over Christmas, but  Christians, who have an understandable sense of ownership over the holiday, seem only to grumble that the big deal isn’t doing justice to the holiday. When I was a youth leader in the 90’s I had a December event that I called the Xmas X Games, a clever play on the nickname for Christmas, I thought. The pastor called me into his office to tell me to rename the event because he had received several complaints that I was promoting taking Christ out of Christmas. Xmas would not fly in his parish. Boycotts of Walmart have sprung up over the years because the greeters are saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas and Starbucks because their holiday cups aren’t bearing the message of Christmas appropriately.

The national conversations that happen around this could be helpful. They might remind people that what we are celebrating in Christmas is Christ. I worry though it just makes us sound cranky. It even might confirm to people who don’t worship the God we know that that God is kind of cranky, too.  I can imagine non Christians saying with exasperation,  “Here, I am celebrating their holiday and they still aren’t happy.” Simply insisting that people remember that the birth of Christ is what we are celebrating doesn’t do a lot to help people understand who Jesus is, what Jesus promises, and how our lives have been changed by Jesus.

What would? Possibly inviting our friends, coworkers and family to church. Most of them likely love Christmas but are not so sure about loving the church who centers their life all year around Christ. At Messiah every week in December we are celebrating the hopefulness and promise of Jesus. See the article below about our special Advent worship, but our events throughout the week do the same thing. We are working with HEART and Church of the Redeemer to give toys away to families in Reynoldsburg, because our God, who comes to us in Jesus, is generous and calls us to be generous. Similarly, we are working with Joseph’s Coat and St. Pius X to bake and sell cookies so that Joseph’s Coat thrives in 2018. Joseph’s Coat ministry is dedicated to giving stuff away for free in response to God’s promise of grace in Jesus which is similarly freely given. Even Breakfast with Santa shares the love of Jesus at the center of Christmas in the crafts and the story from Mrs. Claus that highlight the event.

Walmart isn’t responsible for telling the story of Jesus. We are. It seems like a better plan that we do that by welcoming and inviting our neighbors to learn, love and worship God, than to be national scolds about the holiday that many who could care less about Jesus still love. Why not invite a few of those people you know to attend something at Messiah this December. It will likely bring them closer to loving God than a guy with blue vest saying Merry Christmas when he hands them a cart. Peace, Pastor Karl

Breakfast with Santa

Breakfast with Santa

Bring your children, grandchildren, neighbors or friends to Messiah on Saturday, December 2 from 9:00 until 11:00 AM. Breakfast will be served throughout the morning, Christmas crafts can be made by children, Mrs. Claus will share a story with everyone and best of all Santa in his big red chair will be here to hear your child’s wishes and give opportunity for pictures to be taken. We will have a complimentary picture too, from a professional photographer given to everyone. Come, enjoy the fun of Christmas in a child’s eyes.

From the pastor

It was my freshman year of college. I rose ridiculously early (for a college student) in order to go with a friend to the non-denominational sunrise Easter service at the Lincoln Memorial. We sat on the steps of the memorial and sang “Because He Lives” as the sun rose over the city. Climbing down the steps and making my way back to campus, I met up with a friend who was taking “Introduction to Eastern Religion” with me, and we headed off to meet our class at a Buddhist temple. Easter Sunday happened to fall on the day of an important Buddhist festival that year. We met at the temple, took our shoes off and spoke with a monk who shared with us about his faith tradition. We walked through the bazaar outside the temple, and the air was filled with celebration. Later that evening that same friend asked me to attend Catholic mass with her where we sat in a packed cathedral. I was struck with how this massive crowd of people acted as one in every form of the liturgy. Then, I went home and slept. Continue reading From the pastor

Harvest Festival

Sunday November 12, come to Messiah for the largest fundraiser this year for the HEART Food Pantry, heartfoodpantry.org.

3:30 Multiple Church Choir Festival-great fun

4:30-6:00  Great Turkey Dinner, fixings and dessert. Eat in or Carry Out, tickets for dinner can be purchased at Messiah before or on the day of dinner.  $9 for Adults and $5 children, under 5 free!

All Day Sunday, November 12, Silent Auction, Party Wagon Raffle- Unbelievable offerings in the Silent Auction, over $5000 in gift cards, trips, crafts, tickets, memorabilia and more. Do your Christmas Shopping here. Party Wagon will be a hit for your holiday parties, a wagon full of great Spirits yours for the taking.

Friendship Celebration

Catholic Lutheran Dialogue and Worship

Wednesday, October 25, Monsignor David Funk and Pastors Karl Hanf and Elizabeth Lowry, the choirs of St. Pius X and Messiah Lutheran and each church’s members will gather for a special celebration marking their great friendship that has resulted in meaningful ministry for our community. The event will be held in Messiah’s sanctuary and begin at 6:30. The three pastors will share their experiences working with the other and the hopes they have of growing even closer together in the years ahead. At 7:30 choirs from both congregations will lead a 40 minute prayer service for unity and blessing. Members from both congregations are invited to a buffet served at 5:30 at Messiah.