Keep your eye on the ball. Anyone ever tell you that?
I heard it over and over again as a kid, and I can’t count the number of times I said it as youth baseball and softball coach. Keeping your eye on the ball is essential to connecting with it.
I think of that phrase when I think about the Reformation, which unfolded nearly 500 years ago in Europe and which Lutherans observe every Oct. 31 (or the Sunday before!) because that’s when Martin Luther nailed his objections to church practices to a chapel door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517.
Lutherans make a big deal out of Reformation Sunday. Red is the color of the day, celebrating the movement of the Holy Spirit in refocusing the church on the Gospel.
Like a young hitter in baseball or softball, it’s easy to get distracted from the Gospel, from proclaiming God’s love for all people. There are a lot of other things going on around us and sometimes we just get so wrapped up in being a church or running a church, with all of its human frailties, that we lose sight of why the church exists.
Reformation is more than a Lutheran love fest. It’s an annual reminder to keep our eye on the Gospel.
– Pastor Mark Rollenhagen
Must be stewardship season, the church’s annual fund drive, because this Sunday’s Gospel reading seems to be about money. But is it?
Jesus seems to tell us to pay our taxes and be good citizens. He points to the emperor’s head on a coin and says: “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
He suggests there is a distinction and in doing so creates the tension in which we live our lives: dealing with the world as we know it in our context and culture, and responding to God’s love and the vision of the kingdom that is coming.
It’s not a tension that’s easily – or ever – resolved. It’s seldom simple.
Sunday’s first reading tells the story of God using the Persian emperor Cyrus, historically an enemy and a threat to Israel, to free the people of Israel from their oppressors, the Babylonians. In other words, early scripture suggests God uses the powers of this world to accomplish things – even people and powers we wouldn’t typically think of as being aligned with God.
Martin Luther’s “two kingdoms” thinking suggested a distinction between a heavenly kingdom and a worldly kingdom in which God operates through civil leaders and structures.
That’s a lot to think about from a couple of short passages of scripture, but here’s one more thing to consider: money is the currency of the world, used to measure wealth and to pay taxes and other debts. Does God have a currency? What is it?
Pastor Mark Rollenhagen
You’ll want to get to church early this Sunday as our 90th anniversary celebration begins with pre-service music at 10 a.m.
Worship begins at our usual time of 10:30 a.m., with the Rev. Abraham D. Allende, bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America , preaching and presiding.
The celebration continues after worship with a luncheon beginning about noon.
Parking is limited at Faith, so if you can please park across the street in the upper lot of Harding Middle School, off Hilliard, to leave the parking lot and nearby street parking available for those less mobile.
Know someone who is grieving the loss of a pet?
Faith’s annual pet memorial service acknowledges the loss people feel when pets die and offers an opportunity to give thanks to God for the love and companionship between people and their pets. This year’s service begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday in the sanctuary, followed by refreshments and sharing of memories in the chapel. If you have photos you would like to share in a slide show, e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No pets at this reflective service, but they’re welcome at 2 p.m. the next day (Sunday) at Faith’s monthly PAWS (Pets Are Welcome Service).
- Pastor Mark Rollenhagen
Faith Arts Camp, the after-school offering for students in grades K-5, will begin its third year on Wednesday, September 10. Students from Hayes Elementary School walk to Faith with arts camps volunteers each Wednesday when Lakewood Schools are in session.
Registration is required. Cost is $20 for the year. Sign up here.
This fall Faith also launches “Club 6 @ Faith,” a Tuesday after-school program for 6th graders to get together for fun and homework help. The first session is Tuesday, Sept. 9.
Registration is required. Find up more here or print out a registration form here.
Ever have a scary experience on the water?
I grew up around water in Michigan and learned to swim well at an early age. But two scary lake moments stand out.
Once, my brothers and I jumped off a pier in Lake Michigan. I was stunned – terrified, really — by how the cold water took my breath away and seized my arms and legs, making it impossible to begin swimming right away.
In the second instance, I was sailing a small boat on Higgins Lake when a violent thunderstorm rolled in quickly, making the boat impossible to handle. Again, I feared that I would at the least lose the boat and maybe more.
Those experiences came to mind in this week’s Gospel reading about Peter’s fear on the water and his cry of “Lord, save me!” Remember, Peter was a fisherman, well-acquainted with life on the water.
What or who quells your fears? In who or what do you trust when fear rolls in?
– Pastor Mark Rollenhagen
Jesus offers up a rapid-fire string of parables or analogies in this week’s Gospel reading (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52). He likens the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed, yeast, a pearl, found treasure, and a fisherman’s net. Each one is intriguing in its own right. Which of those parables are most striking to you?
How would you finish the line “the kingdom of heaven is like ….”?
Do you understand what Jesus is getting at? Especially in the line after Jesus asks that question: “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Meet Zacchaeus, Jonah, Noah and a few other folks at Vacation Bible School July 14-18.
This year’s VBS, from 9:30 a.m. til noon, features stories, music, crafts, games, and, of course, snacks for kids 4 to 11. The theme is “Peaceful Kingdom” and it is a collaborative effort of Calvary United Methodist, Faith Lutheran, and Grace Presbyterian Churches and will be held at Faith at the corner of Hilliard Road and Woodward Avenue.
Parents can register their children through any of the churches by using this registration form.
Just after Father’s Day (and not too far past Mother’s Day) we hear Jesus say this in our Gospel reading for this Sunday (June 22):
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”
You won’t find that on a greeting card.
Jesus’ remarks are made in a discourse on discipleship. He’s trying to let his followers know what they’re getting into. Biblical scholar R.T. France writes of this passage: “To agree to follow Jesus is to sign away all rights to a quiet life of self-determination.”
Has your faith ever complicated your life? Caused tension between you and your family or others? What does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus?
— Pastor Mark Rollenhagen
This Sunday (June 15) we focus on the Holy Trinity. It’s a difficult concept to grasp and perhaps impossible to hold intellectually. And yet it is at the core of the Christian faith: the three-in-one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This little piece of satire pokes fun at our struggle to comprehend and explain the Holy Trinity. Enjoy it and take a few minutes to read the second reading and the Gospel for Sunday. They’ll sound familiar: the first includes the words with which we usually begin our worship; the second includes another phrase that I have the joy of reciting each time I baptize someone and that we sometimes use as we begin confession.
This week we ponder, struggle and marvel at the mystery of God and what we mean when we talk about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Mark Rollenhagen