Be like Jack: Drop in on Sunday


Jack at PAWS - cropped

Jack and Kathy, the person Jack brought with him to church.

Be like Jack Benco and come by our monthly pet-friendly service this Sunday (April 6) at 2 p.m. You don’t have to be a dog or a cat — or even have a dog or a cat — to enjoy this worship opportunity, which includes Holy Communion, scripture and familiar hymns..

This Sunday we’ll particularly remember Max, our Music Director Kent Cicerchi’s longtime friend and companion who passed away a few weeks ago.  You don’t have to be a regular to show up Sunday as we give thanks for Max and all pets who bless our lives.

Please enter through the Hilliard Road door near the driveway.


Wow! What a weekend!!

What a cool weekend that was as we gathered (March 14-16) with our brothers and sisters in Christ in our neighborhood — the folks from Calvary United Methodist and Grace Presbyterian Churches!

My favorite images: the complete circle of people formed along the outside edges of Calvary’s sanctuary Friday evening, candles in hand, joined together in prayers; the buzz and excited conversations (and laughter and joy) in the groups at Faith on Saturday as we considered our future together in Christ; that full, joint choir packing the chancel at Grace on Sunday morning, a nearly even mix of voices from all three congregations.

Good things are sure to unfold as the new southwest Lakewood ecumenical steering group (with three representatives from each congregation) begins meeting shortly after Easter.  Stayed tuned.

Neighborhood ministry retreat

This weekend (March 14-16) we gather for worship, study and reflection with neighbors, Calvary United Methodist and Grace Presbyterian churches.ELCA Logo

The weekend retreat opens at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Calvary with dinner, a talk with the Rev. Faith Fowler, pastor of Cass United Methodist Church and executive director of Cass Community Social Services in Detroit, and evening prayer.

On Saturday, we gather at Faith from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to consider basic needs and issues in southwest Lakewood, Methodist Logohearing first from a panel of Lakewood civic leaders and then breaking into groups to consider how the three congregations might collaborate in responding to the identified needs.

On Sunday, at 10:45 a.m. we worship together at Grace, with Pastor Fowler preaching, and we conclude with a celebratory dinner.

PCUSA LogoRegistration was requested for most portions of the weekend, but all are welcome to worship — and if you’re interested in others portions, stop on by.  A brochure about the retreat can be found here.

God’s peace,

Pastor Mark Rollenhagen


Faith Weekly: Mountaintops

There’s a stretch of I-77 in Virginia that winds through the mountains and offers a spectacular view of the land stretched out below.  Unless the mountaintop is shrouded in a mountain-fog-lthick, cloud-like fog.  Then, traffic slows to a white-knuckle crawl as drivers carefully watch for S-curves and semi-trucks ahead.

Images of clouds and mountain tops come to mind easily in reading this Sunday’s scripture passages.  Moses enters the cloud in the Exodus story, and in the Matthew reading the voice of God emanates from a cloud over the mountaintop where Jesus has climbed with Peter, James and John.

Majestic, mysterious, awesome – and potentially disorienting — things happen on those mountaintops.  And yet they are not the climax or the end of these stories of encounters with God.

The Moses story marks the beginning of a new chapter in God’s relationship with his people.  The same is true as Jesus heads down the mountain to begin his journey to Jerusalem and to the cross.  A journey we all begin anew next week with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

-          Pastor Mark Rollenhagen


Faith Weekly: Lower the bar?

This coming Sunday’s scripture readings set some high standards.

First, there’s the checklist from Leviticus: No stealing, swindling or lying.  OK.  Leave food for the poor and the foreigner.  Hmm.  Care for the deaf and the blind.  No partiality in dealing with the rich or the poor.  Hmmm.  No bad mouthing people, no profiting at the expense of others.  No hating, no vengeance.  Hmmmm.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Always?

Jesus echoes these standards in the reading from Matthewlowerthebar and concludes: “Be perfect.”

We might react to this scripture in a few ways:

- Be crushed in recognizing that we will never live up to all of those standards, all of the time.

- Lower the bar, hope to hit the 80 or 90 percent range, maybe a high “B” on our final report card, and rely on God’s mercy when the honor roll comes out.

- Write them off as ancient standards that, like many of the practices and rules found in Leviticus, don’t apply to the real world we live in today.

How do you react?  What do you draw from these standards?  How do you reconcile the world we live in with the world as God would have it?

– Pastor Mark Rollenhagen

Faith Weekly: The right choice

Life is full of decisions to make — some of them small and relatively inconsequential, like what to have for lunch.  Others loom large.  Where to go to college, what to study?  Stick with a job or move on?  Choose a course of treatment for an illnThis Way That Way Which way to turness.  Is an opportunity opening up or a path to trouble?  The fear of making the wrong decision can freeze us, immobilize us, prevent us from living into the future with confidence and joy.

The first scripture reading for this Sunday (February 16) suggests there’s one fundamental choice to make: “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him.”

What does it mean to choose life?  How do we hold fast to God?  What’s promise made in this scripture passage and how might that help us deal with tough choices?

Let’s talk about it on Sunday morning — 8:30 or 10:30.

– Pastor Mark Rollenhagen


Faith Weekly: Pass the salt

“You are the salt of the earth, but If salt has lost its taste … it is no longer good for anything,”  Jesus says in the gospel reading for this Sunday (Feb. 9).  Hmm. 

Salt not only adds flavor to food, it’s essential to human health, playing a role in digestion and heart and nerve function.  Scientists say that our bodies contain about eight ounces of salt.

Jesus also says his followers are like light and, like a lamp, their light should shine in order to glorify God.

When do you see followers of Jesus as salt and light?  Consider this little reflection from the online devotional from Luther Seminary.  (If you don’t follow this link today – Thursday, Feb. 6 — click on that date in the “View the Daily Devotion for” box.)

– Pastor Mark Rollenhagen




Faith Weekly: Expectations

At our weekly Faith Arts Camp for elementary school students, we have a list of expectations as to how campers should behave.  (You might notice a commandment or two on the list, as well.)  We drew it up on a dry erase board last fall.  Every now and theIMG_20140128_101833_003n there’s a need to pull it out again to remind the kids of how they are expected to behave, in regard to each other and in regard to the adults and activities.

You might think of this week’s Gospel reading –known as The Beatitudes — as Jesus providing a list of God’s expectations for our behavior.  Not that we’ll ever meet all of those expectations all of the time.  And they don’t function as a checklist of things we need to do to get to heaven.

In Claiming the Beatitudes, Anne Sutherland Howard writes:  “Each one of the beatitudes echoes Isaiah’s description of the reign of God.  These brief sayings give us a lens through which to see Jesus and the God he proclaimed.  Through these words, and through his alternative way in the world, Jesus points to a God who is always doing something new, a God who engages this world with healing mercy, endless compassion, and liberating justice.  We see a God who is most concerned about those who have the least.  The beatitudes give us not only a way to see God, but a way to see our world, and they give us something concrete to do about what we see, as they call us participate in God’s kingdom.”

Take a little time this week to consider the beatitudes.  Give some thought to how these expectations or this vision of the reign of God differ from the ways of this world and the expectations of our culture.

– Pastor Mark Rollenhagen




Faith Weekly: Afraid of the dark

Maybe the most intense darkness that I’ve experienced was at 12 Mile Beach in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It’s on the shore of Lake Superior, but our campsite was nestled in the woods.  My daughter and I set out to see the lake at night and as we stepped away from the campsite we stepped into darkness.  The beam from my flashlight was sharply defined:  in its array was light, at the crisp edge was darkness — deep, pitch black darkness that held who knows what.  It was unsettling, maybe downright scary, until we emerged from the trees at the beach and the moonlight reflecting off the lake.

The scripture reading for this Sunday (Isaiah 9:1-4 and Matthew 4:12-23) emphasize light that dispels darkness.

How have you experienced darkness in your life — literally and figuratively — and what has been the light that has kept you safe and led you through it?

We’ll talk about that Tuesday (January 21) in the chapel at 7 p.m.; on Wednesday (January 22) over a beverage and a $5 sandwich at 7 p.m. at Around the Corner in Lakewood.and again on Sunday (January 26) as we hear this week’s scripture..

– Pastor Mark Rollenhagen

Faith Weekly: Get a witness?

What images come to mind when you hear the words “witness” or “testify”? Maybe courtroom scenes or news reports of trials or Congressional hearings.

I’ll admit that my mind leaps to a couple of great songs – Marvin Gaye’s “Can I get a Witness” and The Greg Kihn Band’s “Testify.”

But how about in a religious context, a Christian context?

There’s some witnessing and testimony going on in this Sunday Gospel reading (John 1:29-42). No theological discourse, just John the Baptist pointing to Jesus and telling what he saw, making a claim, an identification – maybe like a witness on the stand in a courtroom at that climatic moment when they point their finger and identify the defendant as the one who did it.

Writing in the latest issue of the Christian Century, Methodist pastor and professor William Willimon noted this about that passage from John:

“John’s testimonials are lacking in content and repetitious: ‘Look! The Lamb of God!’ Yet on the basis of his witness two of his followers become Jesus’ first disciples. Having seen, John tesified so that other might see. Later, when inquirers ask Jesus what he’s up to, Jesus says simply, ‘Come and see.’”

This week’s reading from John gives us an opportunity to consider how we testify as to who Jesus is. What do we say about Jesus? And, no less important, how does what we do – both individually and as a faith community — point to Jesus as the son of God?

See you on Sunday,

Pastor Mark