You might have heard that President Rev. Matthew Harrison of our sister synod in the US, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), asked Pastor Rob Morris in Newtown Connecticut to apologize for participating as a pastor in an interfaith prayer vigil for the victims of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. In response, Pastor Morris apologized to anyone who took offense; but not for participating in the vigil. He felt he did the right thing because in his participation he clearly confessed Christ and believed he was acting in mercy and care a pastor within his grieving community.
As you might expect, this has caused division within our church as being so closely linked to the LCMS. President Harrison put it this way, “There are strong differences of opinion on this issue within the Missouri Synod, and that is because we all take our commitments to the Bible and to serving the neighbor very seriously. One view is that by standing side-by-side with non-Christian clergy in public religious events, we give the impression that Christ is just one path among many. Others view participation as an opportunity to share Christ and to truly love a hurting community, which may not happen if we are not participating. We struggle with the tension between these two views. We all deeply want to support our hurting communities in ways consistent with our religious convictions.” Both President Harrison and Pastor Morris have reconciled, and asked the church to not foster division because of actions taken as a result of this difficult and extenuating circumstance. Nevertheless, we can’t just pretend it didn’t happen and feel the need to express our opinions on the matter.
Putting the issue aside for a moment though, I think we need to ask, “Why was this request for an apology worthy enough for CNN coverage?” “Why are a President and a Pastor of a mid-sized Lutheran Church body—which is rarely if ever visible on the national radar—all of a sudden deserving of Associated Press Coverage? Why is an internal disciplinary matter of the LCMS suddenly the business of the nation, and in the spotlight of the world?
Fellow Lutherans, remember that the national media is not the medium of absolute truth, or of unbiased information. It may avoid making explicit judgments, but it uses our cultural assumptions to decide what is important enough to report on and what isn’t. We live in a world where “Religious Extremism” has become the new “Communist Invasion”, and anyone who says that “Jesus is the only way to God” suffers the McCarthyism of the media.
Anytime an article is published about religion nowadays, we almost unconsciously place it on the spectrum between religious tolerance and religious extremism. And the media reports the controversy while leaving the reader to fill in the blank and spin the story either direction. And so in these national press articles does the LCMS sound more like Ghandi or a Suicide Bomber? Do they appear to care more about being loving, or being headstrong? Are they being “exclusive” or “inclusive” towards others? These are the questions the media expects you to ask by the very fact that they consider this LCMS controversy worthy enough to report on. And the more pertinent question of, “What does the Bible have to say about that” never enters the arena in the “Politically Correcting” mind of the world.
St. Paul speaks to a very similar situation when he writes to the church in Corinth; a church where some were saying, “I can eat meat sacrificed to false Gods because I know I’m not worshipping idols when I do so.” St. Paul says, when you love you’re neighbor what you “know” is not the only thing to consider. He writes, “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that an idol has no real existence, and that there is no God but one. For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:4-13).
Paul clearly thinks that when you do things associated with or in the vicinity of idol worship, you need to consider how someone with a “weak conscience” will be affected by your actions. Would St. Paul have considered this interfaith prayer vigil to be an “idol’s temple?” Well...it wasn’t just a place where Baptists, and Mennonites, and Roman Catholics and all kinds of Lutherans, were praying in Jesus Name for the victims and their families. It was a place where representatives of different religions were praying, dressed in priestly robes, literally representing their false gods. These aren’t like the heads of different countries who put differences aside for the sake of diplomacy and world peace. This vigil was organized to be a religious smorgasbord. Society has the prerogative to naively lump all religions and “religious folk” together and says, “Here’s your chance to do your “god stuff” for the sake of the community.” The world doesn’t understand that it cannot just pigeonhole all religions together for society’s sake. “For what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?”
Both President Harrison and Pastor Morris found themselves in a unique and difficult situation. We are not supposed to worship with other religions and yet we are at the same time commanded to profess God’s love in Christ Jesus, whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. The Sandy Hook tragedy ended up putting these principles at odds with one another. For any Pastor, this is a difficult situation and it is understandable to make mistakes. Whether I think Pastor Morris did so or not, well--I’m going to take the coward’s way out and not answer. Do I think Pastor Harrison was right to ask for an apology on behalf of the Synod?..I have an opinion, but I’m not going to give it here. If you want to know my conclusions, you can talk to me personally in the context of an extended conversation, lest I print something here that the media reduce to a sound bite.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, please remember that this interfaith prayer vigil for a tragic school shooting was an extenuating circumstance…a tough call. We should all agree that even though worshipping Jesus next to those who worship idols cannot hurt you or other faithful Christians, if you choose to do so publically and if the President of the United States is in attendance…there’s might be more at stake than your own personal faith, your good intentions for the community or your sincere conviction for Christ. And on the other hand, we should all agree that Jesus loves and suffers with all of the families and community who lost their loved ones at Sandy Hook, that Pastors publically preach that love in season and out of season wherever Christ is needed, and that love of Christ is more powerful that the false gods who want to get in on the sentimentality and press coverage of a national tragedy.
As faithful Christians, none of us wish to be suicide bombers, and none of us desire to be idol worshippers. So if you discuss this issue with your friends over coffee at McDonald’s, give them you’re your two cents, but don’t be too quick to judge President Harris or Pastor Morris. We are all armchair quarterbacks from time to time and that’s okay. But if you’ve never had to call the play when you’re team is down from fifty yards out with a minute to go at the Super Bowl…show some humility and understanding for those who have. The devil divides, and he finds his easiest foothold when God’s people have to make tough decisions. Don’t let the national media or associated press pigeonhole your church. The world pigeonholed John the Baptist saying “He has a demon!” The world pigeonholed Jesus calling him “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners and tax-collectors!” “But wisdom is justified by her own children,” and that, dear friends in Christ, is you.
Pastor Nathan Fuehrer
(For the real thoughts and motivations of President Harrison and Pastor Morris, don’t go to the national media. Instead please visit www.lmca.org and find there the link that will direct you to read their own pastoral letters about the Newtown tragedy.)
LOVE THAT BELIEVES IN THE POWER OF PRAYER
Prayer, of all the weapons handed to us to protect our children, this is one of the most powerful. For most people, prayer doesn’t need proof; it just needs practice. Parents wanting to pass on an unwavering love to their children need to enter into this haven of rest regularly.I know one mom who did it, and her son will never be the same.
The story slips from the shadows of one of Korea’s darkest hours and a place called Heartbreak Ridge. It got its name from the violent battles fought near its peak. Too often, it was bathed in the blood and tears of countless American soldiers. One night the battle was unusually intense. The North Koreans, firmly dug into the rocky terrain, used their home court advantage to keep the night skies lit with flares and the air filled with the hot death of machine gun fire.
An American soldier worked his way through the maze of enemy emplacements only to be struck down about fifty meters beyond the enemy’s outer lines. From the darkness he screamed in pain, begging for someone to rescue him. Nobody moved. Another young man, crouched in a foxhole, kept his head down but kept lifting his wrist up into the light given off by the flares. Suddenly he bolted through the enemy fire, grabbed his wounded comrade, and raced him back through the violence to the safety of an American foxhole.
His lieutenant crawled over to find out what gave him the sudden urge of heroics. “It was heroics, Sir. And it really wasn’t a risk,” the young man replied. “I kept checking my watch until I knew it was nine o’clock back at my home in Kansas. You see, my mother told me, ‘Son, every morning at nine o’clock, I’ll be praying for you, I knew that God would protect me.”
Do you want to give your children rest for their spirits? Be a parent who prays for them every day. Who knows? It might just save their lives…or someone else’s.
Praying Mothers Group: A small group of women are meeting Tuesday afternoon usually from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. You are welcome to join us. If this time is not convenient for you but you would like to participate in this type of group please speak to Katherine Canfield 403-756-2149 or 403-327-4336. Pray provides comfort and security, and also fulfills the mission the Lord has for us to pray for each other and bear one another’s burdens. I cannot think of any better way to truly love your children/grandchildren, families & friends than by lifting them up in prayer on a consistent basis.
One tree can start a forest,
One smile can begin a friendship, One hand can lift a soul, One word can frame the goal, One candle can wipe out darkness, One laugh can conquer gloom,
One hope can raise our spirits,
And...one choice, one volunteer can make a difference
To our Moms & Tots group and other activities!
Please consider volunteering for 2 hours once a month for childcare. Sign up as a volunteer for childcare and indicate time of day you are available e.g. morning, afternoon or evening. Youth 14+ are welcomed but adults are much needed.
I would like to start compiling a list of people willing to help out occasionally with childcare for different events at the church. Thank you for your consideration.
Moms & Tots Group. Will run the first & fourth Thursday morning of each month Beginning March 14, 2013, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. A Moms & Tots group is a group of mothers of preschoolers [a mother of a child from conception through kindergarten]. This group is an opportunity to build community by providing an open, caring and accepting atmosphere where women can come together to share this important season of life. A place for mentoring where mature women listen, encourage and offer information and perspectives gained through experience. A place for practical instruction, teaching focuses on areas of common interest, offering inspiration and information that is relevant to the life of a mother. Interest? Bring a Friend. Please place your name & phone number on the signup sheet on the bulletin board outside the fellowship hall. You must register as we need numbers to budget and for child care. If you need more information please call Katherine Canfield Parish Coordinator 403-327-4336 or 403-756-2149.
Cottage Bible Studies: The Truth Project. Have started and are currently running if you would like to participate please contact the Parish Coordinator 403-756-2149 for one of the six groups running. All are welcome. Are you a parent(s) of young children and would like to participate in a group at the church with child care please speak to Katherine Canfield.
Do you have a gift for the culinary arts? Enjoy cooking & meal preparation? Share your gift/talent with your congregation! We could always use a few more volunteers. Please consider being open to receiving a phone call and assisting on a as needed basis to prepare the occasional meal for those in our church family who may be recovering from surgery, hospitalization, death in the family, a family crisis or adapting to the birth of a new baby, etc. This is a wonderful way to help service our church family. A signup is on the bulletin board by the fellowship hall please add your name & phone number to the Food Train to receive a phone call to assist with the preparation of the occasional meal.
You are an important piece
of the National Youth Gathering Puzzle!
We would love to see you in Winnipeg in July 5 – 9, 2013!
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” I Corinthians 12:27
Youth ages 13- 18 and youth leaders 21+ are encouraged to attend the Lutheran Church Canada National Youth Gathering. This is an event to celebrate God’s work in our lives through Jesus and to build up and strengthen our youth & congregations. Cost is $495.00pp (with housing) before April 30, after April 30th registration $525.00pp transportation cost are approx. $200.00pp. Interested or want to learn more speak to Katherine Canfield 403-756-2149 or email her at email@example.com Please do not let the cost turn you away. If there is enough interest it is planned that the youth will do a fundraiser to hopefully pay a third of the cost and another third might be covered by the church from the funds put aside for the youth and a third would be paid by the youth.
Pastoral Care Visitor Training Do you enjoy exploring with others what their faith means to them? Do you like listening to their “stories,” the journey of their lives? Can you walk with them as they figure out their spiritual place within the universe and within who they are? Would you like to become more aware of what you can do, what “tools” you can use? You may want to just visit with others within your congregation and/or to also touch the people in a care residence. The Good Samaritan Society is offering training in the how-to’s of visiting with older people. The Next training is Friday March 1, 6-9 p.m, and Saturday, March 2, 8 am - 4 pm at Immanuel Lutheran church. Cost is $70 which includes workshop material and Lunch on Saturday. See church office or bulletin board for registration information. If you plan to registered please let Katherine 403-756-2149 know today/Sunday Feb. 27,2013.
HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE
Please note the following schedule of special services during Holy Week.
March 28th 6:30 p.m. Maundy Thursday worship with Holy Communion. Please join us as we celebrate the celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper and as the altar is stripped in preparation for Good Friday.
March 29th Good Friday: 11:00 a.m. In this solemn service we recall the suffering of our Savior on the cross of Calvary, and rejoice in triumphal statement of Christ, “It is finished.” Everything has been accomplished for our salvation...there is nothing that we can add.
March 31st Easter Sunday
9:00 a.m. Traditional Worship with Holy Communion
10:00 a.m. Easter Breakfast - everyone welcome.
11:00 a.m. Contemporary Worship with Holy Communion
Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
There was a Sunday School staff meeting on February 3rd. I would like all SS staff members to complete an evaluation of the SS program. If all the SS staff could please fill an evaluation form out and place it in my mailbox, you can sign it if you want to but you do not have to, that would be nice. I will leave the forms on my desk in the Education room next Sunday.
For your information, our Sunday School enrolment policy states that if your child turns 3 years old they are able to begin attending Sunday School. So, even if your child has recently had her/his third birthday, your child is welcome to begin attending Sunday School, if you feel that they are ready to do so. Please talk to Kathy Withage; the Sunday School Coordinator, or to a Pre-School teacher about registering your child in Sunday School.
The church provides offering envelopes for all Sunday School children. We believe that this will promote good stewardship habits among our children—habits which hopefully will be with them for their lifetime. The envelopes are numbered and individual offerings are recorded and added to their parent’s financial contribution statement. The Sunday School offerings go into the church’s general budget. The exception to this may be to collect special offerings for missions. Information about a special offering will be communicated to parents prior to a special offering being taken.
If you would like to know more about Sunday School, have questions about what is happening in the Sunday School, or would like to help with Sunday School please talk to the Sunday School Coordinator, Kathy Withage.
If anyone is interested in taking over as Coordinator of the Sunday School or as Assistant Coordinator of the Sunday School as of September 2013 please let me know.
The Sunday School children will sing the song: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” on Easter Sunday during the 11 a.m. worship service. There will not be Sunday School on this day.
Lesson schedule for March:
March 3: Jesus Feeds Five Thousand
March 10: Jesus Seeks the Lost
March 17: The Lord’s Supper
March 24: Jesus Dies and Lives Again
Dear God in Heaven, I give You thanks for Your son, Jesus Christ and I rejoice in the power of the resurrection. Amen (Portals of Prayer)
In His Service, Kathy Withage, Sunday School Coordinator
LITTLE LAMBS CHRISTIAN PRESCHOOL
A reminder to all Immanuel Lutheran congregation members, that registrations for the 2013/14 school year are now open to returning families as well as ILC congregation. Registration will open to the public on Tuesday February 26th, at our Open House from 6:30 - 7:30 PM. Congregation members planning to register are encouraged to register soon to secure a space, as some classes are filling quickly.
Teacher staffing for next year has been confirmed as well. Teacher Shannon Steeves will continue to teach the morning classes, and Teacher Kindra Birss will return from her maternity leave to teach the afternoon classes.
March 12th...soup, buns and dessert will be served to all interested U of L students at 6:00 p.m. in our Fellowship Hall. Please contact Linda Egli at 403-327-6172 if you can provide soup or squares.
March 22nd at 7:00 p.m. we will be having a Family Movie Night complete with popcorn in the Fellowship Hall. Please invite family and friends to come and enjoy a family friendly Christian movie.
PUERTO PENASCO MISSION TRIP
Have you ever thought of taking part in a mission? Are you ready for a vacation? Are either on your bucket list? How about a combination - a Vacation with Purpose?
My name is Shirley Masnyk and I am currently in a town called Puerto Penasco in the state of Sonora, Mexico. Members of Immanuel, with the leadership of the Board of Outreach, have agreed to support a mission trip to this location where we will build a home for a family in need of decent housing. Since October of 2012, I have been researching our options and have been able to visit work sites of three different groups, with homes ranging from the simplist of shelters to a fully-equipped house. Depending on how many participants we have and the amount of dollars available, we will construct a wood-frame structure in about 4 days. I have met a fellow who calls himself Mission Jim who has devoted several years here to help the poor. Jim is a missionary in the true sense in that he is dedicated to Christian service without personal gain. He has agreed to assist us with our project in regards to construction, selecting a recipient family, and doing prep/follow-up as needed.
Because of the downturn in the US economy, this tourist town is in great need of our help. Besides home construction, there are numerous opportunities to serve which we can incorporate into our trip, depending on the participants and their skills. There are children's homes, men's and women's shelters, homes for the aged, soup kitchens, food banks, etc, all of which rely heavily on donations and volunteers to survive. Local churches can also use help expanding their own ministries. The possibilities, as you may imagine, are endless.
So, no matter what your skills and abilities may be, I will prepare a schedule of events for what I hope will be a rewarding experience for all. And, in our spare time, we can enjoy the beautiful Sea of Cortez, clean beach, amazing sunsets, wonderful cuisine, fellowship and fun.
Each month I hope to prepare a message for the newsletter as we move closer to solidifying plans for the trip, which I believe will be in late October or early November of this year. In the meantime, the Board of Outreach has a line item in the budget dedicated to this project. I invite you to donate as you are able. Fundraisers will also be planned to help offset the costs.
Please feel free to contact me by email if you have some interest in this mission trip. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
In His Service,
Immanuel Lutheran Church
DECEMBER 31, 2012
A-BC District Mission Donations for Month........................................................................................................ $270.00
A-BC District Mission Donations to Date ........................................................................................................... 3128.00
CLWR Mission Donations for Month ................................................................................................................. 1250.00
CLWR Mission Donations to Date ..................................................................................................................... 4336.00
Servus Credit Union Cheq. Acc.t Balance...................................................................................................... $23,473.40