March 2020

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

Jesus was half-dead even before He got to Golgatha. Whipped by the Roman soldier 39 times, one shy of what was permissible by law, Jesus stumbles to His crucifixion unable to carry the weight of His cross. Not only was He dismantled physically, He was crushed in spirit. Wrestling with his fear in Gethsemane the night before, His sweat was like great drops of blood. Judas would betray Him with, of all things, a kiss. Peter, arguably Jesus’ closest friend would say repeatedly that he did not know Christ. In the mockery of two different trials, religious Jews, God’s own chosen people, sentenced Jesus to death.

What had happened to the Palm Sunday of but a few days before? Where were all the supporters? Were those who screamed “Crucify Him” among those that Jesus had healed?

I wonder what it was really like 2,000 years ago on a hill far, far away.

These next weeks, these 40 days of Lent, we are challenged to think about Jesus’ trip to the cross. We recount what the Scriptures say about Good Friday. Consequently, we remember the crown of thorns, the spear and the nails. We recall that there was darkness at high noon. How many times did Mary, the mother of Jesus, rush to the foot of the cross to cling to the bleeding feet of her son, wishing she was dead herself? And Jesus’ disciples? Jesus’ closest friends? Nowhere to be found! Cowering in an Upper Room somewhere, hidden from the Roman soldiers and fickle crowds, those closest to Jesus were of no help, of no consolation nor comfort when the Lord needed them the most.

The rooster’s crow. The sound of soldiers gambling for his clothing. The criticism of a thief to his side. Jesus’ tongue cleaving to the roof of his parched mouth. The inability to raise his rib cage as fluids filled his chest cavity, suffocated Christ from the inside out. We all know Psalm 23. Look across the page at Psalm 22. 1,000 years before, hundreds of years before crucifixion was even known in the Roman world, the psalmist with eerie precision, astonishing, accurate detail, would predict the horror of Good Friday.

I am tempted to believe that the greatest of Good Friday pains was physical. Imagine having your wrists and feet pierced with nails, your shredded back laid against unforgiving wood! Eventually your shoulders would dislocate, unable to bear your body weight. To find an instant of relief, you would try to raise your body ever so slightly by pulling up on your arms or resting for a moment on your nailed feet. Truth be told however, as we reflect on the passion of the Christ these upcoming Lenten days, we might do well to believe that the greatest of Jesus’ Good Friday pains was NOT physical.

John the Baptist said it of Jesus at Jesus’ baptism. Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the  sin  of  the world.  Though Jesus’ physical crucifixion pains would be unimaginable,

Jesus suffered a great deal more because He took upon Himself the sin of every person who had lived or ever would live, my sin and your sin. In saner times, people of conscience will suffer sin’s torment of guilt and shame, of humiliation and degradation. Imagine taking upon yourself the wretchedness of sin trillions of times over! Only a God could have endured the pains of my sin and your sin. Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, totally God and at the same time totally Man, is the perfect sacrifice to atone for the destructive consequences of Sin.

And yet, do not forget this sacred season of Lent that there was even more suffering than that of physical and sinful natures. Perhaps the greatest of pains Jesus endured in His great love for us on a hill far, far away 2,000 years ago is that for the first time in an eternity, Jesus wondered where His Heavenly Father was! In a mystery of the faith, Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. We believe in one God, a God of three persons. All actions of God are trinitarian. God the Father is the mindset, God the Son is the agent of all Godly actions and this, in the power of God the Holy Spirit. On the cross, Jesus cries, “My God, my God, where are you?” Jesus’ cry is more than an exhortation of torment. For the first time in God’s history, the Trinity itself was in jeopardy. Jesus, in terror, in the greatest of pains, wonders for the first time in an eternity, where His daddy is.

And if it is impossible for us to adequately speak of the torment of it all, the fear and worry, the pain that Jesus experienced at that moment, imagine what God the Father and God the Spirit were experiencing at that very moment of agony.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Lent is about reconsidering the lengths of God’s love. I pray that this sacred season, we truly take to heart the heart of God. Consequently, putting away all excuses that would keep us from drawing closer to the Lord, especially these next 40 days, I pray that we all will appreciate God’s love for us more consistently. Churches on the planet should be packed with thankful Christians. We should not primarily be shamed into taking up our own crosses and following Christ. We should respect, love and obey God because God is worthy of our greatest praises and adorations. We should glory in the cross of Christ forever because it is our life and it is our hope.

Will we see you in worship this Lenten season? Will we together commit to clinging to Christ all the more given how very passionate He is in His clinging to us?

God’s Peace and Joy!
Pastor Mike Lemke

FEBRUARY 2020

Dear Cross of Glory Family Members and Friends,

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

And thus begins the marvelous chapter on faith and faith heroes in the New Testament book of Hebrews. The entire chapter remembers Old Testament people, not so unlike us, who chose to trust God over other inclinations. Abraham is not celebrated because he is rich. Instead, he is memorialized because he is faithful. Leaving behind what was familiar, taking God at God’s word, Abraham leaves his homeland not even sure where he is headed!

And how about that Moses? Indeed, after a rough beginning, Moses grows up in privilege and in honor. But the Bible does not celebrate Moses because he was royalty. The Bible celebrates Moses because he cast off privilege, tended sheep, and in turn, God’s chosen people, who cried for a Deliverer given hundreds of years in bondage. In faith, Moses stands against Pharaoh while standing for the Israelites. Putting his trust in Yahweh, Moses is remembered for the last 3300 years!

Hebrews chapter 11 recounts Biblical hero after Biblical hero, celebrating them because of their faith in God. The list is lengthy, containing men and women names. As the writer of the book of Hebrews moves from chapter 11 to chapter 12, the lesson is clear: Inspired by those who put trust in God, we too, are to revere, love and trust God above everything else. This is most certainly true!

But faith is rarely easy! It is tough to believe in things we cannot see. We find it difficult to believe in a God who we trust is present but not physically in front of us and a future we contend that God holds but not yet apparent to us. Questions ensue. Doubts prevail. Compromises are made. How difficult it is for us to trust, to believe, to be faithful though we have proof of God’s reliability over the years in in getting to where we have gotten.

Critics of Christianity sometimes expect Christians to have all of the answers about God, the Scriptures and the workings of the Lord (even God’s goodness) in a problematic world. They point out, in their understandings, the many problems, even contradictions they argue prevalent in the Bible. Critics expect Christians to explain away all the difficulties, all the mysteries and all the questions in an arena of intellect instead of primarily heart. If we are unable to come up with reasonable explanations for all of the difficulties in the world, a world supposedly God governs, critics choose to remain critics instead of Christians. And Christians? Sometimes we leave those conversations thinking we should have had better answers and that maybe, just maybe, critics have some rather convincing points.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I know it may seem shallow, even elementary to respond to those questioning God with the answer, “I really don’t know.”   Critics may interpret the response as truly lacking, if not altogether flippant and ill-informed. “I don’t know,” doesn’t seem to go very far but the reality, the elephant in the room, is that it would be both pompous and arrogant to respond much differently. In love, in gentleness, certainly not in ugly defensiveness or aggression, arguing just to argue, we might say the obvious. “If God is truly God, Creator of all, Redeemer of all and Sanctifier of all, how could we possibly contend to know everything there is to know about God and God’s workings in a universe scientists contend is beyond mind-blowing proportion.

A God small enough for my puny mind could not possibly be big enough for my great needs.

We are to respond to the critics of Christianity and God in general by saying it’s never been about knowledge anyway! It has always been about faith! Our belief is not steeped in logic and mathematics, (and heaven knows, science is not always trustworthy…remember when it was thought that the sun rotated around the earth and that the world was flat and that Saturn had one big ring around it and that bloodletting was the sure fire way to get rid of illness, blah blah blah blah blah)? Even today, doctors can tell us a hundred different reasons why hearts are stopped. But even the greatest of doctor minds cannot tell us how in the world the beating of a heart begins!

Rather than reach for answers that most likely will remain unanswered until as the Bible says in the Love Chapter of the Bible, First Corinthians 13, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but we shall see face to face,” let us  try to believe like the heroes of Hebrews 11 that God is the answer, that God has always been the answer and that God forever will be the answer! Maybe as we wrestle with critics and our own questionings, we would do well to recount those times in our lives that God came through for us, perhaps even against incredible odds. Maybe it would be better for us to share personal stories of God’s incredible reliability, goodness, providence and protection, instances of God’s grace, things that have indeed happened, rather than to conjecture about why such-and-such did not take place.

And I will let you in on a little secret: I do not think that critics of Christianity are truly looking for intellectual answers that somehow might sway them to become believers. It may be a stretch for me, a gross judgment call, but I’m guessing that many minds are already made up about God, about the Church, about atrocities in the past and in present-day. Satisfactory answers probably will not change those bent on dismissing God. But your love for them will! Your prayers, your sincere embrace of them, your allowance (to a degree) and forgiveness, your example, your loving acts of kindness while expecting NOTHING in return will be the means by which God changes their hearts.

How interesting that we have come through these twelve days of Christmas into the magnificent Church season of Epiphany before moving into the penitent season of Lent! It’s as though we celebrate the gift of Christ in the manger only to see His Epiphany Divinity during the months of January and February before realizing Jesus humanness in the 40 days prior to Easter. Talk about mysteries! The incarnation? How is it that Jesus is at the same time totally God and yet 100% human? The same guy who feeds 5000+ hungry people with a miracle also finds himself starving in a desert? This Jesus? He can command the wind and the sea but yet bleeds from a forsaken tree? Talk about mysteries indeed!

“Lord, help our unbelief! Give us faith!”

John’s Gospel is 21 chapters long. Nearly a third of John’s Gospel is devoted to one evening of discourse, the Last Supper night. Jesus in His Divinity knows about what is to take place. He knows about the nails and the spear. He knows about Good Friday darkness at noon time. He knows that His mom Mary will be clinging to His bleeding feet at the foot of the cross wishing that she was dead herself. In His Divinity, in his God mindset, Jesus knows at the Last Supper that He will be betrayed by a kiss and denied numerous times by His closest friend and yet at the Last Supper, terrified by all these things in His humanity, Jesus’ primary concern is for His friends. He knows of His impending death and yet, principally with no regard for Himself, Jesus wants His friends to be encouraged against the darkness, against the fears, anxieties, questions and loss of it all.

Tell critics of Christianity that.

Tell critics that though you may not know all the many answers to difficult questions posed by the ills of the world, you believe that Jesus nonetheless comes to you in the darkness, in your worry and in your need. Tell critics, and assure yourself, that Jesus always has your back, that He will never fail you nor forsake you and that even in spite of yourself, “Jesus loves You THIS you know, because the Bible tells you so.”

Ash Wednesday is February 26th. Lent means Spring. Indeed, always occurring in the Spring it ushers in new life. Historically, Lent has been understood as the time prior to Easter where newcomers to the faith, in spiritual discipline, prayer, fasting and Bible Study prepared for their Easter baptisms. Hopefully, we too at church can recommit to God in disciplines of our own.

As in past years, we will be observing Lent with our friends from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, alternating worship places Wednesday after Wednesday until Holy Week. Plan right now on being with us through the sacred season as we draw closer to the Lord who always draws close to us. And given that the Lenten season has always been about greater prayer, Bible reading and hearts all the more given to God, how about if you pick up the Scriptures and read Hebrews Chapter 11 immediately. Be encouraged by the faithful and then as you move into Chapter 12, choose to be one of the faithful followers of Christ yourself?

God’s Peace and Joy!
Pastor Mike Lemke

 

JANUARY 2020

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

Let me remind you of a Robert Frost poem:

“Nothing Gold Can Stay”

Nature’s first green is gold,  Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaf’s a flower,  But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.  So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.  Nothing gold can stay.

Change is inevitable. In Robert Frost’s iconic poem, Frost underlines what the preacher from Ecclesiastes bespoke 3,000 years ago. There is a time for everything. One thing gives way to another.

I am writing you this newsletter article with but six hours left in 2019. I think it is quite natural for us on New Year’s Eve night to reflect on both the joys and challenges of the last year. Thank you, Cross of Glory, for once again being such an incredible blessing in my life. I thank you for the example you consistently are in faithful discipleship. Like the Christmas star that led wisemen to Bethlehem, your light, a reflection of Christ’s, has led the way for me and so many others in our years of friendship. Thank you for encouraging me in the many ways you model Jesus and carry Him into each year.

Because of your kindness, encouragement and allowance, Barb and I were privileged to experience so many amazing, new things this past year. In the first part of our Sabbaticals, we were able to visit parts of Europe. Consequently, we saw Mount Vesuvius and the Pompeii ruins. We toured the Vatican and the Roman Colosseum. We marveled at Michelangelo’s David statue and held up the tower of Pisa. We were in southern France the day Notre Dame caught on fire and we worshipped among the French in Palm Sunday celebration and Easter New Life promise.

This Fall, I completed the second part of my Sabbatical, this with your graciousness, by studying Spanish in unparalleled Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for six weeks. Attending class Mondays through Fridays from 9 in the morning until mid afternoon, I learned how to speak Spanish in the past tense as well as in the present. Fitting isn’t it, that this evening I especially look at the past and thank you for the marvels along the way.

Barb and I have remarked several times that given the beauty of all that we experienced on Sabbaticals in 2019, perhaps the most special blessing of all is to have met so many new friends in diverse places. We were especially moved by the kindness of Frenchman Juau who invited us to his home after Easter worship. We laughed at the passion of tour guide Federico who reminded us that he was more “Rome” than “Italy” and certainly not a lover of spaghetti and meatballs IN combination. I will forever be touched by the joy of my Spanish teachers when they saw the light go off in my head upon making a Spanish word connection. I hope that this upcoming year I will be able, with your help, to introduce a Spanish-speaking worship component to our ministry.

Robert Frost, American poet laureate, forever embraced by particularly New England, got it only partly right. Nothing Gold Can Stay is a poem that suggests everything will inevitably change. Though the point is well taken and certainly underlined by the Ecclesiastes preacher, there is one thing that always remains the same. 2019 or 2020, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Word made Flesh, Emmanuel forever in our midst, will be as faithful, reliable, trustworthy and true as God had always been and forever will be.

Let us trust that the God who brings us to things will give us the grace to get through them. With that promise, we can be encouraged, always hopeful, as we go into each and every new year. To be sure, there will be joys in months ahead. There will be inevitable challenges also, but regardless, we are never, ever, alone. With lessons learned this past year, with the help of new friends, realizations that God indeed was gracious and will be, there is every reason to expect that 2020 will be an exceptional year of blessing, difference and change! As faithful disciples, depending on Jesus and his Word, let us attempt to be agents of POSITIVE change this upcoming year!

Joy to the World! The Lord has come and, just keeps coming and coming and coming! Hallelujah!

Happy New Year!
Pastor Mike Lemke

DECEMBER 2019

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

Happy New Year! Yes, the first Sunday in Advent, December 1st marks the beginning of a brand new church year. I recently have returned from the second part of my 2019 Sabbatical. Since October 8th, I have been in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico studying Spanish at the Downtown (Centro) Spanish Experience Center from 9:00 AM to noon every Monday through Friday. I want to thank the congregation for making this educational and re-creational experience possible. I knew going into this venture that I would benefit in SO many ways. I know that I will be processing this entire experience for months to come as I have been enriched far beyond my initial hopes or thoughts.

Upon returning to Cross of Glory, this against the backdrop of busy and beautiful Advent and Christmas observance, I welcome the chance to visit with you personally about what I gained in Vallarta. To be sure, I DID learned some additional Spanish! Frankly though, I did not learn as much as I thought I would, but rather, learned how much YET I need to know about the language! There is ALWAYS room for improvement in so many different arenas of our lives. I am trying to discipline myself each day to spend at least 15 minutes working on my Spanish. I pray over the next year, I come closer to truly speaking and writing the language. Hopefully at this time next year, we will be talking about implementing a Spanish-speaking worship service at Cross of Glory.  Help anyone?

Let me share with you one of the many special encounters I had with precious people of Mexico.

It was Sunday morning and consequently, as has been the case in the years that my family has been fortunate to visit Vallarta, I made my way to the principal Roman Catholic cathedral that accents Puerto Vallarta and its downtown Centro area. After the High-Church 8:00 AM Roman Catholic mass, I walked the half-mile to Vallarta’s oldest hotel, Rosita. For years, my family has attended church and thereafter enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Rosita. That Sunday, Hotel Rosita was hustling and bustling with “mucha gente,” a lot of people!

Most of the breakfast eaters were teenagers! I would soon learn that 30 kids and their adult sponsors were in PV that weekend for a prestigious dance competition highlighting the unique dances and flavors of various Mexican states. As I loaded my plate up with Rosita brunch that morning, one young girl kept staring at me from a nearby table. I figured Esmeralda was looking at me (in disbelief) given that a plate should ONLY hold so many omelettes, pancakes and frijoles! I was mistaken. Esmeralda was looking at me in an attempt to determine whether I could be a friendly “gringo” to practice English with her.

Believe me, I know the hesitancy of speaking with someone in THEIR language, not mine. Esmeralda overcame worry and reservation. In a strong (fuerte) voice, she blurted out, “Do you spoke English?” Esmeralda’s dancing friends giggled in unison. Maybe surprised, I responded in Spanish, “Si, yo hablo ingles.” I then asked Esmeralda, “Do you speak Spanish?” Teenage giggles turned to raucous laughter! Esmeralda pulled up a chair. Not speaking in full sentences but rather with isolated words she thought I would understand, Esmeralda asked about my house, my family, work, and the reason (Por que?) for my being in Vallarta. Soon, other teenage kids, beautiful, spirited, full of life and laughter, unparalleled talents in Mexican dancing, (they had taken 3rd place

out of 26 PV entries) gathered around my table. Sometimes the kids dared to interject a question or a statement in broken English. Leonardo (I kept calling him “The Lion”) asked about my meal. Angel wanted to know if I had a dog. Andrei, turning 15 on November 1st, All Saints Day, the day before Mexico’s holiest of times, Dia de los Muertos, tried to tell me in English about dancing. Cell phones came out and I was privileged to watch the group’s past performances on YouTube. Within minutes of Esmeralda’s coming over, there were a dozen Mexican teenage dancers sitting with me at Rosita!

The teenagers howled when I tried to say certain things to them in Spanish…and then politely corrected me! Como te dices, “Ouch” in espanol?!!! I told Andrei that I would text him on his birthday (something I did…and within minutes I received texts from both Esmeralda and Angel) and that I would remember our Rosita time together forever. After 20 minutes of broken English and broken Spanish, adult sponsors called the kids away from my table.  The dance group needed to catch a bus for the eight-hour ride back to their home in the Mexican state of…Sinaloa.

Some things are easy to understand whether one knows the language or not. “Gracias” is pretty simple. “Thank you” is easy. Tears in eyes because of laughter and a beautiful connection is hard to misinterpret.

I told people in my Spanish school that I was in Vallarta to do a lot more than learn additional Spanish. I told them about how I desire a deeper spirituality and that I have forever been impressed with SO MANY precious Mexican people who, possessing materialistically “nada”, seem a lot happier then I usually am! It was days after my unforgettable encounter with the Mexican dancers that I learned they were returning home to a Mexican state that had been in WORLD news. Cullacan, Sinaloa had experienced the bloodshed of a horrific battle between cartel drug leaders and Mexican Federal agents. Agents had arrested one of Mexico’s premier drug kingpins. Those sympathetic to the kingpin, shot at habitants in Cullacan from the back of trucks with machine guns demanding that the drug lord, the son of El Chapo, imprisoned in Colorado’s Supermax prison, be released. Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Labrador ordered the Mexican federal agents to release the drug kingpin in order to cease hostilities, a controversial move among Mexicans and others.

And to think that I might complain if a Rosita cook forgets to put in the mushrooms I had wanted in my Sunday morning omelette! “Forgive me Lord, please, in patience, forgive me! My troubles pale in comparison to those who REALLY struggle with difficult things and people in the world today.”

Some would say that the primary purpose of language is to communicate. I now am contending that the primary purpose of language is to make connections. I will resolve to work on my Spanish so that when I meet the Esmeraldas, Leonardos, Angels and Andreis of the world I might better meet them in their joy AND sorrow. I have always thought that the most important word in the Spanish language is “Corazon,” Heart. Mexicans ARE passionate, hot-blooded in heart, in romance, in dance.  Their celebrations are spirited and heart-warming, vibrant in color and expression.  How I want to connect, all the more, with THAT! The Grinch’s heart in Dr. Seuss’ Christmas tale grew a little as he eventually experienced the true meaning of Christmas. MY heart grows a little bit also when I am able to understand someone else’s need AND possibly do something to alleviate the hurt. I am richer, you are richer, when WE (nosotros), together (juntos), hold each other in prayer and…heart.

Jesus came to Earth because people didn’t get it. The LANGUAGE of the Scriptures, of the prophets and of the Law wasn’t cutting it. God NEEDED to send His only Son into the world to make known His unparalleled love. By becoming one of us, human while at the same time entirely divine, Jesus makes the connection with us. Emmanuel will forever be with us! Hope was born at Christmas…

Gracias a todos Cross of Glory y A DIOS (do you see God in the Spanish “Goodbye?”)!  Let us make 2020 connections with soon-to-be friends, Whoville ever, wherever they are! Feliz Navidad amigos!

Pastor Mike Lemke

 

NOVEMBER 2019

Happy November!

With fall now here, we are experiencing another beautiful time of year.  The leaves on the trees have either turned colors – or blown off.  As we look to the west, God has provided a “heavenly scene” as we see our snow-capped mountains.  Our skiers are especially happy.  Life is good!

At Cross of Glory, we are experiencing a temporary leadership change for November.  Please read a portion of Pastor Mike’s October newsletter article below:

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,  

Just a reminder, everyone! God willing and depending on possible concerning needs in the next couple of weeks, I intend to complete the second part my Sabbatical beginning Monday, October 7. I intend to study Spanish at the Spanish Experience Center in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Mondays through Fridays from 9:00 AM until noon through the end of November.

For the longest while, I have dreamed of taking concentrated, disciplined Spanish lessons to complement what I already know about the language. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to additionally learn Spanish…this in a beautiful, familiar place. I hope the additional Spanish I learn will translate into adding a Spanish-speaking worship service at Cross of Glory in the near future.

You will be in the capable hands of assisting ministers, Ron Powers and Carl Hansen, in my absence. Pastor Todd from Prince of Peace has also volunteered to assist should emergencies arise while I am gone. As you are able, please additionally do ministry in extraordinary ways at Cross of Glory in my absence. Thank you so very much for your many helps that I, we, can feel better about my being away!

I look forward to being with you the first Sunday in Advent, December 1st as we begin a brand new liturgical year together!

God’s Peace and Joy!

Pastor Mike Lemke

During October, Pastors Ron Powers and Carl Hansen have led us in worship in Pastor Mike’s absence.  We thank them for the ministry they provide. Pastor Carl will be with us during November.

Pastor Mike is having a wonderful time in Puerto Vallarta.  As he is attending classes at the Spanish Experience Center, he is becoming even more familiar with Spanish words, phrases, etc.  We may need to teach him some ENGLISH when he returns!

Although Pastor Mike is not physically with us, his thoughts are with us.  We are remembered in his prayers.

CROSS OF GLORY HAS MANY MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES IN NOVEMBER!  JOIN US!!!

 

OCTOBER 2019

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,  

Randy had been so vibrant and capable in younger years, a star on our church softball team. But his motorcycle accident changed everything! Struggling consequently with a head trauma injury, Randy experienced seizure after seizure and unbearable migraine headaches. He had lost most of his nose in the accident and was destined to walk with a limp and accompanying cane.  

Within the first year of Randy’s recovery, family finances were devastated. When stress is high, patience is limited. Randy began to self-medicate. One drink to take the edge off turned into many drinks. Randy’s wife, Judy, threaten to leave the marriage. Within a year, Randy went from being the right fielder who could throw out anybody at second to the disfigured 32-year-old who wanted to throw in the towel.

I visited Randy at Spaulding Rehabilitation Center on Good Shepherd Sunday years ago. I brought him a bulletin from church…and Randy, considering the picture of Jesus holding a lamb on the cover, asked me to recite the 23rd Psalm. I began: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in need.” I recall Randy stretching out his arms drawing attention to his racked body as if to say, “Hello? I’m DESPERATELY in need here!” I went on. “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Randy responded, “I have not had a good night’s sleep in a year.” When I got to the part, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I do not have to be afraid,” Randy confessed, ‘I am not afraid of death, Mike.  I actually welcome it.” Though in our continued friendship over the years, Randy, being always kind and considerate, said he no longer needed a pastor. He claimed to have lost his Christian faith. He considered God to be a bad joke and the Bible to be a book of lies. 

Barb and I eventually moved from the town homes in Parker…and our neighbors Randy and Judy. My contact with Randy lessened and then diminished. It had been several years since we had seen one another when out of the blue, on my September 11th birthday, Randy called to ask if we could get together. Meeting at the Denny’s restaurant for a piece of pie, Randy shared with me that he had returned to his Baptist Church. He talked about how he had come back to faith given weird coincidences of providence and protection since we had last met. He contended that the coincidences were TOO coincidental to be happenstances! “When that friend came over to say ‘Hello;’ when I was able to make a little more money working; when my AA sponsor put the screws to me and got me back on track, I started to entertain the notion that God just might exist.” Randy said in time that with the help of his wife, he contended that God not only exists, but must truly care! 

I remember Randy wiping coconut cream from his mouth before saying, “Planes can fly into buildings and skyscrapers can topple, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that God is piloting the jetliner.” Randy went on to explain that he is not giving God a pass given all the terrible things that happen in the world, but that he now believes that, nonetheless, God is first on the scene to sort through the debris and weep with those who weep.

Many of you know of my friend in Puerto Vallarta Jesus. Yes, his name is actually Jesus! Recently, Jesus moved from Vallarta to a small community an hour south of PV. In a frantic telephone conversation to me, Jesus told me about the hurricane that was creeping up the Mexican Pacific coast threatening devastation and destruction. Torrential rains had already begun to slam his community.

Jesus had sheltered his two dogs and white cat inside his modest concrete structure of a home. But Jesus was emotionally-shattered over the plight of the lone sheep next door. The owner had been away. The sheep had no cover. Pelted by the unforgiving torrential rain, the sheep cried, over and over again, in pitiful pleas for someone, for something, resembling help. Jesus considered herding the sheep into his home, but feared being accused of stealing the sheep! Eventually the anguish of the sheep became too much. Jesus braved the storm in an attempt to guide the sheep into shelter…but the sheep, too terrified, too big and too heavy to move, would not budge! Jesus could not get the sheep indoors! 

Jesus found several large trash bags, and returning to the sheep, placed them over her drenched fleece. He covered the sheep with the one blanket he had from his bed. Then for the next hour, while the rain mercilessly pelted small-community Tuito, JESUS STAYED ALONGSIDE THE CRYING SHEEP, SPEAKING TENDERLY TO HER AND REMINDING HER THAT SHE WAS NOT ALONE.

I am glad that Jesus’ name is Jesus because it helps draw the obvious connection between Jesus helping the sheep and Jesus, our Good Shepherd, helping us! How we are the unmovable and terrified and drenched and pelted and alone creatures much of the time! How we have been disfigured and jaded by a world that God had not originally intended! And yet Jesus, our Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, covers us not with trash bags but with His blood. He reminds us the we are not alone and that He, forever unmoved, will ALWAYS stay close to us to shield and comfort us.  

During the month of October, Lutheran churches everywhere especially appreciate the contributions of Protestant Reformer Martin Luther. Luther’s favorite Psalm was not the 23rd. Luther opted for another marvelous psalm of God’s protection and promises, Psalm 46. The psalm begins with a wonderful proclamation of promise and surety: “A mighty fortress is our God.” In the midst of the accidents, the storms and terrors of our world, might we continue to believe and find hope in a God who was pelted for our sakes and yet, who “like a lamb that was led to the slaughter, did not nonetheless open his mouth in his defense.”  

Just a reminder, everyone! God willing and depending on possible concerning needs in the next couple of weeks, I intend to complete the second part my Sabbatical beginning Monday, October 7. I intend to study Spanish at the Spanish Experience Center in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Mondays through Fridays from 9:00 AM until noon through the end of November.

For the longest while, I have dreamed of taking concentrated, disciplined Spanish lessons to complement what I already know about the language. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to additionally learn Spanish…this in a beautiful, familiar place. I hope the additional Spanish I learn will translate into adding a Spanish-speaking worship service at Cross of Glory in the near future.

You will be in the capable hands of assisting ministers, Ron Powers and Carl Hansen, in my absence. Pastor Todd from Prince of Peace has also volunteered to assist should emergencies arise while I am gone. As you are able, please additionally do ministry in extraordinary ways at Cross of Glory in my absence. Thank you so very much for your many helps that I, we, can feel better about my being away!

I look forward to being with you the first Sunday in Advent, December 1st as we begin a brand new liturgical year together!

God’s Peace and Joy!
Pastor Mike Lemke

 

SEPTEMBER 2019

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

Remember the television game show, “To Tell the Truth?”  As I recall, Gary Moore hosted the show.  Kitty Carlisle and Orson Bean were always panelists.  In a thirty-minute television show, panelists would ask questions of three contestants, two imposters and the REAL “so and so.” After rounds of questioning, Gary Moore would ask the panelists who they thought the REAL “so and so” was.  He would then ask the contestants the question that became a trademark for the show:  “Will the REAL “so and so” please stand up?  Contestants would in turn ALL stand up at one point or another pretending to be the REAL “so and so,” before eventually, to the delight or chagrin of all, the REAL “so and so” would remain standing.

I have had various church experiences.  When I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, my family attended one of the largest Lutheran churches in AMERICA!  Though Sioux Falls had a population of approximately 90,000, 4000 of the 90,000 claimed church membership at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (and Our Savior’s was not even the largest Lutheran church in Sioux Falls)!  Church attendance boomed in the 1950s and 1960s.  Men dressed in suits and ties when worshipping.  They polished their shoes on Saturday nights before church the next day.  Ladies wore dresses, pill-box hats and even white gloves.  My confirmation class had 80 kids in it!  80 kids!  Confirmation was split between the Monday-nighters and the Saturday-morners.  Mom and Dad ALWAYS made my brother, sister and me go to church on Sundays.  I was NOT about to go to church on Saturdays.  Consequently, as a Monday-nighter, I had to sing in the choir and miss something on television that was just beginning in the early 1970s: Monday Night Football.  Sigh…

The sanctuary of Our Savior’s was astounding (it STILL is)!  Stained-glass windows characterized the worship space.  The magnificent pipe organ sat in the balcony.  Classical music, Bach and Beethoven, reverberated the sanctuary as prelude, postlude AND every hymn in-between.  Mozart would have been considered TOO lively, TOO playful to “appropriately” be heard.  And the Senior Pastor, Pastor Howard M. Blegan (we always had to say “M” when reciting his name), was probably as “scary” to the 80+ year-olds in the congregation as to ALL 80 of us who were in confirmation!  In the fourteen years that I was a member of Our Savior’s, I cannot remember Pastor Blegan EVER speaking to me.

Skip to 1972!  Dad had been offered a construction management position in Golden, Colorado (He would become Vice President of Asphalt Paving Company, eventually President of the Colorado Contractors Association and recognized nationally for construction ingenuity)!  The only thing I knew about Golden, Colorado was a beer I HEARD about (hehe) made from Rocky Mountain spring waters:  Coors?.  The Denver Broncos were a sorry football team (incidentally, NEVER on Monday Night Football until the season AFTER their 1977 Super Bowl against the Cowboys) and Denver was a long, long, long ways away from my Sioux Falls friends.  Dad had checked out schools before the rest of our family joined him in Colorado.  We would live in Lakewood.  I would go to Bear Creek High School.  Our family would worship at nearby Atonement Lutheran Church.  (Did I mention that Mom and Dad ALWAYS made my brother, sister and me go to church on Sundays?).

Atonement was a bit different than Our Savior’s…but then again, church CERTAINLY was different in the West than in the Midwest!  The Simunicks who lived across the street from us in Lakewood for instance were Methodists (whatever they were).  Our good friends, the Rhodes, were Presbyterians. 

And in 1972, I would guess that you could gather ALL the Lutheran churches in Denver and STILL not have as many Lutheran Christians as there were in miniscule Sioux Falls, South Dakota by comparison!      

And Atonement Lutheran Church? Men wore short-sleeve shirts to worship.  Ladies wore pant- suits to church on occasion (Well, you might say, Colorado gets snowy and frigid during the winter.  Ladies NEED pant-suits.  But wait a minute!  Have ANY on you “weathered” a Dakota blizzard?  Have any of you been in the Midwest when the snow, flying right before Thanksgiving STAYS until Easter?  Gimme a break!).  Atonement’s worship space was TINY compared to what I was used to.  You had no choice but to get to KNOW Atonement family members (A GREAT THING!). The sanctuary was cozy, inviting and warm.  It felt homey while at the same time…churchy.  Even today, when I am feeling down-and-out, out-of-sorts with things, I like to go to the “original” Atonement sanctuary and “recover” there.  Despite Atonement renovations over the decades, the simplistic cross made of brick on the north wall of-the-then sanctuary remains.  It was the backdrop to my confirmation and ordination worship services and the hundreds upon hundreds of heartfelt, impacting services of “Lift High the Cross” Atonement gatherings.

Let me but say this one thing about Pastor Del.  There is NO pastor better.  I have done thousands of funerals.  I DREAD thinking about doing the funerals of certain people.  I DREAD thinking about doing his.  If I should be honored some day to do Pastor Del’s funeral service, I, we, will need the WHOLE BODY OF CHRIST to help me, us, through it emotionally. 

And then there was my first church as a pastor:  Joy Lutheran in Parker.  I was 26 years old.  Parker Road was a dirt road that headed south of 225 towards the small community of Parker 14 miles away.  The Sunday I was installed, the Safeway store opened off Main Street.  In NO TIME it would drive out of business Hills Market, the ONE Mom and Pop grocery store that had served the community forever. In the years that my wife Barb and I pastored Joy, the congregation grew SIX times over (!!!) to eventually 1500 members. People would ask us “Isn’t it nice working with each other in the same parish?” Barb and I would look at one another and say to peoples’ amazement, “We never see one another.”  We were young and energized.  We thought pastors routinely worked eighty-hour work-weeks.  Rarely were we at home with each other.  Joy became one of the largest churches in the Rocky Mountain Synod.  Some would contend we were…successful.  Numbers-wise, absolutely!  We were off the charts! But let me say this: Growth begets growth.  The absolute hardest part about growing a church is INITIALLY GETTING IT TO GROW.  Once a healthy church is off and running, it virtually grows itself!  As we struggle with growth at Cross of Glory, please, please, please do not confuse success with numbers.  Be faithful!  Trust in Jesus!  Honor God and love neighbors!  Therein lies TRUE success!  And I am so proud of your faithfulness Cross of Glory!    

I can tell you dear stories of special people at Joy, challenged people who loved Jesus and others tremendously.  So many members mentored Barb and me with their discipleships of devotion, wisdom and heart. We will forever be grateful to these precious ones, these loving ones, but church in Parker… well… it even surprises me to write it… church in Parker was for me…  a blur. 

And you Cross of Glory?  We are unique indeed!  We who are tucked away in a neighborhood where few kids are seen outdoors riding bicycles or playing in front yards.  To your credit, you lovers of Jesus, you keep plugging away.   You are up for anything!  As churches go, your participation breaks the rules.  Whereas most churches worship a third of their membership on any given Sunday, you defy the odds.  More than half our membership shows up on Sundays!  Even when GETTING to church is difficult, day and night, you show up!  You do the deal.  In our small parish, we know one another very, very well!  We attempt to live out our Mission Statement of being “Rooted in the Scriptures, Rejoicing in God’s Grace and Reaching Out in Love.”  You encourage others to join us. For a small church, you offer plenty of activities for all to enjoy.  

And I am privileged to be your pastor.  For fourteen years, I have been your pastor.  I thank God for you, you crazies of Cross of Glory Lutheran Church.  We are like the misfit toys on that island in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  So precious and dear.  So loving and willing to give.  How we need each other and a Savior who leads us through “foggy Christmas Eves,”  and dark nights into a future of promise, impact and life!

Remember when I started this newsletter article by asking you if you could recall the television game show, “To Tell the Truth? 

You tell me! Given the four different churches that I have described, the one in Sioux Falls that formed my initial thoughts about church, the one in Lakewood that in many ways continues to be my church home, the hustle-and-bustle of rapidly-growing Parker and Joy and OUR church family of faith, heart and embrace, which of the four churches is in your estimation, the REAL Church? If you were Kitty Carlisle, which one would you say best characterizes…Church?  It is an interesting question. Instantly we are challenged with maybe even a surprising answer. This is one game show in which all of the contestants WOULD REMAIN STANDING after Gary Moore asked the trademark question:  “Will the REAL Church please stand up?”

As we wonder about Cross of Glory’s future, where we are going and how are we going to get there, please be open to the possibility that YOUR conception of church may be vastly different than someone else’s!  Let us allow the Holy Spirit, forever with us, to inform our upcoming discussions of mind and heart as together we build on the good things God (and the saints who gone before us) have done. Let us be open to the sentiments, the prayer-informed hopes, of our dear church family members whose thoughts about church may be quite different from our own. Whatever we decide in upcoming times about ministry at Cross of Glory, about church in general, may it always be said of us that we do so in love and in faith, trusting that “the God who has started a good thing in us, will complete it in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.”

RALLY SUNDAY

Please plan on being with us at Cross of Glory on Sunday, September 8.  Churches around the nation will be welcoming worshippers and students back to church after restful summers.  Rally Sunday is intended to energize congregants.  We are planning an outdoor worship service of joy, surprises and delights.  The fun we experience on our lawn on Sunday, September 8, should propel us well into an autumn of many activities at Cross of Glory.

BEGINNING SPANISH

Hola! Habla Espanol? In our continued attempts to offer various church-sponsored activities for all ages, Pastor Mike is once again teaching Beginning Spanish at Cross of Glory on Saturday mornings from 9:00 – 10:00 AM.  Por favor, pase la palabra!  Habla con su maestro, Pastor Mike.  Those of us in attendance on Saturday mornings are having a “fantastico tiempo.”  Help Pastor Mike practice his Spanish in preparation for his extended time in Mexico this Fall as he will be studying Spanish weekdays in Mexico! And thanks Vilma Gelster for all the help you are being in class as a native Spanish speaker!  Class resumes on Saturday, September 14.

WE ARE THE CHURCH…THE BODY OF OUR LORD.  WE ARE ALL GOD’S  CHILDREN…AND WE HAVE BEEN RESTORED!

Pastor Mike Lemke

 

JULY 2019

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

July is here! With it comes yet another American birthday! We are so very fortunate to live in the United States. We have the ability to choose our laws and our leaders. I pray that on the 4th of July especially, we would thank God once again for the many blessings of country and the people of the past and present who help secure our liberties. God bless the United States of America and may she be a light to the nations, using the gifts she has been given to help others in need.

July is here! With it comes the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon! Many remember exactly where they were as they heard the historic words, “That’s one small step for man, a giant leap for mankind!” Recently in a Sunday morning worship service, we lifted up Psalm 8, “When I consider the work of Your hands, the sun and the moon and the stars, what is man that You care for him and the son of man that You attend to him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the angels?” Neil Armstrong walked on the moon 50 years ago and to be sure, we celebrate human ingenuity and consequent technology. We revere commitment to doing the impossible,but let us always remember: God preceded it all. Let us always remember that God gifted man with his abilities. Apart from God we really cannot do anything.

July is here! With each passing year, it seems like we wonder all the more about even having a Yard Sale! We certainly are not getting any younger and the thought of bringing items to the church, pricing them ahead of time, seems more daunting. And then, of course, there is the business of getting to the church as the sun rises on the Saturday of the sale! Carrying the tables and tents to our lawn, the chairs and box after box of items to be sold makes us cringe indeed! Will we realize a reasonable profit given all our many efforts? Will the weather hold out? Will we sell a lot of items so that we don’t have to load as many back up again as we always have committed giving unsold yard sale goods to area charities?

Yes indeed, each year the question is raised, should we hold our annual Cross of Glory Yard Sale?

And I will say real quick (before I change my mind), “YES! YES INDEED! Hear me out…

As 2:00 in the afternoon neared on Saturday, June 15th, the date of our Yard Sale, I saw a lot of tired Cross of Glory family members and friends on our lawn. Let me repeat, I saw A LOT of Cross of Glory family members and friends on our lawn. I would speculate that there were more Cross of Glory folk on our lawn then even buyers of our Yard Sale stuff! I saw a lot of Cross of Glory family members and friends visiting easily with one another. Many were laughing with each other. Some were already boxing up unsold stuff. Certain Cross of Glory friends were breaking down the tables getting them ready to be rolled back into the church. I saw A LOT of Cross of Glory family member and friend interaction as 2:00 PM neared.

In the weeks that followed, I heard about new friendships forged on the day of our Yard Sale. Yes, it is entirely possible after worship on Sunday mornings to have a bite to eat in our Fellowship Hall and chat with other Cross of Glory family members and friends. But most likely, Fellowship time after worship doesn’t allow us to chat with each other with delicious grilled cheese dripping from our chins! Thank you, Trevor Wilson, for luring a lot of our Cook Park buyers to our Yard Sale with your grilled cheese sandwiches and easy-going background music! Most likely, Fellowship time after  worship  doesn’t  allow  us  to chat  easily  with  each other  in our  flip-flops and decorative, summer shorts! It doesn’t allow us the opportunity to pet Poppy, Cherry and John Test’s dog, a hit on our lawn during our Yard Sale. Fellowship time after worship does not allow us to meet our Cook Park neighbors like we always do on Saturday Yard Sale days. There were those neighbors who told us about the merits of our church in the community. Some spoke to us in Spanish. Others gave us money donations atop the money they spent on yard sale trinkets in appreciation for the ministry we are doing in Cook Park.

Yes, the annual Yard Sale is hard work indeed…and it is not getting any easier… but the pluses still seem to outweigh the negatives.

Friends from next door, the Korean Baptists came to assist. Members of The Gambler Anonymous group, meeting in our building that Saturday morning, came to the lawn to express gratitude for allowing them a place over the years to congregate. As I prepared my remarks to our Church leadership regarding the success of the sale, I had jotted down the names of 40 people from our congregation who had either brought in items and/or physically helped on the day of the sale. 40 people! Not 40 days of flooding! Not 40 days before the Ascension! Not 40 days in the wilderness, but 40 people, 40 PEOPLE from our congregation who, in extraordinary ways, helped us touch each other and our community on Saturday, June 15th!

I marvel at the many ways given our unique challenges at church that nonetheless YOU rally to do God’s work! It may be God’s work, but it certainly has been YOUR hands! Good for you! Rather than sit back and count the number of ways in argument that we cannot do this or that in ministry at Cross of Glory, YOU trust that the Lord of the church will help us accomplish extraordinary things as we put our faith in Him!

God love you, Cross of Glory!

One buyer came to our church on the Saturday of our sale. He was disheveled in appearance, his hair matted. He kept looking at the sleeping bag we had for sale. One of our members in confidence with me suggested that perhaps the man, living on the streets, needed a sleeping bag to counter even chilly summer evenings. As the man paid for his sleeping bag it was what happened thereafter that really caught my eye. Rather than embarrass the homeless shopper at our cashier table, this kind-hearted member allowed the man to pay for his sleeping bag and THEN, approached him as he was leaving our lawn, away from everybody else. I saw this amazing, compassionate church member of ours give the man some money in behind the scenes, unassuming LOVE.

I’m reminded of the Scripture passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that says,  “When you pray, shut your door and pray in secret to you Heavenly Father lest others pat you on the back for your religiosity. When you share charity, do not sound trumpets before you that men might praise your actions but in quiet, in secret, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I know it sounds crazy, but how about if we host our annual Cross of Glory Yard Sale not so much because it raises money for our church, but instead, because it allows us opportunity to BE the church! It allows us an opportunity to get to know one another better that cooperatively, united, in faith and fun, we try to accomplish God’s good hopes for us? How about if we host our annual Cross of Glory Yard Sale because of the benefit it may be for someone else?

I have a sneaking suspicion that if God helped Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, God will help us walk from our Fellowship Hall in times ahead carrying boxes and tables to our lawn that a fantastic blessing might be realized by all in our church (and beyond) in yard sale times ahead.

God love you, Cross of Glory! Let’s keep making a difference given the grace and the help of the One who carries not tables and chairs to a lawn, but who instead, carries us!

God’s Peace and Joy!

Pastor Mike Lemke

 

 

JUNE 2019

Dear Cross of Glory Family Members and Friends!

He is risen! He is risen indeed! The message of Jesus’ victory over Sin, Death and the Devil (consequently our victory as well) continues to encourage us well beyond Easter into a promising future. Because Jesus lives, we live also!  Christ is our Hope, our Light and our Life!  He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Recently, our good friend Linda Burk, now living in West Des Moines, Iowa emailed me. With Linda’s permission, I share with you words of our back and forth communication.  I hope you find strength and hope, greater faith and belief (as I did) as you peruse our correspondence.  Sean, Linda’s nephew, already in heaven’s kingdom, shares heartfelt sentiment and truth in coming to a deeper realization of God’s Amazing Grace during the toughest of times. Sean died of cancer on his 49th birthday, June 4, 2015. He fought cancer for over two years and spent much of that time in a wheelchair because the surgery damaged the nerves in his spine. He tried to walk as much as possible, but it was very painful for him, and with that he also lost his ability to work. What an extremely difficult time that was for him:

Hi, Pastor!
I ran across something this morning that I had always intended to share with you. It was written by Sean (my nephew) in his last days and reminds me that even through all our struggles (and believe me, Sean had a lot of them!), God loves us and has a plan for each of us. It’s a story of Sean’s coming to complete surrender. 

Here is Sean’s writing:
I smile now. From deep inside me, I smile. Why? Because I am alive on my terms? Because life has slowed to the point where I understand it now? Is it because I am able to do for myself now and without judgment or feeling judged? Is it because in the past I let myself be drawn into depression and corruption for the taste of a penance, whereas now there is no price on my soul?

Even though I have lost it all by the standards of my soul, I have been paid for. I have been ransomed by something greater and far more simple than anything I’ve ever known. Forgiveness and love. I smile now.

I then responded to Linda:

Dear Linda,
And thank you for once again sharing with me such a sacred writing. You DID share with me Sean’s writing. You obviously cannot remember doing so… but then again you were overcome with emotion as you  shook my hand  after  church  one  Sunday morning.    Beating  back  your  tears… and honoring your nephew… you shared Sean’s heartfelt,  soulful sentiment  of recognized GRACE (God’s Righteousness  At Christ’s Expense). I SO appreciate you sharing it with me once again this morning. 
Thank you.

But there is more Cross of Glory! I was equally moved by what Linda wrote in response as I asked her permission to use Sean’s sentiment and our emailing in the newsletter.

Linda wrote back:

Good morning, Pastor! 
Yes, you have my permission to use Sean’s writing and our communications in your newsletter article – just please don’t emphasize me. (You know how I am!)

It’s interesting to hear about Rizzy and his poem, and to think about the different perspectives of two young men – one “I cry blood” and the other “I smile” – both conveying their complete dependence on our Heavenly Father. Rizzy’s struggle is ongoing while Sean’s was ending so he could surrender – he no longer had to deal with earthly worries such as supporting himself, relationships, temptations, shame and judgment.  (Isn’t temptation, shame and judgment the cliff notes on our daily fall from grace?)  I know that God uses our struggles to bring us closer to Him, but the true challenge (anyway, it’s MY challenge) is to remember that He has a plan and is in control, especially when it feels like everything is spinning out of control.  Thank you so much for sharing your encounter with Rizzy. I’ll put him in my prayers.

Linda

It is easy to leave Easter in the sanctuary with the lilies and the trumpets. The challenge for us is to remember that God does not leave us.  Easter changes EVERYTHING.Though we are tempted TODAY in the distractions of the world, to forget about God and the hope and life truly found only in Christ, God does not forget about us.The joy of Easter ought to be carried out of every church, every home, out of every nook and cranny EVERY DAY.  Sean reminded us to smile. Rizzy reminded us of the cost God paid that we might always BE ABLE to smile.

Summer, yes!  Easter, ALWAYS Cross of Glory!
Pastor Mike Lemke

 

May 2019

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

“Pourquoi cherchez-vous le Vivant parmi les morts? Il n’est pas ici, il est ressuscite.”  

I think I know what that says in French.  I know I do.  I infer by certain words in the phrase the meaning.  “Pourquoi” is close to the Spanish “Porque” meaning “Why?”  “Vivant” capitalized comes close to our English word “vivacious” or “vibrant”  meaning “lively” or “living.”  And the French word “morts” certainly reminds us of “mortals” maybe even “the dead.”  Make no mistake about the concluding word “ressuscite.”  Even in French, English speakers can recognize our close parallel “resurrected.”  “Why do you seek the Living among the dead?  He is not here.  He is resurrected.” 

A week before Easter, Palm Sunday, Barb and I got off the cruise ship and made our way into the sleepy community of Sete, France.  We figured we would find a church and worship with other Christians the beginning of Holy Week.  Certainly there would be 11:00 AM services somewhere, right?  Fortunately the girl at the city information kiosk spoke English.  She suggested the 20-minute walk to the Church of St. Joseph.  Barb and I proceeded.   We passed French people in outdoor cafes, eating croissants and drinking expressos.  On occasion, we would run into people carrying leafy branches but certainly NOT palm ones. 

Barb and I arrived at the Church of St. Joseph 45 minutes early.  We were told that there was not an 11 AM service; that worshippers would soon be leaving the church’s earlier 9:30 one.  We set out to find another church and a possible 11:00 AM service.  Seeing a magnificent cathedral on a hill overlooking the city (the cross on top of the steeple the give-away), Barb and I ventured yet another 10 minutes to worship.  To our disappointment, upon arrival, the grand cathedral was boarded-up.  Graffiti marred its elegance.  Barb and I back-tracked to the Church of St. Joseph.  Maybe we could at least get a palm branch…maybe see the insides of the church.

Nearly all worshippers had left.  A nun was making her way through the pews, collecting leftover bulletins.  The French that passed us as they exited smiled. Barb offered the word, “Hosanna” not knowing whether the word would register.  It did not.  I signed the guestbook, resigned to knowing we would have to arrive earlier the following Easter Sunday (our cruise ship would visit the same port the following weekend) to attend the St. Joseph 9:30 AM service.

And then came Joao.  Joao was an Angolan-African, making his way to Southern France over the years and stories by way of Portugal.  He did not speak English.  Fortunately, beyond French AND Portuguese, Joao spoke Spanish.  I could connect with him in my broken Spanish.  Maybe it was the look of disappointment in our faces.  Maybe it was the look we oftentimes had in Spain, Italy and now France, that of being COMPLETELY LOST!  Whatever motivated Joao to make his way over to us was welcomed.  Beyond language, beyond race and cultural differences, Joao was understood EASILY.  His smile said it all.  Jesus oozed out of this guy!

Joao explained that he was a member of the congregation and that he was delighted that we had attempted to worship in his church.  Handing us an olive branch (instead of a palm one), he noted that some of the Palm Sunday Gospel accounts said “leafy branches” and that the olive branch suggested “peace.”  With an enthusiastic handshake and an encouragement to join him for Easter worship the following Sunday, Joao THEN scribbled down his full name, address and phone number.  He remarked, “if you need anything while in Sete, please contact me.” 

I think my smile was as big as Joao’s as we left St. Joseph that day.  I hope it is said of us at Cross of Glory that we can be half as welcoming and helpful as Joao was to us on Palm Sunday.  I had picked up a worship devotional in the church.  It was called “Semaine Sainte,” likened to the Spanish “Semana Santa” meaning “Holy Week.” Over the next days, I shared with Barb my excitement about being able to figure out the suggested daily readings by recognizing the similarities at times between French and Spanish/English words.  I especially appreciated the extra time it took me to make sense of the lengthy Passion Narrative shared on Good Friday, a reading shared around the planet on Good Friday in countless different languages. “Jardin” means “Garden.” “Flagelle” means “Whipping.”  “Le Crane,’ liked to cranium, means “Place of the Skull.”  

Barb and I knew we would return to St. Joseph…and Joao…the following Sunday, Easter.

Not wanting to miss things, we headed for the Church of St. Joseph well before 9:30.  We were surprised at how deserted the city streets were.  It was as though Barb and I had our days mixed up.  Where were the people?  Where was the Easter joy?  When we worshipped in an astounding centuries-old cathedral in the heart of Livorno, Italy on the Good Friday before, laden with gold, Renaissance paintings and stained glass windows of remarkable beauty, we were shocked that a church capable of seating 1000, only had 100 in attendance.  At 9:00 in the morning on Easter Sunday, 2019 in Sete, France you would never have known it was Easter.  I took a picture of Barb I will have to show you of her standing in the middle of a busy street with NO ONE in the background.  It made us miss, home, Cross of Glory, Bethel, YOU, all the more as we knew YOUR worship service would be “Vivant,” lively, upbeat, hope-filled and celebratory.

Barb and I were among the first in worship that Easter morning in the mass of St. Joseph. WE COULD HAVE LIT THE ALTAR CANDLES!  Walking on stone in a magnificent cathedral with few people around is LOUD!  Silence was interrupted by our footsteps.  We sat near the front and took the time to peruse the worship bulletin. To our delight, though all in French, we recognized a familiar format…the format of predictable liturgy.  Even though we would not understand a word about to be spoken, we knew that the Readings would follow the Gloria, that the Creed would be after the Sermon and that Communion would be celebrated after the Prayers of the Church.  We heard people arriving to the church in back of us filling pews.  There was the occasion shuffle of hymnal pages.  At 9:30, altar boys (one of which was Joao’s we would later learn) in procession carried in the Bible, the Baptism bowl, and the “crieux” (see how close the French word for cross is to crucifixion) leading a middle-aged priest who smiled at us profusely.  He knew something he couldn’t wait to share with the rest of us.  You could see it all over his face.  You could see it oozing out of his heart.  Beyond language, this priest could not wait to tell us the life-changing, forever hope-filled message that:

“Pourquoi cherchez-vous le Vivant parmi les morts? Il n’est pas ici, il est ressuscite.”  

When the priest began the worship service with what Barb and I thought was “He is risen!,” Barb and I in unison, the only English speakers in the place, right or wrong, responded, “He is risen indeed!”

Easter is a boast.  Easter is a shout.  It is a proclamation yelled in every tongue, in every place, over thousands of years.  It is a retort at the Devil.  It is a denunciation of Sin’s power.  It is a confession that Death is crushed, that Jesus lives…and with Him…his kids.  Heaven IS for real… and the saints who have gone before us, our parents and siblings, our grandparents and church friends, our kids who we have outlived…wait for us as eagerly as Jesus does to embrace us in greater life, even greater love.

When the priest invited the congregation to come forward for communion, Barb and I joined members and friends of St. Joseph in a line to the altar.  Jesus’ death split the curtain of the Temple in two.  No longer is there separation from God.  ALL are invited into the Holy of Holies.  ALL are invited to partake in the GRACE that is God.  I felt someone from behind touch my elbow.  Turning around while in the communion line, Barb and I saw once again the beaming smile of Joao.  Some things need no language.  Some things need no introduction.  We were not Americans, nor Frenchmen, Spaniards nor Italians.  We were Christians, a Common Family of the Crucified but Risen Christ. 

After worship, Joao made a beeline to us.  He was so excited to see us.  He could not wait to introduce us to his son.  And then, to our surprise, after the pleasantries, after the “it was so nice to see you again” conversation, Joao said in Spanish, “Por favor, ven a mi casa!  Es cerca aqui!  Podemos tener tiempo junto, talvez café o postre.”  In English, “Please come to my house.  It is close to here.  We can have time together, maybe coffee or dessert.”

Barb and I were dumbfounded.  How amazingly gracious!  Missing Denver and loved ones, wondering about how our lily-filled sanctuaries looked, hoping you were experiencing the joy and promise, the life of Easter, we were awed and humbled by the invitation of the Angolan…no, brother in Jesus.  We walked to Joao’s modest home, shared with a couple of other families.  We learned of his journey eventually to France…of his wanting to be a missionary…of the heartache of divorce and the challenge of raising kids as a single parent.  Over coffee and cookies, we overcame language difficulty in a meeting of heart.  In an Easter Barb had said she was hesitant to experience (away from the Easters we have known, with family and friends, with YOU), Barb said upon leaving Joao’s home, “Joao made Easter for me.  I will ALWAYS hold this one, especially dear.”

I come back to Denver with a lot of new stories and friends.  Europe was absolutely incredible for a number of different reasons.  As I shared with you before, I thought going there would strengthen my faith.  It certainly did.  I have SO much more appreciation for Christianity in general as I was challenged by the commitment of Christians over the centuries.  To build the churches, the monuments, the cities (Vatican?) Christians did in adoration of Christ and the precious Gospel message of life in Jesus moves me profoundly.  To recognize the price that the martyrs paid for the faith humbles me beyond words…and I come back home with greater resolve to honor Christ and the saints who have gone before me.

Easter is more than Jesus getting up from the grave.  It is more than carrying an olive or palm branch or even proclaiming, “He is risen indeed!”  Easter is about OUR getting up from the grave.  It is about OUR talking with strangers, potential friends, and welcoming them into our homes,  the  joy of our faith.   It is about living TODAY  (not just on the Holy Days)  as though Jesus is risen IN OUR LIVES ALSO.  It is about bringing Easter to others…across language…across differences…beyond our reservations or fears.

Thank you, Cross of Glory, for my Sabbatical and already, new lessons learned and appreciated.  I hope to come back to you refreshed and fired up to be doing even better, more conscientious ministry with you.  I have so many stories to share with you…and I look forward to the stories you will share with me as TOGETHER we proclaim in word and deed the hope that is in the Resurrected One!

Au Revoir! Arrivederci!  Adios!  Bye for now!

Pastor Mike Lemke

 

 

April 2019

Hello Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

He is risen! He is risen indeed! And the Church has gloried in the Easter message for 2000 years!  Because Jesus lives, we live also!  What is left behind in the tomb is all that would otherwise keep us from heaven. Our sin, our shame, our humiliation is buried in the grave. When Jesus stepped into the sunlight of that Easter morning, He brought with Him a new beginning. No longer would sin, death or the devil reign. God’s victory is our victory!

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Biblical scholars generally agree that the Gospel According to Mark was the first of the gospel accounts to be written. It is shorter than Matthew, Luke and John. It does not contain the Christmas story. Its sixteen chapters concern themselves with the public ministry of Jesus, His death and consequent resurrection. Matthew and Luke seem to use Mark’s Gospel in writing their own stories of Jesus’ significance. John, already assuming his audience to know the Jesus story, explains that Jesus is truly God in the Flesh, the Word Incarnate, the Messiah of the Old Testament. John does not use much of Mark, Matthew or Luke in his narrative.

It is interesting that the Easter story contained in Mark’s gospel has a couple of endings! Look at Chapter 16, Verse 8: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them: and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  The women had gone to the tomb early Easter Sunday morning to attend to Jesus’ dead body. No doubt, they had not slept much given the terrible events of two days before.  When Jesus had been crucified, darkness blanketed Golgotha as early as high noon! Religious Jews bewildered, if not terrified by the mid-day darkness, interpreted that the all-holy Sabbath was at hand (always beginning at sundown on Fridays). Work was forbidden on the Sabbath. Little work was consequently done on Jesus’ body in preparation for His burial. The women, followers, lovers of Jesus, went to the Easter tomb that morning with their spices to anoint Christ’s body. They wished to pay their Lord one final act of homage, of love, of gratitude. But when they arrived at the grave, to their “amazement and terror,” Jesus was nowhere to be found!  The stone had been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb!  A “young man dressed in a white robe” relayed to them the astounding news that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The women were instructed to tell the disciples, particularly Peter, that  Jesus would soon be with them again.

And then one version of the ending of Mark’s Gospel concludes with Verse 6 from Chapter 16: “So they (the women) went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  The very first Gospel account written of Jesus’ triumph over death ENDS with NO Easter fanfare: NO Easter egg hunts; NO Easter breakfasts; NO Red Rocks sunrise services; NO trumpets, tympanis nor trombones!  Mark ends his Gospel with the women running away from the tomb because they were terrified and bewildered! NO jellybeans, NO bunnies, NO lilies… just fear and wonder!  How very, very disappointing!

Now if you or I had written the first story of Jesus’ resurrection, we would have jazzed it up a bit… a lot!!! We would have had Jesus sitting on the top of the Easter stone, waiting for any and all those who crucified Him to come near!  We would have noted how the disciples, now full of belief, would have run to the tomb, no longer afraid. Our Gospel accounts would have had all the world understanding that Jesus fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament. The women with their spices, Peter with his church-building leadership, all Jerusalem and beyond trusting in Christ… OUR Easter stories would not have ended so wimpy-like!

But the Bible is a lot truer than we are! It DARED to tell the Easter story the way it really happened. Of course, the Good News, the Great News of Jesus being alive would have been absolutely phenomenal to believe! The lovers of Jesus would have forever been traumatized by the events of Good Friday. The story of Christ’s resurrection would have seemed far too unbelievable to believe. But the accounting of Jesus’ Easter, Christ’s victory, our victory is told by ALL four Gospel writers.  He is risen! He is risen indeed! As incredible a story as a dead man coming to life again is, the world has not been able to refute it.

Christianity was born in the very city it would have been easiest to disprove its claims. As empowered disciples preached Jesus in Jerusalem, and Him alive, on Pentecost, less than two months after Easter, the crowds could have pointed to the nearby tomb scoffing, “Your God is still in there!” But He wasn’t!  And the crowds couldn’t! Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

Our lives will never, ever be the same. We no longer have to live as people without hope. Our God, alive, loves us so very much.  He breathes new life into us.  We can face the challenges of today knowing we are never, ever alone. God forever is pulling for us. And the Bible, daring to tell the truth, IS truth! It informs us of what kind of God this Jesus is, encouraging us to follow in His footsteps.

God’s Peace and Love!
Pastor Mike Lemke

 

MARCH 2019

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

The following newsletter piece is a departure from what I normally do. I am writing this piece a day after my brother Steve and his wife Jillene decided to put their cocker spaniel Valley to sleep. Valley has struggled with ill health. It was time. My thoughts today are with Steve, Jillene and Valley…and consequently, it seemed like God directed me to pen what follows. You will not be able to relate to some of the details. You understand I am writing to Steve and Jillene with a familiarity that only members of our family will fully understand. But I wanted to share this generally with you for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, many of you know Steve and Jillene and you join me in appreciating their support of our Cross of Glory ministry.  Secondly, some of you knew of Valley’s decline.  You have been asking about Steve, Jillene and Valley, sharing your warmest regards and loving prayers. And lastly, I share this piece with you because of the magnificence of our Lutheran theology and the powerful point even Valley’s death makes: Christ’s victory over sin, the devil and DEATH is not only Jesus’ victory. Linked in baptism to Jesus’ death and consequent resurrection, Christ’s victory is OUR victory as well. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! Look for instance at Romans 8. Christ’s victory over sin, the devil and death is CREATION’S VICTORY! Humans were not the only ones marred in the Original Sin! All creation was tainted. God redeems EVERYTHING in His Amazing Grace of costly, costly price: The death of His only Begotten! Valley was indeed rescued by Steve and Jillene 4 years ago in Phoenix…but truly…beautifully…lovingly…Valley was rescued BY JESUS 2000 years ago on a “Hill Far Away” where there stood an “Old, Rugged Cross.” Here goes. Steve and Jillene have not seen this sacred note…nor do they know that I included you in this sentiment from my heart. They will read this from Arizona perhaps at the same time you are reading it. Go with it, okay?

To my brother Steve and his amazing, sweet wife Jillene!

How many times have I been to the Puerto Vallarta airport? Figuring that Mom and Dad bought the timeshare in 1992…and that we have been able to visit PV every year thereafter, arriving AT the airport and returning back to Denver FROM the airport means at least 50 trips, right? But then add the frequent trips to Vallarta’s airport to greet “incoming” family members once we had arrived. I would guess, without exaggeration, I have been to the Puerto Vallarta airport…80, maybe 90 times over the decades! It occurs to me as I write to you, that in EACH of those trips, whether coming or going, my heart was full of expectation and joy, excitement and thanksgiving.

You know the special place Puerto Vallarta has in my heart. Barb and I talk about retiring there, most likely keeping our home in Colorado, but living hopefully at Los Tules for at least half of each year. As we have been SO fortunate over the years to visit PV, our home away from home, we always come back to Denver, to reality, with new and heartwarming stories. We watched Hector grow up at Los Tules from being the bellboy of 18 years to the fishing boat captain that he is today. How many times have we heard him talk about red snappers and that his soccer team is either in (or about to be in) some championship match? And then there’s Rocio who cleans 4-103 with a sweet smile and gentle spirit. Don’t forget about your good friend, Magdalena at the front desk, who Mom adores, but I detest! I still say Magdalena tried to rip us off for that lost towel back in the day.  And security guard Leo, who upon learning that I was a pastor, spontaneously preaches sermons in Spanish to me about the marvels of God and the soon-to-be Kingdom of Heaven on Earth! Apart from the unparalleled, dear people of PV, there have been the cherished memories of purple sunsets, cobble-stoned streets, snorkeling trips in icy cold, take-your-breath-away ocean waters and the cry of the Muffin Man just beyond Chapultepec near the beach wall. If I have been to the PV airport 90 times, I certainly have been to that sacred wall overlooking the Pacific 300 times over the years! Either alone, with you and/or other family members, we hear the ocean kissing the beach as we peer across the bay on starry nights appreciating the twinkling lights of Centro and the malecon. I have prayed a thousand prayers from that Los Tules wall as perhaps my most heartwarming times with God have been spent there.

As I write you, I realize Puerto Vallarta is enchanting for a NUMBER of different reasons, but PRIMARILY because we, as family, have been able to spend good times TOGETHER there. No doubt, my love of Vallarta would be minimized to be sure, if I, we, spent times alone there. The magic of the place in large part is because we have laughed often there and have appreciated Mom and Dad all the more for making the decision nearly 30 years ago to buy for all of us a piece of Heaven on Earth. I smile, as I’m sure you do, when we think of Dad in a Ricardo Montalban accent, speaking not Spanish, but ENGLISH, to Chan while dickering over the price of ironwood. And then Dad after the sport of dickering, would pay Chan and/or the other beach vendors, the WHOLE PRICE they had initially requested! No wonder “Roberto” was well-known on the beach!                                                    

But back to the Puerto Vallarta airport! I think of the many times with overflowing heart, in great anticipation and excitement, I have waited in the PV airport. Just to be there…to see the faces of those we love, emerge from customs into the main terminal! You know! I run to the “Arrival” monitor near the Subway sandwich place to check the flight status of Denver flights hoping not to miss family members emerging from customs. I longed to greet them with a kiss and/or “brazos fuertes,” a hug. Anymore, our relatives come to Vallarta tired, worn and hobbling! Mom, who used to walk the beach with us to Centro (nearly 2 miles!), now arrives to Vallarta in a wheelchair…as do Aunt Joanie and Cousin Kathy. None of us, have the strength, the health, of 30 years ago!

The whole point of this letter to you, Steve and Jillene, is to remind you of the joy and love, the family and friends, the soon-to-be new adventures and the makings of forever memories for Valley as SHE arrives in heaven. Your decision to put her to sleep after these many last months of discomfort, imbalance and fatigue was a LOVING one. You have entrusted Valley to God…and to those who in great anticipation, greet her in Heaven’s Kingdom. She arrives to the terminal with wobbly legs and tiredness, but Valley is about to get out of her wheelchair, kissed upon and hugged, swamped, by Dad and Grandma, Ginger, Precious and Honey (Barb reminded me to add Qi!  Haha!). It is as though all our loved ones in heaven will push God to the side (!!!) to get FIRST dibs at greeting and loving Valley! They will take her back to Los Tules, get her out of those confining Arizona clothes and whisk her away to the John Smith swimming pool (ASAP)! Together, they will run to the Los Tules wall upon hearing someone yell, “Ballena!” They will look at the majesty that is God’s creation, Banderas Bay, and TOGETHER, hearts pounding, anticipate the spray of water through the blowhole, the flop and splash of a tail and the breaching of humpback underneath orange, Mexican afternoon sun! How Valley would love to join all the ocean ballenas, or dolphins, or pelicans having practiced a few times with those ducks at her baptism park!

The both of you could not have been better parents to your precious little girl. With sleepless nights, you prayed constantly, hoping for her relief. It was any number of trips to the vet office as you wondered about a new diet, a possible procedure or even a telling diagnosis, a direction for healing. YOU LOVED VALLEY EVERY DAY, even over the years, as she was entrusted to your care. You would be the first to say that she gave you so much more in return!  But be reminded of the Bible verse that says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no imagination wild enough, to comprehend the beauty and the marvel, that is God and Heaven. Valley is arriving at the Puerto Vallarta airport…and is met there with unmatched love and embrace, promise and future. God Himself wipes away EVERY tear. No more crying, no more pain, no more worry. Because of God’s love, because of Jesus’ victory over sin, the devil, and even DEATH, Valley passes INTO greater life. You will have this hole in your heart for the rest of your lives…but as I have said to you now many times, that is NOT a bad thing. It means that you have loved deeply and without reservation. You would not want it any other way! We look to that day when in Heaven’s Kingdom, we are able to be with those who have gone before us, who even now, are experiencing the splendor  and  beauty,  the joy and love of a place,  a  reality,  just beyond our  faculties, but certainly NOT beyond God’s grace and care… Hola Valley! Want to go fishing? Love, Me

Dear Cross of Glory Family,

With thanksgiving, I thank you for encouraging me to take a Sabbatical this year. As most of you are aware, in the 34 years I have been a pastor I have never had one. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), of which we are a part, hopes that pastors will take a Sabbatical once every 6-7 years. Sabbaticals are intended to give pastors the chance to re-create, re-educate, and re-energize themselves. They normally last 3 months. The hope (and expectation) of course is that pastors return to their congregations re-freshed, re-vitalized and re-newed to do even better ministry with congregants.

When my wife Barb, pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, heard that Cross of Glory was encouraging me to take a Sabbatical, she approached her own church council about taking one. Bethel was wonderful. Barb’s council unanimously voted to allow Barb a Sabbatical as well. Barb, who has been a Lutheran pastor even longer than I have, has not had a Sabbatical over the years either.

Barb’s congregation had not budgeted for HER being on Sabbatical in 2018. Of course, Barb and I want to do our Sabbaticals, at least part of them, together. Consequently, it is THIS year that we will try to take ours. Beginning Monday, March 25, we hope to begin our mutual Sabbaticals. Though Barb will be away from her congregation for 3 months straight, I am choosing to split my 3-month Sabbatical with the first segment beginning on Monday, March 25 until May 11, the Saturday before Mother’s Day. I hope to take the remainder of my Sabbatical in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico come mid-October until right after Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent. I am thrilled at the prospect of taking Intensive Spanish classes in an accredited Puerto Vallarta school, Mondays through Fridays, from 9 AM until noon.

Though I am excited about the benefits of a Sabbatical, for me, for us, I am also apprehensive about being away from Cross of Glory for extended time. Though I have full confidence that the pastors who will cover Sunday worship and emergencies in my absence will do marvelous ministry (and you with them), I am VERY concerned about the growing number of truly “shut-in” members of our congregation. Could you, would you, consider joining the class I teach on Tuesday mornings at 10 AM on “Christian Caregiving?” More and more of our members are attending the class. I would feel better knowing that YOU, people our “shut-ins” KNOW, would be visiting our dear ones. I would think our “shut-ins” would feel better knowing familiar faces, friends, would be seeing them! The class gives some practical, helpful suggestions about visitation. PLEASE!  PLEASE!  Consider attending the class. How about it?

THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
Pastor Mike

 

FEBRUARY 2019

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

Can you believe it? Just about the time we wondered where 2018 went, today, we wonder where the month of January went! How is it that we can already be moving into February? I pray that this last month has allowed you opportunity to regroup from a busy, oftentimes hectic, December. 

As we leave January, we continue to embrace the sacred season of the church year called Epiphany. Epiphany accents the Divinity of Jesus. Consequently, our Sunday Bible readings highlight Jesus’ extra-ordinary abilities. During Epiphany, we note how Jesus walks on water. He exorcises the demons. Jesus teaches with astonishing authority. Christ stills the wind and the sea. All our Sunday morning texts, during the sacred season of Epiphany, accent Jesus’ “Otherness.” How wonderful to know that we have a God so very “Other” YET PERSONAL who knowing us through and through, even better than we know ourselves. In extra-ordinary ways, God meets us where we are in both better and worst times. Jesus, the Divine One, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Ever-Loving, Emmanuel in our midst, promises to hold us in His care.

What an Epiphany!  

Yesterday, as I visited Bert Carlson at Cherry Creek Care Center, (Edie his wife having had an eye surgery), I left the center with an Epiphany of my own. As I walked to my car, I saw a frisky little brown dog prancing in the snow. Perhaps he was prancing because it was cold. Maybe he was jumping about because he enjoyed the outdoors. Who knows? He seemed to be having a glorious time, until that is, he threw up in the middle of the street! As I looked more closely at this cute, playful puppy, I realized he was not wearing a collar. Immediately, I looked around for a concerned owner. No one was in sight. I wondered if the puppy was lost or maybe even sick. Perhaps he was prancing around because he had hurt a paw or jumping about because his paws were so very cold. I approached the little, brown, playful, cute, but now scared puppy. I still remember his eyes as he looked at me with both curiosity and fear. What thoughts must have run through his little head as he wondered about this stranger approaching him!  

I tried speaking tenderly to the puppy to coax him to come closer. This puppy, suspect of my intentions no doubt, decided to prance in a different direction! With his tail between his legs, he ran off away from my reach. For the next 10 minutes I drove around the apartment complex across the street from Cherry Creek worried about this lost, perhaps even hurt puppy. I tried, in vain, to find where he had run.  

Just about the time I had given up on his whereabouts, I had an Epiphany of my own. As I was walking back to my car, I saw his brown little body in the distance, outlined by the white snow backdrop. I approached the puppy again, this time from my car. Pulling up close to him, pleading lovingly, “C’mon Honey, come here,” I opened my car door in the hopes he would jump in. No such luck! The puppy, continuing to be scared, hurried off in a quick attempt to get away from my voice and presence. Once again, I drove around the apartment complex looking for him. I prayed to God asking that the Jesus of Epiphany, the Divine one, Ever-Knowing, Ever-Powerful, Ever-Loving, would show compassion for this precious, scared, maybe even sick little one. I prayed that he would be safe and reunited with a family of love and care. 

About the time I had resolved I would not find the puppy, there was a lady who ran at me from the shadows, waving her hands and yelling, “Hey you! Hey!” She was disheveled, her hair a matted mess. She was wearing a bathrobe and bedroom slippers. She must have seen me slowing driving through her neighborhood, scouring the apartment complex. She had concluded that I was searching for something. Looking both exasperated and relieved, out of breath, she managed to tell me that she had found her lost little dog. She informed me that the puppy’s name was Milo and that Milo was too smart for his own little good! He had learned how to open his in/out door on his own! The lady (Margaret) thanked me for my interest and assured me Milo was home and drinking water from his dish that moment. I thought to myself, “Wow, God sure answered that prayer in a hurry!” My heart was at ease knowing this little brown puppy, Milo, was now at home.  

How often do we go through a day with our cares, anxieties and worries choosing to run from the One who wants to help us? How frustrating it must be for God to drive around our neighborhoods, calling our name, hoping we all jump in the car to him! If only we would but trust! If only we would heed the call of the One who loves us so very much. This Epiphany God is so very capable, doing far more than we could ever imagine and yet we distrust Him. We choose to prance around any number of places before…coming home. 

As we move through the season of Epiphany, with new revelations about Jesus and our faith, may we resolve quickly to depend on God’s promises this new year? The groundhog may choose to hide his head on February 2nd. Let US choose not to burrow in our apprehensions and worries but instead call on the Epiphany God who always calls out to us in love. Let us trust that Jesus is both willing and wanting to help us. Let us run to Him instead of running away from Him! What’s an Epiphany to know of Jesus’ always searching, always loving heart towards us! Let’s jump in the car with Christ this year, allowing Him to do the driving, as we trust, as we count, on God’s love, care and grace! 

Happy Epiphany, Cross of Glory! 
Pastor Mike Lemke

 

JANUARY 2019

Happy New Year Cross of Glory!

Yes! As we continue to move through the Twelve Days of Christmas, we experience yet another brand new year!  We welcome 2019! Over the past year, there have been the special times and tougher occasions. We hope that 2019 will be even better for us congregationally and personally.

As the ball dropped in Times Square December 31st, now with Ryan Seacrest replacing the ageless Dick Clark, did you begin to FEEL new?  Now that January is here, do you FEEL different, newer, than you did a month ago?

Consider what was going on a month ago. We resolved around Thanksgiving that we would not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of too often December rushes. Then the first week of December came, and to our surprise, our intentions to slow down were left to the wayside like cookies left for Santa! We tried to keep it together. We tried to remain calm! But Christmas cards needed addressing. Aunt Doris decided out of the blue to drop over for the holidays.  Our Thanksgiving resolution to ENJOY December raced past us like Santa’s magical sleigh!

Too often, the beauty of the Christmas season is blanketed not so much with snow as it is our stress. After the parties and pageants, the malls and the mailings, the New Year comes upon us and we feel anything but new! We instead feel worn-out and wearied. We feel beat and battered.

I lived in Sioux Falls as a kid. Gary lived next door to us. I remember Mom asking him one day what was new. Gary, probably six at the time, responded, “Nothing!  All we have is old stuff!”

I think we are pitied people if to the question, “What’s new?” we respond, “The same old, same old!”  At the very least, as Christians, we should be able to say to our friends, “I am!” “I am new!” “I’m not quite yet what I hope to be, but I thank God I am not longer what I used to be!”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore if any person is in Christ, he/she is a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come!” John, given a revelation on Patmos wrote, “And God Himself will wipe away our tears.There will be no more crying, no more pain. The former things will have passed away. Behold, He who sits upon the throne makes all things new!” As Christians, daily, we are encouraged to conform to the image of Christ. We are to lay aside those things impeding our ability to be more like Jesus. Each day we should be working on our “newness.”

There is a church around the corner from where I live that puts cutesy sayings on its outdoor sign.  Recently the sign read, “Christianity is a journey not a destination.” I need to remember that. When I get discouraged, I need to remember that tomorrow is another day… a new chance for me to be all that God wants me to be. When I allow sin to get the better of me… when I am failing miserably in following Jesus… I need to remember that regardless of HOW I FEEL, “I AM NEW in Christ!” J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.” There are those times we FEEL pretty lost.  But it is precisely at those times that we need to believe God knows where we are and that God, Emmanuel presence, will direct our ways. Jesus redeemed us. God bought us. We are His… and… we are new. We are brand new! As we face the joys and challenges of a new year, congregationally and personally,  we can be assured of God’s support and lead. Baptized, Called,

Equipped, Sent, we DO ministry knowing the God who made us, RE-CREATES US, RE-FRESHES US, and MAKES US new indeed. We do not know what 2019 has in store for us, but God does!

Over the centuries, there have been so many exaggerated stories about Martin Luther. As his influence spread well beyond Germany, tales about him turned into far-out legends.  Some say for instance that Luther was responsible for the Christmas tree. Looking out his window one snowy afternoon, many contend he remarked to his wife Katie, “My, how beautiful that pine tree is!  It is white… though forever green… ever green… hmmmm, EVERGREEN! Let’s run outside right now, chop it down and put candles on it! We will call it a Christmas tree and urge all villagers to do the same.” This is most certainly true… NOT!

I would like to believe certain fanciful stories told about Luther, principally, the one about his throwing ink bottles at the devil and the one about his hanging a sign around his neck that said, “I am baptized!” You see, if great people like Luther needed to go to such lengths, even hokey ones, to remind themselves they belong to God while FEELING defeated, I might just believe that I, we, are taking steps towards the Kingdom even when occasionally taking steps backwards! We ARE journeying towards a distant country, this a Heavenly one… even while FEELING old and not new.

I want to thank Cross of Glory ahead of time for helping ME attempt to be NEW, refreshed and better equipped to responsibly BE your pastor. For the last year, your Church Council has encouraged me to take a Sabbatical. A Sabbatical is a three-month educational experience AWAY from the congregation, in addition to vacation, that hopefully translates into practical ministry-building helps. Our Rocky Mountain Synod urges pastors to take a Sabbatical every “three to five years in the present call.” I have been a pastor for close to thirty-four years. I have never gone on Sabbatical. I am excited about the prospect and I have begun to share with your Church Council some ideas about how I intend to spend Sabbatical months away from church this 2019.  

Of course, whether this happens is speculative. So much depends on pressing needs in our congregation and the ability to responsibly cover and expand present pastoral and congregational ministry obligations and opportunities. I will try to take Sabbatical in conjunction with my wife, Pastor Barb Lemke.  Her congregation, Bethel Lutheran, is encouraging Barb to take a Sabbatical in 2019 also. Barb and I hope to spend part of our Sabbaticals together, learning alongside one another while being refreshed (and better equipped and energized) to DO ministry with you.

Thank you for your kind consideration ALWAYS but especially as I wonder about the ability (responsibly, practically and financially) to be physically away from Denver for extended time this year. I know that I will not be taking Sabbatical in a three-month block. I envision the three-month period split up between one 6-week segment this Spring and the other 6-week segment later on this year.  I will be very busy this month, working with your Church Council, in making preparations. I look forward to visiting with you soon as I may be asking you to “take on” certain tasks, needed helps. Please start thinking now about practical ways you may help us additionally at Cross of Glory.  Share with me your ideas. I WOULD SO APPRECIATE IT!

So Happy New Year Cross of Glory!  Let’s lean on one another in 2019! Dick Clark may have SEEMED like the ageless one. In reality, it is God who is ageless. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. God holds the ages, and us, in His care and it is God who promises to make us NEW this year and beyond.  This is most certainly true!

Pastor Mike Lemke

 

DECEMBER 2018

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

Christmas can be talked about in a hundred different ways. We as Christians primarily choose however to speak of Christmas as one of the world’s greatest stories: God coming to the earth to do what we humans could not. God takes upon Himself our struggles, our shortcomings, our sin and makes them His own! Jesus Christ is the Light of the World, the Light no darkness can overcome! God penetrates the darkness of our lives in the stink, stank and stunk of the stable. The star that hovered over Bethlehem, the Christmas star that beckoned wise men from the East to visit the Christ-child, continues to shine brightly in our lives. Because of Christmas, we CAN be people of hope and joy. We CAN share God’s richest blessings with other people. We CAN live in newness of life!

Say what you will about other World Religions. We, as Christians, claim that Christianity is the only one of them that has the Almighty coming down to us rather than the other way around, people of desperation and futility reaching upwards to their respective deities.

But even though Christmas has been beautified and glorified over thousands of years, we must not forget that the story had its struggles as well. To be sure, there were angelic choruses, the wonder of an astounding pregnancy and the astonishment of visitors from afar bearing gifts for kings. But Christmas also had its questions about the pregnancy, the difficult 80-mile track from Nazareth to Bethlehem and it’s possibly rude innkeeper at the end of the journey. Christmas has a teenager Mary saying “Yes” to God, shepherds falling over themselves to see a baby and yes, “cattle lowing as the poor baby awakes”. But it also has King Herod killing babies, troublesome dreams and the Savior of our lives, the Savior of the cosmos born out back somewhere in the cold and indifference of David City’s missing it all.

Christmas meets us where we are at in both the better AND worst times of our lives, the good AND the bad. If Christmas were a story set aside for only the most astounding of pageants, the most incredible of music halls and the greatest, most virtuous of peoples, Christmas would miss the rest of us completely! Thank God that God chose to do Christmas the way God chose to do Christmas…for we can relate to the cobwebs of the stable. We know what straw feels like at times. We have experienced cold and darkness. Yet, in honesty, we must also attest to the incredible times in our lives where even in our loneliness, our fears, our insecurities and misgivings, God touched us through the love of someone or something. At that instant, Christmas graced us with belief in a possible, better tomorrow. It restored our appreciation for others and gave us hope in a world SO magnificent, yet oftentimes SO VERY cruel.

I saw the dichotomy of Christmas in a funeral service I did yesterday. A 95-year-old woman had passed into greater life. Members of her family chose to speak about her at her service. I had been warned ahead of time that one daughter was particularly bitter about the family’s decision to put the mother in a nursing home. When this daughter started to speak of her mom, she began with an endearing tribute…but ended with a sharp accusation. The daughter insisted that her mother had died of a broken heart, killed in the nursing home BECAUSE of neglect, dehydration and malnutrition! Though not naming any of her siblings, the daughter named them all right, in a rant of disgust, anger and criticism. The daughter went so far as to remind everyone in attendance that God wanted them to “Honor their Parents” just like one of the Ten Commandments “commanded!”

As the woman spoke, I interpreted the faces of many in the congregation. Many were fuming. Some fidgeted, terribly uncomfortable while seemingly wondering about interrupting the woman’s speech. As the daughter concluded her rampage, a hush fell over the audience. I wondered if anyone else would get up to speak. I wondered what I was going to say! Then, I saw a head pop up. It was son Greg, the one that I had spent an hour with days before. Greg was the one that told me about his sister’s discontent. As Greg approached the podium, I took hold of his elbow. He looked back at me incredulously. I whispered to him with pleading eyes, “Be gentle! Be gentle!” Greg gave me an awkward, uncomfortable, twisted little smile and with a wink said, “Mike, I CHOOSE to be gentle.” Greg spoke lovingly of his mom, choking up every so often as he beat away the tears from his eyes and swallowed the lump in his throat. He spoke of an elegant woman who liked finer things in life, a trip to the Oxford Hotel for lunch or the Trocadero at Elitch Gardens to dance. Greg did not address the sharp accusations of his sister. He CHOSE the higher ground and opted to use his time to memorialize positively the woman he claimed was an angel on earth. As he talked about the harsh winters of his mother’s childhood, walking to and from school, (of course with the cliche, “In a blizzard, uphill BOTH ways), he talked about the amazing AND the bitter times of his mom’s life. He concluded his comments by saying that he hoped Jesus remembered being bounced around on a donkey both before His birth AND before His death! Greg said that he hoped Jesus was not only his mom’s Savior, but One who could be a friend to her in heaven as Jesus remembered being tossed around, like us in life, with OUR difficult decisions and occasional missteps along the way.

The world is not perfect. It is why Jesus came in the first place. As we try to reflect Christ in what we say and do, letting our lights shine so that other people may see God’s brilliant light, let us remember that Christmas, with its hopes AND its fears (throughout the years), gives us leeway. God didn’t come to Earth to judge us. He came to Earth to hold us in His love.

Christmas can be talked about in a hundred different ways. Let us CHOOSE to speak of its love and live in its hope!

Merry Christmas! Pastor Mike Lemke

NOVEMBER 2018

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

There is a Norman Rockwell painting of an elderly grandmother, black pillbox hat atop silver-gray hair, seated with a reverent grandchild at an Americana Cafe Diner. Incredulous men of various age, some wrinkled by the toils and troubles of life look on. The grandmother, fingers twisted with arthritis, clasps her hands in prayer posture as she leads her grandson in Table Grace. In hushed solemnity, Norman Rockwell captures the essence of devotion to God and the world’s wonder (and envy) about it.

As a pastor, I am privy to a lot of confidential stories, tails that I will not be able anytime soon to share with others. Let’s just say that I have been moved profoundly by certain people’s generosities over the years, people who relative to most, did not have a lot of materialistic means but nonetheless gave from their hearts that other people would experience life. Thanksgiving is a time to look beyond ourselves to the Giver of all Good Things. God blesses us at every turn. Our challenge is to give Him gratitude everyday, not just on a select day in November. There are many dear, amazing, good-hearted people that have lead the way in demonstrating for me, potentially others, an example of Thanksgiving and appreciation for all the Lord is doing in their lives.

I will always remember the Time Talent and Treasure Pledge Drive we did in my former church, Joy Lutheran in Parker. Like at Cross of Glory, we too in those years supported a food bank in downtown Denver. Throughout the course of the year, we would encourage our members to bring non-perishable items to place in a big food cart we had prominently displayed in our narthex area. One particular Sunday morning, during a children’s sermon, I had prearranged with certain congregational members a plan to promote donating to the food cart. I had given six or seven different people in the congregation some canned goods and when I brought the kids forward for the children’s sermon, asked these “plants” to start bringing up their canned goods for all to see in the congregation. The kids would be impressed that on the spur of the moment, good-hearted people were sharing food items that could help the hungry. The lesson of course was not only for the kids, but for the hundreds of worshippers that day.

True to form, six or seven people from the congregation came up to the front of the church with the prearranged donations of food for the food cart. The lesson was taught but not before an elderly man of the congregation, one that we were already bringing food into each week because of his fixed income, stepped forward during the children’s sermon. It was an awkward moment for everyone. The man explained to me, the kids and everyone within earshot of the front, that he had neglected to bring food for the cart that day but he wondered if it would be okay to share $5 with the kids and the hungry in Denver. Of course, I could not tell the congregation at large that we were bringing food into this man’s family each week. Up in years and on a fixed income, so much of his money routinely going out of his pocket to pay for costly medicines, I would deliver a box of non-perishable items to this man’s home often. I was profoundly touched by this man’s generosity. I could not relay to  everyone  witnessing  this  man’s gesture of kindness that his sharing was indeed likened to Jesus’ story of the widow who places two small, copper coins in the treasury of Christ’s day. Jesus would explain to his disciples that this woman, entrusting materialistically relatively little, had actually given much, much more than those that could afford to part more easily with their offerings.

It is easy to point fingers at the rich and tell them that they must do more and lift up particularly stories of the poor who sacrifice much. Let us just say that there are stories everywhere of people’s amazing generosities and let us strive to be the people that give from the heart…even when it hurts at times. No, even when always our giving stretches us!

What you give to the church by way of your precious time, incredible talents and financial resources is entirely up to you. Your Thanksgiving devotion, your appreciation for God’s many blessings to you ought always to be between you and the Lord. Remember however that when all is said and done, God will not ask us about the materialistic possessions that we had in life. God WILL ask us however about the hearts that we shared with others, about the opportunities that we acted upon to give others a hand up in life. In part, we are blessed to BE a blessing to others.

I can go on and on about loving stories of people who have given blessings to others, who have BEEN living sacrifices for others. Perhaps i will tell you more of such stories as we gather together for Thanksgiving Eve Worship service, November 21, at 7:00 pm. I hope that we have a wonderful throng of appreciative, blessed Cross of Glory family members and friends, along with extended family members, Cook Park neighbors and any others wishing to say “Thank You” to God that evening. Pass the word! Be thanklivers in keeping with our deep and sincere thanksgivings for God’s great love and attentions towards us!

Share God’s blessings! Be God’s blessings!

Pastor Mike Lemke

 

OCTOBER 2018

Hello Fellow Reformers!
And you ARE reformers!  YOU are the church!

A couple of Sundays ago, the Praise Band led us in singing the campfire song, “WE ARE THE CHURCH.”  We were reminded that the church is not a building and that we do not go to church, but rather we go to worship! The church is the body of Jesus Christ.  We are the church, the believers in Jesus, linked one to another in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  To that end, we are the movers and the shakers. We are the arms and legs of God’s Holy Purposes. Though ultimately, the acts are God’s, we are the actors, the agents of God’s Divine Will.

Martin Luther was really not so unlike us. He loved God and struggled with God.  He loved the Church and struggled with her…and yet, Luther has been regarded as one of the most influential people in Western Civilization. What made him so special? Why is he heralded among millions over the centuries?

I think Luther is distinct. His greatness has everything to do with simply, his trusting in God above everything else.  You remember how he spent time writing explanations to the Ten Commandments? He wanted others to better understand the Scriptures and God’s desires for all. Luther wrote in his explanation of the Introduction to the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God,” that “We are to love, revere and trust God above everything else.” What makes Luther so very special…what makes him distinct and impacting, in my estimation, is simply, his trusting in God above everything else!

Luther had his share of critics. His father criticized him for becoming a monk. The Church criticized him for his outspokenness. Reformers criticized him for not being MORE outspoken!  At various times in Luther’s life, he was in danger.  He was nearly killed in a lightning storm. He was nearly killed by the Church. And Luther no doubt wondered about his eternal damnation, the ultimate danger, as he was excommunicated from Christianity.

Throughout his life, it would have been easier for Luther to walk different paths. At any number of junctures, he could have settled for a life of “less integrity.” Yet Luther remained true to his principles. He was driven to do what he believed God wanted him to do. He chose the higher ground, the lonely path, the one with twists and turns, thorns and briars, not to be martyred or ascetic, but because he believed in God’s grace and call to be a disciple of Christ’s.

At a unique place and time in history, with Renaissance spreading in Europe, the stage was set for Luther’s challenges to take hold. Much has been made of the time being ripe for Luther’s Reformation of the Church. Probably too much has been made of it.  Let us not say that Luther’s ideas “stuck” because Christopher Columbus was sailing around the world. Let us say instead that Luther’s ideas stuck because God wanted them to…and because a man, not unlike us, chose to “trust God above everything else.”

What does it say about us that a man, hundreds of years removed from us, is so honored if only because he lived out his Christianity? The Holy Roman Catholic Church of today gave SAINTHOOD to both Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. When Mother Teresa received her Nobel Prize for ministering to the disenfranchised people of Calcutta, India, she was both humbled and surprised. She did not want to be “awarded” for merely doing what Jesus called ALL Christians to do, namely, loving neighbors as themselves.

Yet the world is curious about those who do not play by worldly rules. Great, influential people in history have been recognized, in part, because they acted bravely or differently from the rest of us. Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. were wearied and unsettled by the world. They stood up to the injustices of their societies.  They trusted God above everything else…at great, personal cost…and we revere them today as almost even sacred.

Thank God for the Martin Luthers of history! Thank God for those who even great personal cost risk it all to say, “Wait a minute!  Something is terribly wrong here!”

Martin Luther has been praised as someone who acted with integrity at a time right for change.  We truly thank him for his contributions to Christianity. Our lives have been impacted because of what he endured “for Christ’s sake and the sake of the Gospel.” But let us not leave Luther back in the 16th Century! Let us carry his example into our own day and age. 

Perhaps the Church of today is facing its greatest challenge!  Mainstream churches are losing members. Apathy reigns. Morals are decaying. With increased frequency, many are wondering about the relevance of God and the need for Church. In our smorgasbord society, we pick our own likings: “If it feels good, do it!  If it serves us better, by all means, subscribe to it!”

God is calling US to lives of integrity, courage and faith!  Even TODAY, most notably, TODAY, God is hoping we will change our respective communities, maybe even the world, by merely loving others to Him…by merely, being…CHRISTIAN.

Pastor Mike Lemke

 

SEPTEMBER 2018

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

Those steeped in Lutheranism certainly know and appreciate this beautiful hymn:

This Is My Father’s World, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise. This Is My Father’s World, He shines in all that’s fair. In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere!

Indeed! God has unbelievable imagination! To think that this so-far-beyond God, Creator of the spheres of the universe, knows the number of hairs on our head! God is so very other and yet, so very personal!

Try getting your hair-counted head around the following strange and mind-blowing facts about nature:

  1. There are 12 times more trees on earth than stars in the Milky Way! Scientists estimate there are about 300 billion stars in our galaxy while there are an estimated 1 TRILLION trees on Earth!
  2. Pluto has not made a full orbit around the sun since it was discovered in 1930! In fact, it takes Pluto 248 years to make one orbit around the sun, which means that Pluto will make its first full orbit since 1930 on March 23, 2178!
  3. Pineapples take 2 years to grow! Remember this the next time you buy a lovely pineapple and then let it go to waste!
  4. Baby elephants suck on their trunks for comfort, just like how baby humans suck on THEIR thumbs!
  5. Sometimes when they’re out gathering nectar, bees will fall asleep in flowers!

And speaking of flowers, in the incredible imagination of God, sunflowers turn their faces toward the sun as they track it across the sky – an activity known as heliotropism, or solar tracking.

In stark contrast to the 90-degree days of the last month, today is overcast and even suggesting that Fall may be around the corner! This morning, I passed a field of thousands of sunflowers. What really intrigued me about the unbelievable beauty of the moment was that in the grey skies of this day, the sunflowers seemed rather confused! Some sunflowers were pointing towards the east as they always do as the sun rises. But other sunflowers seemingly pointed their proud, lovely heads in other directions; the sun hidden behind the rain clouds of the morning! It was obvious to me that the sunflowers did not know where the sun was!

Now we all know that the sun was there! Granted, I too wondered EXACTLY where the sun was, but I trusted that it was bringing life to flowers, TO US, from up above, nurturing and blessing creation.

When we have trouble finding God in the dark times of our lives, let us trust that beyond the moment, beyond grey skies and difficult circumstances, God is indeed shining and wishing to bless us with hope for a new day. Sunflowers must be pretty smart! They have the wisdom to always be looking towards their source of life.

Might we do the same? Might we look to the God who knows us through and through and  STILL chooses to be in association with us?

This Is My Father’s World…and He loves us so very much, through thick and thin, day in and day out and in bright days AND stormy ones.

God’s Peace and Joy!

Pastor Mike Lemke

AUGUST 2018: Pastor Mike’s Letter

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

As I think about it, it is hard for me to believe it has been 20 years! Going back to 1998, when I began my funeral ministry, I could not have envisioned that I would have done over 2000 funerals! It truly is staggering to me! And over the course of the last decades, I have had so many unusual experiences with my services.

There was the time a fist-fight broke out in the cemetery. And how about the cold December of 2006 when the funeral coach slid off a snowy highway into the ditch! And then there was the memorable African service where hired mourners rushed the casket and were kept off the coffin by men positioned in front of it! There have been occasional services where plain-clothed policemen attended the funeral because of the threat of violence. During one service, members of rival gangs attempted to place their own colors in the deceased’s casket while tensions in the congregation mounted!

I really could share a hundred stories of memorable funeral happenings… and have been blessed to be part of each one of them.

Recently, I did a graveside service at Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge. When I received the phone call learning of the death, I instantly remembered the woman informing me of the passing. I will call her Elizabeth. I had met Elizabeth years ago when her son Bruce died. She impressed me immediately as a sweet woman of devout, Christian faith. Though understandably heartbroken by her loss, Jesus shined through her. She thanked me over and over again for presiding at the funeral. In unmatched graciousness, Elizabeth greeted each person in attendance as the worship service began (and concluded) with her loving eyes and gentle hugs.

In our recent phone conversation, Elizabeth told me that her sister had died and that her niece (I will call her Roberta), would be contacting me for a sit-down meeting of introduction. Roberta called the next day and we agreed upon a meeting time at Cross of Glory to discuss details.

A half hour before our church meeting, Roberta called and in a frantic voice told me that she was tied up in traffic, had a number of things she was trying to do in preparation for the service and that I should try to meet her at a place close to I-25 and Evans. I suggested that we meet at the Perkins off of Colorado Boulevard. Roberto shot back: “I SAID EVANS!”  Knowing only of the McDonald’s at that intersection, I told her that the only sizable restaurant off of Evans that I knew was the Breakfast Inn not far from church. Roberta insisted that we meet there and so we did. With Cross of Glory only 5 minutes away from the restaurant, I arrived earlier than Roberta.

I immediately recognized Roberta as she stormed through the Breakfast Inn doors. I remembered her from Bruce’s service years before. She looked imposing then.  This time, she was indeed… energized! A big woman anyway, she appeared even larger, carrying on her person… preoccupation. Self-absorbed, Roberta brushed past the receptionist barely acknowledging her. Mild-mannered aunt Elizabeth trailed timidly behind, in what appeared to be Roberta’s tornado debris.

“So you’re Pastor Mark,” she blurted out. Elizabeth quickly corrected Roberta, “That’s Pastor Mike.” After a quick, firm handshake, Roberta plopped herself down in the Breakfast Inn chair and yelled across the restaurant, “I want a glass of water!”

Normally I would meet with a funeral family for 45 minutes to an hour. I knew that this conversation would be short-lived. As the waitress came over to the table, I ordered a cup of coffee. Elizabeth did the same. Roberta ordered nothing. As the waitress came back to the table with our coffees, Roberta glared at her. In a harsh retort that those in the McDonald’s at I-25 and Evans could hear, scolded, “And where is MY coffee?” For the next half hour, Roberta demonstrated numerous instances of volcanic eruptions, her lava spewing all over the Breakfast Inn and dear Elizabeth particularly.

For the first time in over 2,000 funeral services, I thought for a moment of telling someone they would need to find another minister for their funeral. I understand that grief-stricken people are not themselves. They typically are lost in a gamut of emotions. But Roberta? This was beyond emotional grief. This was just plain ugliness. And I felt so badly for sweet Elizabeth. After a difficult conversation of half-answers to my many questions about Roberta’s mother, Roberta and Elizabeth left the restaurant.

The morning of the funeral came. When I had asked Roberta how many people she thought would be in attendance, she had looked at me with disbelieving eyes before remarking, “How should I know?” Maybe to her surprise, there were about 20 people in support at Crown Hill. Roberta was not interacting with any of her family members nor friends at the grave. She stood off to the side of the casket, dressed in black, saying everything in saying nothing. As I began the funeral with the words always used, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Roberta turned from the funeral party and walked from the grave towards her car. For the remainder of the graveside service, she stayed there. No one went to check on her.

And then sweet Elizabeth, sitting in front of the casket, dressed not in black, but in the soft blue colors that her sister adored, interrupted me in the middle of the 23rd Psalm. Elizabeth said what I think I will always remember. Looking at her family members, she exclaimed, “Roberta has not made things easy for us. There have been the many times we in turn have been terribly unkind to her. If we are to honor Jesus, and my sister, we need to take the first steps towards reconciliation and forgiveness. We need to love Roberta so that she may love the Lord and love herself.”

The world is full of people that don’t love themselves. They have heard about the love of Jesus but have not felt it for themselves. Today we have the opportunity, following Elizabeth’s encouragement, to love others so that they may love the Lord. To be sure, in a lifetime, there will be those who treat us unfairly. There will be those who chide us with harsh words or who put us down. Jesus did not charge his disciples to just love those whom it was EASY to love. Jesus charged disciples, US, to love everyone, friends and foes alike!,  1 John says, “We should love others because God has first loved us.”  We should love others. Period.

May it always be our primary hope at Cross of Glory to love God first and our neighbors as ourselves.  Let us pray for the Robertas in our world, recognizing that at times, WE have probably been not so unlike her.  Thank God for God’s patience with… US.

Thank you Cross of Glory!  Thank you… church!
God’s Peace and Love!
Pastor Mike Lemke

JULY 2018

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!How many years now have we done our annual Cross of Glory yard sale?  I am not sure. I want to say that we have had a yard sale every one of the thirteen years that I have been at church. I DO know, carrying tables and chairs and boxes full of treasures to be sold onto our lawn was a lot easier thirteen years ago then it was last weekend! I guess I am feeling my age these days!  Haha! How many times have we said this will be the LAST year that we do a Cross of Glory yard sale?  And then there are the many, many pluses coming out of the yard sale weekends!

I think we had more items donated to us this year for our annual yard sale than in years past!  Thanks to all you who gave us “treasures” and…who priced them ahead of time! Haha! In addition to raising hundreds of dollars in promotion of Jesus and God’s Cross of Glory ministry, you did some serious Spring Cleaning these last months, clearing out from your closets and your drawers, even homes and garages, “I can live without” odds and ends! With space now to spare in your closets and drawers, homes and garages, you then in turn bought NEW items to replace your OLD ones!  Ah, the rationale behind such!   

Even though we often remark each year that our annual yard sale is pretty grueling, we DO see the benefits of hosting them. Helen Devantery, one of our newest members to Cross of Glory, gladly accepted the responsibility of being our fearless leader!  She did an INCREDIBLE job, even months before our sale, in preparing for last Saturday’s, June 23, “Meet and Greet” neighbors and donations! With her coordination, and publicity of our sale, and weeks of sorting, pricing and carrying donations throughout our church, onto the lawn and then off our grass, Helen was a champion! She made our annual yard sale a lot easier, and yes, even, fun!

And then there were the stories that made it all worthwhile! A man named Glenn was among our first customers. Arriving at 7:45, fifteen minutes before our sale began, he started to look at items already on our lawn. Glenn struck up a conversation with one of our members. He talked about his grandson never attending a professional baseball game and then noted our church was encouraging neighbors to join us for our July 29 Faith Day outing to Coors Field (The Rockies play the Oakland A’s at 1:10 that Sunday. Jon Gray, Ian Desmond, and Charlie Blackmon will talk about their devotion to Jesus and baseball after the ballgame. Join us! Tickets for the game and show thereafter are $20 each)! Glenn will be bringing his grandson to Faith Day with us…along with the baseball mitt Glenn bought from our yard sale! Then there was Sheila. She was waiting patiently at our checkout stand when another woman confessed that she had forgotten her purse. Sheila, with a smile, interjected, “I’ve been there before” and gladly paid for the woman’s jigsaw puzzles.  Pay it forward, right? How about the Spanish-speaking lady who was joking with her husband about needing more tables and chairs. The husband kept shaking his head, “NO!”  (Some things translate easily regardless of language barriers)! This man was NOT going to be roped into buying furniture pieces that would clutter their condo AND be too heavy to carry! The woman, however, won a victory of sorts. She got her husband to help load up the very tables and chairs SHE WANTED into another man’s vehicle! (“Yes, dear,” i.e, “Si carina!”). 

One of the joys of doing our annual yard sale is that our Cross of Glory members let their hair down in ways not typically seen on Sunday mornings! There was the banter about who would be eating FIRST K.C. Keefer’s grilled hot dogs! Nancy Barlow, former president of our Cook Park Association and K.C., not even members of our church, nonetheless, braved the heat of the day and spent their Saturday, great neighbors that they are, helping US!  Nancy and K.C. you are the best! There were the funny stories about which Danielle Steel novels were the “seediest” and that some of our members would be “in the know” about such!   And how at Cross of Glory do we attract new people to our ministry?  Just ask poor Scott Dankenbring!  Our newest member to Cross of Glory (Scott joined our church last Sunday with Jackie Phillips), Scott had set up our new grill days before our sale and carried dozens and dozens of boxes onto our lawn that yard sale morning!  How we joked that we probably would get more people to join Cross of Glory if we did not immediately put them to work! Haha! The stories were precious. Prayers were shared on our lawn as we learned of people’s joys and challenges. Members of the Cross of Glory-sponsored Gambler’s Anonymous group, meeting at the church at 10:00 AM on Saturday mornings, pitched right in, carrying chairs and heavy furniture pieces onto our lawn!  All in all, though a long day, even months in the making, our annual Yard Sale turned out to be pretty joyous. Thanks to all who made the day… once again… memorable and joyous!

Church is many things. Some speak of hymns and sermons while others, stained glass windows and steeples. At the very least, let us remember the first lesson many Lutheran Christians learn in Confirmation:  Church is YOU! YOU ARE THE CHURCH! Church is the Body of Jesus Christ: People forgiven, renewed and energized by God’s living and relentless Holy Spirit! The church is not a building made of mortar and stone.  It is the man or woman who places trust in Jesus, who attempts to love God in loving service to others.

In our recent Bible Study on the Book of Acts, we learned that the early church ALWAYS did three things when coming together for worship.  Firstly, new converts to faith prayed. Secondly, the first followers of Christ sang spiritual songs. Lastly, the church celebrated the Lord’s Supper together, believing that in the bread and in the wine (in a mystery of faith), Jesus was somehow present in loving support! Worship happens from 10:00 AM to 11:15 AM on Sunday mornings at Cross of Glory to be sure, but it is NOT Church!  Church is YOU!  It is laughing while bringing Spencer the dog some water from the kitchen!  It is smiling when a neighbor wants to talk down prices on our grass!  It is YOU getting sunburned on a Saturday afternoon because you know that helping Cross of Glory will help others.  Thank you for being the church!  Thank you for being YOU!

I do not know if the early church had yard sales. I DO know that the early Christians SHARED their possessions one with another so that no one was without.  Might it be our hope in upcoming yard sales at Cross of Glory to meet our neighbors, those made in God’s image, in THEIR need and in THEIR joys!  Might we as the church, allow God to live in and through us as we carry tables and chairs onto our grass?  Better yet, let us realize the privilege and joy in carrying Christ well beyond our Cross of Glory walls, onto our grass and down the street!  God will give us the strength to do His work… and even help us with that heavy, walnut desk on the corner!

Thank you Cross of Glory! Thank you…church!
Pastor Mike Lemke

MAY 2018

Hello Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

Spring has sprung! My sneezing can attest to it! Now that trees are budding, my nose knows it! Haha! As new life springs around us, we continue to relish the beauty and wonder of the glorious Easter season! Jesus stepped victorious from the tomb 2000 years ago to call Mary by name and reach out lovingly to her. His triumph over sin, death and the power of the devil is our victory as well! As spring springs (haha,) we appreciate the new life in Christ that Easter resurrection brings.

Having said that, we painfully realize that death still pierces our souls. It breaks our hearts… Painfully, we experienced recently the passing into greater life of our dear sister in Christ, our amazing friend, Maysel Christy. I was so proud of the many ways that you, as her loving congregation, stepped up to meet this challenge. Husband Tom, and children Leigh Ann and Stephen thank you for your kindness and continued expressions of empathy and care.

Peculiarly last evening, I wondered about my friend Madylon Hood from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had heard from Madylon’s daughter, Susan, around Christmas that Madylon, residing in a Pittsburgh nursing home, was not faring well. I googled her name and instantly saw her obituary. Saddened, but not altogether surprised, I learned that Madylon had died a week earlier. Instantly, I thought of precious time spent in Pittsburgh while on my seminary internship.

As I arrived in Pittsburgh, now decades ago, I probably felt pretty sure of myself. I was near completion of my seminary education, and with my parents’ and family’s influence, I had virtually been raised in the church. What possibly did I have to learn yet as a self-assured 23-year-old (need I say more)? And yet, looking back on things, I had EVER SO MUCH to learn! My, how perceptions change as one gets older!  

As dear members of Ruthfred Lutheran Church and friends of interns over the years, Madylon and her husband, soft-speaking Harlan, really took me under their wings. We would go to lunch or dinner in a new Pittsburgh restaurant once a month.  And then there were the exposures to new experiences and adventures. I remember the embarrassment I felt at watching the first ballet I ever attended with them: Swan Lake. I still remember marveling at the dancers’ athleticisms!

Madylon was a great sounding board, an outlet for me to share my questions, excitements and even criticisms of unfolding ministry. Perhaps Madylon’s greatest gift was her ability to suspend interjecting her ideas quickly. Rather, she listened attentively to my feelings and ramblings, allowing me to get things off my chest, and heart, hopefully ONTO my brain where I could process ministry responsibly. Mild-mannered Harlan passed into greater life around the time Barb and I were married. Consequently, Madylon continued to live out her passions for people and Pittsburgh adventures without Harlan over the years.  Instead of slowing down, I believe she intensified her zest for life and her wanting to share so much of it with willing others.

Madylon and I stayed in touch quite frequently in the first 10 years of my pastoring in Denver. Then, as is so often the case, time slips into time, new relationships form and what was precious in the past is left to memory and storytelling on occasion. We, at Cross of Glory, are fortunate to have known (and been mentored by) so many of the saints, now in heaven, who impacted the character of our congregation.  They truly left footprints on our hearts…and as we aspire to be more like them in their devotions to Christ…we miss them terribly. As I reflect on Shirlee Mueller, Maysel Christy and Madylon Hood, sisters in the faith to me, to us, and their greater life in the kingdom of Heaven, I thank God for their rich impacts. They all shared joy in celebrating Christ in the here, now and in anticipation of greater life ahead. I, for one, hope to cherish their memories by trying to be a better person, and even more deliberate, conscientious positive difference-maker in whatever Pittsburgh or Denver, God appoints.

Thank you, communion of saints, for the difference you will always continue to make in my life. Thank you, Madylon, Shirlee and Maysel, in allowing me, to be me, as I processed ministry with you many times over the years. I know the three of you will forever cheer us on as we still run the race of faith at Cross of Glory! Forgetting what lies behind and pressing forward to the blessing of what’s ahead, know that your family members and friends, impacted by your devotions to Jesus, will take the heart the lessons you shared.

Onward Christian soldiers! Go Broncos…and…Go Steelers!

Much love!
Pastor Mike

President’s Letter: May 2018

I’d like to share with you “The 7 Ups”, sent to me years ago by my sister. They are good reminders of how we, as Christians, can improve our attitudes and daily habits.

Wake Up! Decide to have a good day.

“This is the day the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24

Dress Up!  The best way to dress up is to put on a smile. A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

Shut Up!  Say nice things and learn to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking.

“He who guards his lips guards his soul.”  Proverbs 13:3

Stand Up!  …for what you believe in. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.

“Let us not be weary in doing good; for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good…”  Galatians 6:9-10

Look Up!  …to the Lord.

“I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13

Reach Up!  …for something higher.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

Lift Up!  …your prayers.

“Do not worry about anything; instead PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING.” Philippians 4:6

I hope your day is filled with “The 7 Ups”.  Have a blessed day!

Julie Prange

May Outreach

Our Outreach focus for MAY is the Children of Jesus Ministry of the HanHee Kim World Mission Center, a ministry of our next-door-neighbor Korean Baptist Church.

The HanHee Kim World Mission Center launched the Children of Jesus Ministry in 1996 by providing education to 55 children living in Santiago, Dominican Republic. In 1997, their first feeding ministry in Costa Rica relieved the suffering of 30 hunger-stricken children. In 1998, their ministry expanded to be what it is today: It was able to launch COJ child-sponsorship programs in three cities of Peru (Lima, Arequipa, Cusco).

Children of Jesus is aimed to assist poor and needy children with education, food and basic medical care through love and prayer. Through our prayers and designated financial gift, we are proud to continue to be a part of the vision that was begun several years ago. For more information, talk to Pastor Mike or Kelli Lee.

June Item: CEREAL Metro CareRing operates one of the largest hunger relief programs in Denver.  It distributes food and personal care items to the needy, serving up to 500 people every day. Please share as you can to help those in need. Please place your donations in the boxes marked “Metro CareRing.”  Thank you for caring and sharing. Kelli Lee, Outreach Chairperson

Worship and Music

Thanks to everyone, the Lenten season at Cross of Glory is always very special.  We have enjoyed worshipping together with our friends from Prince of Peace. Our Easter celebration promises to be equally special.  I hope you will be able to be with us for either the 7:30 AM Sunrise Service or the 10:00 AM Traditional worship service.   The Sullivan family will be providing special music at the 10:00 AM Worship Service.

Music is an important part of our ministry at Cross of Glory.  We are always looking for anyone who would be willing to share his or her musical talent with us.  Please visit with Olive Keefer or myself if you would be available to participate in our Worship and Music Ministry. 

How about you?  Do you enjoy singing?   Karen Matlock, our organist and choir director, would love to have you be a part of our Cross of Glory choir.  No auditions are necessary!  Short practices are held following our worship service.  Listen for the announcement when our next practice will be held – and please join us! 

Pat Lemster, Worship and Music Committee Chairperson

April RTD Sponsored Events:  Sign-up sheets are in the Fellowship Hall:

April 18 (Wednesday) – Dead Sea Scrolls. We will see the ancient manuscripts that include the oldest known Biblical documents dating back 2000 years. The scrolls are presented in a massive exhibit case featuring carefully regulated individual chambers. Event time is 10:00 am – 1:30 pm. Departure times and details will be announced prior to the day of. The ticket cost is $19.75 and includes admission to the Museum of Nature and Science. Reservation deadline is March 28.

April 26 (Thursday) – DAZZLE. Event time is 11:30 am – 1:30 pm. Departure times and details will be announced prior to the day of. The cost of $25 per senior includes your choice of three entrees, soda, coffee, tea or a glass of wine, beer or well drink plus Great Live Jazz!  Tax and gratuity are included. Reservation deadline is April 5.

Outreach Focus for March 2018:

Cross of Glory’s Helping Hands Program:

Through our benevolence, each month we designate $500 to organizations helping those in need. Four times a year, realizing there are people in our congregation and community who are in need of financial and non-financial assistance, our Outreach focus has been the Helping Hands Ministry. Funds are used to help people based on their unique circumstances. Some of the non-financial assistance can be providing transportation to doctor’s appointments, running errands for someone or helping members with light housecleaning. The beauty of this program is that the funds have a full and direct impact on people’s lives. There is no middle man, no administrative fees or other costs associated with the Helping Hands program. Whatever is donated to Helping Hands goes to those needing help.

Please support Helping Hands with a designated gift or let Pastor Mike know if you are able to offer your time or personal services to help others.  If you or someone you know has need of the Helping Hands program, confidential requests can be made to Pastor Mike either personally or via request cards in the narthex.

Metro Care Ring March monthly food focus:

Metro CareRing provides nutritious food to hungry families and individuals while promoting health and self-sufficiency. It is the largest hunger-relief organization in Denver directly serving families and individuals since 1974.

Each month Cross of Glory requests a specific food item from our church family to be given to Metro CareRing. For March, we are asking everyone to share canned fruit and/or veggies. Your donations can be left in the narthex in the marked boxes.  Thank you for sharing your donations to help bless others in our community.   

Kelli Lee, Outreach Chairperson

Stewardship

Gratitude! Our divine devotion to say thank you to God for all that we have, all that we are, and all that we will become, is the foundation of stewardship. From gratitude, generosity is fostered. And generosity can be measured in so many different ways. Sometimes, it’s that extra call to a friend to see how they are doing, perhaps it’s a volunteer mission you feel impassioned about, a calling, so to speak. Sometimes, it’s as simple as pulling together items that we no longer need so we can build our inventory for our upcoming summer garage sale (hint hint). Stewardship gives us an opportunity to perform duties and give back gratefully for a life that has been so richly blessed by our Heavenly Father.

Jesus was the ultimate Good Steward. In John 8:29, Jesus proclaims, “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”  So, think about our need to please our Master as we think about our stewardship. Generosity leads to more generosity because that feeling of love is undeniable when we know we are living according to God’s will.

Humbly submitted to all the amazing Stewards of Cross of Glory Lutheran Church!

Thank you and God Bless you all!
Helen Devantery, Stewardship Chairperson

Outreach Focus for February 2018:

Project Angel Heart:

Founded in 1991, Project Angel Heart’s mission is to deliver nutritious meals to improve the quality of life, at no cost, to those coping with life threatening illness such as cancer, kidney/heart/lung disease, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. This organization is  dedicated to getting nutritious meals to people too sick to go to the grocery store, too weak to make meals for themselves or their dependents or who have to choose between purchasing medications or food. Their delivery area now includes 640 square miles in metropolitan Denver and 164 square miles in the Colorado Springs area. All meals are delivered free of charge by caring volunteers.

Metro Care Ring monthly food focus:

February 4 is the Super Bowl. This month’s donations will be SOUP. This will help stock empty shelves. Your items can be placed in the box in the narthex marked MetroCare Ring!

Outreach Focus for January 2018:

Alzheimer’s Association “MEMORIES IN THE MAKING” (in memory of Shirlee Mueller)

MIM is a creative art expression program for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. Even after people with dementia have lost the ability to use words, they are often able to express thoughts and emotions and to share memories through painting with watercolors. Some benefits include: Improves self esteem; Serves as an outlet for emotions; Increases attention span and focus; Activates neurons; Reduces isolation and provides opportunity to socialize; Taps into pockets of memory that still exist; Reconnects families. The MIM art groups meet in assisted-living communities, nursing homes and adult day programs throughout the state.