FEBRUARY 2024

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends! 

“To be or not to be ? That is the question.”

Hamlet muses about what to do next… about what his understanding of self compels him to do… and… compels him to be. “To fight the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them?” Hamlet finds himself at a crossroads. He wonders what to do next. Hamlet asks, “What am I called to do in keeping with my true character?”

How many times in life do we arrive at crossroads such as these as we wonder about how to proceed or what might make sense next?  We question whether we have the abilities and/or resources to take the necessary steps towards better resolve. Should we retreat?  Should we resign? Should we “sleep or perchance even  dream?” Oftentimes, NOT DOING ANYTHING AT ALL seems to be the option that many people choose. Seemingly INACTION might be best… conceivably reasoning, IGNORANCE as a means to the end. Deep down inside at such crossroads, we probably realize that inactivity is NOT the best option, but nonetheless, we choose comfort over involvement. Like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand we hope not to see, nor deal with the dramas, the concerns, nor the needs pressing hard against us. I am reminded of the TS Elliott poem, “The Hollow Men.” Elliot contends that “the world will not end in a bang but rather a whimper,” suggesting that most people choose inactivity over involvement… apathy rather than care.

Who am I in pale comparison to question Shakespeare’s greatest of lines? When faced with the toughest of circumstances, driven to act, Hamlet wonders about being or not being. I dare suggest however that is NOT the primary question. The question that Hamlet, that we, really must ask is “Who am I in the first place?” And then the question that falls hard upon an awareness, a belief about who ultimately we are, is “What does it mean to accept that reality? If I am this… then what does it mean to BE this? Before Hamlet decides what to do… or not to do…. he must contend with who he is and reason what that means for him personally.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the True Vine. He is the Living Bread from heaven and the Gate to the Sheepfold.”

Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

In large part, the sacred season of Lent is all about Jesus asking the question, “To be or not to be.” Jesus ponders what it means to BE the Savior of not only the cosmos but of us and wrestles with whether He will accept being what He was born to be, and DO consequently, what His nature and obedience to his Father’s will calls Him to do.

One of the greatest mysteries of our faith is the interplay between Jesus Divinity and Humanity. How self-aware was Jesus from the youngest of ages of who He was and of what He was supposed to do? Was there a chance that He could sin…  to CHOOSE a different path,  a different life?   The greatest

instance of Jesus’ love for us (and to His Father) was ultimately His perfect submission to what God His Heavenly Father called him to BE and then to DO… And let us not downplay the genuine struggle Jesus demonstrated dramatically in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed to His Father: “Is there any other way? Must I drink this bitter cup of anguish and death that You are calling Me to drink on behalf of all those you love. Must I go to the cross and endure the physical pain of thorns and nails, the whip and the spear. Oh God, my Eternal Father, must I take upon Myself the sins of every person ever to have lived and the sins of every person yet to be born. Must I be tormented, horrified by feeling totally alone, separated from You for the first time in all eternity?” In but a few hours, Jesus in terror, in earnest, would scream, “My God, my God, where are You?”

To be or not to be.  Yes, that WAS Jesus question, but His answer in large part depended on His understanding WHO He was and WHAT He was called consequently to do.

Which begs the question? Who are you? And what does it mean for you to BE you?

I’m sure there have been times in the past where in a larger group you have been asked to share a little bit about yourself. Women tend to talk about relationships… about their roles as wives and as mothers and their places n families. Men tend to speak about their jobs… what they do and perhaps what they enjoy doing in free times. But have you ever been in a group where a person responded to the question, “Who are you” first and foremost with, “I am a Christian. I am the King’s Kid. I am a child of God… and consequently, I am compelled to be a disciple, a lover of God and of others?”

To great extent, Lent is the special season of the church year that calls us to question who we are and what it means for us to belong to Christ. Are we indeed sheep of His fold? Have we not been created in His image?  Should we not be about His lessons? At what cost (slings and arrows), do we take up arms, our own crosses, checking egos at the door and prioritizing others? When will we die to self and live for God and neighbors? How many people speak of you as a member of Cross of Glory? How many know you to be… Christian?

Christianity is easy until it actually calls us to get outside ourselves and do something uncomfortable. I cannot imagine the anguish that Jesus experienced in physical pain, of sin-bearing, let alone the indescribable paralysis, the horror of feeling TOTALLY ALONE, even abandoned, by His Father and Holy Spirit for the first time in all eternity.

As we move into this month of February, beyond our New Year’s resolutions to be on time places, to lose weight, eat healthier, drink less and exercise more, might we move into greater resolve to actually BE the Kids of the Kingdom? What does it mean for you, for us, to accept Christ’s call to discipleship? How will your life change as you use time, talents and treasures, gifts from God, to help others desperately in need of God’s, of your, touches?

Lent is CERTAINLY about Jesus’ trip to the cross and Easter ultimately springing life from death, but might we say these upcoming weeks, that Lent is a call to US ALSO to go to the cross and recognize what we are called to be that in OUR giving and in OUR sharing…. in OUR prioritizing, we also can rise from what we were to what we are called to be.

Yes, “To be or not to be” is definitely one of life’s greatest questions. What will it mean for you, Cross of Glory? What will it compel you to DO because you “are not your own, that you were bought with a price and that you belong to the Savior?”

Pastor Mike Lemke

PS

OUR 2024 LENTEN JOURNEY

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14

We will soon be observing the sacred Lenten season and consequent Holy Week and Easter observances with renewed zeal and devotion beginning with our Ash Wednesday Service on February 14 when the sign of the cross with ashes will be lightly rubbed onto our foreheads. Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing the spiritual disciplines of fasting, repentance, and prayer.     Lent begins 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included). Easter Sunday this year is March 31.

As in past years, Cross of Glory and Prince of Peace Lutheran (2400 South Colorado Blvd.) Churches will host alternate Lenten Services.

Talk about a Good Samaritan!

On the way to the cross, Jesus, already half-dead, whipped mercilessly 39 times, the maximum number of lashes allowed (40 was after all… cruel?), falls on His face.  He cannot walk another step under the weight of the crossbeam.  A passerby, Simon of Cyrene, in Jerusalem for the Passover, is commanded to carry Christ’s cross, the… CROSS OF GLORY… to Golgatha, the crucifixion place just outside the city.  There every pilgrim, every visitor to Jerusalem would be challenged with what it meant to disrespect the Romans. Don’t mess with Texas? No! Don’t mess with Rome!

During Lent, this 40-Day period prior to Easter (excluding Sundays… Sunday is ALWAYS meant to be celebratory), I have wondered about Simon of Cyrene. Had he met Jesus before? How willing was he to carry Christ’s cross? How far did he have to go? Was he chided, was he whipped as he went to what the Bible calls (get this… how ghastly…) the Place of the Skull.

Was Simon of Cyrene mistaken as one TO BE CRUCIFIED?

In the early centuries of Christianity, lovers of Christ, those wrestling with the toughest of questions posed by the crucifixion, primarily, “Can God die?” rationalized a number of explanations. Many of these conclusions would be eventually known as “Heresies.” It was in 325 AD when Roman Emperor (and Christian) Constantine commissioned bishops from Asia Minor to decide upon a COMMON and AGREED UPON creed.

The Nicene Creed was born.

Prior to that, some believed that Jesus, in the confusion of Good Friday, was NOT crucified at all… that GOOD SAMARITAN Simon of Cyrene was nailed to the cross in Jesus’ place!  That answers the question about God not dying.  It also explains (forget about the 40 lashes) how Jesus could meet the disciples, pretending to be resurrected, in the Upper Room on Easter!

Nonsense.

I do not believe that Simon of Cyrene was crucified.  I do believe however that his carrying Jesus’ cross… and seeing Jesus die… CRUCIFIED (Dead), DIED (Really Dead) and if the really accent the point BURIED (Unquestionably Dead), changed Simon’s life.

In the last chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul sends greetings to followers of Christ in Rome.  In the lengthy list of names, it is easy to overlook one… yes… indeed… Simon of Cyrene!  The same guy who carried Christ’s cross became an ardent disciple of Jesus’!

I wrote in this February newsletter,  a piece about Shakespeare’s famous line, “To Be or Not to Be.” As you “Survey the Wondrous Cross” will YOUR life be changed?  Will you be a follower of Jesus?  Will you carry His love to others?

 

LENTEN JOURNEY CONTINUES…

This Lent, will you commit to prayer, Bible Study and being with us in worship both on Sundays and Wednesdays (4 PM)?  Frankly, our Lenten attendance has not been that spectacular these last years.  We tried evenings and many said it was difficult to get out at night. So, last year, we tried 12:00 Noon, hoping that the light of mid-day would be the answer. Once again, not so great.

This year, Pastor Todd from Prince of Peace and I are hoping that 4:00 PM might be a good compromise.  Like last years, we will go back and forth between churches (beginning at 4:00 PM on Ash Wednesday, February 14, at Prince of Peace), do Holden Evening Prayer, and preach sermons on beloved hymns. Pastor Todd is excited that his wife, struggling with health issues, might be able to attend worship at that time.  How about you?  Jesus died for us.  What can we do… what can we be… in great appreciation?

Pastor Mike and Pastor Todd are still talking about Holy Week, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services. As plans unfold, we will be sure to let you know.

We are in need of people who will volunteer to read Scripture passages. Please be sure to visit with Mary Lemke, our Music and Worship Chairperson or Pastor Mike about your willingness to help. We also are looking for those who might play an instrument or sing a solo for us during Lent.

Be sure to be with us for Wednesday observances and Sunday morning worship throughout these next 40 days of Lent.

 

JANUARY 2024

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

Happy New Year! Happy 2024!

It used to be seemingly-forever-young Dick Clark counted down the seconds before a new year in Times Square. Now energetic, smiling, good-looking and also seemingly-forever-young Ryan Seacrest, will usher in 2024 in a television broadcast still referred to as “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Party.” Throngs of Americans, huddled together with family and friends, many at parties, will stay up this December 31st  long enough to welcome midnight and the sound of fireworks… perhaps even gunfire! In my old neighborhood across town in Lakewood, a Colorado FBI agent would welcome the new year each January 1st by sauntering out of his home at 12:01 AM (trying to hold back a smile as he knew we were all waiting for him) and blast the heavens with his shotgun (I always wondered how legal that was!). Yikes! 

No doubt many will wonder about 2023 in the closing minutes of this year while anticipating, hoping for a better January into December.

“Auld Lang Syne” was written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788 and is thought to have been based on an earlier poem. Despite efforts to belt out the tune every New Year’s Eve, few people seem to actually know the words:

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

  And never brought to mind,  

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And auld land syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo, 

For auld lang syne. 

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.”

The lyrics are about friends having a drink, recalling adventures they had long ago. The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” translates to “Old Long Since” in English. It means something akin to “Times Gone By,” in the Scot’s language.

As you reflect on 2023, would you say generally it was a good year or was it a bad one for you? Why? Keep in mind that even tough years may in time prove to make our lives so much better!  We are often impatient! We who race to judgments may not realize that with time, what seemingly is bad can actually turn into something wonderfully beautiful.

The Apostle Paul, moved by God’s Holy Spirit to pen 13 New Testament letters, writes in Romans, chapter 8, verse 28, that “all things work together for the good for those who love the Lord… for those who are called according to His purposes.”

Certainly the verse does not say that all things ARE good. We know that in a world tainted, marred by the Original Sin, that crying, tears and pain will be experienced by all until Jesus comes again, this time in the clouds to usher in a New Heaven and a New Earth. God’s promises WILL remain, WILL persist, this next year. God’s promises ALWAYS are trustworthy, sure and reliable in EVERY time and place. All things WILL work together for the good for them who love the Lord.

Way back in 1972, I remember when my family wondered about moving from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to the Denver I now love. MY LIFE was in Sioux Falls. MY FRIENDS were there. EVERYTHING familiar to me was in Sioux Falls. The thought of moving to a new place, not knowing anyone was scary for me. Could I make friends? How alone would I feel in a city of millions?

NOW, however, you understand, I can’t envision being ANYWHERE ELSE! Can you relate? God is SO good!

Regardless of the year you just experienced, please remind yourself of God’s every day embrace and the living out of dependable promises. Emmanuel is not only a Christmas word. It is an every day, 2024 word. You are not going to have to face this new year by yourself. You not only have the Lover of your Soul at your side, but a family of faith and friends at Cross of Glory to hold you up and prod you on. Because of God’s grace and God’s forgiveness, we do not have to live in the past. Our sins have been thrown as far as the East is from the West. As Christians, we have been reborn, renewed and restored! Hallelujah!

At Christmas, Jesus came to earth to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. We CAN live new lives… this abundantly. Though the years will pass… though things will change, some for the better and some for the worse, ” Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.” We are not only a saved people. We can be, we are called to be, regardless of circumstances, a hopeful people.

Should old acquaintances be forgot? Maybe. But the God of love NEVER forgets us! Might this be our confidence congregationally and personally this upcoming year of God’s grace!

 
 
1 Corinthians 5:17 says that “those in Christ Jesus are new creatures. The old has passed away and the NEW has come.”Happy New Year Cross of Glory! Happy New Year! It will be… it promises to be… a good, a great, one!                                             Pastor Mike Lemke

 

DECEMBER 2023

Dear Cross of Glory Family,

And that is what we are!  Yes!  All of us!  Together!  We are indeed a family!  God has called us to be brothers and sisters to one another; to genuinely care for each other.  Regardless of the circumstances of your IMMEDIATE family, YOU ARE A MEMBER OF OUR CHURCH FAMILY. I pray that you always remember it.  Cross of Glory is your spiritual home.  In our home, I pray that you would find the support and the understanding that you desire; the love and the friendship all of us crave. To that end, might YOU also be encouraging and caring for others at Cross of Glory, your church family members.

Jesus Christ is the head of the Church… not our Church Council… not me, Pastor Mike.  We would do well to emulate Christ in all our associations… to mimic His actions in our relationships with all others.  We would do well to learn from Christ humility and service, forgiveness and reverence for all of God’s creation.

Even as I write you this newsletter article, it is 5:00 PM.  Darkness has blanketed Denver. I have said to myself these last months, October is my favorite month, you know, with that chill in the air, breaking out a windbreaker, the smell of burning leaves, Halloween (and my wife’s sloppy joe hamburgers and chips as we greet Trick and Treaters at the door) and… of course, FOOTBALL kicking off! And then November descends upon us!  I am hard-pressed! I LOVE the sound of geese flying overhead and the smell of Mom’s turkey baking in the oven early on Thanksgiving mornings. When I lived in Sioux Falls as a kid, snow would always be on the ground in November (and most likely remain until Spring’s Easter). Sledding down our driveway with the shhhhuss sound of snow beneath piercing the darkness of 5:00 PM AND the peculiar quiet, stillness, of everything else… I consequently  romanticize that November is my favorite month of the year.

But then comes the beauty, the love, the surprises of December.

“Silent Night Holy Night. All is calm.  All is bright.” I am convinced that my favorite NIGHT of the year is Christmas Eve. I am now tempted to tell you that DECEMBER is my favorite month. I guess you can say that the last three months of the year are EQUALLY my favorites? 

There is one thing that I have painfully learned however, particularly during the decades of being a pastor.  Privileged to know the cares of so many who openly, trusting, share the toughest of times with me, I have learned that many struggle during Christmas. MY December appreciations, MY Christmas sentiments, are NOT necessarily THEIRS.

I remember years ago when we had Advent Sunday evenings together at Cross of Glory.  One Sunday we would come for chili before retiring to the sanctuary to sing beloved Christmas carols. The next Sunday evening we would enjoy a taco bar or a soup or a loaded baked potato before singing in front of our organ. I recall at one of our Advent gatherings inviting all present to share a precious Christmas memory with us. There were those that spoke of a favorite gift. Others relayed the joy of family members, across the miles, coming together. Some cried as they realized that through the romanticism of it all, the tinsel and the twinkle, the fudge and the fun, Christ had shown up as though newborn, then, now, there, here.

 

But then I remember the awkwardness, the uncomfortable silence of a few people, slow to say anything at all, eventually sharing that they did not have a fond Christmas memory to impart.  There are those among us who did not have the figgy pudding, the go-to-church Christmas dresses nor the… FAMILY… to share the holiday. While many have sung “Joy to the World,” over the years, there have been those who… hoped NEW YEARS would indeed be… NEW YEARS.

I just got off the phone with Tracy Mueller, Jim and Shirlee’s son.  Tracy told me that friends of his, parked in a car, had been sideswiped by a train. A little boy, 4 years old, who combed Tracy’s hair (you remember Tracy’s physical challenges) had been killed in the wreck. Tracy asked me to pray for his ability to speak words of comfort and support to the family.  He also asked me to pray for his (Tracy’s) faith when in this world, bad things happen nonetheless to good people.

As though the words came from God, I thought and then relayed to Tracy the words from “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem:” “The hopes AND FEARS of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

CHRISTMAS IS MAGICAL TO BE SURE (Do you see the word “Magi” in “Magic?”) BUT THERE IS A LOT OF MESS… AND MISSTEPS IN CHRISTMAS AS WELL. That may very well BE the miracle… the message… of the whole thing… for the masses (as in… for all people… not just church worship services).

For in Christmas, you have a pregnancy before a marriage.  You have wisemen making a… two-year trek (?) to Bethlehem. In Christmas, you have an innkeeper who says, “Sorry, get lost.”  Cows and sheep and smelly shepherds showing up to the birthday party.  In Christmas, you have the STINK, STANK, AND STUNK (Thank you Dr. Seuss) of a STABLE. You have a jealous king… and the killing of babies (not 4-year-olds, but ALL under the age of 2).

Come to think of it, there is a lot more muck and mire in Christmas than there is manger and miracle! 

This December, in the family that is Cross of Glory, know that God came to Bethlehem, to you, so that you might never BE alone.  With God’s help and the help of God’s people, your friends at church, we are strengthened to meet “the hopes and the fears” of this life TOGETHER. Christmas should… and can… be realized and experienced EACH day of the year.  How wonderful to think that maybe our favorite months, because of year-round Christmas cheer, could be EACH month!  YOU ARE PRECIOUS IN GOD’S SIGHT AND IN OUR EYES.  YOU COUNT!  YOU ARE SPECIAL, GIFTED AND BLESSED. YOU ARE NEEDED… AND YOU ARE… LOVED!

 

AND THAT IS WHAT MAKES THE STORY SO REAL, SO PERTINENT, SO RELEVENT, SO… EMMANUEL FOR US, FOR THE WORLD, TODAY!

Pastor Mike Lemke

NOVEMBER 2023

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

November already!  How can it be? Arguably, November is my favorite month of all the year!  Yes, football is in full swing.  We would have just come off a fun-filled Halloween, truly festive when seen in the right  regard and then two days later, in Mexican culture, the revered, the sacred, Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead… a Memorial Day remembrance… and thanksgiving… of those positive ” impactors” of our lives having already “passed into” greater life).

November 10th IS my dad’s birthday (Martin Luther’s also) and over the years, Lemkes relatives and friends went to Casa Bonita in celebration of Dad (Get this… Dad would always order… ouch… the Chicken Fried Steak! What was up with that?). The list of why November is my favorite month goes on! Snow and skiing. Home, hearth and harvest. The smell of leaves burning. The most phenomenal meal of the entire year: Thanksgiving, and with it, the most anticipated school vacation time of the entire year: The Wednesday night BEFORE Thanksgiving into what seemed to be a SUPER LONG weekend break! November rocks!

Normally in a November newsletter article I would be giving the Pilgrims their due, crossing a vast Atlantic Ocean in a day when some thought sailors would fall of the end of the world as they traveled beyond the horizon. I would write of the lengths some went through to worship God as they willed in the hope their dedication beckoned all of us today to revere and love God all the more. “We are to fear, love and trust God above everything else,” Martin Luther wrote in his explanation to the First Commandment, “Thou shalt not have any other gods before Me,” as Christianity is not a part-time commitment.  Normally in a November newsletter article, I would write about how fortunate we are as Americans to live in the United States. Flawed as our nation MAY be… more people want to live here than anywhere else.  What does that say about the Land of the Free and of the Brave?

Let me take a different tact this year. Let me do so by telling a story to you… a story that goes back to 1993, 30 years ago.

I was 34 and Mom and Dad (just a little over 50 themselves) had bought a timeshare in a place my family knew nothing about… seemingly in a galaxy far, far away!  Puerto Vallarta was a sleepy community on the Pacific… a favorite port of the television show “The Love Boat,” renowned especially for its steamy love affair between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor starring in the movie, “The Night of the Iguana.”  Mom and Dad were enchanted by PV when we vacationed there for the first time in 1992… and in typical Dad-style… HE WENT FOR IT… PURCHASING THREE WEEKS OF FEBUARY TIMESHARE THERE FOR A THIRTY YEAR COMMITMENT! I cannot conceive of a life without the memories, the beauty, the people, the friends of Puerto Vallarta. THANK YOU, MOM AND DAD FOR PURCHASING WEEKS OF DIFFERENCE AT LOS TULES.”

As you know, for these three decades, I too have been enchanted by PV. 

Thank you for my most recent getaway there a month ago. My brother Steve and I enjoyed yet another beautiful time together THE FIRST WEEK we relaxed there… Steve needing to fly back home to Phoenix for work after a few days.   Strangely enough, it seemed  THE VERY MOMENT HE LEFT,  I started to feel

punk and somewhat disoriented.  A couple of days thereafter, I was in the hospital for four consequent days with a high blood sugar number, most likely brought on by my strong immuno-therapy approach to treating melanoma in my lungs and liver. My time in Vallarta was cut short by my illness as I flew back to Denver the moment PV doctors thought it safe for me to travel (Now that my health has stabilized, I hope to make another go of it to Mexico in January, hoping to see the ocean from a beach chair instead of a hospital bed!  Haha!).

But enough of that… Let me tell you a pertinent “November” story going back to the FIRST time my family vacationed in Vallarta, 30 years ago. On our first trip to PV, I told my family vacationing with us, that I wanted to take a taxi (these were the days we knew nothing about the many buses in PV that CHEAPLY… 25 cents a ride… took us most places in the city) into downtown (Centro), to drink a beverage, rub shoulders with the locals and listen to some guitar music, most likely in a nightclub on the ocean. Dad said, “Just be careful,” to which I probably replied, full of myself, “Don’t worry…MY SPANISH WILL HELP ME IF NEED BE!  I DID know after all the word “Hola” at the time! I assured my family I would not make it late.

After a relaxing time at Carlos O’Briens, a popular night spot in the heart of Vallarta, I was fortunate to get Alejandro as my taxi drive back to our timeshare.  Alejandro… TO THIS DAY… is still a friend of mine!  He was 29 at the time… his taxi OWNED by his family… a taxi that ran 24/7 in Vallarta.  Ajejandro and his 3 other brothers drove each day the taxi in four separate six-hour shifts. Alejandro was working the 9 PM to 3 AM shift that night. As we left Centro to take the 10-minute ride back to the resort, I laid upon him the few Spanish phrases I knew. Thankfully, in retrospect, Alejandro SOMEHOW managed to see past my many language errors, SOMEHOW knowing that I wanted to get back to Los Tules!  Haha… or in Spanish… Jaja! I probably shared with him that I did not know much Spanish… as if it was NOT obvious!  Alejandro, in broken English, shared with me, that even with all the English-speakers he met in his work, that he did not know much English!  As Alejandro arrived at Los Tules to drop me off, this at 11:30 that night, we continued to chat with another. One hour passed in the parking lot… then two… then another!  We laughed as we tried to understand each other, both of us throwing embarrassment out the taxi window while trying to connect.

I especially remember the frustration I had in NOT knowing the word “home” in Spanish.  Everybody knows “Casa,” Casa Bonita… Casa Blanca. I wanted to tell Alejandro about my HOME, not my HOUSE.  I wanted to tell Alejandro about my family, my friends, my work, our Broncos… the SENTIMENT OF HOME. Dorothy was in Oz.  I was in PV… and I wanted Dorothy’s ruby slippers to whisk me into BEING ABLE to say, “Really Alejandro, THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.”

Alejandro asked me if there was a canyon in the United States a mile deep.  He asked me about skyscrapers, floors (pisas) stacked up to heaven (cielo) like he had seen in the movies.  He told me that he wished Mexico did not have its corrupt politicians at the expense of the country he loved. It was at that point that I started to get choked up (it was now 2:30 in the morning… I DIDN’T EVEN THINK that Mom would have been up wondering what had happened to her “gringo.”). I told Alejandro that in America, we CHOOSE our leaders and our laws.  We have the precious right… to VOTE. WE ARE A LAND OF THE FREE… and that the privilege… the fortune… of our Constitutional RIGHTS are envied by the world. AS FLAWED AS AMERICA MAY BE, we should thank God not only on a Turkey Day, BUT EVERY DAY for the opportunity to live, to be… FREE.

These days, we may be as divided as a nation as we have ever been save Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War challenge. And it is not just racial issues.  We struggle between social classes economically. We differ politically… and even the Republicans last week were not united in selecting a House Speaker. But thank God  for  the  United States of America.   This month of November as we go to the polls, always the first

 Tuesday of the month, let us be ever so appreciative, eternally grateful for the opportunity, the right, to VOTE.In Jesus Christ we are free indeed also.  Jesus’ death on the cross and His consequent resurrection leveled Sin, Death and the Power of the Devil. Heaven’s gates have been opened for us… not because of our efforts, our worthiness, but by the love and the grace of God.  But just as in American freedom where we cannot do WHATEVER we want, (unchecked freedom is NOT freedom but anarchy), we have restraints in our Christianity. We are indeed free in Christ but free in the sense that we have been saved even in our sin, and in consequent devotion, ought surely like Luther writes, “love, thank, praise, serve and obey God.” In Christ, we are free to choose God.  We are free to agree with God’s good hopes for us… to live as though God’s commandments are meant for our well-being, our greater life… BECAUSE THEY ARE!  God is not an ogre God who relishes burdening us with “Thou Shalt Nots.” If in our Christ freedom we concentrate more on doing the “Thou Shalts,” we wouldn’t have the time, nor the concerns, to be about the “Thou Shalt Nots” anyway!”So, in a couple of weeks, over turkey and mashed potatoes, cranberries and dressing, relish trays and lefsa (yes, a Lemke tradition at Thanksgiving) and perhaps my very favorite Thanksgiving extra…pumpkin pie (yum, yum) OR Mom’s spam macaroni salad (mouthwatering), remember how blessed we are to be in the U.S. and… in Christ! How I wish Alejandro could be at the Lemke dinner table for Thanksgiving this year!  How I wish our good friend Jesus, now in Baja California Sur, Mexico near Cabo San Lucas, could cross our border legally to enjoy what so many of us enjoy:  Family, Friends, Faith, Food and Fortune.This month of November, as the days grow shorter, let’s make sure our heartfelt appreciations do not equally shorten. As Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God” reminds us, “Though life be wretched away, They cannot win the day, THE KINGDOM’S OURS FOREVER!” Oh yes… “Home” in Spanish is “Hogar!” There really is NO place like Hogar.  God bless the United States of America.  God bless us!Pastor Mike Lemke

SEPTEMBER 2023

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

Ultimately, folks, how blessed we are to be Children of our Heavenly Father. Sure, there are any number of things that can happen to us during the course of a day that that can shake our faith (if not rock our worlds). And yet, as we think of the bigger picture, we recognize that God in Emmanuel presence is with us all the time and that our blessings far outweigh our difficulties.

My wife Barb and I SO appreciate you! Thanks so very much for the allowances that you afford us. Particularly, as I’ve been dealing with health issues as of late, we are blessed and thankful that you gave us the green light to go to Houston, Texas for cancer consultations. MD Anderson is arguably the finest cancer clinic in the world… and I was treated not only there for melanoma… but for bone marrow cancer as well. Thank you for your love in allowing these trips.

At the end of July, my wife Barb, sister Barb (yes, I know… it gets confusing) and I traveled to Houston not knowing how long we would be staying. So much depended on the doctor’s tests and timeframes needed for melanoma AND bone marrow attentions. We had tried initially to see specialists for BOTH cancers on the SAME trip, but scheduling appointments within the window of a few days proved too challenging. We soon realized we would have to return to Houston for attention to the bone marrow cancer later, a mixed bag for the three of us. The two Barbs and I were already into the weekend… and airfares and hotel costs suggested that it would be prudent to stay in Houston for yet another day. A good thing however!  We figured we could spend the next morning (Sunday), in the company of Christians in one of the largest churches in the country: Joel and Victoria Osteen’s Lakewood Church fellowship.

Taking an Uber from our hotel to Lakewood (not Colorado, Texas y’all), we were immediately warmly welcomed by Osteen congregants. My wife, Barb, having had knee replacement surgery weeks before, was in a wheelchair, and helpers from the church whisked us to the front of Osteen’s sanctuary! We had arrived 40 minutes before the start of the service and Joel Osteen’s band was already ministering to the crowd.  One song particularly resonated with me. It was a Michael W. Smith tune which reminded us that God surrounds that… WHICH SURROUNDS US! All of us felt that the worship at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood church was spirited, inspirational and God-centered.

God was preparing our hearts for a blessed experience indeed!

We had told family members back in Denver to look for us on television! We were, after all, close to the television cameras and Barb’s turquoise blouse was hard to miss. At 11 o’clock sharp, familiar Joel Osteen walked across the stage to his microphone. He warmly greeted everyone with familiar words: “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am!” He then started his sermon with words my brother Steve has known for years in great appreciation of Osteen: “I’d like to start out with something a little funny!” After his cute joke, Osteen proceeded to share with us a heartfelt message about God’s insistence about holding us in the storms of our lives. I had preached at Cross of Glory on the parable concerning the Wheat and the Tares the Sunday before. Joel Osteen reiterated that God desires good things for us   (wheat)  despite the negativities   (the tares)  of life.   He prayed that those bound by addictions would be freed… that those struggling with relationship difficulties would be understood. He prayed earnestly for those with job insecurities, money worries, issues of distrust, anxieties, and fears… for those depleted by health issues. In a fellowship of thousands, God’s message through Joel Osteen really struck a chord with us. It felt as though he was preaching ONLY to my wife, sister, and me… the service felt so very personal for us.

Imagine our surprise when at the conclusion of worship, members of the congregation escorted the three of us backstage to visit personally with Joel Osteen! We had not asked for a special audience with him… it was as though God KNEW that we needed added assurance. Amidst thousands, we were but a handful of congregants who had the opportunity to visit with Osteen after worship. What we had thought years beforehand to be his glued-on smile, not a hair on his head out of place, plastic, almost cardboard persona was DISMISSED IMMEDIATELY. Osteen spoke to us with sincerity and humility. He asked about OUR respective churches, Cross of Glory AND Bethel while wondering about ministry in Denver in general. It occurred to me to ask Osteen to share with us a Bible verse off of the top of his head. Pausing for a moment, he thoughtfully recited Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I don’t know if I was physically healed at Joel Osteen’s worship service that memorable Sunday morning, BUT I DO KNOW that I was tremendously blessed. God had met me, my wife and my sister in a way that only God can. Our Savior IS a very present help in times of trouble. God IS a sure defense against our enemies, He DOES KNOW of our needs, and DOES CARE about our lives! As many times as we are tempted to shake a fist at the heavens, God is shaking down all those things that are coming at us hard and fast.  The trip to Joel Osteen’s Lakewood church will forever be a precious memory of mine.

God is so good not just some of the time but all the time! If only we could remember it… and then in turn draw strength from it! God chooses to bathe us in His grace, blessing us with GOOD things.

 

I preached a sermon at Cross of Glory last Sunday about putting on JESUS first and foremost every morning. I hope the sentiment continues to register with me… and with you. We are blessed beyond measure.  We are Kids of the Kingdom! And we have the opportunity each Sunday to welcome newcomers to our church… with the same zeal and joy that the Lakewood church afforded us!  How I pray we live in the promises and in the love of God!  Oh, how I pray!

God’s Forever Peace and Joy be unto you!

Pastor Mike Lemke

AUGUST 2023

Hello Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

The verse comes from Martin Luther’s favorite chapter of Scripture. Talk about a guy who found himself in turmoil! And even Luther could not have conceived how his convictions would alter religious history. Excommunicated by his church, kidnapped by friends and hidden from society, Luther must have wondered: “How did I get here? Do you know my predicament, God? Do you even hear my prayers?”

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Was it a whisper of assurance or was it a slap to the head, an affirmation of bedrock support or retort like, “Come on, you idiot! You have known Me to be faithful in the past! Why don’t you trust me now?”

I recently was in Madison, Wisconsin for the wedding of my cousin’s son, Joe.

There were many times during my stay that I found myself reserved, reflective. There were moments before me that froze me into appreciations. I was very cognizant of the blessings before me… and it caused me to stop… to take them in and to say, “Thank you, God… for being…

There was a newest family member Ben, re-introducing himself to my mom at the rehearsal dinner, and choosing to engage with her for the next thirty minutes. Then the next morning for instance, meeting so many relatives at breakfast, hair-matted and sleepy-eyed, laughing it up together over bacon… and CHEESY eggs (Remember we WERE in Wisconsin).  I sat back, silently, appreciating our being together, everyone talking over everybody! I honestly thought a few times about breaking my silence… and saying what for me seemed really obvious, namely that I, we, really are fortunate to have each other. Mom beat me to the punch.  She introjected: “I want you all to know that I’m not taking this time for granted. We are SO blessed to have each other. And God’s presence is certainly here!

“Be still and know that I am God.”  Sometimes it’s best just to keep your mouth shut and appreciate the blessings of God.

At the wedding itself, my cousin’s son, Joe shared his vow with his soon-to-be-wife Alyssa. Joe is typically more reserved, not much of a talker, but in his vow, he said something I will always remember. His dad Andy is a respected college football coach and has moved the family countless times over a distinguished career. Joe remarked to Alyssa that over the years he has wondered what has truly constituted “HOME” for him. Then in a vow of love and devotion, Joe stated he had found his HOME, that home would always be in company with HER. Joe went on to say, in a promise that caused all in attendance to oooh and aaah, that he promised always…

To come HOME.

 

The reception happened and I found myself once again, sitting back, listening, appreciating, and loving the interactions of my crazy family members and friends. I wasn’t surprised when “Bad, Bad,  Leroy Brown” was played that EASILY a dozen of my relatives grabbed my Uncle Denny, now, 80 years old and whisked him to the dance floor. Denny still has the moves… and he gloried in his beautiful girls, granddaughters and nieces telling him HE was “the baddest man in the whole damn town!” My aunt Joanie, Mom’s sister, who I ABSOLUTELY ADORE, sat to the side with Mom… beaming.

And I knew for a moment that all was well in the world…that God was on the throne and that I was to “Be still and know that the Big Guy REALLY IS the Big Guy.”

I am acutely aware that there are many of my acquaintances who have not had what I have had. Like Luther at the Wartburg Castle, they too have felt secluded, chilled by the night while waiting for a dawn that doesn’t seem to come. God tells them also to be still and to know that He is God, that HE KNOWS, and that HE CARES. It seems so very difficult to keep faith and go on when hope is tough to come by. It’s at those times especially that I wish I WAS MORE… that our church was more. I want to scoop up ALL who are hurting and treat them to bacon and eggs or a pillow that would mat their hair. Maybe that’s especially when God needs to whisper in MY ear, “Be still Mike. Trust. I really do have this.”

For the Lord is my Shepherd… AND… the Lord is OUR Shepherd.

Psalm 46:10 is consequently BOTH an affirmation for hope and a 2×4 to the head

that  there is  blessing  in slowing down enough to truly see the beauty and grace

constantly before us. God DOES have this. He’s got the whole world in His hands!

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Mike Lemk

July 2023

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

It was not just Jesus who said it!  It was the Holy Spirit that moved the Apostle Paul in Romans 12 to write it as well.  You know… that when it comes to an understanding of true Christianity… disciples are to realize that there are two worlds!  How many times in different ways and places did Jesus remark that there is THIS world… the world that was marred with everything else in the sin of the Garden AND THEN there was the spiritual realm, the Kingdom of God, the world of Heaven and…. other “worldliness”!  Jesus told disciples that THE world operates one way… in its sin and in its selfishness… and that true followers of Christ would be noticeably different… sheep among wolves… turning the other cheek… forgiving not seven times but seven times seventy times!  The Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be conformed to THE world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your minds. There you have it!  Indeed, the Bible professes that there is the base, worldly nature and the anticipated, Messianic Kingdom.

Which leads me to tell you about a conversation I had today in my car with some friends who have walked some pretty tough roads.

Palling around with me, Johnny and Sara, overheard some of my telephone conversations with people from our church.  They joined me as I went to the nursing home. They met a homeless trio, that I, that we, are trying to help. I had given Johnny and Sara the scoop on the trio before we pulled up to their broken down cars, living quarters for them for the last month.  The trio had been staying in Arvada but the police had forced them to move their vehicles elsewhere. They had interchanged parts from their cars to get both vehicles semi- moving. Gladdened to be out of Arvada (creepy they described it… constantly needing to be vigilant about their meager possessions), the trio had made it far enough to break down for good at the corner of… you guessed it… Evans and Oneida… one block from Cross of Glory!  Luke had gone for a walk yesterday morning, steaming because he had accidentally forgotten his wallet at the nearby gas station. Coming upon our church, he saw and started to talk to Jan Reich from our congregation.  Jan was (once again, as she consistently,  conscientiously has done now these last weeks), tending the Cross of Glory garden she planted a few weeks ago. Luke started to talk to Jan, sharing over the course of an hour, his travails and life journeys.

I, we, know better.  God led Luke to Jan and to our church fellowship.

Jan got me on the phone and explained Luke’s situations.  She said, “Pastor Mike, I really think he is being forthcoming and honest.  His life has been tough.  He has trusted me with so much talk about his past.  I am wondering if there is anyway we may be able to help him and his friends.”  God love Jan Reich.  How well we all would do to aspire to her heart!

Within the hour I pulled up to Cross of Glory.  At Jan’s garden, I sat in the grass with Luke while Jan listened.  Luke told me about his struggles of these last years… alcohol to self-medicate….the loss of jobs… brushes with the law. I told him about my own struggle with addiction… about consequent problems and challenges to believe in myself and in a future.  Like Jan, I too felt Luke was being transparent.  His occasional tears underlined his sincerity.  I really believe God dropped him and his friends in our laps.

So imagine my surprise when Johnny and Sara, after meeting the trio, remarked to me… nonchalantly… “Keep in mind Pastor Mike, that they are probably holding some things back. How difficult for you, how frustrating, how saddening, that people might not be forthcoming with you… BECAUSE… you represent the church!  Your world is not the world of so very many.”

Kind of stunned (because I would hope any and all would be comfortable sharing anything with me I tell myself), I replied, “Well yes, the “churchy” world I know IS different from most.  I don’t know too much about jockeying for promotions within a company, maybe even deliberately, unethically, dissing other employees to get ahead.  I don’t know hear a lot of cussing during a day… and seldom… do people share with me “off-color” stories.  My “churchy” world IS different in a lot of respects.  Add to that my age difference from many I serve!  I don’t know THEIR culture… THEIR music… THEIR lingo… THEIR sophistications with social media and the newest of technologies.

To which Johnny and Sara retorted, “No!  It’s not that at all!  Yes, there are the differences you mention, but we are talking about the distrust you must encounter when people presuppose a “churchy self-righteousness… a better than others attitude… right versus wrong.  You realize that it’s only natural for people not to be ENTIRELY opaque in first encounters… but then add to that… right or wrong… a stereotype of “churchy superiority”.  Maybe Luke will be more trusting of you as he gets to know you… but CHURCH will get in the way in the meantime.”

Hmmmm.

It it true?  Is it really the case?  And if so, without losing ME… and… the hope and light that I pray Church at its best delivers, how do I, we, come closer to hearing, to being a part OF, peoples’ SINCEREST stories. Do I lose the Sunday morning alb and stole, opting to wear during worship, shorts and tee-shirt?  Do we toss sermons and opt instead for back-and-forth conversations with neighbors about what they bring to faith, to God, to “church?”  Do we take worship to Cook Park and “tent” it?  Do we dare do a Fall Oktoberfest…. with… heaven forbid… REAL beer?

Maybe… I guess…

But then I recognize that the Lukes of the world have got to buy into US… into who we are at the core… not into who we are not. (Because is there anything more ridiculous than the old guy who combs his hair over to cover the baldest of heads pretending to be 30 years younger).  I dunno!!!

Let’s start with this.  Let’s take “church” to the neighborhood.  Let’s get outside the building… to Evans and Oneida… where two broken-down cars are in a heap.  At the very least, let’s do what Jesus told us to do all the while… what God told Abram:  Let’s GO!!! And then, Let’s let God!!!  Let’s let God!  Let’s do a lot more listening than talking…. with a lot more emphasis on others… rather… than on ourselves.

I propose to start a new mid-week worship experience during the Fall at Cross of Glory.  I have yet to determine what it’s going to be like… where or even who.  With your prayers, with your help, with your great suggestions coming from the heart, let’s trust God will help us with what we should do.  To grow Cross of Glory???  No!  Not to grow our fellowship as much as to encourage relationships… to meet potential new friends… to BE church… even misunderstood… instead of ACTING the part.

Maybe, just maybe, two worlds can come closer to becoming one.

Amen!

Pastor Mike Lemke

 

                                 JUNE 2023

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

Some mysteries will always remain mysteries.

How in the world can God be One yet three persons? How can Jesus be divine and yet human at the same time? Why is the sky blue? How do birds know to fly south in the Winter and how do salmon know how to fight their way back to where they were born?

Some mysteries will always remain mysteries.

But certainly one of the greatest mysteries of all time, perhaps the most profound of mysteries going back to our childhood days, is how in the world could people NOT recognize that Clark Kent was Superman? I mean really, were those glasses such a definitive disguise? And how did people fail to put two and two together? Come on! Superman holds together the San Andreas fault from cascading California into the Pacific. And who HAPPENS to be in Los Angeles at the exact moment of the earthquake? CLARK KENT, OF COURSE! An engine goes out on a jet airliner carrying 200 passengers. Who shows up immediately to grab a wing steadying the plane? None other than the very man who happened to be in the plane’s bathroom an instant before… CLARK KENT! Come on! How much more obvious can it be?

And what about that Lois Lane stuff? How many times in an hour can a lady have as many life threatening episodes? Lois falling from the Eiffel tour. Lois about to be eaten by a shark. Lois, once accosted by kidnappers. And who is she having lunch with but minutes before her many disasters? YOU GOT IT! Mild mannered, bumbling CLARK KENT!

Some mysteries will forever remain mysteries. Why do cats always land on their feet? Why does buttered toast always fall to the floor… buttered side down? What would happen if buttered toast was strapped to a cat falling off a bedroom dresser? (Gotcha, right?). There you have it! But the greatest of mysteries? How in the world could people miss that Clark Kent was Superman?

When I was younger, and to be honest, even today, I wish I was Superman. How cool to be able to fly and to be more powerful than a locomotive. To be faster than a speeding bullet… to help distressed people and do in evil guys at every turn… AND… TO BE INCOGNITO ABOUT IT! To make sure that loved ones would be okay, and this, without a needed pat on the back. To be able to hide behind those silly looking, black rimmed glasses and keep secrets all to yourself.

But then as we got older, we recognized that even Superman had his limitations. Jimmy Olson was about to go over Niagara Falls while Perry White, on the OTHER side of the world, was strapped to dynamite.! Even Superman couldn’t be in two places at the same time! So too, as I have aged, I realize more and more my own limitations. As much as I would LIKE to be there for so many dear people, each with concerning circumstances, I cannot always snatch falling women from mid air, saving them from the rocks below. My strength, my health doesn’t allow it.

Ultimately, my, our hope is “Built on Nothing Less Than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness.” “On Christ, The Solid Rock I Stand.” “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.” Jesus never wore the cool “S” on His chest. He did not don the cape, nor did he have to wear those blue underwear-like shorts. Telephone booths weren’t even around in His day! But the recent Ascension story from the Scriptures DOES infer that Jesus can fly. And from heaven HE CAN be in two places at the same time. Unlike Superman, God IS everywhere and everywhere present, loving, able and willing to help.

My heart breaks when I am not enough, when I am not the answer to a friend’s distress. I just talked to John here at the cancer clinic. He was rather downtrodden having had yet another MOHS procedure on his face… this time with 47 stitches. I handed him my business card and said, “I’m not Superman, but I care… and… Just look at me… I certainly am up for a Denny’s cheeseburger any hour of the day if you just want to talk.

One thing I appreciate in the Clark Kent narrative. There is some comfort in hiding. Maybe the secrets we keep are too threatening to be commonly known. We figure others could not possibly understand… nor accept us… as we wrestle with who we perceive ourselves to be. Old man Polonius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet told son Laertes, ” To thine own self be true.” That admonition terrifies me… and no doubt you at times… as there seems to be security, safety in hiding behind black rimmed glasses to maintain our secret identities.

But then I am reminded that God loves me regardless. I reminded that Jesus went to the cross to forgive me, and I suspect, had I been the ONLY person on the daily planet who needed to be rescued, Jesus STILL would have died just for me. God’s love is not conditional. It does not matter how good or how bad I am. Regardless of how hard I try to hide from myself or from others, God, the REAL Superman knows ME… He still chooses to love… even ME!

So throw kryptonite out the window. We all have “troubles” holding us back from being the people we want to be. How about if we try, we trust, we submit, we surrender to the REAL Superman, the REAL Supergod instead of believing, insisting, we need to carry the world on our backs?

God has got this.  God has got us.  Truth, Justice, the American way?

Maybe, but how about we count on Jesus being THE Way, THE Truth

and THE Life?  Amen?

Pastor Mike Lemke

MAY 2023

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Jesus lives and because He lives, we live also.  The grave could not keep Him.  What was buried behind in that Easter tomb is OUR guilt, OUR shame, OUR humiliation, OUR… sin!  I sometimes wonder if the rolled away stone STAYED rolled away!  I mean, as soon as Jesus stepped out of the tomb, I have an inkling that the stone rolled back… to keep forever inside… all that otherwise would keep us from Heaven’s Kingdom!

We say the words.  We indeed join a global chorus in joyful refrain.  Yes, we in exuberance proclaim, “He is risen indeed!”  But do our lives demonstrate the truth, the hope, the belief of the reality?

Are we Easter people?

Let me share a couple of things off the top of my mind and heart. I have been a pastor now for 38 years! I think back on my years in Parker. Both I… and the community… were young indeed!  Can you believe that in 1985, there was but one, two-lane highway leading out to a then sleepy community to the south and east of Denver… a town with one Mom and Pop grocery store… one family-owned pizza place… a Methodist church… a Baptist one… a Roman Catholic fellowship… and get this… TWO Lutheran congregations! No hotels…. no laundromats… just a couple of gas stations, a Village Inn and an auto parts store. Joy Lutheran Church was Parker’s ALC congregation, and I can’t even remember the name of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church off of Parker Road to the south of the community (It never wanted to fellowship with us). I was 26 years old… and within a year… the other pastor of Joy… left the congregation to do ministry closer to his home in Nebraska, leaving me to pastor at Joy alone.

At 27, I felt pretty sure about myself.  I knew a lot about the Bible and I loved Jesus. In high school, I had been voted by my classmates as “Most Likely to Succeed.” I had done well in both college and seminary.  I remember being conscious of being younger than the great, great majority of people I would pastor, but not all that intimidated by it.  Was it my inexperience?  My arrogance?  I look back at that time and am SO appreciative of the Christians, twice, three times my age, who patiently allowed me to learn… on the job! Together, we grew in 13 years from a fellowship of 250 people to a powerhouse of 1500.  We had 250 families in our congregation! Congregational committees manned by dozens of people… activities galore… 200 kids one summer in Vacation Bible School…. 8 softball teams!

My wife Barb joined our ministry in 1990, a year after we were married.  Clergy couples were kind-of unheard of back then, now pretty commonplace in ELCA. During the 8 years we pastored together at Joy, we seldom saw one another!  Working about 70 hours a week, full of energy then, we had nightly meetings, hospital runs and split visitations between us, trying to make sure that one of us would be in the homes of our members…. at least twice a year. In retrospect, THAT WAS NUTS!  Barb and I were not modeling for couples… for families… the priorities of needed family times together.    We  kept  doing  and  doing  and  doing because the

 

church kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger!  In fact, Douglas County was then the fastest growing county in the United States!  Parker exploded! So did our church!  Whatever we did… or did not do in ministry… WORKED!  We had new member classes every 2 months at the church…. taking in 15 new families each time!

Something needed to give.

Perhaps it was not all that surprising that my addictive juices were stirred. Dad was suffering with pancreatic cancer… I did not know whether I was coming or going.  People will allow you to work as much as you do… and then… come to EXPECT that you KEEP doing as much as you do in the future… complaining at times if you do not live up to expectations.

I ended up resigning from Joy Lutheran Church in 1998… this in controversy… this in exhaustion. I was 39 years old.

In the 13 years I had pastored at Joy, we had TWO building projects… the second one, 3 million dollars (a LOT of money especially back in 1996).  Larry Doolen, then President of Lutheran Family Services, and a member of our Church Council, led the charge. When the naysayers (you ALWAYS have naysayers) said, “How can we POSSIBLY afford to build onto our church?  Why the need?”, Larry gently, but firmly, reminded the congregation, “God has got this. David went up against a giant with a slingshot, remember?” (I still recall sitting with Larry in our newly-built sanctuary after the last of 4 Christmas Eve services, having worshipped 1200 people that night.  Larry smiling said to me, “Mike, we are sitting in what many said COULD NOT BE BUILT”).

Joy Lutheran had its financial difficulties. I remember Council meetings lasting until 1 in the morning (or until spouses were calling the church wondering where their spouses were) as we wondered about how to meet mortgage deadlines. We had millionaires on our Council… one guy ran for the State Treasurer’s position for goodness’ sake!  Had I been bold enough back then, I probably would have pointed out that a few people ALONE in the congregation, a COUNCIL MEMBER OR TWO, could have eliminated ALL our financial difficulties! Instead, we came up with a grand idea… one which I am ashamed to say, I approved.  The congregation voted to raffle off a brand-new car… inviting the community to purchase for $5 each, ticket chances.  The car cost $17,500. Would you believe, IN A WEEK’S TIME, we recouped the cost of the car AND raised $35,000 more???

Some say it was my greatest moment at Joy.  The time we made the mortgage payment, ingeniously, with $3300 to spare. (I am reminded of what James Earl Jones says in the great baseball movie, “Field of Dreams.” Remember in his iconic baseball speech, he professes, “Because it’s money they have, but peace they lack.”).

I say, inexperienced, giving in, worried, the car-selling gimmick was my greatest… pastoral sham… my greatest pastoral… shame.

We are struggling financially at Cross of Glory right now. Though our Budget Committee responsibly trimmed back our budget this  year,  this  with  congregational-approval  of  bare-

bones ministry, it seems we are slipping into greater debt by about $3000 a month. Some friends of our congregation,  generously helping  us with thousands of dollars a month these last years, are not able to contribute as much THIS year.  Consequently, if the rest of us continue giving as we are giving, spending as much as we are spending in our ministry, predictably,  we will keep falling behind.    To be sure,  we have reserves on hand…  funds  that we hope NOT to touch if at all possible… THANK GOD… but folks… NOW is the time to act thoughtfully… lovingly… faithfully as we see this need as “opportunity” rather than doomsday.”

 

No, I will not agree to Bingo (though Bingo works for a lot of fellowships… not a real good message however to our Gambler Anonymous friends who use our building a couple of times a week at church).  And no, I will not preach guilt-directed sermons to you… you would see right through me… though guilt works in a lot of churches.  You can do only so many spaghetti dinners and yard sales. Every idea is on the table… and I, we, invite, your, everyone’s participation as we PRAY our way out of this one… as we LEAN on the Lord to direct us… as we thoughtfully, lovingly and faithfully choose to be Easter people rather than DisEaster (Disaster) people.

I promise my best to you in these upcoming times. I hope to serve you as long as you will allow me… but I pray at the end of my ministry with you… I, we, will hand over Cross of Glory to an eventual new pastor and wide-eyed, wanna-change-the-world, congregants of enthusiastic folk, lovers of Jesus, steeped in the Spirit who will pick up where we left off.  I pray that we will leave our church BETTER than when we found it.  I guess I might satisfy my longing, going back to high school, as really…. succeeding… not in my, our strength, not in my, our power, but by God’s Spirit

It’s got to be that we surrender.   It’s got to be that live in the Word. It’s

got to be that we continually pray… and it’s got to be that we  choose to

BE EASTER people.

Rise up, O Saints of God!

Pastor Mike Lemke

APRIL 2023

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

“And for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame.”   Hebrews 12:2

Thank God that Christ loves us and that we have opportunity for new life and a heavenly home because of what Jesus has done for us! His Passion for us is astounding. It is no wonder Martin Luther wrote: “Therefore we surely ought to thank, praise, serve, obey and love God.”

I am SO privileged to do what I do! I knew even in high school that I wanted to choose a career that helped people. Little did I know that in so doing, the people I supposedly would be helping, would be helping ME time and time again! I have been so impacted by people’s faith. Over the years, I have been humbled because of the examples of Christian disciples.

As a pastor, I have encouraged people over the decades to truly take God and faith seriously. I don’t know that it was THEN that I first wondered about being a pastor, but I had an experience in Confirmation Church Camp that challenged me profoundly. I was in 8TH grade and still living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I was in the second year of my confirmation studies and was required to attend a week of Confirmation Camp in Southwest Minnesota. The only thing that made EVEN THE THOUGHT of having to give up a week of my summer vacation to attend the camp tolerable was that my best friend Matt Moen was sentenced to the same punishment! We could bear the travail of the week together!

There was this evening of Christian campfire songs and an invitation for all of us to share a time that God’s love had particularly affected us. Kids my age offered some examples. A really good-looking girl who, it seemed to us, believed to be God’s gift to the world, predictably stood up to speak. It was not long thereafter that she was sobbing, heart-struck by some monumental family disturbance, an earthquake somewhere in the world or… by who knows what not? Of course, Matt and I, never once thinking about sharing a God-touch story ourselves, reveled in this girl’s drama. I don’t know WHICH OF US laughed first, but it was loud enough to catch the attention of other campers and… yes… even the broken-hearted, over-the-top girl. She turned to the both of us and chided us immediately! Though it was dark, the evening lit-up only by the campfire, it seemed like fire shot through this girl’s eyes…and… at us! Calling us out, in attempts to catch her breath given her many wails, she blasted, “You guys don’t even take GOD seriously!” It was then that she raced to her cabin, no doubt followed by her entourage of teenage wannabees, equally sobbing.

I truly wonder to this day if Matt thought this WAS funny. In a weird recollection, I deep-down-inside, DID NOT. Of course, it still did not stop the both of us from howling even more! I think I laughed at this point because Matt was laughing… but THERE WAS SOMETHING IN MY GUT… IN MY SOUL (?)… that knew she was right! I really hadn’t personalized God much prior to that time. Oh, I prayed, “Now I Lay Me,” and “The Lord’s Prayer” often enough, but God, you know, was “churchy” and not somebody roaming the halls at Patrick Henry Junior High School. Perhaps that evening when all campers went to sleep, I stayed up a bit, troubled by what had just happened.

You want to know the REALLY bizarre… absolutely INCREDIBLE part of this story?  You will never guess who the director of the camp was!  None other than Pastor Ron Letnes, the man I would come to know in the years ahead as a dear friend, the director of Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp in our COLORADO mountains

and… yes… unbelievably… the pastor I followed in shepherding… you got it… Cross of Glory Lutheran Church! It was only a couple of years ago that I put two and two together and learned that Ron was at the church camp with me 50+ years ago! I have not relayed to him this story!

I sure don’t know what God is doing a lot of the time in the world. I have on-going conversations with Him about these questions ALL THE TIME… but… TRULY… our God IS AN AWESOME GOD!  I cannot dispute that there have been SO MANY INSTANCES in my life where God has shown up in the most remarkable of ways… particularly in my times of struggle. I have even said out loud, sometimes defiantly, “God, now You’re just showing off!” as though to assure me or… to put me back in my place! GOD AFTER ALL IS TRULY A CARD (And I need to remind myself that nowhere did He ever say that He needed my permission to do whatever He wants to do!).

I have not talked with Matt Moen for decades. You know how it is. Even the best of childhood friends are sometimes left behind as life takes us down different paths. Matt, silly Matt Moen, became the Dean of the University of South Dakota! Now, I understand, he is the curator of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum in south-central Pennsylvania. If I talked with him again, I hope to ask him about the Drama Queen at the campfire that night. As certainly we would talk about our life choices, I would share with him that I may first have thought about being a pastor at Lake Shetek. I might even ask him, beyond the talk of his wife, and daughter, now in her 40s, if indeed, he, Matt, takes the Lord seriously.

You learn in Confirmation 101 that the church is not a building but is truly the people of God. I have come to know and to believe it. It seems like when I needed God the most, given my doubts or struggles, that the CHURCH, you dear ones, you lovers of Jesus, came to my aid! I am a better Christian, a more faithful disciple, because of so many of you! On the evening Mike McClune of our church died, I walked into his small apartment and was challenged to see in the corner of his kitchen, a nook that was devoted to greater Christian devotion. Pictures of Jesus hung on his wall and Christian writings, books, poems and meditations were upon his desk. And then there was Bev Rhodes, attending a Healing Service I conducted, this but months before her passing, her body wracked with cancer. Bev, in excruciating pain, insisted on getting to the church altar on her own, apart from wheelchair help, and ended up crawling across the sanctuary floor to do so. How about the time Shirlee Mueller brought husband Jim to the pastor’s office like a mother pulling on a child’s ear because Jim had said something “inappropriate.” And Cross of Glory charter member Barbara Palmer who made so many of the Cross of Glory Chrismons for our Christmas tree? I was told at her funeral service yesterday that she also made the majority of Atonement Lutheran Church’s Chrismons… and was VERY meticulous about where the Chrismons needed to be placed on the tree so as to suggest… correctly… THE TRINITY! May these dear friends of ours, these shapers of our faith, rest in peace!

But how about a couple of examples of how I have been impacted by “Bibles” still among us? Because they would be embarrassed, I will not mention them by name, but perhaps you can guess who they are. Somebody in our church, not having much money on their person, gave up his tennis shoes because he saw an elderly man at the light rail station without shoes. A lady in our church, financially strapped herself, and up to her ears in family matters, slips me a couple hundred dollars every quarter of a year saying, “Pastor, give this money to somebody who REALLY needs it.” Somebody in our church, coming close to hospice herself years ago, volunteers IN A HOSPICE now… every week! A man in our congregation struggling with drug addiction made the conscious decision to leave his living place in Detroit so as not to negatively affect his younger cousins even if it meant living on the streets. A physically-challenged woman of our church, considering Cross of Glory to BE her family, does not miss the opportunity to be with us in worship and fellowship regularly… REGARDLESS of the difficulty.

And the list goes on and on! I’m the better for being in association with YOU… you amazing disciples of Jesus!

You know Jesus had EVERY opportunity to avoid the cross. He knew for the longest while that DEATH was His life’s mission. He could of high-tailed it to Egypt, having stayed there the rest of his life!  When Peter

said that Jesus should never go to Jerusalem, Jesus could have easily replied, “You’re right! Let’s grab the next boat and get as far away from here as possible!” But remember… GOD IS A CARD… and promises to love us through thick and thin, even if it means a crown of thorns and a broken heart. “For the joy set before Him, Jesus Christ endured the cross, despising the shame” because of His obedience to His Father’s Will… and His unmatched Passion… His forever love for us.

If YOU have not taken God seriously, I pray that you leave the campfire behind and think about things for a while. God takes YOU ever so seriously… and will show up in the darkest of nights. Does your life reflect your devotion to God? Could we be writing about YOU in this newsletter article?

 

Easter is Sunday, April 9th. Jesus steps victorious from a tomb. With a loving word of encouragement, He calls Mary by name and takes her by the hand.  Jesus knows YOU by name. He knows you through and through.  He walks alongside you in the better AND in the worst of times. He knows of your shortcomings, your weirdnesses and He knows of your sins.  And yet, Jesus still says to you: “You are my kid with whom I am well-pleased.”

Don’t you think, like Luther argued, we therefore, “ought surely thank,

praise, serve, obey and love the Lord our God.” Amen?

Pastor Mike Lemke

________________________________________________________________________

SO FAR, 22 OF THE 76 TROMBONES HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED…

Remember last January at our Annual Meeting when I announced that I had 76 goals for Cross of Glory this year… a goal representing the number of members we have in our church? As a gimmick, I used the terminology, 76 Trombones. I am happy to report that we are well underway in knocking off already a number of the 2023 goals. With your help, our Cross of Glory shut-ins are being visited at least 2 times a month. I am planning with our committee chairs upcoming COG ministry at least every other month. Our corner sign is being updated regularly to reflect our activities. Discussions are underway about upcoming Confirmation classes. We have put together a Baseball Diamond Model of supporting each other in making frequent calls to COG members. Power Hour, our Sunday, after-worship prayer time has begun. We pulled off both a Super Bowl party AND a Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday one. We have included in our COG newsletter a blurb about including the church in your will. We revamped Lenten worship to 12 noon in an attempt to allow neighbors and challenged night-drivers opportunity to worship. Discussions are underway about a possible COG community garden. Steve Wilson has thoughtfully attended to our COG library. We will be honoring Nancy Barlow and Olive Keefer’s office for their many COG helps at the end of this month. We are considering where to have a Church Council retreat. A new worship liturgy, already decided upon, will be introduced to COG beginning this summer. I have hand-written 53 personal invitations to funeral families, inviting them to an Easter memorial service of their loved one. I am inviting the Alanon and Gambler Anonymous groups meeting in our church to consider joining our many activities. Our hallway mail slots have been cleaned up. COG Thrivent members have been identified. COG business cards have been updated. We have sent newcomers to COG a welcoming letter and have shared with them a loaf of Danny Danforth/Craig Pizinski bread. Non- transportation people have been picked up for Sunday morning worship.

We pray that the good work we have begun will continue to be perfected… and that in addition… with your great help, we can address and accomplish the remaining 54 goals.

Folks, we can only do these things in the power of God… and with your conscientious assistance. Do not assume OTHERS in our church are… or should… be doing these things. How about if YOU help? Cross of Glory is after all OUR church… not just THEIR church. TOGETHER WE ARE BETTER! Thank you!

MARCH 2023

Hello Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

I pray you have been well. As always, please be sure to let us know of your prayer requests. We want to be there for you, and as you are aware of needs, I’m sure you will want to be there for your brothers and sisters in Christ at church!

We are after all, in this together!

Which brings me to the topic of Lent, the sacred season of the church year where we especially remember that truly, we are together indeed! We are together in our common needs… even our inevitable mortalities. As the preacher of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “There is a time to be born and a time to die.”  Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, painfully reminded us that we are dust and that someday, we will return to the earth. We are truly in this together!

But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord and our Savior Jesus the Christ. In His great Passion for us, Jesus drank the bitter cup of suffering and death. The spotless, sinless, perfect lamb of God was the needed sacrifice to atone us from OUR sins, to make us “at one” with God. It was not the nails that kept Jesus on the cross. It was His unmatched love for you and for me!

Of course, we are called to live in this newfound life. Lent affords us the opportunity to do just that! Historically, this sacred season was a time of baptismal preparation for newcomers to the Christian faith. Months before Easter converts to the Christianity devoted themselves to Jesus in deeper appreciations of God’s Word. Prayer followed and mentors of faith instructed the newest disciples into what constituted understandings of following the Lord. Come Easter morning at the break of day, adherents to Christ were baptized in the joy of resurrection. “God so loved the world that he gave His Son so that we too, even us, could have everlasting life!” How we are to share this great news and great life with others!

For we are in this together!

Joys and struggles! Celebrations and despairs! And the beauty of it all? Jesus holds us with nail-pierced hands in an unmatched love for the world. We can walk in newness of life because Jesus walks with us. Feeling down? There is hope! Feeling out of sorts with the world? There is the promise of God’s comfort and care! Misunderstood? Jesus Himself was rejected by those closest to Him. You too can experience the confidence of God embracing you in love… because… in it together… we are all “Kids of the Kingdom!”

Lent drives us to greater devotions to God. It challenges us to put aside the distractions of the world and it draws us closer to God. You are already noticing at church some subtle changes, some needed implementations.  Do not worry!  We will try to initiate change slowly, but it is our

great hope this year at Cross of Glory to grow our church more fervently in continued welcoming of newcomers to the faith.

In it together, we hope to encourage more “soon-to-be friends” to realize how much God loves them.

Come to noon Lenten worship at church every Wednesday during March either in person or via Zoom. Pass word onto others who could join us in devotions to God. Do not let the sacred season of Lent pass YOU by without giving thanks to the Lord for YOUR life with deeper Bible study and devotion to prayer and worship.

Pastor Todd and friends from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church will be joining us for our 45-minute worship times on Wednesdays. Hopefully, Cook Park neighbors will worship with us as well, this over their noon lunch breaks. The theme for our Lenten Wednesday worship services will be, “The Crying of the Tears,” how God changes our sadness into gladness.

Wednesday, March  8th at Noon:  “A Time to Laugh… A Time to Cry”

Wednesday, March 15th at Noon: “The Oil of Gladness Instead of Mourning”

Wednesday, March 22nd at Noon: “Jesus Weeps Over Jerusalem”

Wednesday, March 29th at Noon: “Jesus Weeps Over Lazarus”

We will be using a different Lenten liturgy this year and are especially thankful for all of Karen Matlock’s added efforts as she plays so many moving Lenten hymns on the organ this season. Though the services promise to be no longer than 45 minutes max, you certainly can stay in our Cross of Glory sanctuary, your church home, just as long as you would like in quiet prayer and meditation. Lent calls us to deeper devotion, deeper prayer, soul-searching and discipleships. Psalm 46:10 commands, “Be still and know that God is God.” Too often we look for God in the dramatic. God came to Elijah in a still small voice.  God can come to us as we quiet our minds and open our hearts… as we wait on the Lord… in our homes and in our home church.

If you have been away from Cross of Glory, now is ESPECIALLY the time to return to church. The pandemic has lifted. You have missed seeing your friends in person! They have missed seeing you! We are certainly better together, and with God, all things are possible! Be part of the joy and the embrace of greater church fellowship!

Lent abounds! And with it the opportunity to grow in fellowship

and in the Lord’s embrace!

Please don’t miss out!

Pastor Mike Lemke

Pastor Mike’s Thoughts for February 2023

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

How marvelous is God? Maybe, deliberately, God chose to end His many Old Testament psalms with Psalm 150, a reminder to us to give God His due!

1 Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;

praise him in his mighty heavens.

2 Praise him for his acts of power;

praise him for his surpassing greatness.

3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 Praise him with tambourine and dancing,

praise him with the strings and flute,

5 Praise him with the clash of cymbals,

praise him with resounding cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150

It looks like we need to start up a church band!

Many of you read or heard my 2022 Annual Report last Sunday. I remarked that we have 76 members at Cross of Glory before quickly adding that behind our 76 trombones, we are indeed blessed to have a 110 cornets close-at-hand!

As we begin ministry together in 2023, I want to run with this band imagery! In fact, over the course of these last days, I have thoughtfully, and prayerfully, come up with 76 goals for ministry at Cross of Glory this year.  Measurable, and I believe attainable, I think we can pull this off! Don’t be overwhelmed by the lengthy list of 76 trombones. Look at it this way: If each member of our congregation took on just ONE of these things, we would have all our goals accomplished by year’s end!

So let me share what I came up with. You see I have broken down these goals with conceivable committee designations. Which of these goals do you think ought to be most prioritized? Let me put down my trumpet for a moment to share with you that in my estimation, prayer and Bible study need to be the greatest of our needs in growing personally and congregationally.

Okay, maestro please!

  1. Visiting our Shut-ins at least 2 times each month (Outreach)
  2. Committee Meetings with chairs and committee members at least every other month (Administrative)
  3. Changing our outdoor corner sign every week (Outreach)
  4. Starting up my Beginning Spanish classes for the community again (Outreach)
  5. Starting up Confirmation classes for Middle-schoolers and friends at church (Education)
  6. Offering English as a Second Language classes to the community this Summer (Education)
  7. Resurrecting a Baseball Diamond Model for members to connect with 2 other members in the congregation frequently (Fellowship)
  8. A new Pictorial Cross of Glory Directory (Fellowship)
  9. Offering a Healing Service to the community every 3 months (Music and Worship)
  10. Offering a Weekly Prayer Time… a Power Hour (Music and Worship)
  11. Pulling off a Super Bowl Party (Fellowship)
  12. Offering a Fat Tuesday Pancake Breakfast to Cook Park (Fellowship)
  13. Including a reminder about including Cross of Glory in your will in each newsletter (Stewardship)
  14. Hanging Cross of Glory fliers on doorknobs every 3 months (Outreach)
  15. Using Bethel’s ideas to welcome neighbors to our church grounds, i.e, Food Trucks, Trunk or Treat, Summer Carnival (Outreach)
  16. Revamping Lenten worship this year to either Zoom or daylight services (Music and Worship)
  17. Using COG/friends musicians for worship? (Music and Worship)
  18. Talking with the Koreans about mutually doing a Cook Park Community Garden on our grounds (Property)
  19. Sponsoring a nice appreciation dinner for our generous NON-MEMBER givers to our ministry (Stewardship)
  20. Outdoor and Indoor Cross of Glory Library maintained (Education)
  21. A Nancy Barlow/Olive Keefer Office recognition in church some Sunday (Stewardship)
  22. Pulling off yet another Council Retreat sooner than later (Administrative)
  23. Introducing a new liturgy to the congregation (Music and Worship)
  24. Deliberate outreach to Funeral Families and Easter/Christmas Remembrance Services (Outreach)
  25. A St. Patrick’s Day Congregational Dinner or an Octoberfest Celebration (Fellowship)
  26. Deliberate invitations to Alanon and Gambler Anonymous groups to be part of our church/activities (Outreach)
  27. A joint outdoor worship service around Rally Sunday with our Korean friends (Music and Worship)
  28. Scheduling 3 Congregational Work Days in 2023 (Property)
  29. Learning about and Implementing Social Media to publicize Cross of Glory (Outreach)
  30. Mandating that the ministries we help with $500 each month bring a representative that month to tell us in worship about their ministry (Outreach)
  31. A Summer Pastor Swap… I, Pastor Barb and Pastor Todd preach in our different churches on a rotating schedule (Music and Worship)
  32. Project the liturgy and hymns on the screen during each worship service and making such available to all Zoom people (Music and Worship)
  33. Utilize You-tube videos more during sermons and general worship (Music and Worship)
  34. Clean up our hallway mail slots and encourage members to regularly check their mail slots for Cross of Glory pertinent (Stewardship)
  35. Emailing (as well as sending through the mail) our monthly newsletter (Administrative)
  36. Advertising Cross of Glory functions on Next Door Neighbor, etc. (Outreach)
  37. Doing Movie Nights 5 times, June, July, August, September and October (Fellowship)
  38. Doing Game Nights every month right after Easter (Fellowship)
  39. Offering RTD-like trips again to our members and community (Fellowship)
  40. Offering Interest talks every other month at Cross of Glory, i.e. Parenting, Mt. Everest Trip, Wills and Financial Planning (Stewardship)
  41. Adding a mid-week Worship Service, freer flowing than liturgical, strong prayer and personal shares (Music and Worship)
  42. Making some new banners/Chrismon’s/altar cloths/vestments (Music and Worship)
  43. Adding a robed Assisting Minister to help with worship on Sunday mornings (Music and Worship)
  44. Resurrecting our Cross of Glory Choir (Music and Worship)
  45. Starting a Kids’ Handbell Choir to include Cook Park wannabees (Music and Worship)
  46. Increase our average sanctuary worship attendance by 1 person EACH 2023 Sunday (Outreach)
  47. Offer a Parents’ Night Out each month after Easter (Fellowship)
  48. Identify Thrivent Members and get Thrivent Matching Gift projects going (Stewardship)
  49. Do a Meet and Greet Cook Park 4th of July Picnic (Fellowship)
  50. Offer many visible (by our corner sign) Outdoor Worship Services this Summer (Music and Worship)
  51. Offer the Spanish-Speaking Church more allowance in worshipping in our building and with us (Property)
  52. Make new Cross of Glory Business Cards for distribution (Stewardship)
  53. Start up a Praise Band (Music and Worship)
  54. Consistently check our Cross of Glory website/answering machine for messages and needed updates (Administrative)
  55. Take 40 people to the Colorado Rockies Faith Day Baseball Game (Fellowship)
  56. In crazy, memorable ways, highlight “Bring a Friend to Church” Sundays (Outreach)
  57. Make it possible for Nick and Abby/area merchants/ the homeless to sell their wares at COG on
  58. Saturday afternoons? (Property)
  1. Lift up our Peru-sponsored child (Education)
  2. Bringing Mexico’s Jesus to Cross of Glory to assist with Spanish ministry and Addiction Recovery (Stewardship)
  3. Offer Funeral Planning Forums in the Spring and again in the Fall (Stewardship)
  4. Put in place meals going to our ill and bereaved members (Fellowship)
  5. Church Photographer (Education)
  6. New Member classes/take-ins in April, August, and December (Outreach)
  7. Encourage Cook Park to support a Harvest Home canned/clothing drive this Fall (Fellowship)
  8. Arrange a worthy organization to take away our non-selling Yard Sale items (Stewardship)
  9. Fight complacency in Zoomers always remaining Zoomers (Outreach)
  10. Sending visitors a Welcome letter days after attending Cross of Glory and a loaf of bread that week (Outreach)
  11. Using Endowment/Grocery Certificate Money for Building needs (Property)
  12. Having monthly reports of what actually was spent in various Budget line items for Council meetings (Stewardship)
  13. Lifting up Memorial possibilities and money-in-hand for usage places (Stewardship)
  14. Picking up people for COG Worship and activities (Fellowship)
  15. Initiating a Short-term/Long-term Planning Committee at church (Administrative)
  16. Doing Vacation Bible School this Summer (Education)
  17. Sponsoring Age-Appropriate Kid Activities/Outings this Summer (Education)
  18. Sending out “Missing You” Correspondences to inactive members (Fellowship)
  19. Providing Sunday School opportunities for our youth (Education)

There you have it, Cross of Glory!  In no particular order of importance, I share with you what God laid on my heart to share with you. What can you take on? What are you excited about?  Where do your particular gifts fit? How will we pull this off?  IN THE POWER OF GOD… THAT IS HOW WE WILL DO IT! Because we may have 76 trombones… but God REALLY is the band leader… this with our 110 cornet helpers as well!

Let’s get to work… excitedly… happily… thankfully!!!

Pastor Mike Lemke

Pastor Mike’s Thoughts for January 2023

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

Happy New Year! With God’s Emmanuel presence and God’s faithfulness in keeping every one of His many promises, let us trust that this brand new year will be the absolute best of new year’s for us personally AND congregationally. He who promised is faithful! Let us believe the Bible verse and live in the hope that’s Christ!

With the 12 Days of Christmas, we enter 2023 remembering the beautiful story of the manger and the magi. How wonderful to carry the goodwill of Christmas into the new year! How successful were you last month in setting aside concentrated times for prayer and reflection, for devotion to God and for the REAL meaning of Christmas? I pray, despite the holiday temptations to do otherwise, there was room in your “Inn” for the Christ child.

How long did it take Mary and Joseph to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem? Did pregnant Mary ride a donkey? Where did they stay along the way? Did they sleep on the ground? If December indeed IS the birth month for Jesus, how cold was it for Mary and Joseph? Imagine eventually getting to Bethlehem from Nazareth, having traveled 93 miles, only to be turned away at the hotel the very night that Mary gives birth!

In his Christmas Day sermon, Martin Luther blasted David’s City! He preached, “Shame on you, wretched Bethlehem! The Inn ought to have been burned with fire, for even though, Mary had been a beggar or unwed, anybody at such a time should have been glad to give her a hand.”

Let’s consider more of the Christmas story. You remember that insane and jealous King Herod was adamant about finding… and destroying… his new rival, the Boy King. Joseph was warned in a dream to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. How long did it take Mary and Joseph to gather their meager belongings and NOW travel, with an infant, to Egypt? Though we do not know exactly where the Holy Couple settled, Alexandria, at the time the largest city in Egypt was 320 miles away from Bethlehem!

How long would it take YOU to walk, or to ride a donkey or a camel, with a baby, from Denver to the Black Hills of South Dakota, 301 miles away? How would you have felt upon eventually arriving at Mt. Rushmore only to be told, “Sorry, you cannot visit! Coloradoans are not allowed in the park!”

And you would probably argue, but you do not understand! We are not typical tourists. We had to flee Denver. Our very lives were at stake. We would not have risked, especially with our baby, the desolate 100-mile stretch of road in nowheresville Western Wyoming HAD WE A CHOICE! WE HAD TO LEAVE family and friends in the Mile High City, the majestic Rockies and a not-so-good-football team BECAUSE OUR VERY LIVES WERE, ARE, IN JEOPARDY!

Thank God, Egypt did not have a wall. Thank God, Egypt was not like Bethlehem’s Innkeeper.

In my estimation, there is a big difference between an immigrant and a refugee. An immigrant wants to enter, to live in a different country NOT NECESSARILY BECAUSE HE HAS TO, but because he wants to. A refugee on the other hand wants to enter, to live in a different country because to stay at home

means CERTAIN DESTRUCTION. Mary and Joseph did not travel 320 miles from Bethlehem to Egypt to take in the pyramids. They traveled hundreds of miles to… ESCAPE DEATH.

Thank God, Egypt was open to the Holy Couple, true… REFUGEES!

And I can hear the sighs of some of you at this very instant…”Our pastor is about to get political, right? There is a reason for separation between Church and State! Don’t preach politics from the pulpit!” And folks, there are a lot of times I have chosen to be quiet when that still small voice inside me said, “Preach it, brother! Preach it!”  Folks, some things are just RIGHT to not only talk about, but to DO… REGARDLESS of religious persuasions. There are some things just RIGHT to DO in the name of plain and simple, common sense decencies of heart and compassion.

Caring for refugees is one of them.

If our Christianity does not call us to care about the poor and impoverished, the marginalized or threatened (which it does!), then our hearts, our souls, CERTAINLY DO!

I am with you! I too have a lot of questions about how millions of people fleeing for their lives might responsibly come into the United States. I have grave concerns that our leadership, even the greatest of minds and hearts, are up to the challenge of responsible assimilation… and to so many other 2023 concerns in the US and abroad. Let us try… let US try… to do what WE think WE can do personally and congregationally, nonetheless.

These next months, we will see a tremendous influx of both immigrants and refugees attempting to enter America. Even today, hundreds are arriving in Denver. Our Bishop, Jim Gonia, is calling us to do what we can in humanity, in love, TO CARE. I have trust in you Cross of Glory to BE Christian… to BE the Church. Setting aside possible judgments that might tempt us to do nothing, our reluctance to GIVE because seemingly… it depletes US, I trust that we will allow love to lead us. I believe in you, dear ones of “The Small Church with the Big Heart.” Though the challenges may seem monumental, we are reminded of the Bible verse, “With men things are impossible, but with God, ALL THINGS are possible!”

As we move into this brand new year, maybe thinking about resolutions to lose weight, to exercise more, to work smarter and less, to prioritize OURSELVES, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE make room, resolve in 2023, “To love the Lord your God with all your faculties” AND “To love your neighbor as yourselves”.

I can tell already it’s going to be quite an… exciting… upcoming year TOGETHER! Choose to come along for the ride, donkey, camel, Crazy Horse, however. If we are smart, if we are Christian, we will allow God to lead us. One step in front of the other everybody… onto Faith… onto New Friends!

Joy, yes… TO THE WORLD!

Pastor Mike Lemke

NOVEMBER 2022

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

I pray you are well. How many newsletter articles have I begun with that hope, “I pray you are well?” Perhaps every single one of them! Because we certainly hope that our family members and friends are well. We pray that they are happy, healthy and whole. We hope that they are in relationship with Christ, and in that relationship, experiencing, truly, God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, Jesus’ Emmanuel presence, embrace and forever love.

I truly pray that you are well. But the harsh reality is that many of us are not well. There are the spoken prayers in church on Sunday mornings that underline our needs and concerns for self and others. Certainly there are the many unspoken prayers that in anxiety, fear, embarrassment, or doubt are not prayed aloud. To be sure, there are many times when we and others are not well.

I pray you are well, but if not, I pray that you are STILL thankful, that your circumstances have not deteriorated your faith nor your confidence in the goodness and grace of God.

I think of Abraham Lincoln. As we wonder about how torn our country is today, as we wonder how we can come together as Americans given our differences and staunch, individual positions on so many divisive issues, imagine what it must have been like for Lincoln as he wrestled with the same questions… only against the backdrop of a nation literally at war with itself! I have said before that maybe the greatest attribute of our 16th President was that under the duress and bloodshed, the uncertainty and hatred of the Civil War, that Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving to be observed by all for the many blessings God had bestowed.

And I think of those pilgrims! Imagine leaving family members and friends behind to dare cross the vast Atlantic Ocean, knowing that there was likelihood you would die, before, after MONTHS at sea you would reach land! Certainly, there were the pilgrims that risked coming to the New World because of financial gain, but of the 102 travelers, many came to Plymouth because they wanted to worship God in their truth, conviction, and purity.

We have trouble making our way to Cross the Glory for 90 minutes of worship on a Sunday morning.  We wrestle with turning our computer’s on to be in Bible study on Tuesday nights. The pilgrims risk their lives in revering God!

Show me the person who can thank God while their world is falling apart and I will show you a person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ. Like you, over the years, I have been amazed at those faithful ones who refused to shake a fist at the heavens given their turmoil. Instead, they turned to the Scriptures and found there a God who ALSO experienced the greatest of trials, the deepest of sorrows and the most agonizing of deaths. They found hope in their circumstances given the reality that Jesus knows about pains and betrayals, sleepless nights and worries, unfair situations and the hurt caused by insensitive people. These

soldiers of the cross, these amazingly-patient lovers of Jesus give thanks in ALL circumstances, and I (you?) am moved, humbled and challenged by their faith and commitment to Christ.

Jesus never said things would be easy. Please ignore the television preachers who promise you prosperity if only your prayers are right! At the Last Supper, Jesus told His friends that they should not be surprised at the ills of the world. He has said that the poor would always be with us, that we would have tribulations. But then at a supper in which His thoughts could have been solely on Himself given His knowledge of the cross the next day, Jesus looked back at His friends and encouraged them with the words, “Even in spite of your troubles, be of continued, good cheer because I, Jesus, have overcome the world. In Me you CAN experience life and that abundantly regardless and beyond circumstances.”

So I will always pray that you are well, but I recognize that there will be the times when you are not. I hope that you can remain faithful and thankful in even the worst of circumstances, waiting upon the tender care of your Savior. Jesus knows your hurts. He knows your heart. Might we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, not only know of Jesus’ heart but trust and believe in it.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord and of our Savior, Jesus Christ. God comforts us in our sorrows so that we can be a comfort to other people in the midst of their hurts with the grace that we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Oh, how I pray you are well and thankful,

Pastor Mike

Perhaps we can say now that the pandemic has dissipated. We are being told that most likely everyone will come down with the virus, and that it will be as common as a cold! Thankfully, vaccines have helped the spread of Corona, though we are painfully aware of the virus’ impacts.

Cross of Glory is a unique congregation to be sure! With about 75 total people in our membership, we know one another very, very well. Most of our membership is elderly. We physically have trouble with the upkeep of our building and our grounds. Most of our activities must be planned during daylight hours. We have been hard-hit financially by the inability to DO church the way we did pre-Covid. To be sure, the pandemic kept us apart as a congregation and as a society. We did not see one another in worship as frequently, certainly not in the building. Consequently, it may be easy to forget that of our 75 members, nearly a fourth are truly shut-in, unable to physically be with us for worship or congregational activities. How much more must we reach out lovingly to our true shut-ins as they are, indeed, integral, and central members of our fellowship.

In association with this year’s Time, Talent, and Treasure Pledge Drive, we are working hard to update phone numbers, mailing, and email addresses, significant dates in your lives and better contact information for those you think may be interested in joining our church. As you SOON will be receiving an updated Cross of Glory “Family and Friends” list of membership, BE SURE to note those who are indicated as truly “shut-in.” Might you take the time frequently to reach out to them with periodic cards and phone calls? If possible, could you drop by and say “Hello” to them on occasion? We are truly Better Together!  Thanks!

OCTOBER 2022

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

“When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the rain!”

So, the first line of the song goes.  Given this Reformation month of October, as Lutheran Christians especially remember Martin Luther and the contributions of the Saints/Sinners like him, I wonder how terrifying the storm Luther experienced must have been to cause him to promise changing the course of his life!  Martin Luther was studying to be a lawyer.  So much of his family’s income had gone into Luther’s schooling. Luther was to excel.  As a lawyer, he could earn a great living.  He could even help support the rest of the family. He was expected to live the life already planned for him.

Then that life-changing lightning storm assailed him! He feared for his life!  History has painted Luther as being so brash, so unapologetically outspoken! The storm of 500 years ago humbled Luther. The privileged, educated, self-assured Luther was knocked to his knees… and he prayed that God would save him!  Luther begged of God: “If you save my life, I will FOREVER devote myself to You.  I will change the course of my studies.  I will become a priest in Your service!”

God saved Martin Luther from the throes of a storm. God saved Luther from the depths of sin! Luther kept his promise! He became a priest, and, relying on his God of grace, the world was forever changed!

Martin Luther entered the monastery. He would begin his ardent, serious study of God’s Word.  Martin tried to explain to his father that the storm was a sign from God… that a change was not only needed, but warranted. Martin hoped his dad would understand.  Luther’s father, so saddened, so seemingly betrayed by his son’s insistence, could only reply to Martin in angry retort, “Or a sign from the devil!”

The time 500 years ago may have been as frightening as the storm itself!  Long-held ideas about the world were being challenged.  Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492… when Luther in Germany was but nine years of age! DaVinci was in Italy!  Michelangelo, Copernicus and Galileo were but decades removed.  Movable type had been invented… and with it… the ability to mass-produce writings. Renowned painters were using the brash primary colors of red, blue and yellow as if to say to the world, “Take that!”  Europe was experiencing Enlightenment and Renaissance… and Martin Luther was soon to challenge long-held beliefs about faith and theology, about the Church and about the Scriptures.

Too often I, we, forget that the road that led to Reformation began with that terrifying lightning storm. History especially remembers Luther’s contributions, heralding him as one of the most influential persons in Western Civilization yet, the Luther story is filled with struggle and uncertainty. We fail so often to remember the strife Luther experienced along the way to becoming one of the most impacting of persons. He was challenged by the Pope himself… the leader of the then ONLY church in history at the time.  Luther was ordered to retract his writings and sermons… to tone down his rhetoric about God being so much than the authority of the Church. He replied by becoming all the more… offensive!  Luther disputed the idea that forgiveness of sins could be purchased with offerings to the Church.  He believed that the truly “cherished’ in Church ought well be the  “congregants” and not the too-often-regarded “higher-ups.”

Because Luther was privileged to be educated… able to read and to write… HE could peruse the Scriptures and draw his own conclusions about the God he met there.  He did not have to take the word of his priestly contemporaries, especially the bishops and the Pope of his day to discern from the Bible insights about God’s grace, love and forgiveness.

In the drama of the Luther story, Martin raised not one, not two, not three concerns about his Church… but 95 of them!  In the university town of Wittenberg, Germany, a center for intellectual debate, Martin nailed his 95 Theses, his 95 criticisms of his Church, on the bulletin board of the community, the Church Castle door. Luther hoped that his contentions about the Church, about its beliefs concerning God and its wayward actions could be seriously examined… refined… and hopefully REFORMED!  Certainly Luther did not want to start a NEW Church, an alternative to Catholicism!  He wanted to steer Catholicism back on track.  He wanted to “right” what he saw as the “wrongs” within the Church he loved.

Martin Luther could not have envisioned the ride, the drama, of what was ahead. Walking through a storm… surviving a storm is one thing.  Dealing with the repercussions of challenging the status quo, the “weight” of 1500 years of Church policy and polity was entirely something different.

Would Luther have, in time, cursed the lightning storm and with it, his decision to become an honorable  priest, a servant of conviction of what he perceived to be truth? The storm would lead, after all, to his being excommunicated from the Church he loved – in those days, a damnation sentence! Nowadays, if we have issues with a church, we have the option of going elsewhere. But, remember, the Roman Catholic Church was the only Church in existence at the time.  Luther did not have the ability to say his piece and join another congregation! Instead, with all the pressure of Rome, with the Pope’s order, Luther was told to apologize for his lunacy and stay the course. Luther would say at his TRIAL, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture or human reason that I am wrong, I cannot in good conscience take back what I have said nor written. Here I stand! God help me!” Luther was immediately condemned as a heretic, a criminal!  Loving family members and friends turned their backs on him.  Martin Luther was considered a threat to society.  He had a price on his head. He was forced to hide out in the Wartburg Castle, apart from society for the longest of whiles (a blessing to us as from the Wartburg he composed so many of our beloved hymns, wrote the Catechisms and translated the New Testament from the Latin into the language of his people Germany).                                                  

Thank you, Martin Luther!

So often we fail to see that the disappointments of today may very well be the building blocks, the stepping-stones for greatness in the future.  So lost are we in the fears of the moment that we lose sight of God and faith.  The storms of life paralyze us.  We see only distress.  But God is bigger than any storm!  He who made heaven and earth… He who makes US… promises to forever BE WITH US!  No wonder Psalm 46 was Luther’s favorite!  Indeed, “A mighty fortress IS our God, a sword and shield VICTORIOUS!”                                                                    

All of us at various times experience the most trying of circumstances.  With the help of God and with each other, let us get through those times believing in the blessings to come.  Let us encourage one another in and through the greatest of challenges with the promise that God has wonderful things planned for us… and for so many others!  Like the expression says, “If God brings us to it, God will see us through it!”  Help us Jesus to believe in You!  Help us Jesus to trust in Your love!”

“When  you  walk  through a storm,  hold your  head up high and don’t be afraid of the rain!”

God’s Peace and Love!
Pastor Mike Lemke

                                                         

September 2022

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

I pray you are well. As always, please share your prayer requests with us. I, we, want to know how you are doing.

Remember when school ended around Memorial Day and then started up again after 3 months of glorious summer vacation right after Labor Day? Near the end of August and always into the beginning of September, merchants would entice possible shoppers with “Back to School” sales. K-Mart and Target, Walgreens and Pennys would boast savings in school supplies and clothing. Come the Tuesday after Labor Day, students were set.

Well sometime these last decades, things changed. Year-round school with various schedules, impacted summer vacations. Ardent Colorado skiers did not mind longer winter breaks. Families rolled with the changes… while students did not know their classmates as well as before.

And then remember when Sundays were set aside as relaxed days… even in some places… reverent ones? When I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, most stores were closed on Sundays. I was led to believe that in respect of church, merchants would close shop. Nowadays, activities galore have made their way into Sunday disruptions.

I remember back in the 1980s, when I was fit enough to play softball (!!!), our team did very well in a YMCA Colorado tournament. We were good enough that go-round to make it to the championship. The only drawback? The championship game was played in Colorado Springs (still today one of the most conservative of places, ESPECIALLY for church and Christianity) at 10 AM on a Sunday morning. On behalf of my teammates, I wrote (these were the days before email) the YMCA (The Young Men’s CHRISTIAN Association) and urged the tournament organizers to move the championship to another day… at least later in the afternoon. I shared that our softball players prioritized church on Sunday mornings over athletics and I point-blank told the YMCA that it should too.

WE ENDED UP FORFEITING THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME. The YMCA refused to change the time of the game… and our players refused to miss church that morning.

It was the Romantic English poet William Wordsworth who wrote the poem, “The World is Too Much With Us.”  Back in the 1800s, Wordsworth was starting to get concerned about the “world” crowding into the sacred… into the cherished… into the divine. I can only imagine what Wordsworth would think today. Church has fallen victim to being pushed, crowded-out these days. A sit-down Sunday meal around a dining room table, including ALL family members, seems ludicrous in 2022.

There used to be a Back-to-School observance, if not excitement. People would come back to church with greater frequency after summer vacationing. Nowadays, people consumed with things, so many

activities, so much running (Wordsworth wrote “running to and fro”), don’t return. Claiming it to be the virus, or being overworked, having church on the golf course, people continue to stay away.

The church in America is facing one of its biggest historical challenges. Apathy abounds. Critics of Christianity point out the hypocrisies of the faith and of the fallen. I have said it before… I say it again… I hope it does not take a disaster to bring people back to God and to worship.

My wife Barb and I watched a superb documentary the other evening on Bill W. and the start of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill Wilson, a drunk, resigned at one point to either jail, a mental institution or death given his illness, He tried to abstain from drinking on his own.  He white-knuckled it but failed time and time again. In 1935, Bill W. came to the conclusion that he needed a fellowship… at the least, a confidant, another drunk, who knew the pains of alcoholism for support. Thankfully, in the marvel that is AA’s story, Dr. Bob bought in. Now, 87 years later, Alcoholics Anonymous has a membership of 2.1 million recovering alcoholics on the planet.

The documentary included actual footage of Bill W. and Dr. Bob, their struggles, their speeches and their spiritualities. It is fair to say that over the years of AA, many in the program, indebted to Bill W. for the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions, held Bill Wilson in almost godlike esteem. Many in recovery say that AA was one of the greatest “inventions” of the 20th Century and that Bill W. was one of the most influential men… OF ALL TIME. The documentary mentioned that at one AA convention after Bill W’s passing in 1971, that there was a long line of recovering alcoholics who wanted to shake the hands of people who had actually shook the hand of Bill W. at one point.

The “addict who suffered” wanted to be as close to Bill W. as possible, even if it meant but shaking the hand of someone who had once shook the hand of Bill Wilson. Unabashed, unashamed, recovering alcoholics claim that Bill W. is worthy of the praise.  He after all was paramount, instrumental, in saving millions of lives.

Jesus has nail-pierced hands. Christ has saved OUR lives. If only we could once again regain, recapture, our thanksgiving and shake the hand of the hand of the man who stilled the waters. If we could SEE the lure that is the world, with its empty promises of fulfillment and satisfactions, and wake up! If only Sunday would be sacred again as Christians on the planet TRULY praised the Lord.

We have every opportunity come Sunday, September 18th  to COME BACK TO CHURCH. I will be writing many personal letters of invitations to the family members of those Cross of Glory members who have passed into greater life these last years.  How wonderful it would be to have them join us in worship as we pay homage to our Cross of Glory saints and honor the Lord of the Church, Jesus.  How I pray that our RALLY SUNDAY  will indeed rally us to both worship and greater devotion to Christ.

Joshua in the Old Testament posed the question to the Israelites, ho will you serve?   Joshua responds,   “As for me and my house,  we will serve the Lord.”  And your response, Cross of Glory?

Pastor Mike Lemke

August 2022

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Yeah, yeah, yeah! We all know the line from the 23rd    Psalm. The reality is, don’t we often think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence? Rarely are we satisfied!

Long time Denverites can remember when Elitches was REALLY Elitches. For decades now, we have contended with (tolerated) the Elitches across I-25 from Sports Authority Field! And don’t EVEN get me started on naming the Broncos stadium Sports Authority! For me, and for forever Bronco fans, OUR Broncos Stadium will ALWAYS be Mile High! Many of you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about!

But getting back to Elitches. Can you remember when Elitch’s really WAS Elitches?

None of this concrete, no-area-for-shade, Elitches nowadays! The REAL Elitches was located on 38th in-between Sheridan and Tennyson. What anticipation and joy it was for kids my age to have Mom and Dad drive us to the park! We could HEAR the Mr. Twister roller coaster squealing around its tracks long before we actually saw it! Remember FEELING the slow “clicking” as the roller coaster slowly made its way up its first hill? There was but a split second of decision at the top. Do you hang on for dear life to the safety bar across your lap, OR, showing off to your friends, do you throw your hands above your head and experience the two seconds (it felt like a lifetime) of your stomach now in your throat as Mr. Twister dove blindly into its first abyss?

And yet, even with the thrill of Elitches’ signature ride, I actually preferred the OTHER roller coaster, the Wildcat, near the back of the park. You remember the one… right next to where the Merry-Go-Round was. I spent many a summer afternoon JUST riding the Wildcat. As the easier-going roller coaster climbed ITS first hill, I would always give a Mile High salute to our Colorado mountains right before the Wildcat plunged into ITS first dive.

Ah, the memories! I even consider now the walk BACK to the Wildcat as legendary. There were the vendors who beckoned you to throw those wooden rings atop pop bottles, or worse yet, pitch pennies onto plates (Don’t waste your money!). Better to try winning little stuffed animals by throwing darts at balloons or shooting baskets though hoops that truly WERE smaller than those at the gym. Remember the sound of the bell when strong boys sledgehammered that platform by where you might win a prize guessing someone’s weight? But by far, the stuff of greatest memory, was waiting in line for the wet and wild log ride. Maybe you too put the gum you were chewing on the gum tree alongside the wooden railing.

You see, there was a time Elitches really WAS Elitches. Those of you older might contend that the best of the park had EVERYTHING to do with the Trocadero Dancehall or sitting on a park bench, in the shade, as you waited for your grandkids to finish Putt-Putt. It was after all…  Elitch GARDENS!

We recently had a movie night at Cross of Glory on OUR lawn at dusk. We watched the classic baseball film,  “Field of Dreams”.   James Earl Jones, playing the part of American writer Terrance

Mann, states that Kevin Costner ought to keep his cornfield baseball field: “Ray, people will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. ‘Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,’ you’ll say. ‘It’s only $20 per person.’ They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers and sit in short sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. People most definitely will come.”

Dear ones at Cross of Glory, rarely content, we not only long for the past, but we also hope for things better. Often, we believe that the grass IS greener on the other side of the fence. I, we, do not realize that at this moment, TODAY, we have every opportunity to create the memories that we, and those we love, will someday believe could have been the best of times. Today! Right now! In the here and now!

Jesus was SO right in HIs Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow…  tomorrow will have enough worries of its own. Do you not believe that today’s troubles are enough for the day?” Jesus wanted us to be VERY present, in the moment, today… to do all we can to make THIS day the best of days for us and for other people.

What if we really believed that what we did today could and would make all the difference? So instead of watching the same rerun of Andy Griffith, maybe we could call the hurting friend across town and say, “Hey, Andy?” Or maybe instead of buying the ice cream cone we know we shouldn’t be eating anyway; we could use the money to buy someone’s Starbucks? How about getting off the couch and stopping by the church to pull some weeds or striking up a conversation with a fellow traveler through this life with a smile being your opening line?

You see, whether we are on Mr. Twister or the Wildcat, life has its twists and its turns, its ups and its downs. The roller coaster we ride daily, comes with a safety strap whether we thrust our arms heavenly or not. Jesus straps us in. He sits on our laps. We WILL be jostled around in this life. Going around some of the curves will throw us to the side. But knowing we are safe and secure in the arms of Jesus; we can enjoy the ride and invite others to join us. TODAY!

I know it hurts to think that we might reserve the best of places for others. Who after all wants to give up in the front or the back car of a roller coaster? But Jesus has always made it about US!  We ought to try, today, to make precious time, God’s graced time to us, about other people. By prioritizing soon-to-be friends, we create for them memories to be cherished for years to come.

And in so doing, Cross of Glory, they will come! People will indeed come! People will come to church for reasons they don’t quite understand. People will come to Christ not knowing exactly why but forever grateful for the friend that rode with them through the squeals and screams, the twists and wild rides.

So, get off the merry-go-round and make your way over to the wet and to the wild. You’ve been baptized! Grab some cotton candy along the way. Grab a friend. You may choose to shut your eyes on the ride… but… never… never… your heart!

Geronimo!
Pastor Mike Lemke

 

July 2022

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

Do you know who shot JR? I think I do! The Holy Spirit shot JR!  I tell you, it really WAS the Holy Spirit! No, not THAT JR… NOT the Larry Hagman JR of the Dallas television show! The Holy Spirit shot my friend… the JR of my former congregation… Joy Lutheran Church in Parker.

Though I can understand your confusion! MY JR was also from Dallas!  My JR also made his fortune in the oil business!

As we concluded church yesterday, we sang the congregational hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story”. I immediately thought of my friend JR, God rest his soul, because he was especially fond of the hymn. What I am about to tell you happened EXACTLY the way I remember it! As unbelievable as the following story may be to you, I am telling you the truth! Remember, God’s ways are not our ways…

It was Monday, September 11, 1989. I easily recall the date because September 11th is my birthday. At 3 in the afternoon, I got a call from Helen, JR’s wife. I learned that they had been in a car accident and that JR, suffering head injuries, was being transported to Swedish in an ambulance. I told Helen that I would meet her at the hospital.

I still remember praying along the way, “No God, not JR! Not THIS way God!” The day before, my church had celebrated Rally Sunday. Most churches welcome members back to worship after summer breaks with Rally Sundays early in September. We had sung, “I Love to Tell the Story.” My church wanted to emphasize evangelism and the need to embrace Jesus in life as sure foundation.

To everyone’s surprise, in a worship community of about 300 that service, JR shouted from his pew, “Pastor, may I say something?” Yikes! JR was brash and unapologetic. Who knew what would come from HIS mouth? It was then that JR gave an account of his Christianity, challenging all in the church to take Jesus seriously. I distinctly remember JR saying, haunting as it still is, “None of us know the time of our deaths. We must be ready to meet God!”

Helen had been the churchgoer in the family. She had faithfully brought her sons to worship and to Confirmation. JR was only a name to me. I did not know him.

But then there was the miracle. The Holy Spirit shot JR!

Wife Helen had been diagnosed with a concerning illness. Doctors said she had less than a year to live. But after one exam in the clinic, doctors could not detect ANY of Helen’s cancer! Helen was dumbfounded! JR was convicted! He believed, he knew, that God had healed his wife… and he promised to show his appreciation to God with a committed Christianity.

In the months following, JR virtually lived at the church. He called the men of the congregation (no small task in a church of over 1000) and TOLD them… to get with it and be part of our growing Men’s ministry. JR “loved to tell the story of Jesus’ love” with EVERYBODY!

I arrived at Swedish just as JR’s ambulance was pulling into Emergency. The paramedic, seeing me dressed like a priest, handed JR’s Bible to me! It was covered in blood. JR had been reading the Scriptures when hit in the intersection!

Sally Ponfick joined us in the waiting room. Some of you know Sally from Prince of Peace. Sally, a classmate of mine at Wartburg Seminary in Iowa, was the chaplain at the hospital that night!  Oh, how we prayed together as JR was in surgery! How we hoped that JR would survive… and if so… that he would not be mentally impaired!

JR’s son Rich joined us from Ft. Collins. Rich had begun classes at CSU (it was September, remember). Son Mark had arrived from Highlands Ranch. Son Mike cried like a baby in ER. We hung on any news coming out of surgery. Time passed slowly. I remember the Washington Redskins were playing the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.

Finally, the doctor came into the waiting room. His words were welcomed indeed: “JR is doing just fine. We have deliberately kept him sedated, even in a coma-like state to alleviate swelling. You all should go home and get some rest. JR will not know that you are at his bedside.”

Smiles returned to our faces. Rich made his way back to the parking garage intent on a late-night drive back to Ft. Collins. All of us were leaving ER when the unthinkable happened. An orderly came in and said, “There has been a concerning turn. Stay put!”

I still remember Sally Ponfick consoling the DOCTOR, her hands on his slumping shoulders when he confessed to Helen, JR’s wife, “I don’t get it! JR was REALLY doing well. I am SO SORRY to have to tell you that… he passed!”  A moment before, Rich had returned to ER… his car needing a jump. He wondered if I had jumper cables! And yes, after learning the news of his father’s passing, Rich’s car started right up, without my cables.

Maybe YOU especially needed to hear JR’s tale. Maybe it feels like YOU have been T-boned. Maybe YOU are wondering if God really knows and/or cares about YOUR life. Too often we chalk up the uncanny, the kismet, weird happenstances in life to coincidences. I for one no longer believe in coincidences. Despite our questions, our struggles with faith, let us dare believe that God truly is behind everything… and that everything IS moving towards that last page of the Bible when ALL THINGS WILL BE MADE NEW. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit… the same Holy Spirit who shot JR…. the same Spirit who can shoot you!

PASTOR MIKE LEMKE

June 2022

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

I pray you are well. Please continue to share prayer requests with us. Let us know how you are doing. And remember! Prayer requests can be both challenges… and celebrations you are experiencing!

Well, we knew that at one point, this time would be upon us. I think this time has arrived. We no longer can coast in ministry at Cross of Glory. The time is especially upon us to be proactive about increasing participation in our ministry.

Evangelism has always been the mission of the Church. You see in the word, “evangelism” the word “angel”. Angels have long been messengers of God’s hope and encouragement. It was an angel sitting atop the Easter tomb that told the women news of Jesus’ resurrection. We too, empowered by the life that God imparts ought to be angels of Good News. We have the greatest of stories to proclaim! Because Jesus lives, we live also! And because we live, we have opportunity today to be good news to those who desperately need God’s love.

And you at Cross of Glory are indeed angels! To your credit, despite so many challenges these last years, you have kept Cross of Glory afloat. Most of you have been faithful in your worship participation either attending Sunday morning services in person or via Zoom. Though the pandemic threatened to extinguish our ministry’s pertinence and vibrancy, you resolved nonetheless to fight apathy and inconvenience to BE the Church. You have been angels indeed! Most of you have sacrificially given of yourselves to not only sustain Cross of Glory, but to promote its impact. Most of you have sent offerings to our church so that bills are paid. As the case in any church, there is a portion of membership that is not actively involved. Now is the time to rally at church… to re-energize and to refocus on how we can better BE Church! Oh how I pray, all our members, with resurrected zeal and enthusiasm, resolve to bring more participation to our fellowship.

In short, we need more people, more families, more kids, to sustain our church and ministry into these next decades. I pray that you will join me, and our Church Council, in BEING the difference. During the summer months, we hope to hear your great ideas about how to attract more visitors to Cross of Glory. I am hoping that with your suggestions, there will also be your willingness to implement your ideas.

The way I see it, we have 5 biggest challenges at church:

Number 1: We are fighting a growing apathy as it concerns churches in our country. These last decades, particularly in the United States, mainstream denominational churches have lost membership. Perhaps Christianity is fighting one of its greatest historical battles TODAY. Given the blessings that we as Americans generally receive, with new inventions abounding that tempt us to believe that we are more self-sufficient than we really are, we wonder about the need for God. We seemingly have all the answers at our fingertips with Google searches. And the organized Church? The devil would have us believe that it is more scandalous then helpful. I think one of the biggest challenges for us at Cross of Glory, a challenge shared by other Christian churches, especially in our country, is impressing upon others the need for God. Hopefully, it will not take a national disaster to drive others to Christ and the church.

Challenge Number 2: Fighting Complacency. I have been content these last years to enjoy the status quo of our precious, little church without more deliberate attempts at evangelism. Like you, I like our cozy fellowship. We are family. We have been able to financially make it each year. I, we, have rested on our laurels. But Christ calls us to be evangelists, to share with others God’s love! Forgive me for not being more proactive and deliberate in attracting more visitors to our congregation. This summer, I pray that you will join me in wondering how we can bring more people to Christ and to Cross of Glory with even outside-the-box approaches to ministry. Will you be open to doing church a little bit differently if it will bring others, potential members, to our fellowship? It has to begin with the will to TRY moving beyond complacency into action.

Challenge Number 3: The Need for Kids. Though you have been angels in doing what you can to promote ministry at church, we are elderly with concerning physical limitations. I myself am fighting ill-health. We are not as young as we used to be, and we tire easily. We need younger families, especially kids to carry the torch, the light of Christ, into our neighborhood. I see our next-door neighbors, the Korean Baptists, and smile when I see all of the teenagers of their ministry, respectful and helpful, carrying Bibles to worship across our parking lot. What is their secret? I intend to ask Pastor James and John. Let’s capitalize on what seems to be working in other churches to attract and keep kids in ministry.

Challenge Number 4: Considering Longer-range Goals. If together we prayerfully considered what wonderful things, we, as a congregation COULD DO or WOULD BE WILLING TO TRY to impact our community, I think we would draw closer to each another in the excitement of trying to be more than we are. There is a Scripture that says that “without vision, the people perish.” Moses looked at a Red Sea and saw God’s possibilities. How about if we looked at some formidable goals and instead of throwing up our hands in despair, trusted that God would help us? I think we could feel pretty good about ourselves if we rose to the occasion of trying to do some extraordinary things for Christ.

And lastly, Challenge Number 5: Commitment to Prayer and the Scriptures. We should have a weekly prayer group at Cross of Glory… a more active Prayer Chain of greater involvement. And Tuesday nights? We should have more than 10 people in Bible study. We should be resurrecting Sunday School for all ages on Sunday mornings now that we are coming back to in-person worship. It may be said that we meet the Lord in prayer and in Bible study when in reality, God especially meets us in those very places!

A lot of times my newsletter articles are cutesy, kind of clever, maybe even entertaining. I know that I’m being kind of a killjoy in this month’s correspondence, but folks, the time has come! We’ve got to do something! And I believe that together we are up to the challenge! More than anything, let us trust that God will lead us and that the most noteworthy commandments of the Bible are as apropos for us today as they were eons ago. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength and with all your soul… and… love your neighbor as yourself! If we allow love for God and others to dictate our daily lives, our church generally will benefit from our committed discipleships.

Please join me in reflecting God’s brilliant light that those who walk in darkness may experience life in Jesus, the Light of the World.

Prayers Cross of Glory! Prayers!

Pastor Mike Lemke

 

MARCH 2022

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

What is the saying? If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb? Or is that April’s distinction? Never mind! This year’s season of Lent captures both March AND April! Perhaps the phrase has EVERYTHING to do with Jesus the King. He is after all the lion of Judah and He is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

March 2nd is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of this year’s Lenten season. In stark contrast to the Church season of Epiphany where Christians center their hearts on the Divinity of Christ, Lent primarily depicts Jesus as totally Man. The God who walks on water during Epiphany, bleeds during Lent. Totally God, yet totally Man, we revere One who is like us in every respect save sin. Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. He understands. And God calls us to His throne of mercy and grace that we might confess our sins and be forgiven for trespasses.

In preparation for Lenten worship the season, I have been going through my Lenten resources from past years. I came across a Lenten devotional submitted by our sister in Christ, Maysel Christy. Maysel had written her article in 2014. She shared:

“The psalmist in Psalm 46, verse 10 writes, ‘God is waiting in the depths of my being to talk to me if I would get still enough to hear his voice. I think this will be easy and so I begin to get still.’ But, I know sooner commence than a thousand clamoring choices from without and within reach my ears until I can hear nothing but their noise and din. It seems necessary for me to listen for some of them, but God says, ‘Be Still!’ As I slowly learn to obey, when the other voices cease or I cease to hear them, there is a still small voice in the depth of my being that begins to speak. As I listen, it becomes to me the voice of prayer, the voice of wisdom, the voice of duty, for it is the Living God himself!’

Maysel lifted up the virtue of Prayer, a foundation for Lent.

And then I came across a devotional from Leota Burns. Leota wrote:

“As the foremost leader of the great Reformation, Martin Luther struggled with fundamental problems, most of which are still with us today! How can we find the way to God? How can we be acceptable to God? Do we have a free will? Why are we continually dogged by temptations? Can we ever have the certainty of being saved? Why is every effort to bring about public good doomed from the start? Why is there so much suffering in the world?

And wrestling with these questions and in coping with the troubles of his stormy age, Luther was guided by two beacons that always marked his way. The first was that the Bible is God’s truth. His second beacon was the conviction that salvation is not the result of human effort, but it’s a gift of grace based on the sacrifice of Christ.”

Leota lifted up the virtue of God’s Word as yet another foundation for Lent.

And then I found a writing from Bea Varney. Over the years, Bea wrote so many of our Bible study helps. Bea wrote:

“I have been surprised by God many times! As a young woman wishing to be a nurse, I was told that I would not be able to stand the rigor of training due to my heart being compromised by the rheumatic fever I had as a child. I cried as my dreams were ending. But a cardiologist said, ’Let’s give her a chance! We can check her often!’ And now in my 90’s, I’ve had heart attacks and a hundred TIAs. I have lived longer than anyone on both sides of my family. I’m trying to figure out why! Is God going to give me something to do that I have not yet done? Maybe God is keeping me here until I can call the yelling of THIS generation’s bands ‘music!’ That would really surprise me, and I think God would call THAT a miracle!”

Bea reminds us of the importance of allowing God’s surprises to sustain us during Lent.

Our Cross of Glory charter member, published author Barbara Palmer, as she does every Lenten season, once again submitted a Lenten devotional. Barbara shares:

“Since I like to write stuff, I was happy for the opportunity to put my two cents into this year’s Lenten devotional booklet. I can remember back to the time at Cross of Glory we held Sunday school services in that schoolhouse. And since I am OLD, one would expect that I have much knowledge and therefore wisdom! Well, not so! But I would like to share a verse from the Holy Book that has come to give me so much comfort: ‘I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future from Jeremiah 29, verse 11.'”

Though she discounts her wisdom, Barbara wisely directs us to believe that God cares enough about us to wish us His best into a promise-filled future.

Maysel, Leota, Bea, and Barbara invite us into the rigor and discipline of Lent believing that prayer, the Scriptures, God’s surprises, and providence will sustain us through these next 40 days to… and beyond… the cross.

It has been said that perhaps the earliest Christian hymn was an echoing of Philippians 2 verses 5 through 11 namely, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So, take up your cross, Cross of Glory, and follow the One who in every respect loves us through life and beyond!

Pray! Devote yourself to the Bible! Wait! Wonder! Onto Lent!

Pastor Mike Lemke

DECEMBER 2021

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It was but a couple of weeks ago that Mom and I enjoyed a wonderful respite in beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Over the decades, my family has enjoyed the Los Tules resort and we have met so many precious people who have become longtime friends. Occasionally, when I dare speak what little Spanish I know, people in Denver ask me where I learned the language. I smile. Honestly, I have learned my Spanish primarily at Los Tules, practicing late at night into the early morning hours while speaking to the security guards at the resort. These men are hoping to stay awake while on watch, while on duty, even as the ocean kissing the beach lulls them to sleep. They also generally wish to learn English and the chance to practice with an American gringo intrigues them.

Consequently, from about 10:30 each night until about 1:30 in the morning, there is a lot of pantomiming at Los Tules (and a lot of laughter) as broken Spanish and broken English is spoken at the resort.

Noah works the graveyard shift at the front desk. He was a lifesaver during my Sabbatical of 2019 as I raced past him each morning to catch my school bus. He saw me from afar each day, sprinting towards the locked gate that separates Los Tules from the main highway leading to Centro, Puerto Vallarta’s downtown. Noah had keys in hand as I jettisoned towards the gate. With always a pleasant “Buenos dias (Good mornings)” and then (haha) “Buena suerte (Good luck!), Noah grinned his celebrated sonrisa (smile) while shaking his head as if to say, “Idiota (no translation necessary, right?)!”

The Monday after Reformation Sunday, I visited Noah at the front desk. We chatted for a time about our respective families and then he asked me how our Zoom worship service went the day before. In Spanish, I started to explain to him the significance of Reformation. I began to tell him about Martin Luther when he interrupted me. “Mike, conozco Luther y su historia en la iglesia (Mike, I know Luther and his history for the church).” Noah, in Spanish, went on to tell me things about Luther, the 95 Theses AND the Reformation I DID NOT KNOW! This twenty-five year-old beautiful man of spirit and joy told me about his love for God and the church. My amigo Noah became for me my maestro (teacher) and inspiracion (you know) at 1:00 AM the Tuesday after Reformation Sunday a couple of weeks ago!

But to get to my point…

I told Noah that I would love to spend a December in Vallarta and experience the celebration, the reverence, the pageantry… the adoration… leading up to… and including… December 25th, la Navidad! Noah looked at me dumbfounded. He stammered and seemed somewhat embarrassed. Noah, the bright intellect of church history, of Luther, the Cinco Solas (the Five

Alones… Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone and Glory to God Alone) timidly asked me, “And Mike, what is la Navidad called in… English?”

I know my cara (face) dropped. I must have looked visibly shaken, certainly taken aback.

‘Noah, my precious friend, la Navidad in English is called… Christmas.”

And then it was Noah who was off racing! In Spanish, he told me about his intended family gathering on December 25th, about piñatas and about the cherished Navidad meal his mother always made for the family during the holidays… a favorite of his… dulce de carne (MEATLOAF)! No Dickens goose. No oyster soup… Noah told me about Christmas… meatloaf!

At 1:00 AM on the Tuesday after Reformation Sunday, a gringo from Denver was re…formed. I am nearly crying how as I relate to you the experience… the humility… the beauty and joy… of Christmas adoration.

But folks, sadly, even with Noah’s enthusiasm, since that night, I have struggled with a harsh realization. Christmas IS met by some… with blank stares… with raised eyebrows… with quizzical looks. CHRISTMAS JUST DOES’T REGISTER WITH SOME PEOPLE.

These last years, save last year’s pandemic December, we have hosted Advent Sunday night observances at church. We have enjoyed light meals in our Fellowship Hall before retiring to our sanctuary for some Christmas carols. I well remember the time I asked people generally to share a precious Christmas memory with us… and then… the awkward silence… of someone in our church NOT having a cherished Christmas story to tell. Yes, Christmas is about light penetrating darkness, about God forever being with us and about longtime promises being lived out… BUT… for many on the planet… for many in Denver… Christmas or no Navidad… Darkness persists, Loneliness prevails and Hope disappoints.

And that’s where we are privileged to enter the story… to leave with the shepherds FROM the manger and carry the baby Jesus into the nooks and the crannies, into the highways and byways, to those especially in need of God… in need… of… US!

There are the many times we believe we are not enough… that we do not measure up… that we cannot POSSIBLY make… or… be… the difference. There are those times that we feel the world has left us behind… that no one cares or could possibly understand. And yet… and yet… yet, even miraculously… WE have the chance TODAY to BE the world to someone else.

A baby cries from a stable. Unwed parents wonder “How can this be?” Smelly shepherds stumble over each other to get to “this strange thing the Lord made known unto them.” Wise guys must have wished for camaros over camels.

And yet… the star shone over Bethlehem. Christmas came. God is…you know… God.

And this same God calls you…calls me… to carry His brilliant light into dark places of despair, loneliness and hopelessness… to be… as Luther said… as Noah knows… little lights, little Christs in the world.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Cross of Glory! Let’s get moving

Into a blessed 2022. No loafing around (unless, of course, at Noah’s on

Christmas Day)!
Pastor Mike Lemke

OCTOBER 2021

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends! How wonderful to live in beautiful Colorado but especially during the months of October and November! We see the changing colors in the High Country. Having been refreshed by summer respite, we move in the Fall with great appreciation for God’s many blessings. When Abraham Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving to be observed on the fourth Thursday of Novembers to come, he did so against the backdrop of America’s bloodiest war. Our own Civil War cost more American lives than any other war in our nation’s history. Although Lincoln will forever be known as the emancipator of slaves, the defender of our Union during the most concerning of times, perhaps his greatness lies primarily in his dependence on God! It was said that Lincoln once lamented, “Why is it that in despair I need to fall on my knees over and over again before recognizing my ability to stand with God’s providence, grace and direction?”Whereas November is principally remembered as America’s Thanksgiving month, an accounting of God’s richest blessings to us, October gives us cause to remember another impacting person of distinction and faith. Martin Luther has been considered one of the greatest difference-makers in Western Civilization. Decrying the ills of religion gone bad in the early 1500s, Luther led the way for other reformers to emphasize dependence upon God and the Holy Scriptures. Wedged right between the months of October and November is November 1st, All Saints Day. We especially remember the dear ones in our lives, both past and present, who in greatest devotions to us have impacted us profoundly. It seems so appropriate that we would move from October’s Reformation, a re-dedication to God and the Bible, into November’s Thanksgiving by remembering those who have impressed upon us the greatest of blessings, the saints of our lives. I think all of us can point to amazing people who espoused faith and reverence to God despite their respective worlds being turned upside down. Luther was a fugitive for speaking so boldly against the Holy Roman Catholic Church. There was a price on his head. He needed to hide out in the Wartburg Castle while tensions eased in Germany and beyond. And we all know of Ford’s Theater in Washington DC… how but weeks after the end of the Civil War… Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Lincoln’s perseverance and leadership during the gravest years of American history cost him his life. The question is begged: Who are the saints of your appreciation? How is it that they loved you, taught you and sacrificed for you so that you ARE the person you are today? Have you taken the time, made the effort, to tell them how much you appreciate them? Is your life a testament to their impact upon you? Recently on Tuesday evenings, many of us have been in Zoom Bible Study considering what Jesus deemed to be the greatest law of the Old Testament. Jesus would remark to the religious of His day that ALL of the Levitical laws rested on Deuteronomy 6, verse 4: “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your mind, with all of your strength and with all of your soul.” In Matthew 22, Jesus would go on to say that a second great commandment is to love neighbors as ourselves. Interesting isn’t it, that in both instances, in both of the greatest commandments,  Jesus is calling us to look beyond ourselves,  beyond our egos, beyond our selfish ambitions,  to God  first of all and then to those created in God’s image,  others!   Indeed!Maybe the greatest of sins IS to have a thankless heart! As we consider Luther and Lincoln for instance, as we are mindful of those incredible people who have impacted us so richly, let us from the heart give thanks. Tell those around you that you love them. Do something (that costs you a bit) for someone else who CANNOT repay you. Show your love for God in a love for others. Those you help will be better for it. You will be better for it! And there is good likelihood in the sacrifices you make that YOU will be considered a saint by those you help! It was Mother Teresa who said that we change the world not by doing great things but by doing small things, good deeds from the heart that will prove to be great in helping others. Let us like Luther and Lincoln be world-changers! Let us be people of Thanksgiving and praise!  My how we are blessed!Pastor Mike Lemke

AUGUST 2021

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends, You know the expression, “time flies!” As we get older, time seems to evaporate! Remember when we were in school when Memorial Day meant the beginning of summer vacation? Remember how welcomed, and how long, summer seemed to be? And here we are at the beginning of August! Where has the YEAR gone?I don’t know too much about country music. When I was in high school, many, many reunions ago, I had an aversion to the music that scarred the mid to late 1970s. What in the world was disco? None of my friends, from suburbia Denver, listened to country music. Consequently, neither did I! But even to this day, more open-minded about the genre, I STILL believe that each country western song is entirely about the fellow or the gal on the bar stool, jilted by lost love and drowning sorrows in yet another round of brew!I could be wrong. It would not be the first time!Regardless, the question is begged: where do you go when you are jilted? Where do you go when you’re kicked in the gut by that unexpected happening, that thing said, that terrible disappointment? You don’t have to look too far to realize that some people turn to booze. Some people go to their refrigerators. Other smoke pack after pack while yet others try to find answers and solace in the arms of someone who might love them.I used to listen to a lot of music. I knew the songs on the radio and I could tell you a little bit about the groups and the histories of the artists. Then disco gave way to punk rock. Punk rock gave way to the 1990s and frankly, I quit listening to the radio altogether. If I were to watch the Grammys these days, there is good likelihood I would not know the Song of the Year nor the person who sang it. But I suspect that the song known especially by a younger generation STILL resonates because it speaks of comfort or joy or an answer to the curveballs that life throws at us.Where do you go when your world is rocked upside down? To self-help books? To the Corvette dealership? To the “cheatin” side of town? Do you throw yourself into an exercise program or maybe, just maybe, you take one too many pills?As predictable as the Song of the Year having a solution or rebuke against the ills of the world is the reliability of God’s sacred Scriptures. The Bible has been talked about by those over the eons in so many different ways. Some see it as ONLY an Old and New Testament. Others a moral code of “DO THIS’ or “DO THAT!” There are those who read the Scriptures as merely the greatest literary work of Western Civilization, while many pick and choose verses out of it (context or not) to suit their own agendas and arguments.The living God, speaking to us in His living word, hopes that the Bible is for us a lighthouse in the darkest of nights, the stormiest of seas and the strongest of winds. God is not nearly as distant as we think Him to be some of the time. At this very moment, even as you are reading this newsletter piece, God wants you to know that He exists, that He cares and that He is more than willing to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.  Can you feel God’s loving arms, holding you in the craziness that is the world?     Do you hear His voice  in the howling,  in the drowning of the darkest and the  scariest  of nights? Because God is there! Because God is calling. Because God wants you to trust that He truly is as good and as gracious, as loving and as faithful as He is reported to be.Where do you go when friends seem to vanish? When what you have counted on disintegrates? Where do you go when the world has gone away?Some people criticize the Bible for being whimsical, a storybook of cutesy stories, fables at best. Christian denominations of today argue with each other about how literal we are to take the Scriptures. And you have to admit, many of the stories of the Bible seem pretty far-fetched. And yet, if God truly IS God, how hard is it for God to do the things reported in His book EXACTLY the way  they are detailed? I have said over the many years that I’ve been with you as Pastor at Cross of Glory, God can do exactly what God wants to do. Regardless of whether I approve of it, or believe it, God can… and does… what God wants to do without my okay or understanding (How dare Him, huh? Haha!). Maybe the greatest of miracles has absolutely nothing to do with turning rocks into bread or splitting apart Red Seas. Maybe God’s greatest miracle is that in spite of ourselves, in spite of the many times we insist, we demand, to be our own gods, to have it OUR ways and OUR ways alone, God doesn’t give up on us! God at this VERY moment is reaching out to you, to us, in love.I am intrigued by the reporting of angels in the Bible. Hebrews 13 says that there are angels among us… and I believe it! In retrospect, as I truly have thought about astonishing situations of reconciliation and healing, of hope and of impact, I conclude angels were present doing God’s thing. In the Bible, some angels look like ordinary people while others have wings and great singing voices. There are the angels that walk and those that fly. What blows me away about the many instances reported in the Bible about angel appearances is that those who encounter them don’t seem overly shocked that they are present! They kind of take them in stride. I don’t know about you, but if one of God’s angels, appeared to me and then disappeared in my midst, winged and all, I would probably have a heart attack! It’s no wonder, in conjunction with angel appearances, regardless of the message or the purpose they bring to any situation, that they always seem to say the same thing when they first show up! Angels ALWAYS begin their times with us with the strong words, “Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid!”And that’s what I leave you with today. The Scriptures have so many verses of comfort and promise in them. A mighty fortress IS our God… a sword and shield victorious! Believe it! Trust it! Live it! When you are frightened, when you are deflated, when you feel hopeless and friendless, when you are tempted, when you feel alone, God is especially close, willing and wanting to help. He IS a lighthouse! He IS a bridge over troubled waters. He is steady, sure, and certain.”Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.”Get up off of your bar stool! Forget about the love that jilted you. Embrace THE love that promises never to fail nor forsake you. May the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus the Lord! Amen!PS: God, please forgive those who invented disco. Amen. God’s Peace and Joy!Pastor Mike Lemke

JULY 2021

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends, There was a time, say 40 years ago, that I prided myself in knowing the songs that came on the radio and their respective singers. I could name that tune but in a few notes! And then something happened as I moved from the 1980s into the 1990s! I wonder if it’s the same with every passing generation. The songs that I heard in the 1990s were not in my estimation songs at all! And rap music! Albeit supposedly popular with young people of today, I just as soon be berated in a barrage of sharp words coming fast and furious at me than to listen to even a snippet of today’s rap music.And movies? My friends and I were of common mind when it came to must-see films. Even now, regardless of a person’s age, I figure some movies must be seen! We all have our favorites. My wife and I are especially fond of The Wizard of Oz and don’t get people that choose not to watch it! The Sound of Music ranks up there. Perhaps my favorite movie of all time is Dead Poets Society. “Carpe Diem, boys, carpe diem!” I highly recommend it.Not that long ago, while at my mom’s home, my family sat around the table and shared our favorite movies. My brother-in-law Steve Vannoy spoke of the Shawshank Redemption. I knew that that would get a rise out of my brother Steve. My brother Steve (it gets confusing in my family when it comes to the numerous Steves and Barbs we have)… my brother Steve has long said that he has little patience with the Shawshank Redemption. As many times as it is rerunning on dozens of television channels during the course of a week, he claims he can tune in but for a moment and see Morgan Freeman and Timothy Robbins sitting in the cafeteria of the prison talking. My brother figures there is no redeeming value nor entertainment in just sitting around chatting.I think my brother needs to get on board with the Shawshank Redemption. If you have not seen the film, you should! Regardless of what my brother thinks, believe it or not, there are scenes in the movie OUTSIDE the cafeteria! One particularly powerful exchange between Red, Morgan Freeman’s character, and Andy, Timothy Robbins character occurs in the prison courtyard. Andy tells Red (both men incarcerated for decades on murder charges), how he longs for the day he would be free from prison life. Red, taken aback, asks pointedly, “What are you talking about?” Andy replies, “I’m talking about… hope” to which Red barks back, “Don’t you go talking about hope in this place! Hope is a dangerous thing. It can drive a man insane.”I reminded of the exchange between the Apostle Paul and the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. Early followers of Jesus were fighting with one another claiming THEIR God-given gift to be better than another’s. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter of the Bible, contends that love is the most important of God-given gifts; that if there is a gift that especially ought to be sought it should definitely be love. Paul ends 1 Corinthians 13 with the memorable verse, “So faith, hope, love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love!”Paul is right of course. Love OUGHT to be the trademark of the Christian… but let’s not forget about the power and the promise of both faith and hope. As I’ve gotten older, my perspectives have changed on a lot of different subjects. It is one thing to talk about songs or films. It is a completely other thing to talk about desires and wants. I remember when I  was  in elementary school being asked,  “If you had three wishes, what would they be?” Of course  (and I still to this day contend it is  the best of answers),  one of my wishes then and now would be to have an unlimited number of wishes! I figure that having umpteen trillion wishes in my pocket, desires that could be called upon at any moment, would be better than to choose JUST SOMETHING that I wanted. As I’ve gotten older, as I have been a pastor now for going on four decades, I wish I had those desires in my back pocket. I wish over the years I could have wished someone’s situation to be so very different. I wish over the years, I could have instilled in others a strong sense of… hope… in whatever trial they were experiencing.I am fond of the JD Salinger book, Catcher in the Rye. I know it is controversial and was even pulled from a number of libraries by some who probably had not read the book but who surmised they knew what was written. Salinger writes playfully. In my opinion, he captures both the innocence and naivety of youth, along with the optimism, the hope, that oftentimes is lost as people get older. Salinger’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, in his desire to be MORE for others muses: “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”Maybe in part, that’s why I wanted to be a pastor. I wanted to help others. I wanted to use the gifts that God gave me to make someone else’s lot in life a bit easier. I wanted to be a catcher in the rye. As I look back over the years, I know that at times I have been able to instill hope in dark places. I thank God for those times. I also know, sadly, that I was not able in any number of situations to bring the light, the encouragement and the life that I had hoped to others. Ultimately, I realize that THE catcher in the rye, HOPE itself, is Jesus the Christ. While even my best efforts fall short at times, Jesus, the Light of the World, never fails nor forsakes us. He catches us as we’re going off cliffs! He took on Sin, Death and the Devil and WON, this for us! Consequently, the Apostle Paul is right when he writes in Romans 5:5, “And hope does not disappoint because of the love that has been poured out for us through Jesus Christ.”

Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption models hope against incredible odds and in the darkest of places. He speaks affectionately of Alexander Dumas’s book, The Count of Monte Cristo. Andy figures that prison inmates would like a story about one who breaks out of confinement! It was Alexander Dumas who wrote the following about hope: “There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.”

My favorite word in Spanish is “Corazon.” It means “heart,” and generally, it bespeaks the passion, the fire and the joy of Mexican culture and people. But a close second word I love in the language is “Esperanza.” Esperanza is translated both as “hope” AND as “waiting.” The understanding, the expectation, is that in esperanza… even in waiting… there is hope. May it be said of us, followers of Jesus, that we share faith, hope, and love in all we do and say, trusting that Jesus Himself, The Catcher in the Rye, instills his hope in others even THROUGH us.

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” We have every reason this day, to rejoice! There was a Shawshank Redemption. There is OUR redemption.

Pastor Mike Lemke

JUNE 2021

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

I pray you have been well and that the hope and promise of Emmanuel being with you empowers you every day! Over these last weeks, there has been a building sense, an ongoing feeling, that the pandemic truly is lessening and that a return to normalcy might be around the corner. Hallelujah! When your Church Council decided to suspend indoor church activities on March 18, 2020, we NEVER could have imagined being outside our building for over a year! Returning to a semblance of normalcy would be welcomed indeed, right? Thank you for hanging in there Cross of Glory! Thank you for continuing to BE the church…to BE Cross of Glory…regardless of where…or how…we worship.

With each passing week since opening our doors on Easter, more and more worshippers have ventured back into our sanctuary. People genuinely have rejoiced to see one another in person while returning “home.” For the longest while, I have wanted to write a newsletter article about Enrique, a family friend in Puerto Vallarta. It seems fitting to do so now as we are finding both relief and joy in coming back “home” to our little church with the big heart.

Mom and Dad bought our Puerto Vallarta, Los Tules timeshare in February of 1992. Those of you who have gone to timeshare presentations know the predictable scenario. Promising incentives, cash or discounts on area attractions, timeshare sellers lure prospective buyers into “promised” 90-minute tours of a property. Rarely is the 90-minute time frame respected…however, in our case…90 minutes was not necessary! Lucy, our Los Tules timeshare seller promised us a “free” breakfast while she lauded the amenities of the resort. The beauty of Puerto Vallarta, the resort’s proximity to the Pacific and February’s Mexico climate made for an easy sale. Dad would joke over the years that our “free” Los Tules breakfast would, in reality, become the most “expensive” breakfast he had ever had! Mom and Dad signed the timeshare paperwork within two hours of our departure back to Denver a week after our first trip to PV. Los Tules became our “home” away from “home.”

Perhaps my wife Barb says it best: “Whenever we land in PV, stress flies out the window.” The cares of Denver are left behind some 1700 miles away. Upon stepping off the plane, we smell…as well as feel…the mild humidity. And all of us size up the dear Mexicans who greet and help us through the airport, not wishing to waste our first “Hola” (Hello) of the trip to just anybody.

We probably met Enrique the first 1992 morning we were in Vallarta. We did not know his name was Enrique. It would be a few years later that our Spanish was good enough…and his English good enough…for us to engage in simple conversation…to learn each other’s names and to learn a little bit about each other. For the first few years in Puerto Vallarta, we only knew Enrique as “The Muffin Man.” Then, 16-year-old, Enrique (now 45), would walk the beach with muffins in hand or even upon his head! Coconut banana muffins, chocolate or orange ones, some with nuts, others with blueberries. Enrique would walk the beach in the early morning hours of each glorious PV day, selling his muffins to tourists at resorts like Los Tules. At 50 cents of muffin, he would sell out in a hurry! He would then make his way to the PV highway a few blocks away where his mom had more warm, baked muffins waiting in the car she drove parallel to the beach. Enrique would return to the beach, his basket replenished with muffins as he would take up the shout that has been in my mind…and in my heart…ever since: “Muffin Man! How many muffins?”

I can’t tell you the number of Puerto Vallarta mornings over the decades that we have been in our condo, wiping the sleep from our eyes, maybe putting together a puzzle or simply laughing with relatives on the patio when out of the blue, we would hear Enrique’s unmistakable cry, “Muffin Man! How many muffins?” Mom, Mary Lemke, certainly to this day, MUST be Enrique’s greatest supporter! Upon hearing his voice, REGARDLESS of the breakfast we had had that morning, Mom inevitably races to her purse to grab pesos for muffins! At age 52 in 1992, Mom could make it to her purse…and then the beach…to greet Enrique in less than 2 minutes. I can assure you, that at age 81 in 2021, in her excitement to see Enrique, to buy his delicious muffins and to share muffins with all those who have traveled with us…Mom STILL can make it to her purse…and Enrique…within 2 minutes time!

You understand, some things are necessary. You understand that some things define “home” and the feeling of belonging, of beautiful times CONTINUING TO SPEND because of precious memories. I have seen the sun set on the Pacific a hundred times. I have walked miles of beach in the cool of the morning. I can close my eyes…regardless of where I am…and in my mind and heart I can instantly hear the ocean waves kissing the beach. And I am at peace, I am with family, I am at home when I hear Enrique’s cry with enthusiasm, with joy, “Muffin Man! How many muffins?”

I would like to think that when I eventually get home to heaven, that Enrique, with his mom waiting in the wings, has a coconut banana muffin waiting for me. It would be tremendous to hear Jesus say, “Well done good and faithful servant,” but honestly…  I think I would prefer hearing, “Muffin Man! How many muffins?”

And with that in mind, it is easy to understand why those returning to Cross of Glory, to their, our, church home, experience such joy and thanksgiving! Since the pandemic began, I have been in the building weekly, particularly sorting through mail. I have taken for granted being in our building, and now, with the biggest of smiles on my face, I see our Cross of Glory friends embracing one another in love, in person. We trust that as the virus is behind us, as more and more people are vaccinated, that more and more hugs at church are to be expected and experienced. How wonderful to be…returning back… “home.”

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. Click your ruby slippers together three times and repeat aloud, “There’s no place like home!” Realize the power and the joy of being with precious family members and friends in the sanctity and love of our fellowship. Welcome back to the building Cross of Glory! Bienvenidos Cruz de Gloria! Welcome back…home.

On Pentecost Sunday, May 23, we celebrated the baptism of Hailey Ann Wildman and Natalie Sophia Rene Wildman. Hailey is the daughter of Naomi and Phil Wildman and Natalie is the daughter of Julie Blakely and Phil Wildman.  Samantha Blakely is the sponsor of Hailey and Natalie. We rejoice with these families as we welcome the newest members of Cross of Glory Lutheran Church.

 

Pastor Mike Lemke

MAY 2021

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

April showers bring May flowers! I am writing you from my living room as I am enjoying the gentle rain falling outside my window. I love days like these. They seem to slow us down.

Having said that, I hope the gentle rain does not turn into inches of white snow. I am pretty much done with winter. When my nephew Trent and his family visited us from Iowa a little over a month ago, he came on the Friday before one of Denver’s most historic snowfalls. You recall the two feet of snow we had in the Mile High City! I was thankful that Trent was able to help me shovel! But oddly enough, you also remember that within about a week, most of the snow was gone! Such is the craziness of Denver!  Trent could not believe it.

Then again, Trent and his two small boys could not believe the wonder of our Denver Zoo! On the tail end of Denver’s historic snowfall, Barb and I went with Trent’s family to the Zoo. For those living outside of Denver in small communities such as where Trent lives in Iowa, the Zoo is a treat indeed! It was fun experiencing the Zoo through the eyes and the hearts of Trent’s two young boys. The Friday afternoon we spent there, made me think of some pertinent church connections. Let me explain.

Barb and I have been long time Denver Zoo members but last year, especially given the challenges of the virus, we decided to upscale our membership. We bought a membership that allows us to bring in more guests to the Zoo than in previous years. We wanted to be all the more supportive of the zoo, its keepers and its animals as Covid compromised attendance and finances. The benefit of an upscale membership allowed Barb and me to bring Trent and family to the zoo without added expense…a plus for all!

Upon entering the Zoo, Trent’s boys ran to the first of the exhibits, the magnificent lion’s den. Over the course of the next two hours, Harrison and Will were challenged to tell us WHICH of the exhibits they liked the most! Harrison thought he liked the bears best until he saw the rhinos. Will thought the condor, with a wingspan bigger than he, was the greatest thing ever! The boys relished the beauty, the power, the size, and the purpose of various animals during our Zoo visit.

Barb, Trent and I relished watching the excitement of the boys. Because we walked just under two miles in two hours at the Zoo, we relished sitting places along the way. The salty pretzels with mustard (no relish) upon them were welcomed refreshment. We enjoyed easy conversation along the way… and the sunshine on our faces made us feel good inside.

What in the world does this have to do with church? Quite a few things actually! Let me make about ten connections. Let us see if you agree.

  1. When we give, we get back! How wonderful that our zoo membership allowed us to invite others into the fun and the experience without added expense. When we share offerings at church, all of us benefit. We enjoy greater fellowship with others..and our giving even expands the scope of our experience.
  2. Without realizing it, we exercised as we walked around the zoo. When we go to church, as we navigate ministry, we reap spiritual benefits merely by rubbing shoulders with others, discussing possible ways we can help the communityBeing in a church fellowship allows us exposure to a variety of diverse and interesting people. Just about the time we think we appreciate so and so because of his or her specialness, we are challenged all the more to appreciate someone else in the fellowship who touches us profoundly.
    1.  When Harrison and Will appreciated the tiger because of its sleek beauty and power and the giraffe because of its functionality and care for its young, they could not help but think of the imagination and attention of a Creator. The Zoo helps us marvel at God’s creativity and ability. Church lessons drive us to appreciate God all the more also.
    2. Barb and I really enjoyed conversation with Trent as we meandered around the Zoo. Some people contend they do not need church to experience God. What they fail to realize is they miss out on the opportunity to be changed, inspired, taught, and challenged by those made in God’s image when they choose NOT to regularly attend Sunday worship.
    3. 6. Feeling the sun on your face every so often, especially given the shadow cast by Covid ought to be welcomed and embraced. We are slowly moving back into the building at Cross of Glory. I pray that you are increasingly more open to the idea of returning to church, getting out into the sun, rather than choosing to remain in pajamas on Sunday mornings!
    4. Jesus calls us to be lights in a dark world. He tells us that we are the salt of the earth if we are His disciples. A pretzel with mustard is awesome. A salty pretzel, one that brings a zing is even better. Zing somebody today because you choose to spice up their life!
    5. 8.  A bench at the Zoo was a welcomed sight indeed! There is reason why our worship space is called “sanctuary.” As you come to church, as you choose to leave the rat race of the world behind you for an hour or two, you may very well find the solace, the rest, that you need.
    6. Getting outside of yourself, doing something for somebody else, ironically, helps…YOU!!! Barb and I thought we were doing the Iowa crew a service by taking them to the Zoo. Do you know how many times over the course of this last month Barb and I have talked about how precious that Zoo time was for US? They will know we are Christians by our love. Getting outside yourself, serving others, ironically, strengthens and nurtures…YOU!!!
    7. We realized in our Zoo experience that many of the beautiful creatures we appreciated are still endangered. Because of awareness and the efforts of good-hearted people over the decades, many species have been saved. Church warns us about the danger of self-centeredness at the expense of others. We have an opportunity as church to save so many disenfranchised and hurt people if we but care to choose TODAY to make a difference, to check ego at the door and actually do something for somebody else.
  3. And you thought I only appreciated Trent coming to Denver to help me shovel! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Our Zoo experience was beautiful for a myriad of reasons.

Pastor Mike Lemke

January 2021

Happy New Year Cross of Glory!

Or will it be?

I think we can all agree that we are glad 2020 is behind us. Who could have imagined at this time last year that we would have had 300,000 deaths in the United States alone because of the pandemic?

How we hope that 2021 will be a much, much better year for us…and for all!

I was talking to a pastor friend of mine recently. He is convinced that given the events of these last years that Jesus will be showing up in the clouds ANY day now. Pointing to the virus, the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn last week, the rise of natural disasters and unrest in our country and in the world, my pastor friend believes the “end” is near. He believes that Jesus’ Second Coming is imminent, and that God will save humanity before it annihilates itself in the war to end all wars, Armageddon.

I wonder how many people believe he is right. 2020 DID give reasons for us to believe the “end” is near. How could we not think that 2020 calamities, many and far reaching, deadly and destructive suggest otherwise? Remember the Australian bushfires and wildfires in the Western United States including Colorado? What of the devastating floods in Indonesia that forced almost 400,000 people to flee their homes? Hundreds of billions of desert locusts attacked East Africa and South Asia in February 2020. Swarms containing 200 billion locusts were recorded in Kenya engulfing as much food as 84 million can eat in a day! We learned of volcano eruptions in Indonesia, the Philippines and even last week, Hawaii. Yes indeed, maybe Jesus’ prophecies concerning the end times ARE being fulfilled!

Certainly, these days, there is an unmatched apathy concerning God and the Church in the United States and in much of the world. We figure that our answers to concerning times and problems can be found in the sciences and in emerging technologies that make God almost obsolete…if not altogether ridiculous.

Maybe we ought to sell our businesses and sit on hillsides, picnic baskets in hand and wait for the trumpet sound and archangel’s call heralding Christ’s return!

Then again, I wonder how many people OVER THE CENTURIES have believed that Jesus’ Second Coming was truly right around the corner.

I think of those poor souls who lived in Europe in 1347 and 1348. The Bubonic Plague, also known as the Black Death, the Pestilence and the Great Mortality was the deadliest pandemic recorded in human history. The Black Death resulted in the deaths of up to 75 to 200 MILLION people in Eurasia and North Africa, an estimated 30% to 60% of Europe’s population.

Or consider the cost of human life during World War II. Other wars may have been more lethal but lack credible records. 60 to 80 million people died between 1939 and 1945. 21 to 25 million of the deaths were military, the remainder civilian. Acts of genocide contributed significantly to the war’s death toll. Germany’s campaign extermination against the Jews, slaves, Roma, homosexuals, German dissidents, and the disabled claimed an estimated 11 million lives.

You know of the ongoing debate concerning Global Warming. And when it comes to believing in the INCREASE of natural disasters, some argue that natural calamities have ALWAYS been as lethal and destructive…that we believe them to be more problematic today because they are REPORTED more frequently with 24/7 news coverages.

Maybe people of all times and places, experiencing the hardest of times, the gravest of circumstances and the worsts of worries have believed Jesus’ return to be…any day.

My wife Barb and I know a dear lady who is at her wits end with her daughter.  The daughter is “plagued” with an addiction to pain meds.  Addiction has caused the daughter to lie and steal.  She has been in and out of jail.  Just recently, the dear lady, our friend, “took in” her daughter once again, fearing the worst but unable to say “No.”  Within a day, the daughter had stolen the family car and sold it to conceivably “fund” her addiction.  Our friend is heartsick, believing the daughter will choose the cold and hunger of snowy January over responsible decisions.  Our friend is afraid the daughter will prostitute herself and/or choose homelessness, the hospital or prison over home and health.  And yes…our dear friend…this dear lady…just like my pastor friend of the other day… remarked…”Maybe Jesus IS around the corner.”

All Barb and I can tell her is…”Yes, indeed…Jesus IS around the corner.  Jesus IS ALWAYS around the corner.  Jesus IS the corner…stone.  Jesus IS Emmanuel…God Forever With Us.”  THANKS BE TO GOD!

I don’t know whether we are living in the end times or not.  We can all point to times when things have seemed impossible to recover FROM.  Regardless, with reliance on God, with the strength afforded us in the Scriptures and with the support of our friends at church, we are to look for Jesus in ALL circumstances.  We are to keep the faith.

We will indeed hope that 2021 is a much better year generally than was 2020.Regardless, let us trust that God STILL IS GOD…adamant about loving us andhoping that we, in thanksgiving, help 2021 be better for our neighbors.

Martin Luther was once asked what he would do if he knew that Jesus was coming back to earth that afternoon.  Luther paused for a moment and then thoughtfully responded, “I would do what I had intended on doing, namely, planting a tree.”  In essence, Luther was saying what he believed to be true ABOUT God…ABOUT the surety and promise of Luther’s favorite Psalm, “God is a very present help in times of trouble…even…a mighty fortress.”  Luther was saying that we should not have to change dramatically HOW we are living today…knowing that Jesus will be here the next moment. We should live EACH day believing in the grace of God…that our lives should reflect EACH day our thankfulness FOR God’s grace…and that it does not matter WHEN the Second Coming takes place.

Happy New Year Cross of Glory!
Pastor Mike Lemke

 With deep appreciation, we can report that Cross of Glory financially fared better THIS year, yes, THIS pandemic year, than in the last years of our ministry! Thank you to the many in our congregation who consistently and sacrificially sent offerings to the church. Dear ones OUTSIDE of our congregation, technically not members, who believing in our Mission, supported us financially in 2020 with approximately HALF our income! Our community users, Alanon and Gambler Anonymous groups shared financial helps with us albeit displaced from our building given the virus!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thanks be to God for you!  Please continue to give generously in 2021.  Thank you!

 

DECEMBER 2020

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

I suppose I could take the time to look at any number of books I have in my home library on the subject of Christmas. I could try to better understand why Christians, historians and/or theologians set the date for Jesus’ birth on December 25th. I know that, in part, Christmas was dated in conjunction with a celebrated pagan festivity. I have heard that Christmas was determined as December 25th because of its close proximity to the darkest day of the year, December 21st, the winter solstice. It makes sense to me that whoever set the date for Christmas believed that God’s brilliant Light (Jesus Christ is the Light of the World) would especially appear in the darkest of times. Yes, I could share with you a lengthy, probably boring, explanation of how December 25th was determined as the date for Christmas.

But on this chilly December morning, I am content to sit on my living room couch with my two puppies, Chase and Dodge, on my lap. I have turned on my gas fireplace. Skies outside look gray… and snow-like. Maybe, before long, I will get a cup of coffee from the kitchen. Today, I want to write about Christmas more from my heart than from my head.

Growing up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was such a blessing! ALL of my relatives were within 30 minutes of our modest home on Spring Avenue. My best friends were within two blocks away! Summers lasted forever…but winters there were probably the most memorable. Snow began to fly around Halloween…staying til Easter! I can still smell Mom’s turkey baking in the oven as I would wake up, home from school, on those celebrated Thanksgiving mornings. And later on that day, as darkness fell on Sioux Falls, the Christmas season was upon the city as the KELO Holiday tower was lit through New Year’s.

In retrospect, in reality, the KELO holiday tower (still around today) was no more than four or five stories tall. But when you’re a kid, EVERYTHING seems so much larger! My heart warmed when I saw that colorfully-lit KELO Holiday tower. The most precious time of the year had come! Hot chocolate and sledding down the driveway! Warm, woolen mittens and ice skating (kind-of) at the city park not far from our home! And of course, with each passing December day, Santa and Christmas Eve loomed larger! Visions of sugar plums? Heck no! I was holding out for Rock’em Sock’em robots or Hot Wheels tracks and cars!

Christmas Eve is still, in both my mind and my heart, the most magical night of the entire year!

For as often as my family went to church, I cannot recall going to church on Christmas Eve NOR Christmas Day in Sioux Falls! Maybe Santa’s elves, Mom and Dad, needed a reprieve. Maybe even HAD I BEEN IN A PEW on Christmas, I would have been thinking a lot more about getting back to my GI Joe or Batman cape. It was only after my family moved to Denver in 1972, and our association with Pastor Del Grauerholz and the Atonement Lutheran Church family, that Christmas Eve worship became indelibly holy and Jesus-centered for me; FOREVER memorable indeed. I really heard, and internalized, the celestial music and lines of beloved Christmas carols. Those familiar Bible words that Linus recited in the Peanuts Christmas special, “For unto YOU is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord,” REGISTERED with…me!    I joined Dr. Seuss’ Grinch in concluding that year: “’Christmas came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!’ The Grinch puzzled and puzzled til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. ‘What if Christmas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a…store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?'”

Christmas has been talked about millions of times by people of every place and custom. It is truly more than the sum of its parts. Celebrated as both a secular and sacred holiday (holy-day), it STILL is about a baby born among the straw and stink of a stable. It is about God making promises…AND keeping every single one of them! At Christmas, whether it happened on December 25th or not, God entered our world as one of us. Able to empathize with our weaknesses…just as we are in every respect (save sin)…Jesus UNDERSTANDS! He points us to God’s amazing grace and love. Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, makes it possible for us to celebrate His possibilities EACH day. Regardless of how dark the world feels, how cobwebbie your stable…regardless of how…beaten… you feel about yourself and/or your circumstance, Christmas bespeaks hope and life to you! Of course, there would be a Christmas star over the manger! Santa Claus may be coming to town…but Jesus Christ is going to shine in and through your city…in and through your life! Jesus came not only to outcast shepherds in a field. Jesus Christ came to Bethlehem to be with…YOU! To be your friend. To lighten your load. To forgive your sins. To grace you with his forever Emmanuel presence.

Well, Chase seems as content to be on my living room couch as I am this morning! He is lying on his back, his eyes closed with feet (paws) reaching for heaven! Books about Christmas from my library will have to wait this day. I would rather pull Christmas lessons out of my heart than off a shelf anyway. When I get a little more energy, when I am able to move Chase and Dodge off my lap (without upsetting them too much), maybe I can join the shepherds from the Christmas story who raced from the manger to tell EVERYONE the miracle they beheld. After all, it really is up to us to BE the Christmas story for those around us…to go tell it on the mountain. Don’t worry about what’s ahead. You do not travel alone. Grab the baby’s hand. Grab the hand of a friend of yours from church. Leave the Christmas star cookies and fudge behind for a time. December 25th or not, Christmas is about YOU believing, living and speaking hope, promise and light to yourself and others.

Joy to the world! Joy…to YOU! Merry Christmas!

Pastor Mike Lemke

WORSHIP AT CROSS OF GLORY

This year has been different indeed!  No one would have guessed last March when we decided to suspend our worship times in our building that come Christmas, we would STILL be in our homes on Sunday morning.  Thank you for your embracing the Zoom technology as we have had astounding attendance for both Sunday services and Tuesday evening Bible studies!  And yet, we have missed some activities that we certainly would have enjoyed had we been in our sanctuary.  We did not have our Christmas Cantata for instance.  With the delay in Zoom from household to household, singing together aloud and in unison has been challenging.  We could not host our Sunday night Advent observances at Cross of Glory.  In short, as we approach 4 PM Christmas Eve and 10 AM Christmas Day worship services this year, let us think about some special touches.  Who would like to sing a solo?  Would anyone care to lead a Children’s sermon?  How about playing an instrument for us?  Think outside the box!  Visit with Mary Lemke or Pastor Mike about your suggested volunteering!  Thank you!  I know all at Cross of Glory would enjoy and appreciate your special participation!

NOVEMBER 2020

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

I pray you are doing well and that the concerns of this weird time are not dashing your optimism for better times ahead.

I wonder if the thoughts have been the same over the decades. I wonder if people of bygone times have ALWAYS wondered if the future will be brighter.

Today at Denver’s Fort Logan National Cemetery, I did the funeral service of a woman who lived to be 104 years old! Wow, right? And yet, she was still younger than the funeral I did years ago for Aurora’s oldest citizen to date, 106-year-old Priscilla! If I were to ask you to grab a pad and pencil and in the next 3 minutes jot down what you think to be the 10 most important events of the last 100 years, what would you write?

Of course, there really is no right or wrong answers. Everything is purely subjective… but I suspect that some of you might have mentioned Kitty Hawk and the Wright brothers, the Stock Market crash of 1929 plunging America into the Great Depression, Dr. Jonas Salk and his polio vaccine, television, Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, the advent of the internet or September 11th, 2001.

Take a look at your list carefully. I am guessing that something pretty dramatic has happened. As you look at the most important considerations of the last 100 years, I am guessing that most of your points have much to do with your PERSONAL recollections as an American. If I were to ask people OUTSIDE the United States to do the same exercise, predictably, they would indicate the importance of events that impacted them personally in the countries of their origin. How many of you on your list had such important last century considerations as World War II, the atomic bomb, the Holocaust, the Cold War or the Berlin Wall coming down for instance?

Christianity calls us to look beyond ourselves, beyond our sinful, egocentric natures. Our faith calls us to value others at least as much as we value ourselves. Looking outside ourselves can be difficult and yet there are some amazing impactors in our lives who did just that. Prioritizing US over THEMSELVES, we might even call them saints of our experience.

November begins with All Saints Sunday. We especially remember those amazing people of the past who touched our lives profoundly and those giving ones who touch us profoundly today. Sacrificing much so that we can enjoy so very much, they lovingly gave of themselves so that we could be richly blessed.

As I am writing you this newsletter article, I have just left sacred Fort Logan National Cemetery. Typically, as I leave Fort Logan, I remember those in our congregation who are laid to rest here, oftentimes visiting their gravesites and praying a prayer of thanksgiving for them. With great fondness… and deepest appreciation… I remember our Cross of Glory saints Shirlee Mueller, Dennis Mayer, Barbara Jones, Mike McClune, Tim Storhaug, Edith Schwemmer, Bernard Schreiber, Wally Johnson and Bob Carlson’s wife, Kazuko (buried at sea). All impacted us so richly in our Cross of Glory ministry. And of course, we remember the dear saints of our church passing in 2020, Irmie Staley’s ashes being spread on, of course, a ski slope and Al Schober interred at Fairmount Cemetery.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the continued difference they make in our lives today!

We say it all the time in our Bible studies at church. Together, we marvel that so many of the so-called Biblical heroes were in reality not so unlike us. They too had their struggles and concerns, their fears and anxieties and their doubts and their questions. We come to understand that the greatness of these saints lies not so much in their being extraordinarily stellar as much as in their being surprisingly faithful! They defied the odds, in spite of themselves and circumstances, to do God’s work and consequently, positively impacted all around them.

We thank the Lord for the dear saints of our experience who loved us so very much that we in turn can have greater abilities to love others. As Christians, God calls and expects us to impact positively our surroundings and neighbors. Though we might not consider ourselves saints, there may very well be people of our acquaintance who would argue with us. They would contend that we have been the world to… and for… them and that they are richer because of us.

Martin Luther had it so right when he said we are both saints and sinners. As we wrestle with the shame and the embarrassment, the guilt and selfishness of our sins, let us glory in the cross of Christ and in Jesus’ blood and righteousness! Instead of being so egocentric as to focus ONLY on our sin, let us today step into the promise of God going before us and that He considers us, His kids, His saints! Thank the Lord for His constant faithfulness to us and His grace and forgiveness extended to us!

We know all too well of our sin. Let us consider, even relish our opportunity to be saints as well!

“When we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, there’s no more days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun!

God’s Peace and Joy today,for the next 100 years and for an eternity thereafter!

STEWARDSHIP

We thank God for the gift that Shelly Blakely has been to us as our Stewardship council person in 2020. Shelly took on our Shredding Event and our Yard Sale. She solicited your helps with the events and now that we move into November, given our annual Time, Talent and Treasure Drive, Shelly is soliciting your help once again.

We should all recognize our need to give God thanks. God is continually gracious to us and God gives us EVER so much. What we give back to God is in part an indication of our gratitude. Though the Scriptures suggest that Christians give a tenth of their income, a tithe to the church to support ministry inside and outside church buildings, sacrificial giving is truly encouraged. For some, giving 10% is extremely difficult. For others, it is not. In this years’ Time, Talent and Treasure Stewardship Drive, we pray that the gifts you choose to pledge to Cross of Glory stretch you so that we may help you and others all the more at church.

In the next couple of weeks, be looking for a mailing of a Time and Talent sheet and a Financial Pledge Card. Shelly invites you to prayerfully consider your gifts to our church. Please be sure to return your confidential 2021 pledges prior to Thanksgiving so that our Cross of Glory Budget Committee may present a suggested 2021 budget to your church council at its December Zoom council meeting. I, Shelly, Cross of Glory, we…and the others you will help…thank you ahead of time. What a gift you are to our ministry!  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

Pastor Mike Lemke

OCTOBER

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

Halloween is fast approaching! Lions, tigers and bears! Oh my! You all know the line from the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz.” 1939 was the year that “The Wizard of Oz” went up against “Gone with the Wind” for the best picture. Like it or not, “Gone with the Wind” nudged out Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion for the Academy award.  Lions, tigers and bears! Oh my!

I’m guessing that when you were younger you too were afraid of those flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz.” There are some things pretty universal in our culture. Those flying monkeys are agreed upon generally as absolutely horrifying by those who have lived to tell the tale! Evil has always been terrifying. Daring to consider things that are unusual, uncommon, or outright uncanny is scary! Monkeys don’t have wings! They can’t fly and they certainly can’t carry on their faces those devilish, dastardly grins! But nonetheless they scared us, didn’t they? Come on! You can admit it!

And what of angels? Sometimes in the Scriptures, we learn that angels have wings. Presumably, they can fly! How else could they have hovered over the shepherds when sharing word of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem? But there are also times in the Bible where angels DO NOT have wings. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us that we are to be constant in hospitality for “there are angels among us.” One gets the idea from Psalm 34 that the “angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him.” Presumably, there ARE guardian angels…maybe even walking among us and caring for us routinely in quiet, though spectacular ways.

Perhaps if we knew the reality of the many unusual, uncommon or uncanny ways that God comes to us in His great love for us, we would be frightened indeed!

I’m not lying, tiring or bearing it! Oh my!

There are some “givens” about angels. They certainly always are messengers of God’s workings. Sometimes their announcements are of grave concern. On other occasions, as though an angel’s presence is not surprising enough, angel’s words are astounding indeed, even relaying the impossible! Angels in the Scriptures speak of miraculous births! They hold lions’ mouths shut in dens of danger and they even keep Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from burning bonfires! Regardless of their form…or the purpose of their appearing…angels seem always to enter upon the scene with the same introductory words. They always begin their Biblical messages to dazed and dumbfounded disciples with the predictable line: “Do not be afraid!”

Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Sometimes words don’t find a place. We are so caught up in our anxieties, our stresses, our concerns, and questions that the last thing remotely possible for us to experience is peace and comfort, relief and assurance! The doctor says “cancer” and we do not hear the rest of the conversation. Our boss says, “Sorry I’ve got to let you go,” and we zone out. We receive that telephone call in the middle of the night, that 2 AM jolt from sleep and we fear the worst. Thoughts race through our minds at such scary occasions, confounding any understanding of the English language! Though angels tell us, “Don’t be afraid,” their words do not always find a place.

Who could have imagined 7 months ago that we would still be vacant from our church building, that we would be wearing masks in public wherever we went and that a virus, unusual, uncommon and uncanny would rock our world the way it has? With ANY uncertainty…when we are faced with foreboding futures or quizzical questions, we tend to look inward instead of upward. The Scarecrow had the brains to see him through the oddities and oppressions of Oz. The Tin Man had the heart to handle hard times and the Cowardly Lion had the courage to face, and even defeat, witches and worry. How well do we do in our perils and predicaments?

Romans 6 reminds us that when we were baptized in Christ Jesus, we were baptized into His death and consequent resurrection. We were buried with Jesus and raised with Him into greater life. Consequently, we have both the means and the motivations to prevail in our predicaments. We do not take on troubles with magical, ruby-red slippers. We do not have the munchkins cheering for us initially (never to show up again in the rest of the movie)! We all know the way to Kansas. We do not need a hot air balloon. For we know the Way, the Truth, and the Life…or should we say…that Jesus, who is the Way the Truth and the Life knows us! Jesus has already taken on the demons of the darkness. He has prevailed against the phantoms and he goes before us in fighting for our futures. Though the angels remind us not to be afraid, we truly do not have to be. The man behind the curtain, the great and powerful Oz, is none other than God Himself (and yes, we certainly should pay attention to him, haha!). God promises to take us home, to our heart’s content, not on broomsticks nor rainbows, but because He is, because He cares and because He cannot help but be true to His many caring promises to us.

I don’t know the history of Halloween. I spent last year’s Halloween in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and the traditions were very much the same. Business owners were passing out candy to small kids in costume as parents tried to keep pace with their little ones. It was a joyous time of giving AND receiving. There was little interest in actual ghosts and goblins. Instead, families came together in fun, fellowship, and fiesta. How wonderful against the backdrop of the unusual, uncommon, and uncanny to choose popcorn balls over balls of fire in a forest!

Though it is tempting to think of Halloween as a scary evening, how about if we try to think of it as “Hallowed Eve,” the night before All Saints Day? Certainly, that’s how Halloween got its start! In anticipation of the promises of November 1st, God’s loving embrace of all the saints, past AND present, in heaven OR still on Earth, Hallowed Eve had more to do with looking forward than looking backwards. Though the future can be scary indeed, we have lived through yesterday. With God’s help, we can face the challenges of not only tomorrow, but this afternoon. Given God’s love, we don’t have to worry about houses falling on us nor poisonous poppy fields. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in our physical bodies, our spiritual houses. And the poisons of this world? Poppycock! Jesus drank the poisonous cup so that WE are spared from its death sentence!

Let us continue to move through these pandemic months with arms locked with each other. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion were vigilant about lions, tigers and bears but don’t forget Toto! He was courageous for his friends in the forest! And those scary flying monkeys! You know! In the end of the movie, upon the melting of the wicked witch, the scary monkeys become even friends to Dorothy! They said, “Hail to Dorothy! The wicked witch is dead” and we say to Jesus, “Hail to you, Oh Christ! Sin, Death, and the Power of the Devil is dead to you, dead to us forever!

At His Last Supper, Jesus said to his friends that in the world they would have tribulation but that He had overcome the world. The same words of comfort and consolation come to us today. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE! Instead, we are citizens of Heaven and heirs to a lot more than Oz.

Lions, Tigers and Bears…or Father, Son and Holy Spirit. OH MY!!!

Pastor Mike Lemke

SEPTEMBER

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends!

I really don’t know the answer. I certainly have thought about the question for decades…and I wondered how the answer would positively impact the church…but truly, I still do not understand Denver’s fanatical love affair with the Broncos.

It was October, 1984. I was in the middle of my pastoral studies at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, STILL clinging to everything that reminded me of home. I remember the comfort I experienced in going to the Lutheran church I would attend in Dubuque regularly and seeing the green LBW hymnal in the pew rack. It was as though my home congregation, Atonement Lutheran Church, had Lewis and Clark back to the Midwest to find me lonely and needy in what seemed like a galaxy far, far away. Now on a Monday night in 1984, I sat by myself in Dubuque’s popular sports pub, clad in Bronco Orange and Blue amidst the Green and Yellow puke of outnumbering Green Bay Packer fans. At least this was before the gawdy and sad Cheesehead monstrosities Packer fans don even to this day. I arrived at the sports pub early to guarantee an exceptional seat in front of the big screen television (in 1984, not so big). I probably ordered my cheese curds as an appetizer in part to thwart off SOME inevitable Packer animosity. The Monday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers was about to begin…and Denver, to the glee of our Colorado ski resorts, was avalanched in an epic blizzard.

Oh, it did not keep my brother Steve from going to the game! I would have been right alongside him had I been in Denver! Since 1960, the inception year of the Broncos, ALL Denver Bronco home games have been sold out! Mile High Stadium (what’s this Empower Field nonsense all about these days?), MILE HIGH STADIUM, seating 76,000 fans, had in attendance that whiteout-blizzard Monday Night Football game 62,000 crazed, Denver Bronco enthusiasts, half of whom chose to stay until halftime!

The game was truly over in the first minute of play! Before I could eat half of my cheese curds, defensive backs Louis Wright and Steve Foley had scooped up two Green Bay fumbles, scoring touchdowns on both. Barefoot kicker (did you get that?), BAREFOOT KICKER Rich Karlis added the extra points and Denver was ahead 14 to zero (below). Knowing I was trying to hold my own in Dubuque against dumbfounded Green Bay Packer, Lambeau frozen tundra-ites, my brother Steve held out for the duration, knowing that if he could get to the Barrel Man, there was a chance he could get on national television and make my being homesick tolerable for an evening.

To this day, when I hear Denver Bronco stalwart fans, painting their faces (no, their bodies) orange and blue, weathering the “slings and arrows” of the Raiders and now the Chiefs and the ups and downs of better and worse Broncos seasons, argue about whether they are the greatest of Bronco enthusiasts, I simply ask them, “Were you at the Green Bay game?”

But getting back to point… What is it that is so very, very captivating about the Denver Broncos that would cause seemingly mentally-stabled people to…live their lives AROUND the Broncos…to dress up like leprechauns and pom poms, arrive hours before games to tailgate (and stay hours thereafter to decompress) while spending bookoo bucks on Broncos brats and beers and braving Bronco blizzards?

How can the church bottle some of that Mile-High magic and make it work to care for Jesus as much as it works to care for John Elway? People who think nothing of dropping $20 for a burger and a beverage…and another $20 for a parking space and program…complain about the church always asking for money as they dropkick a couple of bucks in the offering plate. Heaven forbid if a church service goes 5 minutes over an hour when sports enthusiasts see overtime to an already 3-hour-event as exciting. Truly, what is it about the Broncos that makes it all or nothing?

I’m being serious. Perhaps the Church would do well to ask those in love with their teams to articulate why they commit so much time, energy and expense to their passion. What benefits are being enjoyed in rooting for our Broncos, or in down seasons (like the last few of ours), AGAINST the Patriots? Can some of the answers translate into making the Church a greater priority if not… a must?

I’m not suggesting that we build a billion-dollar Superdome like the one Jerry Jones built in Dallas. “If you build it, they will come,” may have worked for “Field of Dreams,” but I’m a bit skeptical of it working equally as well for the typical American church of the 21st Century. We could get 1000 people to show up at church on a Saturday for a “Meet and Greet Time” with Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning, but we all know that after the autographs and selfies, there is as much chance of the 1000 showing up for worship the next morning as there is the Detroit Lions ever getting to a Super Bowl.

Perhaps in this time of pandemic, when we have more downtime to do some serious critical thinking, we should wonder primarily about the reasons behind the phenomenal growth of the Church particularly in the first decades of Christianity. Even amidst severe persecution, Christianity flourished. Jesus message to disciples was a hard sell (“Take up your cross and follow. Lose your life to find it. Prioritize others over yourself.”), yet thousands embraced the faith. Thousands were martyred in the first centuries of the Church! Let us never forget that in certain places in the world today, brothers and sisters in Christ are being killed for vowing allegiance to the saints (not the New Orleans ones).

I will be visiting with Mary Lemke (Mom), our Music and Worship chairperson at Cross of Glory, about gradually introducing some new components to our worship service. I am reading a book these days on possible reasons why the church grew amazingly fast and faithful in its earliest centuries. Instead of trying to promote Church growth today with gimmicks, perhaps we need to get back to basics. It was said of legendary coach Vince Lombardi that upon taking over the woeful Green Bay Packers (there they are again, the poor pukes), that in his first season with his new team, his opening words to Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer and the like were, “Men, this is a football!” Maybe we need to embrace simplicity and sincerity all the more at Cross of Glory and invite others “out of the cold, out of the storm” into the “warmth and welcome” of our home-field advantage.

Do not worry. I will not be suggesting dramatic changes to our worship format without your encouraging voices and eventual Church Council approval. I am working hard on my Spanish however these days, particularly with the help of my Puerto Vallarta friend Jesus (yes, as many of you know, his name REALLY IS JESUS!) in ZOOM teaching sessions, in the hope of eventually introducing a Spanish-speaking component to our ministry at Cross of Glory. I welcome your input and your discipleships as we root for Jesus and the well-being of his team for a dynasty of years to come. I know Mary Lemke would really appreciate your involvement on her Music and Worship…team.

The Denver Broncos last week announced that for its first home game against the Tennessee Titans on Monday, September 14th, there will be no fans in the stadium. Just as professional football wonders about how to bring fans into stadiums the season, let us wonder about how to bring fans of Jesus into our own!

Thou shalt not Steelers…
Pastor Mike Lemke

AUGUST 2020

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to keep silent and a time to speak.”

Well, I’ve been silent long enough about it! I am bursting at the seams wanting to tell somebody! In this weird time of feeling the need to be cooped up, I sure could use the relief of a fun day at Elitch’s!

Oh, I’m not talking about the Elitch’s presently across the street from the Broncos stadium. I am talking about the REAL Elitch’s, the Elitch’s of my youth. Long-standing Denverites know what I’m talking about. Elitch’s, the real Elitch’s, used to reside at the intersection of 38th and Tennyson just to the east of Sheridan Boulevard. I spent so many of my summers in the park, laughing with friends while my parents probably laughed themselves! Little did I know that Elitch’s was not only an unparalleled amusement park, it probably, for my parents, was a great babysitter!

Not that the Mr. Twister roller coaster was for babies! Of the two roller coasters in the park, the Mr. Twister roller coaster was more imposing. Riders had about 15 seconds to decide whether they would throw their arms over their heads upon approaching the first scary, catch-your-stomach-in-your-throat, drop on the rails. I can still hear the click, click, click of the Mr. Twister roller coaster making its way up the steep, first hill before plunging into the abyss of its whirlwind ride. Remember the dark tunnel immediately after the first two imposing dips? It was there that you could grab the handlebars in front of you without your teenage friends knowing about it!

Oh, during this pandemic, I would like the relief and the innocence of the REAL Elitch’s.

I mentioned that there were two roller coasters at Elitch’s. Though Mr. Twister was considered more sinister, hands down, or should I say hands up (over your head?) the Wildcat roller coaster was by far the most fun. Just next to the kiddie merry-go-round near the back of the park, beyond the log ride (remember the bubble gum tree as you waited in line for the log ride?), the Wildcat was the roller coaster I rode all day long. ITS sharp turns were not as hard on my body as the turns of Mr. Twister. There were still the scary dips and the wind-blow-through-your-hair rushes of excitement, but the lines were not nearly as long, and truly, in my opinion, the view of the Denver Foothills and Rocky Mountains beyond, even more spectacular. Roller coaster enthusiasts know that the only place to REALLY ride a roller coaster is either in the first or the last cars. At times, my friends and I had to wait for the first and last cars, but I cannot recall that the wait was ever too terrible. If anything, waiting for the next ride in the best of roller coaster places, gave my friends and I more opportunity to talk excitedly about having lived through the ride before!

Not that I paid much attention to the beautiful Botanic Garden putt-putt course near the entrance of 38th and Tennyson, but as an older adult now, I KNOW I would indeed relish (hot dogs with ketchup, mustard and relish were musts on the day outings to Elitch’s), I KNOW I would relish simply sitting on one of the inviting, green park benches next to an Edward Scissorhands’ bush while now watching younger putt-putt players navigate the tricky windmill hole or the opening lion-mouth one. How I wish the real Elitch’s existed today!  I suspect that my virus cares and concerns, or the heavier

burdens of life, responsibilities and decisions, would melt away under the hot August sun while taking a break from it all on those gondola-like things that hovered over Elitch’s fun.

Biblical scholars do not really know who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. In the pithy, Old Testament book, its opening verse attests some “Preacher” as writing its contents. Though I do not think of King Solomon primarily as a preacher, maybe so! It seems like those in the know ascribe Solomon authorship of the book.

And maybe for good reason! Solomon is particularly noted for his wisdom. If he wrote those verses about there being various times for every activity under heaven, his wisdom oozes like the syrup on a snow cone. The reality of course eventually realized in longer lives is that there will always be roller coaster ups and downs, sharp twists and turns, dark places and even getting drenched at the end of a ride. There will be long waits for better places and times and scary moments when it’s best to hang on for dear life.

But just about the time you figure you probably are at a loss, resigned to never landing that wooden circle over evasive pop bottles, you recognize the beauty and the marvel of the rides of life as well. The Colorado mountains will forever be majestic. Spending time, and laughter, with good friends soaked in wet t-shirts is a blessing. Giving Mom and Dad a break is not a bad idea. They always seem to be nicer after having some down-time themselves.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” There are indeed the concerning times AND the celebratory ones. Together, with God’s help, with patience and trust in the inevitable cycles of worse things becoming better, we will get through this pandemic time with fun recollections about such.

Granted, it might not be as knock-your-socks-off fun as throwing your best girl around the dance floor at the Trocadero but who knows? Maybe by persisting, maybe by trusting, maybe by waiting, the best is yet to come! That girl OUTSIDE the Trocadero with the short brown hair and big scholarly-looking glasses just might someday be your wife!

God’s Peace and Joy!
Pastor Mike Lemke

PRAYERS WORK

You know the hymn, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”  Remember the line, “All our sins and griefs to bear!  What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.”  Indeed!  How fortunate we are… how graced… to call upon the Creator of the cosmos, the Redeemer of everything and the Sanctifier of it all in both better and more challenging times.  We have deliberately attempted at Cross of Glory to prioritize prayer over the course of this last year.  Every Sunday in our ZOOM broadcasts, we are asking all in worship attendance to share prayer requests.  Each week, Pastor Mike is regularly sending email recipients prayer requests given to him by members and friends of our church.  Telephone calls are being made to those in our parish who do not have computers.  They too are “in the know” about both the joys and sorrows of each passing week.  Please continue to share your prayer request with us at church!  Prayer is privilege!  Prayer is power!  Prayer is promising!  God (and the rest of us!) are awaiting your care/shares!

July 2020

Dear Cross of Glory Family and Friends,

The year was 1955!  At a drive-in movie theatre off the Santa Ana Freeway in Los Angeles, California, the Reverend Robert Schuller climbed atop the snack bar’s tar-paper roof, microphone in hand!  Months before, he had paid for ads promoting A NEW WAY to attend church:  “Come as you are… in the family car!”  Schuller’s wife, Arvella, played an organ that the couple towed on a trailer behind their station wagon.  Worshippers in a few dozen cars listened to the service that Sunday afternoon on drive-in speakers clamped to car windows as the likable, young preacher urged faith in God to meet the cares of the world.  An offering was taken and counted:  $83.75!  Such was the humble and auspicious beginning of one of the world’s farthest-reaching ministries:  The Crystal Cathedral and Robert Schuller’s television broadcast, “The Hour of Power.”  Schuller was 29 years ago when he perched himself on the drive-in theatre’s snack bar.

At 61 years of age, I might have trouble carrying a ladder out of my garage let alone climbing it atop ANYTHING!  Yet, maybe in this NEW NEW of COVID-19 impact, we may be challenged with “doing” church a bit differently.  I am not opposed to the snack bar idea.  As long as you help me get on top of our roof and throw me some Milk Duds every so often, I think we would be set (Dots my favorite movie candy would not be advisable.  It would be impossible for me to preach with those amazingly delicious Dots candies “gluing” my mouth shut).

The year, once again, was 1955!  Just down the road from Schuller’s movie-theatre, specifically Anaheim, Walt Disney opened his astounding theme park “Disneyland!”  Disney would say over the years, “To think!  All of this began with…a mouse!”  Five years before, Disney began crafting his envisioned “Dreamland” of fantasy and futurism.  He intended Disneyland to have educational as well as entertainment value, catering to kids of “all ages!”  Having spent 17 million dollars for the park’s development, this on 160 acres of Orange County land, invitations were mailed to VIPs for the July 17th opening.  Unfortunately, the “pass” was counterfeited… and THOUSANDS OF UNINVITED PEOPLE were admitted into Disneyland on Opening Day, having waited in lines MILES long!  The park was not ready for the “onslaught.”  Food and drink ran out.  A woman’s high-heel shoe got stuck in the wet asphalt and the Mark Twain Steamboat nearly CAPSIZED from too many passengers!

Tinker Bell must have been working in the castle AND the snack bar!  Both the Crystal Cathedral AND Disneyland had beginning stories many would say were FAR too challenging to overcome!

Yet, I have been in the Crystal Cathedral.  I marveled at its organ and hundred-plus member choir.  Like you, I have been to Disneyland.  Like you, I wondered if I could EVER get that song out of my head, “It’s a Small World After All!”  When you wish upon a star, right?

In my first church pastorate, during my thirteen-year ministry, the congregation took on TWO building projects!  Parker, Colorado was one of the fastest growing communities in the country! Douglas County was EXPLODING with new residents.  As I drove to Parker for my pastor-position interview, I did so on a lonely DIRT ROAD south of I-225, yes, NOW, UNBELIEVABLY BUSY PARKER ROAD, with thousands upon thousands of cars upon it each day!  Those of you who know Parker know how vibrant a community it is…TODAY!  You may be surprised to realize that in 1985, the sleepy community DID NOT HAVE EITHER A SAFEWAY NOR A KING SOOPERS STORE let alone fast food restaurants!  There was only ONE grocery store in town, Hills Market, and it was owned by dear friends to this day, Larry and Rhea Thomas.  With the growth of Parker came the inevitable growth of our church. Joy Lutheran Church doubled  in  membership…and  then  quadrupled thereafter with enthusiasts… during my pastorate.  As the congregation outgrew its ability to do hands-on and envisioned ministry in our church/administrative buildings of the day, gifted visionaries in the parish called our membership to embrace not one, but then TWO new building projects within a decade!

Oh, there were the naysayers. There always are. There were those who doubted our ability to pay for what was proposed. I remember Larry Doolen, so instrumental in Lutheran Family Service ministry, saying at a congregational meeting, “Well folks, we are sitting in the sanctuary that many said COULD NOT be built!” Robert Schuller preached optimism, faith in God. Echoing the words of Jesus, Schuller’s trademark Biblical reference was “With men, things are impossible, but with God, ALL things are possible!” Walt Disney weathered the criticism of a pointed California newspaper that lambasted Disneyland’s Opening Day, “Black Sunday” with the headline “THE 17 MILLION DOLLAR PEOPLE-TRAP THAT MICKEY MOUSE BUILT” while irate adults cursed Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Snow White and ALL the seven dwarfs!

Now, amid COVID-19, wondering what the future MAY look like, we would do well to remember the sentiment:  “With men, things are impossible, but with God, ALL things are possible!”  We may want to remember…instead of worrying…to believe what the Scriptures say, “God will take our sins, scarlet as they may be, and make them…SNOW WHITE!”

Cross of Glory is just a couple years younger than the Crystal Cathedral and Disneyland. Over the decades, our church has seen its share of “challenges,” but in ALL cases, God has remained forever faithful. God will lead us as we continue to BE HIS CHURCH in the years to come… and I have every confidence in YOU, the amazing, dear people of Cross of Glory to be more “Yeasayers” than “Naysayers” in perhaps doing ministry a bit differently in times ahead. Thank you for your patience as we prayerfully consider doing Cross of Glory ministry forever true to our Mission Statement: “Rooted in the Scriptures; Reaching Out in Love and Rejoicing in God’s Grace,” while being mindful, no, insistent, on our care for those among us especially virus-susceptible.

Thankfully, we have a dedicated Church Council to navigate us through “Frontierland” into “Tomorrowland.”  Under President John Test’s dedicated leadership, your Cross of Glory Council wonders when and how we can “safely” re-enter our church building. Until a vaccine for the virus is administered, we ALL wonder about social distancing, masks and the predicted clean-ups needed thereafter.  It has been suggested that we keep six feet apart from each other.  Some say that we should social distance even more… that “singing enthusiastically (spitting for short…think Donald Duck!)” would require greater caution. We wonder about how to celebrate Holy Communion again, this safely…while not “watering down” what we believe to be Sacred and Theologically Fundamental. Our Bishop Jim Gonia, friend of so many in our parish, is strongly suggesting that ELCA churches in the Rocky Mountain Synod NOT return to their buildings until AT LEAST the end of August! Though our Colorado Governor Jared Polis is lifting restrictions on public gatherings, he still “urges” those over 65 (or those pre-disposed to virus problems) to remain in quarantine. We are seeing so many ZOOM Sunday morning worship onlookers and Tuesday evening Bible Study enthusiasts (how pumpkins have turned into carriages!) that we wonder how many in our church would “choose” to come back to our building anyway as long as there is even a “hint” of danger.

Let me be Crystal (Cathedral ?) clear: Time will tell. So much will depend on lessons learned as people slowly return to what has been “more normal” in the past.

In the meantime, thank you for your continued faithful support of our mutual ministry Cross of Glory family and friends!  Keep the faith! Keep praying!  Keep sending in your offerings! The Crystal Cathedral and Disneyland were founded in the same year. Cross of Glory is almost as old. Realize this… draw strength and comfort from the parallel: All THREE beloved places have ties to…”Los Angeles,” in Spanish, ‘THE ANGELS!”  Tale as old as time: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Pastor Mike Lemke