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.
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!
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!
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!
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
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
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
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
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!
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