Sunday, September 8, 2013

Things I loved about church this morning.

There were a lot of things I loved about church this morning. Let me share with you a few of them.

I loved the big attendance we had at early service. In addition to a good number of members, there were even some visitors there (regular visitors, but still).

I loved how Felix and Francisco helped their mom and grandparents put ice in the ice chests so our bottles of water would be chilled. I loved that, in addition to our boys, we had two girls at the children's sermon. I loved the announcement Barbara gave about a bell choir boot camp and Tammy's comments ("who here does not read music? - raise your hands.") I loved the positive spirit of Barbara's comments when she asked people to consider ringing bells in the handbell choir.

What else was great about this morning's worship service? I loved hearing the peoples' exuberant singing during our hymn sing today and the wonderful hymns we sang ("O Christ the Same" - to the tune of Danny Boy; "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me;" and "Here I am Lord"). Folks in the congregation sang from their hearts with joy and love for God. It gave me goosebumps.

The choir had not planned to sing today, but on Saturday Barbara got inspired, called Heather Puebla and asked if she would sing "Lift High the Cross" as a solo, with the choir backing her up. She agreed and we did. It was lovely. Heather's voice just soared on the verses she sang solo, and when we joined her on the chorus it sounded like we were a 50 voice choir instead of a 7 voice choir.

I loved that people asked for prayers for several of our members who have had surgery or are in the hospital, and how we raised their names during the Prayers of the People. We thanked God for Gerri's healing, for improvements in Ynette's health, for Debbie's new job. We are one family in Christ - in good times and in bad. Thank God for our fellow members who care about us.

Summer's over and I loved that many of our youth were in worship today! Seeing them, giving them a hug, made me smile.

Our closing hymn today, "O God Beyond All Praising," is one of my favorites. I first learned it when I was serving at Mt. Zion in Conover, North Carolina. Every time I hear it I think of Tim playing that big, majestic organ, the cross lifted high as acolytes led the procession, the sense of God's Spirit wrapping all around us like a beautiful ribbon or a warm blanket. I loved singing that hymn today as the service ended.

After worship people grabbed a couple bottles of water to pass out to anyone they saw out in the hot sun as they drove home. They also took several bookmarks (made by Heather Grill and Heather Puebla) with scripture verses on them, intending to keep one and give two or three to friends or neighbors. I loved seeing the children - Felix, Francisco, Madisyn - giving people bookmarks and cold bottles of water to distribute.

On the way home I drove through the neighborhood around Shepherd King with 6 bottles of cold water. I saw a man and his young son washing their cars so I stopped and gave them each a bottle of water. Then as I drew closer to home, on the access road of 410 at Perrin Beitel, I saw some folks waiting for the bus. I gave a cold bottle of water to three of them, saying "this is from our church. Have a blessed day."  There was one more bottle when I pulled into the driveway. I saw my neighbor sitting on her front porch. She waved; I hurried over with a bottle of water and said "you look thirsty."  I loved doing that - giving people water for no reason except that God loves them.

That is a partial list of the things I loved about worship today. I thank God for today, for the people and ministry of Shepherd King Lutheran Church.

Pastor Kris Franke Hill, stm.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lent and Renewal

It is so easy to be defensive in response to words or actions that question or critize. As a pastor of a welcoming congregation, I cannot afford to be defensive when responding to critiques, misunderstandings, or frank queries. Today I received an email from a stranger who took issue with a blog I had posted suggesting a ban on assault weapons. In my reply I tried to be gracious and open-minded. There is so much defensiveness in our world that I just do not want to participate. It damages our relationships with one another.

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us.

I have a new student to mentor at the local middle school. I like him, but we do not share similar interests, he's doing pretty well in school, and his home life is a sensitive topic. I struggle to know what to say when we spend an hour together each week.

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us.

We’ve got some 30 people participating in a Lenten cantata at Shepherd King – The Tale of the Three Trees. What a tremendous turnout! Practice has kept us all busy and our first performance is this Sunday. Anxious and excited, both.

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us.

Found out this weekend that one of our dear members will not win her battle with cancer. She’s had a full life and is dealing well with her situation, but we love her so much and will miss her. In this aging congregation it is tough to see our friends losing mobility and independence, losing their health, losing their lives.

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us.

We've started a new Sunday school curriculum for adults; it is time to start planning for summer camp; I will begin mentoring a seminarian in a few weeks; our annual appeal is only 4 weeks away – that will keep us very busy; my husband and I hope to create a Bible Garden with the children of Shepherd King; I have no idea yet what I will say on Easter Sunday. So much to do.

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us.

In the midst of our busy-ness, God calls to us, saying “be still and know that I am God.” In response to our hunger, Jesus hands us bread saying “my body, given for you;” he passes the cup, saying “drink. This is my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of all.” When we are estranged, Jesus takes the cross and dies in our place, reconciling us to God and to one another.

Whatever you face and regardless how busy you are, may the mystery and miracle of Christ’s death and resurrection fill you with peace and new life.

Pastor Kris Franke Hill, stm.