Thursday, January 11, 2018

You Can Do Great Things!

In the black 1863 days of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln went to church with an aide. After the service the aide asked him what he thought. Mr. Lincoln said, "The sermon was very logical and very well reasoned." The aide said, "So the sermon was a success?" Mr. Lincoln said, "No. It was a failure. Because he did not challenge us to do something great."
I'm going to challenge you to do two great things.
But first, consider invisible people. They are everywhere. They may be poor, they may be of a different race, they may be incarcerated.
But the homebound people of st. Mark need not be invisible! It's true that they cannot come to church, or a restaurant, or a marketplace. But they can be conspicuous in our lives.
How? By doing two great things. First, coming to our Barnabas class this coming Thursday, January 18, 2:00 P.M. to learn how to visit and whom to visit. You'll be joining wonderful caring Barnabas ministers who are actively visiting. Just call Melinda to register, 815-871-0390.
The other way to make them  conspicuous is to pray daily for each of them:
George and Betty Adams, Glenn Bengston, Phyllis Blunt, Dorothy Brommerich, Helen Corbett, William Dinges, Ann Doty, Robert Dvorak, Marilyn Hallen, Gene Holmberg, Bill Jennings, Ray Lundgren, Jeanneil Miller-Paul, Kaye Mueller, Bette Patterson, Rose Pearson, Elmer Seybold, Al Spangrud, Audrey Weberg.
I challenge you to do two great things: visit our invisible people, and pray for them- and do great things!  - God loves you and so do I, Pastor Chuck Olson, Pastor for pastoral care

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Light in the Darkness

Today, we will be getting just over nine hours of sunlight. By now, you are probably used to driving home in the dark as you take quick glances at all the light displays on the houses you pass. For folks who work a traditional nine to five job, all the daylight and brightness is squandered by a career that demands you stay inside. For others, even the sun’s brief invitation is not convincing enough to step out on chilly December days. 

It is in these bleak days that we wait with hope for God to do something. We light candles, pray, and anticipate the light that shines in the darkness, which cannot be overcome. Many of us even celebrate the birth of Christ all December long, confident that the light of Christ will shine down and prevail on this earth.

Maybe, though, the darkness is getting to you. Despite all the parties and carols, you are just not in what folks call the holiday spirit. There could be any manner of reasons for you to have little Christmas cheer this year. You may think that Christmas is for the people who start listening to holiday music in October and get their cards in the mail on time every year while sipping cocoa and baking batch after batch of cookies. Yes, this holiday is for them, but I am pretty convinced people like that are elves anyway. What makes Jesus’ birth so meaningful is that he didn’t come on the brightest day, when everyone was full of joy. You don’t need to hang lights or wrap presents perfectly in order for Jesus to decide it’s time to come to earth. You can even give in to the darkness completely, and Christ the Savior will still be born. 

Jesus is coming to dispel the gloom. Christ’s arrival gives hope to the hopeless and light to a world shrouded in shadow.

If you are really observant of the sun’s movements, you may notice that things are about to change. We have been through the worst of it. Today, the sun was out a whole two second longer than yesterday! Can you believe it? Tomorrow, there will be seven seconds more. And so on, until all the darkness has been scattered, and we can actually spend our days in daylight. Jesus shines in much the same way. So when you come to worship on Christmas Eve, come with a heart that hopes for the arrival of light and joy in our wintry world.

Pastor Chad

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Real Work of Advent

Dear St. Mark friends,

The season of Advent is a busy time with lots of activities and events.  Yet, it also is a time of quiet reflection as we await the birth of our Savior Jesus.  In the midst of it all, we pause to give thanks to God for the assurance of hope and the promise of salvation.  We also give thanks for those significant persons in our lives by whom we are blessed beyond measure. 

Our spirit of thanksgiving this Advent season stands out in a culture that may not share our optimism and faith.  Lowell Erdahl speaks to this juxtaposition in his devotional, “No One to Thank.”

Alvin Rogness likes to say that “the worst thing about being an atheist is having no one to thank.”  When life is terrible, it is possible to stoically endure it.  But when we are overwhelmed by joy and overflowing with gratitude, what can we do with no one to thank?  It is difficult to reconcile the goodness of God with the world’s evil; but, for many of us, it is impossible to reconcile the goodness of the world with the absence of a good God.  Our intellectual problems are not solved by dismissing a God of love from the universe.  We then face “the problem of goodness” – how do we explain the beauty, joy, and meaning that are also a part of life?  Even now, we see the miracle of our own lives, shattered as they may be, and recall the joyful moments of love we have known.  We ponder the beauty of sunsets and symphonies, flowers and friendships.  Above all, we think of Jesus, who came through sin and suffering to become our beautiful Savior.  Remembering all this, we again dare believe that there is someone to thank.

I encourage you to make the time this Advent season to thank those many persons who have blessed your life and helped shape your faith in God.  Above all, let us give thanks to God for the birth of Jesus, our beautiful Savior!

Walking this journey of faith with you,

Pastor Mark

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Giving Thanks Beyond the Table

I know a woman who will be spending Thanksgiving alone this year. It is not because she is without family or friends who would save her a seat at their tables. She has to work. Even as the majority of folks in our nation are sitting down for a leisurely feast, the world keeps spinning. A lot of work goes into making Thanksgiving a success, and only some of it happens in the kitchen. 

Sometimes, giving thanks at this yearly feast can be a bit abstract. Families go around the table and give general words of gratitude. We state the obvious fact that we’re grateful for family and friends and thank the cooks and God for the food before digging into those marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes.

Do you know where the food in your Thanksgiving feast is coming from? I don’t mean which store the stuffing mix was bought at or which of your relatives is bringing the pie. I mean the potatoes and the green beans. Who was the farmer who cultivated the cranberries or tended the turkeys? Over the years we have sugar-coated the story of the first Thanksgiving, but one fact that has not been lost is who provided the food for whom. When the immigrants from Europe gave thanks, it was for the native farmers who fed them.

Every thing we have comes first from God. And unless you are expecting a turkey to ring your doorbell Thursday morning and casually crawl into your oven, every thing we have also comes through the stewardship of God’s people. Someone painted the china and wove the tablecloth. There will be attendants at the gas station while you journey to your family. 

God does not demand our gratitude for the good things we have. You won’t suddenly lose your freedom if you fail to give thanks. But, we make the world a more open and peaceful place when we acknowledge the gifts God gives us as well as the people who work behind the scenes. From farmers and store clerks to utility workers and machinists, there are countless people who deserve our gratitude as much as anyone this Thanksgiving.

Let us not forget the unseen hands of our neighbors who make our food enjoyable and keep the world in motion. Let us think beyond the table to all those who may not be present, but whose lives have given us so many reasons to give thanks.


Pastor Chad McKenna

Thursday, November 16, 2017

New Changes

As with most things these days, there is always room for improvement.  This is especially true when it comes to communication.  The drastic rate of change in the means and methods of communication leaves many gasping for breath.  It can be hard to keep up with the swift advances of technology and their myriad applications.  As a congregation, we need to stay current with these changes so that our communication with you and the community remains effective and inclusive.

After much consultation, we are making a few changes to better accommodate our methods of communication.  Specifically, the Memos newsletter you received via email every other week will now be sent to you weekly.  We will refer to it as the “Weekly Memos.”  Thus, we will no longer have need to send you separate weekly “announcements.”  Following this week’s Memos publication, the front-page Pastors’ articles will be moved from the Weekly Memos to the home page of our St. Mark web site.  This will encourage members and guests alike to visit our web site for more comprehensive information and articles.  The new Pastors’ Blog will also contain previously-posted Pastors’ articles, thus creating a valuable archive that will remain accessible for future referral.  Also, our Sunday bulletins now include the weekly prayer list and several pertinent announcements inside the back cover.  As you can see, there is no reduction of communication.  We are simply consolidating our various means of communication to make it easier for you to receive it.

Speaking of communication, former St. Mark Pastor, Wayne Viereck, has written a book, Then is Now: Reading the New Testament in the 21st Century.  Here is a description from “Wayne R. Viereck has been a pastor for fifty-five years. During his decades of service with different Lutheran and community congregations, he confronted the same questions over and over, reminding him of his own days in the seminary. Like the members of his congregation, he too had many questions about the interpretation of scripture and its modern applications. Viereck remembers his disappointment as instructors chastised him for asking too many questions and his joy at discovering there were others who celebrated and encouraged his natural curiosity. Viereck’s new biblical study, Then Is Now, is in honor of all those curious congregants. He hopes that his work not only answers your questions about the New Testament but fires you up and inspires you to dig deeper into scripture. Viereck provides an in-depth examination of the birth, passion, and resurrection accounts found in the Gospels. He shows how the Bible can be seen through both first-century and twenty-first-century lenses.”

Wayne’s book is available for purchase through Wilma Reinke between Sunday services in the narthex on Nov. 12 & 19 ($10 for an autographed copy that will be shipped directly to you), as well as through direct purchase on your own (no autograph) at  It’s great reading!

Walking this journey of faith with you,

Pastor Mark Hagen

You Can Do Great Things!

In the black 1863 days of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln went to church with an aide. After the service the aide asked him what he thought....