Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Year of St. Mark

During worship a few Sundays ago, I announced a theme we will be leaning into in 2021. Those of you who have been around a long time may know that this is a milestone year for St. Mark Lutheran Church. Our congregation will be 60 years old in April. You could call this our diamond anniversary. By total chance, the lectionary just so happens to be focused on the Gospel of Mark this year. With a major anniversary and a focus on our namesake, what more reason do we need to declare 2021 to be The Year of St. Mark?

Each of our four gospels has its own unique voice in approaching the good news of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Mark is the oldest and shortest, and it was most likely intended to be performed in its entirety by a storyteller. There is no birth narrative, as it begins with Jesus’ baptism by John. Jesus is framed as one who follows up his teachings by acting on them. 

We will spend time this year studying this namesake gospel of ours to see what we might learn about ourselves. How might the Gospel of St. Mark inform who we are, and who God is calling us to be?

For decades we have used the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of readings used by the majority of the world’s mainline churches. One of the quirks of this lectionary is that there are many portions of scripture that aren’t used, due to time constraints and relevance. Though Mark’s Gospel is the shortest, there are whole sections that rarely, if ever, are read aloud in worship. Some stories we hear in other years from the perspective of Matthew and Luke. Other verses are trimmed out completely. This year, though, every verse of our namesake gospel will be read at least once, either on Sunday mornings or during Wednesdays in Lent.

In addition, Bible studies are encouraged to spend time in The Gospel of Mark this year. We will have a number of events and other group study opportunities, especially as pandemic restrictions fade. On April 25th, the official Feast Day of St. Mark, we will celebrate our 60th anniversary and look forward to what the future holds for St. Mark Lutheran Church. While this theme won’t run through every single thing we do this year, much of our ministry together will be influenced by it. I, for one, am eager to celebrate 60 wonderful years, even as we focus our vision toward the future.

Peace, 

Pastor Chad McKenna



Thursday, January 7, 2021

A Farewell and a Greeting

Happy New Year!

I am so thankful for the many people who helped our congregation this past year, whether with a single act or continuous service. I have always been impressed by the work our staff does, and 2020 was no exception. 

On December 30th, our staff bid farewell to Karen Osolin, who worked at the front desk since May, 2019. Before that, she spent some time in our finance office. Karen has been an active member for years, and she has already started volunteering again. In her work she interacted with many of you, and I am sure you would agree that it was a joy to have her on our staff. 

As we say goodbye to Karen, we now welcome Sharon Erickson to the St. Mark staff. Sharon is also a member, and is a member of the Voices of St. Mark. She has served on council in recent years. She and our other receptionist, Jamie Mundy, will be the first people you see when you come in the building during the day, and the first voices you hear when you call. The two of them will also coordinate Sunday volunteers and assist our office manager, Jill Davenport, as needed. It is a true blessing to be able to work along such caring and dedicated people. Please join me in thanking Karen for her years of service, and in welcoming Sharon to this new and vital role!

Peace,

Pastor Chad 



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Surprised by Joy

Way back in May, when the pandemic shutdown already seemed to have gone on forever and we were all hopeful for normal to return in a matter of weeks, many of us were learning how to be creative with our time at home. It was still novel, but even then we were exhausted. To keep things fresh, I would introduce my three-year-old to new songs which would stir us to dance in the living room. Among the musicals, 70s rock, and symphonies, I was surprised at how much joy we got from bouncing around to Christmas music. In May. I’m usually the type of person who waits until December 15th to change my radio over to the Christmas station. But, in a year where time has seemed to both stand still and fly by, I decided there were no rules on what could give us joy, and when.

That’s the thing about Christmas. The promise we have in our incarnate God can sustain us any day of the year. It can catch us off guard. Little moments in life can stir up fond memories of this holiday. Interactions with fellow human beings can remind us of how God became one of us, was born to a mother like ours, and had the very needs we and our neighbors have. Hope radiates through the help of strangers. Sparks of joy cut through bleak days like a light that shines in the darkness. You never know what will remind you of God’s breathtaking love.

I have so much enjoyed all the ways our congregation has shared this love with our community this year, and especially in this season of Advent. Mobile food pantries, intakes for Lutheran Social Services and Mosaic, our first live nativity event with dozens of volunteers and over 230 cars full of people, an online concert, and creative Christmas Eve services- All of these and more have been such a strong reminder that God is with us. The Body of Christ is alive and active, and God’s love will never leave us, no matter what the world may bring. I am beyond thankful for the many people of St. Mark who have worked tirelessly this year to remind us all of that never-ending love.

Wherever you might be celebrating, whomever you are with, remember that Christ is always with you. That is what we celebrate in the quiet and cold darkness of December. God, the creator and redeemer of us all, has come to dwell among us. Guest rooms may be empty this Christmas. The only thing finding rest on spare beds and extra dining room chairs is a little more dust. But God is with you, and God’s love can still spark moments of joy in your life.

In Jesus, we have a savior who knows what it is like to be human, to ache for the nearness of others and to be surprised by joy. I pray that you might find some of that joy in the coming days, as you remember once again the strange and beautiful hope of a newborn child, lying in a manger.

 Merry Christmas, and may God’s peace be with you,

 Pastor Chad McKenna 



Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Advent is Coming!

Happy Thanksgiving! I pray that wherever you are, and whomever you are with, that you are able to find some time to enjoy this holiday and give thanks, despite how strange our celebrations maybe this year.

We are only a few days away from Advent. Many of you no doubt have already set up Christmas trees in your living rooms and strung lights outside. It has been a rough year, and who can blame you for wanting to create a little early cheer? Traditionally, Advent has always been rooted in anticipating the arrival of Christ in our lives. If you are like me, you are probably sick of anticipation right now. It has been a driving force for many of us since last March. We have been waiting and hoping and praying for an end to this pandemic so that we can return to a time when we can once again gather with and embrace those we love. 

In previous years, I have viewed Advent as a brief four weeks where we Christians can practice anticipation. We know Christmas is coming. Carols and candlelight and cookies are all a guarantee. And so we can think of Advent as a time of eager hope, like children tearing the loops off a paper chain, counting down the days until our hopes become reality. If we practice Advent well, then when the harsh reality of life demands it, we might be more prepared to handle the struggle that comes with waiting.

This year is different. We won’t so much be practicing hope as recognizing the exhaustion we all have from hoping too long. This season, we can name our frustrations over slivers of hope which come and go, even as we trust the guaranteed in-breaking of God’s love. You will notice this growing hope symbolized in the ever-expanding decorations during Sunday worship. The greenery will be minuscule this Sunday, but it will continue to expand and brighten along with our Christmas hope throughout the season.

We hope to worship together on Christmas Eve, and so we are planning for six brief candlelight services to be held outside, along with a full worship service online. The outdoor services will include carols, a telling of the Christmas story, prayer, communion, and singing Silent Night with candles. These 20-minute services will be at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 7pm, 8pm, and 9pm. If the weather and pandemic rules allow, we will gather around fire pits on the east side of the building; otherwise, we can simply remain in our cars. Reservations will be required, and you can sign up at our website beginning on December 1st. I have a feeling that these will be special moments for all of us to celebrate the promises God has given through the birth of Jesus.

We also hope to have other festive occasions in December. Bob Rub and our choirs are working hard to produce a pre-recorded Christmas Concert. The shifting mitigation rules create constant challenges, but we hope to have this gift ready for you by mid-December. Many folks are also preparing to have our first-ever Live Nativity from 6pm to 9pm on Saturday, December 19th. And, plans are underway to provide time for you and your loved ones to take a few moments in the sanctuary for family photos on Sunday, December 20th. 

Of course, all of our hoped-for plans are subject to the health department’s mitigations for this pandemic, which seems to be worse than ever at the moment. We can all embody our hopes by doing everything we can to slow the spread, which includes staying home as much as possible and wearing our masks when we are in public. The more we work together, the sooner we can come together again in worship and joy.

Peace,                                        

Pastor Chad McKenna




Thursday, November 19, 2020

Service of Lament and Observance of Christ the King

 “This liturgy is intended to move us from lament to hope.”

As co-chair of the Northern Illinois Synod Worship Committee I have the privilege of working with a dedicated team in planning worship for our life-together as people and congregations of the Northern Illinois Synod. In collaboration with our synod staff, we are pleased to offer this Service of Lament and Observance of Christ the King.

Over the course of these now more than eight months of living in this pandemic there is much to lament: the sickness and death from Covid-19, the economic impacts on families and businesses, the loss of rituals for celebrations and grief, the fatigue of online meetings, the stress on daily life in an anxious and uncertain world, and so much more.

This service is an opportunity to name the laments we share collectively and those that are personal. And in naming our laments, we remember God’s faithfulness in the past as a sign of God’s faithfulness for us now and turn our hearts toward hope in God’s presence with us and promise to deliver us again.

As Bishop Jeffrey Clements has said, “This liturgy is intended to move us from lament to hope.”

In the sermon, Bishop Clements helps us move from lament to hope in a conversation with his pastor the Rev. Dr. Janet Hunt, First Lutheran Church, DeKalb, IL, with Psalm 13 as a guide.

Synod staff are the primary leaders of this service with music coming from congregations throughout the synod including Bob Rub and St. Mark singers who provided the music for the Gathering Hymn in this service. We are grateful for their music offering and all who contributed to this service.

I invite and encourage you to experience this Service of Lament and Observance of Christ the King as a way to move from lament to hope in your own life and share in our life-together as people of God in the Northern Illinois Synod. 

This worship service is available for streaming at the Northern Illinois Synod YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/_Px-ra4pswY

Peace,

Pastor Robert



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Congregational Meeting November 22

Greetings from St. Mark Council,

We are writing to formally announce a congregational meeting to be held on November 22, 2020. The purpose of the congregational meeting is to elect a slate of nominees to serve as the Call Committee as we begin our search for a new associate pastor.

Our constitution states that this committee must be elected by congregational vote at a meeting of at least 75 members.  Voting by proxy or absentee ballot is only allowed when calling a pastoral candidate, as we did on August 30th when we called Pastor Chad to be our new senior pastor.  Because of that, we will need to hold this meeting in person, and only those present will be able to cast a vote, as per our constitution.

Since we need to gather in person, we will have a drive-in worship service at 9:30 am on November 22nd, followed immediately by this brief congregational meeting.  Like all services recently, this one will be available via live-stream for those unable to be in attendance.  The council and Worship & Music committee will do everything possible to make the morning a success, no matter the weather forecast; however, extreme weather may still force us to cancel. If you are unsure on that morning, please call the church or check our website, Facebook page, or app for any cancellation notices.

We are excited to have a slate of nominees who represent many different areas of our congregation.  The nominees are Diana Berg (chairperson), Stella Schroeder, Ron Lundstrom, Jim Claerbout, Nicki Schroeder, Jimmy Ivacic, and McKenna Anderson.  We hope you join us for this necessary meeting on November 22nd!

In Christ, 

The St. Mark Council

Thursday, October 29, 2020

A New Way to Share Communion

The weather and the pandemic have forced us to return to online worship, but that doesn’t mean we need to do things exactly like we did during the height of the lockdown. One thing most of us missed dearly was the sacrament of Holy Communion. As we return to worshipping together from a distance, this time we will not stop sharing in the Lord’s Supper together. Allow me to explain how that will work.

The altar guild is preparing home communion kits for every household. Inside these kits are a small chalice and paten, as well as 20 communion wafers and your choice of wine or grape juice. Gluten-free kits will be available upon request. Starting on November 8th, when you tune in to Sunday worship, you can prepare your part of our table together by putting a few wafers on the paten and pouring wine or juice into the chalice. When the time comes, one of us pastors will direct you to join us as we share in communion together.

Starting on Monday, November 2nd, you can come to the church to pick up your kit during office hours, which are Monday - Friday, 9am-1pm. You can also come any time between 9am and 8pm on Wednesdays. If you are unable to pick one up, we have plenty of volunteers who are eager to bring one to you. Simply call the church to request a kit, and one will be delivered to your door. These kits will last you about a month. Refill kits will be available when you are running low on supplies.

This initiative is meant to extend the table we share together. I ask that you only partake in communion with these elements when you are participating in an online worship service officiated by an ordained pastor. If you cannot watch the service live, you can still join us in sharing the body and blood of our savior when you are able. It has always been true that when we come to the Lord’s table, we commune not just with those physically present, but with all the saints around the world and across the span of time. The elements you prepare will be considered consecrated when you hear the words of institution, which begin with, “In the night in which he was betrayed…”

We provide these kits so that you will not have to pull the elements of our common sacrament from your own kitchen cabinets. Christ is present in this sacrament, not because we have the necessary elements at the ready, but because of God’s hospitable love. The stoneware, too, can help elevate this holy food above an ordinary meal in your home. I pray that the kits the church is providing can fill you with God’s mercy and unite us as the Body of Christ.

When this pandemic is behind us and you are able to return to the sanctuary to worship, I ask that you return the chalice and paten to the church at your convenience. I imagine, though, that both online worship and home communion kits will be available to you long after we have returned to the sanctuary, as a service to any who are unable to worship in person for any number of reasons. I should mention, too, that this is not meant to replace a visit with a pastor, but only to supplement participation in an online service. You can still request a visit with a pastor whenever you need.

I would like to thank the Worship & Music Committee, the Altar Guild, the Council, and the Staff for their hard work in making this new form of communion a reality for us all.

The Year of St. Mark

During worship a few Sundays ago, I announced a theme we will be leaning into in 2021. Those of you who have been around a long time may kno...