Thursday, March 22, 2018

Why Holy Week?

Dear St. Mark friends,

Resistance to Christianity and all faiths is on the rise worldwide.  In light of so much discord all around us, why Holy Week?  Why continue to lift up Palm Sunday and the passion of Jesus?
Because we share in his experience of exclusion.  This is our story, too.

The terror that lurks behind this story is familiar ground to us.  We see our own reflections in the faces of the crowds…those who first welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, only to turn against him by the end of the week.  We know how to identify the so-called saviors of this world…falling down before them in desperate gratitude, believing they’ll give us whatever our hearts desire.  But eventually, we turn against them when they fail to deliver.

Why Holy Week?  Because it’s redemptive to see this behavior depicted so honestly in the Bible…just as it is in our lives.  Holy Week is our story…about the people we truly are rather than the people we’d like to think we are.  Yet, because the events surrounding Holy Week are genuinely about us, there will always be the urge to turn and run…to exclude the truth about ourselves and those who embody it.

The Savior who rode in among us on Palm Sunday intruded into our lives the same way a surgeon’s knife cuts into our bodies.  If we’re to be healed of what ails us, it won’t be painless.
The terrible events portrayed in Holy Week ask each of us: Are we prepared to follow Jesus through all the circumstances of our lives…or just those that meet with our approval?

Jesus did not flinch from the murderous mob.  He did not sidestep the terror of death or escape into some ethereal world, immune from suffering and pain.  He passed through the waving palm branches and marched with us to Golgotha, the place of death.  He embraced the terrible, painful ambiguity of human existence with one message for all time: “Brothers and sisters, because of my great love for you, I am willing to die that you might live!”

Why Holy Week?  Because through it all, Jesus is still our Lord…and this is still our story.

Walking this journey of faith with you,
Pastor Mark Hagen


Friday, March 2, 2018

Children Are Our Present

It has been just over two weeks since the most recent school shooting in our country. With all the news coverage and arguments in the aftermath, it feels more like months have passed. Mass shootings have become a dismal routine in our country, but something about this one is different. Children are reacting to the tragedy in Parkland in a new and ardent way.

A group of teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have taken it upon themselves to be more than mere survivors. It would be hard to argue that these children, reeling from tragedy, are anything but sincere. In their passion and surprising eloquence, they have become leaders in their own right. A person does not have to agree with the solutions they propose in order to hear their words and take them seriously. 

These high school students, thrust into the national spotlight, have been a reminder to me of how we adults view our children. To stand up for them, so often folks will say something along the lines of “Children are our future” or “They are our future leaders.” It is important for parents and educators to make decisions with the future in mind, but our kids are not merely waiting on the sidelines for their chance to take part in society. It would be a mistake to prescribe age limits or life achievements to any person before fully recognizing them in all their unique and wonderful humanity.

In the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, there is a brief story about folks bringing children to Jesus. His disciples, we are told, “spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.’” Older folks may try to keep power away from their younger successors as long as they can, but in the Kingdom of God, children are already in charge. 

On Sunday, our little family will be celebrating a whole year with our daughter, Linden. How odd it is to speak of her existence in the future tense. Yes, she has only just completed her first of many trips around the sun, but she is so much more than mere potential. I have peanut butter on my shirt, bags under my eyes, and board books strewn across the floor that prove she is very much defining my life in the here and now. She is my present and current reality. I already miss who she was in the past, and God willing she will one day be my future.

We all have hopes and dreams. When you look at the children in your life, you might even be able to catch a sneak peek into who they will be in the years to come. Today, though, let us celebrate our youth for the curiosity and the joy they inject into the world now. Any parent who has lost a child will tell you that we must treasure our children today. So, as you seek to be an influence on those younger than you, may you recognize how they too are capable of changing you in each and every present moment.

Pastor Chad McKenna

Looking Back

Dear St. Mark friends, 2019 is a year I will never forget.   On January 13 of last year, my second granddaughter, Madlyn Olivia Hagen,...