Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Value of Routine

Well, Summer is here. This morning, I was with about ten St. Mark people at the Habitat for Humanity build on Island Avenue. Every afternoon this week, we have had volunteers filling the Narthex to paint set pieces for Vacation Bible school. Graduation parties are scattered across the calendar. On a personal level, my daughter has her first swim class this weekend, and my family is gearing up for three straight weeks of travel for vacation, work, and a memorial service.

I don’t know about you, but summer rarely feels like a lighter load these days. In fact, in some ways these months of camps, VBS, travels, and celebrations can be a bit harder to manage. Our programming year has come to an end, but there is still much to do around the church. The routine of the school year is gone, and every week brings its own adventure. If you are like me, after a school year of knowing exactly what happens on a typical Wednesday, you may need to constantly look to the calendar to remind yourself what in the world you need to be doing from day to day.

Routines are one of those highly valued aspects of life which are most appreciated after they are lost or damaged. You may not give a thought to how the traffic pattern on State Street affects your commute time until a construction project shuts down half the lanes for a few weeks. When a longterm illness in the family requires a checklist of appointments or unknown days in the hospital, you might realize how simple life used to be. If you want to appreciate the ease of a nine to five job, talk to a retail associate waiting on next week’s work schedule.

Someone told me recently that Sunday morning worship orders their entire week. The rhythm of prayer, scripture, and song realigns their life on Sunday in order to face whatever chaos might be waiting on Monday. If you have worshipped at St. Mark just two times, you know exactly what to expect on your third visit. It is predictable, and that is precisely the point. Instead of wondering what is coming next in the service, you can instead focus your attention on what God is saying and doing in your life.

As the author of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. No matter what the world throws your way, God’s love for you will never change. Hope will always remain. I pray our worship together might arrange our communal life around God’s unchanging love for the world.

Pastor Chad

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Another Family Wedding

Dear St. Mark friends,

My wedding invitation did not arrive in the mail, so apparently, I am not invited.  I’m speaking of the majestic royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle this weekend on the “other side of the pond.”  While I often joke about my Norwegian heritage, 25% of my bloodline is actually British; so naturally I feel that I’m due a modicum of recognition from my prominent relatives abroad.  From what I hear, though, I’m not the only one sitting out this event.  Poor me…misery loves company.

One of my favorite movies is, “The King’s Speech,” based on the true story of King George VI and his quest to find his voice.  Throughout the movie, one is made painfully aware of the formal class distinctions between members of the royal family and mere commoners.  Yet, in the end, it is an ordinary man with an extraordinary gift who assists the new king in recognizing and achieving his potential as a leader.  It is a movie that extends hope in the most desperate and challenging of circumstances.

With the hymns of Easter still fresh in our ears and on our tongues, I’m reminded that the royal bloodline of King David has been extended to each of us by the Son of David, the Son of God.  Jesus is indeed the heir to God’s throne…witnessed at his resurrection and ascension.  Our New King, however, is also our brother…meaning that no one is left out; no one is dismissed for lack of a proper bloodline. Each of us has direct access to this King…each of us has been invited to the resurrection party!

As we conclude the seven weeks of Easter in anticipation of Pentecost, I encourage you to share in this celebration of inclusivity and new life.  God has raised Jesus from death so that we, too, might one day be raised to new and eternal lives with Christ our King.  With God, the playing field is made even; sin and death have been conquered once and for all in his Son.  Whatever disparities and prejudices we face today will fade at his second coming and the life to come.

So, do not despair, good friends…there are more wedding invitations right around the corner.  The best invitation includes us all: “the marriage feast of Christ, which has no end!”

Walking this journey of faith with you,
Pastor Mark Hagen

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Building Faith

This past Sunday during worship, we introduced a project that is sure to frame the summer here at St. Mark. In partnership with Thrivent Financial and other area churches, we will be helping Habitat for Humanity build an additional home for a family here in Rockford. We have signed up for four work days in May and June, and soon we will be raising money to ensure the house is completed.

Maybe your experience with Habitat is a bit like mine. I have known about the organization for a long time. The churches I have called home have been involved in various ways. Though I have never swung a hammer for Habitat, I have friends and acquaintances who have. I have always wanted to do more.

Building a house is no small feat. Even on a team of experienced framers and roofers, it can seem incredibly intimidating. But when we have all summer to finish a single-story home for a deserving family, the task becomes a bit more bearable. This Saturday is the first major construction day for the houses here in Rockford. Our first day to work is exactly one week later. Do you know what you can expect to be doing, should you volunteer on March 12th? Most likely, it will involve vinyl siding. Before we even step foot onto the construction site, the framework will already be up and ready to start looking like a home.

Even if you have zero experience, your help is still valued. Even if you cannot come to a work day, there will be more opportunities this summer to lend a hand toward this build. The family that will work alongside us and later purchase the home will be forever changed by what we, the people of God, are about to do.

There is still room for volunteers at all four of our work days. You can sign up at a clipboard in the Fellowship Hall or email me ( to get your name on the list. Anyone 16 and up is eligible to be onsite, and you can volunteer on one or more days. They are:
Saturday, May 12
Thursday, May 31
Saturday, June 16
Tuesday, June 26

I pray this endeavor will strengthen our commitment to God, our community, and one another as we use our hands to do God’s work.

Pastor Chad

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,...