Thursday, May 30, 2019

Life in the Resurrection

The following is adapted from Pastor Chad's sermon on April 28th, 2019. You can view the original sermon in its entirety on our YouTube channel.

Today, the worldwide church celebrates the Ascension of Christ, when he took to the skies for good and left all the disciples scratching their heads. The celebration of Easter Sunday is a memory now, and it has me wondering again how the resurrection of Jesus can continue to be a source of comfort for us who have never seen Christ standing in our midst.

I recently heard a story about two people who know too much about hope in the resurrection. Pastors Karla and Peter Coen-Tuff of Grand Forks, North Dakota, have devoted their whole lives to sharing God’s love together as parents and co-workers in the church. Last summer after their adult daughter, Rachel, had returned from taking a group of high schoolers to the ELCA’s Youth Gathering in Detroit, the family was all together for vacation. It was there that Rachel collapsed and died almost instantly from a pulmonary embolism. She had shown no signs of illness before this. Her death came out of absolutely nowhere. She was only 29 years old.

In April, the two of them talked about this devastating loss with the Grand Forks Herald. The whole article is worth a read, but here are two pieces of wisdom from them. Karen writes, “Grief brings every conceivable emotion and a hundred questions. We felt frustrated because there's no fixing this. But we also trust that God can handle our anger and our frustration, that God is greater than any emotion or question.”

Her husband, Peter, added this: “Faith is not about having all the answers. Faith really helps us acknowledge our grief, continue on in life and continue to struggle with all the questions and the heartache that goes with it."

By losing a child, these two now have a wisdom that no one should bear. And yet they model so well what it means to have abundant and full life in the resurrection. For them, faith isn’t about blind optimism or trust that nothing can ever go wrong. Rather, their faith acknowledges that God is with us every step of our lives, comforting us in our pain and reassuring us through our doubts.

Faith in Jesus doesn’t deny that death is hard. Rather, it proclaims that death has no power over us. This kind of hope can prepare us so that when the inevitable day comes, we can die well, ever trusting in the one who conquered death so that we can live fully in God’s love now, and after the resurrection.

Our whole lives are spent in this world that’s nestled between Jesus’ resurrection and our own. Though we have not seen resurrection with our own eyes, we are Easter People. Easter is not simply a day or a season, but the reality of every breath we take. Faith in such a thing is not easy. Some days it can be like wind in our sails, and on others it can feel like a mere life preserver keeping us afloat above the waters of turmoil. That is precisely why we proclaim that Christ has risen, even when we cannot muster the celebratory energy of an Easter Sunday morning. We proclaim this faith to give ourselves hope. This kind of hope can sustain us in dark times, and in all others it propels us to boldly live in Christ’s love and compassion for the world. Christ rose so that we may have life, and have it abundantly, confident that death will never have any power over us. 

  Pastor Chad McKenna

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Welcome, Wendy Iversen and Karen Osolin, as New Office Staff!

Dear friends,

As you know, we are blessed with a multitude of talented church staff members.  In the past year, we have seen the departure of three of these staff members: Karen Kammer, Dave Blunt and Marsha Scott.  Julie Eshleman began her work as Director of Christian Education on January 2 and is off to a fantastic start.  Karen Osolin has worked alongside Dave Blunt many months now as the search continued for a replacement of the Finance Manager.  They’ve done a marvelous job of keeping the finance responsibilities running smoothly.

Wendy Iversen
Today, I am excited to announce the hiring of Wendy Iversen as our new Finance Manager.  Wendy is a member of the Rockford community and is actively involved in her own church.  She comes with a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from NIU and has passed the Certified Public Accountant Exam.  Wendy will be in the office Monday through Thursday mornings.  Dave Blunt will provide orientation to Wendy as she begins her work with us.  This transition means Dave Blunt will soon be fully retired!  I encourage you to greet Wendy when you stop by the office.

Karen Osolin
Meanwhile, Karen Osolin has graciously agreed to accept the position of Office Receptionist, previously served by Marsha Scott.  Karen is perfectly suited to this position, and we are delighted to see Karen shift office spaces as she continues to eagerly serve St. Mark.

As you can imagine, these have not been easy positions to fill.  They require highly qualified individuals, eager to serve the church and to be committed to our greater mission.  God has been incredibly faithful to us in providing a continuity of dedicated, hard-working staff members!

Walking this journey of faith with you,

Pastor Mark

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,...