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JANUARY, 2009

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


As we come to the end of another year and turn the page on new calendars we come also to a time of reflection and anticipation. This reflection and anticipation leads often to the writing of resolutions: proposals for a new start in life as well as a new start on a calendar.

In these days after Christmas I have read a little in a couple of old books (that is, books written when I was a child!). One is The Christian Century Reader, a collection of articles from the first half of the twentieth century, ending in 1961. The Christian Century is a magazine dating from the early 20th century reflective of the politically liberal wing of Protestantism which emphasized a social gospel. While not always agreeing with their views, it does lift up the important role Christian faith played in the life of our nation and world, a role often ignored in the rewriting of history. (Among the topics, for example, are selections which lift up the importance of the church in the civil rights movement.) As to why this came to mind with regard to resolutions, it is a reminder of the important responsibility of the Christian in the world; the degree to which we are called and have the ability to change things for the better. One strength of many of the writings was their reminding the Christian( and the church) to live lives of compassion, service, and reconciliation.



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DECEMBER 2008

Dear Friends in Christ,


As we come to another Advent and Christmas season, the beginning of a new church year, we do so in a time of confusion.

As I read those words which began my column in 2003 I was struck by how much things today are the same. The war continues; then we were coming out of a recession, now we are again in a recession; Israel and the Palestinians are still in conflict, though less violent at the moment; our president-elect is already coming under attack from the extremists in his own party for trying to bring the nation together (as President Bush often had to struggle with the extremists in his party). That year a woman had been trampled to death on Black Friday at a store in Florida by shoppers, this year a worker at a Wal-Mart in New York was trampled to death by shoppers. There continue to be conflicts over the public celebration of Christmas and this year some people even began to attack Thanksgiving as a violation of the separation of church and state.



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OCTOBER 2008

Autumn leaves drift by my window,
Autumn leaves of red and gold.

So begins one of the old standards that I like and always think of this time of year. It seems the older I get the more quickly fall comes around. Only yesterday it was Christmas and we were talking about how early Easter was this year. Now suddenly Worship and Music is planning for another Advent and I don't know how we got here so fast. When I was little my dad used to talk about how quickly time passed. That made no since to me then as I waited for the days to crawl by in school and thought about Christmas coming. Now I join in his lament.

Much has happened in the year since last autumn began, personally, in our congregation, and in the world around us. Nationally we are in the midst of an ugly presidential campaign and watch as Congress tries to deal with a widespread financial crisis which seems to have no good answers. Congress wants to blame this President and many outside of government blame this Congress. But the roots of the problem go back at least thirty years, if not further. Laws were passed over time, sometimes with good intent, which had unintended consequences. Among the results of the bills was a gradual undermining of rules assuring the stability of the credit market. Over those decades our world economy became more and more intertwined which made the crisis, when it came, much more devastating. 
We also are in the midst of a gas crisis. Following shutdowns for the hurricane the refineries and pipe lines had to get back up to full capacity. Since most of our gas in the Southeast comes from the gulf coast we had a severe shortage. People often had to wait in long lines if they could even find a station with gas. Some of those lines got ugly -- though thankfully most did not.



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SEPTEMBER, 2008

With the coming Book of Faith emphasis you will hear a lot more about Bible study. From time to time people ask me the best Bible translation. Most modern translations are well done and each offers benefits. The back of the new Augsburg Fortress Bible catalog has a nice summary of the different translations. This month I will share some history and thoughts. In the late 1800s an updating of the KJV was undertaken in Great Britain followed by an American edition (the American Standard). In the 1940s and 50s work was done to improve that and the Revised Standard Version was born. By the 1960s the American Bible Society released Today's English Version (the Good News Bible) with a seventh grade reading level. A new British translation, the New English Bible, soon followed. The Living Bible, a paraphrase, was published in those years as well. In 1966 the Jerusalem Bible, a Roman Catholic work (and my favorite for reading and devotions because of the beauty of the language and because it is written to be read aloud.) was published to update their old Douay-Rheims version.

The New American Standard - the most literal translation - was published by the Lockman Foundation in the 1970s. (This is my favorite for study because it is the most literal; though that gives it a 12th grade reading level.) The New International Version was the work of the International Bible Society and has become the most widely used translation in the U. S. The New Revised Standard came out in the 1980s. It is the most universal with a translation committee including Protestant, Jewish (for the old testament), Roman Catholic, and Orthodox scholars. The Contemporary English Version, CEV, from the American Bible Society was an attempt to reach people who had English as a second language. One of its translators goals was to make it easy to understand when read aloud. The New Jerusalem Bible and the Revised New English were published in the 1980s. In the US the Roman Catholic version most used is the New American Bible published about the same time. The English Standard Version is a recent attempt and is the first one to include a CD-ROM with the Bible in most editions. Other newer versions include the New Living, the New King James, the Message (another paraphrase) and an update to the NIV.

Despite ads that imply otherwise these are all the work of people who have tried to faithfully put the words of ancient scripture into modern language. Except for the New American Standard, first edition (which was word for word), all follow the principal of keeping the thoughts as close as possible to the original while using modern grammar rules to improve clarity and understanding.



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SUMMER, 2008

Dear friends in Christ,

Summer again, drought again, storms again, floods again. As the seasons of the earth turn so the seasons of our lives turn - though more slowly. We can divide a long life into twelve months in our minds -- yet the monthly transition is hard to define. But to divide our lives into seasons is not so hard. We can certainly fudge the transition times and for most people winter is the shortest (though there are exceptions). Most of us like to extend young adult and middle age as late as possible! But a day comes when it hits us that we have moved on into the next season. As those realizations come we have new opportunities to expand our lives - to learn new things or ways of doing things. Our relationships may change as we have different experiences. We move from single to couple to parent to grandparent. (Not everyone of course -- but there are other transitions for those who never marry or have children.)

What season are you in? When did you realize you had moved on to that stage? Wherever you are in the seasons of life you have opportunities to serve God and witness to Jesus. Those opportunities extend to all those who are baptized. When you pick up your annual church report do you ever think about the logo and phrase on the cover? We, the people of God, are united through the cross. That Christian unity is beyond the bonds of family, friendship, or patriotism. It is a bond even beyond the grave and extending into the future with those believers yet unborn. That bond says we are all in this together and all bear responsibility for the future of the church.



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EASTER 2008

Dear friends in Christ,


Rejoice! Christ is Risen!
What a glorious Easter celebration we had. It was very special to celebrate a baptism and receive new members as part of the service. (Through the centuries Easter has traditionally been a time for Baptism in the life of the Church.) Mike and all four choirs did a wonderful job of glorifying our risen Lord and leading our worship. Thanks to Amie Goodman and all those who helped (some on short notice) with the Easter sunrise drama. A special thanks also goes to the Lutheran Men for providing us another great Easter breakfast. As we continue our celebration of the Easter season in the coming weeks I hope you will continue to experience the joy of the resurrection in our worship together.
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I was reading through some notes recently and came across a short paragraph I copied several years ago. It is by Perry Buffington, licensed psychologist, in a 1999 column for Universal Press Syndicate entitled Forgive or Forget. He is seeking to explain Why Failure Lingers. 
Failures take on a life of their own because the brain remembers incomplete tasks or failures longer than any success or completed activity. It's technically referred to as the Zeigarnik effect. When a project or a thought is completed, the brain places it in a special memory. The brain no longer gives the project priority or active working status, and bits and pieces of the achieved situation begin to decay. 



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LENT, 2008

Dear brothers & sisters in Christ


Lent comes upon us early this year. Easter will be on March 23rd -- which is almost the earliest date possible. As you may know, the date changes each year because it is based on the date of the Jewish Passover. Passover in turn is an agricultural festival with the date tied to a lunar calendar. That is why the date varies from year to year. The date of Ash Wednesday is fixed to allow forty weekdays before Easter so will be February 6th. Out Lenten worship schedule begins with the imposition of ashes and Holy Communion on Ash Wednesday. As in the past we will have a Lenten meal each of the next five Wednesdays followed by Holden Evening Prayer. Please plan to be with us each week as we prepare for the celebration of our Lord's Resurrection on Easter Sunday. 


There are three disciplines that are usually associated with this season. It is sometimes said that we pray for the good of the spirit, fast for the good of the body and give alms for the good of the soul. It is fair to ask, Should we not always be doing those things? However, we do not live our lives is a static way. Our activities and the intensity with which we do things is affected by the ebb and flow of our daily life. Lent provides a time for special emphasis on these aspects of our daily life. 



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AUGUST, 2007

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


As we come to the end of another summer we look forward to the beginning of a new year in Christian Education. Janet Parsons has put up a sign-up sheet for Sunday School teachers. At the end of the month we will kick off things with Rally Day and our annual Sunday School picnic at Dan Nicholas Park. Confirmation classes will also begin again soon. As children eagerly(?) await the start of a new school year we will again have a blessing of the book bags this month before school starts. 


August is also a month to look outward to the larger work of the Church. The tenth is the deadline to sign up to work on the Thrivent/Habitat project in the ongoing effort to recover from Hurricane Katrina. If you are interested you can call toll free 866-375-8211. Then on August twelfth we welcome Pastor Schmeelcke, a retired Lutheran minister. He will share with us the ministry of Food for the Poor during his sermon as well as being available during Sunday School to discuss their work. This group focuses on the poorest of the poor in sixteen nations throughout Central America and the Caribbean. 



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JULY, 2007

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


Well, the last six weeks have been truly interesting. Some parts of recovery are going more slowly since the right shoulder is also damaged. Running into the deer slowed things up as well. But the sling is now mostly off so I can type again and also begin to drive. I can even ride the mower - but a little slower than usual, at least over rough ground. (However, I still cannot use most yard tools so the edges will remain a bit rough.) In two more weeks the physical therapists will begin the strength training which will take several months but which others who have had the surgery tell me should leave that shoulder good as new if I work at it.


I want to express my sincere thanks for your patience during this extended recovery period. Special thanks go to all those who have helped drive me to therapy and other places: Margaret Feimster, Hazel Garver, Sarah Higgins, Robert Karriker, Don Sebastian, Mike Withers, Pastor MacMurphy, Pastor Beam, and of course Pat. (Thanks also to all those others who offered to help and anyone whose name I omitted.) While the drought reduced the need for lawn mowing it did not eliminate it altogether and we want to thank Gray Dabbs Lawn Service for mowing and trimming the yard. Thanks also for the prayers, cards, calls, visits, and remembrances that meant so much. Very special thanks go to Mike Kotish and Janet Parsons who helped with vestments when Pat wasn't available, to the Worship Committee, to Sarah Bradley who helped me with distribution of the Communion bread when Pat was away, and especially to Mary Ann Lambert who helped in more ways than I can name.
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MAY, 2007

This month I wanted to share some thoughts on a variety of subjects.
There have been a lot of troubling news items over the past few weeks. The tragedy in Virginia is still very much on many people's minds, not just those directly affected. It seems to reflect the apparent growth in senseless violence in our world. Its very randomness calls to mind the acts of terror that some people live with daily, thinking of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Sudan for example. One thing that struck me early on was how some in the news media seemed eager to place blame on the faculty or the mental health system. While I certainly don't know all the details it seems to me this was a profoundly troubled young man. Trying to blame educators or counselors is not appropriate given current laws regarding involuntary treatment. We certainly need to continue to keep all these folks in our prayers, including the shooter's family and the campus police officers who had to respond. 


A few weeks ago one of Pat's students was killed in gang crossfire at a birthday party in Salisbury. Some people crashed the party and an argument erupted between rival gangs. Like the tragedy in Virginia she had nothing to do with the circumstances - it was a senseless act that killed a young teen. It is important to know that those giving the party apparently had nothing to do with the gangs. In response the mayor of Salisbury is planning a community meeting in June to talk about gangs and related topics.


This morning I attended a meeting sponsored by the school system that sought to involve churches in working with schools. It grew out of that same concern. As some of you may be aware St. Marks in China Grove is using an endowment fund to offer tutoring to students at China Grove Elementary. If you have some thoughts about how we, as a congregation, might be able to support our children and community through the schools why not share those with me or with the Evangelism Committee or the Council. Gangs are not confined to big cities. Working together perhaps we can help make a difference in the lives of not only our own children but those throughout our community. One very important action that is already in place is the project by our Women of the ELCA to pray for children and schools.



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