Friday, April 19, 2019

Behold, the Cross!

Behold, the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the whole world.
Oh, come, let us worship him.

Resurrection Lutheran Church
Godfrey, Illinois, USA

I AM

From today's Gospel reading, the Passion according to St. John:
Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When he said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.    St. John 18:4-6 RSV
St. Augustine writes:

With no other weapon than his own solitary voice uttering the words "I am," he knocked down, repelled, and rendered helpless that great crowd, even with all their ferocious hatred and terror of arms. For God lay hidden in that human flesh, and eternal day was so obscured in those human limbs that he was looked for with lanterns and torches to be slain in the darkness. "I am," he says, and throws the wicked tothe ground. What well he do when he comes as judge, who did this when giving himself up to be judged? What will his power be like when he comes to reign, who had this kind of power when he came to die? And now even at the present time Christ is still saying through the Gospel, "I am." And . . . the resut is the same, as people go backward and fall to the ground because they have abandoned what is heavenly in favor of what is earthly.

From Tractates on the Gospel of John, as found in the Ancient Commentary on Scripture, New Testament IVb: John 11-21.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

A Big Day

My March 4-5 went something like this:

1) I got the keys for the townhome I'm renting in Godfrey. My place is, by looking towards the back door, the left-most of the units of the four-plex. I spent the night.

2) As I was arriving at a local restaurant for a Fat Tuesday pancake breakfast (I elected to not celebrate Pancake Day at the International House of Pancakes}), Sebastian (my 2002 VW Golf
TDI) reached 200,000 miles. Breakfast was delicious.

3) I signed up for cable TV -- I've never paid for TV before -- and internet, so I've now got all the home utilities ordered. Hopefully everything not yet on -- water and heat were already a-ok -- will
be installed by Friday. So it's back to Peoria to continue packing. But I'm not leaving the new place completely empty. And, since the Seraphs won their Spring Training game, beating the Cubs 9-2 in warm Tempe, Arizona, the Angels bobblehead legitimately gets to show his face in joy.

Here's to new ventures in 2019!

Friday, March 01, 2019

Thank You for Shopping at Sears? :-(

With boxes and boxes of books and the rest of my possessions to move, I'll need a hand cart to carry them to-and-fro. So off to Sears (we still have one in Peoria) I went to get a good one. While it's not the department store it once was, Sears is still what first comes to mind for quality appliances and tools. So I walked into the hardware department (thinking "Division 9" -- it's amazing how many detailed memories stepping into a Sears evokes) and started looking.

I quickly found one "hand truck," a bit bigger than I thought I wanted, but that seemed to be it. No price tag was visible, nor were there any others or anything else that looked like a similar tool. So I started looking around the floor. The nicely-dressed man by the cash registers wearing a Sears badge acknowledged my presence, but he and a couple of not-so-well-dressed Sears employees were engaged with other customers, so I went exploring, but found nothing. Heading back towards the register, the salesman was still conversing with other customers so I went back to the hand truck and moved it on its shelf to see if I could find a price tag. Ah, $79.99. Did I really want to spend that much?

So I walked through the mall to see if Penney's or another store might have a similar tool. Nope. I looked up "hand trucks" on my iPhone, and discovered the price at Sears was in line with what I wanted to buy. And a few minutes later I was back at Sears, where this time I found several fold-up trucks in a display box. They were definitely smaller than I wanted. So I approached that well-attired salesman, now not serving anyone else.

"Do you have any other hand trucks than the one over there?" I asked, pointing in the direction of the one I'd looked at earlier.

When I worked for Sears, one usually hired into Division 9 working the cash register, where you'd begin to learn the merchandise and, if you were alert and ambitious, work that into a sales position that paid a small commission. This gentleman looked the salesman part, frankly better than I've seen of most Sears employees for years. But "hand truck" didn't quite ring any bells until we walked over to it. No, that was the only one he knew about. I noted the price on the shelf, to which he replied he'd need to check on that. That took a few minutes, as none of the registers would accept the stock number he kept inputting. Meanwhile I had pulled my Sears Card out of my wallet.

After re-checking the stock number, he finally got a price: $89.99. He seemed to expect the shelf price to be inaccurate. I wasn't ready to pay that, so I put my Sears Card back in my wallet and thanked him.

A few minutes later, I walked into Lowe's (where the former Sears brand Craftsman® tools are on display), and I found a small selection of that same hand truck, except painted red over the black. Price: $89.99. I took the nicest one I could find, rolled it to the register, and paid for it with my Discover® Card (another former Sears brand). Driving home I sadly pondered by my latest experience "shopping at Sears."

But I decided to not post on this as a follow-up to my earlier Sears blog entry until I opened my e-mail. There from earlier in the afternoon was one from "Sears Card Issued by Citibank":
You've reached 39 Years as a Sears Mastercard® cardmember!

On this special occasion, we want you to know how much we appreciate your loyalty, patronage, and your ongoing support.
I was so proud when I was able to get a Sears charge, my first credit card shortly before my 21st birthday, as a Sears employee. And I had really wanted to use it today to buy what I needed. But it was a very different store then. It was a different retail world then, too...

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Checking Out? Checking In?

So yesterday I step out of my hotel room to check out (attired as in this photo) and the maid is cleaning the room across the hall.

“Yes, I’m checking out now,” I reply to her greeting. She's glad, because now she can clean that room next.

Then she asks, “Are you a Christian?”

“Yes, I am. In fact I’m going to be the new pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey.”

A brief conversation follows -- she hasn't found a church here yet, but wants one where she and her boyfriend (a mixed race couple) can feel welcome -- and she asks for my card. Don’t have one yet, but I write down Resurrection's address, worship times (alas, she works Sunday mornings), and my name and first Sunday there. And the Wednesday evening Lenten services that start next week...

What a great way to conclude this short visit to Godfrey/Alton!

Slightly expanded from a Facebook post from yesterday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

It's Official: My Second Call

Yes, I posted the news on Facebook a week ago Sunday, so lots of folks have heard the news. But the official notice didn't arrive in the mail until this morning: Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey, Illinois, meeting on February 10, 2019, has called this unworthy servant as Pastor. I intend to officially accept the call as soon as I find a place to live and we determine a start date. Having played in Peoria for more than 26 years, I'll be moving on.

Godfrey, Illinois, is a village right next to Alton, Illinois, along the Mississippi River in the northern suburbs of metropolitan St. Louis. Resurrection is, for this part of the country, a rather young ELCA congregation. It formed in 1976 when, in the midst of turmoil then happening in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the pastor and several families of Faith Lutheran Church in Godfrey left to form a new Lutheran church. It would be the first southern Illinois congregation to join the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, but with the decline of Alton's economy in the early 1980's, the congregation had to sell its property and came very close to being merged or closed.

Not accepting either option, the congregation instead chose to redevelop as a mission. With support of the Lutheran Church in America's Division for Mission in North America and then the (new) ELCA, Resurrection was able to grow enough to purchase its current property in 1988, and dedicate a brand new church building in 1992. In 2019, the congregation faces the same challenges of most North American churches -- how to continue proclaiming the Gospel and ministering to and with the neighbor in a culture that no longer defaults to supporting churches, and to grow (or even maintain) when the church's upcoming generation is both smaller and less committed to the church than previous generations.

I'll admit to not having looked forward to departing Peoria. But I am looking forward to challenges in a new place with a new flock called (like the congregation where my faith and vocation were formed) Resurrection.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

It's Done

The clock in the Lower Parish Hall says 8:25 pm. Everyone has finally gone home.

On the table there are the worship furnishings and sacramental vessels that were carried out of the church in procession as Zion's final Mass (which began at 2 pm) concluded: the Processional Cross and Torches, the Altar Book, the bowl from the Baptismal Font, the Chalice and Paten, the Lectern Bible.

Zion was packed as members, former members, neighbors, and friends -- all people whose Christian faith had some tie or connection to this congregation. The ushers reported an attendance of 219. Some were even standing in the balcony to hear the Word of God read and proclaimed, to sing and speak words of our Christian Faith, to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, to share in His peace. And to say, sometimes tearfully, good-bye.

No, it was not over 6 hours of worship. There were also food and fellowship, presentation of some gifts to Zion's pastor of 26+ years, and some clean-up before I was finally alone to take this photo.

I never, ever want to do this again. Nonetheless, it has been a Glorious Day. Alleluia!