January 2, 2018

Still have the Christmas Spirit?  We are deep into the twelve days of Christmas, which continue through Epiphany on January 6, which is actually the thirteenth day if you count Christmas as the first day of Christmas.  Epiphany is a festival day when we celebrate the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem.  It’s when the whole world got the news that Jesus was born.

As we now understand and accept, many Christmas practices came out of other traditions.  Sometimes from liturgical considerations, but more-often from simple calendar convenience, government edict, or because they were fun, Christianity absorbed and adapted a variety of practices, such as those related to the winter solstice.

In our world, Christmas is over.  All the half-price Christmas merchandise in the store is looking pretty picked over.  Right about now is when we look at the Christmas tree and say, “I guess we can keep it up for a few more days.”  Someone told me last week about the year their Christmas tree stayed up the entire year.  Has this happened to you?

It’s not a bad idea, really.  I mean, we do lament the passing of the Christmas Spirit when the holiday ends.  If keeping the tree up in any way keeps us mindful of the Christmas Spirit, that’s a good thing.

Culturally there is great resistance to remembering Christmas beyond the day itself.  All the carols just stop.  (Of course, in some cases the carols started two months ago.  This brings up the necessity of restoring sanity.)  Try this: say “Merry Christmas” to everyone you meet today.  See how that goes.

People may think you’re odd, or a little crazy.

But that’s really the point, isn’t it?

See you in church!  We will continue our Christmas celebration with a potluck lunch afterward.  The magi have been invited.  If you can, bring a dish to share, or a few dollars to contribute.  Whatever the case, plan to be here!


January 2, 2018

January 2, 2018

December 18, 2017

December 18, 2017

December 14, 2017

While this is supposed to be a season filled with joy, we may stumble into this question: How bad can things get?

I suppose we all ask ourselves this question every once in a while.  It especially happens when a series of things go wrong.  You wake up not feeling well.  The toilet gets clogged and overflows.  Then your son calls and is in a financial bind.  Then you get in your car to drive to work, and one of the tires is flat.  You realize you are feeling really terrible.  Your phone rings again.  It’s your dentist, reminding you about your appointment tomorrow!

We’ve all had days like this.  The details may be different, but the mounting, cumulative troubles are not.  That’s why we can relate to Psalm 126:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.

This Psalm was written in response to the Babylonian Exile, when the Israelites were essentially indentured to their captors.  It’s not hard to imagine them working in those foreign fields, losing hope, and beginning to weep.

Yet the time for reaping comes, and there are shouts of joy!  Something has happened, and it must be something big.  The people have become “like those who dream” whose “mouth was filled with laughter.”

Something has happened.  Something is happening!

No matter how bad things might get, hang in there.  I’ll see you in church.


December 11, 2017

December 11, 2017

Taize Service

What is a Taizé Service (pronounced Teh-ZAY)? A Taizé service involves sung and recited prayers and chants, meditation, periods of silence, and liturgical readings. No sermon. Prior to the Taizé service, there will be a light meal served in the Social Hall at 5:00 prior to going into the Sanctuary and experiencing the presence of God in a refreshing, fresh, and replenishing way through contemplative worship. All are invited!

The Living Nativity & The Bethlehem Marketplace

St. Mark’s Annual Living Nativity

And, something new:

The Bethlehem Marketplace with a Soup Supper

All children everywhere are invited to participate as angels and shepherds in the dramatic telling of the birth of Jesus. No rehearsal necessary. We provide costumes. Simply show up at the church office at 5:00 on the night of Living Nativity, Saturday, December 16. Adult educators will see that your child gets to the stage on time. The action takes place outside in front of the church. All guests will enjoy the presentation of the Holy Family, Magi entourage, crazy camel,  shepherds, angels, and live animals.   Something new this year: The Bethlehem Marketplace. When the drama finishes, guests will process past the nativity on their way to the Marketplace in Bethlehem. There, enjoy a Soup Supper for a small fee in the fundraising efforts of St. Mark’s youth.

Also, kids will enjoy the petting corral with live animals; pound Roman coin; visit the Spice Shop; create royal crowns; pose at the photo booth; revel in Christmas art; and delight in the cookie and hot cocoa reception. Questions? Email Karen at kwscanlon@gmail.com or call the church office 858 273-1480. See you in Bethlehem. Shalom!

September 21, 2017

September 21, 2017

September 21, 2017

A friend reported on Facebook the other day that her husband had purchased a large quantity of Halloween candy.  I guess it was on sale.  Another friend responded that the candy would go stale by the time Halloween came, so he’d have to eat it.  This is, of course, what happens to an awful lot of the Halloween candy we buy.  Even if it’s not stale.  Fall is underway and the Halloween displays are up in stores!

We’re going to do a lot of celebrating in October, and it begins on Sunday, October 1 as we lift up the very goodness of creation with the Blessing of the Animals in the 9:30 worship service. It is one of St. Mark’s most joy-filled Sundays, as we welcome singles and families from the community and their animal companions.  St. Francis (Adam DiProfio) and Jake invite all!  See below.

You may have heard that this year is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.  October 29 is Reformation Sunday, and we will celebrate with special music to remember Martin Luther’s courage in calling out how the church had strayed from its mission and become corrupted.  We will also dedicate our new organ console.

Remember that this Sunday, September 24, we’ll have an hour-long after-church discussion to continue to talk about the events in Charlottesville and the reaction since.  All are invited.  Some of the general topics

  • It is important that each of us be self-aware of our world view, and to accept that others—especially those from different circumstances than ours—see the world quite differently than we do.
  • The church is being called to moral and ethical leadership–not just the leaders of the church, but everyone in the church. It is time to step up and be heard.
  • What should we do, as individuals, and as a church? First, renounce violence, indifference, and hate–to call it out and reject it in personal conversations and wherever else it is encountered.  Second, “counter with the positive”–to speak up and take initiative for the very-goodness of the created order, and the biblical call to social justice.
  • Though we have various political views, we all share the same goal of a more-peaceful, more-just world. When we disagree, can we still be friends? Can we work together still?

See you in church!


Blessing of the Animals 2017

Francis of Assisi, Italy, was born October 3, 1182. The son of a prosperous silk merchant, young Francis reveled in the life of his wealthy family. He went off to war in 1204 but experienced a divine vision and later joined the poor in begging at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. The experience moved him to live in poverty, and he began preaching the Gospel in the streets.

The young preacher was never ordained to the Catholic priest-hood, yet Francis remains one of the most venerated religious figures in history. He was proclaimed saint by Pope Gregory IX in 1228. St. Francis is known as the Patron Saint of Animals, and it is customary to hold annual ceremonies blessing animals near his feast day in early October.

St. Mark’s looks forward to having you among us on Sunday morning, October 1, for the fourth annual Blessing of the Animals. Come and meet volunteers who foster and rescue, and others who promote the bond between humans and animals. Enjoy a simple service and a chance to meet other eager pet ‘parents’.

“Every beast of the earth and every bird of the heavens, every-thing that has the breath of life, God has given.” (Genesis 1:30)
No wonder a dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.