You’ve Got Mail

I recall one Advent some years ago here when we collected a long list of names from the congregation. We started with our own home-bound, care-centered, widows and widowers and then expanded it by asking members to give us names of others to whom we could send personalized Christmas greetings. We also received names from folks in the community and came up with hundreds of names and addresses that we compiled on sheets of paper and then cut into individual listings. We put large baskets of these names, each person named multiple times, in the narthex and asked the congregation to pick out a name and send a note or a card wishing Merry Christmas to someone they did not know.

I will always remember one call that came from a woman who lived a long distance away. I learned that she had received cards handmade by children, some family Christmas photos and Christmas letters, a few store-bought cards: all from people she did not know. I learned that she was very much alone and that, in fact, these were the only Christmas greetings she received. She was very confused why we had picked her and what this was all about. I had no idea who submitted her name or what the connection might have been: she knew no one who lived out here. When I explained the project, she listened. And then, she went on to say that she had arranged all the cards together so she could see them from her favorite chair. She said she had read each one several times, studied the photos, tried to picture the people who sent them. More than her curiosity, her delight at what these cards and notes had brought her led her to track down Mount Calvary in Excelsior and make her call.

Our theme through most of May (and the end of April), our Easter season theme, is “A Time to Embrace.” The visual for our theme looks like a postcard from some exotic locale and we have in fact turned it into postcards that we will be making available throughout Easter. At times, we will have specific requests to make of you as to whom you might send one of these cards, and at others we will simply ask you to think of those you could bless by a card “embracing” them with thanks, well wishes, prayers, forgiveness, or whatever you choose. The Bible verse on the address and note side of the card will read “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts; written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 3:2)

As Ecclesiastes 3:5 reads, “There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.” In these polarized, divisive and angry days, perhaps a first step towards being community is embracing our sisters and brothers. Making connections where there have been disruptions. Seeking healing where relations are broken. Offering prayers and thoughts into another person’s isolation or loneliness. Such has always been a key message of Jesus and as I say frequently, our task is to stay on message and not be conformed by the spirit loose in the world. Find a way, send a note, make an overture, swallow a pride, extend a hand or a hearty thank you, and embrace one another with the love of Christ.

Pastor Dave

Youth Learning Life

Mount Calvary’s calling is, “to make, build-up, and send out disciples of Jesus Christ.” Nothing demonstrates that more than the Rite of Confirmation taking place at Mount Calvary on May 21.
This year Mount Calvary will confirm a record 130 young people. It is a moment of pride for our entire congregation. For our confirmands, their parents, guardians, friends, teachers, and staff, this represents the culmination of many years of dedication, time, and creative Christian instruction.

The significance of their accomplishment far exceeds the ‘day-of’ smiles, hugs, gifts, and parties. We have made, built-up, and sent out the flowers of our congregation rooted in Christian morals, values, and discipline. If our efforts were successful, we have unleashed 130 giving, accepting, loving, joyful ‘forces for good’.

The journey centers on Wednesday evenings when Mount Calvary becomes ‘THE’ destination for member youth and their friends. Imagine a sanctuary filled with singing, cheering, middle school kids rocking out to the strains of Christian pop music. Using a curriculum of our own design, a teen worship service is followed by a pastoral presentation and mentored peer group discussions.

Of course, the education extends beyond our Wednesday walls as exemplified by the recent Urban Immersion event held at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, our new North Minneapolis partner. Fifty-two 8th graders, pastors and adults committed 4 hours of their Saturday to spreading 60 cubic yards of mulch, raking yards, collecting litter, serving lunch, manning the food shelf, cleaning bathrooms, and befriending community residents.
The participants were surprised to learn how much a family can do with so little. They discovered the tough, daily trade-off decisions that must be made. The kids saw that, though plagued with guns and gunfire, the neighborhood was not the anticipated ‘dark side’. Our 8th graders came to recognize the residents are much like themselves, though with far tougher challenges.

As for the residents’ perspective, the community was astonished to find so many young people willing to reach out to their neighborhood. Gethsemane’s Pastor Jeff noted the heartfelt goodwill. Pastor Aaron’s highlight was the kid’s stepping beyond the normal day-to-day to experience God at work.

In the end, our young adults realized the day was not about landscaping and cleaning, but about listening to stories. It was a time for humility and taking in the moment. It was about learning life.

Congratulations to all our confirmands on reaching this significant milestone.

Doug Affinito
Council President

Demsa Health Referral Center Opening

On February 24, 2017, the Lutheran Church of Christ Health Service Board held a ribbon cutting and opening of the renovated Demsa Health Referral Center. Mount Calvary was the primary contributor for this project, through our Mission Ready Capital Campaign a few years back. Both existing buildings were demolished to walls and floors starting with the Out-Patient Clinic in 2014. Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry has managed the project financing. The Out-Patient Clinic had a small expansion added to the front of the building, new higher roof, new electrical and plumbing. When the Out-Patient building was completed in 2015 all functions were moved to the Out-Patient Clinic and the In-Patient Clinic demolition and construction was started. The In-Patient Clinic was expanded to include a minor surgical theater, two delivery rooms, two wards and toilet facilities for the wards. Electrical power from the national power grid, a back-up generator and an Un-Interruptible Power System for critical circuits were added. While the facility is operational, there are several items still being worked on with the money remaining in the construction fund.

God Loves Basketball


Some years ago, I had a dream. Unfortunately, it was not one of those Martin Luther King Jr. kinds of dream, but a dream that came on after watching too much basketball during the NCAA Finals. The dream itself was short and the people in it indistinguishable. I was here at Mount Calvary, in the atrium, and I was shaking hands with two people on their way to an adult class that was titled MYSTERIOUS JOY IN THE PAINT. They showed me the handout listing it as the 4th in a series of 6 classes. I looked at it and gave it back. That was it. The whole dream. I woke up. And I was unable to go back to sleep because I knew. I just knew this was a message from God.

I knew what it meant right away. You see, like me, God loves basketball. It has long been my favorite game to play and God’s to watch (golf is too boring). I played it even though I lacked important skills. The PAINT is that part of the basketball court from directly under the basket out to the free throw line also called the free throw lane. It’s that part of the court where there is lots of contact and struggling for position using arms, elbows, hips and legs. It’s where I usually played and where my friends gave me my basketball nickname…borrowed from former NBA star Charles Barkley…the Round Mound of Rebound. Nice.

What I knew immediately in my dream was that this was a word of encouragement. God was reminding me to look for and find joy in my struggles. MYSTERIOUS JOY IN THE PAINT was a reminder that one of the great miracles, mysteries and graces of God is the way Jesus births joy even in difficult places where we are being pushed, elbowed and jostled around by life. There is joy in the paint because God is there. Happiness is that fleeting feeling you get when life is uncontested, smooth sailing and comfortable. Joy is the birthright of faith that we discover in the battle, the strife, the wrestling and the pain. And one of the great mysteries of joy, unlike happiness, is its resiliency, its rootedness, and its strength. Joy is the deep-seated attitude that one gains when one knows God is life, God is love. God is good, working in all things, in all struggles FOR good.

I could not fall back to sleep that night. I had heard the message…to get in the paint, to stay in that contested, jostled place…and get to work; to pray that in some small way I might show God’s presence and Christ’s love…to look for and point to and pray for and hold on to the joy and the good that at times can seem so elusive and lost. To disciple as one who not only says but believes that God works in all things, all times, all manners of life…for good and with grace. Because, people of God, if God doesn’t…if we don’t…if it is not true…it’s game over. And for the life of me, I know that is never true.

Pastor Dave

Church for the Deaf Dedication

On November 13, 2016, Bishop Amos Yakubu of the Yola Diocese, Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN), officiated over the dedication of the Church for the Deaf, in Jimeta, Nigeria. The Mount Calvary Foundation was the second largest US contributor for this project. Several members of Mount Calvary were among the top 5 US individual contributors. Proceeds for the 2012 through the 2016 Fair Trade Fairs amounted to the third largest contribution to building the church. US contributions amounted to approximately 51% of the total funding. The Danish Lutheran Church and Danish Lutheran Deaf Church contributed about 48%. The church is designed with stadium seating on four levels. With friendly seating, 100 people can be seated.

Future projects for the LCCN Deaf ministry will be support for the training of Deaf evangelist, catechist and pastors, demolition of the existing LCCN Deaf Center and building a new building with classrooms for primary and secondary school classes, hostel for Deaf children from rural areas, and areas for adult vocational training.