’tis better to give than to receive

This is never more true than for the Mount Calvary Quilting Ministry. In November, 75 of our quilts went to two Wayside homeless groups for women to become a Christmas gift for their patients. It may well be the only Christmas gift they receive. We did this last year also, and it gives us much joy to do this.

We make and deliver over 1,000 quilts annually to homeless shelters in the downtown and west metro area. It takes two vehicles and four of our ladies to do the delivery each month, as we also include toiletries, warm scarves and hats we knit, and pillows and blankets that have been donated. Some of our favorite quilts are for children, because we sew a pocket on the front and include a color coordinated beanie baby in the quilt. Even if the beanie baby is lost, the child still has a pocket on his quilt to hold any of his little treasures

Thank you, Mount Calvary, for your donations of fabric, sheets for the quilt backings, yarn for the scarves, toiletries (from when you stay at a hotel on a vacation or business trip), and beanie babies. The big oak bin in the entry (the one on the far right) is where you can place any of these donations. Thank you most of all for your prayers for these neighbors in our midst who are homeless.


Ten years ago, I came across a book that had just been released titled Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality and Politics. The intention of the book by Pastor Adam Hamilton (author of our book study last January, Half Truths) was to challenge Christians to engage in conversations about religion, politics and the issues of the day that were truly conversations. Conversations that were marked by a willingness to listen, to examine one’s own biases and assumptions, and a desire to grow mature spiritually as followers of Jesus. Hamilton is clear that seeing ‘gray’ is not some mushy compromise in the middle, but that area between divergent positions that holds truths and commonalities we tend not to see when we are polarized and polarizing. Seeing gray is holding convictions with a humility that resists labeling and stereotyping opinions, it refuses to use convictions like barricades intended to keep challenging information out, and it lays the groundwork for a mutual respect that fosters unity rather than division. That fall, September 2008, about 50 Mount Calvary folks gathered on several nights to discuss the book.

On Tuesday nights, January 16 through February 20, I will be leading a six-week book and Bible study on Seeing Gray as part of the CrossPaths Bible study. In worship throughout Epiphany season, we will focus on “Seeing Jesus in a World of Black and White.” Sermons will bring us into stories of Jesus and the early church where those who met Jesus and those who believed in Jesus wrestled with how being disciples informed who and how they were in the world, how to navigate difficult relationships and issues, and how to be a community where others “see” Jesus through the way a community offers grace, hospitality, love and service to the world. I invite you to consider signing up for CrossPaths or reading the book with your own small group, Bible study or book club. If you choose to read it on your own, I will be posting the weekly homework assignments and podcasts from CrossPaths on our church website.

Back in 2001, following the horrors of 9/11, one of our responses as a congregation was to resolve to talk ‘with’ people who differed from us rather than just ‘about’ them. We invited folks here to meet with us in a series titled “Open Eyes, Open Hearts” where people from different faiths and life experiences came not to debate but to share. We invited them to tell us about their faith, their communities, their “God moments” and a bit about what it was like to be them. On my sabbatical in 2004, I wrote a Bible study called “The Cross-Driven Purpose.” In my closing remarks I wrote: “I consider the Radical Center of the Christian faith to be the Cross. The Cross is at the center of Jesus’ purpose and message; the Cross casts its shadow over his works, teaching and life. The Cross is the place where God literally laid down his life and descended into the deepest hell of human existence—pain, suffering, rejection, abandonment, loneliness, character assassination, undeserved punishment, and death—to show how far God would reach in his pursuit of us in order to turn our ‘No’ into God’s ‘Yes.’ I see the church through the ages struggling to hold on to this radical message, as evidenced as early as Paul’s writings to the Corinthians and Galatians, and how early we came to regard as foolish such a radical statement of God’s love. I see the church through the ages going through various stages of legalism, institutionalism, triumphalism and expansionism that silently and stealthily began distorting our message and our purpose…The Cross is a statement about the human use of power and authority that attempts to deny or diminish or even destroy what God has created for good…and the resurrection is God’s answer that God’s love and purpose will not be thwarted.”

The promise of Resurrection is the promise that we will see Jesus. Resurrection is God’s definitive answer to any tendency to minimize, marginalize or muddy the ability to see, hear and follow Jesus in a challenging world. It is one amazing, life-giving promise!


While the messages in this column sometimes stray from what the title suggests, as we approach the start of a new year I feel it is important to take a good look at the current state of our church. I only have space here to give a brief summary of a few key elements, but the picture I see is very positive.

Our current financial position is healthy, and our outlook remains strong. We are fortunate to have a congregation that is not only able to give, but that also recognizes the importance of supporting all of our efforts, ranging from church operations to capital improvements and to our ministry programs. Pledged and non-pledged giving, which primarily funds our day-to-day operations, met our goals for the past year, and our current pledge drive indicates that we are on track to repeat this in 2018. Unfortunately, Mission Forward, our most recent capital campaign, fell slightly short of its goal so we had to defer some of our planned improvements to a future campaign to maintain the integrity of our budget. I would like to say “thank you” to everyone for their generosity!

Pastoral Staffing
With the installation of Pastor Aaron Werner in January, we are now fully staffed in this key area. Very importantly, the quality of our pastoral staff is one of the great strengths of Mount Calvary; we are truly blessed to have such a qualified and talented group of pastors that complement each other so well.

Ministry Partnerships
We have made a significant difference in the lives of people over the past year! Our congregation has provided assistance to a wide range of local and global efforts, many of which provide critical resources for recipients. Just a few that come to mind are Families Moving Forward, Many Hands-Many Meals, and Gethsemane Lutheran Church. If we measure the state of our church, at least in part by the service we provide and the positive impact we have on others, then we are in a very good state.

Of course, one of the most important measures of the state of our church is whether we are meeting the needs and expectations of our members. Based on the survey of our congregation that we reported to you in 2016, we heard a resounding “yes.” But since this is of such importance, let’s not wait for the next survey to hear from you. Please feel free to send me your thoughts, comments and questions any time regarding the state of our church. 

Many Meals Reach Sierra Leone

Your hands scooped that rice. Sealed the bags. Taped the boxes. And now, our shipment of food to Sierra Leone has successfully arrived!
In the spring, Many Hands Many Meals sent approximately 70,000 meals to Sierra Leone, which is one of the poorest countries in the world. About 75 percent of people there live in poverty, with half living on less than $1.25 a day. MH-MM is partnering with Children of the Nations, which is distributing the food and has other programs that help children in need. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and we are so happy to see our boxes arrive safely after a long trip halfway around the world.
We are so grateful to our Mount Calvary community for helping us feed the hungry. Thank you!


His House wants to thank everyone that has assisted and donated to His House, The RAK and the Laundry Ministry. We have wonderful updates on the difference this is making in the community.

A local single mom had been downsized from her job, has a disabled son, and was very concerned about her already tight budget. We had been sharing food and winter gear from Mount Calvary. In the middle of December she called us to let us know she had a new job and was starting the next day. She asked us for help with the cost of doing her laundry. We delivered the quarters from the collection bottle along with some donated laundry soap. When she came to the door, she cried! Yes, she cried about having the supplies to do laundry to start her new job.

There is a homeless couple nearby living in their car. We regularly deliver food, personal care products and gas until they are ready to enter a shelter. They called us to share that the husband had gotten a job after several months of unemployment. We knew they needed help from the Laundry Ministry! A His House volunteer delivered quarters and laundry soap. They were so excited to make sure the husband had clean clothes for his
new job.

I think sometimes during the holidays we lose track of “the little things.” The Giving Tree campaign often-times focuses on toys and electronics. So, the laundry ministry caught us all off guard. It reminded us of the impact people can make just listening and caring for a neighbor. The families mentioned above aren’t going to the mall shopping. Most don’t have Christmas trees because expectations are so low that even “hope” is an extravagance they cannot afford. These families are thinking about today—how am I going to eat, keep gas in my car, and do laundry?

So again, thank you to everyone who helped and donated to the His House Laundry Ministry, our Giving Tree campaign, the annual Christmas Boutique and our various missions. All are a wonderful success because of you. We will be able to help many local families with basic necessities including utilities, car repairs, rent….and clean clothes. Keep the blessings coming.

many hands give many thanks

Thank you to everyone who helped us pack meals, volunteered behind the scenes, gave donations and supported the 13th annual Many Hands Many Meals Packathon. We packed an impressive 353,376 meals, which are slated for hurricane relief.

A special call out to the Mount Calvary staff and members for your continuing support of our mission to feed the hungry!

We do have one more request. As you determine your end-of-year gifts and donations, please consider donating to Many Hands Many Meals. This year we have fallen short of fundraising goals, and still need more than $20,000 to pay for packathon ingredients. Please donate if you’re able by going to mh-mm.org and selecting “donate” from the menu at the top. If your employer matches donations, we are a 501(c)(3). Donations are also tax deductible. Thanks again for your support!

Let’s Show We Care

The past couple of weeks have reminded me that we have so many people who need our thoughts and prayers, and who need us to show that we truly care about them. Some are people very close to us, some are acquaintances, and some are total strangers … but all provide us with good reasons to stop and think about those around us, and to understand and care.

Nationally, there was the recent news about the tragedy at a church in Texas that affected an entire community. Locally, a friend and colleague let me know about a family member who had encountered a life threatening health issue. Hitting closer to home personally, I recently moved my mother to a memory care unit from her independent living apartment due to the advancing state of her condition.

Each of these events will bring about changes in the lives of those who are impacted. And while change is inevitable, and in fact it is often the necessary catalyst that brings good things into our lives, sometimes change seems distinctly biased toward negative outcomes such as the situations described above. In these times let’s remember that caring does matter, and let’s do our best to support those who have been affected. A hug, a phone call, a squeeze of someone’s hand, a prayer … they can all be so very helpful, and show that we care.

For those who have been paying attention to our recent introduction of Mount Calvary’s four Pillars (I expect that includes everyone!), expressing that we care about others is the “what we do,” and the “why we do it” is … Love. Seems like a really good reason to let those around us know we care.

Not to minimize the importance of the message above, but there are a couple of additional changes that we should all care about (these are examples of good changes!). Our construction projects for the remodel of our restrooms and the expansion of our parking lot have been completed! Take a minute or two the next time you are at church to see our newly remodeled restrooms in the atrium near the main entrance. They are not only more accessible and functional, but they are also beautiful! And the completion of our parking lot expansion not only adds some very necessary parking spaces, but we now have a much more direct path to Kowalski’s to grab those all-important donuts and treats after Sunday services.

See you in the bakery department soon!

Mike Kasprick
Council President

Linked in Prayer

As we set aside time for daily prayer, we can notice how our God nourishes, strengthens, loves and forgives us. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Through silence, reading scripture, prayer, we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Here are a couple suggestions for the Advent season. Mary’s Magnificant: Luke 1: 46-55 and Zechariah’s prophecy when he was filled with the Holy Spirit: Luke 1:68-79. Read in entirety, then select a phrase to meditate on a few times during the day. At the end of the day, ask the Holy Spirit what enriching messaging God is speaking into your heart through the passage. Blessings to you as you read, listen and commune with God.

Mary’s Song of Praise – Magnificant
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Laurie Erickson

Once Upon a Manger

Some years ago, Garrison Keillor shared the Seven Principles of a Successful Christmas. Number one was not to spend too much time shopping for gifts that are going to spend the next 30 years in a bottom drawer and sell for 35 cents at an estate sale. Just buy them all sweatpants. Number two, don’t sweat the dinner. All you need is potatoes, bread crumbs, a frozen veggie, cranberries in a can, a big bird, and a tub of butter. Order pies from a bakery. I won’t share all seven, but I was intrigued by number three. When planning your Christmas dinner, don’t think of the folks as dinner guests…think of them as the cast and your job is to make the event entertaining.

The best way to have a memorable Christmas is to seat bachelor Uncle Earl with the squirting mistletoe tie next to the cousins in the Armani suits and the $100 haircuts who are trying to hide the fact they’re from Iowa. Sit your brother-in-law from Roswell, New Mexico who moved there in hopes of reconnecting with his Martian ancestors next to the sister who worked for Michele Bachmann. They probably have more to talk about than you might think. Place the brother who brought the venison sausage and the pheasants for dinner next to your cousin Wanda the vegetarian who changed her name to Moonflower. Too many people, Garrison Keillor says, only invite people who get along, think and act and look alike and that’s like trying to form a choir and only recruiting sopranos. And then what you get feels more like a committee meeting, a discussion group or a memorial service. A good Christmas always has some moment where some crisis occurs or is resurrected from the past and somebody needs forgiveness for something. A GREAT Christmas has several of them.

Sound far-fetched to you? Let’s go back 2 millennia and see the guest list, according to Matthew and Luke, invited to that very first Christmas. You have a young Jewish carpenter from a small town no one ever heard of and his pregnant teenage fiancée, you have a group of homeless shepherds who live in the fields with their sheep, you have a host of angels on a choir field trip with one spokesangel whose job it is to go around telling people not to be afraid. You have three intellectuals with lots of money and time on their hands carrying gold, frankincense and myrrh whose GPS is oriented to an unusual star (turn left at the next oasis), an 84-year-old widow who spends every day hanging around the temple and her counterpart named Simeon. In the background, you have a paranoid king, a governor with the unfortunate name of Quirinius and a clueless Emperor who all figure they should be major players in this drama but who don’t even get called to audition. And of course, the baby. At the center of it all, the reason for the coming together of all these disparate and desperate lives, the baby. A baby whose birth is not a Hallmark moment as much as it is a crisis of Biblical proportions. Lives will be changed, authority called into question, religious leaders called to account, and a whole planet of people needing forgiveness for something or hope in everything will find their attentions drawn to him.

This story of Christmas, God’s story written on the world, assembles a memorable cast of characters around the birth of a child. Memorable and diverse casts have been assembling ever since, seeking to connect that story with their own: seeking a star to guide their way, seeking a message of hope and peace, and wanting to trust that God is not so far removed that God won’t show up in the stink and funk of the stables we call home. It’s our story, don’t you know. It’s our story, God’s story, I hope you know.

Pastor Dave