A Time To…….

As we launch into summer we also come to the conclusion of our worship theme from Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season.” Last fall, we focused on “A Time to Build Up.” In Advent and Christmas, “A Time to Be Born.” In Epiphany and Lent, “A Time to Seek” and “A Time to Heal.” In Easter, “A Time to Embrace.” We used the visual of a sundial with a moving shadow to reflect the seasons’ change.

For summer, we are inviting and encouraging you to ‘fill in the blank.’ The ellipsis (series of dots) following “A Time to” recognizes that summer in Minnesota is a time for many activities, excursions, adventures and sabbath moments that are or seem less available to us in other times of the year. The obvious ones are boating, fishing, camping, picnics, barbecues, hammocks and lawn chairs, reading under a tree or playing a game of catch, state and county fairs, vacations and ………..(you fill in the blank).

As many of the September to June routines change into your summer rhythms, we invite you to be very purposeful as you fill in your ellipses. Be intentional in making this summer a time of rest and renewal, a time to build up, seek, heal and embrace so that the Spirit of refreshment and resurrection can birth a renewed and right spirit in you. Be intentional in your balancing of worship, work and play in the way summer often seems to allow. Keep an eye on the summer Church calendar for the camp or the barbecue, the meal or the worship, the music or the activity that fits your balancing and meets your needs. Be open to the ways Jesus is seeking to guide you in making the most of your time and in filling the blanks of your ellipses. You just might be surprised where you end up and you just might be delighted or inspired by what you find there. Peace.

Pastor Dave

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

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