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A MESSAGE FROM YOUR PASTOR 

It has come to my attention that some members of our church are staying home on Sunday morning because of the tough economy. Because they can not put in the offering plate what they would like, what they think they should, or what they wrote on their faith promise card last fall, some people are staying home from church altogether. If that is your situation, I have what I believe is a word from God for you.

“DON’T DO THAT!”

Christian giving is always to be proportional, meaning proportional to your income. When people made faith promises the cards read, “As long as God continues to bless me financially as he is right now, I will give ______.”  This means if your income is reduced, or disappears entirely, your giving to God through His church ought also to be reduced accordingly.   Don’t stay home. The body of Christ needs you and especially in difficult times, you need to be in worship with your family of faith.

 

Don’t put it off.! Come back and worship with us this Sunday. This Sunday I believe I have a word of God for you in your situation. 

                                                            Your brother in Christ, 

                                                                    Pastor Jay


A PRAYER SAMPLER

(Lutheran Women Today—1996)

Susan Trygstad and Jay Trygstad 

A Prayer Sampler (continued) 
Bottom line, prayer is simply personal communication with God. Our Christian tradition offers a wealth of styles and methods that enable us to nourish our relationship with God.  Last month we talked about the Prayer of the Heart (Centering Prayer), praying the scriptures (sometimes called Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading), Walking Prayer, and last but not least, Popcorn Prayer. This month, two new forms of prayer. 
Prayer with the Spirit
In I Corinthians 12-14 St Paul discusses the gifts of the Spirit, with particular attention to what he calls prayer “with the Spirit. Paul writes that there are times   when life is so complex that “we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)  Speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift God gives to some Christians that enables them to pray in a language they have never learned.  Speaking in tongues is not a badge of super spirituality, nor is it a sign of mental instability.  The Bible teaches that we should not fear it, forbid it, or brag about it.  Rather we should recognize it as one of many gifts the Spirit gives to God’s people, recognize it as an undeserved gift of grace, be open to it if God should choose to send it to us, and above all, use it lovingly for building up the church, which is the body of Christ. 
Prayer of Relinquishment
Inevitably life brings pain, struggle, and stress. Sooner or later life breaks all of us! In painful and difficult times the natural tendency is for our thoughts, feelings, and even our prayers to become self-centered and self-serving. We want to manipulate God into giving us our heart’s desire, and so we go in search of secret prayer techniques or formulas to force God’s hand into giving us what we want, when we want it.   
      
In stark contrast stands the example of Jesus.  In agony, Jesus prayed to be delivered from the cross. As God’s son, he could have demanded and received dramatic and immediate rescue from this struggle and pain.  Instead, Jesus prayed a prayer of relinquishment: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”  In painful times, God invites us to pray in this way, to turn our desperate situation over to Him, and to entrust ourselves to God’s wisdom, power, and love.   
       
This prayer of relinquishment isn’t for “baby Christians.” Even for those mature in Christ, it is possible only after a long struggle with one’s flesh.  But when we are able, by God’s grace, to let go in this way, God sends us “the peace that passes all human understanding.” 
        
The prayer of Abandonment by Brother Charles de Foudcauld has helped us to pray, and to relinquish control of our lives back to God.  “Father, I abandon myself into your hands. Do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you.  I am ready for all, I accept all.Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this O Lord.  Into your hands I commend my soul.  I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you Lord, and so need to give myself to you, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father."
In His love, Pastor Jay and Susan Trygstad 
(to be continued. Next month: “A Father Looks at Prayer”)

 

Your brother in Christ,

 Pastor Jay


A PRAYER SAMPLER

(Lutheran Women Today—1996)

Susan Trygstad and Jay Trygstad 

Bottom line, prayer is simply personal communication with God. Our Christian tradition offers a wealth of styles and methods that enable us to  nourish our relationship with God. Here are some ways you may find helpful in your walk of faith. 

The Prayer of the Heart

If prayer is communication with God, it must involve not only speaking, but also listening. Centering prayer is a form of Christian contemplation in which we quiet our soul and listen for God’s “still small voice”. Begin by sitting in a comfortable position. Relax your body,. Take several deep breaths. Fix your mind on a single word that represents God for you (such as Jesus Father, Spirit, Lord).  Say this word over and over silently in your mind. Use this word to bring yourself into an awareness of the presence of God. Inevitably you will become aware that thoughts and everyday concerns are distracting you from your prayer. You may find you have drifted into  sleep. When this happens, do not punish yourself. Slowly, gently, use your prayer word to once again bring you into the presence of God. After about 20 minutes you will emerge from your prayer time feeling calm and spiritually renewed. 

Praying the Scriptures

Another method of listening prayer is called “divine reading.” In this prayer we read short passages of scripture, speaking the Word back to God, while listening intently, expectantly, for God to speak a word to us.  A most meaningful source for us has been the lament Psalms (such as Psalms 3, 4, 6, 22, 25, 27, 28, 41, 51, 56, 62, 69, 88, 130.)  Prayed out of the depths of great suffering, these prayers seem blunt, sometimes too bold. They are painfully honest, but they are undergirded with a deep trust in the power, justice, and faithfulness of God. In times of deep discouragement, God uses these prayers to speak to our hearts, reminding us of God’s presence with us, assuring us of God’s eternal love and faithfulness. 

Walking Prayer

This can be done hiking in a forest, jogging around the neighborhood, or strolling through a mall.  These can be prayers of praise for the beauty of nature, or a stream-of-consciousness prayer in which you simply pour out your heart to God. We find the acronym ACTS provides helpful structure for prayer. 

A   stands for acclamation. Begin by praising God. Offer praises for God’s power, justice, love, and faithfulness.

C  stands for confession of sin. Focus on confessing your sin before God.

T   stands for thanksgiving to God for all God’s gifts.

S   stands for supplication; ask for God’s help for whatever, or whoever, is on your heart. 

Popcorn Prayer

In this corporate prayer, the group holds hands in a circle, and the leader invites everyone to participate in the prayer. The prayer can be a name, feeling, hope, sorrow, or whatever you have on your heart. The only restriction is that each time a person prays, the petition can only be one word long. This enables those who have had little experience praying aloud in public to participate fully. It’s called a popcorn prayer because its seems to pop from one side of the circle to the other, and the  effect is like that of corn popping on the stove. Of all corporate prayers, this has been for us the most participatory, and often the most joyful! 

(To be continued next month.)

  Your brother in Christ,

 Pastor Jay


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,            

It is a privilege to serve in ministry with you.  I’m very excited about some exciting new educational opportunities coming up at St. Mark. The following is an “in-a-nutshell” summary of each class:

Celebrate Recovery            

Celebrate Recovery is a Christian 12-Step program designed not only for alcoholics or addicts, but for anyone who struggles with any kind of hurts, habits, or hang-ups that destroy relationships and suck the joy out of our lives.  Celebrate Recovery is a safe place where confidentiality is respected. It is refuge where you can share your experiences, and receive encouragement and hope for a new beginning.            We meet every Monday evening at church from 7 to 9 beginning February 7th at 7:00 P.M.           

Not only do we invite you to come to these classes we also ask you to search your hearts and see if there is a calling for you to help with this so-important mission. We need greeters, set-up and clean-up people, and just general helpers. We also need people to learn how to run the sound board and power point.           

Please give this your prayerful consideration. There will be a sign-up sheet in the narthex if you are interested in helping.  

Dealing with Today’s Teens 

Pulling your hair out trying to cope with your teenagers?   Before you are completely bald, we can help.  This 8 week seminar, “Dealing with Today’s Teens” will teach you what every parent needs to know about how to raise teenagers without losing your mind. Classes will meet Wednesday evenings at 7:00 PM beginning January 19th. Cost is $15, and advanced registration is required so we can purchase materials.  

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University            

Have you ever wondered where your money goes?  Come learn how to better manage your money and your life, God’s way. This class “Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University” will help couples reduce their debt and learn how to save for the future.            

The financial principles in this course apply to everyone, whether you are financially secure or struggling with debt. Over a million families have changed their lives by taking this course. On average, by the end of the 13 week class, members will have reduced their indebtedness by $5000 and created an emergency fund of $2,000. Cost is $99, but scholarships are available. Classes begin February 13th.           

To register for any of these classes or to find out more information about them, please call me at church at 708-448-6555, or check them out on our website at www.stmarkworth.org. Go to the “Activities – What’s happening at St. Mark” tab to learn more about any of these exciting new growth opportunities. You can also call or email me or Kathy Otto.            

  Your brother in Christ,

 Pastor Jay


Pastor Jay’s Annual Report

       As I looked around the room at our recent monthly staff meeting, I was struck by the giftedness and excellence there is in our ministry staff. Linda Rizzo, our office manager, is incredibly gifted at what she does.  How she multi-tasks and deals with the frequent interruptions in such a kind and patient way is beyond me. The church web site, stmarkworth.org, which she has set up and maintains, is a great testimony to some of the abilities she brings to our church. If you haven’t already, let me encourage you to check it out for yourself.

      Pam Giera and Susan Trygstad continue to bless our congregation with their musical gifts. Together they bring consistently excellent music and liturgy to the planning and preparation of our worship. Together they lead Praise Hymn, which is hands down the best praise and worship leadership group I have even heard. (And I’ve heard lots of them.) They also co-lead the Serendipity Choir, and temporarily at least, Susan has been leading our chimes choir.  Una Stroda continues to share her musical gifts with us at the 8:00 AM Classic Grace service. Beginning last week she (and Pam at 9:30 and 10:45) is now leading worship on our new synthesizer. Reluctantly we have had to say good-by to Kim Siegers, who played so skillfully on first and third Sundays.  We wish her well in her new situation.

       Mike Oblak, the sound technician that we had hoped and prayed for, for so long, is the man behind the scenes who not only deftly facilitates our worship (using our new screens and power point system) but also allows us to use DVDs, videos, and YouTube professionally and seamlessly.Talking about working behind the scenes, Susan Muersch has been quietly but efficiently serving St. Mark as the church custodian. She keeps the place spic and span so that quests and members’ alike feel welcome and at home.

      Garth Smith has been a Godsend to us in the area of youth ministry. In addition to his off the wall sense of humor, he is a man of great spiritual depth and Christian commitment. He is making great strides in building our youth ministry for all ages. Having served as youth pastor for 5 years at a former church, I know how thankless and stressful his job is, but he is carrying it off with class. Amy Gajeski has been serving as our Director of Children’s Ministry. She not only leads Sunday School and VBS (which was great this year) she also leads a new program on Wednesday nights that helps elementary age kids grow and deepen their faith called “Disciple Makers.” Amy is a committed and gifted Christian educator and we are very blessed to have her.

      Thanks to a grant and a generous gift we were able to add Kathy Otto to our staff as a part time coordinator of small groups. I won’t steal her thunder here, but I will say there are seven new small caring groups being offered this year at St. Mark. She is jumping in with both feet and working hard and I know our congregation will be richly blessed by her ministry. I hope all of you will find a group where you can meet some new friends and learn how to serve our Lord in new ways.

      Last but not least is our Vicar, Joy Proper. It seems like every year our interns enrich us with different gifts and abilities and Vicar Joy is no exception. She is learning and growing through her service to God and St. Mark. Because her year began Feb. 1, she will be going back to the seminary the end of January.  Than you Joy for sharing with us your gifts and talents. 

      In closing let me just mention some (though not all) of the high lights of this past year.

     ·        Thanks to the kindness of a very generous couple in our congregation, we were challenged by the St. Mark Stewardship Giveaway. Many people took up the challenge and shared inspiring stories of how they invested their $50 charge in the kingdom of God.

     ·        Maundy Thursday featured our Leonardo DaVinci’s “Living Last Supper.”

     ·        Believe it or not, this is our 10th year as a PADS site serving homeless people.  Additionally our church has been instrumental in helping Our Lady of the Ridge, Sacred Heart, New Beginnings, and Palos Park Presbyterian enter into this ministry of mercy.  

     ·        At long last we have a new parking lot, and many people have stepped up to help pay for it. Thank you for your generosity.

     ·        The St.Mark Dartball Team won first place in our division, and are off to a great start again this year.

     ·        The Open Air Markets brought many people to our building once again this year. They together with the Divine Dollars have greatly helped support our ministries in these difficult economic times.  

      There are so many people who have worked so hard and given so freely of themselves, I dare not start naming names of volunteers, or I will soon run out of paper and printer ink. Let me just say to those of you who have found a place to serve our Lord at St. Mark, I appreciate your work, your unheralded sacrifice, and your ministry. You are the ones who make St. Mark the blessing that it is to me and to so many people.  It is a privilege to serve with you.                                   

Your brother in Christ,                                        

Pastor Jay


          Last spring our congregation was blessed to receive 30 new members.  These new members are excited to be here and are enthusiastic about becoming a part of our church. All of them without exception have committed to serve in at least one ministry in our church.  It is a very hopeful time in the life of St. Mark.

          However, based on 28 years of experience as a pastor in 3 churches, I know, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that unless these enthusiastic new members connect soon to a small group, they will not stay long.   New people need to find a niche in our church where they can belong. Where they can:  

                                      ·         build  relationships with other members, make new friends,

                                      ·          be prayed for and receive emotional support, and

                                      ·         pray for and support others in return.  

                    It has been my experience that unless these new members can find such a place in our church, it is very likely that within 6 months most of those enthusiastic well intentioned new members will be gone out the back door.  And you know, now that I think about it, that kind of support and encouragement and friendship is something that all of us need, long time members as well as new members.

          In the recent past, our church participated in the (NCR) Natural Church Development Self Evaluation Process. The results of the survey indicated that our congregation’s greatest weakness is a lack of functioning small groups.

 

          In an attempt to address this issue, our Health and Healing Task Force recently interviewed and hired Kathy Otto as our new Small Groups Ministry Coordinator. I think she is a great choice, and we are very blessed to have someone with her gifts serving on   our ministry staff.  Working closely with Kathy we hope to offer 6 new opportunities for people to experience the kind of encouragement and support that being a part of a small group of Christian believers can offer.   These new offerings will include caring groups that will address our physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, social, and financial needs. More details will be coming soon but please consider whether being a part of a small caring group of Christians might also enrich your life.                                                            

                                                            Your brother in Christ,     

                                                                 Pastor Jay  


             On Saturday July 24 our Praise Hymn worship team will once again be singing   “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Windy City Thunderbolts baseball game.  As you know the Star Spangled Banner, is our national anthem. You may not know, the lyrics come from a poem written in 1814 by 35-year-old  Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy during the War of 1812. The tune is taken from a popular British drinking song of the day.            

            On Sunday July 4th, we will be singing “The Star Spangled Banner” in worship. We will also be singing the 4th verse of the song, which says, “ may the heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us (as) a nation.” The words of this verse also encourage us to adopt the motto, “In God is our trust.”  (The U.S. Congress did eventually adopt this phrase as our national motto but not until 1931.) There is an interesting history related to the singing of our national anthem. For example, “the first "pop" performance of the anthem was by guitarist Jose Feliciano who shocked some people when he strummed a slow, bluesy rendition before game five of the 1968 World Series. One week after Feliciano's performance, the anthem was in the news again when American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos lifted controversial raised-fists at the 1968 Olympics while the "Star-Spangled Banner" played at a medal ceremony. Whitney Houston gave a soulful rendition before Super Bowl XXV in 1991, which was released as a single that charted at number 20 in 1991 and number 6 in 2001 (the only times the anthem has been on the Billboard Hot 100). Another famous instrumental interpretation is Jimi Hendrix's Woodstock version which incorporated sound effects to emphasize the "rockets' red glare", and "bombs bursting in air". Roseanne Barr gave a controversial performance of the anthem at a baseball game on July 25, 1990. The comedienne belted out a screechy rendition of the song, and afterward offended the sensibilities of many Americans when she attempted her impression of baseball players by spitting and grabbing her crotch as if adjusting a protective cup. In March 2005, a government-sponsored program, the National Anthem Project, was launched after a Harris poll showed many adults knew neither the lyrics nor the history of the anthem.”*

My favorite story about the national anthem took place in 2006 when 13 year old Natalie Gilbert who had won the right to sing the song at the Blazer’s NBA play off game. (By the way you can see this on www.youtube.com )  The eighth grader stepped up to the mike somewhat tenuously, and began to sing. When she got to “at the twilight’s last gleaming,” her mind simply went blank, and she stopped singing. The coach for the blazers, Mo Cheeks (a father of two who had grown up in the Robert Taylor Homes in the inner city of Chicago) walked over to her, put his arm around her and began to sing. “at the twilight’s last gleaming.” Mo could not carry a tune in a bucket, but as he sang, Natalie remembered the words, and the two of them sang a duet. Moved by his unselfish gesture, the crowd of 20,000 did what the crowds at sporting events almost never do. They began to sing along. When all had sung, “and the home of the brave.” the people stood as one and gave the two of them a standing ovation. A reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, "Rarely has the national anthem...been rendered with such heartfelt gusto.” “It was a glorious, redemptive moment." Cheeks later told CNN, "I just started walking. I had no idea what I was going to do, what I was going to say. But as I approached her, I just wanted to help her, and I didn't know if I even knew the words."

It strikes me that this true story is a wonderful parable of the Christian life. This kind of selfless risk taking is at the core of what it means to live a life of Christian discipleship. This month as we remember the sacrifices made by so many for us,  let us be inspired  “to live no longer just for ourselves, but for Him who for our sake died and rose again.” (II Cor. 5:15)

                                                            Your brother in Christ,

                                                                                  Pastor Jay

            * From Wikkidpedia.com


       When I was 19 I was involved with a fellowship of Christians that had a powerful impact on my life. They were firmly committed to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior in a way I had never seen before in my church growing up. One of the things they believed was called, “the rapture.”  Some Christians (like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the authors of Left Behind), who call themselves “pre- millennialists” believe that there will be a time of terrible persecution in the future, and to keep His children from suffering God will rapture all true Christians out of the world into heaven, leaving only their clothes behind.  Perhaps you’ve seen the bumper stickers, “Here, there, or in the air.” Or “In case of rapture this car will be driverless.” Or maybe you remember Larry Norman’s song from the 70s, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.”     
      I remember particularly one night when I arrived at the door of a Christian commune where I had previously arranged to stay for a week.  I got there quite late and it was midnight when I finally knocked on the door. No one answered so I pushed the door open, and walked in. The lights were all on, the dinner was still on the table, but there was no one home, and my pulse started to beat wildly, because I knew intuitively  that Jesus had come and I had been, ….. “left behind.”  No one was more relieved than me when a house full of Jesus freaks returned from a late night prayer meeting.      
       On the other hand, there are Christians who believe that God never promised us that he would shield us from tribulation.  They say this passage about the rapture in I Thes. 4 where the believers are “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” refers to what will happen at the end of time.  (Some of these Christians call themselves “post-millennialists.”)      
While some Christians get quite worked up and incensed over this issue, it seems to me to be a bit of a tempest in a tea pot.  I favor the advice of Amy Grant  who once counseled, “Pray for pre, and prepare for post.” There are some things about the Christian faith and life that we must never compromise. The deity of Christ,  His exclusive claim to be the only way to God, salvation by grace through faith in Christ, the primacy and authority of the scriptures. However, there are some things in the Christian faith and life which the reformers called “adeophora.” Non-essentials.      
       Do we dunk or do we sprinkle? Does the pastor wear a robe or a business suit? Do we worship with traditional or contemporary music? Do we drink wine or grape juice?  These and other issues like them are non-essentials that Christ and His Word neither forbid nor command. In these things we have the freedom to use our sanctified common sense in deciding what we will believe. I think it was Phillip Melancthon, a student of Martin Luther, who summed it up best when he said wrote of the Christian life, 
“In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity.” 
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Jay

A GOOD QUESTION IS WORTH 100 SERMONS!!!


Questions have a way of engaging us on a deep level, stimulating our best thought and bothering us until we were through them to an acceptable answer. Jesus knew this. In Matthew 16, Jesus asks his followers, "Who do people say that I am?" easy, answers come fast and furious. "You are Elijah...Jeremiah...John the Baptist...Moses." Then he asked the question that has challenged people for 2,000 years. "Who do you say that I am?" How we answer that question will determine not only our eternal destiny, but also how, and why, we live in this world. 


Another challenging question that comes to my mind is posed by church expert Kennon Callahan in his book, "12 steps to an Effective Church." He says the watershed question for every church ought to be this: "Are the best years of our church ahead of us, or behind us." This is a question that tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you say your best days are behind you, You will probably be right. If your focus is on memories of some golden age in the churches past, the life and growth of the church will tend to diminish. On the other hand, if you say the best days are still to come, that hope will spur excitement, newness, and growth that will boost the church to future greatness. 


Herbert Chilstrom, the former presiding Bishop of our national church body, poses three thought provoking questions:


1. Do we live in a Christian nation?

2. Is your congregation a settled and well established organization?

3. Is your pastor called primarily to serve you and others in the congregation?


He writes, "If you answered yes to all three questions, I suggest your congregation is in deep trouble." For starters, Chilstrom observes, "There is no such thing as as Christian nation, there are only Christians who live in a nation and try to influence it's life." On the church he writes, "Unless it (the congregation) sees itself as a mission outpost, no congregation will -or probably should-survive for long." He adds, "While we look to pastors for guidance, instructions in the faith, inspiration, counsel, and administration, more than anything else, pastors are called to empower us to witness in our daily life." He concludes his article with a challenge that I pass along to you. "Next time you find yourself sitting in church with some moments for reflection, ask yourself:


Why?   Why this congregation?     What is our mission?


Your brother in Christ,

Pastor Jay


Lord, for so long I thought your love demanded that I change.

At last I'm beginning to understand that your love changes me.

 

Dear friends in Christ,

 

There are two principles that form the foundations of Biblical stewardship.

 

The first principle is that God loves us unconditionally, regardless of how much or how little we give back to God. If we lose sight of this truth we may be tempted to try to buy God's favor with our money or our time.

 

The second principle is that God owns it all, and that we are only caretakers of what we have, and we will one day be asked to give an account of how we have used His gifts. If we forget this truth, we may run the risk of neglecting to use God's gifts for God's purposes.

 

Biblical stewardship is giving back to God out of gratitude for what he has given us.

Biblical stewardship is also an expression of our faith in God and in Jesus promise when He says, "Give and it will be given to you good measure pressed down, and overflowing."

Biblical stewardship is both sacrificial, and intentional.

 

As your pastor, I am asking you to read and pray about the enclosed faith promise card, fill it out as an expression of your gratitude to God for all He has given you.

Please note the words on the promise card that say, “As long as God continues to bless me as He does right now…."

Biblical stewardship is always proportional. The Bible encourages us to give according to our means.(2 Corinthians 8:3)  That means that if our income goes down, we should reduce our giving accordingly without feeling guilty about it.

 

When you have completed your faith promise card, please bring it to church on Sunday and put it in the box in the narthex marked "faith promises."

 

In order to save on postage this year, your Advent folder is available for you to pick up at the welcome desk in the narthex at church. I hope that you will once again use your Advent folder as a discipline to help you to remember the real reason for the season.

 

May God guide and direct you as you think and pray about what your response will be to the undeserved love of God, and His amazing grace.

 

                                        Blessings,

 

                                        Pastor Jay

 

PS. Please reserve from 1 to 3:00 PM on Sunday December 7!

Our church consultant Kent Hunter will be preaching that morning, and the recommendations he makes in his report from 1 to 3 on that day may significantly impact the life of our church for the next 5 to 10 years. I hope you will make every effort to be there for his presentation.  Sign up in the narthex for a free dinner at noon that day.


 

11007 S. 76th Avenue, Worth, IL 60482  (708) 448-6555

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