Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Church in 2020

The nation’s response to the Coronavirus has us all rethinking what our lives are about.

Do we have to go to gyms to exercise?
Can I stay in touch with friends without being near them?
Can there ever be too much toilet paper and frozen pizza in the house?
Can I get the same uplifting message from online church?
Will life go back to what it was before the Coronavirus was in America?

Not likely. Any event that is as far reaching to all aspects of our lives will change us. But we go forward just like those before us did in uncertain times.

Our spiritual lives have changed, how we worship and congregate. There may be a plus side to our virtual church. There are people that may be searching for deeper meaning in their lives. The world in crazy mode has that effect. But, those same people might be reluctant to go inside a building filled with strangers who may or may not look like them. It is all too much bother to figure when to stand and shake hands(pre-March 2020 reference)---not to mention all those songs that aren’t familiar and announcements about people and events that are unknown. Does the phrase “I’m spiritual not religious” really stand for I’m spiritual, looking for understanding, but I don’t want to join the organization?

Maybe virtual church will connect with those that the 21st century church hasn’t yet. This time of staying home, cherishing family and what we have, not of what we think we should acquire, sounds like the perfect opportunity to embrace some Christian ideas. Maybe fifty years from now the faithful will look at the 2020 pandemic as the event that took modern Christianity from Sunday in the pews to a bolder outlook. A church focused on justice, kindness and a mission to include all in creative ways, that we can’t even imagine now. A church not tabulating membership losses but rejoicing in the number of people touched by the love of God and fellowship of other believers in the church building or beyond. With all crises there is an opportunity on the other side for those that visualize what can be.

For St. Mark Presbyterian's On-line worship and classes, click here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Holy Week Memories

Holy Week never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Scripture vividly portrays Jesus’ journey that week from Palm Sunday to Easter. I can only imagine the joy of seeing Him and then the immense sadness at his death on the Cross. But, to those believers, his death was not the end of his story as so many of us know.

Several ‘never to be forgotten’ memories occur to me as I’m thinking about Holy Week. Music has always been a major part of my life growing up. Not only did I come from an extremely musically talented family but we always attended church; and, when I was 14, I was asked to join the adult choir. The music we sang re-enforced the significance of Holy Week’s scriptures making the vision of those words come alive. Singing “God So Loved the World”, “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today”, and especially “The Hallelujah Chorus (which still brings chills to my body and tears to my eyes) are some of my favorites. I loved to listen to “The Trumpets Shall Sound” from “The Messiah” by Handel and still do. How inspirational to combine music and Scripture to create the reality of Holy Week.

After Jack and I had married, we moved from Pennsylvania to Sarasota, Florida. We were members of Siesta Key Chapel on Siesta Key. We would park our car on the sand and gravel below the church and walk up the short wooden ramp to a rustic gazebo-type structure where Pastor Jim Blackwood would greet and welcome everyone in his white cassock with a rope tied around his waist. He certainly fit in with this attire on this beautiful island. Then, we would walk up a longer wooden ramp to the deck which encircled the church. This small wooden church tucked among the trees had no stained-glass windows but instead had floor-to-ceiling panes of clear glass surrounding the sanctuary giving the impression of sitting in the trees enveloped by nature. It was a ‘given’ that we would attend Pastor Jim’s Sunrise Service on Siesta Key’s pearly white beach. As Jack and I watched the sun slowly rise from the east over the palm trees lighting up the sky, the beach with the throng of people gathered together, and dancing off the water of the Gulf of Mexico that morning, I never felt closer to God and the new day he had created for us.

What a moving experience it was for me at St. Mark’s Maundy Thursday’s services a few years ago and the re-enactment of the Last Supper with members of the congregation acting as the disciples with Jesus; and, in the darkened Sanctuary a single voice singing “Were You There”. It was all I could do to hold myself together. Upon hearing the three bells, deep emotions bubbled up inside of me. Another ‘never to be forgotten’ memory.

Recently, a new memory will stay with me on the holiest week of the year for Christians—the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 16, 2019. Even though extreme measures had been taken, ongoing renovation was probably the cause. I can only imagine the frantic efforts of those who took it upon themselves to rescue as many of the Cathedral’s works of art and other important religious relics including the Crown of Thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion as well as a nail and piece of wood from the cross. My heart goes out to all who worship at this 12th century church. I visited Notre Dame with my grandparents when I was 11 and even at that young age I was in awe of how significant and beautiful this sacred edifice was. I will never forget the Rose window with panes of stained-glass in shades of pink, rose, blues and lavenders and, now, how can I forget the Parisians kneeling and singing “Ave Maria” as they watched the flames erupting from this stately old church.

MEMORIES, memories--- and I will continue to have new memories.  I feel and know that “Christ the Lord is Risen Today Alleluia."

by Doris Martin

Monday, March 30, 2020

Peace Meal

St Mark members have been supporting the Peace Meal project since its beginning in May 2009. The coordinating Church is St John’s Episcopal Church adjacent Tower Grove Park on Arsenal. Peace Meal began as an idea in the mind of the pastor of St John’s, Teresa Danieley. Her vision was to provide a homemade hot meal once a week for needy residents and homeless in the Tower Grove area.

Teresa researched and found grants available to make the church’s kitchen and facility up to code to serve the public a meal. In addition to the grants her church and supporting churches have provided Peace Meal with the funds to support the feeding of 75 to 100 needy people every week of the year.

Through the financial support of the Deacons every 6 to 7 weeks St Mark members’ carpool to St John’s to lovingly prepare and serve a home cooked meal. We welcome any St Mark member who would like to join this very worthwhile mission to email Bruce Cranston and get on the volunteer list.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Worship Prayers for March 22

***For all activities for Sunday March 29, click here for the links.***

CENTERING PRAYER

Holy God, why is it that we look, but do not see? Bring us again and again into your light until your ways become visible to us, and bear fruit in us. Touch us so that we are utterly changed, “before” and “after,” a “now” and “then”; that we may also say, “One thing I do know,  that though I was blind, now I see.” Lord, we believe; help our unbelief. In Christ’s light, we pray. Amen.
OPENING WORDS / CALL TO WORSHIP
God does not see as mortals see. We look on the outward appearance; God looks on the heart.
Jesus, Light of the World, give us eyes to see as you see!
Once we lived in darkness, but now—as children of light, we are called to what is good and right and true.
Jesus, Light of the World, give us eyes to see as you see!
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Gracious God, we are people who still love darkness rather than light. We keep shameful deeds secret, but flaunt our occasional acts of virtue. We see ourselves as blameless, but pass judgment on others. We do not stand firmly enough with those who are vulnerable, but step back, protecting ourselves. Forgive us, we pray. Bring us into your light that we may see ourselves rightly. Bring us into your light that we may know ourselves loved. Bring us into your light that we may live more fruitful lives. Keep raising us, we pray, from the deadness of sin, and shine upon us with your grace. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.
DECLARATION OF FORGIVENESS
The psalmist assures us that God’s goodness and mercy will follow us, even pursue us, all the days of our life. As God’s forgiven people, receive this goodness and mercy, and live a new life in the grace of Jesus Christ.
We will live as children of the light for Christ shines on us.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Apostles Creed-Contemporary Version
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church*,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.


For the video of the worship service and other activities from last week, click here

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Scripture for March 29

1 Kings 3:3-14 New International Version (NIV)
Peter Paul Rubens www.smk.dk and soeg.smk.dk

Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.
The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Daily Prayer March 27

Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

Daily Readings for Friday, March 27, 2020

Jesus, Good Shepherd of the sheep, by whom the lost are sought and guided into the fold: Feed us and we shall be satisfied, heal us and we shall be whole, and lead us that we may be with you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call. Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation. In the beginning you separated light from darkness and placed all your works in our hands. You have given us the light of day that we might see your wonders in all we say and do; you give us the gentle darkness of the night that we might rest from our burdens and be refreshed in body and spirit. Break through the darkness of our sins with the splendor of your mercy and love. Send your light to dispel our fears and anxieties and fill us with hope and joy. Glory, praise, and honor are yours, O God. (Add your prayers.) Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Thursday, March 26, 2020

St. Mark Spark: The Story, Chapter 13

"The King Who Had it All"

If the video doesn't appear, Click here.
Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did—well, really—what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah
If you are following along in your Bible:
1 Kings 1-8; 10-11; 2 Chronicles 5-7; Proverbs 1-3; 7; 20-21

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Worshipping and Enjoying God – Activities for Kids

“Our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” – Westminster Shorter Catechism

Pastor Dave’s sermon from Sunday, March 15, had me thinking, “During this time when my family has more downtime than we may in a while, how can I keep my kids active and worshiping God?” Similar to many families with young kids, my family spends most “normal” evenings and weekends rushing from school pickup to meetings and kids’ activities. As we approach the next 30 days with more down time, I’m looking forward to ways we can continue to worship and enjoy God.

There are many great resources out there for kids, and below are a few I wanted to share, especially as we start to enjoy some warmer days (cross your fingers that the snow is finished!):
· Outdoor Play and Pray
Take prayer time outside! Kids can get creative with chalk and outdoor gems to visibly represent their prayers. A small group can share their individual prayers and follow each by blowing bubbles. Be sure to share the prayer masterpieces of your kids and grandkids using #discoverstmark on Facebook!
· Walk in Nature
God’s faithfulness is in full bloom for us to use to teach our children. He feeds the bird and helps the flowers grow. Take kids for a walk to explore nature and use their senses. We can use the simplicity of emerging flowers and singing birds to share the message that God has promised to take care of our needs if we seek Him.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
· Coloring Pages
Google something as simple as “Lent coloring pages” to find printable pictures that kids can color and remember God’s love for us. Searching “journey through lent coloring pages” also had some great results and can open up the conversation with your kids about the 40 days of Lent. 
Here are a few other resources I'm excited to try out too (click on the links):
o Free, weekly, faith formation resources for all ages from Illustrated Ministry 
o Science lessons from Kennedy Space Center on Facebook Live 
o Build your own world, attractions, and characters with Disney / Khan Academy Imagineering In a Box
o New movies being released simultaneously online and in theaters
o Tours of famous museums, zoos and aquariums, and theme parks from the couch
Parents and grandparents, what are some of your favorite resources for religious podcasts, songs, and activities for kids?

Children's Ministry Committee
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Pandemonium and the World

Photo by Justin Main on Unsplash
It’s 4 am and I can’t sleep, my mind swirls around the pandemonium that is going on with the COVID 19 virus.  At the same time, I feel “insulated” in my “safe little world”. I shop for groceries every 2-3 months at the Scott Air Force Base Commissary. Having gone about a month ago, I am in no fear of running out of staples. My husband, Mike, is recently retired and no longer takes the long trek from the Forest Park MetroLink station to Scott twice a day.  As a Realtor, while some things (like showing homes) has to be done in person, a lot of what I do can be safely done from my home office, like negotiating contracts and building inspections which can be done via phone calls, texts, emails and electronic signatures, 
I know I am among the fortunate ones. While I’m in the over 65 age bracket that is deemed more vulnerable, Mike and I are in reasonable health and should be able to weather the storm if we come down with the virus. At the same time though, I worry about friends and family who are older and aren’t in good health.  At the back of my mind, I recall coming down with Mono when I was a freshman in College many, many years ago. When I complained that I knew NO ONE who had Mono, so how could I possibly have gotten it, my family doctor simply said “You were in large auditorium class with 100-200 students, and someone who had it sneezed in your direction, ”--- a lesson learned that applies today.
While it is unknown the full extent of the havoc that the virus and its aftermath will have on the world’s financial status,  businesses are already limiting their hours, laying off staff and closing down. I wonder which ones will survive and which will never be the same even if they reopen. Mike saw an article that suggested buying gift cards to small businesses that could be used when they reopen after the virus has passed, but many may not reopen.  Others have sent me pleading emails asking me to please use their drive thru and carryout services until they are able to open again, so they don’t have to close completely. 
I wonder how other small businesses would even have the ability to provide any services?  Beauticians, barbers, nail salons – it would be impossible for them to serve customers from home or to provide a “carry out” or “delivery service” option. Also, they would need to break the social distancing rules to service anyone. There are just too many jobs and careers where it would be impossible to work from home or to do your job.

Shopping now is based around perceived necessities, not “nice to have” items.  “Nice to haves” sit on store shelves; the companies making them have decisions to make - keep producing so the items will be there when the shoppers come back, or slow down production and lay off employees. No one knows what season it will even be when the shoppers return, nor whether or not they will have the income to purchase “nice to haves” at that point.  The cashiers and employees at the stores that are still open wonder if the next customer, will expose them to the virus?  Will someone sneeze in their direction?
My sister in California is under  “shelter in place” orders. She can go to the grocery store or pharmacy, see a doctor, and use drive thru and carry out restaurant. Her only other resource that is still open are the local parks where people can walk and play by themselves or in small family groups.  A friend in Florida, who has bronchitis, is self isolating and ordering delivery of fresh fruits and other foods online, while a friend in St Louis is self isolating with friends delivering things to her door.
The “normal” we knew has left us. We are in a “new normal”, but with no idea what the next new normal will be.  Several years ago (1967 to be precise based on a study by Stanley Milgram), a prevalent philosophy was that we were only 6 degrees (or six people) away from anyone in the world we wanted to know.  Now, with the onslaught of social media and internet connectivity, that has been reduced to 3 degrees, through 3 main networks – family, friends and work using social media (based on a study done by the French mobile carrier O2).  Perhaps it’s time to revist the 6 degrees of separation philosophy with a new mindset that everyone within those 6 degrees is my brother or my sister and should  be treated as such. 

As I ponder all this, I think back to Noah and the Flood and to the other times in the Bible when God’s people turned away---other times when catastrophes happened, bringing them back to God.  In the still of the night, I wonder if this is a wakeup call from God that we need to heed. One telling us to stop being so self-centered and to take better care of our world and the people around us.  Telling us that all people are loved and when one person hurts in one part of the world, it affects all of us, not just “those people over there”.  Dale


Click here for a prayer for those flooded with too much information during these troubling times.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services

Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services is a faith-based Christian organization. We provide
Christ-centered care and support to children and families in need. We strive to serve like Jesus. We focus on our clients’ strengths rather than their weaknesses. And we encourage our clients to focus on their futures rather than their pasts. We help our clients find hope and know the love of God.

We started in 1914 when four Presbyterian ministers in Farmington saw a need for an orphanage due to all the mining accidents in that region. As years passed, we created additional programs throughout the state of Missouri with the biggest focus on child abuse, neglect and abandonment.

Now serving about 5000 at-risk children and families across Missouri, Texas and Louisiana, we work diligently to provide children of all ages with permanent homes and help parents achieve self-sufficiency. We are always seeking more effective approaches to help our children heal and prosper. 

Recently when we saw that the needs of the Farmington community and St. Francois county had changed, we responded with several new programs and methods of treatment to give each child and family the opportunity to find their strengths, overcome obstacles and build futures. For more, click here.