Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's a Matter of Faith: the Altar

Genesis 22:1-14

            When I say the word “Altar” what comes to mind for you? Many people mistakenly call our communion table “the altar”, because in some churches that is what it is called. An Altar is a place where sacrifices are offered to a god. The reason they call it an altar is that in their minds when they are consecrating the elements, they are re-enacting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. For Presbyterians, we understand communion to be a remembrance of what Jesus did on the cross, not a re-enactment of the sacrifice, because Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me.” Those elements for us remind us of what happened on the cross and, as I am found of saying, the great love that was behind his sacrifice for us. It is as I think of how much Christ love us, loved me, even though I was responsible for his death because of my sin, that I grow in my love and gratitude for Him. Thus, this table is not a “holy altar”, it is a common table that God uses for a holy purpose, each time we celebrate communion.
            But just because our communion table is not an altar, does not mean that we do not have an altar in our lives. You see we carry our Altar with us. It is an altar that is there with every decision we make and every action we take. It is there whether we are in church, thinking about church, or church is the farthest thing from our minds. The altar is not unlike the one that Abraham faced in our passage today.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reform School

Yesterday, the last Sunday in October, was Reformation

The Protestant “Reformation” began over 500 years ago, in Western Europe, and was the product of not just one person, but many who believed that the dominant Roman Catholic Church had strayed from Scriptural truth in many of its practices.  One of the cool things that resulted from this period (which produced Presbyterians, among other denominations) was a Bible written in the language of the common parishioner.

The texts that make up our present Bible had originally been written in Greek or in Hebrew, and were later translated into Latin by the early Church, as the church spread to the European continent.  These were used in worship by clergy only - they were not available to the general public -and even if they had been, Latin could not have been read or understood by people whose native language was German, French, or English, etc.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Terri Rider, Missionary to Dalits

 Terri (with her mother Dee) came to Saturday night worship  (and Sunday morning) to share the word of her ministry to the Dalits in India. She explained the Hindu caste system and her ministry with the Dalits (the Untouchables).  Although their population is larger than the population of the United States, they are denied health coverage, educational opportunities, and the children are often victimized.

Terri told of first going to India in 2003 for a short-term medical trip.  She thought she would never go again, but she was called again in 2004 and this time enjoyed it more.  She has now been serving in India for 5 years working with Ideas in Hyderabad India. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Christmas in October

Yes, it’s still two weeks until Halloween, and yes, Christmas decorations are already spilling their way into the costume aisles at most major retailers. This early roll-out of holiday fanfare is surely one of the most divisive issues in American culture today: How early is too early to bring out the artificial trees and strings of twinkling lights?

As a Christian, as far as I’m concerned, it’s never too early. Though some might not look at a puppy dog dressed in a Santa hat and see the connection to God’s love, I kinda get. The colors, the music, the family gatherings…It’s our faith’s biggest celebration of the year. We celebrate our children’s birthdays with party hats, balloons and streamers as an outward display that we are grateful to have these children in our lives; the twinkling lights, decked out halls and adorned trees, for many, is a similar display of gratitude and thanks for Christ’s presence in our world. If some enjoy the season so much that they need a few extra weeks to prepare for this celebration, then so be it. It is, essentially, unbridled joy.

But as we’re preparing for this grand celebration, many of us will reflect on those who are not able to make a list, check it twice and then load up a shopping cart full of goodies. So if the holiday bug has bitten you a bit early this year, consider stopping by the toy aisle of your local store and picking up a gift or two for a child in need.  Throughout October, St. Mark is collecting new and gently used dolls, toys and monetary donations for the Board of Religious Organizations. BRO will distribute these toys to more than 4,800 children in need throughout the St. Louis area.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


 Some of us had two luncheons last week.  The first was the Go-getters group who went to Labadie at the Hawthorne Inn for a lunch out.

 This is a wonderful group of mostly retired women from St. Mark Presbyterian Church.

Friday, October 5, 2012

World Communion Sunday

My children have had an assignment since the beginning of the school year. They’re both studying moon phases, so every evening we slip outside for a few moments and observe the night sky, determine the moon’s phase and sketch it in a journal. Seeing the stars stretching to every edge of the horizon, as far as the eye can see, far too many to count--no matter how old I get, each time I look up at the vast reach of stars around me, I’m struck by how little it makes me feel.

I recall feeling this way during last year’s World Communion Sunday service. As we shared the communion breads that are traditional in other nations, I reflected on the countless Christians across the globe who were also sharing communion. Though their churches were different, their worship styles were different and their communion breads were different, we all shared one faith. Like staring up at those millions of stars, it was powerful, almost overwhelming; but it was also comforting to know that I was part of something so much bigger than myself.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Businesspersons Between Jobs: 40th Anniversary

 BBJ (Businesspersons Between Jobs) recently celebrated 40 years of service to St. Louis area businesses and community and was recently featured in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

 The celebration began with a delicious breakfast provided by Men's Fellowship, the Stolls and Nina.

Monday, October 1, 2012

When Christians Disagree (Part 3)

Philippians 2:1-8

            During this series, we have been introduced to a church that Paul loved, that was being torn apart because of a conflict between two people. They each wanted to rally the church to their side. Last week we saw that Paul was disturbed by the strife that this disagreement caused and by the spiritual immaturity that these people and possibly others in the church had demonstrated because of this. To help them set aside their differences so that they could find the unity they once had through their relationship with Christ, and to instruct them on how they could grow up in Christ, Paul first invites them to remember the wonderful gift that their relationship with Christ was for each of them. He then exhorted them to change their outlook on life, by setting aside selfishness and empty conceit and by changing their minds. Replace their mind which evaluates everything based on personal self interest, with the mind of Christ. As they do this, they will grow into the mature relationship that God longs to have with them and that God longs for them to have with each other. So what is this mind of Christ?