Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Introducing Katie Sternhagen

Although Katie Sternhagen has been our Youth Director since last Spring, we wanted to formally introduce her.  Here is her bio in her own words:
I was born and raised in Ballwin, graduating from Parkway West. After graduating, I attended the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma , receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a Minor in Christianity. It was in Tulsa where I found my Presbyterian beginnings: my dad grew up at South Webster Presbyterian, and attended youth group at Webster Groves Presbyterian from time to time. 
Although Univ. of Tulsa is loosely affiliated with the PCUSA, I took classes and worshiped with TU’s then associate, now Chaplin Jeff Francis, who served St. Mark Presbyterian from 1982-1985 as a Youth Pastor. After spending a year at Mizzou starting my graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling, I transferred to UMSL and began working full time with people on the Autism Spectrum. My eagerness to take on such a huge challenge resulted in burn out, and I found myself working as a barista at the Kirkwood Kaldi’s while going to grad school full-time. 
Living and working in Kirkwood, I began worshipping at First Presbyterian in Kirkwood. A couple of years later, in February of 2008, the Kirkwood community was rattled by a disgruntled citizen, who opened fire in City Hall, killing multiple people, including Tom Ballman and Ken Yost. In the aftermath of this tragedy, I found myself comforting more people in the community at large, in addition to the First Presbyterian congregation. 
The head pastor approached me and asked if I had ever considered being in ministry. After much prayer, discernment, and consulting two of my neighbors growing up, who had already answered calls to ministry, one for the Archdiocese the other for a non-denominational congregation, I said yes to God’s call to ministry. We then had a “trinity” of ministers on Gardenway Drive! During my ministry at Kirkwood, I met Don, we got married, and had Jillian (3 1/2 who attends Claymont Preschool). I thought, and was sorely mistaken, that I could be a stay at home mother. God’s call returned and I began my ministry at New Hope in St. Charles in the Summer of 2012. When the opportunity to serve in a full time capacity arose, I again answered the call, this time to St. Mark!
I enjoy reading, gardening, yoga, and pretend to be a runner.
Mission is extremely important to me, learning at an early age from my mother to give back what has been given to me. (This is how I got involved in coaching softball at Cor Jesu for 10 years).
We welcome Katie to St. Mark!  She has fit in so well that it seems like we have always known her!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Letter from John McCall

Dear Friends, Advent 2014

I returned to Taiwan in August after eight months in the U.S. visiting many of my supporting churches. Upon my return, I began a lot of traveling both within Taiwan and in Asia.

As I take buses, subways, trains, and planes, I often notice Christ beside me. The other night I was taking a bus up the mountain to the seminary where I live and the bus driver got on the microphone and told the passengers that he was grateful for our patronage and he wished us health and a good evening. The mostly older folks on the bus all clapped at his blessing.

Every Tuesday I take a train along the blue-green waters of the Pacific Ocean to the aboriginal seminary where I teach. The students give me energy as they lean forward in their seats and engage with the content of my lectures. Sometimes they will find something humorous in what I have said and will a make a joke with the student next to them. They quickly integrate the message of faith with their lives.

St. Mark Presbyterian, Sat evening worship
Last Saturday I took the subway to a city church where I spent the morning with working young adults who are willing to use a Saturday to think about the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They work hard all week, but want to grow as Christ’s light and salt in their families, places of work, and in this non-Christian society.

They hunger to live the full life which Christ offers.
After almost eighteen years of living in Taiwan, I continue to be grateful for the way I see Christ take on flesh and blood in their beautiful land. I see resilience in the face of suffering. I see hope in the face of changes. I see joy in the face of busy lives in this high tech land.

The traditional Taiwanese folk gods who are worshipped in the temples here are all people who have done something heroic. They have been deified and now are worshiped as gods who help bring wealth, health, and good fortune.

But the Taiwanese Christians worship a God who was willing to leave a place of honor and become a human being. Christ becomes one of us and moves into our neighbor hood. We see God’s amazing love in the face of Christ around us each day.

May that love fill your days this Advent and in the year to come.

Christmas Blessings, John McCall

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Worship from Dec. 21

PRAYER IN PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP:  Who are we, Lord God, that You should come to us?  Yet, You have visited Your people and redeemed us in Your Son.  As we prepare to celebrate his birth, make our hearts leap for joy at the sound of Your word, and move us by Your Spirit to bless Your wonderful works.  Amen.

   LIGHTING THE ADVENT WREATH OF LOVE                                                    
L:     In this season of Advent, we celebrate God’s love.
P:    Soon we will welcome the beautiful and radical love of God as Jesus Christ comes to   live among us.
L:     We embrace our identity as beloved children and let this truth guide our decisions and       relationships.
P:    In our homes and in our church we offer warm hospitality by welcoming those we don’t    know, those who are in need, and those who are different from us.
L:     We demonstrate our care for creation in real and tangible ways through the products we buy, the food we eat, and the way we live every day.
P:    Together, we are a sign of God’s love in the world.

Unison Prayer
God of extravagant generosity, in Jesus we discover the depth of your care and the lengths you will go to save us.  Forgive us when we ignore the needy, trample your creation and refuse to share all that we receive from you.  Teach us to love our neighbors, caring for each other in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Lord, You have declared that you and your word are the light of the world, and you have entrusted this light to us so that it could illuminate our lives and shine forth into our dark world.  But Lord, we have hidden the light you have given us and not let it change our lives.  We have allowed it to shine only in the presence of others who possess your light and have not let it shine forth in the darkness around us.  Forgive us Lord.  Help us to let the light that you have given us shine brightly in the darkness so that others may be drawn to you, through us.  AMEN.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Home Preparedness

Winter Edition (FEMA E-brief, December 11, 2014)

FEMA and I would like to inform you about preparing your home for the upcoming winter season.  Just as you would prepare an emergency winter kit, your home can also use a winter makeover. Properly preparing your home for cold temperatures can keep you safe and warm, and lower your energy costs. Here are a few tips to follow as the mercury plunges:

·       Run ceiling fans in reverse to help circulate warm air that gathers near the ceiling;
·       Replace your furnace filter every two months;
·       Make sure gutters and downspouts are clean and that water drains at least six feet from your home’s foundation;
·       Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate sources to heat their home; and
·       Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of your roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow or ice.

Get in the energy saving spirit by conducting a home energy assessment. See how much energy your home consumes and evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. Then, check out “12 Days of Energy Savings” from the U.S. Department of Energy to learn how to stay warm while saving money this winter.
Click on any of the 'highlighted and underlined' phrases above for more information.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Gifts to Jesus

Listening to this song, I am reminded of all parents who look down on their newborns and wonder. . . .
Click here if the video doesn't appear.

Several years ago, the extended Hunt Family also presented us with the gift of this song which was equally moving.  Click here.  Thank you to our entire St. Mark Presbyterian Family who presented us with their gifts this year:  gifts of love, caring, music, art, photography, leadership, fellowship, finance management, education, nurturing, medical, technology skills, communication, faith, gardening, cooking, listening and inspiration.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve


2   The people who walked in darkness
          have seen a great light;
     those who lived in a land of deep darkness — 
          on them light has shined.
3   You have multiplied the nation,
          you have increased its joy;
     they rejoice before you
          as with joy at the harvest,
          as people exult when dividing plunder.
4   For the yoke of their burden,
          and the bar across their shoulders,
          the rod of their oppressor,
          you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5   For all the boots of the tramping warriors
          and all the garments rolled in blood
          shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 
6   For a child has been born for us,
          a son given to us;
     authority rests upon his shoulders;
          and he is named
     Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
          Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7   His authority shall grow continually,
          and there shall be endless peace
     for the throne of David and his kingdom.
          He will establish and uphold it
     with justice and with righteousness
          from this time onward and forevermore.
     The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

1In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Statues #TBT

St. Mark Youth 1963
Scripture: Luke 2:7

The entrance to the subdivision where I lived was decorated for the Holiday Season with a life-sized creche and appropriate spot lights.

One evening I came home after dark and after driving past the display realized the figures were gone.  The next day the figures were back.  Again the statures disappeared and the bales of hay were scattered.

On Christmas Eve life-sized statures stood in place.  Young people from the Youth Fellowship of the church in the subdivision took turns standing motionless as characters of the nativity.
St. Mark Youth 1963
Reprinted with permission byVera Heard's daughter from St. Mark Presbyterian's Thoughts on Advent, December 1985

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Joy Offering

Our gifts support dedicated pastors, church workers, and retirees who find themselves facing urgent financial needs. This can range from supplements to maintain independent living to emergency funds to meet unexpected expenses.

Additionally, 50% of the offering goes to support Presbyterian-affiliated racial ethnic schools and colleges, enabling students to develop their gifts and find their callings.  Scholarships are provided to deserving students as well as funds for basic operating costs.  These schools are open to any qualified student regardless of race.  Students are educated for the professions of their choice in an environment which supports and nurtures racial and ethnic heritage.

One of those schools is the Pan American School founded in 1911 serving primarily Hispanic/Latino students who live south of the U. S. border. It prepares young people to be leaders in their native countries and in a a society that is increasingly becoming multicultural and multilingual.  More than 85% of the students continue their education beyond high school.

The Joy Offering was initiated in the 1930’s and is just as essential today. In 2013 over 1324 grants were awarded to retired clergy, missionaries, and other church workers and their families for a total of $5.6 million. Six schools and colleges were provided fund- ing. The need is no less in 2014. Please give generously.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Worship from Dec.14

PRAYER IN PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP:  As the birth of any child is a miracle beyond our comprehension, O God, how much more so is the birth of Mary’s child.  We cry out in awe and wonder at the marvel of your love and the mystery of your Word made flesh.  May we, through all our days, bring honor to our Lord, who shared life in the flesh with us.  In Christ’s holy name we pray.  Amen.


   Lighting the Advent Wreath of Joy                                                                   
L:     In this season of Advent, we celebrate God’s joy.
P:    Knowing that Christ is coming, to bring healing and wholeness to the world, is a source of genuine delight!
L:     When we gather for worship it is a celebration, an opportunity to rejoice in all that God is doing among us and beyond us.
P:    Our lives are marked by laughter and friendship, as we love our neighbors with wide smiles and open arms.
L:     Even when we face difficulty and trouble we sing a song of faith, confident that Jesus is able to redeem our suffering world.
P:    Together, we are a sign of God’s joy in the world.

Unison Prayer
God of transformation, we rejoice that you lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things.  We marvel at your power to change hearts and lives.  Fill us with your Spirit this season so that our voices declare your goodness and our lives proclaim your mercy in Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Almighty God, we have been selfish.  You have given us great news to share with our lost and dying world, but we have kept it to ourselves.  We have let the fear of rejection, among other things, keep us from speaking the truth about you to those we love.  Forgive us, Lord, and fill us with your Spirit.  Give us the courage and the words we need, to share Your Good News with the people that ask.  From the depth of our hearts we ask, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Power Outage

Tis the season!!!!!!  Weather it is an 'Act of God', power grid failure, or just plain overload of circuits; power outages can occur anytime and usually during the most inopportune time.  Federal Alliance for Safe Homes provides information in the form of “Flash Cards” on how the homeowner can confront disaster emergencies and protect their home in a flash.  This checklist contains fifteen important points you should review and possibly incorporate into your safety plan.  Some of these points I’m sure are self-explanatory and routine, but others you may not have thought about or took for granted.

I hope these articles are motivating enough to include in your family disaster plan; your safety is important to us.  Remember, God loves you and so does your St Mark Presbyterian Church family.  We want to continually see you during church service.
Please click "Click Here" for the power outage checklist from Federal Alliance.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Worship

If you missed the Children's Musical Program "Meet Me in the Manger", don't miss St. Mark Presbyterian's  other Christmas Worship Events!

Chancel Choir Christmas Cantata December 21, 8:30 and 10:30 AM
There are classic Christmas carols as well as newly composed anthems woven into this beautiful cantata by Joseph Martin, titled, “Season of Wonders” – Celebrating the Miracle of Christmas”. In a quote from his performance notes, Mr. Martin states, “miracles and wonders are meant to be shared. Their purpose is to reveal a larger truth, to glorify the One from whom such power comes. In this season of wonders, may we add our voices to those of prophets and angels as servant messengers of God.” Please accept the choir’s invitation to come and share the true meaning of Christmas through the gift of Music. Sincerely, Becky Porter, Director of Music.

5:00 – Family with Children Service (Involving children in the telling of the story)
7:00 – Traditional Candlelight Service
9:00 - Traditional Candlelight Service and Communion

Sunday Worship after Christmas
December 28—Only One Worship Service at 10 AM

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Christmas Need

Scripture:  John 13: 14-15

May thee keep this winter's day
With its soft and fallen snow.
May thee find that certain way
To have thy loved ones know.

For what and for whom
Do we, thee and I, live
But to take into our hearts
And within our hearts give
Ourselves to one another?
For what seek ye color?
For what see ye creed?
We are sister and brother
Sharing one common need. . .

May this Christmas never end for thee.
May thee always have need of me.

Reprinted with permission from Skip Johnson from St. Mark Presbyterian's Thoughts on Advent, December 1985

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Farewell, Becky Porter!

Becky Porter's been at St. Mark Presbyterian for 15 years as Director of Music Ministries. She and her husband, Steve, have built a home in Fort Myers, FL. and plan to head there after her final Christmas Cantata with the St.Mark Chancel choir, which will be performed on Sunday, Dec. 21st. at both services.

Steve plans to continue working his present job from Florida. Their son, Mitch is in school at the University of Missouri working on a business degree. Their family has a great love for golf and are looking forward to meeting new people on the golf course.

Plan to attend Sunday Dec. 21 to hear "Seasons of Wonder" which will have classic Christmas carols as well as newly composed anthems woven into this beautiful cantata.  Afterwards you can personally thank Becky for her sharing her gifts for so many years at St. Mark Presbyterian.

We want to wish Becky and her family all of our best as they begin a new life!  We will miss you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Red Tent

 Twice a month a St. Mark Presbyterian women's group, "The Red Tent" meets.  Pastor Susan leads the lesson and discussion.  We just concluded Adam Hamilton's Not a Silent Night about Mary and Jesus' birth.  We discussed how his birthing was not ideal even by the standards of that era.  Mary should have been at home surrounded by her sisters, mother, aunts, midwife.  Instead, she was in a stable behind a tavern with none of the soothing sounds, smells, touch her family would have given her.

Susan had wanted to include the following video, but had technical problems. Hoping this is the video she intended:    Click here if the video doesn't pop up.

Coming in January…
“Krazy Kinfolk” by Barbara Essex
…a study of ‘dysfunctional’ biblical families…
Jan. 8 – ‘Parental Authority’ – Jephthah; the Prodigal Son
Jan.22 – ‘Blended Families’ – Abraham, Mordecai and Esther
Feb.12 – ‘Suffering and Grief’ – Job; Jesus
Feb.26 – ‘Multicultural families’ – Moses; Ahab and Jezebel

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fair Trade Shop

Come shop the easy way and feel good while supporting mission efforts at a Christian Children’s Care Center in India.  All products are organic and fair trade, benefitting small farmers globally.  You can purchase a la carte, or we can create a personalized gift basket.  We have many new equal exchange items and some old favorites that make great gifts:

·        New Single Serve Coffee:  Breakfast Blend suitable for Keurig Coffee Makers
·        New Coffee:  African Roots and Midnight Sun, 10 oz. ground coffee.  Old favorites:  Mind, body, and soul; love buzz, Ethiopian, French Roast, Breakfast Blend, decaf, Congo coffee project, 14 oz. Canisters of biosphere reserve coffees, etc.
·        New Cooking Supplies:  Chocolate chips, Palestinian olive oil, baking cocoa
·        Cashews, almonds, assortment of chocolate bars such as dark chocolate coconut, chocolate raspberry, caramel crunch
·        Teas:  English tea, green tea, jasmine green tea, rooibos, chia, chamomile
·        Hot Cocoa
 For more about Equal Exchange, click here.
For other ideas of Fair Trade gift purchases, click here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Worship for December 7

PRAYER IN PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP:  Who are we, Lord God, that you should come to us?  Yet, you have visited your people and redeemed us in your Son.  As we prepare to celebrate his birth, make our hearts leap for joy at the sound of your Word, and move us by your Spirit to bless your wonderful works.  Amen.

   Lighting the Advent Wreath of Peace                                                               
L:     In this season of Advent, we celebrate God’s peace.
P:    Jesus Christ, whose birth we await, calls our community to justice and leads us in the way of peace.
L:     Our community is forgiving.  We call one another to honesty and humility and respond to each other with abundant grace.
P:    Our community values relationships.  We live in harmony with one another even when we disagree, and strive to glorify God in everything we do.
L:     Our community longs for unity.  We work together with other churches and organizations, and live out Gods reconciling love for all the world to see.
P:    Together, we are a sign of God’s peace in the world. 

Unison Prayer
God of all people and all nations, you break through the cynicism of our world and offer a vision of the lion and lamb lying down together.  Open our eyes to see the signs of your coming kingdom and inspire us to participate in all you are doing in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Lord, over the centuries You have called to the human race in so many ways.  You have shown us Yourself in the wonder of creation.  You have sent messengers to tell us of Your love and to call us into relationship with You.  Sometimes You have had to get our attention in dramatic ways.  Those attempts have had one main purpose, to prepare us to recognize and receive Your Son.  In spite of all You have done, we still miss chances to include Him in our lives.  Forgive us for not opening our lives to the coming of our Lord and help us, during this advent season to prepare our hearts to receive Him in new ways.  AMEN.

For Pastor Steve's sermon "A Light in the Dark", click here.