Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Forgotten Seeds and Good Soil

“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.
Whoever serves me, the Father will honor” 
(John 12:24-26, NRSV.) 

Pumpkins are everywhere. The grocery stores are full of big ones for carving and small ones for baking. Every store in the city has them on display, and there are patches a plenty out in the country. They fill our pies, breads, and grande lattes. They are the signs of the season and symbols of abundance, reminding us during this harvest time that our cornucopias are full and our horns “runneth over.” I am haunted by pumpkins.

Of course, we have the obligatory set of misshaped decorative orange spheres in front of our house here in Ballwin, but we are going to be careful this October. A year ago, a couple of decorative gourds fell off our front porch wall in Joplin and landed in the flower bed below. We did not think too much of it until we noticed something unusual happening in the late Spring. Long vines appeared out of nowhere in our yard. They sprang up quickly and spread out even faster. It didn’t take long to realize we had an unexpected pumpkin patch in our front yard. Last year’s leftovers became this year’s bounty. Forgotten seeds found the rich soil, and the harvest was abundant.

We gleaned a couple of valuable lessons from this misadventure in horticulture. First, we have to pay better attention to what’s going on in our flower beds. Second, the things we plant, though often unseen, continue to grow through short cold days and long dark nights. All it takes is good seed and rich soil.

Beyond the pies and spiced lattes, pumpkins remind us there is abundance all around. As they grow, they show there is more than enough to go around. The minor deeds from a year ago grow into the bounteous gifts of today. All we need is good seed and rich soil.

Harvest time is also stewardship season here in the church. It is an opportunity to take stock, individually and collectively, of all the abundance around us. The Lord is constantly moving and providing good gifts, but we rarely have the vision to see it all. Stewardship is a time to breathe deeply, take stock, and thank God as we return a portion with full hearts. The good things of this year may quickly be forgotten if we are not careful. Perhaps, this is the lesson of the forgotten flower bed pumpkin seed. We give today, because we trust God will multiply the offering moving forward.

We will have our stewardship celebration here at St. Mark on Saturday, November 11 and Sunday, November 12. The soil is good, and the time is right. What are we willing to plant today for next year’s harvest?

In Hope and Confidence,
Pastor Dave

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Worship prayers Oct. 22

CENTERING PRAYER - You who have created us and who sustains us:  We come with thanksgiving for these moments when we can ease the pace of our lives and listen for your voice.  Create a spirit within us that truly draws us toward you and toward our sisters and brothers:  a spirit deep, perceptive, gentle and bold.  Clear our minds, open our hearts, and touch us with your presence and your power.  We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ our friend and Savior.  Amen.

This is a new day filled with fresh possibilities.
         We gather to participate in the new things God is doing.
Old ways and tired routines are left behind.
         Our God comes to us in unexpected ways and refreshes all who join the adventure
Those who claim sophistication and power may miss the movement of the eternal.
All who give up their pretenses will find holy opportunities
Let us together explore the wonders of God!

Merciful God, you show us your care in so much of life around us.  You invite us into your great life of love.  But often we refuse your invitation, and turn away from your call.  Instead of asking you for help when we need it, we rely on our own stubborn wills.  Instead of knocking at the doors of your people, we shut up our lives and hide from one another.  Instead of seeking you in the faces of our sisters and brothers, we pretend not to see the need and want around us.  Deliver us, great God.  Show us the new life that gives us the courage to live in peace and grace.  Amen

            Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior


   SCRIPTURE       1 Thessalonians 1:10
For Pastor Susan's sermon "Celebrate You Home", click here.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Daily Prayers October 28

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name
 of the Lord Jesus.
Jeremiah 44:1-14; Philemon 1-25; Matthew 12:33-42
God, our creator, you have given us work to do and call us to use our talents for the good of all. Guide us as we work, and teach us to live in the Spirit who made us your sons and daughters, in the love that made us sisters and brothers. Remember, O God, your church. Unite it in the truth of your Word and empower it in ministry to the world. Remember the world of nations. By your Spirit renew the face of the earth; let peace and justice prevail. Remember our family and friends. Bless them and watch over them; be gracious to them and give them peace. Remember the sick and the suffering, the aged and the dying. Encourage them and give them hope. Rejoicing in the communion of saints, we remember with thanksgiving all your faithful servants, whom you have called from this life. We are grateful that for them death is no more, nor is there sorrow, crying, or pain, for the former things have passed away. (Add your prayers.) Amen.
Go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
(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.)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Explore Membership at St. Mark

This is an exciting time in the life and ministry of St. Mark, and we encourage all our guests to learn more about the Christian faith, the Reformed Tradition, and our Presbyterian Church.

We are offering a Membership Exploration Class on October 29, November 5, and November 12 from 9:30-10:25 AM in Gleason Hall (the gym).  Pastor Dave will help facilitate this three-week class, and everyone is encouraged to attend (even members who want a "refresher course".

We are thankful you have “discovered” St. Mark, and we believe now is the time to explore the mission and ministry of our congregation. Please contact either Elder S. Tharp ) or Pastor Dave (dburgess@discoverstmark.org) with questions or to RSVP.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Apostles' Creed

Last week, Pastor Dave Burgess, conducted a class on the Apostles' Creed at St. Mark Presbyterian Church after our Midweek Dinner.  Our next midweek will be November 15 in Gleason Hall with dinner beginning at 5:30.  More details to follow.  Click here if the video doesn't appear.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

CEPAD: Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua

 Last Saturday Barbara Willock and Justin Sandberg met with a group of us to discuss a mission in Nicaragua which has benefitted Plan Grande 2 in Nicaragua and those of us who have visited there:  CEPAD.  Translated it means "Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua"  For 45 years CEPAD has been working with the poor of Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

CEPAD's primary focus is community development in three primary areas:  training community leaders, teaching sustainable agricultural practices, and empowering women.  A small part of their work involves supporting Protestant groups who visit Nicaragua.  For the smaller number of groups who choose to enter CEPAD's partnership program (like the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy), they continue to support both North American and the Nicaraguan communities in their partnerships.  For the PCUSA it is a two-way street: they support our mission and The Presbyterian Church (USA) finances mission co-workers like Justin and his wife, Rene' who work directly with CEPAD.

CEPAD has begun a capital campaign which Barbara, a retired teaching elder in Giddings-Lovejoy, has agreed to help with.  CEPAD has been housed in various facilities around Managua but would like to consolidate the various facilities in one building to allow them to better serve the people of Nicaragua and the visitors who come to work there.

If you are interested in finding out more about this campaign, contact C. Hutchins, Mission Committee or contact the church office. 636-394-2233.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Worship Prayers for Oct. 15

CENTERING PRAYER - Holy God, you are light, and in you there is no darkness at all.  Shift my focus today from whatever is false to that which is true; from whatever is vulgar to that which is honorable; from whatever is corrupt to that which is just; from whatever is inauthentic to that which is pure; from whatever is detestable to that which is pleasing; from whatever is insignificant to that which is commendable; that I may live in the light.  Through Christ Jesus I pray.  Amen.

CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 106:1-3)
Praise the Lord!
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or declare all his praise?
         Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.
Let us worship the Lord!

Holy God, you are the Lord our God, who brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  And yet our trust in you is fragile, easily crushed by our bent toward indifference—the dismissal of your faithfulness as a result of our forgetfulness.  Our trust is fragile, easily broken by the slightest pause—an answer to prayer not instantly given, a request for peace not immediately felt.  Our trust is fragile, easily displaced by gods of our own making— the god of self-sufficiency, chased at any cost, the god of illusion, pursued in any form. Lord, have mercy on us, through Christ, our Lord in whose name we continue to pray.  (Silent Confession)

† AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (Apostles’ Creed)
I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

   SCRIPTURE                                                                                                                           Exodus 32:1-14

For the sermon "Money for Nothing", click here.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Daily Prayer for October 21


The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Jeremiah 52:1-34; 1 Corinthians 15:12-29; Matthew 11:7-15

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. How great is your love, how wide is your mercy! Never let us board up the narrow gate that leads to life with rules or doctrines that you dismiss; but give us a Spirit to welcome all people with affection, so that your church may never exclude secret friends of yours, who are included in the love of Jesus Christ, who came to save us all. Keep us close together in your Spirit, breaking bread in faith and love, one with Jesus Christ our Lord and Master. (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.)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nicaragua Mission Night

Justin (from CEPAD) will give a minute for mission at Saturday Oct. 21st service, followed by a presentation  after the service with pizza and salad provided by the mission committee. CEPAD (Council of Protestant Churches of Nica) is located in Managua, Nica and is the organization that facilitates our Nica mission groups, forming a bridge to Plan Grande, which is a community about 10 hours north of Managua. 

Giddings-Lovejoy has supported Plan Grande through scholarships and yearly mission trips since 2000. CEPAD trains Nica people living in poverty to find solutions to their problems to provide food, education, and health. They work with 40 villages over 5-year periods, applying the philosophy of “teaching a person to fish.” 

CEPAD’s capital campaign is seeking support to consolidate and expand their facilities, and the money we raise in St. Louis will hopefully give us a naming opportunity to honor Dick Fuller; he had such passion for this ministry.

Please join us for dinner and a meaningful discussion on this important mission from 6-8 PM

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Coming Events for this Week

Grief Share Support Group at St. Mark – meets on Wednesdays

October 18, 2017 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
    Stephen Ministry will again be facilitating the GRIEF SHARE program at St. Mark Presbyterian Church beginning September 13. Grief Share will meet for 13 weeks on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in Room 17. (Room 17 is located on the lower level, near the Music Room) GRIEF SHARE is a support group for anyone […]

    Third Wednesday Programming at St. Mark

    October 18, 2017 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
      Join us for ‘Third Wednesday!’ programming Wednesday, October 18 5:30 PM – Potluck in Gleason Hall 6:00 to 7:00 PM – ‘Creeds & Confessions’ – with Pastor Dave For the Potluck meal, St. Mark will provide the tableware. Please bring your favorite dish to share at the potluck. This can be an entree type dish, […]

      Red Cross Blood Drive at St. Mark Presbyterian Church – Sunday, October 22

      October 22, 2017 9:00 am to 1:00 pm
        St. Mark Deacons are sponsoring a Red Cross Blood Drive on Sunday, October 22. Please consider donating, as one unit of blood can benefit three people who need it. You can pre-register for an appointment time at redcrossblood.org. With the recent hurricanes, there is a pressing need for blood donors, so if you are able, […]

        Tuesday, October 17, 2017

        Blessing of the Pets 2017

         Sunday was a beautiful day for the Pet Blessings at St. Mark Presbyterian sponsored by Children's Ministry.  Fourteen of the youth and children of the congregation gave the prayers and blessings.Thank you to all who participated in this event---especially the children who baked the pet and human treats.

        Thank you to H. Neal and J. Northrip for sharing their photos.

        Sunday, October 15, 2017

        Worship Prayers Oct. 8

        CENTERING PRAYER - God of Perfect Peace, we come to you today with heavy hearts in a broken and violent world, but we trust you to remain when others forsake.  When we are tempted to abandon ourselves today, help us to stay present to this moment, that we may know and do your will.  Through the Creator who enfolds us, Christ who defends us, and the Spirit who never abandons us.  Amen.

        CALL TO WORSHIP (from Psalm 19)
        The heavens declare the glory of God!
        The skies proclaim God’s handiwork.
        The day pronounces God’s glory without a sound,
        the night expounds God’s knowledge without a word,
        and yet their voice goes out through all the earth.
        Let us join our voices with the voice of creation in declaring God’s glory!

           PRAYER OF CONFESSION (modified from “Prayers For the Twenty-First Century”, page 124)
        Save your people, God of truth and mercy, from the chaos of divided loyalties and the worship of many gods;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        From making God in our own likeness and the slavery of self-centeredness;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        From using God’s name trivially and claiming him for our prejudices;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        From neglecting sabbatical quiet times and being obsessed with busyness;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        From ignoring or despising the elderly and over-indulging the new generation;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        From glorifying armaments and war and wishing our enemies dead;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        From watering-down love and marriage and the exploitation of sex;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        From the sin of taking what isn’t ours and denying others what is rightfully theirs;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        From TV programs that twist the facts, and cruel gossip in supermarkets;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        From those who preach greed as a virtue and possession-lust which is never satisfied;
        Save us, God of truth and mercy.
        O Jesus Christ, Savior of all who lose their way, O Healing Spirit, Power who renews the world; We need you, God of truth and mercy!  Amen!  (Silent Confession)

        Peace be with you.  And also with you.

        † AFFIRMATION OF FAITH – Westminster Confession of Faith Shorter Catechism
        Question One:       What is our chief end?
        Answer:                 Our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever.


        SCRIPTURE      Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

        For the sermon "The Creator and the Created" click here.

        Saturday, October 14, 2017

        Daily prayer for Oct. 14

        God is love, and those who abide in love, abide in God, and God abides in them.
        Jeremiah 35:1-19; 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3; Matthew 9:35-10:4

        Eternal God, we praise you for your mighty love given in Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and the new life we have received by his resurrection. We thank you for the presence of Christ in our weakness and suffering, the ministry of Word and Sacrament, all who work to help and heal, sacrifices made for our benefit, opportunities for our generous giving. God of grace let our concern for others reflect Christ's self-giving love, not only in our prayers, but also in our practice. We pray for those subjected to tyranny and oppression, wounded and injured people, those who face death, those who may be our enemies. Eternal God, your love is stronger than death, and your passion more fierce than the grave. We rejoice in the lives of those whom you have drawn into your eternal embrace. Keep us in joyful communion with them until we join the saints of every people and nation, gathered before your throne in ceaseless praise. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

        May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

        (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, October 12, 2017

        Celebrating Life: Finding Joy After Loss

        On Oct. 14, 2015, I went in for what was supposed to be a minor oral surgery. Okay, basically it WAS a minor oral surgery, but since I'm a drama queen, it felt like more a scene from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
        My sweet husband took off work so he could drive me home. He tucked me in on the sofa under my favorite blankie and made an awkward attempt to feed me my favorite tomato soup from Panera and help me drink my favorite iced chai; with my mouth still completely numb, it was also a bit like a scene from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." And then he settled onto the sofa with me and handed me the remote.
        Together we watched countless hours of Halloween-themed baking contests dedicated to the delicate art of turning delicious pastries into some bake sale version of a prop from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” What I remembered most from that Halloween baking contest marathon—what we both remembered most—was the sheer horror of an ill-prepared ganache. Nervous chefs would fret that they had added a bit too much of this or that; cooked their ganache a moment too long, or not quite long enough; stirred it too much, or not enough. Every slight misstep with the fragile ganache risked the rebuke of some snooty judge. After that day, my husband and I shared a new rallying cry: “Don’t break the ganache!” It became our version of, “Keep calm and carry on,” “Don’t freak out,” “Proceed with caution,” “Check yourself before you wreck yourself,” you name it; a reminder to handle the ganache with care seemed to fit every perilous situation we faced.
        And that was how we celebrated his last birthday.
        I’m sure he would say it was one of his favorite birthdays because, A) He was off work and B) He spent the day with me. But like most days, he had put whatever revelry he was due aside to care for his family. That’s who he was.
        Now I find myself binge-watching those same Halloween-themed baking competitions with our children, listening to chefs fret over the fragility of their ganache, and thinking of that day we spent together on the sofa.
        This Saturday would have been his 43rd birthday. Some would say it would be best if I pushed those anniversaries aside; others who have lost a spouse know that it’s just not possible. And the fact is, it’s not just the significant days that hurt, because it was those little, average, ordinary moments that I miss the most.
        This year, Oct. 14 will also be the day our oldest daughter will celebrate her high school’s homecoming. It will no doubt be a day when we are reminded of what is missing from our family: no overprotective father to drive her to the dance, to make her date uncomfortable with awkward questions, or to wait up with me on the sofa for her to come home.
        But I have learned through this process that to deny yourself the feeling of loss is to deprive yourself the joy of the memories, too. So it will also be a day to be grateful for the community in which I am raising our children. It will be a day to celebrate that she has a safe, positive, supportive learning environment. It will be a day that she marks her own rite of passage—attending her first formal with her own fella for the first time—and a day that I thank God for the strong, hard-working, resilient young woman and leader that she has become. Each of those moments will be a bittersweet reminder that I am forever indebted to my husband for making all those things possible.
        For those of us who are left behind, each single breath is filled with both unfathomable sorrow and immeasurable joy. But each time we celebrate our own lives, we celebrate theirs, too.

        Kathy Deters

        Wednesday, October 11, 2017

        Blessing of the Pets

        October 15, 2017
        2:00 PM
        601 Claymont
        Ballwin, MO
        St. Mark Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)

         The animals of God's creation inhabit the skies, the earth, and the sea.
        They share in the fortunes of human existence
           and have a part in human life.
        God, who confers gifts on all living things,
           has often used the service of animals
              or made them reminders of the gifts of salvation.
        Animals were saved from the flood
           and afterwards made a part of the covenant with Noah.         (GENESIS 9:9–10)

        Bring your dog, cat, hamster, or any other beloved pet to an outdoor service especially for pets and the people who love them. Special stuffed animal friends also welcome! Light refreshments for pets and humans will be served after the service.

        Tuesday, October 10, 2017

        Fall Festival 2017

         Another successful Fall Festival with free rides, crafts, games, music.  Thanks J. Oglesby and S. Naylor for the photos, and thanks to all of the St. Mark Presbyterian volunteers who helped make this such a wonderful community event.