The Back Page
News, art, ideas from the back page of Grace's bimonthly newsletter, Grace Notes.
October 11, 2011
Tutoring in the Austin Community
by Sam Dull (junior at Oak Park River Forest High School)
During the last two years several teenagers from Grace’s youth group have made the commitment to drive into the Austin community on Tuesday nights and volunteer at Kidz Express. Kidz Express is a not-for-profit organization where volunteers help feed, tutor, and mentor at-risk children who live in a community that struggles with poverty and crime. Most of the children at Kidz Express, who range in age from 5 to 12 years, are several years behind in school. Grace’s volunteers improve the kids’ lives by helping them catch up in their schoolwork and acting as role models in their lives. Grace volunteers spend an hour at Kidz Express assisting the kids with their homework, reading books together, or playing educational games. Tutoring on Tuesday nights has been a great experience for me because it has broadened my perspective on life.
Unfortunately, there are far more children than tutors. Last week more than 50 children waited to be assigned tutors yet only a dozen were available. Please consider volunteering at Kidz Express. It will prove to be a very meaningful hour of your week. We are looking for adult tutors to supplement our teenagers. We especially need a few more adults to drive to and from Kidz Express (342 S. Laramie, Chicago) on Tuesday nights (6:00-7:00 p.m.). If you would like to help, please contact my dad, Tim Dull (312-952-0571; firstname.lastname@example.org). For more information about the program, visit the web site.
Finally, I want to share the mission statement that the children at Kidz Express say out loud together before they share a snack or meal:
Trusting in God’s love and power,
I will respect myself and others,
I will accept responsibility for my choices and consequences,
I will explore my world and make it a better place.
September 27, 2011
by Pastor Kelly K. Faulstich
Six minutes a day for a month, about thirty seconds a day spread over a year. One hundred eighty minutes, plus love and faith, and a little time for planning are all you need to teach one rotation of Sunday School at Grace! You might need to stop by the store to pick up some supplies, but you usually end up at Jewel or Target or Costco at least once a week anyway. You don’t have to be a parent with a child in Sunday School. You don’t have to be a professional theologian or biblical scholar. You won’t be alone in this endeavor, in this fun, that’s for certain. We have people we call Shepherds who are present week after week all year long.
Story Sundays introduce the biblical text that is used as the basis of every four-week rotation. Then, you (and a handful of others) prepare only one lesson and teach it four weeks to four different grades. The Children’s Religious Education Committee and I are always available for questions, hints, helpful pieces to help you fill in the puzzle of your lesson. The topics are chosen already, but the style, the workshop that you use is up to you: art, skills and games, cooking, drama, music, science, or video.
This year, even our high school students have begun helping on Story, Service, and Family Sundays. Already, I’ve seen both the teenage and younger faces light up with joy as we shared a delicious breakfast on Rally Day and as we began learning about Mary and Martha’s time with Jesus during our first Story Sunday of the year. The adults looked pretty joyful too! Here’s praying that others in our Grace community might find 180 minutes to share.
Want to teach a rotation, help with a Family or Service Sunday, serve as a Shepherd, or join in the fun of Sunday School? Call or email Pastor Faulstich (708-366-6900; email@example.com) or Heidi Bohlmann, (708-358-0611; firstname.lastname@example.org).
Playing on the handbell team
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Romans 12:6a
by Lisa Wolfanger
In England, where handbells were ‘born,’ handbell ensembles are called teams. It’s the perfect term!
When the handbell program began at Grace, the bells were first put to use with junior high boys who did not want to sing in the choir. A relief to the choir director and to the boys, the bell choir was a great outlet for their need for noise and movement – and the young gentlemen of the bell choir – the bell team - could make a meaningful musical contribution to the worship at Grace. The handbell program has now grown to three ensembles and includes boys and girls and men and women.
Each bell looks beautiful on its own, but it’s meant to be rung in harmony with the others. Ringers bring their own gifts to the team, and not all those gifts are musical. Small adjustments are made constantly as team members listen and react to one another. Ringers learn to accept others’ mistakes because they’ve made their own. When one ringer has too many bells to ring, another will pick them up. Attention is paid. Leaders emerge. And laughter accompanies every bell choir rehearsal.
We are grateful that this year proceeds from the Oktoberfest will benefit the purchase of new handbells at Grace. Our handbells receive heavy use. The three bell teams rehearse weekly and play for worship services and occasional concerts and festivals. Grace will again host the Illinois Young Ringers Festival in February 2012. It’ll be another busy year!
August 28, 2011
Why do churches have constitutions?
by Jeff Wood
Why do churches have constitutions and bylaws? Jesus never said anything about them. The epistles have a lot to say about how the church should act, but they don’t even suggest that churches need constitutions and bylaws. In the book of Acts, which chronicles the formation of the early church, Luke never mentions how to write a church constitution, propose bylaws, or hold a committee meeting. Instead, the apostles baptized the converts (sometimes 3,000 in one day), broke bread together, prayed, healed, and shared all things in common, living in community with one another. They went about the job of ministry, being ruled by the Holy Spirit.
Like many of our traditions, constitutions and bylaws probably came to churches from secular sources. Church leaders eventually recognized that written rules would help further the church’s ministry. With a clear, straightforward set of written guidelines, the mission of the church might be more organized, efficient, Christ-centered, and effective. All participants would have the same understanding of the ways to accomplish ministry and missions.
On August 28 after the late service, Grace’s congregation will meet to review proposed changes to its constitution and bylaws. The Church Council has developed the constitution and bylaws proposals, over a series of meetings during the past year, to help Grace continue to fulfill its mission to bring in, build up, and send out disciples for Jesus Christ. The changes will encourage more members to participate in the church’s ministries, through flexibility in committee membership and volunteer participation. The changes will help Grace’s committees coordinate with the Council and with each other, through the election of Council members that represent boards and clusters of committees. In addition, election of specific council representatives will help ensure continuity on Church Council. Come on August 28 to learn more about the proposal and to vote with the congregation.
July 26, 2011
Stewardship of time and talent
by Gwen Gotsch. Grace Communications Coordinator
God commands us to live our lives in service to his kingdom, to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), to “make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19), reminding us “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Our stewardship of time and talent, as well as of material things, is one of the ways that God’s will is done on earth. Volunteering to be a Sunday School teacher, a kitchen helper, a committee member, a worship assistant, or one of many other jobs outlined in the “Time and Talent" brochure included in your July contribution statement envelope connects you with our congregation’s mission to bring in, build up and send out disciples for Jesus Christ.
During my thirty-plus years as a member of Grace Church, I’ve brought my time and talent to all kinds of projects and groups. It has been time well spent, not only because of what has been accomplished, but also because these activities have brought me even more blessings in the form of the people with whom I have worked. These are people who have supported and encouraged me during hard times and people who have counted on me to share the good news of God’s grace and faithfulness during their celebrations and their struggles. The things that God commands us to do are truly good for us—in more than just the “eat your peas” sense of doing something virtuous but not especially pleasant. Serving God’s people enriches our lives, builds up our faith, and brings us closer to the God who created us, loves us, and sent his Son to be our example of servanthood.
September will be here soon, with plans and new projects. How will you enrich your life and grow your faith in service to God at Grace and beyond?
June 28, 2011
Like No Other Camp Anywhere
by Pastor Dean Lueking
Summer camps for kids are everywhere for all kinds of purposes, but one is unique in the world.
The Bach Cantata Camp is the creative idea of our Grace Church Cantor, Pastor Michael Costello, who recently led 24 high schoolers in a week of learning, singing, playing, and enjoying the sacred music of Johann Sebastian Bach, music which has glorified God and edified people the world over for the past 300 years.
Beginning with Morning Prayer at 9:00 a.m., the typical day includes morning rehearsals, individual voice training by qualified voice coaches, a guest speaker on some interesting topic (“Bach and the Brain” by neurosurgeon Douglas Anderson, for example), and afternoon outings to such places as the Berghaus Organ shop for a look at how organs are made. Each BCC week concludes with a complete Bach Cantata performed by the teen singers and instrumentalists in the liturgical setting of Evening Prayer.
Sessions are at Grace Church. Meals are enjoyed at the nearby Concordia University cafeteria. Pastor Costello has engaged Concordia University music faculty to help him enrich the professional quality of instruction in the program. The $250 tab per student covers the costs; the Christopher Foundation helps provide financial assistance for students needing it.
In the recent BCC, five of the 24 participants were Grace Church youth. Grace member and Walther High School music teacher Lori Bormet, has sparked Walther student participation to round out the balance of participants. A BCC network of outreach has brought BCC students from as far distant as Utah, Wyoming, and South Carolina.
BCC participant Aissa Perez, soon to join Grace Church, said “Bach’s music helps me grow spiritually and is worth every minute of the hard work I put into it.” Pastor Costello summed up his goal for the Bach Cantata Camp experience this way: “I want youth to taste the best of the sacred music heritage that J.S. Bach has given the world and cherish it for the rest of their lives.” Thanks to him, it’s happening.
June 7, 2011
Summer in the Spirit
by Pastor Kelly K. Faulstich
As another year of school concluded, the children spilled out of the doors toward bus or family car with backpacks and bags full of a year’s worth of supplies, yearbooks in hand, and smiles on their faces. Seventh grade students become eighth graders stood just a little taller. A fourth grader told me proudly, “I’m a fifth grader now!” Summer vacation arrived, at last, with the shining sun and seventy-degree breeze to celebrate.
When the season changes, when something new begins, we often start with energy and excitement. The first few days of summer vacation are joyfully spent with some sleeping-in and lazing about one’s house or neighborhood. Or perhaps the warmer season finds you welcoming time at the pool, golf course, or lake house. With all the traveling and camps and family vacations, summer at Grace Lutheran Church and School can find our community a little scattered.
In baptism, we have been united. The Spirit we celebrate on Pentecost and every time we gather is the Spirit that sustains us in faith and for discipleship. This Spirit isn’t a seasonal one, like the spirit of summer. This Spirit is eternal and divine and worthy of worship always. In addition to our Sunday morning services at 8:30 and 11:00 a.m., Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. provide another opportunity to gather together in the Spirit that unites us. I hope you’ll join us. Or, if you’re traveling, I hope you’ll find a congregation with which to worship. (And if you do, I’d be curious to see their bulletin!) Blessings on your summers, wherever the Spirit may lead!
May 17, 2011
Reflections on the worship bulletin
by Paul Erickson
Grace member Paul Erickson recently sent this note to Pastor Modahl and Pastor Faulstich:
“I just wanted you both to know how much I've come to benefit from the worship bulletin at Grace. It has been a wonderful source of comfort and encouragement during the uncertainty and constant travel I deal with for my work. In recent weeks, I have been underlining anything that caught my attention in the bulletin, words or phrases from the liturgy, hymns and lessons. I also jot down any notes I can from the sermon and from the Prayers of the Church. Last week I took notes during the Baptism.
“It has been a transforming experience. By making this small personal effort, I’m getting so much more from our service. The little act of underlining has really kept me engaged, and the phrases I underline are strengthening to look back on at stressful times during the week.
“Thank you for your excellent sermons. Taking notes on your preaching is easy because you are both very good at it. When the world comes crashing in as I leave church, my notes help me to recall your sermons and be comforted by them. Last week’s sermon was great, and it will be fun to share the Bill Campbell story with my Mississippi relatives. My niece Mia is starting at Ole Miss this fall.
“Thanks for the detailed worship bulletin. I find the bulletin in its current form to be an excellent tool for worship and encouraging a Christian life outside of worship.
“Thanks again for your leadership. Grace is blessed to have you both.”
May 3, 2011
The Mexico You Need to Hear More About
by Pastor Dean Lueking
Beverly and I greet you from an interesting place.
We’re completing a two-month guest pastoral residency in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, several hours north of Mexico City. It’s a city famed for its flawless weather and as a mecca for artists, retirees, and tourists who comprise the English speaking tenth of the 80,000 Mexican population.
What brought Beverly and me here during March and April is the San Miguel Community Congregation, an interesting, hospitable group of about 75 whose Sunday worship is conducted in a spacious room rented in a condo complex. I did Sunday and mid-week Lenten preaching in a congregation of widely diverse Christian and non-Christian backgrounds. Several retired Episcopal clergy provide part-time pastoral leadership. A lay board oversees things, including inviting guest clergy to help out with two-month intervals of residency. I’m the first Lutheran in that lineup so far. We’ve no qualms about safety in San Miguel. It’s a charming city of cobblestone streets, colorfully painted walls and buildings, and a 400-year history.
Worth noting: more than half the congregation budget goes beyond the congregation to serve Mexico’s poor, provide educational scholarships, support lots of volunteer tutoring in basic English for youngsters in village schools nearby, plus a recent relief offering for Japan, etc. I admire the congregation’s purpose to reach out with the fellowship of the Gospel to the many who come to San Miguel to find a sunlit paradise, but then realize that endless sunshine and myriad art shops don’t satisfy the soul.
Small world item: my invitation to serve here came via a current member who graduated from Grace School and was a Grace parishioner for a time more than 35 years ago!
Every Leaf in Springtime
by Pastor Kelly K. Faulstich
Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! On the Sunday when we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord, we join our voices together in praise for God's promise of resurrection. When Easter arrives late in the month of April, even nature seems to sing out with fragrance and hue. The grass looks a little greener, the trees a little fuller, and the sun a little stronger as we gather to worship Christ who overcame death and sin. One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther comes to mind: "Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime."
Once the beauty of the Easter season, both in liturgy and creation, has begun fading in its initial appeal, how might we continue singing praises for an empty tomb? Beyond some of the obvious disciplines carrying over from Lent (worship, prayer, almsgiving), perhaps there are other practices or adaptations that might nurture and reinvigorate our relationship with God and connection to faith community.
If you garden, perhaps you'll incorporate a prayer of thanksgiving for the earth God created as you dig in the dirt. If you travel, you could listen to a recording of the Acts of the Apostles, the book from which our first readings come during this season. Maybe you can challenge yourself to take a cue from Mary who proclaimed, "I have seen the Lord." You could tell a friend what your favorite hymn was at worship or share one of the readings or prayers with your friends and family before mealtime. These are but a few ideas.
In the Easter narrative, we see God who brings new life into the world. While the world may look at an empty tomb, we are called to witness to life and life abundant (John 10:10) that Jesus offers in ministry, death, and resurrection. In every leaf in springtime, in our daily lives and corporate worship, let us proclaim with vigor: Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!
April 5, 2011
Faith Seeking Understanding
by Rebekah Weant Costello
During Lent, I always find myself being drawn to the book “Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross,” by the late Father Richard John Neuhaus. My first introduction to this book was in 2001. At that time, I was a recent graduate from college, still weighing the truth claims posed by competing philosophies, theologies and critical tools I had been exposed to in a liberal arts education. I was in a wilderness, wondering what could truly be known about Jesus—or anything for that matter.
It was in this context that I read the words: “The final outcome of critical consciousness, however, need not be that we are sure of nothing. It can lead to our being graced with a ‘second naïveté.’ . . . The second naïveté is an understanding reached on the far side of critical analysis and debunking. Having come to recognize that things could theoretically be other than they are, we are brought to the perception that they are as we thought them to be; but on the far side of all our questions, we know that in a way we did not know it before. This is the destination of the path that theology describes as ‘faith in search of understanding’” (Neuhaus, 217). Having read these words, I found that the critical questions I had about Jesus’ journey to the cross did not simply disappear. Instead, they began to be ruled over by Christ.
The years during confirmation instruction can be a wilderness period. Confirmands raise important questions relating to theodicy. They test the faith of the Church. They want to understand who Jesus is and why he matters. They embody faith seeking understanding. In the season of Lent, God gives us an opportunity, once again, to place our questions about Jesus at the foot of the cross, trusting that Jesus will rule over them, giving us a “second naïveté.” For “in the sacrifice of the cross, all is endured and all is redeemed. . . . At the foot of the cross, faith discerns, through our tears, that nothing is left unattended, nothing unknown, nothing unloved, nothing unredeemed” (Neuhaus, 227).
March 22, 2011
Singing What We Believe
by Pastor Michael Costello
St. Paul writes in Romans 8 that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Anything else in all creation” is a pretty bold statement. We might ask: Does that include tsunamis and earthquakes? Does that include wars and economic instability? Does that include you and me? The simple answer from Romans 8: You bet.
One of the most common catchphrases in liturgical theology today is lex orandi lex credendi (what we pray is what we believe.) Church musicians in recent times have altered this phrase slightly to talk about church music by replacing the word orandi with cantandi. What we end up with is lex cantandi lex credendi (what we sing is what we believe). There are multiple ways of translating this simple Latin phrase, but the point is true nonetheless: as Christians we sing about what we believe to be true, that nothing can separate us from the love given us in the person of Jesus Christ.
With wars continuing to rage around the world and the people of Japan coping with devastating earthquakes, tsunamis, and potential nuclear meltdown, we have something to offer. Even if we cannot be there with those who are hurting, we do have our voices. We can gather as servants of the Lord to pray and to sing with Christians around the world about what it is that we believe is true. We can sing songs that proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ and we can pray fervently for all who are hurting or are in need.
Those are no small things. There is a lot to be said for praying and singing hope into the world in times such as these. So come. During this season of Lent, join us on Wednesdays as we pray Morning Prayer (10:00 a.m.) and Evening Prayer (7:30 p.m.). We have so much to sing about!
(Photo of Oura Church, Nagasaki, Japan)
March 8, 2011
Experience Lent with Christ's Church Around the World
by Pastor Bruce Modahl
On Ash Wednesday, March 9, we again hear the call to the disciplines of Lent: repentance, fasting, prayer and works of love. Surely we repent of our sins, pray, engage in works of love and perhaps even fast at other times of the year. But during Lent we give particular attention to these spiritual disciplines as we turn our hearts and lives to follow Jesus on his way to the cross. To aid us in our discipline, we gather for additional worship services during Lent: for Holy Communion on Ash Wednesday, March 9, at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and on the next five Wednesdays, for Morning Prayer at 10:00 a.m. and Evening Prayer at 7:30 p.m.
Part of our Lenten discipline again this year is to experience what it means to be part of the church catholic, meaning, Christ’s church around the world. In part we gain that experience by singing the songs of the churches from other cultures. Last year we sang African-American spirituals. This year we sample the hymnody from Asia.
The theme for our midweek services, “Here, O Lord, Your Servants Gather,” is the first line from a Japanese hymn. (Read the full text here.) The hymn was written by Tokuo Yamaguchi in 1958 for the Fourteenth World Council of Christian Education Convention that met in Tokyo. The music was composed by Isao Koisumi in the style of traditional Japanese court music called gagaku, which derives from China.
The hymn was written thirteen years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, when the Cold War was at its height. Paul Westermeyer says, “The whole hymn was forged as a prayer . . . [at a time] when fear and suspicion were mingled with new possibilities. Beyond the world’s perplexity the church, as is its birthright, looked for sustenance and help to Jesus as savior, teacher, healer, and master.”
Each week we will sing a verse from this hymn, a second hymn from Asia, and a hymn more familiar to us. Singing hymns from Asia, along with hymns originating from Northern Europe, gives us a sense of being part of the church catholic.
(Photo of Oura Church, Nagasaki, Japan)
February 22, 2011
A Teacher Worth Remembering
by Pastor Dean Lueking
Ralph Gehrke died last January 6, the Day of the Epiphany. His 91 years of life were an epiphany of God’s grace to many who were his students, teaching colleagues, and friends along the way. During the years he taught religion at Concordia University, he was also a beloved Grace member whose Bible classes were unforgettably enriching. From time to time he would serve up Sunday afternoon sessions, often on the Old Testament prophets, followed by a fellowship supper, and concluded with Vesper worship.
His keen, scholarly mind was anchored by a deep love for God. In his classes, the gospel of Christ’s cross and resurrection always came through as good news for life’s realities. He was an impeccable scholar (one of his favorite haunts was the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago) and yet with his humility and gentleness of spirit he opened up the Bible to people unlettered in the Scripture in ways that kept them coming back for more.
Lest humility and gentleness be misconstrued as weakness, he could be as unflinching as steel under fire. I saw that as his pastoral advocate when the new leadership of the LCMS of the l970’s charged Ralph Gehrke with alleged false doctrine and eventually fired him from his teaching position at Concordia. He put that outrageous business behind him, accepted a call to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, and taught students there until his retirement. PLU’s gain was Concordia’s loss. Grace’s as well. The denomination’s treatment of Ralph Gehrke has something to do with why Grace Church is no longer a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
Ralph’s calling was to the single life, something too often missed in this era of hyper-sexualization of all things human. In his death he left one remaining sister. But in a larger, deeper sense, he is still embraced by that vast family of faith that fills heaven and earth with God’s everlasting praise.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
February 8, 2011
Service with a Smile
by Pastor Kelly Faulstich
On the last weekend in January, six of our high school students headed to Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood for a retreat. The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago has a Youth Center that is available for youth groups across the country to use when they come to town for service or fellowship. Our weekend away from the west suburbs was meant to include both types of activities.
On Friday evening, we arrived at the Youth Center, claimed bunks, and began our work of assembling 100 sandwiches to take with us to serve alongside The Night Ministry bus at its stop at 71st and Jeffery Boulevard on the south side of the city. With the help of Mrs. Carioscio, we loaded the sandwiches and a tub full of hot chili into cars and headed to the site. The bank sign across the street told us that it was about 20 degrees outside, and for the whole hour I never heard a whine or complaint from anyone in our group. The people came, mostly men, and the youth handed out sandwiches and scooped bowls of chili. The youth engaged the people who gathered in conversation. Some of the men asked if we had any crackers to go with the chili. Others asked for napkins. Both were items we had neglected to bring with us.
When our group arrived back to the Youth Center, some covered in more chili than others, we gathered for evening devotions and discussion. I was thankful and amazed at the insights of our young people. Instead of lamenting how the people who gathered were asking for crackers and napkins, our youth reflected that, like Jesus, we could show better hospitality the next time we go. “We could have bags too,” one of the youth suggested. “So they could carry extras with them.”
January 25, 2011
Faith Perspectives: A Place to Talk About Important Issues
A January 2011 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found that fewer than one quarter of Americans say they would give the current “moral state of the union” a grade of an “A” or a “B.” The survey also found that Americans view the country's moral climate through a partisan lens and that people at one end of the political spectrum tend to say that the biggest obstacles to changing the tone in Washington are those in the opposing party.
Clearly Americans have things to talk about, but conversation is not always easy. Christians have legitimate differences about political issues, but churches are often as polarized as the rest of our society. Yet people of faith—even people of different faiths—share similar values, even similar visions of how we should live with one another. It seems that churches, synagogues and mosques should be places where people meet to bridge the gaps, even propose solutions.
Grace's Faith Perspectives forums are an attempt to create a place where people can talk with one another about important issues. Speakers and audience at the first forum on Sunday, February 13, at 2:30 p.m., will consider the ethical dimensions of the 2008 economic downturn. Jim Halteman, Professor of Business and Economics at Wheaton College, will supply background information, and speakers from Islamic, Jewish and Christian traditions will provide the "faith perspective." An Adult Education session on the morning of February 13 will introduce participants to the concept of interfaith dialogue: listening and speaking in ways that build trust, respect differences and encourage cooperation.
Come to the Faith Perspectives forum to listen, to think, to question, to consider different points of view. It’s a first step toward improving the “moral state of our union.”
Pre-registration is appreciated.
January 11, 2011
Grace on Christmas Eve
by Craig Mindrum
As near as I can remember or calculate, we first attended Grace Lutheran Church’s family Christmas Eve service in 1993, when our son Jonathan was in Ellie Schnack’s kindergarten class. We attended each year since, as all three of our children—Jonathan, then Jennifer, then Jessica—sang in the service … and then beyond, even as our youngsters grew too old to participate, because we couldn’t bear to be away.
This year was our first away from the service in, then, 17 years—drawn this time to Grandma’s house in Michigan for Christmas Eve dinner.
I have a vivid memory of the very first time we saw the cross forming in front of the altar, in the almost-darkness of the sanctuary: Donna weeping openly … Craig trying not to weep. Yes, this was Christmas: Sight and sound and sense converging in a way that went beyond the reasoning mind. Children. Silence. Darkness. Light. Music. Still, still, still. Yes.
It is important to understand the power of this Christmas Eve moment. Grace Lutheran Church holds in its congregation many great minds, many great voices. There is grandeur and splendor in much that we do.
But: just as the truth of our faith comes down ultimately to a lowly child born in a barn, so does our distinctive community come down to a single child's voice singing out of the darkness on Christmas Eve: “Once in royal David’s city ….”
December 7 and 21, 2010
May It Last a Hundred More Years—At Least
by Pastor Dean Lueking
The candle cross formed by the children each Christmas Eve has become a deeply loved tradition at Grace Church. For the children who participate, it’s a defining moment. Fourth-graders watching it from the pews think “Next year I’ll be up there!” and eighth-graders realize “Next year I won’t.”
Longtime Grace School sixth grade teacher Elfrieda Miller began the tradition in l943. Her pupils remember her no-nonsense insistence on doing things right. "Hold the candle just so! No wobbling! Exactly in line with the others! When one arm tires, bring the other up slowly, so that no one notices." Elfrieda was so exacting because she wanted the children to learn that reverence requires discipline. Years later, Grace School choir members can still repeat the drill as they keep coming back Christmas Eve after Christmas Eve to worship and remember. Indeed, all of us who cherish the power and beauty of this tradition do the same. For us, too, the children give us a defining moment for measuring time, remembering other Christmas Eves and those dear to us as well as wondering how things will be when next Christmas Eve rolls around.
Grace School teacher, organist, and music director emeritus, Paul Bouman, enriched this tradition greatly during his years from l953 – l983. Under his direction, the signature carol “O Holy Night” was joined with the candle cross to proclaim what the Christ Child came to do: “He knows our needs, our weakness is no stranger.” No wonder, then, our eyes tear up and hearts overflow as these children, so young and tender, sing of truth more profound than they yet realize.
As the Christmas Eve candle cross tradition at Grace flourished throughout the l960’s and beyond, Paul Bouman kept enriching it by using both darkness and light in the sanctuary and joining music both quietly solemn and joyfully bright. “Once In Royal David’s City,” “O Holy Night,” “Torches,” Luther’s “Ah, Dearest Jesus, Holy Child,” and the song by 19th century German composer Peter Cornelius describing a family Christmas Eve celebration (“The holly’s up, the house is all bright…”) are inscribed lifelong in the memories of all who once sang them (and us who have heard them) on Christmas Eves through the decades.
The important task of preparing and costuming the children for their respective parts in presenting the Christmas story fell to Margaret Kruse, the legendary fifth grade teacher at Grace. When asked how they fared through lengthy readings, she said “Quite well!” adding, on second thought, “…I guess we did lose a few Josephs who fainted from standing stark still.”
A major gift to the tradition came in 2000 when Children’s Choir leader Gwen Gotsch opened participation to public school children of the Grace congregation. A great move! And one that requires more cooperation by parents and children involved.
Noteworthy: when this tradition began three quarters of a century ago, 58% of Americans came to worship each week. In the decade of the l960’s alone it fell by a record 13% and has steadily declined since to its present 35%. As we at Grace face the challenges these statistics present, the Christmas Eve candle cross tradition is ever more precious. Why not honor it by inviting folks, especially children, who have no idea of what they’re missing to come with you this Christmas Eve and find their welcome at the manger?
I make this appeal as one who at age 7 was brought to a Christmas Eve service in my home town for the first time. I’ve been a Lutheran ever since.
November 23, 2010
The self-study led by the Discovering God’s Grace Committee in 2008-2009 identified adult learning as one of Grace Lutheran Church and School’s strengths. The Committee’s report in January of 2010 asked the congregation to consider how we can use Grace’s intellectual tradition to discern the mission God has in mind for Grace. The report also asked, “What is our role as a learning provider in the community?”
Grace’s new Faith Perspectives Committee has been established to address those specific questions. Committee members include Barbara Hofmaier, Shirley Holm, Jackie Jungemann, Harriet Roberts, Martha Rohlfing, Doris Strieter and Jeff Wood. They believe that serving as a “public moral companion” is one way that the church can participate in God’s creative work in the world. Churches in democratic societies can be places where people can safely learn and talk about important issues and, as forgiven sinners, look at the moral dimensions of political and social questions from a self-critical and compassionate perspective.
The first Faith Perspectives seminar on Sunday afternoon, February 13, at 2:30 p.m., will focus on the moral and ethical dimension of economic issues such as excessive materialism, unemployment, and rising poverty. The title is “Lessons Learned from the Great Recession.” The speakers include Dr. Jim Halteman, Professor of Business and Economics at Wheaton College; Dr. Ghulam-Haider Aasi, Visiting Professor of World Religions at Lutheran School of Theology Chicago; Rabbi Karyn Kedar of B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elhim, Deerfield, and Pastor Stephen Bouman from the ELCA. There will be time for questions and small group discussions.
The committee is endeavoring to invite people from all over the Chicago area, to promote a public interfaith dialogue about these critical issues. As a member of Grace, you can support this dialogue by coming to the event yourself and by inviting friends and neighbors.
November 9, 2010
A Remarkable Man, Well Worth Remembering
by Pastor Dean Lueking
H. C. Engelbrecht was the third pastor to serve Grace Church. His brief tenure from l918 till l922 was anything but tranquil. He was buffeted externally by the anti-German bitterness that made Grace Church a community pariah in the post-World War One years, but even more by the internal Grace Church squabbles that beat him down. Years later, when I came to Grace in the middle 1950’s, Otto Geiseman, Grace’s fourth pastor, told me stories of Engelbrecht’s wearied exit.
Wisely, Engelbrecht resigned. He taught for a time at Concordia College, Bronxville, New York, completed his doctoral degree at Columbia University, and then set off in a startlingly new direction. He became an outspoken author, editor, and speaker exposing the twin evils of military armament profiteering and anti-Semitism. In l934 he co-authored Merchants of Death: A Study of the Internal Armament Industry, which became a national best seller, a Book-of-the-Month selection, and the basis of a United States Senate inquiry into the sale of arms as a factor in America’s entry into WW I. (He summarized the Senate inquiry in his next anti-war book, One Hell of a Business.)
In the l930s when anti-Semitism was blatantly common in America, Engelbrecht’s essay “A Job for Christians” appeared in a leading Jewish journal. It became the basis for his How to Combat Anti-Semitism in America, published in l937, and other writings in which he exposed the anti-Semitism that dies so hard. His courage showed particularly in his holding Christians accountable for the anti-Semitism that is the dark side of church history, including that of his own church body.
H. C. Engelbrecht died in l939 at age 44. The New York Times obituary made no mention of his service as a Lutheran pastor and teacher. Would that have mattered to him? I think not. His gritty courage in publicly exposing our national sins was rooted in the Biblical prophets and Jesus’ ministry and obedience to the cross. His was a lonely voice then. He deserves remembering now. And emulating as part of the tradition handed down to us.
(Thanks go to our fellow GLC member William Ewald, archivist at Concordia University Chicago, for sending me an article on Engelbrecht written by a friend of Grace, Dr. Mary Todd of Marshall University.)
October 26, 2010
The Disabled God
Pastor Bruce Modahl
The newspaper headline contained the three words that serve as the title of this article. It was those three words that drew me to the obituary about Nancy L. Eiesland. She was born in 1964 with profound disabilities. She died in 2009. She was raised in a Pentecostal family in North Dakota, cared for by an order of Roman Catholic nuns, married, had children, earned a PhD in theology, and taught at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.
“Sacramental Bodies” is the final chapter in her best-known book, “The Disabled God.” She writes:
“In the resurrection, Jesus Christ’s body is not only the transfigured form that yet embodies the reality of impaired hands, feet, and side; it also consists of the body whose life and unity come from the Holy Spirit active in our continuing history. In summoning us to remembrance of his body and blood at table, the disabled God calls us to liberating relationships with God, our bodies, and others. . . .
“Hope and the possibility of liberation welling up from a broken body is the miracle of the Eucharist. At the table, we remember the physical reality of that body broken for a people broken. At the table, we understand that Christ is present with us. As the disabled God, Christ has brought us grace and, in turn, makes us a grace to others as physical beings.”
This bodily practice of grace, along with prayers and the Word, is what Jesus’ followers did at every Sunday gathering from the earliest days of the church. Pastors Faulstich and Costello have joined me over the past months in writing a series of articles here in Grace Notes on the importance of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. This has been a topic of discussion in the Board of Worship and the Board of Elders for four years. Beginning in Advent, the start of a new church year, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday at both the 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. worship services. We do this so that all might weekly experience the miracle of the Eucharist, the “hope and the possibility of liberation welling up from a broken body.”
This means that we will no longer sing Morning Prayer at the 8:30 a.m. service on the third Sunday of the month. But we will not forget the Morning Prayer liturgy. You are invited to worship with the school children and sing it at 8:40 a.m. every Wednesday morning. Morning Prayer will also continue to be used for Cornerstones worship on the third Wednesday of the month at 11:30 a.m. and during Wednesday morning Cornerstones worship during Advent and Lent.
October 12, 2010
It All Begins With Worship
The Rev. Michael D. Costello
I once knew a pastor who loved to say these words: “It all begins with worship.” He said them in Bible study, he said them from the pulpit, he said them at youth group gatherings, and even in casual conversation. These words ring in my ears as I write this fifth installment in a six-article series on Holy Communion.
Grace Lutheran Church and School is a vibrant community of Christians involved in what seems like an endless number of ministries. Indeed, each and every ministry is blessed by God and has an important place in God’s kingdom. In Christian education we learn about who Jesus is and why he matters in our lives. In music we offer up our praise to God with instruments and voices. The list is so long that I cannot even begin to mention each ministry here.
There is one place, however, where we receive the very gift of Jesus himself each and every time we gather. Whether we gather for worship on Sunday mornings with organs, choirs, and hundreds of our fellow Christians or gather in a simple, quiet setting like our Wednesday evening worship services, the Lord Jesus comes to us in the sacrament of Holy Communion and gives to us the gift of himself. In his true body and blood we receive the forgiveness of sins and are empowered to live a holy life.
As we go about our busy lives and participate in ministries at Grace and beyond, may we remember to eat of this bread and drink from this cup always. In doing so, our Lord’s death is proclaimed in all that we say and do until he comes again.
Indeed, it all begins with worship.
September 28, 2010
by Pastor Kelly Faulstich
Go ahead, open up those bibles and read the text we heard a few Sundays ago: Luke 14:25-33: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” This is one of those texts that receives plenty of attention in the notes that study bibles have at the bottom of every page. This is one of those passages that we try to argue ourselves out of, because the thought of hating all family and even life itself, the thought of hauling a cross or giving up everything we own…this is not the warm and fuzzy, Jesus-loves-me-this-I-know kind of Christianity that I would actually prefer.
Jesus is talking to the large crowds that were traveling with him and challenges them with these words, “If you really want to follow, there are going to be some costs.” Discipleship, living as followers of Jesus, isn’t always easy, is it? I wonder if the crowds that first heard Jesus’ teaching about family and cross and possessions were uncomfortable. Perhaps the dis-ease we feel when we hear it today is no different from the way that the original audience felt. I think the occasional squirming is good for us, because, let’s face it, life is pretty comfortable here in the western suburbs. We need to hear Jesus’ challenge to give up some things to shoulder the cross, to put God before anything or anyone else. But I think we also need to hear of Jesus’ love, when he died on the cross for our sin, for those shortcomings and all selfishness.
In the midst of challenge, not in place of it, we need to hear of Jesus’ love and God’s beauty. In the midst of the roar of the world, we slow it down a little, and keep it simple. A word of challenge. A word of beauty. Bread and wine. We gather at the table. Simple gifts indeed.
This excerpt, from a sermon preached Wednesday, September 8, 2010, is the fifth in a series of six articles to be written by Pastors Modahl, Faulstich and Costello about Holy Communion.
September 14, 2010
by Pastor Bruce Modahl
A couple who recently returned from travel with a tour group told me people on the tour were happy with every excursion and museum walk as long as there was a food event at the end. I remembered the comment as I traced all the “food events” in the Gospels and the book of Acts. Apart from the 5000 fed on the mountainside and several other large banquets and a wedding reception over which Jesus presided, we regularly accompany Jesus to meals in the homes of Pharisees, friends such as Mary and Martha, and tax collectors such as Zacchaeus and Matthew.
In the scope of the world’s needs what happens at the dinner table may seem trivial. However, according to Jesus and the evangelists who tell his story, there is nothing more serious. The Bible scholar Fred Craddock points out in his commentary on Luke that both the Eucharist and the revelation of the risen Christ took place when the two travelers sat at the supper table with the stranger they encountered on the road leading from Jerusalem to their Emmaus suburb (Luke 24). Craddock writes, “It was while they were eating together that the risen Christ gave his disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit and their commission (Acts 1). It was by table fellowship that Jews and gentiles were able to be the church (Acts 10-11).”
We gather for worship on Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. At the Lord’s Supper table we remember, “In the night in which he was betrayed our Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me. Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.’”
Like the people on tour with my friends, I can handle all of life’s excursions as long as there is a food event at the end. The event comes at the end of one week and the beginning of another when I stand with the people of God before the Lord’s Supper table. The food event comes at the end when God shall call me to the heavenly banquet.
August 24, 2010
by the Rev. Michael D. Costello, Cantor
Martin Luther once wrote:
“When I look at all the saints . . . the story is the same. I can hear voices of rejoicing in their tabernacles, joyous songs and hymns of salvation and victory . . . and we sing along and join in the praise and thanks, just as we are one in our faith and trust in God.”
At the Great Thanksgiving, the presiding minister sings: “With the Church on earth and the hosts of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn.” At that moment our voices are joined with all the company of heaven—Mary Magdalene and Peter and all the witnesses of the resurrection, angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, and all the saints in glory. We join in their unending hymn: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”
There are times in the Christian life when the veil between heaven and earth is almost nonexistent. Celtic spirituality talks about these times as “thin places.” The veil is so thin that we can almost see and taste heaven itself. Perhaps the thinnest of all the thin places for us as Christians is at the Eucharistic table. At the Holy Communion, we enjoy the full substance of Jesus in bread and wine. His body and blood are given as gifts of grace.
In this Eucharistic foretaste of the feast to come, our faith is strengthened, our sins are forgiven, and we are given the voice to sing with all the saints in glory until that perfect day when we stand before God’s throne and see him face to face.
July 28, 2010
Pastor Kelly K. Faulstich
"She's like Father Frank." I think that's how the mother introduced me to Emma, her three-year-old daughter. I'm not sure if the second part of her introduction was Frank, but I know the Father part is right. In light of the recent statements from the Vatican, this introduction surprised me. I stood still for a moment in the restaurant amidst the other wedding rehearsal dinner guests, reflecting on how I might be like this Father Frank.
Turns out Father Frank is an Episcopal priest in California and he had presided at Emma's baptism. Father Frank was the guy up front, "in the fancy robes," Emma's mother explained to her. Emma and her family were at Grace a few weekends ago for a cousin's wedding. Emma was one of the flower girls.
I thought the Father Frank correlation would stick with me as further reflection material (clearly, it has), but it is a question and the excitement of little Emma that keeps dancing in my mind. Not all three-year-olds are cut out for wedding party material. They can freak out when it comes to the long aisle and people looking at them. Emma did just fine. You see, Emma had her own context from which to draw when it came to walking up the center aisle of a church.
When it came time for her to process, she looked at her dad and asked excitedly, "Are we going up for communion now?" Are we going up for communion now? I love how this little Episcopalian, halfway across the country, was excited at the possibility of receiving the sacrament. Are we going up for communion now? As Jesus hosts this meal, I hope we all might come with the same anticipation and joy that the children bring.
This article is the second in a series of six monthly articles to be written by Pastors Modahl, Costello and myself about Holy Communion.
June 30, 2010
Whetting Our Appetite for the Lord’s Supper
Pastor Bruce K. Modahl
A question posed in Luther’s Small Catechism is, “When is a person rightly prepared to receive the Lord’s Supper?” I remember pastors and teachers quoting Matthew 5:23-24, “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.” Proper preparation for communion involved making peace with everyone. We had to be careful or we might eat and drink judgment against ourselves, as Paul warned in 1 Corinthians 11:29.
However Jesus was not talking about the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 5. And in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul’s warning has to do with discerning the people of God as the body of Christ.
What Luther said was “that person is well prepared and worthy who believes these words, 'given and shed for you for the remission of sins'. . . . [F]or the words 'for you' require simply a believing heart.” All the preparation necessary is knowing that we are sinners in need of God’s grace. I know that about myself and I want to taste God’s forgiveness in this meal every Lord’s Day, every Sunday.
My desire as your pastor is to nurture in you a hunger for the Lord’s Supper and an expectation that when you come to church on Sunday, you will receive God in Word and Sacrament. As we were taught, your pastors preach the sacraments as the means of God’s grace. Word and Sacrament are pure gifts from God.
This article is the first in a series of six monthly articles to be written by Pastors Faulstich, Costello and myself about Holy Communion.
June 9, 2010
These Eagles Can Soar
by Pastor Dean Lueking
“Mom, I love you. . . . Dad, you’re the greatest!”
How often do sixteen-year-old boys stand up, unabashed by the presence of their peers and parents, and say words like these?
It happened in Fellowship Hall on a recent Sunday afternoon as five newly minted Eagle Scouts of Troop 66 received Scouting’s top rank: Mark Carioscio, Ryan Conrardy, Tim McAdam, Patrick McQuade, and Charlie Thompson—five new Eagles in one swoop! Pretty rare. Plenty wonderful.
The Scouts themselves take front and center roles in these Eagle Investiture ceremonies, as throughout the entire Scouting program. At the start, the Tenderfoot lads are nervous and unsure. Then they see the older boys, growing poised and more confident as they move up the ranks. Something of lasting importance happens. Older boys influence the younger cropIt happened in Fellowship Hall on a recent Sunday afternoon as five newly minted Eagle Scouts of Troop 66 received Scouting’s top rank—for good. Values for a lifetime are shaped. It’s moving and it’s memorable.
All this takes stellar adult leadership. This summer Troop 66 Scoutmaster Mike Carioscio is stepping down after twenty years of leadership in the Scout and Cub program, assisted mightily by the entire Carioscio clan, especially Diane, who mentors the aspiring Eagles for their projects and is all-around Scoutmother. Steve Beck will now follow as Scoutmaster. John Knupp, crossing over from Cubmaster, will add his help. Former Troop 66 Scoutmaster Marc White is an Area Commissioner. Other Grace adults volunteer generously to get things done.
Troop 66, now in its 76th year, is alive and well with 61 boys registered for the wholesome Friday night Scout activities at Grace Church. Since l934, eighty have become Eagles. Congratulations to all who keep that moving.
Interested in this for your eleven-year-old? A call to the Carioscios at 771-7287 can start something valuable, fun, and of lasting good for boys becoming men.
May 19, 2010
Celebrating a Special Teacher
by Gwen Gotsch
Susie Calhoun, Grace’s second grade teacher since 1981, is retiring at the end of this school year. She leaves behind a legacy of special days and special projects that have inspired students not just to love learning, but to become actively involved in science, history, and conservation. Her second graders have traced the history of River Forest in headstones at Forest Home Cemetery, have collected scientific data on nature hikes at the Indiana Dunes, and have learned to appreciate all kinds of spiders while coming to love the self-sacrificing spider at the heart of "Charlotte’s Web."
Mrs. Calhoun has also taught science units in grades three through six, lessons which included participating in the annual clean-up of Silver Creek in Melrose Park, and gathering at Concordia for an evening moon watch.
Susie Calhoun graduated from Concordia in 1967 and started her teaching career at Immanuel Lutheran School in Des Plaines. She also taught in Columbus, Indiana, while her husband, Dick, was in graduate school at Indiana University. When he joined the Concordia science faculty, they became members of Grace.
Confirmation students at Grace know Mrs. Calhoun as a catechist in the confirmation program. She has led the monthly Sunday morning mentor sessions, in which eighth grade confirmands are paired with adults from the congregation for discussions, activities and support.
We will give thanks to God for Susie’s ministry during the 11:00 a.m. worship service on Sunday, May 30. A family-friendly luncheon follows in Fellowship Hall. If you wish to contribute to the cost of the event and a gift, please write “Calhoun retirement” on the memo line of your check or in the "other" when you donate online. Letters of congratulations and good wishes can be mailed to Grace or dropped off at the reception desk. Or use the online form.
May 5, 2010
Portraits of the Prophets: Deborah
April 21, 2010
Dear Confirmands of All Times and Places
Pastor Kelly K. Faulstich
As your pastors, mentors, and families come forward on Confirmation Sunday, we will lay our hands on your heads and pray these words:
Father in heaven, for Jesus’ sake, stir up in these young people the gift of your Holy Spirit; confirm their faith, guide their lives, empower them in their serving, give them patience in suffering, and bring them to everlasting life. Amen.
As is always the case in prayer, we make petition to God that God do the acting, that God take action. God stirs. God confirms. God guides and empowers and gives patience and brings life. In faith, you are never alone. Some of you were baptized years ago as little babies. One of you was baptized a month ago at the Easter Vigil. In your baptism, you were welcomed into a community of faith, a family claimed and led by God, our loving parent.
At Confirmation, you will promise to continue in the covenant God made with you in Holy Baptism. You’ve studied the Small Catechism. You’ve studied the Bible. You’ve joined in fellowship with your classmates. Confirmation isn’t a celebration of completion. This doesn’t mean that you are done with church. There is more to learn, there is more fellowship to be shared. God never stops acting. God is still going to stir the Spirit within you and to move you and guide you to serve.
Some people will say that you are “the future of the Church,” but I think that you are the Church now. You are called to love and to share the good news of Jesus Christ. You are called to worship and to study God’s word and to pray for all of God’s creation. This is a big responsibility and I hope that you will take it seriously. When you get older (and older, and older), I hope you will remember how God was with you as a young adult. I hope you will remember all of the hands on your head and the people in the sanctuary praying for you. I hope you will always know, in faith, in Christ, in community, you are never alone.
See you on Sunday!
(and the Sunday after that, and the next one, and the next one….)
April 7, 2010
Every Wednesday evening during the school year, at 6:00 p.m., Joyful Voices are heard in Grace’s second-floor music rehearsal room. Joyful Voices is the name of the youngest, smallest and liveliest of Grace’s choirs. It’s open to children in first through fourth grade, and it gives them an all-important opportunity to take a leadership role in worship services. The singers in this group include children who do and do not attend Grace School.
I have directed this choir for the past two and a half years. During that time, we’ve had anywhere from six to fourteen children in the choir, mostly girls, with the occasional brave young man. I will tell you a few secrets about this choir. First, we often rehearse barefoot or in our stocking feet. It just seems to happen. Sometimes we dance around the room, to the music that we will be singing in church! That’s because singing requires more than your voice. Music lives in your body, and getting your body moving gets your spirit involved also. Second, we play games in choir rehearsals. There’s the Pattern Game, which requires careful listening. This year we’ve been playing rhythm games with balls made by crumpling up paper we find in the recyling wastebasket.
All this activity helps the children learn the music they sing in worship services every month. We talk about the words we sing and about the God we praise, so that we can communicate our love and awe in response to all that Jesus has done for us. New singers are welcome at any time during the year. There’s a lot of repetition, so even beginning readers can learn songs quickly, just by listening and using their brains.
And when Joyful Voices is over at 7:00 p.m., we sing our way down the stairs, through the atrium and out the front doors and play tag until parents arrive for pick-up!
March 24, 2010
This Youngster Is Looking for One Like You
Pastor Dean Lueking
He/she is one of several hundred right here in our communities who have little going for them at home and therefore fall short academically in our local elementary schools or high school. Not only are such kids and youth educationally at risk; their emotional baggage can make them hard to deal with at times. Signing on as a mentor means showing up anyway and sticking with the youth since it’s about them, not us.
John Williams, Oak Park Township Youth Services Director (and a real gift to our local communities), recently sent out a call for potential mentors. I attended an orientation session with several dozen other townspeople of varied age and background to check it out. All of us who are actively interested are currently undergoing a thorough background check before being approved for mentoring a youngster for a nine-month commitment, beginning next fall.
What’s involved? A) Meeting with an assigned youth for two hours, twice a month, usually after school, B) at a schedule that works for mentor and mentee, C) in a safe, neutral place like a school room, library, etc. , D) With the agreement and cooperation of the youth’s parent(s), E) being a trusted listener, coach, friend for the youth’s personal growth. Doesn’t mean you need to be a whiz at calculus. A wise, caring, dependable spirit is what’s needed.
Twenty five of us (including several GLC folks) are in the startup group. A hundred more are needed. Two hours. Twice a month. For nine months, September – June. Call John at the township office, 708-445-2727, tell him Dean suggested it, on behalf of that youngster looking for one like you.
March 10, 2010
A Giant Has Fallen From Our Midst
Pastor Dean Lueking
Since the late l970’s, how often have we sung “This is the feast of victory for our God” as part of our full Sunday liturgy at Grace!
Relatively few of us are aware that this soaring music was composed by the modest man who sat with his wife, Gloria, on the center aisle, a half dozen rows back, week after week, year after year. Nor did we associate this quietly dignified man with snow white hair with the composer of 24 hymns in our green Lutheran Book of Worship, as well as other liturgical music within its pages.
Richard Hillert was hardly one to stand up on the church pew and declare, “You know, folks, I’m the composer of the music you just sang!” His manner was the polar opposite of self-promotion. Yet this rarely gifted church musician, a faculty member at Concordia from 1959 till 1993 and Grace member for 50 years, is known worldwide – literally – as simply peerless for the quality of his sacred music. His compositions appear in hymnals of every denomination, in a variety of languages.
His death on February 18 moves a uniquely gifted musical genius from the church militant to the church triumphant. When giving thanks for his faithful stewardship of his gifts, let’s be more mindful that Grace congregation is blessed like no other congregation, anywhere, not only with Richard Hillert, but with Carl Schalk, Paul Bouman, Carlos Messerli, the late Paul Bunjes, and other church musicians whose work is widely known and respected.
As our cantor, Michael Costello, and our choirs stir us with inspiring music Sunday after Sunday, we have so much to be grateful for! Please don’t miss the wealth in worship our dear Lord gives us in our congregation so well named – Grace.
February 24, 2010
Take Me to the Water
Pastor Michael Costello
Our theme for mid-week services this year during Lent is “Take Me to the Water: Singing the Spirituals through Lent.” For some it may seem odd to sing spirituals during this very somber season of the church’s year, but to those who suffered and were persecuted during times of slavery, the journey toward freedom was often intimately associated with Israel’s journey out of slavery and deliverance into the Promised Land. Interestingly, many of the spirituals make reference to and proclaim hope in God’s saving power through water for bringing new life.
As God’s people, freed from the slavery of sin and baptized into the promise of Christ’s death and resurrection, we journey with those who first sang these spirituals to the font at the great Vigil of Easter. It is there, at the celebration of Christ’s pascha (passage) from death to life, that we will sing a spiritual of faith once more. Candidates for baptism will become partakers of Christ’s pascha as their old lives are drowned and their new lives in the risen Christ begin.
May we be there to celebrate with them as they become members of Christ’s body. And may we sing with them along the way, “Take me to the water… to be baptized.”
February 10, 2010
by Pastor Faulstich
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses. Psalm 51:1
On Wednesday, February 17, we will begin our observance of Lent, the season preceding Easter during which we reflect on our lives as followers of Christ. In the early church, Lent was a season of preparation when people new to the faith prepared for their baptism during the vigil of Easter. It was a time of instruction in the faith. New members would fast and pray as they prepared for their entry into the community.
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. As the most solemn of days during the church year, Ash Wednesday begins with Psalm 51 and the imposition of ashes. Our foreheads are marked with the ashes made from last year’s palms to remind of us our mortality and our baptismal identity when we were marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit.
During Lent, we will gather on Wednesday evenings for a time of fellowship and worship. Lenten dinners will be served at 6:30 p.m. and worship is at 7:30 p.m. We will also gather for worship on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. Our midweek theme this year is “Take Me to the Water: Singing Spirituals Through Lent.”
I hope you will consider making this midweek worship a part of your Lenten disciplines.
January 27, 2010
What Does Stewardship Mean to You?
From the Stewardship Committee
What does stewardship mean to you?
Members of the Stewardship Committee are interested in knowing. For us, as we regularly contemplate the meaning of stewardship, we have come to see that it can mean different things, depending on where Christians are in their faith journey. We see stewardship as an act of worship, an expression of our faith and a discipline for spiritual growth. For many, stewardship has become a way of life.
In practicing stewardship, many people tell us, their faith has been strengthened. Here’s what one Grace member says about stewardship:
“Put your faith in God”
It was in 2007 that my life took a downward spiral. My father died; I became divorced. I lost my job and on that same day I had to put down one of my two dogs. My former job required me to work most Sundays, so often I was unable to come to church. This presented a problem for me, as I am a lifelong member and my family has had a long, rich heritage at Grace. However, once I was no longer working Sundays, I was able to return to Sunday worship and reconnect with God and Jesus Christ.
By January 2008 I had secured a part-time job that became full-time in June. During the time I was out of work, I continued my offerings to Grace. When the job became full-time, I readjusted my donations to the tithing level and even a little beyond that. Although life looked dismal and bleak for a while, I kept faith in God and even increased my giving. In turn, God blessed me. I have a roof over my head, I can attend church services more frequently, and I have a job that, although it pays only a fraction of my former salary, provides me with benefits and allows me to tithe. Life looks a whole lot better now.
Put your faith in God; He will bless you in return.
The Stewardship Committee is interested in publishing your giving story. Do you have one to share? Please contact Kathryn Jandeska of the Stewardship Committee (email@example.com).
January 13, 2010
by Pastor Dean Lueking
The Lueking Ministry Fund was established - can it be?- nearly twelve years ago to support our continuing ministry in retirement abroad and at home. Whoosh! is the word for how time flies as I tell you highlights of the dozen years past.
- Twice yearly air travel to eastern Europe, l998-2005, fall and spring semesters, to teach seminarians in Bratislava, Slovakia, plus leadership seminars in Russia, Romania, Albania.
- Scholarships for 18 deserving students I've met and mentored along the way. The six women and twelve men are now in Lutheran teaching and pastoral ministries in Africa, Asia, and eastern Europe.
- Global travel, 2005-9, to Africa, South America, Asia, Oceania and Europe to teach master's degree candidates of World Vision and Habitat for Humanity organizations. During these past four years, we've met with lay and clergy Lutherans in 32 countries for the book on global Lutherans due out later this year. With Beverly's essential partnership, we've helped deepen the Christian vocations of over 250 people serving people in five continents. Your LMF dollars paid for our travel and lodging - some of which were real doozies.
- Now in 2010 our overseas teaching is less. I continue to direct your LMF offerings to worthy causes abroad and at home. Example: this week, $5000 went out to AIDS orphans in Malawi, Lutheran schools in Palestine, Lutheran Deaconess Association, and micro-enterprise projects in Russia and Colombia.
LMF works this way: every contributed dollar of yours that I requisition is first approved by the Board of Elders, with whom I document every expense item and to whom I report. Your primary stewardship, please remember, goes to our total Grace ministry. Thanks greatly for supporting this additional outreach for Christ. God willing, we'll keep it up.
December 30, 2009
Good News People for a Bad News World
by Pastor Dean Lueking
The daily bad news about the state of the world is depressingly old hat. How we need the authentic Good News about what God is up to in his church in our world in these very times!
It's been a great privilege for Beverly and me to meet and learn from many overseas Christians these past years and bring you occasional mini-reports via Grace Notes. We're glad every time we hear people say they read them with interest.
Come Sunday, January 3, the Adult Ed Committee has asked us for an hour's overview of global Christianity today. We'll try to do that in the 9:45 hour as we bring you our Show and Tell account of fellow Lutherans we've met in Ethiopia and Finland, China and Nicaragua, Palestine and Papua New Guinea. These must be selectively brief, to be sure, but the goal is to illustrate global church trends through real people whose life stories inform and inspire.
As a factual backdrop for January 3, think about this: in the past 60 years the explosive growth of Christianity south of the equator has marked the most dramatic change in the demographics of Christianity in the past 1700 years. I want to document that challenging claim through people we've met in our global journeys.
It's an exciting time to be alive! Not only can we hear about wonderful people of faith in far corners of the earth, but belong with them more genuinely in the worldwide family of God's people as all of us keep living the Good News in all kinds of bad situations. Please come, listen, learn, and be the better for it as we enter 2010, anno Domini.
December 9, 2009
On the Other Side of Christmas
Pastor Kelly K. Faulstich
We prepared for weeks now.
Four candles lit one by one upon the wreath.
Presents purchased and packaged with care.
Trees hauled home, lighted, trimmed.
WIth great self-control we opened the doors
of our Advent calendars,
to eat one little chocolate each day.
As soon as Christmas day concludes,
paper and ribbons thrown in the trash,
trees hauled to the curb,
after sales at stores commence.
But the twelve days of Christmastide begin.
A celebration longer than a few minutes
Of dismantled stockings and gifts unwrapped.
Carols and prayers continued,
Christ still our center,
Reverence and revelry coexist
As manger moves toward magi.
November 25, 2009
"Portraits of the Prophets: Daniel" by Benjamin Chandler, art teacher at Grace School
November 11, 2009
Serve One Another in Love by Kendall Grigg, Principal, Grace Lutheran School
On October 29, Grace students in grades three through eight worked alongside Concordia University students as they packaged meals with the organization Feed My Starving Children. The meals, packed in small pouches, are designed especially for severely malnourished children. Working in teams, Grace students measured ingredients, weighed and sealed the bags, and packed the meals into boxes to be shipped to starving children around the world. As the children participated in the event, they were reminded that their lives are enriched as they graciously give their own time and resources to help others in need. (“Give and it will be given to you,” Luke 6:28.)
As a team we helped the Concordia students pack an event total of 100,872 meals, surpassing their goal of 100,000! God, through his light reflecting off each of the children, led them to join hands and hearts in this task! Our hope is that this experience will encourage the children to put their faith into action as they begin to look for other opportunities to serve in our community, as we build relationships with one another, and seek to serve our neighbor.
October 28, 2009
German Spoken Here by Dean Lueking, Pastor Emeritus
Bucking the trend of elementary schools dropping foreign language study, Carol Ewald, aka "Frau," delivered quality German language instruction to Grace School children, K thru 8, from 1981 until 2008, while also teaching at Walther and Oak Park River Forest High School. Hundreds of GLS alums can still manage a respectable "Guten morgen" or one of the charming children's songs they learned at Grace's Oktoberfest, thanks to Frau Ewald's cheerful, exacting teaching style.
In more recent years, Carol and husband, Bill, have also escorted seven biennial high school student exchanges with German students and families in Hamburg. Each trip, high school youth from OPRF set out for several weeks of language immersion as guests of a German family. Carol and Bill then arrange for a similar number of German students to be received in homes here. Under the watchful eyes of the Ewalds, 288 high school youth have participated in the program. In the summer of 2009, ten of the twenty American students in the program were Grace members and/or Grace School alumni. That's notable, especially in an era when we Americans miss so much because we don't bother to learn how others speak and think.
Memorable events: always this - experiencing life in another culture and finding it exciting. Free lodging once in a gorgeous Bavarian Alps hostel when the scheduled hosts didn't come through. Losing an engine on a 747 over the Atlantic, resulting not only in a safe landing in Iceland but posh hotel accommodations plus a $400 voucher from the airline. The kids' summary comment: "really cool - better than learning more German, in fact!"
May Frau Ewald and Bill (a retired teacher of German and business at Concordia University) keep on steering us clear of language laziness, and may their bridges of international understanding between youth be well traveled into the future.
October 14, 2009
"Portraits of the Prophets: Hosea" by Benjamin Chandler, art teacher at Grace School
September 30., 20009
"Portraits of the Prophets: Isaiah" by Benjamin Chandler, art teacher at Grace School