I know this is hard to believe. In my home congregation, we always ran out of food at church potlucks. It wasn’t because of our large Midwestern appetites. Try as she might, my mother offered more than one casserole and dessert. Still, we didn’t have enough. We were a congregation that practiced scarcity. It wasn’t only our table that was bare. Hospitality was limited to those who believed and acted “like us.”
There is a world of difference between my home congregation and Zion. The way in which members of a congregation reproduce the love of God through genuine hospitality and a love for one another will indicate whether they are the body of Christ or simply a religious club.
We were recently challenged to grow in abundance, hosting the Grand View University Choir. We could have donated day old sugar cookies and called it good. Instead, our reception was laid out like a banquet, a delicious fiesta of delicacies. We were asked to host 38 choir members and staff. Again, it would have been enough to leave the light on, provide a place to sleep, and leave the students to their Snapchat. Instead, stories with their hosts abound about side trips around the city, from mountaintops to Antelope Island.
We are called to be a community of generosity, living in abundance, sharing hospitality. Watch how we shared the gift of music in our Children’s Choir Day with Calvary Baptist Church. See the youth from neighboring congregations and how the Spirit shaped a new sense of community through their shared day of service. Listen to our witness, proclaiming hospitality for all God’s children, advocating for refugees and families separated by punitive immigration policies. Remember again what it means to be “a new creation in Christ” with our welcoming statement, especially with the LGBTQ+ community.
Hospitality is not a small or quick task. It is a continuous and sometimes strenuous way of life. And, as our Lord knows, our yen is to hold onto personal preferences and private needs.
I know this is hard to believe. Our hospitality comes from Jesus, himself. As he breathed on those disciples on that first Easter evening, he now breathes into us: “Peace. Receive the Holy Spirit.” In that breath we share a new sense of grace, a banquet table of hospitality, and the generosity of our cup that overflows.
In and through Christ,
Pastor Steve Klemz
Ash Wednesday. The cross of gritty ashes is smeared on our foreheads, as the one who marks says, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” But that same cross-shaped mark tells another truth, remembering the crossed traced upon our foreheads in Holy Baptism: “Child of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”
These markings tell the central truths of our lives. We are dust, with so short a time to live and to laugh and to love. It also tells the eternal truth, that each of us is a child of God, beloved, the delight of God’s heart. We are dust. We are children of God. In all of this, we are people joined to each other and to God through our baptism into Christ.
On Ash Wednesday, we are summoned into the Lenten invitation: “As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor.” In your observation of Lent, remember that you are Easter people, wrapped in the eternal embrace of God’s love and promise of new life for you. In your observation of Lent, do not pretend that we are not dust and that there are no deserts and Good Fridays for those around us.
I pray for you a Lenten season of holy reflection, quiet joy in the love of our forgiving Savior. May you have a clear view of all that leads you away from love of God and neighbor. And, we pray, for an Easter of renewed commitment to bringing the fullness of Christ’s love and life and grace to all people.
+ Pastor Steve Klemz
The baptismal waters caught fire in this morning’s Let Me Shine Preschool chapel message. I wanted the children to imagine how God’s love is transformed into the light of Psalm 27:
Lord, you are my Light and my Savior, so, why should I be afraid?
As I look at the font, the flame reminds me of the lighted candle given to the newly baptized, as the assisting minister says,
Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
This holy light from holy baptismal promises moves us to see God’s light in and through the people around us in the Body of Christ.
We give thanks to God for the way gospel light has shone in and through Tracy Hackworth, who has gone beyond all expectations in her service as office administrator. The position became a ministry, attending to our needs, sharing our joys and sorrows, while transforming an office into a holy space and place of welcome and hospitality.
We give thanks for the light of this congregation’s generosity. Through your financial gifts, we ended the year “in the black,” supporting the mission entrusted to us. Beginning this year, our offerings make a difference in reducing our carbon footprint with building renovation.
The light shines through the witness of Rodney and Erin Schroeder, faithful in worship and leaders in stewardship. In our farewell blessing, the light of their witness extends to their new home and church in St. George, Utah.
The light shines through our baptismal witness all the way to Faith and Poverty Day on the Hill, where we “strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”
And, dear beloved sisters and brothers in Zion, in the waters of baptism we are “beloved.” Now, in faith, we walk in God’s promise envisioned by the prophet Isaiah:
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God.
Pastor Steve Klemz +
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CONNECTING THROUGH GRACE
We are a Reconciling in Christ community. All are welcome!
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rocky Mountain Synod
ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
1070 Foothill Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84108
8:15 am Awakening Worship
9:15 am Sunday School
10:30 am Traditional Worship