Repentance, Forgiveness, and Grace: A Lenten Journey

jellenkc : March 28, 2019 10:53 am : pastors-blog

                           Picture, if you will, me.  I am walking on East 51st Street an hour ago and I decide

                           to construct and develop a really decorative, general-all purpose apology.  Not complicated.

                           just the words, “I am sorry,” said with a little style.

                           Sorry for what?

Anything.  For being late, early, stupid, asleep, silly, alive.  Well, y’know when you’re

walking down the street talking to yourself how sometimes you say a coupla words out

loud?  So I said, “I’m sorry,” and this fella, complete stranger, he looks up a second

and says, “That’s alright Mac,” and goes right on.  He automatically forgave me.  I


So I decided to test the whole thing out scientifically; I stayed right there on the corner of

51st and Lex for a while just saying “I’m sorry” to everybody that went by.  “Oh, I’m so

sorry, sir”…”I’m terribly sorry, madam”…”Say there miss, I’m sorry.”  Of course some

people just gave me a funny look, but Sandy, I swear, seventy-five percent of them forgave

me.  “Forget it, buddy”…”That’s ok, really.”  Two ladies forgave me in unison, one fella

forgave me from a passing car. And a guy forgave me for his dog.  “Poofer forgives the nice man,

don’t you, Poofer?”  Oh Sandy, it was fabulous.  I had tapped some vast reservoir.  Something

had happened in all of them for which they felt somebody should apologize.  If you went

up to people on the street and offered them money, they’d refuse it.  But everybody accepts

apology immediately.  It is the most negotiable currency.  I said to them, “I am sorry.”

And they were so generous, so kind…

Sandy I could run up on the roof right now and holler, “I am sorry,” and half a million

people would holler right back, “That’s ok, just see that you don’t do it again.”

–A Thousand Clowns, Herb Gardner, 1961

If repentance…the turning away from sin and back toward God…the turning away from hurts inflicted upon others, hurts suffered at the hands of others and back toward one another in community…lies at the heart of the Lenten journey, then the experience of forgiveness lies in the same place.  Apology offered, apology received…forgiveness received, forgiveness offered is regularly part of the warp and woof that makes up loving and faithful relationship with one another.  As Herb Gardner put it in the excerpt above, it is the most negotiable currency.

Forgiveness given and received is part of the gentle balm that soothes hurts, both large and small, in a church community as well.  As we move through this time together, let us reflect on the ways we need to repent…to forgive and be forgiven.  Then we will begin to understand the true meaning of grace.

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In Memorium Mark Ball February 7, 1959 – February 9, 2019

jellenkc : March 12, 2019 8:29 pm : pastors-blog, Uncategorized

My dear friends at Southminster,

              Among the many moving tributes offered to honor Mark Ball—his life, his passion, his artistry, his deep and abiding faith, his love of the church—I want to share this one very brief and declarative statement with you as I write today:

He made us all feel like performers!!

Our grief over the death of our dear friend, our staff member, a guiding light to us in so many ways is profound.  It will be deep and abiding.  We know, like so many others who had the chance to work with Mark making music, what we have lost.  We will have a chance to share our grief and our deep gratitude for his life and all of the gifts we have received from him this coming Saturday as we gather in our sanctuary and spill out into other areas of our church building in witness to the resurrection.

The Brief Statement of Faith, part of our Book of Confessions in the Presbyterian Church, (USA) begins with these words:  “In life and in death we belong to God.”  We affirm the promise of our faith for our brother, that beyond this mortal life we all share there is abundant and eternal life with God in the communion of the saints in light.  Mark loved the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”  He particularly loved it when we had the opportunity to sing it at a service of Witness to the Resurrection:

changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place,

till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Mark is new and whole in his resurrection body…he has joined the celestial choir.  The music is glorious.  That makes me happy.  Sing on, brother!

We remain.  Let us honor our brother in Christ and friend by channeling his joy and emotion and passion as we continue to gather week in and week out for worship…as we lift up our voices in congregational song…as we listen to a musical offering by our choir, or someone playing the piano, or the organ.  In the way that our faith opens to us to burst the bonds of time and space and continue to enjoy communion with those who have preceded us into God’s presence, Mark will be watching…and smiling with joy.  Let us sing on, my friends, sing on!

Grace and Peace,


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Fear and Hope in Advent

jellenkc : November 30, 2018 5:46 pm : pastors-blog

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary…”

                                         –Luke 1:30


Then an angel of the Lord stood before them and

                                         the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they

                                         were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not

                                         be afraid…”

–Luke 2:9-10


The angelic word during Advent is—Do not fear!  Easy for an angel to say, we might think.  There are always experiences and events in our lives and in our world that give cause for fear—worries about a loved one who is struggling with serious disease or is facing a difficult challenge; continued turmoil on the world scene and wars that seem to never end; language from leaders that tempts us to fear those who are different in some way than we are—refugees, immigrants, people of a different race or ethnicity or faith.


Yet it is to us, people of faith, that the angelic word comes this Advent—Do not be afraid!  And why should we not be afraid.  Because the Christmas gospel proclaims that in Christ Jesus, the one who made heaven and earth, the one who has created us and called us by name, has become flesh and dwells among us.  This does not mean that we do not feel scared from time to time, or that we do not experience anxiety…such is our lot as human beings.  But it does mean that  a fear that threatens to overwhelm us and paralyze our life can be overcome when we open our lives and spirits to the one who love us in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God With Us.


The first Epistle of John puts it this way:


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out

fear; for  fear has to do with punishment… We love

because he first loved us.

–I John 4:18-19


The one who came among us as one of us has revealed to us the perfect love of God.  And because we are confident that God is with us, understands us, has tasted the fullness of human life, though there are many things that are fearful, we are not overwhelmed by fear.  Instead we are inspired by hope and strengthened by the confident faith that God is with us through all things.


There are many voices in our culture and in our world that would seek to create paralyzing fear within us.  But the angelic voice, the voice of God, rings out clearly for those who have ears to hear:  Do not be afraid!  God is with us!  Listen!

Grace and Peace,


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A Great Cloud of Witnesses

jellenkc : October 26, 2018 4:15 pm : pastors-blog

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also
lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with
perseverance the race that is set before us…
–Hebrews 12:1

Spiritual writer and teacher, Henri Nouwen wrote of an experience he had in Peru at a cemetery on All Saints’ Day. When he entered the cemetery he said that there were literally thousands of people gathered around the graves of their loved ones. They had spread blankets on the ground, covered with bananas and oranges and urpo, a special kind of bread baked especially for that day. Walking to and fro through the cemetary were pairs of “praying boys” who would approach and ask if they could be permitted to pray at the grave of the deceased family member. Nouwen said the sound of the earnestly praying boys was “a strangely pleasant rhythm that seemed to unite all that was happening into one great prayer.” After the boys finished praying, they would open their sacks to receive their compensation for the prayers—a banana, a few cookies, a piece of cake. This scene was repeated over and over again throughout the cemetery.

Nouwen made this observation about his experience:

In front of my eyes I saw how prayers became food and food became prayers. I saw
how little boys who had to struggle to survive received life from the dead, and how the
dead received hope from the little children who prayed for the salvation of their souls.
I saw a profound communion between the living and the dead, an intimacy expressed
in words and gestures whose significance easily escapes our practical and often skeptical

The three day celebration encompassing All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day is one of the feasts of the Christian year. It is marked by a reverence for and remembrance of those who have died in the faith and gone before us into the communion of saints. Every year at this time, we observe this ancient feast of the church by lifting up those from our own community of faith who have died in the Lord since the last feast observance.

There are two opportunities for you to participate in this meaningful Christian spiritual practice. On Thursday, November 1st, All Saints’ Day, we will have a quiet meditative vespers service in the chapel at 6:00 pm. This service has been especially meaningful for family members who have lost someone in the last year. It is open to all who wish to participate. On Sunday, November 4th, we will gather to worship God with beautiful worship that focuses on the meaning of All Saints’ Day in the Christian year. We will celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper by intinction. As you come forward to receive the gifts of bread and cup from Christ, you will have an opportunity, if you wish, to light a memorial votive candle for someone special to you who has died and joined the communion of saints. In this way, we connect the communion we share with Christ in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with the great cloud of witnesses, the communion of saints that surrounds and inspires us to dedication and perseverance in our faith day by day. Please plan to join us for this meaningful time.

Grace and Peace,


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Living Into Hope: God’s Future Is Our Future Stewardship Emphasis – 2018

jellenkc : October 2, 2018 11:11 am : pastors-blog

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes
for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with
–Romans 8:24-25

We live in uncertain times…uncertain for the church, uncertain for our own country, uncertain for the world. This is not unique…people of faith have been living out lives of faithful discipleship in uncertain times for millennia. But each time and place brings its own unique challenges.

In the Southminster community of faith we seek to respond to uncertainty with a resolute hope that God is active in our own lives and in the life of our world. We seek to act with compassion and justice and reconciliation to our neighbors around us in the human family. We also seek to model for the world a community that values nurture and compassion as we relate to one another. We do not do this perfectly, but it is always the hope that we are trying to live into.

In a few short weeks, we will be asking you to consider how you can commit yourself to the ministry we share together in 2019. Our ministry depends on your prayerful commitment of financial support, time, and your creative gifts as we seek to live into hope together. With each of us contributing out of our blessings, God will use us in life-giving ways for the gospel.

Here are some highlights of the upcoming Stewardship Emphasis:

For three Sundays, October 14, 21, 28, we will reflect together on the ministry of stewardship, guided by the words of the apostle Paul from the 8th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans.
Sunday, October 14th – Stewardship Celebration Dinner
Please join us for table fellowship with your church family. Stewardship packets will be distributed at this gathering and we will hear a short presentation on some exciting new ministry initiatives coming over the next months and year.
Sunday, October 21st
This Sunday gives us an opportunity to reflect on the role money plays in our faith life. Why is it that Jesus had so much to say about our attitudes and orientation to money and wealth? What does it mean to be faithful with the financial resources with which God has blessed us?
Sunday, October 28th – Pledge Dedication Sunday
This Sunday we joyfully dedicate our 2019 pledges to God and ask God to bless us as we seek to use them faithfully for ministry in the coming year.

We need the support and participation of everyone in our community of faith to serve Christ and our neighbors to the best of our ability. I invite you to be actively engaged with our time of Stewardship reflection over these next few weeks. It is important to the future of our community of faith and our world as we seek to live into hope!

Grace and Peace,


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Journey to Bethlehem 2018

November 30th (6:00-8:00) PM and December 1st (5:00-8:00 PM) Come join us for a walk-through pageant that tells the story of Christ’s birth. We invite you to bring your family to our 34th performance of this free event which features seven scenes with live animals. Experience the story of wonder and

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Get access to the Southminster calendar, church resources, and manage giving all from your smart phone with the ChurchOn Southminster app. Click here to find the application for your device.

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