40 Days of Listening - Lent 2022

March
2
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Lent begins today! So take two minutes to learn a little bit about the season, be introduced to Mount Olivet’s 2022 Lenten theme, and get oriented to how we’re going to sharpen our listening skills to detect God’s presence in our lives. Did I mention this takes less than 2 minutes?!

Mpls Ash Wednesday Communion Services – 7am, 12noon, *5pm, & *7pm (youth-led) *Livestreamed

West Ash Wednesday Communion Services – 5pm & 7pm (youth-led)

March
3
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Gospel Unplugged

Spiritual Practice: Bible Study

The best Bible study is when you simply pay attention to what you notice, what stands out to you, and what questions you have. This week, Pastor Ruud and Pastor MacLean discuss, “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” based on Mark 6:30-44, our scripture reading for this first Sunday in Lent, March 6, 2022. Join us at church or online!

Questions:

Reflect on miracles in your life. Was it something you needed or wanted?

How often do you turn to Jesus expecting a miracle versus the ordinary?

When we experience scarcity, how does this story help us see God’s abundance?

 

March
4
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What’s it All About?

Spiritual Practice: Worship

Our word “worship” comes from the old English “worth-ship,” and was originally something peasants did for the king – ascribe him worth. Martin Luther turned that around saying that we come to worship to discover – maybe be surprised – that God believes we are worthy, acceptable, and deserving of love. This Sunday, listen to the hymns, readings, and sermon for how God is reminding you that you have infinite worth in God’s eyes!

March
5
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Share Your Blessings

Spiritual Practice: Service

The Mount Olivet Food Drive is tomorrow! Please bring non-perishable food items to church. Food and monetary donations from the Mpls Campus will go to Community Emergency Services (CES) and donations from the West Campus will go to Bountiful Baskets. Thank you for your generosity! This Food Drive also supports the local Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign. For 41 years this campaign has brought together organizations, businesses, faith communities, and individuals to help stock and support the capacity of nearly 300 local food shelves.

March
7
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Flying Can Be Scary

Spiritual Practice: Prayer

When I get anxious as the plane takes off (or lands), I practice this technique I learned long ago: As I take a breath, I say “Yahweh” (pronounced “Yah-way”): Breathe in on “Yah” and out on “Weh” (again, sounds like “way”). Yahweh is God’s name in the Old Testament and literally means, “I am who I am” in Hebrew. It helps remind me that I am always in God’s hands. It’s a simple prayer that calms my mind and my heart in moments of uncertainty, fear, doubt… or on a 747. Try to find two times today to practice this prayer, perhaps at moments where you could use a little extra calm in your day! Breathe in, “Yah,” breathe out, “Weh”! God is with you!

March
8
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The Little Things Matter!

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

Phrases like “spiritual disciples” or “faith practices” can sound like a pretty big deal. But most are actually pretty small, easy to do, and can have a lasting impact. For instance, Navy Seal and Admiral William McRaven says that, if you want to change the world, start by making your bed! After you watch the minute-and-a-half video, ask what small practice or discipline you can take up that will help you be a better person and change the world (in addition to making your bed)!

March
9
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Jesus Astounds… and is Astounded

Spiritual Practice: Bible Study

The heart of today’s story – Jesus’ encounter with a desperate mother – can be hard to hear. Jesus doesn’t seem to act, well, like Jesus. As we’ve said before, questions are at the heart of a good Bible study. Pastor Hammersten and Pastor Lose discuss the story in this week’s Gospel Unplugged. You can find the passage here if you want to read it ahead of time.

Questions to ponder:
Does it help in your prayer life to know that you can ask anything?
Have you ever had a time where you excluded or judged someone? What did you learn from that?
Have you ever been belittled or underestimated? How did that make you feel? What difference does it make to know God is always there for you?

March
10
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Simple Conversations

Spiritual Practice: Prayer

What do you think of when you think about prayer? Here’s what I think of: I’m walking through those old creaky chapel doors at camp.  A tall man, bronzed from a summer goofing off with kids, walks to the altar, bows his head in prayer, and turns: “Sing when the day is bright, sing through the darkest night…”  Then he takes a chair, pulls it out next to the pulpit, and says, “Imagine God sitting in this chair. Prayer is simply talking to God like he is your best friend. Because he is.”  This is just how simple, and just how important, prayer is – simply talking to God like God is your best friend. Because he is. For a little more insight into prayer, watch Pastor Hammersten’s video and then close your eyes, fold your hands, and tell your best friend what you’re thinking about.

March
11
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“I Can Do It Myself!”

Spiritual Practice: Prayer

In the play Hamlet, Shakespeare once penned, “Bow stubborn knees…”  At this point in the story, the antagonist, Claudius, wrestles with the material wealth and power he has gained by the death of his brother and, after trying to get over it by himself, finally realizes that he needs to ask God for help. But it’s a struggle, as he’s used to being independent. This scene reminds me that when I feel overwhelmed or over my head, I need to let go and let God in, and stop thinking I can do it all on my own. So take a moment and think of something you’re struggling with, pray, realize you don’t have to do it all by yourself, and give thanks for a loving God who’s eager to bear your burdens.

March
12
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More Than Just About Me!

Spiritual Practice: Worship

Some years ago, I realized I was a little bored with the sermon. But then, I happened to glance over at someone sitting a few pews away and noticed tears on her face. What hadn’t made an impact on me clearly moved someone else. She happened to look my way. I smiled. She smiled. And suddenly worship was something we were doing together. It was at that moment I realized worship is bigger than simply what I get out of it. It’s something we do together as the community we call the Church. Tomorrow, glance around and see how others are experiencing worship, share your smile, maybe even offer a hug, and worship together.

March
14
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Angel Gifts

Spiritual Practice: Service

For years, Mount Olivet’s Easter Angel Gifts have made a huge difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate. So please join us in donating new items and cash donations to either campus, marking all items “Angel Gifts,” through April 1. Suggested donations and more information can be found here.

March
15
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Start and End Your Day with Prayer

Spiritual Practice: Prayer

I think the two most common – and maybe most important – prayers are “Please” and “Thank you”. A “please prayer” shares with God a hope or request. A “thank you” prayer offers our simple gratitude for something. For the rest of Lent – and maybe beyond! – start your day by honestly naming one hope or request, and end it by giving thanks for something that went well. You will be amazed by the results… and can even get started right now!

March
16
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Peter’s Confession, Rebuke, & Taking Up Your Cross

Spiritual Practice: Bible Study

We tend to think of the disciples as, if not perfect, at least pretty good people. But in this Sunday’s reading, we realize that while Peter sees clearly who Jesus is, he has next to no idea of why Jesus came. You can read the story of Peter’s confession… and rebuke!… here. Then, listen to the pastors talk about what they hear in the story and take a moment to wrestle with the questions they offer.

Questions:
Where have you sensed a cross (an opportunity) in your life that you felt called to take up?
What are some of your assumptions that you have about God or the religious life that are maybe called into question through this story?

March
17
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Going God’s Way

Spiritual Practice: Bible Study

It’s easy to think Bible study is mainly for pastors, scholars, and those really weird Christians who love to quote Bible verses at you. But the Bible belongs to every Christian, and every Christian can benefit from spending a little time reading and reflecting on the word of God contained there. When we read the stories of God’s activity in this world from thousands of years past, our hearts and minds are tuned to see more clearly God’s involvement in our world today. For a little more insight on why Bible study matters and how to do it, watch this brief video from Pastor Dixon, and then pull out your Bible and give it a try!

March
18
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Take Thirty Seconds

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

In Cathedral Choir, Dr. Claflin will remind us to take thirty seconds to just be. So much of the world we live in is fast paced and noisy. Simply taking thirty seconds to “JUST BE” can be calming. As Psalm 46 reminds us, “Be still and know that I am God!” As you go about your day today, take thirty seconds to be quiet and totally in that moment.

March
19
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Singing as Praying Twice

Spiritual Practice: Worship

Martin Luther was fond of saying that when we sing, we are praying twice. Why? Because music has a way of getting into our heads and hearts in a way words simply can’t and so it stays with us for years. Think of a favorite hymn from church or Camp. (See how easy that was?) Then think of what it means to you and why. And, tomorrow at worship, pay extra attention to the hymns we sing, think of them as prayers, and see which one you want to hold onto during the coming week.

March
21
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Morning Meditation

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

Try this little exercise out. Early in your day, imagine hearing, “Good morning, this is God; I’ll be handling all your problems today…and I won’t need your help.” What will your day be like, now that you have God’s promise to take care of you and your problems? What will you be free to do, to try, to dare? And, if the day gets extra hard, feel free to repeat the exercise!

March
22
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Noticing Nature

Spiritual Practice: Prayer

So often, we race from one activity to the next or fail to notice our surroundings while scrolling on our phones. This walking meditation slows us down and helps us notice the beauty of God’s creation all around us. Give it a try and reflect on God’s love for all living things with the following seven easy steps: 1) Choose a place to walk with a clear beginning and ending point. 2) Start walking. 3) Gaze upon the plants, animals, and land around you. 4) Pay attention to what you see, hear, and smell. 5) Notice what you feel in your body as you walk. 6) If your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back to your body and your surroundings. 7) Thank God for the beauty of creation. (Feel free to repeat whenever possible! :))

March
23
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“I Believe. Help My Unbelief!”

Spiritual Practice: Bible Study

We tend to think of faith and doubt as opposites. This Sunday’s story about Jesus’ encounter with a desperate father suggests that the two are much more closely related than we might imagine. In fact, doubt may just be an essential ingredient of faith. So what are some of your doubts? What difference does it make to imagine they’re not bad or wrong, but might actually be the seeds of greater faith? Take a minute to read this week’s story here, and then listen to Pastor Dixon and Pastor Ruud reflect on why this story matters and what questions it suggests for your further reflection.

Questions:
What did you notice?
What questions do you have?
When you experience doubt, fear, anxiety, etc., how does God come to you and help you?
When we find that we are in these uncertain places, how does Jesus still care for us?

March
24
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Going God’s Way

Spiritual Practice: Service

In the Bible, Jesus commands us to serve others. Frequently! But rather than think of this as something we have to do, I’ve come to believe it’s something we get to do. And when we put faith into action by serving others, we’re blessed, too. Watching the Olympics a month ago, it occurred to me that faith is kind of like owning a pair of skis. Of course we can stand idly on some lofty hilltop in our skis, admiring the view. But by putting our faith into action and serving others we get to ski down the whole exciting, winding, perhaps treacherous hill of our lives to arrive at the bottom after the ride of our lives. For more insight into how serving others can enrich our lives, watch Pastor’s MacLean’s video on service, and then look for a way to be a blessing to others. You may be surprised how alive it makes you feel!

March
25
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Evening Meditation

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

A good friend once said to me, “Before you go to bed tonight, why not give all your problems to God? He’ll be up all night anyway!” I think of that advice when I have a hard time sleeping because I’m worried or anxious. Anxiety tends to narrow my focus, even create something of “tunnel vision” where all I can see is what is worrying me. When I remember that God loves me and looks for me and that God, as the Psalmist says, is the one “who never slumbers or sleeps,” it helps to turn over my fears to God… and then get a better night’s sleep!

March
26
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The Power of a Good Confession

Spiritual Practice: Worship

Each week, we begin worship with confession and absolution. I have heard some people describe confession – admitting what we have done wrong – as a “downer,” but I think it’s essential. Confessing our sins isn’t meant to make us feel bad, but instead to help us be honest, sharing where we fell short or were disappointed. By being honest, we can then trust that God’s words of forgiveness and trust are addressed to the person we actually are, not the person we wish we were or are trying to be or pretending to be. So take a moment right now to share something that didn’t go right this week so that you can believe it’s you, just as you are, that God loves, accepts, and forgives. And then do the same tomorrow at worship!

March
28
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Words to Live By

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

Years ago, I was struggling with a life-threatening disease. The doctor prescribed the following: 1) Trust God, 2) Clean House, and 3) Serve Others. Why these three? When things are beyond our control, all we can do is trust God. Doing something we can – like cleaning our house (or making the bed!) helps remind us we’re not totally out of control. And helping others gets us out of our heads and reminds us we can always make a difference. The doctor told me, “Follow these and your life will improve. It may take longer than you want, but keep at it, one day at a time.” And he was right!

March
29
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Support For Ukraine

Spiritual Practice: Service

All of us have been reading the headlines of how incredibly hard things are in Ukraine. It is easy to feel like there is nothing you can do to help. But there is…1) pray for peace and justice in that region 2) you can also donate. Lutheran World Relief has been responding to humanitarian crises for 75 years. Right now they are providing material and medical supplies inside Ukraine and helping resettle more than 2.5 million refugees in neighboring countries. You can make gifts to Mount Olivet and designate Ukraine or learn more and donate at lwr.org. Thank you!

March
30
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Power and Wealth Redesigned

Spiritual Practice: Bible Study

This Sunday’s story about Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man is chock-full of details. Read it here and pay attention to what you notice. What details stick out? What questions come to mind? Then watch Pastor Lose and Pastor MacLean talk about what they notice and wonder about, too. Then, come to church on Sunday and see how the preacher proclaims the Gospel in this story.

Questions to ponder:
Can you think of something that you have valued above all? In what ways is Jesus calling you to give that up? What would that mean to you?
How do we live in response to this great and priceless gift God has given us of salvation through Jesus Christ? What difference does God’s loving embrace make for you every day?

March
31
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Going God’s Way

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

When we are baptized, we’re given a candle that reminds us that our lives are reflections of Jesus’ light in the world. Sometimes our days are so noisy that we lose track of God’s light in our lives. Reflecting on that gift is one way to listen to God more closely. Reflection can take many forms – listening to music, contemplating nature or a work of art, meditating in silence, repeating a favorite Bible verse, and more. One practice I like to use for reflection is called the Examen. I simply ask myself: for what am I most grateful on this day, and for what am I least grateful? Asking these questions helps me identify the everyday places that God brings light and life, and helps me invite God into my life. For more inspiration on reflecting on God’s presence, watch Pastor Freeman’s video and then take a moment to reflect on what you are grateful for today.

April
1
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Pray Honestly – Jesus Did!

Spiritual Practice: Prayer

When I think of Jesus’ view on prayer, my mind immediately goes to “The Lord’s Prayer” and the story from “The Garden of Gethsemane.” Just after the Last Supper and before Jesus is arrested, he goes with three of his disciples to pray at a place called Gethsemane. In his humanity, he prays to God that he doesn’t have to die. This story reminds me that we can always be our honest selves when we pray to God (just like Jesus was on that night). As you pray today, know that God is listening and loves you.

April
2
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The Power of Absolution

Spiritual Practice: Worship

Each Sunday morning, after “coming clean” in the confession, we hear God’s word of forgiveness and love in what we call the “absolution.” I love this moment in the worship service, as I’m reminded that there is nothing I can do or say that God can’t forgive. That’s not just important with regard to the past, it’s also very freeing with regard to the future, as it means that when faced with difficult decisions, we can do our best, knowing that even if we make a mistake or get it wrong, we are still promised God’s forgiveness. (I think of this as the Lutheran version of Nike’s “Just Do It!”) Consider something you’d love to try or dare, and think about how God’s promise of love and forgiveness may give you the courage to do it!

April
4
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The Power of Prayer

Spiritual Practice: Prayer

What do we do when someone we love is sick, seriously ill, or starting to die? We give support, express our love, and pray for their comfort, peace, and healing. This healing prayer, presented in the book Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson, encourages us to relax, breathe, and remind ourselves of God’s love as we pray for those who are suffering. Take time to go through the steps below or listen to the audio recording as a guide.

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit or kneel. Relax and breathe gently. Think about God’s presence as brightness and warmth.
  2. Remember that when we are in God’s presence, we are not alone. We are there with all God’s people. Bring to mind one of those people who needs healing.
  3. Hold this person in God’s light. Picture God’s love washing over them, relieving pain, cleansing wounds, and curing sickness.
  4. Imagine the person whole and healthy in God’s light and love, restored, and beautiful as seen through the eyes of divine love.
  5. Ask God that this wellness be realized according to God’s design for this person.
  6. Thank God and entrust the person into God’s loving care.

April
5
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The Victorious Christ

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

For much of the Church’s history, many pieces of artwork depicted Jesus in a titanic struggle with death, ultimately emerging triumphant on Easter Sunday and promising his followers victory over death as well. This icon, which is on the cover of the April Messenger, is from the Khora Church in Istanbul and painted in the 14th century. It is named the “Anastatis” – which means “Resurrection” in Greek – and portrays Jesus as pulling Adam and Eve from the depths of hell to new life. The image of the “Victorious Christ” has been meaningful to Christians over the centuries because it reminds us that Jesus is by our side, struggles with us, and promises us eventual release and victory. As you look at the painting, first notice the details that stick out to you. Then, reflect on what areas of your life you might want Jesus’ help in right now – overcoming some challenge, dealing with disappointment, succeeding in a particular endeavor – and then invite the victorious Christ to come to your aid.

April
6
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The Triumphal Entry

Spiritual Practice: Bible Study

The story of Palm Sunday is one of the best-loved in Lent. Each Gospel writer tells it a little differently, though, so read Mark’s version here. What details do you notice? What sticks out to you? Watch the video Pastor Kalland and Pastor Ruud prepared, and listen in as they discuss this story too. Then, join us in worship and listen to the sermon to see what the preacher does with this beloved story on this special day!

Questions to ponder:
How are we like Christ in our humility? What does that look like for us?
What expectations do we have for our life, and when they aren’t met, what does that mean for us?
How often do we have to hear something for it to make sense to us?

April
7
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Going God’s Way

Spiritual Practice: Worship

For two thousand years, the practice of worship has been – and still is! – foundational for all of our life of faith. In worship, we’re gathered again and again into deepening our relationships with God, ourselves, and each other in love. We give thanks, confess, pray, receive the good news of the story of Christ, hear forgiveness proclaimed, and experience blessings bestowed. So much happens in worship, and we are blessed to practice it our entire lives. Watch this brief video of Pastor Ruud explaining just how important worship is, and then come to worship to experience it again for yourself!

April
8
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Angel Gifts, Part Two

Spiritual Practice: Service

Thank you to everyone who has donated to our Angel Gifts program this year. Baskets will be assembled and delivered tomorrow, Saturday, April 9. These donations brighten this holiday season for families. Come out and help! And as we work together, remember Paul’s words: “God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

April
9
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Good Courage

Spiritual Practice: Worship

Since the pandemic began, we at Mount Olivet have been closing our worship with what has come to be called “The Prayer of Good Courage.” This prayer was written by Pastor Eric Milner-White, chaplain at King’s College in Cambridge, in 1941 to encourage the British people during the early and devastating stages of World War II. It continues to be an inspiration to Christians all over the world, and a wonderful way to transition from our worship in the sanctuary to our lives of service in the world. Take a moment to think about what challenges are in front of you that you need courage to face. Then offer this prayer now, and do so again tomorrow at worship: Lord God, you have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

April
11
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Jesus Christ

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

This portrait of Christ is by artist Laur Iduc. The title of the painting is simply “Jesus Christ.” When working with finding art for the musical version of The Seven Last Words of Christ, this portrait seemed to be a perfect match for the text, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is the eyes that portray the immense love that was, and still is, offered to us. In addition to love, there is also a feeling of immense sadness as well. Here is the face of Christ, accepting his fate, yet still asking on our behalf, for forgiveness. When you look at this picture, think of something for which you’d like to be forgiven, or something you’re trying to forgive someone else for, and then offer it to Jesus, the one who forgave all, even while on the cross.

April
12
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The Crucifixion

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

This portrait is by artist Jerry Bacik titled, “The Crucifixion.” The artist works to create the drama of life and “strives to represent the inner persona of an individual.” I used this painting for the text found in the fourth word of Abandonment – “O why hast thou forsaken me.” The gaze upward towards God, with a sense of pain and confusion in the eyes, seems to convey the sense of abandonment that Christ must have felt at that moment. As you look at the picture, remember that when you feel most alone, isolated, or even abandoned, God in Jesus knows how you feel… and meets you there!

April
13
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Final Words

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

Today at Mount Olivet, we have the opportunity to listen to our Cathedral Choir and alumni sing Theodore Dubois’ The Seven Last Words of Christ. Across the four Gospels, Jesus utters seven statements from the cross, expressing a range of emotions from grief and despair to forgiveness, triumph, and trust. Take a moment and reflect on what you would most want to say in your last moments on this earth. To whom would you wish to speak? What would you want to tell them? How does thinking about that impact your words and actions toward those around you today? If you want to listen to the whole of Dubious’ piece, you can come to the service tonight at the Minneapolis Campus at 7pm, or you can click the video and listen to a previous year’s performance, following along with the slides.

April
14
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The New Commandment

Spiritual Practice: Service

When Jesus shares a final meal with his disciples, he tells them: “A new commandment I give you, love one another.” He demonstrates what the love should look like by leaving the place of honor at the head of the table, taking a wash cloth, and washing the feet of his disciples. In this way, Jesus tells his disciples that loving one another is expressed most fully by service. At Mount Olivet and throughout our communities, opportunities to serve others abound. Take five minutes today and explore where you can serve, volunteer, donate, or in some other way follow Jesus’ command to love one another.

April
15
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Anticipating Easter

Spiritual Practice: Bible Study

Today is Good Friday, the day on which Jesus is crucified. We dare call this day “good,” not because of what happened to Jesus, but because of what God does through it, namely identify most fully with us as mortal, vulnerable humans, even to the point of suffering and dying. We also dare call this day “good” because it is not the end of the story. At the close of tonight’s Good Friday Tenebrae Service (7pm at both campuses), we will take the Christ candle out of the narthex to symbolize Christ’s death. After a moment of silence, we will bring it back to anticipate Christ’s resurrection, which we will celebrate on Sunday. To further anticipate the joy of Easter that redeems even the darkest moments, you can watch this week’s Gospel Unplugged, as Pastors Dixon and Pastor Lose discuss perhaps the most peculiar of the Gospel accounts of the resurrection.

Questions to ponder:
When have there been times in your life that Jesus or another Christian has met you in your fear and offered you something to hold onto?
How are you a part of the Gospel story begun in Mark?

April
16
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Easter is Coming

Spiritual Practice: Reflection

Whatever else faith is, it is certainly a perspective, a belief, an angle of vision that sees there is more to this life and world than we sometimes realize. In this short video, created by Pastor Lose and Pastor Cieslik while they worked together at Luther Seminary, they explore the difference faith can make, infusing our life with hope, joy, and courage. Watch the video, give thanks for the gift of faith, and then come to Church tomorrow to celebrate the life-changing difference the resurrection still makes!