"I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121

During times of crisis, Christians find hope, solace, comfort, and courage in their faith. Mount Olivet will provide messages, reflections, and words of hope and courage as long as we are facing this pandemic. We are in this together, and we will get through this together. For we are not alone, but accompanied always by Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior, the one whom even death could not defeat.

October 21 - A Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

In the Shadow of Your Wings by John Leavitt
Performed by the Cathedral Choir with Dana Donnay, oboe on March 31, 2019

The anthem, In the Shadow of Your Wings, by John Leavitt, is one of many from this composer’s considerable list of sacred choral writing. The work begins with a plaintive oboe line which sets the stage for the emotional journey that comes from listening to or singing the anthem. In addition to the hauntingly beautiful melody, which perfectly enhances the lyrics, it is the text that draws us into the work. Written by Phil Speary, a theater professor and actor, the lyrics are based on Psalm 57 and speak to the plea for help, as well as the refuge offered through God during times of considerable struggle and distress.

In the early years of my time as the director of Cathedral Choir, a situation happened with this anthem that has remained with me for years as an example of God’s presence in unexpected ways. One of the young men in the choir suffered from a mental illness diagnosis. It was difficult to watch him struggling and sometimes challenging to have him in rehearsal. It eventually came to the point where he had to be hospitalized in order to keep him safe. After many weeks of hospitalization, I received a phone call from the young man’s mother late on a Saturday evening. She was calling to let me know that he would be allowed to leave the hospital for a short time and that he wanted to attend church on Sunday morning and sing with the choir. She wanted to make sure that he would be welcomed since he had been absent for so long. Hearing how important it was to him to attend church and sing with the choir was touching, but it was only when I looked in my folder to confirm the anthem title for the morning that I realized the unexpected gift of God’s grace and love. It was In the Shadow of Your Wings and could not have been more fitting. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to watch and hear this young man sing these words of God’s promise that morning. May this anthem bring to you today the comfort and assurance of God’s love and protection as I believe it did for that young singer years ago.

Gracious God be merciful,
O my God be merciful.
My soul is crying out to you.
My only refuge Lord is you, God most high. 

In the shadow of your wings, neath the shadow of your wings.
My soul finds rest from my deep distress.
My heart hides there till this darkness passes by.
I cry to God on high whose purpose is fulfilled for me.
He reaches down to save and reproaches him who threatens me.

Gracious God be merciful. My soul finds love and truth in you.
No other place of safety Lord but you.
In the shadow of your wings I hide.
O my God most high

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

October 19 - A Devotion

At the beginning of the story of Ruth, on the border of Moab, Naomi was empty, bitter, grieving. Ruth clung to Naomi, would not let go, and said to her, “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die – there I will be buried” -Ruth 1:16-17

Ruth began picking up the pieces of a shattered life. She said to Naomi, “All I have to give you is myself. Where you go, I will go.”

Have you ever wondered why for years many banks, investment firms, and insurance companies have gone by the name “Fidelity?” They want us to believe, by their very name, that we can count on them to be reliable, trustworthy, and faithful in the goods and services they offer. Ruth lived a life of fidelity to Naomi. And because of that Naomi’s grief and bitterness turned to joy and hope.

Faithfulness can show up in unexpected people in unexpected ways. After all, Ruth herself was a non-Israelite foreigner, and immigrant from the land of Moab. Over the centuries Israel and the people of Moab were frequently enemies. Yet, Ruth, an immigrant from Moab, crosses prejudicial ethnic and religious boundaries to become a model of love and fidelity in ancient Israel.

The Book of Ruth proclaims that God is quietly and mysteriously at work through the everyday actions of faithful people. Who are the people who have been faithful in your life? How has God worked in and through them to sustain and restore your life? And who are the people to whom God calls you to be faithful, to live so that your life is a means of God’s blessing to them?  Faithful: That is what God calls each of us to be. Then God does the rest.

-Pastor MacLean

October 14 - A Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

Seek Ye First by Karen Lafferty
Arranged by Douglas Wagner
Performed by the Cathedral Choir on September 22, 2019

The anthem, Seek Ye First, based on Matthew 6:33 and 7:7 is generally one of the first anthems of the season that Cathedral Choir learns and sings. The musical reasons are obvious: it is written for a two-part mixed choir, it has a familiar tune, especially for those who participated in Cathedral of the Pines Camp and, because of the vocal range for the tenor and bass sections, it allows the opportunity to discover and strengthen their upper register head voice, which is an important yet new skill for many. All in all, it is an anthem that can be quickly learned and polished in a few rehearsals and starts us on the path of good vocal learning and singing.

But, in addition to the musical reasons, the scriptural text is worth talking about, especially for young people, but also for all of us who may experience anxiety about the future or for those of us who are looking for reassurance through our faith. Matthew 6:33 states, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” This is followed in Matthew 7:7 by Jesus’ promise, “Ask and it shall be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” 

Notice, in the particular, the verbs in these verses: seek, ask, search, knock. As Christians, we know that Christ has promised to love us, to be with us, and to support and care for us regardless of our circumstances. However, we are still invited to participate in building a relationship with God and in yearning to understand God’s ways. These gestures are also important in giving us the peace and reassurance that we are so desperately needing. So how does one find this peace? Perhaps it is in living out the verbs that are in the scripture – we seek, we ask, we search, and we knock… and we do all of those things by continuing to sing, to pray, to serve, and to study God’s Word believing that through those actions God’s presence appears more fully to us. Once we immerse ourselves into the ways of the kingdom of God, all things are added to us, just as promised. Alleluia!

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

October 12 - A Devotion

“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” -Galatians 5:22-26

The saintly Mr. Rogers used to tell kids, “When the world seems too scary, look for the helpers.” Helpers were trusted adults—maybe teachers, neighbors, or nurses. Well the world seems pretty scary right now. So I’m looking for the helpers. The only problem is, it’s so hard to know whom to trust!

We’re bombarded from every angle with contradictory spin and obfuscation these days. One loud voice tells us one thing. Another louder voice tells us the exact opposite. You see something, and then are told you didn’t see what you just saw. You hear something, and then are told it really means something else. Chaos and misinformation are purposefully churned out in our world, and a lot of us end up feeling like we don’t know what to believe.

Put your trust in the Lord! Now more than ever, I have to remind myself that I can depend on the Lord, and the Holy Spirit he has sent to live among us. This Spirit maintains our communities, and makes possible the true proclamation of the Gospel in a world so addicted to mistruth. This Spirit also preserves people in faith, and manifests in them the fruit of that transformative trust in God.

Many will claim this Spirit, claim this faith, and use that claim to put on a mantle of authority. How can we know whom to trust? For me, I look to see where the Spirit is at work. And how do we recognize the Spirit’s activity in this world? By the fruits. Where you see love—the kind of love that is patient and kind, that does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, is not rude or self-seeking—there is the Spirit. Where you see joy—not joy in other’s pain or weakness, but true joy that celebrates the holiness of this life we share together—there is the Spirit. Those who live peacefully, generously, faithfully, and gently, they have been guided by the Spirit.

I will look to them for help, and I will pray that the Spirit might bring forth the same fruit in you and me. Lord, let us be a congregation of trustworthy helpers. Amen.

-Pastor Dixon

October 7 - Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

What God Ordains is Always Good by Dan Forrest
Performed by the Senior Choir on May 12, 2019

The anthem by Dan Forrest is based on a hymn written by the German teacher and hymn writer Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708). The text is thematically drawn from Deuteronomy 32:4,  “He [God] is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is he.” The melody may be familiar to some, as Johann Sebastian Bach used the tune in several of his cantatas, however, most will recognize the song from a worship service as it is found in numerous hymnals.

It took some time for us as a choir to decipher the meaning of these words and to feel comfortable sharing the text. At first blush, the text seems to dismiss the difficult situations in our lives that involve hurt and pain by simply stating that all things come from God and are ordained by Him. After working on it musically and having many shared conversations, we determined that perhaps what is truly being said is that God is with us, loves us, and does not forsake us regardless of the situation. God cannot be held accountable for the failings of others that have hurt us, or the difficult situations in life that happen to us. What we are promised is that God’s character is of truth, goodness, and love, and with that knowledge, we sing knowing, “Now I may know both joy and woe; Someday I shall see clearly that he has loved me dearly.”

What God ordains is always good: His will is just and holy.
As he directs my life for me, I follow meek and lowly.
My God indeed In every need knows well how he will shield me;
To him, then, I will yield me.

What God ordains is always good: He is my friend and father;
He suffers naught to do me harm though many storms may gather.
Now I may know both joy and woe; Someday I shall see clearly
that he has loved me dearly.

What God ordains is always good: This truth remains unshaken.
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine, I shall not be forsaken.
I fear no harm, For with his arm He shall embrace and shield me;
So to my God, I yield me.
Samuel Rodigast

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

October 5 - A Devotion

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its water roar and foam…The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge…Be still, and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46

This is my favorite time of the year. Homecomings are everywhere! Rally Sunday, Stewardship Dinners, Confirmation Services, Thanksgiving! It all looks a little different this year, of course (confirmands in convertibles! drive-thru meatballs!) but none-the-less, we gather. Coming together as God’s children buoys us up and gives us the hope we need to navigate the world.

I don’t know about you, but some days sadness over missing my ‘normal’ life and hugs(!), loneliness, and fear over what the future will bring, gets the best of me and my anxiety spills out onto whomever is nearest: the slow driver ahead of me, the neighbor with opposing political views, my loved ones. Even the poor guy who took the last Tillamook Vanilla Bean ice cream is suspect!

When the sadness sets in, I take in a deep breath saying to myself ‘Breathe in the Holy Spirit’ and slowly exhale ‘Breathe out anxiety and fear’ and then call a friend. Because coming together as God’s children buoys us up and gives us the hope we need to navigate the world.

-Pastor Hammersten

September 30 - Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

Micah 6:8 by Lisa Fugile
Performed by Monroe Crossing Bluegrass Band and the Senior Choir on May 19, 2019

For many years, Mount Olivet has had a wonderful partnership with the bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing. It is always gratifying to learn the music of a different genre and especially satisfying to work with exceptional musicians and wonderful people. Performing with Monroe Crossing certainly offers both!

The anthem titled Micah 6:8 is based on the text, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” It is written by Lisa Fuglie, the group’s female singer and fiddle player. She shared the story of seeing the scripture on a banner at a church where they were playing and felt moved to write a piece for the group.

The book of Micah is one of the writings from The Book of Twelve Prophets or sometimes referred to as the Book of the minor Prophets, minor referring to short rather than less. From the study notes of the Lutheran Study Bible – “justice” (mishpat in Hebrew) is about fairness and equality. “Kindness” (chesed in Hebrew) describes merciful actions such as loyalty and integrity. “Walking humbly” is “set in contrast with the rapid strides of the powerful.”

This passage of scripture is as appropriate to us today as it was to the community to which Micah was speaking in the eighth century B.C.E. May God give us the strength and courage to live these words, and may Monroe Crossing’s music set the text in our minds.

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

September 28 - A Devotion

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
-Ecclesiastes 3:15

We seem to be living in – how shall I put it – intense times.

It is a time when it can be extremely difficult to know the best way to go about life given the realities and circumstances of ourselves, our neighbors, our society, and the world.  At the same time, the decisions and choices seem extremely consequential. What do we do?

As I reflect on the verses from Ecclesiastes, I’m reminded that I really don’t like some of the truths it mentions.  For instance, weeping, mourning, killing, and death are not often pleasant times. Yet, the wisdom of the passage is that these realities are true and are a part of this world. How stark is it, also, to have scripture name there is a time to refrain from embracing? Think about that. Scripture says there’s a time to social distance.

Though it may be unpleasant, I try to remember this from day to day. And at the same time, faith in Jesus and the promise of God present even in the worst times, reminds us that God is faithful in every time.

As you go about your week, pray for all those who are making decisions to best care for all the ones they serve. It is a difficult time. Pray also that God continues to work in and through you and all of us for love for each other and this good world.

God in Christ, lead us and help us to follow your path of love in this time.  Amen.

-Pastor Ruud

September 23 - A Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

City Called Heaven by Josephine Poelinitz
Performed by Cathedral Choir with Soloist Luke Randall, baritone, on April 7, 2018

The anthem, performed by the Cathedral Choir, is a slow, soulful spiritual arrangement that utilizes the text from an old Gospel song of the same name. City Called Heaven, made famous by Mahalia Jackson, represents the struggles that were faced by African slaves during the horrendous time in our country’s history when people were bought and sold as property. The anthem is a song of sorrow and speaks to the hopelessness of facing this “old wide world alone” with “no hope for tomorrow, trying to make it to heaven, my home.” Unfortunately, this same feeling of despair is still felt by many African-Americans today as we have so clearly witnessed these past four months.

The anthem begins with the choir singing detached notes with a word or syllable for every pitch. The compositional choice helps the listeners hear the weight and burden of the struggle of each step of life. The steady repetition of the text is reflective of remaining in step with those to which you are bound by chains. The anthem features a soloist who layers on a moanful melody which often sounds like a wail or a groan stating, “Sometimes I just don’t know which way to turn.”

Gospel music has been used throughout the years as an expression of one’s faith and during the civil rights movement, as a vehicle for social protest and expression of the struggle faced by many people of color. May this anthem touch us in a way that opens our eyes to the hurt and sorrow that so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ live with daily. May we be shown a way to move into action and into a future that provides respect and love for all of God’s children.

I am a pilgrim, a pilgrim of sorrow
I’m left in this wide world, this wide world alone
Ain’t got no hope, got no hope for tomorrow
Trying to make it, make heaven my home

Sometimes I’m tossed and I’m driven, Lord
Sometime I just don’t know which way to turn.

Oh I heard of a city, a city called heaven
I’m trying to make it, make heaven my home

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

September 21 - A Devotion

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” -Colossians 3:16

One of the benefits of the pandemic is that I get to spend a lot more time with my kids.  That means there is a lot of laughter and activity around the house, but what I appreciate most is the singing.  They may not even realize it, but they usually hum or sing songs while they play.  Though the tunes are often stuck in my head, it is delightful.  Music is powerful!

Legendary St. Olaf baseball coach, Jim Dimick, was a member of the last congregation I served.  On my first day in the office, he walked in to welcome me, told me about his family, and handed me a piece of paper with this poem on it:

He came singing love.
He lived singing love.
He died singing love.
He rose in silence.
If the song is to continue, we must do the singing.

Jim’s daughter, Frankie, shared these words in a devotion with the St. Olaf Choir years ago, he told me.  They were a reminder to the choir, as they are to me, that God depends on us to carry Christ’s gospel message of hope and love to the world.  All that we do is for the glory of God.  We have a role to play, especially during this unsettling time.  Christ came, lived, died and rose again to give us hope.  If the song is to continue, we must do the singing.

-Pastor Freeman

September 16 - Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

Kyrie from Memorial by René Clausen
Performed by the Senior Choir on March 4, 2018

Kyrie, from the larger work Memorial by Rene Clausen, was written in response to the events of September 11, 2001. Kyrie is the final movement of the work and is a quiet emotional plea for God’s mercy using the Latin text, “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison,” translated, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy,”

Through the exceptional choral writing we are led in a powerful prayer for peace demonstrated with layers of sound, color, and texture of the human voice. The melodic lines are written in a manner which at times resembles crying or wailing. The voices continue to repeat the Latin text as a plea for forgiveness.

A very poignant moment takes place at the key change where through the harmonic change a sense of hope is offered. As the new key is established we hear for the first time the word “Adonai” which is Hebrew for “My God.” Not only are we asking for mercy and hope, but we pray to God that our faith will again take hold of us, forgive us and offer us peace. It is a prayer that is needed today just as it was in September of 2001. 

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

September 14 - A Devotion

There seems to be something about us. We humans want answers. We want to know “the why” and the “how come.” We want to have all the questions answered to eliminate all the mystery from life, to eliminate all ambiguity and all contingency. We want or think we need to have control, and to have the answers to all of life’s questions.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be that way! However, that is an illusion. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “We see through a mirror dimly.” I feel this means we don’t see very well at all.   We don’t have all the answers.   We may never know the “why” of something, but we have something else. We have “faith, hope and love, these three. And the greatest of these is love.”

We don’t have all the answers but we know who does. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and I will give you rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Lord is with you.

-Pastor Kalland

September 9 - Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

I Have Chosen the Way of Truth by Craig Courtney
Performed by Justin Staebell, baritone on June 21, 2020

I discovered this solo years ago and fell in love with it immediately. There are a few reasons why this: First, the beautiful melody, which once heard is immediately remembered and seems to return to the mind easily. Upon hearing the continuous lines of the expressive connected melody in both the voice and the piano, my guess is it will return to you later in the day in some form. It is a melody that instantly touches us emotionally, which is a mystery of music which I will never fully comprehend but give thanks for daily!

The melody provides the pathway for the text and opens the door for interpretation. The song is based on Psalm 119. Many singers love singing the psalms, and Justin’s sensitive performance is certainly reflective of that fact. These scriptures are appreciated not only for the beauty of the language but for the humanness of the message. The Psalms are filled with the thoughts of real people who turn directly to God in order to express dismay and fear, plead for help, and offer thanks. It has been stated that “The book of Psalms is the Bible’s book of the soul.”

Interestingly this particular Psalm is titled, “A Psalm of Law.” Had I not heard the song first, I am fairly certain I would have read this Psalm differently. But herein lies the miracle of music and the mysterious art of combining lyrics and musical elements to expand our interpretation of a text. The composer offers multiple musical elements that represent a softening, a feeling of devotion, that I had not felt upon simply reading the Psalm. Through music, the understanding of the text was transformed. Rather than rules and laws, the Psalm becomes a promise made out of devotion, a vow, if you will. The steady chordal accompaniment emphasizes this constant and unwavering faithfulness. I have chosen the way of truth, not out of duty, but out of love and gratefulness for the gifts shown me daily by a gracious and loving God. May you feel that same sense of love and gratitude as you listen to this beautiful song.

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

September 7 - Monday Devotion

“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for the One who has promised is faithful.”  —Hebrews 10:23

The start of fall is one of my favorite times of the year. The chill in the air – perfect for my favorite attire of shorts and a sweatshirt – signals a season brimming over with hopefulness: kids getting ready to go back to school, hoping for a good year; the fall sports season and the hope that this year will be the year; another program year at church with the hope of good attendance and strong participation.

But this September – as with so much of the last six months – is markedly different. Delayed starts, hybrid classes, and anxious teachers and parents have made back-to-school traditions chaotic at best. Few fall sports, with no guarantee of complete seasons, let alone championship ones. Many programs and vibrant worship, yes, but largely virtual, accompanied by thanksgiving for the technology that makes that possible but also an ache deep in my heart that I won’t see you in person. The words that capture this fall are not anticipation and hopefulness but rather uncertainty and anxiety.

All of which has pushed me to ask where the source of my hope is… and should be. One of the things this pandemic has taught me is that if I lodge my hope in the weather, or my favorite traditions, or great church programs, or the chance of glory for my teams (yes, as a Minnesota fan I should know better, but still…), I will ultimately be disappointed. It’s not that these things aren’t wonderful, just that they are not, ultimately, reliable.

Hope, the author of The Letter of the Hebrews says, doesn’t rest in events or occasions or traditions, but rather is rooted in the character of the One who has promised to be with us and for us. That One – Jesus – went to the cross to show us just how far God will go to save us, and was raised from death to show that God’s love and life are more powerful than hate, hardship, disease, or even death. Even when everything seems in disarray, and things that usually offer hope fall short, yet God in Jesus has promised to hold on to us, and this creates lasting hope, because the One who promises is faithful.

-Pastor Lose

September 2 - Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

His Eye Is on the Sparrow arr. Ruth Elaine Schram
Performed by Amanda Jenkins, soprano on March 22, 2020

The original tune for His Eye Is on the Sparrow was written by Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (1856 – 1932). Gabriel was a prolific writer of gospel songs and a composer of gospel tunes, many of which are still available in current hymnals. With virtually no formal musical training throughout his life, he was a successful composer and was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1982.

The lyrics for the song were written in 1905 by Civilla D. Martin. As the wife of the evangelist Walter Stillman Martin, Civilla and her husband worked on many of the musical arrangements for the Church of Christ revivals that they led through the United States.

In her own words, Civilla Martin describes how the lyrics for “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” came about: “Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheelchair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s response was simple: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience.” The next day, she mailed the poem to the composer Charles Gabriel and the song was born.

The song has been a standard solo for many singers, some of which are Ethel Waters, who used the title for her autobiography, Mahalia Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, Jessye Norman, Whitney Houston (as her last original single), and Lauryn Hill. This recording is of one of our own soprano soloists, Amanda Jenkins, who has made this title one of her signature solos for worship.

The song is based on the scripture found in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” and Matthew 10:29–31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” The text is expresses faith that God who cares for all, even the smallest and most plain of us. When discouraged, we are reminded that God is watching over us, caring for us, and loving us even in the worst of times or when we feel the least loved.

This message is one we yearn to hear and need to share with a world where our songs can often give way to sighing. Faithfully the refrain returns with a message of hope, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.”

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; Refrain

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; Refrain

August 31 - A Devotion

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? -Psalm 31:1-2

How long, O Lord? How long will you forget me? Have you felt that? Have you experienced it? Most of us have, some of us often, and we will experience it again. For people of faith it’s a cry in the darkness of the night. St. John of the Cross called it the “dark night of the soul.” It’s when we feel a sense of loneliness or desolation, face the unknown, and sometimes feel that God has abandoned us. It’s difficult to pray, we need help, but it feels like there’s no one who can really help. God is silent, hidden from us, or absent.

Biblical faith speaks often of this experience. The psalms of lament give voice to those long dark nights of the soul. That’s why Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann calls them “Psalms of Disorientation.” They give voice to those times when we’re in pain, trouble, or suffering, when life is falling apart and doesn’t make sense anymore. Life and faith become disoriented. The cause may be the failure of a relationship or a marriage, the loss of a job or foreclosure, a financial setback, current circumstances, an illness or serious health concern, or the death of someone we love.

When we pray them honestly, these psalms of lament have the capacity to deepen and transform our faith. Because ancient Israel understood this, most of the lament psalms include expressions of trust and praise even in the midst of the darkness. Despite the difficulties of the situation, the writer of Psalm 13 still affirms trust in God. The psalm ends: But here, even in the darkness, I trust in your steadfast love, O God. My heart will rejoice in your salvation. I believe that I will again see the goodness of the Lord, and I will sing to the God who has been good to me (vv. 5-6).

-Pastor MacLean

August 26 - Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

Let Thy Holy Presence by Pavel Tschesnokoff (1877-1944)
Performed by the Senior Choir on January 22, 2017

Composer Pavel Tschesnokoff was a renowned Russian composer of sacred choral music. While attending the Moscow Conservatory, he received extensive training in both instrumental and vocal music. Throughout his schooling, he studied with numerous prominent Russian composers who influenced his style of liturgical choral compositions, all of which are rooted in the musical tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church.

By the age of 30, Tschesnokoff had completed nearly four hundred sacred choral works, but his prolific output of sacred music came to a sudden stop at the time of the 1917 Russian Revolution which led to the creation of the Soviet Union. Under communist rule, all forms of religious art were forbidden in the Soviet Union.

The performance of this genre of music requires careful attention to intonation and the use of staggered breathing. In Russian music of this time period, breathing between bar lines of notation was not encouraged. Singers staggered their breathing, thus creating greater fluency and intensity to the vocal line. The beauty and mystical nature of the music is expressed in part by the slow, measured beat, which enhances the solemn and devotional nature of the sacred text.

The text, which serves as a prayer for the presence of God’s spirit, is as important to us today as it was over a century ago.

Let Thy Holy Presence come upon us O Lord, Alleluia. 

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship & Music

August 24 - A Devotion

“For the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” – Isaiah 52:12

We pastors of Mount Olivet have a meeting each week to check in, share highs and lows, and catch up with each other on the work of the congregation and planning for what’s ahead. Some meetings are longer than others. Sometimes we’re not all present (these days, a number of us call in on conference call due to the pandemic). Sometimes it’s tough slogging through the nitty-gritty of all that’s happening. Sometimes – and I stress sometimes – it seems as if we almost have our ducks in a row! Always, it brings fruitfulness to our collective work. At the end of each meeting, we pray for each other and for all of you members and all who encounter Jesus in and through Mount Olivet.

This past week, Pastor Lose had the privilege of praying, and a line of his prayer stood out to me. He prayed, “We give thanks for the assurance of your Holy Spirit out ahead of us promising to be gracious and loving.”

In a time when it is extremely difficult to anticipate the future, the prayer reminded me this is the way it has been since the beginning. God’s Holy Spirit is always out ahead of us.

In so many stories in scripture, people enter into circumstances of which they find God has already been at work out ahead, or to which the Spirit of Christ was leading them into new lands, awareness, and ever-expanding insight or understanding for how the love of Christ kept compelling them to live and serve.

In times like this, I find it a comfort to remember this. We go forward in life amid new challenges, via new mediums, with new discernments to consider, in a new era of life, and in uncertainty of what will be the full outcomes. Yet, we do so in the hope and truth of God’s Spirit being ahead of us in whatever we will encounter. This does not mean it will be easy, but it means God is sticking with us. God is faithful. And we may press on, striving toward the ways we see God leading us to be a witness of reconciliation and grace.

Gracious God, we give thanks that you are always ahead of us.  Amen to that.

-Pastor Ruud

August 19 - Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

Ascribe to the Lord by Rosephanye Powell
Performed by the Cathedral Choir on October 27, 2019

One of the qualities I appreciate about musicians is their collaborative nature. It doesn’t take very long for a performing musician to learn that creating music is the ultimate team sport! Every singer knows they are only as good as the collaborative pianist who is creating the music with them. The same can be said for an instrumentalist in a section who relies on the other players of the ensemble to work together to create the sound that is necessary for the piece. Musicians’ brains are wired in a manner that helps them adjust quickly and often requires them to change how they play, what they play, and even when they play. I suspect this quality of flexibility comes from the creative nature that is a large part of a musician’s makeup. And this is where the story below begins…

Ascribe to the Lord, one of Rosephanye Powell’s most popular compositions, has been a standard for Cathedral Choir for many years. It is fun to sing because of the rhythmic energy and drive. Based on Psalm 29:1-4, the anthem has the voices repeat the text: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders.” Underneath in the accompaniment is the quick repetition of Middle C which creates a wonderful musical tension right before the voices explode in unison with “The voice of the Lord is powerful – the voice of the Lord is majestic!”

After hearing the choir sing the anthem on a Sunday morning, Bob Adney, the percussionist with the brass quartet that morning, mentioned how the piece seems to lend itself to a marimba accompaniment, and the rest is history. Bob, who is a music educator, percussionist, timpanist, and artist at MacPhail Center for Music has been a familiar face for Mount Olivet members for many years. Mr. Adney has played with virtually every musical organization in the area and is a favorite musician of Mount Olivet’s music staff.

Sit back and enjoy this unique and creative collaboration between Mr. Adney and the Cathedral Choir!

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship & Music

August 17 - A Devotion

If you’re anything like me, your inner beings aren’t feeling too strong these days. Life is just plain tough right now. I am missing the little (and big) customs and rituals that gave me joy, that gave me momentary relief from the daily chores. I miss trips to the gym, lunch with a friend at our regular spot, and chats with you in the narthex before and after worship. Without those pleasurable interruptions to the ordinary, it can feel like life just moves with plodding steps through one more sink full of dishes, one more trip around the house with the vacuum, one more hour spent trying to keep the kids occupied at home. (How many times am I going to have to answer in character when one of my kids calls me Hagrid or Darth Vader?)

For years, this prayer for power from Ephesians has been an important reminder to me that the Holy Spirit remains among us, and generously shares God’s blessings with us. This Spirit gives us life. It sustains us when the world drains us. It reminds us that the very breath in our lungs is a divine gift, and teaches our hearts to be grateful even when we grow weary.

Even better the Spirit of God maintains and increases faith. But what good is faith when my will to play make-believe has been utterly depleted and I can’t bear to attempt Hagrid’s West Country British accent for even one more syllable? Faith reminds me that I am God’s beloved child even when I’m having a Bad Dad moment for one thing. Faith teaches me to lift my eyes up, to look beyond myself, beyond the burdens of the day or even a season like the one we’re living through, and keep in my sights the hope and promise of God’s kingdom. And faith encourages me and empowers me to do what I can to make that kingdom real for those around me.

So, I utter the Ephesians prayer for you now, trusting that the Spirit will strengthen you and keep you in faith. May these blessings sustain you from day to day and empower you to be a blessing to others.

-Pastor Dixon

August 12 - Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

This is My Father’s World by Mary MacDonald
Performed by the Senior Choir on October 7, 2018, featuring Claire Loudon, violin.

Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858 -1901), a well-known minister and writer of the 19th century, is the author of the lyrics for this beloved hymn. The story behind the text is that Babcock took frequent walks along the Niagara bluffs overlooking the sights of upstate New York and Lake Ontario and would tell his wife that he was, “going out to see the Father’s world.” Upon his premature death in 1901, Babcock’s wife published a collection of his poems entitled Thoughts for Every-Day Living and included the poem “My Father’s World.”

Franklin L. Sheppard (1852-1930), a friend of Babcock, arranged the text by adapting music from a traditional English melody. The new tune, TERRA BEATA/PATRIS, translates to “blessed earth” in Latin. The original poem was written as sixteen stanzas of four lines each. When sung as a hymn, Babcock’s poem usually is condensed to three to six verses, each with eight lines.

The anthem arrangement by Mary MacDonald is a fresh setting of the hymn that enhances the beauty of the tune and the text with a rich piano accompaniment performed by Ric Owen, and a lovely violin obbligato, played here by MOSOM instructor, Claire Loudon, violin.

Many Mount Olivet members who are familiar with Cathedral of the Pines will recognize this hymn tune as it is sung every day at morning chapel.

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship & Music

August 10 - A Devotion

“For surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” -Jeremiah 29:11

My heart aches driving past all our local stores and restaurants these days. Shuttered or limping along, trying with every ounce of their courage and strength, they continue moving forward despite overwhelming odds. Just when they were counting on spring shoppers and summer diners to get them back into the black, the unimaginable happens and boom! All these small business owners’ blood, sweat, and tears seem for naught.

I feel their pain because I’ve been there. My sister-in-law Mari and I signed the lease to open our bakery “a la mode!” desserts in the Mall of America on Sept 10, 2001, the day before the twin towers fell.

Our lease required us to stay open all day, every day, even though the mall was empty. So every single day I’d go in at 6 am and spend hours pouring key lime mousse cheesecake batter into graham cracker crusts, rolling out raspberry white chocolate scones, folding pecans into cinnamon streusel coffee cake, and tossing fresh berries with sugar for strawberry rhubarb crisp. I’d brew big batches of hot coffee, turn on the music, open the gates, and then wait.

And wait. And wait some more.

16 hours later I’d drag myself home knowing we were yet further in debt. It was soul-draining.

There wasn’t a single thing I could do about the attacks on the Twin Towers, nor a single thing I could do to get folks to come to a place they feared wasn’t safe. Nor a single thing these owners can do about a pandemic.

I wish we had known then about the Jeremiah text. You see, God did have plans for both Mari and me. We finally threw in the towel a year and half later, defeated. Little did we know then, that God had a future with hope planned just for us, waiting just around the corner!

Dear Lord, please be with all the small business owners. Shine your light into their hearts, give them strength to hold on tight. And if it’s time to let go, help them see that letting go isn’t defeat, but rather choosing to open the door to a future so bright they have yet to even imagine. A future filled with hope. Amen.

-Pastor Hammersten

August 7 - Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

Praise to the Lord the Almighty arranged by Howard Helvey
Performed by Dr. Richard Owen and Miriam Jensen on May 12, 2019

With Sunday serving as a Centennial Sunday celebrating and featuring the Mount Olivet School of Music, it seems only appropriate to feature the work of two Mount Olivet musicians who have spent their entire careers teaching and performing inspirational music for the church – Miriam Jensen, organist, pianist, accompanist, MOSOM teacher and Dr. Richard Owen, Principal organist, pianist, accompanist, and composer/arranger.

The hymn, Praise to the Lord the Almighty, is one of the most familiar hymns of praise in the majority of church hymnals. The text is loosely based on Psalm 103:1-6 and Psalm 150. Psalm 150, ends with, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” The German composer Joachim Neander with translations by Catherine Winkworth provides us with the words to do just that.

Psalm 103
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

This arrangement of Praise to the Lord the Almighty, tune name LOBE DEN HERREN, is written by Howard Helvey as a duet for one piano, four-hands. Mr. Helvey is widely published as a composer and has hundreds of compositions and arrangements held by numerous publishing houses. As a pianist, Mr. Helvey collaborated 1997-2012 with distinguished artist Richard Steinbach in concerts and recordings of four-hand and two-piano literature and toured throughout the United States and Europe. As in this arrangement, his well-crafted compositions are often rhythmic, energized, and exciting!

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

August 5 - Midweek Worship Service

MIDWEEK WORSHIP SERVICE – WORDS OF HOPE

Our beloved Summer Midweek worship services return this week! Each Wednesday one of our pastors will share a brief message that includes a scripture passage centered on hope. How do we find hope these days? Understand hope? Share hope? Today’s message from Pastor MacLean is below. Please enjoy.

PDF of Bulletin

Nature Talk – August 5

Learn all about the garden at the retreat center and what fruits and vegetables you will enjoy during your next visit. Dan the Nature Man (and gardener extraordinaire) shares some gardening tips too!

August 3 - A Devotion

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.– Galatians 6:2

The early Christian church lived in a time with many competing values, voices, and questions about the way forward, much like the time we are in. Despite the anxieties and uncertainties surrounding them, Paul’s message was consistent and clear – love God and love neighbor.

Six years ago, my family and I participated in a bike ride across Iowa called the RAGBRAI. We rode a bike train consisting of a tandem bike, a tag-along, and a bike trailer. My husband and I, along with our kids (aged 5 and 2), each had a seat on this train. The temperature was over 90 degrees, and the humidity was off the charts. It was challenging, especially the long, gradual hills. There were times you just wanted to give up. I remember one hill in particular when a fellow cyclist rode up right next to me and put his arm around my waist. He told me his name, where he lived, what he did for a living, and finally, answered my biggest unvoiced question, “Why was he biking so close?”

He said, “These hills are hard, and I’ve been helped along hills many times in my years of cycling. I’ll get you to the top of this hill, and then I’ll let you go.”

Despite my initial trepidation, he turned my concerns on end and showed me what bearing another’s burden looks like. He noticed our need and gave us the lift we needed to power us to top of the hill.

There is no doubt that these days have been challenging. And when things get tough, it’s easy to lose heart and focus on our discomforts. Paul continually reminds us that Christ’s spirit is different. When things seem too hard to handle, God draws us out of ourselves and turns us to our neighbor, so that God’s kingdom is known “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Loving God, you accompany us on life’s journey. Help us to accompany one another in the same way, bearing burdens and sharing hope. Amen.  

-Pastor Freeman

 

July 31 - A Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

The Ground from Sunrise Mass by Ola Gjeilo
Sung by the Senior Choir on November 24, 2018

Ola Gjeilo, composer and pianist, was born in Norway in 1978, and moved to the United States in 2001. Gjeilo’s writing style is often described as cinematic with lush harmonies and beautiful melodic lines. As an improvisatory pianist, his writing often features the piano as a distinctive voice in his choral works.

The Ground is the final movement of a larger work, Sunrise Mass, set for strings and choir. The entire mass is sung in Latin yet each movement is titled in English: The Spheres (Kyrie); II. Sunrise (Gloria); III. The City (Credo); IV. Identity & The Ground (Sanctus). As a descriptor for the compositional style used in this work, the composer states, “I wanted the musical development of the work to evolve from the most transparent and spacey, to something completely earthy and grounded; from nebulous and pristine to more emotional and dramatic, and eventually warm and solid – as a metaphor for human development from child to adult, or as a spiritual journey.” 

This anthem is an example of how simply listening and experiencing the work will be far more meaningful than any written analysis.
I invite you to take a moment, read the translation of the text, listen to the music, and allow it to speak to you.

Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Grant us peace.

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

July 29 - Midweek Worship Service

MIDWEEK WORSHIP SERVICE – WORDS OF HOPE

Our beloved Summer Midweek worship services return this week! Each Wednesday one of our pastors will share a brief message that includes a scripture passage centered on hope. How do we find hope these days? Understand hope? Share hope? Today’s message from Pastor Hammersten is below. Please enjoy.

PDF of Bulletin

Nature Talk – July 29

Did you know the retreat center is home to more than 25 species of mammals? In this video, Dan the Nature Man shares facts about animals you might spot during your next visit.

July 27 - A Devotion

One of the scribes came near… and asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” –Mark 12:28-31

It seems odd that when Jesus is asked which is the first, or greatest, commandment (singular), he responds by offering two. The first is that we are to love God. The second is that we are to love our neighbor. Then Jesus says “there is no other commandment (again, singular!) than these.” Which maybe means that Jesus doesn’t imagine these are two separate commandments after all, but that they belong together. That is, I think Jesus is saying you actually can’t love God apart from loving your neighbor.

John puts it this way, “Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). The Apostle Paul says much the same, “All the commandments” – that is, everything God wants us to do – “is summed up in one word: ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9).

We’ve had to make some difficult decisions this spring and summer at Mount Olivet: suspending worship, not inviting campers to COP, cancelling some of our favorite programs and activities, and more. While I grieve these losses, I do not regret making these decisions, because in each case it was our attempt to love our neighbor as best we can. When it comes to these decisions and other precautionary measures – whether in regard to suspending in-person worship or wearing face masks – some folks have protested they are being denied their rights. But for the followers of Jesus, claiming one’s own rights has always taken a back seat to love of neighbor and self-sacrifice. This is the ethic that has guided us thus far and will continue to be our standard, for while more hard decisions are surely ahead, our Lord’s call and commandment remains the same.

-Pastor Lose

July 24 - A Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

Make Me An Instrument of Thy Peace Mary MacDonald
Sung by the Senior Choir on November 25, 2018

The anthem, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace, was first introduced to Mount Olivet Church by Weston Noble. Noble, the conductor of the Nordic Choir of Luther College from 1948 to 2005, had been invited to Mount Olivet as a guest clinician in the late 90’s and it was then that he introduced the Senior choir to this beautiful anthem by Mary McDonald. Since that time, it has been a favorite selection for both the choir and the congregation.

Although the text is often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, the work cannot be found in his writings and is only traced back as far as 1912 to a religious magazine published in France. The Peace Prayer, as it is widely known, is a petition to God to help us put the needs of others first and to live in the peace and joy that comes from that choice.

Watching Weston Noble work with the choir musically and sharing his insight into the text was an unforgettable experience. His manner, his voice, his kindness, even his conducting gesture was a reflection of the core message of love and peace that is found in the text. Whether singing or listening, may we strive to be people of faith who continue to pray this prayer and live this text.

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

July 22 - Midweek Worship Service

MIDWEEK WORSHIP SERVICE – WORDS OF HOPE

Our beloved Summer Midweek worship services return this week! Each Wednesday one of our pastors will share a brief message that includes a scripture passage centered on hope. How do we find hope these days? Understand hope? Share hope? Today’s message from Rev. Dr. Theresa Latini is below. Please enjoy.

PDF of Bulletin

Nature Talk – July 22

Dan the Nature Man is back to show some of his favorite varieties of Hydrangeas and shares why they would make the perfect addition to your at-home garden beds.

 

July 20 - A Devotion

God will cover you with his wings, and under those wings you will find refuge. –Psalm 91:4

We’re now in what’s often called “the dog days of summer.” While we associate that term with the unrelenting heat and humidity of late July and August, the ancient world associated it with draught, plague, and ill fortune. Given the kind of summer we’re having – with pandemic, economic woes, and social injustice and unrest – that ancient description suddenly doesn’t seem exaggerated at all!

Perhaps it’s for this very reason that so many of us head north for a respite. If you are able to do that, blessings for a time away that leaves you refreshed and renewed. Others have recognized that doing something – almost anything – to address the challenges of the day can also be restorative in that it reminds us we are not victims but can exercise a degree of agency. In this case, taking time to collect and bring items to donate to one of our Greet and Give Donation Drives (held each Monday at both campuses, 3-6pm) or some other activity might help.

In addition to retreating and working, a third means by which we may not simply weather the dog days but flourish amid them is to be immersed in God’s promises. Psalm 91, the inspiration for a variety of Christian hymns and imagery, was addressed to Israelites feeling oppressed by circumstances and opponents and therefore greatly in need of a word of encouragement. In this beloved Psalm, God promises presence, protection, refuge and renewal. As you read the words below, imagine them addressed personally to you so that you, in turn, can reach out in love to someone else in need of encouragement.

You who abide in the shadow of the Almighty will say to the Lord, “You are my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” God will deliver you from the snare of the hunter and from deadly pestilence. God will cover you with his wings and under those wings you will find refuge. God’s faithfulness will be your shield, so that you will not fear the terror of the night or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday (Psalm 91:3-6).

Blessings to you for renewed energy, commitment, and hope during these summer days!

-Pastor Lose

July 17 - A Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

O Love    Elaine Hagenberg
Senior Choir – October 14, 2018

The anthem O Love by composer Elaine Hagenberg is a new musical setting of one of the most loved hymns of the late nineteenth century. The hymn O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go was written by Albert Peace (1844-1912), a gifted composer and organist who began his professional musical career at the age of nine as the organist for his local parish.

While the tune, St. Margaret, may be familiar to many, the story of the text is worth mentioning. The author, George Matheson (1842-1906), was born in Glasgow, Scotland. As a child, he was visually impaired and became completely blind as a young man. When it was determined that his sight would never return, his fiancee canceled their wedding as she did not want to be responsible for a blind husband. With the help of his sister, Matheson moved on past his heartbreak and graduated from Seminary with high honors. He eventually became one of Scotland’s renowned preachers drawing large crowds to his events. His sister, who helped him throughout his entire adult life, learned Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in order to assist with his study of theology. In addition, she became his co-worker in helping him in his pastoral duties. O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go was written on the evening of Matheson’s sister’s wedding. He was now 40, and his sister’s marriage brought a heartbreaking reminder of his earlier lost relationship as well as the upcoming loss of his sister’s companionship. It was in the midst of this circumstance and sadness that Matheson wrote the text.

“My hymn was composed in the manse of Innellan on the evening of June 6th, 1882. I was at the time alone. It was the day of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression rather of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles;  this one came like a day spring from on high. I have never been able to gain once more the same fervor in verse.”

Elaine Hagenberg chose two of the four stanzas of the text for her anthem setting.

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thy ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Joy that seeks me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

The composer states that her composition utilizes, “hopeful ascending lines” that “represent renewed faith” while the “lingering dissonances remind us of past heartache.”  Through it all, “the beautiful promise remains: “morn shall tearless be.”

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. -Psalm 13:5

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

July 15 - Midweek Worship Service

MIDWEEK WORSHIP SERVICE – WORDS OF HOPE

Our beloved Summer Midweek worship services return this week! Each Wednesday one of our pastors will share a brief message that includes a scripture passage centered on hope. How do we find hope these days? Understand hope? Share hope? Today’s message from Pastor Ruud is below. Please enjoy.

View PDF Bulletin

Those who attend Midweeks always love learning nature tidbits during a Nature Talk with Site Naturalist Dan Kahl. This year, as we bring Midweek Worship to you each week, we also bring you a recorded Nature Talk.

Nature Talk – July 15

Dan the Nature Man is here to show you some changes in the landscape of Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center over the years. Learn about the growth of the marsh, the restoration of the prairie, and the evolution of some of the amenities enjoyed by guests.

July 13 - A Devotion

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. –Philippians 4:11-13

In the office of one of my kids’ favorite teachers was the following quotation:

Take care with your thoughts, because they become your words.
Take care with your words, because they become your actions.
Take care with your actions, because they become your habits.
Take care with your habits, because they become your character.
Take care with your character, because it becomes your destiny.

I think the Apostle Paul would agree. Which is why he is urging his beloved congregation to focus on what is positive and best in the world rather than what is negative and worst. That’s still good advice, as what we focus on and think about influences our words, actions, habits, character and, eventually, shapes our whole life.

That can be hard these days, as the headlines – and for that reason many of our conversations – seem to gravitate to the negative. And, make no mistake, there is much that is challenging, even corrosive, in the world today, and much that needs attention. But, at the same time, the very presence of so much adversity and injustice creates countless opportunities to practice something different, to chart an alternate course, to put to positive work the ability to shape our destiny along the lines God would have it by taking care with our thoughts.

So over and over again today – at least a thousand times, I would wager – you will have a chance to focus on the positive or negative, that which is honorable or offensive, something that is praiseworthy or lamentable, an example of beauty or ugliness. And each choice you make, like an incoming wave lapping on the beach, will slowly but surely shape the shoreline of your life.

Yes, this can feel like a tall order. But you can begin today, even now, by focusing on something true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. It’s there, waiting for your attention, and you will feel God’s presence more strongly each time you try.

-Pastor Lose

July 10 - A Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

God Be in My Head    John Rutter

Senior Choir – January 19, 2020

The words from the anthem God Be in My Head are from the Sarum Primer, a collection of prayers and worship resources originally dating back to the 13th century. Developed and established in Salisbury, England, “Sarum” is the abbreviation for “Sarisburium”, the Latin word for Salisbury. The collection, published in 1514, became prevalent throughout most of England, Wales, and Ireland, and was used until the Reformation. The Sarum Primer had a great influence on the current Anglican forms of worship as found in the Book of Common Prayer.

This particular setting by John Rutter is an example of the composer’s beautiful and effective writing style. His sensitive attention to the nuances of speech and the text create a beautiful setting of these ancient words. The text is reflected both harmonically and through the musical sculpting of the words and phrases. The prayer is a call to God for God’s presence, and as a result of God’s presence, to be changed. It is a prayer that is still as urgent and comforting now as it was five-hundred years ago.

God be in my head and in my understanding.
God be in my mine eyes and in my looking.
God be in my mouth and in my speaking.
God be in my heart and in my thinking,
God be at mine end and at my departing.
PRIMER, 1527

Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

July 8 - Midweek Worship Service

MIDWEEK WORSHIP SERVICE – WORDS OF HOPE

Our beloved Summer Midweek worship services return this week! Each Wednesday one of our pastors will share a brief message that includes a scripture passage centered on hope. How do we find hope these days? Understand hope? Share hope? Today’s message from Pastor Freeman is below. Please enjoy.

View PDF Bulletin

Those who attend Midweeks always love learning nature tidbits during a Nature Talk with Site Naturalist Dan Kahl. This year, as we bring Midweek Worship to you each week, we also bring you a recorded Nature Talk.

Nature Talk – July 8

Take a tour of the perennial garden beds at Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center. ‘Dan the Nature Man’ is here to tell you about low-maintenance perennials that are great options for your next at-home gardening project.

July 6 - A Devotion

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:12-14

This is one of my favorite passages from the Apostle Paul because it expresses both a realistic assessment of how challenging the Christian life can be as well as a hopeful, even gritty resolve that we will not simply persevere, but eventually flourish when we attempt to respond to God’s call. Paul knows he has not yet “arrived” (and likely won’t in this life), but he does not give up, trusting that the One who called him to service will bring all his efforts to a good end.

Right now, our communities are facing enormous challenges contending with a global pandemic, tremendous economic stress, and significant social unrest amid a quest for greater racial equity. In each of these areas, we are trying to respond. For several months, we have moved our worship and programming to a digital format and have created new resources, and you can find them at our Together @ Mount Olivet webpage. Grateful for the faithful generosity of our members, we are also responding to the needs of our members and the larger community, particularly through our ongoing Community Meals and donation drives. And aware of our potential to work for greater racial equity, we are launching Mount Olivet Committed to Advancing Racial Equity (CAREs), a webpage where you can learn more about racial justice, ways to combat racism, and efforts to help Mount Olivet be a place of hope, help, and healing.

As with Paul, I have no illusion that this effort means we have “arrived,” let alone that our work is completed. It is just a beginning, but it is a beginning. The site will be updated regularly, as together we “strain forward to what lies ahead” to respond to God’s heavenly call, trusting the One who both articulates a vision of justice and equips us to respond.

-Pastor Lose

July 3 - A Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

My Help Cometh from the Lord – Jackie Gouche Farris

Based on Psalm 121

Recording from February 16, 2020 – Cathedral and Senior Choir, West Campus

For many years, Mount Olivet has invited Robert Robinson as a vocal guest to sing for worship with both our Cathedral and Senior Choirs. The experience has always provided a wonderful morning of singing, clapping, learning about different vocal production, and expanding our comfort level as a choir as, generally, Robert likes us to put our music away and “just sing from your heart!”

This year, it was wonderful to learn My Help Cometh from the Lord, made famous by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, and based on Psalm 121. Psalm 121 is one of the fifteen Psalms (Ps. 120-133) known as the Songs of Ascents. It is believed among scholars that these Psalms were sung by worshipers who were traveling to Jerusalem for festivals or ascending the steps of the temple. Psalm 121 is a request for God to be with them as they travel, to protect them “from all evil,” and to “neither slumber nor sleep.”

The text is known to many of our choir members as it serves as a favorite scripture for Cathedral of the Pines Camp. Because of that familiarity, many of the singers were able to memorize the piece quickly. It is a thrilling experience as a singer to perform from memory and to create music with artists like Robert Robinson and his incredible pianist, Sam Reeves. In listening and in singing we are reminded that our help does indeed come from the God who is our keeper.

I will lift up mine eyes to the hills
From whence cometh my help
My help cometh from the Lord,
The Lord which made heaven and earth

He said, He would not suffer thy foot,
Thy foot to be moved
The Lord that keepeth thee,
He will not slumber nor sleep

Oh the Lord is thy keeper the Lord is thy shade
Upon thy right hand, upon thy right hand
No the sun shall not smite thee by day,
Nor the moon by night
He shall preserve thy soul, even forevermore
My help, my help, my help,
All of my help cometh from the Lord

As you listen to this song, may the promise of God’s abiding care and providence lift your spirits and remind you that you are never alone.

Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

July 1 - Midweek Worship Service

MIDWEEK WORSHIP SERVICE – WORDS OF HOPE

Our beloved Summer Midweek worship services return this week! Each Wednesday one of our pastors will share a brief message that includes a scripture passage centered on hope. How do we find hope these days? Understand hope? Share hope? Today’s message from Pastor Kalland is below. Please enjoy.

View PDF Bulletin

 

 

Those who attend Midweeks always love learning nature tidbits during a Nature Talk with Site Naturalist Dan Kahl. This year, as we bring Midweek Worship to you each week, we also bring you a recorded Nature Talk.

Nature Talk – July 1

Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center joins in the effort to bring back bluebirds for future generations. In this nature talk, Site Naturalist Dan Kahl shares information about the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota and the different types of bluebird boxes in use at the retreat center.

June 29 - A Devotion

“What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

These words from the prophet Micah are simultaneously inspiring and daunting. They offer a beautiful vision of God’s desire for us: that we would treat each other fairly and with kindness and not think too highly of ourselves. But although stated simply, living into this vision can be quite difficult.

But that’s what makes it a vision of the life God wants for us, not merely a description. The prophet is calling God’s people – then and now – to something more than they are currently are. The prophet’s words will always be just beyond our reach, but for this very reason they call us forward, guiding us to be more than we would otherwise. We will not live into them perfectly, but we can never cease striving to reach that goal.

As we celebrate the independence of our country this coming weekend, I am mindful that we similarly speak of the “American dream” rather than the “American reality.” Our cultural heritage also offers a vision toward which we strive. In a letter written to a Jewish Synagogue in 1790, George Washington shares his hope that the new nation would offer the world an enlarged moral vision:

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It’s important to remember that Washington, a slave owner to his death, failed to live into his own dream. Yet he nevertheless managed to offer eloquent testimony to a country where bigotry and persecution would find no refuge and tolerance would not be the exception but the norm. Far from perfect, he never stopped striving.

As Christians and Americans, this remains our call: to hear God’s word and strive to meet it, not deterred by failings minor or major, but straining forward to be the people God has already called us to be.

-Pastor Lose, Senior Pastor

June 26 - A Musical Devotion

MUSICAL DEVOTION

Dan Forrest is one of the most prolific composers and arrangers of sacred choral music today and a favorite of the choirs of Mount Olivet Church. Forrest composes for a wide variety of ensembles, from professional choirs and orchestra to smaller church choirs. He attributes his skill in writing beautiful melodic lines for voices and instruments to Alice Parker and James Barnes, two American composers with whom he studied and who greatly influenced his writing. His works are known not only for the beauty of the melody but for sensitivity to speech rhythms, both of which assist in giving a deeper meaning of the text.

 

The Music of Living is a joyful choral anthem that incorporates a spirited piano accompaniment and a text that overflows with an optimism for life:

Giver of life Creator of all that is lovely,

Teach me to sing the words to your song.

I want to feel the music of living;

And not fear the sad songs But from them make new songs

Composed of both laughter and tears.

Giver of life, Creator of all that is lovely, Teach me to dance to the sounds of your world.

I want to move in rhythm with your plan.

Help me to follow your leading

To risk even falling To rise and keep trying, For you are leading the dance.

Giver of life, Creator of all that is lovely,

Teach me to sing the words to your song.

 

In 2018 Forrest was commissioned by Mount Olivet to write a choral and brass anthem based on Psalm 121. The manuscript had just been received this spring and the choirs had only begun to work on the piece before rehearsals were canceled due to the pandemic.

Forrest views his musical work as an outgrowth of his Christian faith and just recently he published the statement below which speaks with great conviction and hope to choir musicians and directors who are feeling the great loss of music and singing. May it serve as a creed of action and hope for all of us.

First, what can we say about the racial injustices, violence, and unrest in the U.S. right now? So many voices are saying so many things; but at the very least, we lament racial injustice with you, we long for justice to roll down like waters, and for Christians to lead the way in listening, repenting, doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. We encourage you, as church musicians, to look for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus in your community and spheres of influence, and to shine the light of Christ’s peace, love, and hope.

Second, we all feel the difficulties and pain of the pandemic, sickness and death, social distancing, and, in particular for us, a lack of choral-music making right now. The very thing that most encourages and comforts us through the unrest of all sorts is silent right now. But take heart, and know that choirs will sing again. Choral singing has endured for thousands of years, and the treasure of singing together is too valuable to let slip away. This is a fermata – a pause — but not a final barline on choral music-making. When choirs start singing again, it will be from a deeper place, musically, personally, emotionally, and spiritually.

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Music and Worship

June 24 - Midweek Worship Service

MIDWEEK WORSHIP SERVICE – WORDS OF HOPE

Our beloved Summer Midweek worship services return this week! Each Wednesday one of our pastors will share a brief message that includes a scripture passage centered on hope. How do we find hope these days? Understand hope? Share hope? Today’s message from Pastor Dixon is below. Please enjoy.

View PDF Bulletin

Those who attend Midweeks always love learning nature tidbits during a Nature Talk with Site Naturalist Dan Kahl. This year, as we bring Midweek Worship to you each week, we also bring you a recorded Nature Talk.

Nature Talk – June 24

The Retreat Center is proud to be a registered Monarch Waystation – a place that provides milkweeds and nectar sources to help assure the preservation of monarchs and the continuation of the spectacular monarch migration phenomenon. Learn about the monarch’s life cycle and how you can make your own Monarch Waystation. Join us in the effort to create, conserve and protect monarch habitats!

June 22 - A Devotion

“I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.” –Luke 6:47-48

From the beloved hymn “How Firm a Foundation” to the Sunday School Song, “The Wise Man Builds His House Upon a Rock,” these words of Jesus are among the better known of his sayings. One of our members recently shared with me a devotion on this passage from Pastor Reuben Youngdahl, published in 1951. His words struck me as insightful, inspiring, and still so deeply relevant, and I wanted to share them with you to remind us of the inheritance and opportunity we have as the Mount Olivet family of faith.

Of what shall we build the walls in our house of life? The one toward the north should be of love – warm and strong against the cold, sharp winds of hate. On the opposite side, let us build a wall of understanding that may include all people regardless of color, or faith, or social station. To the east, let us erect a wall of faith which looks toward the sunrise and believes that the new day holds possibilities the like of which were never known before. On the west, we shall want a wall of hope that will spring eternal even though facing the setting sun.

We want windows to give us vision of the needs about us so that we may be of service to [all]. We would do well to have a window toward the sea to remind us of friends and children of God throughout the whole world. We would want a window in which we might set a lamp to show the way to someone who may be groping in darkness…. Let us never forget that in the house we build today we shall live tomorrow.

These are words which still guide the ministry, witness, and outreach of Mount Olivet, words that remind us both of the firm foundation we have in Christ and of the mission entrusted to us to work for the equality and dignity of all. As Martin Luther would say, this is most certainly true!

-Pastor Lose

June 19 - A Musical Devotion

Set Me As A Seal  Rene Clausen – performed by the Senior Choir on February 1, 2020

The text of this anthem comes from Song of Solomon 8:6. The entire book of Song of Solomon is a poetic story of love, love between a shepherd hero and a Shulammite maiden. Most interpreters agree that the book is a story of love and marriage in the ancient world, but later Church leaders also saw in it a metaphor for the love that Christ has for the church, and how in both life and death Christ will forever hold us.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm.
For love is strong as death,

Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm.
For love is strong as death.

The composer, Rene Clausen, has publicly shared his very personal story about the writing of this composition. His wife, who had endured three consecutive miscarriages was happily 6 1/2 months pregnant. Because she was nearing the age of 40, the doctor ordered an amniocentesis to make sure the baby was still thriving. Tragically the needle was placed incorrectly and the baby died instantly during the procedure. In his grief, he went home from the hospital and wrote Set Me as a Seal. He shares, “It was all done in just about 20 minutes. I just sat down and wrote it. And that is about the only time I have ever had that cleansing. I think for me this music became cleansing. In the last line, for love is strong as death, I really meant, for love to seek to overflow the boundary between life and death.”

May listening to this anthem remind all of us that during times of grief and struggle nothing will overwhelm love, especially the love that Christ has for each one of us.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8

-Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

June 17 - Midweek Worship Service

MIDWEEK WORSHIP SERVICE – WORDS OF HOPE

Our beloved Summer Midweek worship services return this week! Each Wednesday one of our pastors will share a brief message that includes a scripture passage centered on hope. How do we find hope these days? Understand hope? Share hope? Today’s message from Pastor Lose is below. Please enjoy.

View PDF bulletin

 

Those who attend Midweeks always love learning nature tidbits during a Nature Talk with Site Naturalist Dan Kahl. This year, as we bring Midweek Worship to you each week, we also bring you a recorded Nature Talk.

This week, learn about the natural landscape of the retreat center – the forests, the marsh, and the prairie – and view beautiful footage of this place of peace and tranquility. It truly is a “Geography of Grace.”

 

June 15 - A Devotion

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Early in his ministry, the Apostle Paul founded a church in the city of Corinth, an important trading city in the ancient world. After living with them and preaching the Gospel for about two years, Paul moved on, as was his pattern, to other cities to share the good news of Jesus.

In his absence, the churches he planted continued to grow, sometimes thriving and sometimes having difficulties. The letters we have from Paul in our New Testament were his way of offering leadership, guidance, and encouragement from a distance. Of all the churches Paul founded, the one in Corinth needed the most attention. In particular, this church struggled with the problem of factions – groups that aligned themselves with one particular group, cultural movement, or charismatic leader to the expense of all others.

In response, Paul stresses unity. Describing the church as “the body of Christ,” Paul argues that just as the body is made up of many diverse parts and needs them all to function well, so also congregations have all different kinds of gifts and passions and commitments and needs them all to flourish. The key, according to Paul, was to recognize that all these gifts a) come from God and b) were given to strengthen the common good.

In that respect, little has changed over 2000 years. While we may not have the same struggles Paul’s congregation in Corinth did, we certainly have our own. We also have a variety of gifts and possibilities, and we may also at times be tempted to say one dimension of our ministry is more important than others. If we are to face the challenges in front of us, however, we also need to heed Paul’s call to unity, recognizing that God has blessed us with all kinds of people, experiences, and gifts so that, guided by the Spirit, we may use them for the common good – the common good of Mount Olivet and the common good of the communities we serve.

Pastor Lose

June 12 - A Musical Devotion

Après un rêve, by Gabriel Fauré performed during the Time of Reflection on All Saints Day worship, November 3, 2019 by Jesse Nummelin, cello and Rie Tanaka, piano

Gabriel Fauré, (1845–1924) one of the most influential French composers of his generation, is also regarded as one of the masters of the French art song or mélodie. Après un rêve was originally written for the voice, but for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel in 2018, the young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason demonstrated his talent and the beauty of the piece by playing it as a cello solo. Some find the cello to be the stringed instrument that most accurately reflects the timbre of the human voice, which makes the transposition between the two instruments work so beautifully.

Jesse Nummelin and Rie Tanaka are both instructors for the Mount Olivet School of Music. Their individual and collaborative artistry, as well as their sensitivity to the refined and beautiful melody of Fauré’s work, help to take the listener to a place of peace and rest. For many, music not only expresses our feelings but often serves as a balm for the weary, a respite for the downtrodden and, perhaps especially today, offers a glimmer of a tomorrow filled with hope and love for all.

Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

June 10 - Mount Olivet Unplugged

We continue our series of videos with Mount Olivet leaders called “Mount Olivet Unplugged.” This is a time to be ourselves, share our thoughts about the life of faith we share, and encourage you in your spiritual walk. Pastor MacLean talks about relationships. Enjoy the video and know that Mount Olivet is praying with you and for you!

June 8 - A Devotion

Breath. It’s one of the central terms in the biblical stories of creation. At the beginning of Genesis, it says that “the breath and spirit of God hovered over the waters” (1:2). Similarly, God brings Adam into being by breathing into him the very “breath of life” (2:7).

Breath. It’s one of those things that is both crucial and easy to take for granted. But in recent days, that’s been harder to do. One of the major symptoms and outcomes of COVID-19 is shortness of breath. And among George Floyd’s dying words were, “I can’t breathe!”

Breath. In both the biblical accounts and our own lives, it is synonymous with life. To breathe is to live, to run out of breath is death. So what do we do when we realize that many in our community have been short of breath, short of life, for far too long?

Another story in Genesis voices what is all too often my response. Shortly after God breathes life into humanity, Cain murders his brother Abel, literally taking away his breath. When God asks Cain where Abel is, he replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (4:9). I am tempted to ask the same thing when I see problems that don’t directly affect me and for which I don’t feel responsible. Or when I worry that the solution to such problems may impinge upon things I’ve taken for granted or believe I’ve earned. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is an understandable, but also seductive, answer because it assumes distance, rather than closeness, between me and others.

According to the Bible, however, we are each other’s keepers because we share the same breath. Because we are all beloved children of the same God. Because Jesus came for all, died for all, and was raised for all. Yes, I am called to be the keeper and caretaker of my brother and sister. I bear responsibility for their breath.

In the coming days, weeks, and months, we have an opportunity to ask how we at Mount Olivet can be caretakers for those in our community who are short of breath. Our answers may differ, but our commitment must be the same, unified by the same Spirit, wind, and breath that hovered over creation and, later, gave birth to the Church at Pentecost. Together, we can help everyone breathe a little easier.

-Pastor Lose

Community Resources

Below you will find updated lists of ways you can get involved in helping with the healing and restoration of our communities. Some are sponsored by Mount Olivet; others come from partner churches; still others stem from other institutions of good will. Each invites us to consider how we can live into the discomfort with equal measures of faith and confidence so that we might be a part of the new life that God is bringing.

All Congregation Greet-and-Give Donation Drive, with Youth Grades 7-8 and their families volunteering – Mondays at both campuses, 3-6pm. 7-8th graders and their families interested in volunteering, please email Kate Belschner, Jr. High Coordinator.

*Now weekly at both campuses!

*New time! 3-6pm

Additional donations must be NEW and are limited to these critically needed supplies:

  • Non-perishable food items
  • Travel-size personal hygiene items
  • Adult underwear – all sizes
  • Children’s diapers – all sizes
  • 2-4 person tents
  • Tarps (8ft x 10ft)

Grab and Go Community Meal – now on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:15pm, Mpls Campus.

Congregational Partners

Several of our local Lutheran congregational partners are in the heart of the city and continue to provide essential items and care to all residents in need. Click below to access up-to-date information on their requests and events:

Other Local Institutions

The following are resource pages that are regularly updated with information on volunteer and donation needs, as well as locations to receive assistance, through other civic partners:

June 5 - A Musical Devotion

I Choose Love, by Mark Miller. Sung by the Cathedral Choir on Sunday, November 10, 2019, featuring soloist Charlie Graff.

I had discovered this piece earlier in the year and was eager to schedule it as I knew the message would resonate with this choir of young minds.

The anthem was written in response to the Charleston Church Massacre, which took place at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. On that evening, a white supremacist joined the prayer group for a bible study, and then proceeded to shoot and kill nine members. The victims of that tragedy are now known as the Charleston Nine. And while most of us don’t know it, Lutherans have a painful connection to this tragedy. The shooter was a member of an ELCA congregation, and the Senior Pastor (and State Senator) of “Mother Emanuel,” the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, who was slain on that evening, received some of his training at an ELCA seminary.

Unfortunately, the list of African Americans and other persons of color who have been murdered since then continues to grow, with the latest example being George Floyd in our own city of Minneapolis. I share this anthem today in honor and memory of George Floyd, Sean Monterrosa, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, and the countless others who have died needlessly.

The song below, sung by an emerging generation of Mount Olivet members committed to making this world a better place, is both a lament and a call to action. May the words they sing, printed below, become ours as we continue to work and stand up for racial equality and peace.

 

-Dr. Beverly Claflin

 

In the midst of pain, I choose love.
In the midst of pain, sorrow falling down like rain,
I await the sun again, I choose love.

In the midst of war, I choose peace.
In the midst of war, hate and anger keeping score,
I will seek the good once more, I choose peace.

When my world falls down, I will rise.
When my world falls down, explanations can’t be found,
I will climb to holy ground, I will rise.

In the midst of pain, I choose love.
In the midst of pain, sorrow falling down like rain,
I await the sun again, I choose love.

June 3 - Mount Olivet Unplugged

What Can I Do?

“Few of us can do great things. But all of us can do small things with great love.” – Mother Theresa.

In this week’s Unplugged, Pastor Lose shares an update of Mount Olivet’s efforts to be a place of help, hope, and change and tries to answer the question he’s heard from members who want to help, but wonder if their efforts are too small to make a difference.

Below the video is a list of ways to get involved at Mount Olivet and beyond. This is just a beginning, and we are committed to providing updated opportunities and information as we rise to the challenges ahead of us with equal measures of faith, courage, and compassion.

All Congregation Greet-and-Give Donation Drive, with Youth Grades 7-8 and their Families volunteering – Mondays, 3-6pm, both campuses

Drop off canned goods and other non-perishable items that are in great need. This drive is supporting our ministry partners who need donations: Community Emergency Services (CES), Bountiful Baskets, Love, INC, Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People (VEAP), St. Stephen’s Human Services and Simpson Housing.

Additional donations must be NEW and are limited to these critically needed supplies:
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Travel-size personal hygiene items
  • Adult underwear – all sizes
  • Children’s diapers – all sizes
  • 2-4 person tents
  • Tarps (8ft x 10ft)

Grab and Go Community Meal – now on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:15pm, Mpls Campus

We have been providing more than 500 meals a week on Thursdays. Recognizing the need this indicates, and in light of the increased stress on households in recent weeks, we are expanding to Tuesdays! We have limited volunteer opportunities and also accept cash donations to support this vital effort.

Congregational Partners

Several of our local Lutheran congregational partners are in the heart of the city and continue to provide essential items and care to all residents in need. Click below to access up-to-date information on their requests and events:

Other Local Institutions

The following are resource pages that are regularly updated with information on volunteer and donation needs, as well as locations to receive assistance, through other civic partners:

June 1 - A Devotion

“Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

– 1 Corinthians 15:57

Paul is writing to Christians in the city of Corinth. They’ve been experiencing doubts, questions, and crises of different kinds, and Paul is trying to offer them leadership, comfort, and courage from a distance. He concludes his words of counsel and encouragement with the promise that in Jesus’ resurrection God has promised victory and redemption to all of God’s people and, indeed, the whole world.

But in light of the multiple crises we’re facing simultaneously – global pandemic, grief and anger over unjust killings, tremendous job loss, and a deeply polarized culture – I know that any talk about resurrection and victory can ring hollow. Concepts like “resurrection” and “heaven” have too often been held out as a future reward and can feel like oh so much “pie in the sky by and by.”

But that’s not what Paul is talking about. Rather, Paul believes that Christ’s resurrection demonstrates that God’s love is stronger than hate, violence, injustice and even death itself and therefore impacts all of our life, labor, and action now. Because God raised Jesus from the dead and promises resurrection to all, that is, we can risk our time and even our lives on things that matter today. Because God promises to redeem all things, we can focus on the immediate needs around us. Because God promises to bring all things to a good end, we don’t need to be daunted by setbacks or failures. Because of the resurrection, we do not lose hope, because setback, failure, and disappointment, as with hate, injustice, and death, do not have the last word.

The promise of resurrection is not a future reward, but a present-tense call to action. A call to speak, act, try, risk, labor, and love right now, knowing that we may fall short, we may make mistakes, we may not live up to our ideals. Yet God will still bless and use all of our efforts and, in the end, bring all things to redemption. In light of these promises, I will close as Paul does: “Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that, in the Lord, your labor is not in vain!” (15:58).

Pastor Lose

Mount Olivet June Messenger

The Mount Olivet Messenger is a monthly publication that includes worship information, devotions from a Mount Olivet Pastor, information about Mount Olivet Ministries and more

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May 30 - Pastoral Message from Pastor Lose, Senior Pastor

Part of our life and responsibility as Christians involves, as we say during every baptism, “to proclaim Christ though word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.” Because we take these promises seriously, Pastor Lose has recorded a pastoral message for the congregation of Mount Olivet in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing unrest.

May 29 - A Musical Devotion

Abide with Me, by John Cornish. Sung by the Senior Choir on All Saints Sunday, November 3, 2019.

 

 

The anthem Abide with Me by the composer John Cornish uses the well-known text of Henry Francis Lyte (1793 – 1847), an Anglican priest, hymn writer, and poet. According to tradition, Lyte wrote the text while at the bedside of a dying friend, offering a fervent prayer requesting God’s presence at one of the darkest times of life. The work became one of Lyte’s most famous poems.

The hymn was originally set in eight verses, yet in most hymnals, and in this anthem, only five are used. The singers are praying for God’s presence throughout all of life, through hardships, and through death. In this anthem, the composer sets the familiar text to an original melody. John Cornish’s use of long, arching choral lines and sweeping pianistic writing in the accompaniment moves the listener to a vision of the promised eternal home. As the music gathers momentum, the composer adds a soaring descant as the singers echo the bold assertion of faith the Apostle Paul frames as an audacious, even mocking question to death itself in 1 Corinthians: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (15:55).

The anthem requires an exceptional pianist with sensitive playing and accompanying skills. Dr. Richard Owen without a doubt meets that requirement! In many ways, the voices and the piano are equal partners in this anthem, both covering a wide range of emotions and offering careful interpretation of a powerful theme.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

In these days, when so much seems uncertain, and when the specter of death seems at times omnipresent, this anthem helps us give voice to our prayer and petition that God would, indeed, abide with us through all things. I hope as you listen you experience God’s eagerness to answer our prayers.

Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Music and Worship

May 27 - Mount Olivet Unplugged

We continue our series of videos with Mount Olivet leaders called “Mount Olivet Unplugged.” This is a time to be ourselves, share our thoughts about the life of faith we share, and encourage you in your spiritual walk. Pastor Kalland talks about his favorite Bible story. Enjoy the video and know that Mount Olivet is praying with you and for you!

May 25 - A Devotion

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The Apostle Paul packs a lot into these very short verses. So slow down with me for a moment, and take note of the Apostle’s words.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. The moment you slow down, you realize that this can feel like a tall order. How do we, for instance, rejoice in the middle of a pandemic, when so many lives have been turned upside down? Who has time to pray constantly? And for what shall we give thanks when so many are suffering?

But perhaps the key is to avoid the temptation to turn the Apostle’s message into a set of instructions or recipe for faithfulness. What if, instead, these three activities are interwoven, various notes in the same melody, three parts of one whole?

If that is the case, then perhaps the invitation Paul offers is simply to be attentive to God’s presence and work among us. When we notice God at work in our lives – whether in the kind act we received or were permitted to do, or the unexpected text or call that made our day – we can indeed rejoice. When we feel the absence of God keenly, that is a time we might pray… for God’s help, for hope, for a sense of God’s abiding presence. When we are renewed in faith and able to encourage others, we can again give thanks.

Not three commands, it turns out, but rather a dynamic movement between rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks once more. Try it. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in your life!

A few weeks ago, I encouraged us to pause at noon each day and offer a prayer for those who are suffering because of the pandemic, for those who are caring for them, and for all who struggle to keep hopeful in an uncertain time. Since then, we have begun having the bells at Mount Olivet ring at noon as both a call to prayer and a reminder that many, many people are praying. So whether or not you live near enough to hear them, know that today and every day at noon we will sound the bells inviting us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks!

Pastor Lose

May 22 - A Musical Devotion

No Other Plea, arranged Robert Berglund, text written by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt under the pseudonym of Lidie H. Edmunds (1851-1920).

The hymn “No Other Plea” sets a very simple and clear confession of faith to an equally simple and beautiful Norwegian folk tune, sometimes called a Norse air. Its straightforward and lilting melody offers the ideal vehicle for the concise statement of belief that is meant to stir the heart and quicken the faith of those who sing it:

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

The piece is a four-verse, strophic hymn with a recurring refrain. The refrain, in particular, is perhaps familiar to some long-time members, as it was a favorite anthem of Pastor Paul Youngdahl and was sung frequently during worship services over the years. Fittingly, it was also sung for Pastor Youngdahl’s funeral services in 2011.

This particular recording is sung by the Mount Olivet Senior Choir, and recorded on the album God’s Son Has Set Me Free (1977), under the direction of Dr. Robert Berglund. Dr. Berglund was the Minister of Music for Mount Olivet from 1969 – 1995.

As you listen to his hymn, take a moment to give thanks for all those in the faith who have come before us and witnessed to the Gospel of Christ, as we believe today because of these past witnesses.

Dr. Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship and Music

May 20 - Mount Olivet Unplugged

We continue our series of videos with Mount Olivet leaders called “Mount Olivet Unplugged.” This is a time to be ourselves, share our thoughts about the life of faith we share, and encourage you in your spiritual walk. Pastor Ruud talks about why he loves scripture. Enjoy the video and know that Mount Olivet is praying with you and for you!

May 18 - A Devotion

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you.” Philippians 1:3-4

I love how the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the congregation he started in the city of Philippi. Significantly, Paul wrote this letter from prison, and there is little doubt he was greatly encouraged in his struggles by remembering and voicing his gratitude for all the blessings he had received in and through this church.

Recent research has testified to the power of gratitude. From strengthening our immune systems and helping us sleep better to creating more energy and providing a greater sense of connection, gratitude has been linked to an incredible number of positive outcomes. Research suggests two reasons for this. First, during periods of hardship, it’s easy to think there is no other reality than the difficult one we are experiencing in the moment. Articulating our gratitude helps us put present challenges in a broader context and avoid a negative “tunnel vision.” Second, voicing our gratitude connects us powerfully with others, reminding us that we are not alone but joined deeply and meaningfully to others.

We are at a fragile time in our struggle against the coronavirus, as we move from the crisis-response of the first few weeks to recognizing that we are in this for the long-haul. Even as we move to returning to more normal life, we are also realizing that the new normal will be quite different from what we experienced even a few short months ago. It is at just this point that we may lose confidence or be tempted to despair. One way to bolster our spirits and renew our sense of hope is by naming our gratitude, counting our blessings, and remembering all that is good in life.

So what can you give thanks for today? And whom can you thank? Whether by text, phone call, email, or letter, you have an opportunity to name your blessings, be renewed in confidence, and bolster the spirits of another. As you do so, know that I, like Paul, “thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you!”

Pastor Lose

May 15 - A Musical Devotion

Be Thou My Vision, adapted and arranged by Dan Forrest, and sung by the Mount Olivet Senior Choir, recorded on September 22, 2019.

“Be Thou My Vision” is a beloved hymn with Irish origins for both its texts and tune. At Mount Olivet, this hymn has been a standard in the music library for both the Cathedral Choir (version by Alice Parker) and Senior Choir (versions by John Leavitt and Dan Forrest, to name a few). The simple beauty of the tune and the richness and relatability to the text makes this anthem one that we like to program and sing at least once each year.

In a time when our focus is pulled in so many different ways, this text serves as a prayer asking God to center us back to focusing on the love and grace embodied by our Lord and to lead us forward through the challenges of the day by setting our vision on our Lord, both day and night, asleep and awake.

Be Thou My Vision of Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me save that thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping thy presence my light

When discussing the text as we rehearse as a choir, I always find the third verse particularly meaningful. Living in a culture that often seems to strive for material wealth and the approval of others for affirmation and self-worth, this prayer helps us keep our focus not on worldly things, but rather on the riches of a committed relationship with God.

Riches I heed not nor vain empty Praise.
Thou my inheritance now and always.
Thou and thou only, first in my heart
High King of heaven my treasure thou art.

Wherever you may be and whatever you may be facing on this particular day, as you listen to this beautiful hymn and prayer, may you find yourself more deeply rooted in the confidence of God’s love and re-oriented to God’s presence in your life.

Beverly Claflin, Director of Worship & Music

May 13 - Mount Olivet Unplugged

We continue our series of videos with Mount Olivet leaders called “Mount Olivet Unplugged.” This is a time to be ourselves, share our thoughts about the life of faith we share, and encourage you in your spiritual walk. Pastor Freeman talks about why church is so important. Enjoy the video and know that Mount Olivet is praying with you and for you!

May 11 - A Devotion

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The Apostle Paul was writing to a church that was afraid. People in their community were dying. They didn’t think that would happen. They thought Jesus would return and rescue them from death. When that didn’t happen, they grew frightened. In his letter to this early Christian community, Paul reminds them that it is not always easy to detect God at work in the world and that we do not know when and how Jesus will return. He then says that in the midst of this kind of uncertainty, their job is to encourage one another and, in this way, to build each other up.

The word “encourage,” means, quite literally, to share, give, and instill courage in another. When we are young, we may have thought that courage means not being afraid. As we grew older, we realized that’s impossible, and that a better definition of courage is the ability to do your duty – or, even better, to do what’s right – when you are afraid.

But it goes even deeper. At the root of “courage” is the Latin word cor, which means “heart.” One of the earliest definitions of courage was to live out of, and speak from, the heart. Which means that Paul’s advice to encourage one another is an invitation to share your heart. To speak truly and freely. To listen carefully and be present. To approach those around you with an open heart and to live whole-heartedly.

Paul’s counsel has never been more important. We, too, are living in a time of fear, a time when people are dying that we did not expect to lose. Consequently, we are finding it hard to detect God’s presence. And our job is to share our hearts with each other. To open ourselves to the fear and hope, the sorrows and joys, of those around us.

That is something we can do. That is something you can do. Now, even. Take a moment and text someone a word of encouragement. Or pick up the phone to call someone who is struggling. Or write an email. Or go “old-school” and send a note. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. In their lives. In yours. We were made for this: to open our hearts, to share our courage, to build each other up in the faith.

Pastor Lose

May 8 - A Musical Devotion

I Believe by Mark A. Miller
Sung by the Cathedral Choir, soloist Megan Richards, (graduating Senior at Henry Sibley High School)

 

I first heard Mark Miller’s “I believe” when my mother-in-law sent a recording of it to me. It was performed by the choir at the first church I served, St. John’s Lutheran in Summit, NJ, and the soloists were two my nieces. So I was eager to listen, but then blown away by how haunting the music was and how poignant the words. I mentioned it in passing to Dr. Beverly Claflin. She, with characteristic enthusiasm for new works of music, went out and found it, invited our Cathedral Choir to rehearse it, and they eventually sang it as a Sunday anthem. Since then, it has become a favorite among our choir.

I think its great appeal – for me, for our Director of Worship and Music, for our Cathedral Choir members… and I hope for you – is that it feels real. It acknowledges the real challenges of life, challenges that can shake your faith. Challenges that can make it feel like the sun won’t shine, that the promises we hear at Church are just words, and that the God we confess is at the very least absent and perhaps not there at all. Yes, it is real.

But also resilient. The song testifies that faith finds a way. Finds a way to continue despite an absence of “evidence” we might wish to see. Finds a way to encourage us to keep going even when the path is dark. Finds a way to bolster our courage and confidence just when those things are most necessary. And from that resilience comes hope.

The lyrics are simple, in some ways stark, and altogether beautiful:
I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when God is silent.

There were written by Jews hiding from the Nazis in the basement of a building in Cologne, Germany, during World War II. As the composer Mark Miller has said, referring to those who scrawled these words of resilient, even defiant faith, on the walls of the cellar: “These words of faith in the midst of incredible sorrow were sustaining for them as they were being persecuted, surrounded by hate, and with their own lives at stake. And they really spoke to me, because I also wanted to believe in love, even when hate is all around. I think it’s a real creed for our day. We might not agree on a whole lot of things, but I want us to believe in love, even when hate seems to be all around.”

Wherever you may be this day – confident or fearful, feeling supported or isolated, optimistic or anxious – may the words and music of this song remind you that faith always finds a way, for the One in whom we believe endured fear, loneliness, persecution, and even death… and prevailed.

Pastor Lose

May 6 - Mount Olivet Unplugged

We continue our series of videos with Mount Olivet leaders called “Mount Olivet Unplugged.” This is a time to be ourselves, share our thoughts about the life of faith we share, and encourage you in your spiritual walk. Pastor Hammersten talks about how important it is to remember that you are loved, and are a beloved, forgiven, child of God. Enjoy the video and know that Mount Olivet is praying with you and for you!

May 4 - A Devotion "Hope @ Mount Olivet"

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

There is a memorable scene from the film The Shawshank Redemption that has been coming to my mind of late. It involves two convicts, two men forced into a level of isolation beyond what most of us can imagine. Andy, played by Tim Robbins, is explaining to some of the other inmates why he was willing to spend a week in solitary confinement for breaking into the warden’s office to listen to a recording of Mozart. Music, he said, reminds you of life beyond the walls of the prison. Music reminds you of who you are. And music, most especially, gives you hope. At this point, Red, played by Morgan Freeman, tells Andy to be wary of hope. “Hope,” he says, “is a dangerous thing.” Dangerous because it can disappoint. Dangerous because it can set you up for heartache. But Andy won’t be deterred, insisting that, without hope, there is no life.

Most of us have experienced both of these truths: Hope can feel dangerous, yet hope is also essential. The Bible verse we chose for Mount Olivet’s Centennial celebration is rooted in God’s promise to give us a future with hope. It was written to Israelites experiencing exile and isolation 2500 years ago, and it speaks just as clearly to those who are feeling isolated and exiled today. When we chose this verse, we had no idea of the coming pandemic; no idea that we would not be able to gather together in-person for worship and fellowship; no idea the toll this virus would take on our nation and world physically, emotionally, and economically. Yet is has become one of my “go-to” verses these past months, reminding me of God’s promise of hope.

Yes, hope is dangerous. Yes, it is also essential. I’ve also learned of late that hope is always shared. It is difficult, that is, to remain hopeful alone, yet when we share it, it quickly grows. For this reason, a few weeks ago I asked our staff to name places where they find hope, and the following video shares their responses. I hope that, as you watch it, you are reminded of the hope we share in Christ, a hope that does not disappoint.

Pastor Lose

May 1 - A Musical Devotion

Robert Robinson and Mount Olivet Senior Choir singing Jehovah Jireh

Mount Olivet has had a long relationship with singer, Robert Robinson. Robert has worked with our choirs and shared his faith story for many years. This week’s musical devotion is a recording of Robert singing the Gospel song Jehovah Jireh with our Senior Choir this past February.

“Jehovah” is one of the primary names for God in the Old Testament and in Jewish tradition. “Jireh” is a verb in Hebrew that means “to provide.” When combined, this phrase means “God will provide” and is the name Abraham gave to the place where God intervened to save Isaac from sacrifice and provided a ram in his place. Interestingly, this same verb can be translated as “to see,” and so the phrase can also be used, as Hagar does in Genesis 16, “The God who sees me.”

As you listen to this recording, we pray that you may realize that God sees you and promises to provide for you and all of us, a promise that is good to hear any day, but perhaps especially during these challenging days.

Blessings for confidence, patience, and peace to you in the name of Jesus, the one who reminds us most powerfully that God sees us, loves us, and provides for us.

April 29 - Mount Olivet Unplugged

We continue our series of videos with Mount Olivet leaders called “Mount Olivet Unplugged.” This is a time to be ourselves, share our thoughts about the life of faith we share, and encourage you in your spiritual walk. Pastor Dixon talks about faith as a deep trust, something he illustrates through the relationship he has with his children. Enjoy the video and know that Mount Olivet is praying with you and for you!

 

April 27 - A Devotion

I am convinced 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. – Romans 8:38-39

We’re at a tough point in our struggle with the coronavirus. In Minnesota, our efforts to social distance and stay-at-home have pushed the peak of the COVID-19 back to mid-summer. That, in turn, has given our health care professionals additional time to prepare for that peak as well as spread the curve out.

That’s all to the good. The downside, however, is that it means we’ll be living with restrictions longer and it will take a lot more time than we probably imagined to regain even a semblance of our previous lives back. Moreover, the economic and psychological toll is mounting. Which means that our patience is wearing thin. Most of us, truth be told, had no idea we’d be in it for this long to begin with, and now we’re realizing we may be at it for so, so much longer.

Which is why I thought of Paul’s words of encouragement to the Christians living in Rome. He begins this section of his letter by making a rather bold assertion: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Then he goes on to list a variety of things that might separate us from God’s love – hardship, famine, peril, violence. He then concludes with the powerful affirmation in verses 38 and 39 printed above. What I love about Paul’s list is that it’s so expansive. Height, depth, present, past, angels, rulers, even death and life. Absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love. It’s not that some of these things aren’t hard, even really hard. Just that they can’t separate us from God.

Paul’s expansive list invites us to add some of our own challenges in order to be reminded of God’s promise to be both with us and for us forever. So as you adjust to this “new normal,” perhaps read with me, “For I am convinced that neither pandemic, nor illness, nor loss of employment, nor isolation, nor loneliness, nor lacking a sanctuary, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Amen.

Pastor Lose
Senior Pastor

April 24 - A Musical Devotion

Mount Olivet Senior Choir singing How Great Thou Art

Today’s musical selection is a hymn beloved by many at Mount Olivet and, indeed, around the world. Composed by Swedish Pastor, member of Parliament, and poet Carl Boberg, “How Great Thou Art” is one of the better-known hymns of the Church. Boberg’s inspiration came from the experience of being caught in a thunderstorm while traveling the southeastern coast of Sweden. Immediately after the tempest and violence of the storm subsided, Boberg was struck by just how beautiful were the rays of sunshine bursting through the clouds and the songs of birds in the air. Indeed, Boberg fell to his knees in awe and knew he had to compose a poem to give voice to the wonder and gratitude he felt. Not long afterward, his poem was set to a Swedish folk song and was subsequently translated into numerous languages. Billy Graham, counted as a friend by Pastor Reuben Youngdahl, picked up this hymn as one of the theme songs of his crusades, and it is still today sung in congregations around the world, though I suspect it is loved most by those congregation with a Swedish heritage like Mount Olivet.

This particular recording is from the Mount Olivet Senior Choir of 1968 with Edith Norberg as conductor. Enjoy this morning’s musical devotion and allow it to root you once again in confidence that the God who created heaven and earth, the God who still sustains and rules the vast cosmos, and the God who raised Jesus from death will continue to guide us, comfort us, and sustain us through this present crisis.

April 22 - Mount Olivet Unplugged

We continue our series of videos with Mount Olivet leaders called “Mount Olivet Unplugged.” This is a time to be ourselves, share our thoughts about the life of faith we share, and encourage you in your spiritual walk! Growing up Pastor Freeman learned to pray aloud with her family. Prayer has always been Pastor Freeman’s “go to” and a way to feel God’s complete love and grace. Enjoy the video and know that Mount Olivet is praying with you and for you!

 

April 20 - A Devotion

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” –John 20:18

Nothing had changed. Yet everything had changed. For the disciples after the resurrection, I mean.

Think about it. After Jesus appears to them, they are still in Jerusalem, still surrounded by those hostile to them, still living in fear for their very lives. At the same time, their Lord, whom they had seen crucified, was alive. Which meant that death was no longer so fearful, that anything was possible, that light and life and love were stronger than darkness and death and hate.

Nothing had changed, yet everything had changed. I think that captures the life of faith as well. Faith doesn’t take away disappointment, disease, fear, or loss. Yet knowing we are loved by God, and trusting that God’s love is stronger than all things – even the disappointment, disease, fear and loss with which we are contending – changes everything. Faith doesn’t take away the challenges and hardships of this life, but it does transform them, puts them in a larger context, and reminds us that even the most significant challenges are only moments in time, only single episodes in the larger story of God’s triumphant love.

Think of it this way: After D-Day, when the Allied forces successfully landed on the beaches at Normandy, there were still eleven months of warfare, sacrifice, and loss before victory. Nothing about the situation of the soldiers had changed. Yet because of the success of D-Day, the eventual victory of the Allies over Nazism was all but assured. Which meant that those soldiers still fighting, still sacrificing, and still dying did so knowing it was part of a larger and victorious cause. Nothing had changed; yet everything had changed.

We have difficult days ahead of us. This virus has not been contained and hospitalizations and deaths have not yet peaked. We continue to suspend in-person worship and gatherings and practice social distancing out of concern for our neighbor. Yet we know God’s love is powerful enough to redeem all things and that, in the end, all will be well. Nothing has changed. Yet everything has changed. And so, dear Mount Olivet family, we go forward… in faith!

Pastor Lose
Senior Pastor

April 19 - Sunday Worship

Welcome – Pastor David Lose, Senior Pastor

Liturgist – Pastor Rebecca Freeman

Preaching Pastor – Pastor Mark Dixon

 

 

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April 17 - A Musical Devotion

Senior Choir Singing “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord”

Our musical devotion this Friday is a recording of our Senior Choir singing a choral arrangement of the African American Spiritual “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord.” It was arranged by Moses Hogan, one of the foremost choral composers of the second-half of the twentieth century who was particularly well known for his arrangement of Spirituals. His major life work, “The Oxford Book of Spirituals,” is one of the definitive guides to this important genre of Christian music.

While the words of the song may call to mind the Gospel stories of Jesus walking on the water to meet the disciples and his stilling of the storm that threatened to overwhelm their boat, the major biblical reference of this spiritual comes from the Letter to the Hebrews: “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). While we don’t know a lot about the background of this letter, it seems apparent that it was addressed to a first-century Christian community that was experiencing divisions internally and persecution externally. In the midst of these trials, the author reminds this early community of believers that God did not promise to remove their challenges, but that their hope and faith were as strong and reliable as anchor and would be sufficient to see them through their difficulties.

Through the centuries, a ship’s anchor has proved to be an important metaphor for our life in the church and for the power of faith. As you listen to this beautiful arrangement, remember God’s promise to hold onto you always, to anchor you in faith and hope, and to not let you be overwhelmed by the tempests and challenges of the day.

April 15 - Mount Olivet Unplugged

Welcome to the first of a series of videos with Mount Olivet leaders called “Mount Olivet Unplugged”! We’re hoping to use this space and time to, well, just be ourselves, share our thoughts about the life of faith we share, and encourage you in your spiritual walk. These videos are not meant to be polished, perfect, or overly profound. But then again, we believe in a God who doesn’t demand we are polished, perfect, or overly profound either! Enjoy, let us know what you think, and know that we are praying with you and for you.

April 13 - A Devotion

This story was written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. – John 20:30-31

Now what?

That’s more or less the Easter question.

 

Each of the four Gospels ends with the story of Jesus’ resurrection. Except that while the story may close, they don’t really end, as each one invites the reader to further action.

Mark invites readers to take up where the women at the empty tomb left off and share the news that Jesus is not there. Luke shares Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit and his charge to his disciples to be his witnesses. Matthew records Jesus’ commission to proclaim the gospel to the whole world and his promise to be with them to the ends of the earth. And John reminds his readers that the whole point of this story is to help them believe in Jesus so they might find hope and life in and through him. So while the Gospels end, the story they tell continues.

Which is why the quintessential Easter question is: “Now what?” How will we live now that we know death cannot defeat us? How will we treat others now that we’ve seen God’s great love for us and all the world? What will we now try, attempt, dare knowing that the Risen Christ is with us?

I think this is our question as a congregation in light of the pandemic as well. While we don’t know how long we will live with restrictions, until there is a vaccine we may not be able to get back to our normal routines, including gathering in large numbers. So… now what?

We will, at the very least, continue our Sunday online services. We will continue offering additional faith resources three times a week. We will continue caring for our neighbors through our community meal. We will continue reaching out via phone calls, text, Zoom and other means. And we will, I know, come up with other creative ways to stay connected with each other, share our faith, and love our neighbor.

Now what? This can be a frightening question in light of the unknowns ahead of us. But rooted in the Easter promise of resurrection, it can also be an exciting question. For Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

Pastor Lose
Senior Pastor

April 12 - Easter Sunday Worship

Welcome & Sermon – Pastor David Lose, Senior Pastor

Associate Pastors
Kurt P. Kalland
Monica M. Hammersten
William B. MacLean
Charlie R. Ruud
Mark J. Dixon
Rebecca C. Freeman

 

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April 11 - Holy Saturday Devotion

Holy Saturday: Time of Waiting, Time of Longing

Most of us are familiar with the rhythm of Holy Week. Starting with the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday, continuing to the intimacy of the Lord’s Supper and the agony of Good Friday, and concluding with the triumph of Easter morning, we know the pattern of this week well. But amid all our services and reflections, we often forget Saturday, the day in between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Indeed, in my experience, we give it next to no thought whatsoever, and yet I think it is an important day in its own right.

Yes, we can imagine, even if insufficiently, the horror Jesus’ disciples experienced as they witnessed the torture and execution of their Lord. We can ponder their own self-doubt and personal despair as they find themselves not rushing to his defense but keeping a safe distance, abandoning him along with all their convictions. Similarly, the brass and orchestra and brave singing of our favorite Easter hymns attempt to create for us a sense of the surprise, wonder, and joy upon hearing the good news that death could not hold Jesus.

Yes, we can try to attempt to imagine the ultimate low of Good Friday and the commensurately glorious high of Easter. But it’s Saturday that speaks to me just now, the day in between, the day of dull numbness after the events of the previous twenty-four hours, the day when there is no hint that the pain and fear of the moment will ever abate. What did the disciples do? How did they comfort each other? Did they even try? Or might they have stumbled through that Sabbath completely oblivious to what was going on around them, fearful of a suddenly and frighteningly unknown future, and as yet unable to even imagine putting the pieces of their lives back together?

I think this day is important because the dull ache of pain and the stubborn wrench of deep longing that will likely never be satisfied is perhaps a more regular experience than the agony of Good Friday or the joy of Easter. When you lose a loved one, when your marriage implodes, when you fail to conceive, when your dream job evaporates, when you receive a devastating diagnosis, when your livelihood disappears, when…. Each of us has likely gone through moments of tremendous disappointment and so we know firsthand that, often, the true low point of those experiences is likely not the actual and concrete event, when the sheer shock of the catastrophe effectively mutes our feelings and offers odd shelter. No, the hardest days are usually the ones that come afterward. Days after the funeral, when the calls and visits stop. Weeks after the divorce, miscarriage, or loss of employment, when sympathetic friends no longer check in. The time in between the diagnosis and treatment, when there is absolutely nothing you can do.

These are the experiences that Holy Saturday speaks to, for they are the experiences of Jesus’ disciples ahead of Easter, struggling through the absolute uncertainty of what their future might possibly hold that is worth living for.

This Holy Saturday, that seems particularly to be the case, not simply in our community but across our nation and globe. We have adjusted to the immediate changes and restrictions required by the global pandemic, but live in the uncertainty of having no idea when life will return to normal, wondering what “normal” may even look like. We do not know how long we will shelter-in-place, how long we will suspend gathering in large numbers, but I suspect it will be longer than most of us imagined. And that leaves a dreadful and cold pit in my stomach. Until there is a vaccine, we cannot assure our safety and are at constant risk and cannot even imagine a future absent our current and constant anxiety. We, too, live in a time of waiting and longing.

Which is why it’s important, I think, to remember this day. Because while the disciples stumbled through their routines – and while we try to carry on with our lives – God is neither absent nor inactive. Indeed, God was preparing to raise Jesus from the dead and provide the turning point of all history, fashioning a new and open future that none on that Saturday could imagine. Perhaps at this time, when so many of us will likely encounter what feels like an ominous virus-induced quiet, we might remember the promise of Holy Saturday that, contrary to our experience of expectation, God is not finished yet. We might recall that, indeed, God’s favorite thing to do is to show up where we least expect God to be and to surprise those who have given up on God and so can no longer imagine what redemption and blessing and grace feel like.

Blessed Holy Saturday, then, as we take heart and encourage one another on this in-between day that simultaneously captures the painful rhythm of our lives just now as well as promises that God is still at work, eager to surprise and redeem us and the whole creation.

Pastor Lose
Senior Pastor

April 10 - Good Friday Worship

All four Gospels contain short statements that Jesus utters while hanging on the cross, combined these statements are known as the Seven Last Words of Christ. This Good Friday we will hear those words in succession followed by a reflection from our Mount Olivet Pastors.

April 10 - A Musical Devotion

Cathedral Choir Singing My Song In The Night

My Song in the Night is a hauntingly beautiful melody which speaks to Jesus as the comfort – the song – that is provided to us in the darkness and loneliness of the night.

It is a favorite anthem of the Cathedral Choir not only because of the beautifully written vocal lines, which make it wonderful to sing, but also because it speaks so poignantly to the feeling of separation from God, wandering “an alien from Thee” and “crying in the desert” searching for God. Who of us have not felt that sadness and anguish, particularly in these challenging times?

But the final phrases return to the opening lines professing the promise of Jesus being our “song in the night” and the true one that provides “comfort and joy to our souls’ delight” even in the darkest of times.

—Dr. Beverly Claflin

Here are the words, so you can follow along if you’d like, and let them encourage you at this time:

O Jesus, my Savior, my song in the night

Come to us with Thy tender love, my souls’ delight,

Unto Thee O Lord in affliction I call,

My comfort by day and my song In the night.

O why should I wander an alien from Thee,

Or cry in the desert Thy face to see,

My comfort and joy, my souls’ delight,

O Jesus my Savior, my song in the night.

April 9 - Maundy Thursday

Love One Another Video

In the video below Mount Olivet Pastors share how we can, even amid a pandemic, obey Jesus’ command to “love one another.”

Living Lord’s Supper Video

In recent years, members of Mount Olivet have gathered on Maundy Thursday for the Living Lord’s Supper Service. Based on the famous daVinci painting of The Last Supper, the service begins with hearing the stories of each of the disciples and their relationship to Jesus, recreates the scene of the Last Supper, and concludes by sharing the often unknown stories of what happened to and through these disciples after Jesus’ resurrection. If you have participated in this worship service, you may enjoy watching a recording of last year’s service; if this tradition is new to you, you are invited to experience it for the first time.

April 8 - Seven Last Words of Christ Concert

Over the years, the seven last words of Jesus, as depicted in the gospels, have been set to music numerous times, giving poetic and dramatic expression to the agony and the glory captured in these scenes. The piece that is best known to the Mount Olivet community was written in 1867 by French composer, organist, and music teacher, François-Clément Théodore Dubois (1837 – 1924). It has been sung at Mount Olivet by current members and alumni of the Cathedral Choir for more than 60 years – which means that at any given performance there are three generations of Mount Olivet families singing! It has become an important part of our Holy Week services, as we pause to consider Jesus’ last words on the cross, what they meant to his earliest disciples, and what they still mean to us.

The story of the cross can be interpreted in many ways, but at this particular time, as we face staggering heartache and loss inflicted by the current pandemic, I find that what is most meaningful to me is the confession that God neither disdains nor avoids human suffering. Rather, in Jesus, God is joined to it – joined to us! – most fully. The cross reminds us that God stands in absolute solidarity with all of the human experience, including even suffering, loss, and death. Which in turn prepares us to hear in the Easter story the promise that suffering, loss, and death do not have the last word, and that God’s love and life are more powerful than violence, disease, and death. While I regret that we are not able to gather together to hear this familiar and haunting performance, I am grateful that we can share this rendition, recorded on April 17, 2019, and I pray that it reminds you of God’s great love for us and roots you in God’s promise to be with us always, even to the close of the age.

Pastor Lose
Senior Pastor

Click Here for Seven Last Words of Christ Online Bulletin

April 6 - A Devotion

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” –John 12:12-13.

Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover, and it was about noon. Pilate said to the crowd of Jews gathered there, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him.” –John 19:14-15a.

Crowds figure quite significantly in the story of Holy Week. The week starts out with Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. All four Gospels describe crowds of people thronging to see Jesus as he enters the city and receives the adulation of those who long for a Messiah. By the time we reach Good Friday, however, the Gospels are again united in their depiction of other crowds, likely made up of many of the same people, now calling for Jesus’ death.

There is a tremendous and poignant irony in reading about crowds while we are social distancing (a phrase which, just months ago, was unknown to us but now is part and parcel of our daily lives). The story of these crowds that unfolds this week reminds me of two important truths.

First, we are made for each other. From the first chapters of Genesis and God’s observation and edict that “it is not good for the human to be alone” (2:18) to St. Paul’s emphasis on the church as “the body of Christ” made up of a magnificently diverse set of members (1 Cor. 12:12ff.), Scripture testifies to the corporate, social nature of our lives. While we as a culture tend to idealize self-reliance and individualism, the stories of faith remind us that we find our identity, meaning, and purpose less through individual accomplishment and far more in and through our relationships with others.

That is part of our cultural story as well. It is, after all, “We the people,” not “I by myself” who “form a more perfect union.” Yet the coronavirus and our need to keep distance from each other has reminded us powerfully of how vitally interconnected we are. Similarly, while we have learned to continue connecting with each other as a congregation via the internet, social media, and digital worship, we still long for the day when we can actually see each other at church, hear our voices raised together in praise and thanksgiving, and gather together as the body of Christ in this place.

But the virus hasn’t simply taught us the importance of gathering together, it has also reminded us that we are united as much by our vulnerability as by our strength. This virus knows no bounds and strikes irrespective of age, race, economic status, faith, or nationality. While it may take an unfair toll on particular demographics, its specter looms over all of us, and if we are to flourish amid, and not merely survive, this pandemic, it will take a concerted and unified effort. For this reason, we keep apart for a time that we may gather again sooner. And it’s why I believe it’s not enough to affirm that “we will get through this,” but also and always add, “and we will get through it together.”

The second truth Holy Week calls to mind is the simultaneously glorious and tragic character of our life together. Crowds receive Jesus’ as God’s anointed Savior, and crowds call for his death when the salvation he offers isn’t what they imagined. In the story of Holy Week and its alternately faithful and fickle crowds, we find a picture of our own lives, at times marked by courage, fidelity, triumph and at others marred by betrayal, faithlessness, and disappointment.

Yet amid this hauntingly realistic portrayal of humanity, we find reason for hope. Because Jesus came for all – faithful and faithless, courageous and fearful, steadfast and fickle, admirable and disappointing. Jesus came for all. All of us. Every part of us. Each and every one of us. There are days when we might see ourselves among those who recognize and celebrate God’s Messiah and others when we identify with those who abandon him to an unjust fate. Yet wherever we are among the crowds, Jesus came for us.

I am not, as I’ve confessed before, one who believes God causes evil and suffering “for some greater good,” far less “to teach us a lesson.” But I do believe that the cross testifies powerfully that God is constantly at work, even amid calamity, heartache, and loss, for the good of those God loves (Rom. 8:28). And perhaps one of the painful “goods” that will emerge from this pandemic is the powerful and poignant reminder that we are interconnected and interdependent, that we were made for each other, that we cannot thrive by ourselves, that we each have a role to play in helping build the kind of community God desires, and that God in Jesus came for all of us because God in Jesus loves all of us.

May you be reminded, this Holy Week and always, that God has fashioned us for life together, equipped us with gifts to share that we might thrive together, and has promised to be with us and for us, now and always, together. Blessings to you, dear members of Mount Olivet Church and the Body of Christ, for we will get through this, and we will get through it together!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Lose

April 5 - Sunday Worship Palm Sunday

Welcome – Pastor David Lose, Senior Pastor

Liturgist – Pastor William MacLean

Preaching Pastor – Pastor Rebecca Freeman

Following the worship service is our Faith Alive program featuring Pastor Terry Morehouse.
Recorded in Serley Chapel. Currently, we have begun work on the windows over the altar at the main Mpls sanctuary ahead of schedule with the hope of having that work completed by the time we can come together to worship in person once again. The scaffolding for this project makes it difficult to record in the main sanctuary.

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April 3 - A Musical Devotion

Mount Olivet Cathedral Choir singing My Hiding Place

Today’s musical devotion is a favorite anthem of our Cathedral Choir. Composed by Tom Fettke, My Hiding Place combines the central elements of two Psalms. The Book of Psalms has often been called “the hymnbook of ancient Israel,” as many of the Psalms were regularly used in congregational worship. In this piece, the composer was inspired by Psalm 32:7, which reads “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance,” and Psalm 91, which begins, “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust’” (v.1-2).

The anthem revolves around the promise of God’s presence and protection, and so it’s not hard to understand why it might be a favorite of our high school choir, when so much in their lives – from friend groups to future plans – can feel like it’s changing every day. Given our present circumstances, this song may speak powerfully to all of us, and I hope that as you listen you find yourself anchored once again in God’s promise to be with us and for us forever.

One last note: our Cathedral Choir, composed of Mount Olivet youth in 9th through 12th grades, rehearses two and a half hours a week throughout the academic year and sings at two services at our Minneapolis Campus and one service at our West Campus each Sunday. Often involved in other fellowship and service projects at Mount Olivet, our Cathedral Choir members lift all of our spirits as they process into worship in their blue robes, and it’s a pleasure to hear them once again today offering this song of hope and promise.

April 1 - Midweek Lenten Service

Abide with me in relationships – Pastor Hammersten

The Gospel of John was written “so that we may come to believe.” (John 20:31) On this final Wednesday in Lent, we continue to more specifically and personally explore how Christ abides with us, based on the previous Sunday’s gospel readings. When in pain, when lost, when grieving, when serving, in our relationships, where does Christ abide? How do we abide in Him?

March 30 - A Devotion From Your Senior Pastor

We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

I’ll be honest, the idea of “boasting in our sufferings” does not come easily to me. Like most of us, I tend not simply to avoid suffering but, when I am suffering or even struggling, for that matter, I prefer to hide it. I suspect there are a number of reasons for that – not wanting to burden others (a good Midwestern value!), not wanting to admit even to myself that I’m struggling, not wanting to appear weak in a culture that defines strength in terms of power rather than vulnerability or suffering. Yes, lots of reasons.

But the Apostle Paul doesn’t seem to share any of them! Rather, he believes that suffering is part and parcel of our life in this world and that, when approached from the point of view of faith, can actually lead to growth in faith and confidence.

But – and this is super-important to notice – that does not mean Paul is advocating suffering for suffering’s sake or that he believes God intends for us to suffer. Far from it! Rather, Paul asserts that we worship a God who surprises us by showing up to meet us right in the midst of our vulnerability, pain, and suffering. This was a surprise to his first-century audience – and is likely surprising to his twenty-first century audience as well – because we tend to think about God in terms of strength and power and might, and so we assume that’s what God looks for in return.

Truth be told, that’s likely what Paul believed for much of his life also. That the best way to meet God was through spiritual discipline, or strict obedience to God’s laws, or by displaying the kind of faith that can move mountains. But when Paul – who began his career by persecuting the early Church! – is confronted by the crucified and risen Christ, all of his ideas about who God is and where we can expect to meet God are turned on their head. God’s messiah showing up as a convicted criminal? Put to death in the most awful of ways? Surrounded by two-thieves? Suffering as weak and pitiful a death as one can imagine? That thought simply astounded Paul and forced him to think about God differently.

God, it turns out, is not waiting until we become good enough, or strong enough, or righteous enough, to come to us. Rather, God comes to meet us in our weakness, struggles, and vulnerability in order to comfort us, strengthen us, and equip us to comfort and strengthen others.

Two brief “take-aways” related to Paul’s conviction in light of our circumstances.

First, if you are feeling anxious or stressed or frightened, not only are you not alone – this is a pretty normal set of responses to a pandemic! – but you are also not somehow falling short or failing others. Rather, you are being honest, facing what is difficult and being truthful about the dramatic and challenging nature of our circumstances. Brené Brown, one of my favorite researchers and authors, regularly confronts us with the fact that courage is not the absence of fear or vulnerability, but rather is the ability to persevere in the midst of fear and vulnerability. She has challenged more than 10,000 people in the various presentations she’s given to come up with a single example of courage that did not entail vulnerability… and to date, no one has been able to offer one. Similarly, Admiral James Stockdale, a Medal of Honor winner for valor during the Vietnam War – during which he was tortured more than twenty times while being held prisoner for seven years – once said, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever that may be.” So, dear people of Mount Olivet, we will confront the challenges and hardships of this pandemic together, welcoming the fears, concerns, tears, and more as honest expressions of both the vulnerability and solidarity we share.

Second, we’ll remind each other that God chooses to meet us precisely in our weakness and vulnerability so that we know that God always loves and accepts every part of us – even the parts we have a hard time accepting and loving. This, I think, is what Paul means by saying that suffering can lead to endurance, and endurance to character, and character to hope. Because when you realize God is with you and for you – that God is always on your side – then you find a way not simply to survive challenges but even persevere and flourish. Sometimes, in fact, it’s only when things are most difficult that we recognize God’s presence most powerfully. And so we, dear people of Mount Olivet, will continue to gather digitally in worship, continue to reach out to each other in the variety of ways possible, and continue to support each other in the confidence that, indeed, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

We will get through this. And we will get through it together. And when we do, we may be surprised that we have grown in our faith, confidence, and awareness of God’s abiding grace!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Lose
Senior Pastor

March 29 - Sunday Worship

Welcome – Pastor David Lose, Senior Pastor

Liturgist – Pastor Monica Hammersten

Preaching Pastor – Pastor David Lose, Senior Pastor

Following the worship service is our Faith Alive program featuring Pastor Terry Morehouse.

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Please consider making an online gift to support Mount Olivet Ministries. Thank you!

March 27 - A Musical Devotion

Senior Choir Section Leader & Choir Sunday School Teacher, Carah Hart, singing He’s Always Been Faithful

You may not know the name of Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960), a Methodist pastor, insurance salesman, and hymn writer, but you are likely familiar with his most famous hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” For this Friday’s musical reflection, we will listen to a less known but equally beautiful hymn by Chisholm, “He’s Always Been Faithful.” It is sung by Carah Hart, one of Mount Olivet’s Senior Choir section leaders and Choir Sunday School teachers.

As you listen, you’ll notice that this hymn is in many ways a “first cousin” to “Great is Thy Faithfulness” as it has similar themes. But the lyrics of this hymn make the promise of God’s faithfulness less a declaration and more of a personal confession. As you listen, you might take comfort that in midst of the chaos of this time, and even while sustaining the whole world and cosmos, yet God also has regard for each one of us. May it be a blessing to you this day and grant a measure of peace.

March 25 - Midweek Lenten Service

Abide with me in service – Pastor Dixon

The Gospel of John was written “so that we may come to believe.” (John 20:31) On Wednesdays in Lent, we continue to more specifically and personally explore how Christ abides with us, based on the previous Sunday’s gospel readings. When in pain, when lost, when grieving, when serving, in our relationships, where does Christ abide? How do we abide in Him?

March 23 - A Devotion From Your Senior Pastor

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” –John 14:27

Dear Family and Friends of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church,

I’ve always found this passage comforting but, truth be told, also a little challenging. The comfort is straightforward: Jesus is promising his disciples a measure of peace that transcends all the challenges they will face, peace that cannot be taken away from them, peace that will help them overcome the challenges and obstacles they face. Jesus says these words on the eve of his betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion. He knows that his disciples are about to face fearful challenges they cannot yet imagine, and so he promises them peace.

It was an important word then, and it’s an important word now. Because we, too, are suddenly facing fearful challenges that we had not imagined even a few short weeks ago. And so Jesus’ promise of peace and presence is timely, important, and comforting.

But it’s also challenging. What does Jesus mean, for instance, by saying, “I do not give as the world gives?” There are some in the Christian community that have suggested that civic leaders are overreacting to the coronavirus, that the measures advocated are too extreme, and that this threat has been overblown. In short, they advocate not trusting in worldly wisdom or promises of worldly peace.

Let me be very clear on this point: I do not think this is what Jesus is advocating or promising. We have been blessed by our Creator with reason and intellect and creativity to investigate and understand the creation and, to the best of our abilities, to be good stewards of it to the benefit of all God’s people. Right now, that means maintaining strict hygiene routines, practicing social distancing, suspending our usual gatherings and activities, and pulling together to support each other during a difficult time.

Notice that Jesus promises his disciples peace. Peace… not ease of life, not escape from hardship, not protection against all harm. Rather, Jesus promises them peace, a confidence in God’s presence that grants them courage amid difficulty. Perhaps that’s what Jesus means. While we trust and are grateful for the measures our health professionals advocate and while we throw ourselves whole-heartedly into caring for our neighbor by taking these recommendations seriously, yet we also have a source of confidence beyond even the best science.

Note, again, that Jesus promises his disciples peace on the eve of his crucifixion. He was not immune to suffering, harm, or death, and so knows our fears first hand. And yet death did not have the last word, as Jesus was raised again. The witness of the cross, therefore, is that God understands our fears and stays with us during them, and the witness of the resurrection is that God’s love is stronger than hate, that God’s light is stronger than darkness, and that the abundant life God grants is stronger than death itself.

Taken together, Jesus’ cross and resurrection promise that God understands and loves us, will never abandon us, and will in time bring us through all things, even death. And this promise creates in us peace – the ability to maintain our courage amid difficult times, the strength to encourage others when they are fearful, and the capacity to help others. This peace, we are reminded, is given to us by the One whom even death could not contain. It is the gift Jesus gave his disciples of long ago and the gift he still gives us today, a gift that is, indeed, timely, important, and comforting.

Know that I hold you in prayer each day, praying that you experience a measure of peace, courage, and confidence suitable to the challenges of the day. We will get through this, and we will get through it together, for we have been blessed with the peace of Christ, a peace that passes all human understanding.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Lose
Senior Pastor

March 22 - Sunday Worship

Welcome – Pastor David Lose, Senior Pastor

Liturgist – Pastor Mark Dixon

Preaching Pastor – Pastor Charlie Ruud

Following the worship service is our Faith Alive program featuring Pastor Terry Morehouse.

Download this week’s bulletin

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Please consider making an online gift to support Mount Olivet Ministries. Thank you!

March 20 - A Musical Devotion

Senior Choir Section Leader, Audrey Johnson, singing Deep River

Deep River is one of the African American spirituals that gave hope to slaves enduring nearly unimaginable hardship. Spirituals often fall into two broad categories. The first were more up-tempo and were often sung while doing work on the plantations. Slave-owners actually encouraged these kinds of songs because they believed it helped the slaves work more quickly. The second genre was much slower and, while filled ultimately with hope, also gave voice to the deep sorrow of the slaves’ condition. These songs were discouraged, perhaps because slave owners feared the deep emotions they might stir.

Deep River falls into this second category, expressing the pain and sorrow of slavery and a deep longing for release and freedom, both in this world and the next. Today, there is no doubt that there are many who are feeling their own measure of anxiety, sorrow, and even despair when so many aspects of our lives have been turned upside down. As you listen to this spiritual – sung by Mount Olivet Senior Choir Section Leader, Audrey Johnson – give yourself the permission to name your own fears so that you may also trust once again that God is with us and for us and will bring us through this present hardship.

March 18 - Truth Talk #2

We continue our practice of letting Lent be a time to be honest about the challenges of our life in this world and learning together how our faith equips us to not just get by, but actually flourish. In our Truth Talks this year, we explore how God’s promises can help us find a measure of calm, peace, and confidence in ourselves amid all the distractions of life. This Truth Talk is featuring Pastor Ruud and special guest Annika Henry, a student at Augsburg University. They will be discussing anxiety.

March 18 - Midweek Lenten Service

Abide with me in grief – Pastor MacLean

The Gospel of John was written “so that we may come to believe.” (John 20:31) On Wednesdays in Lent, we will be more specifically and personally exploring how Christ abides with us, based on the previous Sunday’s gospel readings. When in pain, when lost, when grieving, when serving, in our relationships, where does Christ abide? How do we abide in Him?

March 15 - Sunday Worship

Pastor Lose preaches on “Jesus the Healer” and the scripture story of the raising of Lazarus.

The liturgist is Pastor Kalland.

Principal Organist Richard Owen and soloist Luke Randall.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Pastoral Care Resources

Below are a list of resources that our Pastoral Care Team is offering to support you.

If you or a loved one are hospitalized, please contact Andrea Brown 612.767.2209, Julie Goodman 612.767.2208, or Ann LaBree 612.767.2288.

If you need to reach a Pastor for emergencies including eminent deaths, hospitalizations, support after office hours please call the on-call phone at 612.916.9016.

The Mount Olivet Counseling Service is offering counseling sessions by phone. Please call 612.927.7335 ext. 10 or email Anne Lied.

If you are in need of a meal, prescription pick-up, or just a friendly phone call, please reach out to one of the members of our pastoral care department and they can help Andrea Brown 612.767.2209, Julie Goodman 612.767.2208, or Ann LaBree 612.767.2288.

Here are some friendly reminders:

  • Please call the church before coming
  • All of the Mount Olivet staff is checking their emails and voicemails, so leave a message and we will get back to you.

Community Meals

Weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Dinner Served at 5:15pm

Mount Olivet Church hosts a community meal of in-house scratch-made healthy meals, including entree, soup, vegetable, salad, fruit, dessert and beverages. DURING THE PERIOD OF COVID19, WE WILL BE MOVING OUR MEALS TO GRAB AND GO CURBSIDE.

These meals, free of charge, are our opportunity to support anyone who needs a meal or time spent with others.  All are welcome every Tuesday and Thursday.

Mount Olivet Community Greet and Give - Donation Drive

Mount Olivet Greet and Give Drives continue in ongoing support of our ministry partners:  CES, Bountiful Baskets, Love, INC, VEAP, St. Stephen’s Human Services and Simpson Housing. 

Staff will be on hand from 4:00-6:00 pm to greet and accept your food and essential items donations on the following days:
1st Monday of the month – Minneapolis Campus
3rd Monday of the month – West Campus

With the ongoing pandemic and an increasing number of people sleeping outside, our community ministry partners  are preparing for a significantly greater need for cold weather gear in the coming months. We would encourage donations of the following essential items at our Greet and Give Drives: rain ponchos/jackets for all bodies (sizes L-4XL most needed), 1-2 person tents, adult sleeping bags, sturdy winter boots (all sizes), NEW long underwear for all bodies (all sizes), jackets for all bodies (sizes L-4XL most needed), warm gloves, and hand warmers. There is also a continued need for:

  • Infrared thermometers (new or used)

  • Disinfectant wipes

  • Toilet paper

  • Hand sanitizer

  • $20 Cub Foods gift cards

  • $20 Aldi gift cards

  • Diapers sizes 4, 5, and 6 (but we take all sizes), formula and baby wipes

  • Reusable cotton face masks (double or triple-layered, washable and especially larger sizes)

If you cannot visit us in person, you may directly donate using the following websites:
St. Stephen’s Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/hz/charitylist/ls/RH07AIKBNGII/ref=smi_cl_ls_lol_ls
Simpson Housing Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/ch/list/41-1759477/ref=smi_cl_ls_llol_lol
Love INC. : https://www.loveincecc.org/

Thank you for your generosity in helping our community neighbors face the current challenges, especially as colder weather sets in.

Prayer Line

Mount Olivet’s Prayer Ministry team provides prayer support to those in need of prayer. In order to submit a prayer request, please call 612.767.2300 or complete our Prayer Request Form.

Support for Residents of Mount Olivet Home, Mount Olivet Careview Home and Mount Olivet Rolling Acres

Bread Makers Needed!

Our Therapeutic Recreation Department is looking for 2-3 additional bread making machines for use with our residents. The taller machines (not horizontal) are preferred. If you have a bread machine in good condition, please contact Laurie Hancer at 612-821-3232 or lhancer@mtolivethomes.org  Thank you!

Support Our Mount Olivet Partners in Community Outreach

VEAP – Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People
 
CES – Community Emergency Services
 
Bountiful Baskets Food Shelf – Carver County
 
Simpson Housing
 
St. Stephen’s Human Resources
 
Our Saviors Lutheran Church

Retreat Where You Are: Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center

Life may look and feel different right now. You may be anxious about your new daily routine and the uncertainty of the future. Or maybe you are leaning into the stillness of these times. No matter how you are feeling, now is the perfect time to retreat. Pause. Take a breath. Center yourself. We are bringing retreat to you. Explore the resources here and start your own retreat at home. We have cultivated a toolkit for you and your family – prayers, meditations, and activities – to explore and help you through this time of change.

Visit Retreat Where You Are