Darkness and Light; Death and Resurrection. The coldness of Winter gives way to the warmth of Spring as we pass from slavery to freedom, from death to life. These are the liturgical themes we pass through, as April brings us full circle – through the last few weeks of Lent and into Holy Week and Easter.

The Easter Triduum, which means three days, begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) and ends with sunset on Easter Sunday. The liturgies during these three days recall the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels.

The music for Holy Week reflects the somber, reflective nature of the liturgy and includes classic works by Stainer, Dubois, and Duruflé. More celebratory music will be performed at the end of the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday, with music by Bach, Widor, and Vierne.

The Easter Vigil begins after nightfall on Holy Saturday with a Service of Light and the lighting of the Paschal candle. Psalms and Hymns are read and sung; Baptismal vows are renewed and new members are received; and at long last Alleluias are sung after their absence throughout Lent.

The Glory of the Resurrection is once again upon us as Easter Sunday dawns in exuberant celebration of the Risen Christ. Music for Organ, Choir, Handbells, Brass and Timpani is featured and the church joins once again in joyous, grateful celebration.

— Glen F., Organist and Choir Director

Jesus, When Did I See YOU A Stranger, and Welcomed YOU?

For more than seven decades, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has been a champion for migrants and refugees from around the globe. It is a story of courageous and compassionate service for hundreds of thousands of people who have sought safety and hope in America’s communities.

In 1939 the National Lutheran Council (NLC) set up a Welfare Department with an office for the “rehabilitation and placement of Lutheran refugees.” It helped 522 refugees in the first year. At the end of WWII (1945), refugee camps spring up in Germany, Austria and Italy for displaced persons (DPs) from Eastern Europe, one-third of whom are Lutherans. [Two Trinity members, one in Sweden and from Norway, helped settle refugees during and after the war.]

In 1946, a trickle of refugees of refugees came to the United States, including a group of 21 teenage boys, most of whom are Estonian Lutherans. In 1947 the U.S. Congress authorized the admission of 205,000 eligible Dps and the constituting convention of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), made helping refugees a priority. In that year Howard Hong (a St. Olaf College philosophy professor) became the director of the Lutheran Resettlement and Emigration program for refugees in Germany and Austria. In 1948 the first Lutheran DPs arrive in the United States on 30. October.

Today LIRS continues this work with migrants and refugees, U.S. Lutheran congregations, and many Lutheran social service partners. One of the greatest needs now is settlement of people driven from their homes by the wars in Syria and children being separated from their parents from many nations. A Trinity member recently sent a link from the Center for the Study of Social Policy, as source material for understanding immigration to the USA today (see links below). This report from CSSP cites a report a from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS).

Yes, Lutherans in America have been leaders for decades in helping, supporting and sponsoring immigrants and refugees. LIRS helps us to learn more about the emerging immigrant and refugee crises around the world and the policies of our elected leaders. To learn more about Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, go to: http://lirs.org/

— Roger Berner, Pastor

God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may you give to all Christians, and especially to those entrusted with leadership in your Church, the spirit of wisdom and revelation. With the eyes of our hearts may we see the hope to which you have called us: one body and one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above and through all and in all. This we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

On the occasion of the 500th anniversary year of the beginnings of the Reformation, the theme for the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is: “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us” (2 Corinthians 5:14-20). This service will highlight the main concerns of Martin Luther’s Reformation, and it will also recognize the pain of the subsequent deep divisions which afflicted the unity of the Church. In selecting this theme, it is an opportunity to take steps toward reconciliation.

The theme finds its origins in Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), from St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14). The Council of Churches in Germany took up the work of creating the resources for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This biblical text emphasizes that reconciliation is a gift from God, intended for the entire creation. “God was reconciling the world (kosmos) to God’s self in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (v.19). As a result of God´s action, those who have been reconciled in Christ are called in turn to proclaim this reconciliation in word and deed: “The love of Christ compels us.”

About 20 congregations from our area will participate in this service – with clergy and the Unity Choir from many local congregations, as well as Trinity’s Heavenly Handbells. A reception will follow the service with displays of ecumenical dialog documents produced over the last fifty years and ecumenical service projects shared by congregations in our area.

—Roger Berner, Pastor

Growing up in Nebraska, I was always a Lutheran, not that there was any real choice in the matter but nor was there any desire to be something else. My mother’s side of the family was Lutheran and had been for generations right back to their Danish heritage. To me as a child, being Lutheran was just who we were.

One of my fondest memories of my early childhood was attending the Christmas services and hearing my Grandma sing in the choir. She had a booming voice in the choir and when she sang you knew it, instantly recognizing her from the rest of the choir. When I was in elementary school we switched churches to a Lutheran church closer to town and although I had a few less cousins at the new church, I gained several of my good friends from school. It was there that I was confirmed and attended youth camps and grew into a young adulthood. Going to college things changed a bit, there was no longer anyone to push me to get up for church service. Church became something I did on holidays or when visiting my parents on the weekend which wasn’t that often.

As with many young adults, college brought about some newfound questioning of life and how things worked. In my favorite studies of physics and astronomy, I was able to find the answers to what and how things worked but never really the why. When Kristina and I met we discussed our faith pretty heavily. She grew up Catholic in Germany and many of the issues she had with what she understood Church to be were rather resolved in the Lutheran Church so for us it was a pretty natural fit. Though she would quickly tell anyone that Lutheran churches in America are very different in a good way from the Lutheran churches she knew in Germany.

We knew we wanted to build our marriage on a bedrock of faith in Christ. We were married in my hometown Lutheran Church in Nebraska and yet even then we still rarely attended Church ourselves save only for special holidays or trips back to Nebraska to see my family. Once married and even though we knew we were on the same page about what role our faith would play in our lives there were still a few years of staying out late on Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday morning. At some point in becoming an adult it was easy to start to think that I was in solid command of my life or that maybe I could control things more than I really could in this world. A sense of achievement and even pride took hold, fueling the thought that the good things in my life were there because I earned them.

I suppose it’s a variety of things that snap people out of this, but in my life I am quite certain what it was. What put Christ back at the center of my priorities was the birth of our son. It was the whole process really, from when we were praying to be able to start our family, to hearing his heartbeat, to seeing his face on the ultrasound, to hearing his first cry as he was born. There was never a time in my whole life that I felt less in control, or prayed more often, or felt more grateful for every single small moment. There is no amount of good I could have ever done to deserve these blessings and much like my salvation, I know they are only given through grace. Even now as we anxiously await the birth of our second son, I am reminded every day as I look at my wife and son that Christ is front and center in our lives.

At Trinity we have found a great place to worship, to serve and we have met several new friends. We are excited to be able to share worship each Sunday and for those fond memories to hopefully be what our children will also look back on one day.

—Hagen S., Council Member

Generally by this time of year I’m pretty excited about the trappings of Christmas. The tree is up and decorated, the calendar is full of events, and the “must-do-before -12/25” lists are endless.

This year not so much. In our house, 2016 was marked with loss, grief, and questions with minimally satisfying answers. We were anxious, at times defeated, and perpetually waiting for the next proverbial shoe to drop. And there were a lot of shoes. Perhaps you can relate in some way. In my attempts to get out of what felt like a funk, I thought maybe I could get excited about the four weeks leading up to Christmas: the season of Advent. In doing some research I found this: “God beyond time, help us to live in the tension between what you have done and what you will do, and into the truth that Christ will come again. Amen.” – Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

This prayer reminded me that Advent is about preparing for Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time as much as it is observing his birth more than 2000 years ago. I can get excited about this kind of preparation. And so deliberately the tree will be delayed, the calendar less full, the “must-do” lists shorter. And not only is this okay, it is a gift of time and space to wait patiently for the birth of a new creation. I wish for you the same gift.

– Nathan L., Council President

On September 4th the world witnessed a Holy Mass said by Pope Francis as Mother Teresa was elevated to sainthood. She is now known to the faithful as St. Teresa of Calcutta. While Mother Teresa was rightly celebrated for her care of the poor in the blighted areas of India, her letters and journals revealed a great surprise: this same woman who was, to many, the very embodiment of Christian charity had suffered a decades-long depression and a dark night of the soul. As a devout Roman Catholic working in the public sphere, I was not shocked by this, nor was any counselor or minister who works with the faithful on a daily basis.

This celebrity saint—a paragon of Christian virtue whose smile has been on the cover of books and magazines—suffered for decades in a living hell. For many in the Western world, that truth seemed almost scandalous. But the true scandal is that anyone was surprised at all, much less bothered by the fact.

In the popular imagination, it is often thought that a religious person ought to be in the image of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons: a happy-go-lucky type exemplifying optimism and politeness. However, much like how a romantic comedy does not reflect the reality of a romantic relationship, this image of an always-positive believer comes nowhere near the reality experienced by most people of faith. If faith is a relationship, then it makes sense that there will be times of exhaustion, doubt, and, most of all, loneliness.

While Mother Teresa worked amidst heart-breaking poverty, she found her own heart beaten down by interior struggles of doubt, pain, loneliness, and anxiety. “I am told God lives in me,” she wrote to her spiritual director in 1957, “and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”

While these words may shock some, Mother Teresa is far from the first Catholic saint or spiritual model who has had to endure such intense struggles. St. John of the Cross and Dorothy Day would certainly find a friend in the small nun who struggled as she showed kindness to those who needed it the most. Paradoxically, the holy men and women admired by religious believers were not held back from their good work by an inner darkness; rather, they were able to touch the hearts of countless people because of it. “If my separation from you brings others to you,” Mother Teresa wrote in her spiritual canticle to God, “I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer.” In a world that cannot bear the slightest discomfort, hers is a model for how to take one’s inner turmoil and transform it into compassion and love for anyone else who is also suffering. In this way, those who have suffered in their own interior and spiritual lives may find the motivation to care for those suffering in their midst in a more effective and loving way.

Those who suffer from their own dark nights of the soul often feel as if they are doing something wrong—as if their faith were somehow weak because of these interior struggles. Mother Teresa, like her patrons St. Teresa of Avila and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, is an example to the countless souls who pursue a spiritual life of charity but are frustrated by feelings of doubt, loneliness, and depression. They now have a contemporary champion, someone who shows the way to a faithful selflessness, who could work for the good of others despite, or because of, her own struggles.

Author, Michael J. Lichens (AM ‘11), is a writer, radio host, and editor at Sophia Institute Press and Catholic Exchange. Reprinted with permission by Sightings, divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the ministry of Jesus is that he made it clear that God’s grace and forgiveness is for all humans no matter their racial or cultural status. Jesus preached to the poor, to foreigners, and to the marginalized. All of the recent rhetoric about “foreigners” has gotten me thinking a great deal. As Christians, we are called to love those who are different . . . but we are sinful, making the loving of others very difficult at times.

A few years ago, I had an experience that taught me how deeply rooted is our fear of others. Until this, I never thought that I was fearful of others. I learned how quickly the knee-jerk reaction of the fear of “the others” could kick in. I had walked into an airport bathroom. There was a group of four young men of African descent just standing by the sinks. They all looked at me when I walked in, and then they huddled up and started whispering among themselves. One of them looked up at me, as if waiting for something, and then turned back to the group. In their every action I read hostility. I am ashamed that every ugly stereotype reared its ugly head. Simply put, I was afraid. Pretending that I had only come in to wash my hands, I headed straight to the sink closest to the door to quickly wash my hands and get out. The sinks were motion controlled. As soon as I waved my hands under the faucet and the water came out, a curious thing happened. They gave out a shout of delight! They all rushed to the faucets and waved their hands to make the water come out. They were laughing and talking in a language that I didn’t understand, and it was clear that they had no malicious thoughts at all – it was just that they could not figure out how a motion controlled sink worked. One of them even turned to me and gave me a smile of thanks. I was so ashamed. I felt sick with disgust. They only wanted to wash their hands. I later learned that they were refugees from a war-torn African nation. How hard it must be for them, in a completely different world, and yet I greeted them with fear. I realized that I am not always the accepting person I thought that I was, and that my sin runs deep. Thankfully Jesus has shed his blood for the forgiveness of my sins, that I have been given the gift of love and forgiveness that I do not deserve and I cannot earn. It is so easy to say “yes, I love others” but I learned that day that without Christ I would quickly become a slave to fear and hatred. This is true for all of us. I pray that God guides out our nation, that we as a people never succumb to the sinful nature that Christ came to conquer, but instead embrace a love of others that reflects the grace and forgiveness that God offers to every person on Earth.

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:1-2

— James T., Council Vice President

Every Sunday the liturgy reminds me that Christian service to our neighbors is the continuation of our worship of God.

In worship we acknowledge that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We boldly come before God confessing “that we sin every day in thought, word, and deed” – by the things we do and say, and by the things we do not do and say. Then comes God’s amazing answer: “Because Jesus died for you, I forgive you all of your sins.” God declares us righteous because of Jesus, not because of any efforts we may or may not do. So, with the slate wiped perfectly clean, we are free to respond to others the way God responds to us – loving them fully and freely, even though they have done nothing to deserve it. We go from worship empowered to care for the young, the elderly, the lonely, the broken, and the bereaved – family, friends, and strangers. GRACE CHANGES EVERYTHING!

In worship we hear a few different examples of God’s undeserved love and favorfrom the Bible every Sunday – from the times of freedom and times of suffering. God chose and blessed Abraham and Sarah, though they did nothing to deserve it. God freed the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and led them to the promised land, even though they were a rebellious and “stiff necked” people. God liberated St. Paul from his terrorism against the followers of Jesus, to welcome and love all people – without regard to their
nationality. And, Jesus never abandoned his first disciples, even though they were often looking out only for their own well being. GRACE CHANGES EVERYTHING!

In the Eucharistic Prayer we are reminded that God is our Bread and has given us “a world in which all might be satisfied by your abundance” – pure grace. We hearJesus giving thanks to God even as he was to be betrayed and crucified. Then, we pray that God will nurture and sustain usthat we will continue the work of Jesus did for us freely, without our deserving any of it by “serving all in hunger and want” freely and without deserving any of it. Then, having received Christ’s body and blood – freely and without deserving – we pray: “Equip us for every good work, that we may continue to give you thanks by embracing others with mercy and healing.” GRACE CHANGES
EVERYTHING! Go in peace. Remember the poor.

— Roger Berner, Pastor

In August, the shock and disbelief that Bethel – a matriarch within the Trinity family – was in dire health straits, was impossible to comprehend. A few of us were fortunate to visit her on a day she was chatty, in good spirits, and eating “gourmet” pizza. We were surprised and amused when she commented that the pizza was “…actually quite good.” Who knew Suburban Hospital served anything appetizing? Sarah and I cherish this memory, along with countless other shared experiences with Bethel. And we only knew her earthly form for a short time.

Bethel was the epitome of “at all times and in all places”: officially as Trinity’s scrupulous Financial Secretary, a caring and devoted Stephen Minister, a pillar of the vocal choir, and beloved member of countless committees. Quietly, unofficially, and in equally profound ways she went about Christ’s business of loving her neighbor and welcoming the stranger. Truly, she ministered to all of us.

Lord, we miss our friend and sister Bethel. Let her earthly example of love, grace, and spiritual light perpetually shine upon us and inspire us to action in our own lives. While we are heartbroken, we are also comforted; knowing she rests in the peace of your love. Amen.

— Nathan L., Council President

Camino de Santiago pilgrimage cross

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus!

The goal of my sabbatical leave was to walk, pray, share, and discover.

Walking 351 miles (565 km) was difficult at the beginning. After climbing the mountain the first day in the heat and then coming down the other side, I thought I would collapse. The second day, it seemed crazy to be doing this and I wanted to quit. The third day was tolerable; and by the end of the Camino I wanted to continue on walking. Physically, walking was a tremendous challenge at the beginning, but became a great blessing.

Praying was always on my heart and mind. Sometimes I was giving thanks for the beauty of all that God had made, for the wonderful people I had met along The Way, for my family of faith back home at Trinity, for the basics of life – food, water, clothes, and a place to stay, and for the greatest gift of Christ Jesus who has supplied every need. Other times, I was praying for strength – of mind and body – to continue on The Way or to give hope and healing to the many people who were suffering along the way – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Sharing is what happens on The Way. I shared The Way with the 250,000 people that walked the Camino this year and the millions who have walked it since A.D. 850. People from dozens of nations around the world shared their stories, their ideas, their hopes, and their fears with me – as I listened and shared with them. It was amazing to learn all the reasons people were walking the Camino.

Discovering something new was the rule every step of the way. Sometimes I discovered something new about Spain or the countries of my fellow pilgrims – history, humor, geography, architecture, agriculture, politics, food, family and friends. I discovered that their was a great yearning for hope, healing, and connection to God and other people, as well as release from fears that bind us.

I would like to share more about my adventures on the Camino at a pot-luck dinner on Saturday 15. October 2016 at 5:30 pm in our social hall.

— Roger Berner, Pastor