Written by Priscilla Berg
WeAs spring slowly approaches, many of us are lamenting our “pandemic pounds” – the weight we gained from too much time in the house over the past year with easy access to the refrigerator. At the same time, the number of people in our country facing food insecurity nearly doubled, from 135 million in 2019 to 265 million in 2020. In Minnesota, 1 in 12 people face food insecurity, including 1 in 8 children.*
The impact was greatest for those who had the least, including low-wage workers and minority populations.
The result? Ralph Reeder Food Shelf, which serves New Brighton and nearby communities, saw a 45% increase in demand in 2020. Many families used the food shelf for the first time. Ralph Reeder also met the crisis by moving to drive-by pick-up and even making over 2,300 deliveries direct to homes.
Although we may soon see the economy slowly improve, even the pre-pandemic level of hunger is too high for our wealthy nation.
Lent is seen as a time of fasting and repentance, and Isaiah 58:6-7 says, “Is this not the fast I choose…Is it not to share your bread with the hungry…?”
One way we can “share our bread” is through donations to our partner, the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf. Let’s set ourselves a challenge. Let’s commit to donating what we would spend for our family’s food for one day (average of $12 per day per person in Minnesota), or two days, or even a week!
Cash donations are most effective because Ralph Reeder can purchase about $10 worth of food for every dollar donated.
Donations can be made on their web site: https://www.moundsviewschools.org/Domain/75 or by mailing a check to Ralph Reeder, 2544 Mounds View Blvd., Mounds View, MN 55112. Call 651-621-6280 if you have questions or want to make an appointment.
We pray: Our Father, give us this day our daily bread, and move us to share it with our neighbor. Amen.
P.S. Another place to support is Second Harvest Heartland, www.2harvest.org
Written by Peter Hanson, Lead Pastor
We’re just about half-way through the season of Lent. Though some days, it feels like it’s been Lent for a whole year!
After all, it has been exactly a year since the rapidly unfolding COVID pandemic required us to close the Christ the King building. We moved our worship, faith formation, and community-building online. We learned not just how to tune in to worship, but to truly participate in online church in a whole new way. Summer and fall gave us opportunities to experiment with both drive-in and homegrown worship, even as our worship team became more accustomed to (if not particularly fond of) preaching and leading to a camera in an otherwise empty Sanctuary. A year on, however, we might well wonder if it is Lent again or still!
The season of Lent is a time for reflection, repentance, and renewal—a time for turning toward and returning to God. We tend to think of Lent as a particularly somber time marked by self-sacrifice, but as we’ve been reminded many times already by our Bible readings this season, repentance is not so much a scary appearance before an angry God, but a homecoming to a loving parent one who lavishly celebrates our return. Normally, Lent lasts for forty days (not counting Sundays, as Sundays are considered “little Easters” and therefore not really part of Lent). Traditionally, these forty days were a time when people new to the Christian faith prepared for baptism at Easter.
This year, though, I continue to wonder for what else we are being prepared.
We walk through the season of Lent holding fast to the promise of Easter, praying as we journey that Christ would be made known to us again this year in new and inspiring ways. Let us also walk through what remains of this year-long Lenten-like season of COVID, praying as we journey that God would reveal to us the new life in Christ for which we are being prepared.
Written by Amity Lantz-Trier, Director of Youth and Family Faith Formation
As February has come to a close we have spent the last month honoring and remembering many of the Black men and women who have had an impact on our county in many different ways. We know Black history is happening constantly and we have been reminded of that more than ever this last year. The murder of George Floyd sparked a fire that has been continuously burning since May.
We stood together to bring attention to racial injustice and police brutality, nationally celebrated Juneteenth, we supported Black businesses as much as we could, elected an array of Black and people of color to our local, state, and national governments, combated voter suppression linked to racism, and elected a Black and Asian American to be our first female Vice-President.
To me, the most important work happened in our churches. We started asking questions, listening to stories, uplifting Black voices and planning. Planning on how to continue this movement. Planning on how to continue to make the world a better place for our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) sisters and brothers.
We can’t stop now. Kathy Pierre of Relevant Magazine gives 5 great ways to continue and support our black communities:
While figures of Black history won’t be in the forefront of the news, you can keep learning by reading books. Read books about society and the systems and institutions that were set up to keep Black people—and people of color—marginalized. Read biographies on lesser-known Black people who affected the United States and the world in great ways. Read fiction books written by Black writers. Read memoirs written by Black writers. Read to have an understanding and don’t be afraid to read other books and do research inspired by the books you’ve read.
Support Black Businesses and Creators
“Support small businesses” is a common rallying call in our country. This year, consider shopping from Black-owned businesses where you can and recommending them to your friends and family. In the same vein, look for Black creatives and creators and support their work. Whether that looks like paying Black writers to write—not just about race, buying art from Black artists, watching films and TV shows by Black screenwriters and directors, and listening to music from Black musicians
Add Black People to Your Networks
One of the downfalls of networking, aside from how much introverts hate it, is the way it unintentionally excludes people of color. When you’re networking or looking for young people to mentor, be intentional about looking for people of color you can connect to opportunities and other people who can help them succeed.
Consider volunteering with or donating to nonprofit organizations that serve marginalized communities. Get plugged in and genuinely attempt to become part of that community in a way that will transform you and the people you’re helping.
Learn More History
Many cities across the United States and the world have museums focused on the history and contributions of Black people. Going to a museum is generally a cheap way to spend your day and you’ll come away with information you didn’t know before entering and you’ll be able to experience it and learn with an added visual component, which can even make old information feel new.
Most importantly we must continue to do the work in our churches. As the church, it is our responsibility to confront the silence and indifference concerning racial issues. We need a greater understanding of what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like here on earth and what part we have to play in the narrative. We turn to God in prayer first, asking for guidance and understanding as we continue to work towards a world in which all of God’s children are afforded the same privileges as one another.
Written by Pastor John Rohde Schwehn
Luke 13:1-9 gives us a couple of Jesus stories that, at first, don’t seem to fit together. First, we hear the disciples asking Jesus about a horrific act carried out against their community: Pontius Pilate slaughtered some Jewish Galileans at the temple in Jerusalem. “Why?” they ask Jesus. “Why can such a horrific thing be allowed to happen?”
But rather than answering them, Jesus adds yet another tragedy to the catalogue of suffering: “Didn’t you hear about the big tower at Siloam that fell over and killed eighteen people?”
Two-thousand years later, the headlines continue to shock and disturb us: hundreds of thousands killed off by a novel virus; natural disaster, war, and terror continue to claim the lives of innocent people all around the world. We want to know, “Why? Why does this have to happen?”
But Jesus rejects our desire for easy answers. Jesus says “no” to any attempt to explain away other peoples’ misfortune, or pain. Those who were murdered in their house of worship, those crushed by a collapsing tower – they were no less beloved, no less good, no more ready to die than any of us. “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than others?” Jesus asks. “No, I tell you!”
After all, the story we travel through Lent finds its climax on the cross: the only human who was literally without sin still met a horrible death. Being good is not what saves us. Those who we read about in our headlines were good, decent, and died too soon. We all know and love someone who died too soon.
So Jesus suggests repentance. After all, repentance is a practice that roots us more firmly in the soil of today. It keeps us honest when we fall short and daily names our need – and gratitude – for God. Repentance reminds us everything is a gift.
Enter the parable of the fig tree. The fig tree has not been growing figs. “Cut it down,” says the landowner. But the gardener (and remember that the risen Jesus appears to Mary as a gardener!), the gardener says, “No, let’s give it another year. Let’s put down some manure and give it one more year.”
Do you hear what this gardener is saying about this poor, dead tree? In the face of death, he opts for an act of hope and faith. One more year, one more year, one more year.
When our WHYs hold us captive to the fear of death, we have a God whose pardon, forgiveness, and love will always go on for one more year, and then another, and another. Because finally, by the grace of God, we are called to bear fruit that feeds the world, to repent so that our neighbors might thrive.
Prayer: Lord, make me a fig tree. Help me to bear fruit that feeds, heals, and loves this world. And, when I am too tired or scared to bear such fruit, grant me your everlasting pardon and mercy. Walk with me through this day, and all the days that are to come, until I rest eternally in your wide and loving embrace. Amen.