I have heard that question repeatedly since returning with 17 fellow pilgrims from our March tour of biblical Turkey. I don’t know about the others, but as time passes, I’m finding it more difficult to give a quick answer. In the beginning, I chatted away with great excitement and humble awe: the land–astonishingly beautiful; the people–gracious and welcoming; the sites, both historical and cultural– amazing; and the biblical stops—truly inspirational. We were blessed with a wonderful guide, pleasant weather, and safe travel. The trip exceeded my every expectation!
But the real benefits of a pilgrimage are reflections that surface long after the suitcases are unpacked and the souvenirs distributed. How do I feel about what I experienced in Turkey? How has God shaped me through this visit? What can I share in a witness to others?
First, I’m thankful for the prayers that surrounded us. Some friends were very concerned about our travel to a part of our world bordering on conflict. Many entrusted us daily to God’s care. We also began each day with prayer and lifted those who served us in Turkey and those we left at home. Prayer is such a powerful way to keep us one with God and one another and to help us acknowledge the new communities God creates among us. (I am also sorrowful that the news we often hear is unbalanced. All the “bad” reported is sure to heighten our fears; but the Bible’s witness includes angels proclaiming, “Do not be afraid!” When we open our ears to the “new songs” God delights to sing to us, we find ourselves graced by new friendships and understandings.
Turkey is predominantly a Muslim country, but we were only treated with respect. Our Guide stood with us as we prayed. The hotel hosts arranged for us a room where we could worship and celebrate Holy Communion. I felt equally secure among the people leaving a mosque after their Friday prayers and the Orthodox Christians I joined for evening prayer in an Istanbul church. I hope we continue to pray for one another, new friends and old.)
Because this was a pilgrimage to biblical sites, we read from the book of Acts and followed some of the journeys Paul and others made to share the gospel. What most surprised me was the challenge of those journeys! Not only did those first church leaders face opposition and threat for the message they carried, they also had to log hard miles by foot. In a couple verses in Acts, Paul may have left one town for another, but the writer failed to mention the mountain range that lay in between! Covering switch-backs in a comfortable bus, I imagined the days—weeks—Paul needed to go the same distance. He stayed the course. I’m left wondering what excuses I make whenever I feel inconvenienced by the pathway Christ maps out for me. How easily I am distracted! How quickly I give up on the journey!
Finally, I’m left to reflect on the first Christian congregations. We visited an underground city where Christians hid from their persecutors. We stood in the midst of ruins from the ancient towns of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. We circled in prayer and read corresponding passages from Revelation 2 & 3—words spoken by God through John to each of these faith communities. At times the message affirmed their faithfulness. More likely, it served to condemn the churches’ complacency and disobedience. We paused each time to meditate quietly on the words of Revelation–not just to hear a passage from history but to open our own faith lives and congregations to God’s examination. What does God say to the idol worship of our time (our self-absorbed quest for wealth, pleasure, and personal achievement)? How does God rebuke our lukewarm commitments, our many failures to answer when he knocks on the doors of our hearts and invites our devotion? And how will our faith communities survive cultures that dismiss and challenge the witness we strive to make?
Even if you have not had the privilege to visit Turkey, I invite you to read Acts and Revelation with these reflections in mind. Share our group’s observation that each letter to a church ended with sure faith in Christ’s victory. This is the promise we celebrate at Easter and the Easter joy that sustains our faith. The God who chooses to work through each of us, here and around the world, wills to establish “a New Jerusalem”—a new Kingdom where all may dwell in peace and where sorrow is known no more. I can only speak for myself, but I think that is a vision worthy of our thanks and praise, our attention and our full-hearted commitment.
Thank you, Church, for your partnership in the gospel!
Holy week services will be held as follows:
March 29, Palm/Passion Sunday
April 2, Maundy Thursday
April 3, Good Friday
April 5, The Resurrection of Our Lord
The Emmanuel Easter Egg Hunt is Saturday, March 28 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the church. All children in the second grade and younger are invited to participate!
The event will start with the Easter story, with the egg hunt to immediately follow. There will also be snacks and crafts for families.
Parents, please bring a bag or basket for your children to use to collect eggs! Sign up in the Centrum to participate by Wednesday, March 25 or bring a snack to share.
Spring is here, and the Creation Care Ministry Team is sharing some wonderful healthy recipes with the Emmanuel congregation:
- Cantaloupe and Watercress Salad
- Veggie Firecracker Wrap
- Firecracker Tofu Wrap
- Esther’s Eggplant Panini
- Dae-bak! Tofu Sandwich
- Tom Yum Roasted Tofu
Thank you to everyone who has already donated to Stop Hunger Now. We are on our way, but still need your help to reach our congregational goal of $20,000.
If you’re still not convinced that we need your help, watch this video and see how your donations will help fund the April 18 community-wide meal packing event at James Madison High School. Ready to sign up for a shift? You can do so here.
Registration is now underway for this year’s Vacation Bible School, which will take place July 20-24 and run each day from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Children from age 4 through 5th grade are invited to participate in an amazing week of learning Bible stories through science, art, drama, games, music, and crafts! Register online or pick up the forms from the church office.
SPECIAL NOTE: A technical glitch requires all who registered their children prior to March 3 to complete a new registration form. Many apologies for the inconvenience. Your completed medical and photo/video release forms do not need to be resubmitted.
I’ve Had It.
I’m tired of hearing some Christians whining that they’re being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Usually, this comes when they don’t get their way on a public issue. They have no idea what persecution really is all about. Go someplace like Iraq, Syria, North Korea, Tibet, Myanmar, and countless other places in the world where your religious affiliation is tantamount to a death sentence. Now, that’s persecution.
I’m fed up with blowhards taking the media spotlight and claiming to hold “the Christian world view.” As if there were some agreement among all Christians as to what the faith teaches about their pet issue(s). There has been precious little that the church has agreed on in its two thousand years of existence. I doubt that there is such unanimity today. All I know is that the version of Christianity they speak of bears no resemblance to the faith I treasure for life and trust for salvation.
I’m underwhelmed by those who claim that a particular behavior or societal construct is somehow justified as holy because “it’s always been that way.” As though there hasn’t been any variation in cultural preferences or technological advancement over the years. They’re usually just fighting against change – particularly change at the expense of their own comfort or privilege.
I’m turned off by the religious figures who claim to speak for all of us, yet do so in ways that violate the very laws of God that they seek to impose on everyone else – false idols, slander, gossip, coveting, stealing, even killing. Not only do they sully the holiness of Judeo-Christian ethics, but they make a mockery of our faith that encourages others to dismiss it as irrelevant, illogical, and impotent.
I’m done trying to reason with the closed-minded and hard-hearted. I’m not going to spend any more precious energy and time trying to understand the incomprehensible. I’ll no longer tolerate someone speaking publicly who claims to speak for me but expresses a corrupted gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims hope in the face of despair; peace instead of violence; freedom to those in bondage; joy where there is mourning; love wherever there is hatred; and life in the midst of death.
Too often, I’ve left others speak for me in the public square. Perhaps you have as well. All that the world knows about our faith is framed by this perversion that gets all the attention. So, I’ve had it.
How about you?
Shalom, Pr Mark
(inspired by Rev. Sarah Withers Lewis’ Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post, dated January 24, 2015)
Stop Hunger Now is a nonprofit organization that seeks to end world hunger in our lifetime. A focus of our congregation during Lent is raising funds to support the Vienna/Oakton meal packaging event on April 18. Our goal is to raise $20,000. Please see novastophungernow.org for more information regarding how you may participate. Read more about how we’ve integrated our support for Stop Hunger Now into our congregation’s Lenten activities.
On Ash Wednesday, February 18, Emmanuel Lutheran Church will be offering Ashes and Dashes, a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition, in its church parking lot from 6:45-8:30 a.m.
Emmanuel is part of a new nationwide movement that has clergy and lay people stepping outside of churches to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by in parking lots, at transit centers and on street corners with ashes and encourage them to gain a better sense of self by examining their humility and mortality, and seek renewal.
In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Ashes and Dashes seeks to reach those who have lost their connection to a church and provide them with an opportunity to reconnect, and reach people who have never participated before.
“Ashes and Dashes is about bringing the important traditions of our faith out from behind church walls and into our daily routine,” says Pastor Mark Edwards, who is introducing the ministry this year. “People are busy, and we need the church to evolve in new and non-traditional ways if we ever hope to reach those who don’t regularly attend worship services. Everyone needs reminders of forgiveness in the fast pace of our daily lives.”
Contact Emmanuel’s church office for more information about Ashes and Dashes at 703-938-2119 or visit their website, www.elcvienna.org.
Emmanuel Lutheran Church
301-325-8687 – Cell
703-938-2119 – Office
Here’s another great recipe from Care for Creation team member Desiree DiMauro. She says: “One of my favorite dishes growing up was Italian sausage and pepper sandwiches. How can a vegetarian have all of that tastiness and none of the meat? Here’s the vegetarian version; we call it “Italian soul food” at our house!”
- 1 package Smart Sausages Italian Style (available at Whole Foods, Safeway, online, etc)
- 1 green pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 onion
- 8 tbsp olive oil
- Hot dog buns
- Slice peppers and onions into long, thin strips
- Put 4 tbsp olive oil into each of two frying pans and heat. Fry Italian sausage in one pan and peppers and onion in the other (until the pepper and onion are very soft)
- Place sausage into hot dog bun and top with peppers and onions. Enjoy!