Transfiguration: Jesus reflects the glory of God

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Clergy.

By The Rev. Katheryn King

Katheryn King I had the privilege of knowing Donny when I served in South Dakota.

I hope everyone has the privilege of knowing a “Donny.” Donny was one of the Olsen farmers, who were brothers and farmers for many generations.  These brothers worked hard together. Some were herdsman, some farmed grain and corn.  Donny was one of these Olsen farmers.

One of the things I remember best about the Olsen men were their hands. They had the biggest, hardened hands I’ve ever seen.  You could get lost in those hands. Shaking hands after Sunday service was like slipping my hand into a glove of God’s grace.  Donny was like that. Besides the hands and his strong stature was the smile in his eyes.

I remember one day on Main Street. It was Homecoming and folks were gathering for the parade. Donny never missed an opportunity to socialize. I spotted Donny coming out of the café. He’d been on a trip to Sweden and just returned. I greeted Donny with a big hug I could fit around him.  Donny never let me forget and thoroughly enjoyed every chance to tell me how the Preacher gave him a hug in front of God and most of the town!

I received word that Donny died a while ago and that the whole parish and community mourned. On a bitter winter day the church was full for his funeral.  I hear they even ran out of the open-face sandwiches the ladies always served and every single cup was washed twice. You can’t stand in a Dakota cemetery without something to eat!

I also heard you almost expected to see Donny rambling in for the service or to sing with the men – brothers, sons, nephews, cousins like he had done all of his life.  Oh, how those Olsen boys could sing!

You see, knowing Donny – seeing those smiling eyes and being held by huge hands was, for me, like glimpsing the glory of God. God shining through for all to see.

That’s kind of what the Epiphany season has been.

The theme of the season is God’s glory in Jesus. The light of God in Christ has been growing from babyhood – the visit of the Magi to the time of his last journey to Jerusalem. The light of the first Epiphany was small as a candle but by the time of the Transfiguration, the flame has become the brightness of the sun.

As a babe, God’s glory was seen by the Wise Ones who revealed him as king.

At his baptism, Jesus’ glory is acknowledged by those left to follow him. And during the last Sundays of Epiphany season, we have seen glory and power reflected in his healings and teachings.

Now at the Transfiguration everything comes together.

Jesus reflects in his person the glory of God. The past is fulfilled in the approval of Moses and Elijah, and in a bit of Divine special effects, the voice of God call the disciples to listen and obey Jesus. The truth speaks loud and clear.  Disciples and followers of Jesus have to live in the real world. They can’t stay on the mountain. They can’t live in tents forever.

Jesus and his disciples come down from the Mount of Transfiguration to continue their journey to Jerusalem. Jesus returns – again with God’s approval and assurance.  Peter, James, and John come down with a new understanding of their Lord’s mission and their own mission.

Certain things in Donny’s life were either before or after my time. I never knew his dearly beloved wife. I didn’t know Donny with serious health struggles that finally took him. But people like Donny can inspire us as experiences on the mountain to uplift us. Life is not lived at the top of some mountain.  We must come down. We must go on.

We must walk with Jesus into tomorrows filled with difficulty but also tomorrows of hope and grace.

Six questions about giving

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Stewardship.

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is the creator of Financial Peace University.

Dave Ramsey’s three big principles are save, spend, and give. We want you to enjoy your saving and spending, but giving is really some of the most fun you can have with money. We get a lot of questions on the topic though, so let’s take a look at the most common ones.

 1 ) What’s the point of tithing?

God doesn’t need our money. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. That’s not why He repeatedly tells us to give and have an eternal view of everything He’s given us. His desire is that we’d experience the kind of peace that comes from a content heart. Having a content heart, managing money God’s way, and avoiding the temptation of materialism frees us to focus on the things that really matter—like family, friends and, ultimately, changing our family tree.

2) Should you stop tithing when money’s tight?

The Bible does not mention anything about putting a hold on your tithing. And it never implies that tithing is a salvation issue. The tithe, which is a scriptural mandate, was not instituted for God’s benefit, because He already has all the money He needs. He does not need our money. So why does He ask us to give 10% to Him? Tithing was created for our benefit. It is to teach us how to keep God first in our lives and how to be unselfish people. Unselfish people make better husbands, wives, friends, relatives, employees and employers. God is trying to teach us how to prosper over time. If you cannot live on 90% of your income, then you probably cannot live on 100%. Something is already off in your plan. And if you do tithe, do it out of love for God, not guilt.

stewardship Tithing 3) Is it right to count my church tithes on my tax returns?

You gave the money to the church. You were biblically obedient in that. The Bible also tells us to be good managers of our money. It does not diminish the sanctity of your gift to take the tax deduction. It is a way to manage the rest of the money. Take the deduction. Later, if you get an income tax refund, remember that this is money that you’ve already tithed. But you can always choose to give some or all of it back to the Lord as additional thanks for His blessings.

4) I’m making more money now. How should I increase my giving above the tithe?

When things are going well, it’s easy to accidentally spend all the extra income. That’s why Dave recommends that you name each of those new dollars in your budget every month. Set up your budget based on your new salary, including your giving, spending, and saving. Then, any additional income is divided among extra giving, extra investing and some blow money.

5) Can’t I also volunteer my time and services as a form of giving?

Absolutely! You can serve food at a homeless shelter, read stories to the elderly at a nursing home, help with parking or child care at your church—the list could go on and on. You can also look for special opportunities to help people in need, like a lady who has a flat tire on the side of the road or a young married couple who just had their first baby. This doesn’t have to be a formula or a checklist of ways to give. All you need to do is start with an attitude of thankfulness, generosity and giving, and that attitude will reflect how you respond in everyday life.

stewardship growing giving6) Can you give too much?

Sure. The Bible says to give a tenth of your income to your local church. Your first goal after the tithe is to take care of your household. Then, above that, to support other ministries with your giving. But you definitely shouldn’t be giving yourself into the poorhouse. When you have a better financial foundation in a few years, you are more free to give above the tithe. Bottom line: Giving liberates the soul of the giver. A giver never walks away feeling badly. Whether through a tithe, charitable contribution or gift to a friend in need, giving not only generates good—it brings contentment. Money is never just about money. It is about so much more. When giving becomes part of our natural way of life, incredible blessings are unlocked in our spirit that we’ve never even imagined! It’s a great way to live!

From Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. Used by permission.

Food Pantry is moving to the brown garage

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Vestry.

By Donna Olendorf

Donna OlendorfThe idea is simple.

Move the Food Pantry out of Jubilee House and into the detached brown garage adjacent to the church on the Boardman Avenue rental property.

And it’s a good idea, too.

There will be more space for cars, more room for food, and a much-needed separation between families seeking food and homeless people seeking shelter at Jubilee House.

 But it’s gotten bigger…

Like anything worth doing, this project is worth doing right, and that has transformed a small relocation into a big renovation with multiple phases.

Phase One, and the most important phase, includes remodeling the garage (including site costs for sanitation, water, paving, and walks) and moving the Food Pantry out of Jubilee House.

Phase Two involves Jubilee House improvements. The vacated space in the Jubilee House will be converted into another bathroom, changing room, and sitting room. Both plans will serve the less fortunate in our midst.

Additional phases add a shower room, windows, new flooring, electrical upgrades, and new storage cabinets.

 And the price has gone up.

The first phase of the project will cost around $47, 000 and Grace already has funds in place for that. When Frances Spedding, a parishioner who was part of the first Grace Pantry Shelf Mission Group, died in 2012, she left the church a gift of $35,000 for outreach. The vestry contemplated and prayed about the use of this generous donation: What would Frances do? Her gift is now being leveraged to meet the needs of both the pantry and Jubilee House with the application for a matching grant.

Funds will not come out of the budget, but we hope, in addition to Frances’ gift, they will come from donations within our community of friends and supporters.

If the matching grant is approved, Phase Two will begin in earnest. If not, project phases will be implemented as funding becomes available.

Beyond that, the vestry has approved the kickoff of a $30K Capital Fundraising Campaign for the project, focused on equipping and furnishing the facility.

 We thought about a tear down and rebuild from scratch…

But rebuilding just isn’t feasible due to commercial code restrictions. Once a permit is pulled for a new commercial building, the building codes become more stringent and much more expensive to implement.

 And now we need your help.

Please give generously to support this project. Envelopes with “Food Pantry and Jubilee House Renovation” will be available in the collection baskets for a reverse donation. And spread the word in the community, encouraging donations to the fundraising campaign.

Parish Administrator Ann Hackett contributed to this article.


More than just survival

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Clergy.

By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. Richards

The opportunities to reach out with time and money are endless it seems. For those who work in the community of Traverse City it is clear that the needs people have are varied and sometimes very difficult to answer.

But then there is toothpaste. Everyone needs toothpaste. The hygiene pantry in the Jubilee House at Grace Church is a simple room. Through it, we are able to touch simple needs directly. Everyone needs toothpaste and deodorant.

I had a man break down in tears one day when I asked him which deodorant he wore because we had several brands. He had been on the streets for a couple of months after losing his job and lease in the same couple of weeks. He is back to work now and comes by to drop off Old Spice Fiji deodorant every couple of weeks.

A mother of two teenage girls came in to ask for help and turned deep red trying to get up the nerve to ask for feminine products of me in a collar on a day when all the women in the office were out. The Spirit elbowed me, and I blurted out, “Let me show you a place where I can let you pick out some basic things that don’t come from a refrigerator.” I handed her a paper bag, and Glenda took her down to take care of her girls.

These things aren’t really life or death. They are life and dignity. They are simple needs, but meeting them makes a profound difference. So we do what we can.

Thank you for supporting more than just survival. Your support means a few teenage girls go to school every week feeling taking care of. It means a man gets to smell like he will make it out of the moment he is caught in. The hygiene pantry means life a little more abundant, and that is what we are all about.

Middle schoolers learn the Jesus Creed

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Amy Richards

By Макаров. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sermon on the Mount, by Макаров. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.’”All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

This is what the middle school Grace youth call the Jesus Creed. The Grace 7th and 8th graders are learning what I think is the most vital part of our faith: loving God and loving others.

Youth Group is such wonderful time, especially for Jenny and Matt Stadtmiller and me, their leaders. We begin group time by sharing our highs of the week and prayer requests. We try out new activities, like a snowball fight with paper, Bible Scattagory, gingerbread house making party, and then we talk about our relationship with God. Right now we are exploring prayer by looking more in depth at The Lord’s Prayer which Jesus gave us. Lastly, we close our time together in prayer, and once in a while someone other than me will volunteer!

I think about the kids throughout the week and pray for a hurt foot, an upcoming game, school and peer concerns, safety for travel (especially on snowmobiles and horses); and I am connected in a way I never imagined.

One of the most wonderful and rewarding gifts of being involved in this ministry is getting to know some Grace family members who are so cool! It is a privilege to have the opportunity to encourage, teach,

and pray for these kids to realize who they are in Christ and what they are called to in their world. These kids have an opportunity you and I may never have: they are part of a world we are on the fringes of, and they can make a difference.

We are because we sing

Posted by & filed under Ministry of the week.

By Kathy WillChoir_web

Have you ever listened to a young child as they play, unaware of anything but the project at hand. They are often humming or singing to themselves. Many of the earliest games we learned on the playground involved a song or a chant: “Ring-around-the-Rosie,” “London Bridge is Falling Down.” Singing is part of what makes us a human being, and is one activity that involves our head, our heart, and our body working together.

For the Israelites, praying and singing were often indistinguishable from each other. As soon as they were safe across the Red Sea from the Egyptians, they broke out the timbrels and tambourines and sang “I will sing unto the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously!” (Ex. 15:1). The psalmist sang in times of joy and sorrow. Mary’s sang about her joy and trust in God in the Magnificat.

The word “liturgy” comes from Greek and combines the words for “work” and “people.” Liturgy is the work we do together as the people of God. Song allows all of us, no matter what our gifts, to participate fully in that communal worship. Our worship tradition includes chants, hymns, songs of praise, psalms, and much more. When we lift up our voices together in song we are sharing in a natural expression of our faith.

Now, my guess is that neither the Israelites nor Mary were trained musicians. They were not worried about whether they were singing on pitch, or had hit that high note precisely. Instead, they allowed the natural enthusiasm and love of God to pour out of their heart and voice. They sang with the intensity of prayer, and in turn their song became prayer. The next time you have your hymnal out, I encourage you to think about the text, and let whatever emotion is being expressed in that text flow out in song. Our combined song will be beautiful music to God’s ears. Praise God! Alleluia!


Remembering BackPack Bill

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Glenda Andrews 

Bill “BackPack” Kimerly passed away this month, and Jubilee House shares this fond remembrance.

Bill Kimmerly

The other day one of the men who come in regularly arrived soaking wet. Bill, who is around 55, carries everything he owns in a large black plastic bag on a cart, which is never out of his sight. He will not take his shoes off because he is afraid someone will steal them and then he would have to walk in bare feet. He suffers from Jungle Rot on his feet because they are always wet. A Jubilee volunteer coaxed him to take his shoes off so they could dry and spray them (there are hair dryers and special spray for Mersa for this), treated his feet, and gave him dry socks.

While all of this was going on, Bill reached into his belongings and brought out a crucifix and told us he found it in a dumpster and thought we would like it for Jubilee House. A deep discussion began around the table about the cross and our beliefs. Time got late and there wasn’t a decision made where to hang the cross so the cross was put into a drawer. The following day another person went into the drawer to find some scissors and saw the cross. He pulled it out and asked “What is this doing in here? We should hang it on the wall.” At this point the discussion about where to hang the cross seemed irrelevant and the decision to hang it on the wall was made. The whole house got into the rules of where it should be hung. Once the patrons decided where to hang the cross, they went about measuring the wall so it would be exactly where it should be and looked the best.

This cross was a 6-inch plastic cross that probably cost $1.00 but no one thought about the cost of the little plastic cross only the meaning and love behind it.





Voice of the Vestry: Listen with your heart…and act

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Vestry.

By Mary Merrill

Vestry member Barb JohnsonWhen I gaze at the faces of Grace, I see children of God. Many of those children have blessed my life in loving and meaningful ways. Let me share a few of those blessings. When my husband and I moved to Traverse City in 1995, we were welcomed into the Grace family with a lovely dinner in the home of a compassionate Christian couple whose friendship we treasure still today. After we arrived home from China with our precious daughter, a dear Grace friend and her dear daughter gave us a beautiful church baby shower. (Since that day, countless members of our loving village of Grace have helped shape our Elsa’s life as a young Christian in so many positive ways.) When I was in the hospital following surgery and radiation treatment, Father Ed arrived at my room with a check from a face of Grace to help us with medical costs. To this day, I do not know who that angel was. During my recovery at home, faces of Grace arrived as needed to help with my sweet new baby. When I lost my job: clergy, spiritual support staff, and friends at Grace counseled and comforted me. For these blessings and many more, my heart is truly grateful.

So, what does it mean to be Christian in a rapidly changing world filled with a multitude of distraction and busyness? One must keep what is essential in focus. For me, it is often a matter of consistently reinforcing what I know to be true. I know that God loves me, that He made me, and that His timeline for my life is perfect…even when I can’t see it. I also know that He wants me to be a disciple of His Son, reaching out to others. This is the gift the disciples of Grace have demonstrated for me.

It can be challenging to see oneself as a disciple, perhaps even harder to feel “qualified” to teach discipleship. But, God doesn’t check our qualifications. He checks our hearts. Life as a disciple of Christ involves a never-ending journey in love, forgiveness, prayer, welcome, worship, service and study. We are called to love one another, to follow Jesus, to go out of our way to support others in a varied spectrum of ways. It means starting where you are. (Where else can you start?) It means intentionally, prayerfully moving forward in your discipleship asking God what He would have you do. We must then listen with our hearts and act. This important spiritual work can be difficult at times, but the intrinsic rewards are unmatched.

Who have been the disciples in your life…touching your heart, helping to form you as a child of God and disciple of Christ? For whom are you showing the way and leaving a legacy of love?

I would like to close by honoring the first disciples in my life: members of my family. My dear Aunt Bardy went home to be with her Father this past spring. (As a toddler, my mother could not say, “Barbara” properly. She called her baby sister “Bardy” and it stuck.) This past autumn Aunt Bardy’s house, located in a depressed area of Saginaw, had to be sold. I have been grieving that loss. I composed a poem the last day I was in her house. I thought I’d share it with you. You may have similar memories of the first disciples in your life. Thanks, be to God!

This Old House on Stone Street

Here I pause…
Sitting on the stairs
Inside my dear Aunt Bardy’s house.
The house that was her mother’s,
And her mother’s before her.

Memories envelop me.
Precious corners of my heart
Fill my soul with gratitude.
So many “dear hearts”
Walked up and down these stairs
For more than a century.

Modest rooms above and below,
Connected by these stairs,
Sheltered joys and sorrows
And held a family together.
Music from the old upright piano
Drifted through these rooms,
Loving embraces lingered here.
I can almost smell the scrumptious
Home-baked pies and cookies!
I remember joyfully playing upstairs,
Looking down on God’s green Earth
From the lower-than-usual window,
Being careful not to fall out!

Family stories and prayers,
Laughter and tears…
Warm welcomes and fond farewells.
There was an unscripted sentiment:
“Gifts of the heart given freely here,
Come and be loved as you are.”

This place feels sacred to me,
And always has.
For God has abided in the hearts
Of all who lived here,
And all who visited.

God provided comfort and protection
In this simple, humble dwelling.
It’s just a house-
Some lumber, plaster and paint.
But, LOVE has always been at home here…
A rich legacy of love.
Thanks, be to God!

Witness your faith, then invite others to “come and see”

Posted by & filed under Voice of the Clergy.

By the Rev. Katheryn M. King

Katheryn KingJanuary 18, 2014: Second Sunday after the Epiphany A John 1:29-42

To me, this gospel almost feels like an intrusion from John thrust into the year of Matthew. Yet it is the Epiphany season (until March 4, actually) so this week we see how John revealed the Christ.

Next week we’ll hear Matt’s take of Jesus calling the first disciples –this week we hear from John. So listen up! There are some important differences.

The Gospel of John is a book of “signs” –things, events people who point to something else, necessary in this gospel in order to come to faith. I think that this is the theme and purpose of the entire gospel, “…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.” That’s why John wrote his gospel! This gospel is a “sign” to point us to the Messiah, who is a “sign” who points us to God. The story of Jesus is not a story about Jesus; it is,  in fact, the story of God. (O’Day p.524/Stoffregen)

We are told that “John came as a witness to bear witness to the light.” However, John’s first witness is not about the Light, but about himself. In previous verses he talks about who he is not: He is not the Christ; he is not Elijah; he is not one of the prophets. Secondly, he talks about who he is: “The voice crying in the wilderness…”

The first half of our text is centered on John “witnessing” about Jesus with five images: Here is the Lamb of God; who takes away the world’s sin; who existed before John; on whom the Spirit descends; This is the Son of God!

Without “witnesses” we would not know the one who is coming and who stands among us. (Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.) Even John needed the divine witness in order to know who Jesus was. In the other gospels, it is God who declares Jesus’ sonship at his baptism. Here it is John.

The “sign” of the Spirit not only descends but remains, stays on Jesus –very important word to John, e.g. abide. Jesus has “staying power” not like some prophets on whom the spirit comes and goes. The early disciples have this “staying power.” At least at first.

In the second half of our text, John witnesses to his two disciples who then follow Jesus. One of them Andrew, witnesses to his brother Peter. In the next story Jesus finds Philip without a witness, but then finds Nathanael and witnesses to him about Jesus. It seems a witness is needed to help others “see” Jesus. (Who put that Bible in your hands in order to say –Yes, Jesus loves me. Maybe one cannot really follow Jesus without also an invitation to others? Hmm.)

Talk about networking! The essence of our witness is to share what we have seen and believe and then invite others to “come and see.”

For John, faith begins by responding to the invitation to “come and see.” Slightly different words in Greek are uttered by the Samaritan woman to her people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” (4:29)

At the end of this gospel –Mary comes and sees that the stone has been removed from the tomb. Peter and the other disciple come to the tomb and look in and see. The one sees and believes. (20:1,3-8)

Come and see, what could be simpler than that? Probably like discipleship –it may be simple, but not easy. Someone says to another, “Yea, I go to church –wanna come?” I get asked about Grace Church, I’m sure some of you do too. Instead of needing some great theological discourse, how about just answering, “come and see.”

One of the differences that faith should make in our lives is the desire that others –especially those we already know and care about, might also share in the relationship God offers through Christ. I’ve had people tell me about good restaurants, haircutters, dentists; and invitations to join a number of good organizations. Shouldn’t there be that same fervor and encouragement to “come and see” God’s gracious gifts in our worship and other activities? Salvation is meant for the whole world.

Indeed, our Christian faith may be personal, but never private. Remember, the one they are seeking, is the One who is seeking them. No one is here by accident.

Andrew is never mentioned just by himself.

Three times Andrew is doing something in John –and each time he is bringing someone to Jesus: First his brother, Simon, then a boy with five barley loaves and two fish, (6:8) and finally, Andrew (with Philip) go and tell Jesus about “some Greeks.” (12:22). Being the first follower of Jesus may be the first time that Andrew has been first in anything –especially living in the shadow of his more flamboyant brother Simon Peter. Congregations are full of behind the scenes “Andrews.” One doesn’t have to be a “Peter” to be an effective follower and disciple to Christ. The notion that “I can be a Christian all by myself” needs to be replaced with “I need the body of Christ and the body of Christ needs me” for us to live faithfully.

The story is simple, like little Andrew who responded to the invitation to “come and see” and then did his own small part to spread the knowledge of Jesus Christ to his brother and throughout the town to people who carry his message to the end of the earth.

From the beginning of time, God delights in taking little things, things the world decides are nothing –and do wonderful things through them. So our attempts to share faith may feel very small –yet the God who brought light from darkness and raises dead to life wants to –and will do marvelous things through you.