May 21, 2020
A Message from the Single Board
Dear Church Family
At our last Church Conference in 2019, our congregation voted and approved the reorganization of our church structure. It created a Single Board whose work started in January. The purpose of the Single Board is “to develop leadership, approve the church budget, and support the Pastor. The board does not manage but leads the congregation in the implementation and fulfillment of its mission and vision.”
The Single Board met on March 2, 2020, to determine the strategic plan for Discipleship. We established goals and actions for this area. We intend to follow this same procedure to establish goals and actions for Communication at our next meeting.
In mid-March Covid-19 hit and the church building closed down. The Single Board met on-line to address the financial concerns of the church. We discussed budget concerns, agreed to pay salaries, and monitor receipts and disbursements carefully. We prayerfully considered an application for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. (As you know, the PPP is part of the overall Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that was signed on March 27, 2020.) We approved the pursuit of the PPP loan for the amount of $52,300. Under the great leadership and hard work of our finance committee, the application was submitted. It was approved by Morton Community Bank. We are required to spend the proceeds from this loan only for permitted purposes, such as payroll costs, rent payment, mortgage payments, and payments of utilities. Some of these do not apply to us, for we do not pay rent and mortgage.
We met on May 18, 2020, to discuss changes needed to meet our “new normal” and to continue to fulfill the mission of our church under the constraints due to Covid-19. We are prayerfully looking at what our future will look like in this new, challenging time.
We ask that you pray for guidance, wisdom, courage and boldness for the members of the Single Board as they make important decisions on your behalf. If you have questions, thoughts or suggestions, you are welcome to reach out to any of the members of the board.
Chairperson of Single Board
Single Board Members
Marcia Needler, Sandy Marcks, Art Hogsett, Barb Garvin, Zach Matyja, Gary Schluckbier, Cherie Grunzke, Faith Folkes, Dan Meyer, Norine Rosen, Barry Maurizio, Jeanne Arnold, Matthew Williams
April 15, 2020
A Message from Pastor Lagos-Fonseca
When Is This Going To End
“When is this going to end?” is a question a friend asked me early this morning. “I am tired of being at home without seeing my friends or going out. This is hard. It is taking a toll on me.”
“You are not alone,” I responded. “There are days when I do struggle, get anxious, and I am even fearful of what the future will bring.” I wish I could have said to my friend: ”Hey, the virus is going to disappear, the sunshine will come again, and we will go back to normal and… wake up from this nightmare.” The reality is that we don’t know when this will end. That’s the reality. What compounds things is that this pandemic has caused us to experience a collective loss of control, and a collective grief. Many of us grieve the pain and suffering going on around us. Many of us even grieve the world we left behind. It feels like a distant past now.
One of the interesting things about crises is that they reveal and amplify what’s already there. For many of us, that’s individualism and selfishness. For too many of us, that’s solidarity, unselfish service, generosity, resiliency, bravery. I have seen heroic and selfless acts of care and compassion. Hospital workers and non-medical essential workers are making huge sacrifices. What is hopeful is that there is the potential for a much better world after we get through this. For America has the capacity to overcome huge odds because it has great people. Ameri-cans (as a TV commentator says every day) are everywhere being a light in the midst of darkness.
Friends, I'm a person of deep faith, and I'm wired to have hope, but we must never confuse faith that we will prevail in the end, with the discipline to do everything that is recommended to face this brutal reality. Social distancing is working. We must not abandon it. Nobody is saying you cannot go to the grocery store or the pharmacy. No, but we must be careful and we must protect ourselves and protect others. Faith and common sense are good allies in the fight we are fighting right now.
You and I are people of faith. You and I are people of hope and courage in the face of “pestilence.” We will prevail in the end. As someone once said: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." So let’s keep doing what we are doing. Let’s keep holding the line. Let's stay the course. And when you feel a little down or overwhelmed, think of the words of David in Psalm 56:3-4. David tells of his strategy for combating fear. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I am not afraid.” Also the words of the physicist Marie Curie: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."
I pray for the day when social-distancing will be a thing of the past and we return to a semblance of normalcy. I’m looking forward to the day when our churches reopen and brothers and sisters reunite. I’m looking forward to the day when I can finally take a shower (I’ve been following the instructions to the letter: wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.) Just kidding!!!
I leave you with these words from Martin Luther King (I have adapted them a little): We must accept finite disappointment, pain, and heartache, but we must never lose infinite hope.
In Christ's service and yours.
A Message from Pastor Lagos-Fonseca
This is an Easter to remember forever. This is my first Easter Sunday at home rather than with my church family. This is my first Easter without an egg hunt with hundreds of hidden eggs out in the yard and dozens of children looking for them. This is my first Easter having a virtual worship service; my first Easter having lunch with extended family sitting not around a table, but around a computer screen my first Easter without the smell of lilies (Yaay!) I will always remember Easter 2020.
These are indeed crazy times as this pandemic has taken over almost the whole world. There is much anxiety and fear. Millions of people have lost their jobs and income. Thousands have died. Thousands are mourning loved ones. But even in the midst of all of this, there is hope. Jesus is our hope. Easter reminds us that God loves us, walks with us, cries with us, cares for us, and gives us his hope. Even when we think there is no hope, through job loss, sickness, and death Jesus is working. He has a knack for turning loss into gain, bad into good, curses into blessings. Jesus is working, as many moments of grace and kindness have taken place. People are pulling together to help one another. People are being generous, selfless, kind, and brave. In the midst of this pandemic, Easter is still Easter. Jesus lives! The tomb is still empty. And I will celebrate Easter no matter what. I will always remember Easter 2020.
Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
Holy Week: Walking with Jesus
We have entered Holy Week with a very real sense of fear, fear of the unknown, fear of the future, and the fear of death. These are very distressing times in our nation and in our world. It seems like there is an inevitable Good Friday element to life itself. Good Friday seems to be winning these days, both in the world and in too many of our lives. Some are leaving the hospital or the cemetery. Some are shaking our heads with each headline, or weeping when the coronavirus hits so close to home. Good Friday is real, inescapable and remarkably democratic. In the words of the old spiritual, “There’s no hidin’ place” to avoid it. And if we have not experienced it, it will find us one day.
Good Friday could be utterly devastating and utterly hopeless. The Christian, however, knows the rest of the story. And Easter is coming. For we believe in God who overcame death and the grave. We follow Christ who took away the stain of sin that marred our lives. He paid our debts on a cross. All of them. In full.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4–5)
Let us walk along the footsteps of Jesus. Let us follow him and witness with him in the temple on Monday; defend him on Tuesday; comfort him on Wednesday; pray with him on Thursday; bear a cross for him on Friday; wait for him on Saturday; proclaim for him that “He has risen” on Sunday morning. If we put ourselves into the story, it can touch us to our core.
Following Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, He spent Sunday night in Bethany, the village at the foot of Mount of Olives (Matthew 21:7). As Jesus returned on Monday to Jerusalem, He noticed a fig tree that had produced leaves ahead of season. But since the fig tree bore leaves, he expected to find figs, yet it was fruitless. Jesus cursed the tree and it withered the next day (Matthew 21:18-22).
Another event of Holy Monday is the Temple cleaning. According to Matthew 21, Mark 11 and Luke 19, seeing shameful practices in the Temple area, Jesus gets so furious and offended by what he sees. To see a place of worship converted into a center of commerce is something that Jesus cannot abide. The religious folk are requiring payment for temple entry. So he makes a whip and he drives the merchants out of the temple.
The New Testament presents the Temple as a sacred place. Jesus’ attitude regarding the Temple reflected two opposing features. First, God had sanctified the Temple by dwelling in it, therefore everything in it must be kept holy. The site of the Temple was where God met His people. The zeal for his Father’s house compelled Jesus to cleanse it (John 2:17).
Jesus is about to die for the sins of the world. Jesus teaches us that the only way to gain access into God’s presence is by trusting in him as Savior. Not taxes, not sacrificial animals, not good deeds.
On Holy Tuesday, the disciples point to the withered fig tree that Jesus had cursed the day before. Jesus gives his disciples a simple lesson from it: Have faith in God. In particular, he says, if they have undoubting faith they can throw even the mountains into the sea. The implication is that the disciples will soon face a task that will seem far more impossible than praying a mountain into the sea. Jesus’ death will demand faith that hope will rise again. And they will come to know that indeed, Jesus’ death and resurrection profoundly changes their story — they are forgiven, freed of sin, guilt, and death, and they are empowered to forgive others.
The religious authority questions Jesus’ authority. Jesus teaches extensively using parables and other forms. There is the parable of the vineyard (Mt 21:33-46), the parable of the wedding banquet, (Mt. 22:1-14). There is also the teaching on paying taxes (cf Mt 22:15) and the rebuke of the Sadducees who deny the resurrection, angels, or spirits. There is also the fearful prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem if the inhabitants do not come to faith in him. He warns that not one stone will be left on another (Mt 24).
Jesus warned the crowds and disciples about the hypocrisy and unbelief of the nation’s religious leaders. Jesus pronounced seven condemnations (“Woes”) addressing the false religion that was abhorrent to God (Matthew 23:13-33). Jesus, knowing his teaching will further enrage them, persists in pointing them (and us) to their/our desperate need for a Savior. The only cure for their hardness of heart, self-righteous attitude, and stubbornly blind eyes is God’s grace.
Wednesday went quietly. Too quietly. It came like the calm before the storm. It is this day when the key pieces come together in the plot for the greatest sin in all of history, the murder of the Son of God. The Bible doesn't say what the Lord did on the Wednesday of Passion Week. Traditionally this day was called "Spy Wednesday" because it was on this Wednesday before the crucifixion that Judas conspired to hand Jesus over. For this he was paid 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:14). Because Judas is thought to be sneaky, his actions conjured up the image of a spy. The synoptic gospels all include an account of the betrayal — Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-12, Luke 22:3-6.
Scholars speculate that after two exhausting days in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the day resting in Bethany in anticipation of Passover. In the evening, Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus with costly perfumed oil. Judas objects but Jesus rebukes him and says Mary has anointed him for his burial! (Mt 26:6). Out of sight, lurking in the shadows, evil is afoot. The Plot Thickens.
Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday
Holy Week takes a somber turn on Thursday. From Bethany, Jesus sent Peter and John ahead to the Upper Room in Jerusalem to make the preparations for the Passover Feast. That evening after sunset, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as they prepared to share in the Passover. By performing this humble act of service, Jesus demonstrated by example how believers should love one another. Today, many churches practice foot-washing ceremonies as a part of their Maundy Thursday services. Jesus provides a very important principle for living a Christian life: the greatest are those who serve others, not those who expect to be served (Luke 22:26).
Then, Jesus shared the feast of Passover with his disciples, saying: "I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won't eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God." (Luke 22:15-16, NLT)
As the Lamb of God, Jesus was about to fulfill the meaning of Passover by giving his body to be broken and his blood to be shed in sacrifice, freeing us from sin and death. During this Last Supper, Jesus established the Lord's Supper, or Communion, instructing his followers to continually remember his sacrifice by sharing in the elements of bread and wine .”And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).
Later, Jesus and the disciples left the Upper Room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed in agony to God the Father. Luke's Gospel says that "his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44, ESV). It was here that Jesus, having been betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to several sham trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod (Luke 22:54–23:25).
He was taken to the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the whole council had gathered to begin making their case against Jesus. Jesus endured six trials. Three of the trials were by Jewish leaders and three by the Romans (John 18:12-14, Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:6-12, Mark 15:6-15). During this time, Jesus survived painful beating, whipping, and mocking (Mark 15:16-20). Pilate tried to compromise with the religious leaders by having Jesus beaten, but this act didn't satisfy them, so Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified (Mark 15:6-15). Jesus was mocked by the soldiers as they dressed Him in a purple robe and a crown of thorns (John 19:1-3).
Meanwhile, in the early morning hours, as Jesus' trial was getting underway, Peter denied knowing his Master three times before the rooster crowed.
It is the most difficult day of Holy Week. It is the traditional holiday supposedly honoring the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. All through the night Jesus has been locked in the dungeon of the high priest’s house. Early this morning he was bought before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod (Luke 22:54–23:25). Three of the trials were by Jewish leaders and three by the Romans (John 18:12-14, Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:6-12, Mark 15:6-15). These events led up to Good Friday.
In the late morning Jesus was taken by the soldiers through the city and up the hillside of Golgotha. By noon he is nailed to the cross where he hangs in agony for some three hours.
Meanwhile, before the third hour (9 a.m.), Jesus endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment.
According to Scripture, Judas Iscariot, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus, was overcome with remorse and hanged himself early Friday morning.
Jesus spoke seven final words from the cross. His last seven words were: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34). “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). “Dear woman, here is your son.” (John 19:26). “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34). “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28). “It is finished!” (John 19:30). And his last words were, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46).
Jesus dies around 3:00 p.m. He is taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb hastily before sundown. By 6 p.m. Friday evening, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus' body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb.
Good Friday is also known as Black Friday, Long Friday, Great Friday, Sorrowful Friday or Holy Friday. Good Friday is a national holiday in many countries around the world. This solemn day is observed by fasting and then with somber processions.
Good Friday is the traditional holiday supposedly honoring the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
Holy Saturday (Black Saturday) for Christians is the day Jesus lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. It is a day when all seems hopeless. While many of his disciples had fled the scene, some of the women who followed Jesus stayed behind. “As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law." (Luke 23:55)
Saturday in Jewish tradition is the Sabbath, a day of rest. It was against the law to do preparation (anointing) of a body for burial. Exodus 20:8 is the original verse explaining to God’s people how to observe this law, “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.” Anointing would have to wait until Sunday morning.
This is the day when the forces of power, greed, violence, oppression win the day. Everything seems lost.
For the women who would come to the tomb Sunday morning, Holy Saturday was a day of uncertainty, despair, brokenness and deep pain. Their hopes and dreams were crushed. Jesus, their teacher and friend, was dead. Their belief plummeted. No eggs to color with their children. They instead waited in despair in a dark world without a future and without hope. For them, “love” did not win. They were not sure if the sun would ever rise again.
However it is observed, Holy Saturday has traditionally been a time of reflection and waiting, the time of weeping that lasts for the night while awaiting the joy that comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). For the morning will come… “Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7 NKJV).
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