About Pastor Terri Stagner-Collier

From Pastor David’s Ash Wednesday Sermon

Thought provoking words from the “What the Tide Brings In” blog (seashellseller.blogspot.com), suggesting that the most effective way to “give up” something for Lent is the intentional practice of its opposite:

Fast from judgment, Feast on compassion

Fast from greed, Feast on sharing

Fast from scarcity, Feast on abundance

Fast from fear, Feast on peace

Fast from lies, Feast on truth

Fast from gossip, Feast on praise

Fast from anxiety, Feast on patience

Fast from evil, Feast on kindness

Fast from apathy, Feast on engagement

Fast from discontent, Feast on gratitude

Fast from noise, Feast on silence

Fast from discouragement, Feast on hope

Fast from hatred, Feast on love.

What will be your fast? What will be your feast?


New Year News

New Year News
Wow – so much is happening in the life of Cross of Life, it’s difficult to know what to highlight! But here goes!

Service of Hope
For those who were unable to attend, this time of worship and remembrance was a beautiful experience for all who participated. Recognizing that for many, the Christmas season is a time of increased grief, struggle and loneliness, this service used the candles of the Advent wreath to recognize our common grief, pain, struggle, and fear. The gathered congregation supported one another in song and prayer, lit candles in remembrance of loved ones and then gathered around a full Christmas meal provided by the Stephen Ministers and Fellowship Team.  If you’ve had a hard time this Christmas, don’t miss this service next year.

COL Music Concert
Once again, Jon Arnold brought together our diverse and talented musicians for a joint Christmas musical celebration. Each ensemble, The Chancel Choir, Bells and Contemporary Band, shared individual performances and then joined their voices for numerous total group pieces. It was truly a joyful song before our Lord. This is certainly a “don’t miss” for next year!

From Diaconal Minister to Deacon
As of January 1st, we will have a new staff member! Well, sort of. Mary Houck, who works as our Director of Youth and Children’s Ministry, will have a new title. As the result of a vote at the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, all lay rostered ministers (Diaconal Ministers, Associates in Ministry, and Deaconesses) will be united under one title: Deacon. From Biblical times to modern times, deacons have carried out the ministry of Word and Service: caring for the widows and orphans, working in the community, providing education for our children and youth. Deacon Mary will continue that tradition in her work at Cross of Life. Please congratulate Deacon Mary on her new title and use it as often as you can!

Joint Commemoration of the Reformation 500
Plans are underway for our commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation! Our Lenten Small Groups and Devotions will focus on Luther’s Small Catechism.  We will have a special commemorative dinner with members of St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church in Roswell in April.  There will be a special worship service on April 30th to highlight the journey of Lutheranism to North America, and more!  Watch for more details!

Sabbatical Update
Plans for the study portion of my upcoming sabbatical are underway. During January/February, I will be sending an online survey to numerous pastors about their work practices. Out of that quantitative analysis, questions will be formulated for my summer site visits and focus group conversations.  Please pray for this study, that God would open our eyes to learn the most effective ways to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our hurting world.

+ Pastor Terri +

Deacon Mary’s Christmas

Stores are counting up their profits from Black Friday while their customers try to figure out how to stuff all their purchases under the Christmas tree and make plans (or not) to pay off their credit cards. Decorations are coming out of closets to make homes warm and bright, party invitations are going out, and the Elf has appeared on the Shelf. We prepare for the cultural aspects of Christmas in so many ways, some of which become meaningful traditions, but all of which can create distractions from the spiritual preparation to which we are called through the season of Advent.

This year for our Children’s Ministry, I have been preparing Advent devotions for our families to use at home based on Luther’s Advent and Christmas sermons. Luther preached on these topics and on the associated Biblical texts over and over again throughout his career. In my exploration of his work, I kept noticing over and over the sense of wonder with which he approaches the biblical text. In the middle ages, many traditions had cropped up surrounding Christmas which were not originally biblical. For example, the wise men were promoted to be ‘kings’, given names, countries of origin, and life stories. Another tradition held that Jesus’ birth was somehow magical, and that Mary felt no pain and sang praise songs to God while she was in labor. (Considering that Mary was actually having a natural birth in a dirty stable with no painkillers, no doctor, no midwife, and no family members except her husband who would probably never have seen a birth before according to Jewish customs at the time, we can guess that if God’s name came into it, praise was probably not the context.)

Luther carefully separated these extra traditions from the actual Biblical text and rejected their claims. He then turned his attention to the incredible beauty and meaning of this ancient story. Dissecting the nativity stories, Luther then considered how the writings of the new testament interacted with them, and what that means for how we live our lives as Christians. He also pulled from the prophecies of the Old Testament to examine how they inform us about who Jesus is and why God chose to come to us in that way.

We tend to complain about the distractions our culture bombards us with today, but 500 years ago Luther was making the same complaints. Like him, it is up to us to discard what leads us away from our contemplation of God’s amazing journey into humanity and restore our wonder at a story we have heard so many times that it has become part of us. Wonder is one of the gifts our children give the church. Every year, they are discovering more about this story and our Advent faith traditions. Cultural depictions of children as whiny and materialistic during this season might sometimes feel true, but since children are constantly striving to incorporate what they see in adult culture, really this should lead us to take a hard look at ourselves.

Take some time this Advent season to appreciate the way our youngest members minister to us through their sense of wonder and discovery of a God who, in a world designed for people bigger and stronger than them, brought the universe-encompassing love of the gospel down to their size.

Mary Houck