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Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. – Hellen Keller

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From the Pastor – July newsletter article by Pastor Richard Pokora

More than a hundred years ago my grandfather migrated from Germany to the United States, seeking a job and a new life.

A couple years later my grandmother with two sons followed my grandfather to her new American homeland.

My grandfather grew up in East Prussia on the border with Lithuania and Poland in an area of forests and lakes near the Baltic Sea. That land had little to offer young families. There was little manufacturing and farming to support a family. Most young men left for the Ruhr valley in west German where mining and industry offered the possibility of new jobs. The work was hard and dirty. Rampant pollution and industrial accidents were part of normal life.

My grandparents settled in Springfield, Illinois and eventually opened a corner grocery store which also sold ice and livestock feed. They prospered and settled into community life.

Eventually my family joined St. John’s Lutheran Church next to the State Capitol in downtown Springfield. The church was made up of immigrant German families. For many years worship services were offered in the German language.

Baptisms, confirmation classes, funerals and wedding were part of the normal routine of parish life.

Everyone had their own church and stayed there for multiple generations.

The other day I met a woman at Walmart. She told me she once belonged to a Lutheran Church in Davenport but switched to a Baptist church. I asked her why she made the change. She said she didn’t like the Lutheran understanding of baptism. People today shift around from one church to the next for all sorts of reasons.

Our sense of community today is not what it was when my grandparents were living. They became part of a community and stayed with that commitment.

Today people change communities and churches routinely. The idea of commitment too often gets lost.

All Saints Lutheran Church has a solid congregation, well done worship, an ideal location, great facility, and superior outreach ministry. It is a community in every sense of the term and should inspire our commitment.

From the Office

You may call, e-mail, or put a form under the office door (located on the kiosk or in the mailbox outside the office door) to communicate with the Director of Communications. We ask that items be in the office by 9:00 am on Mondays to ensure announcements and/or articles make it into the e-weekly on Wednesdays and items be in the office by 10:00 am on Thursdays to ensure announcements and/or articles make it into the Sunday bulletins. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

Message from July 24, the 7th Sunday after Pentecost by Pastor Richard Pokora

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

The most vivid memories of my childhood derive from weekends and holidays spent visiting my grandmother’s home in Springfield, Illinois.

She emigrated to the United States from Germany about 1906 and looked every bit the German grandmother with her hair in wrapped in a bun, her stocky build, her flowered silk dresses, and sturdy black shoes. She spoke English with a distinct German accent all her life.

She was a deeply religious woman, growing up in a devout Roman Catholic home in Silesia and later becoming Lutheran upon her marriage to my grandfather. My grandfather, I might add, was no advertisement for the benefits of the Christian piety. If he made it into heaven at all, it was by the grace of God and on the coattails of my grandmother’s faith.

One memory I treasure most is that of my grandmother teaching me a short German children’s prayer. It goes like this: “Ich bin klein, mein herz ist rein, soll niemand drin wohnen aus Jesus allein.” It translates into English as, “I am small, but my heart is pure, no one shall live therein, but Jesus alone.” All I can say is that sixty years later I am still able to recite this prayer I learned literally at my grandmother’s knee. I cannot attribute this act of memory to my own three year old piety. According to my aunts and uncles, wherever my grandmother began the prayer I would march around her kitchen and out the room. So maybe the power of her faith kept this prayer in mind.

Prayer may be our first and most impressible religious experience. This past week a young woman came to the church seeking a preschool for her daughter. She said she wanted to be a good Christian mother; her daughter already recites prayers before going to bed. Did your mother or mother teach you prayers as a child. I know my mother did. I said, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” every night before bedtime.

Sometimes I wonder, however, if people learn prayers as children, but their prayer life never advances much beyond that of a child. What happens to our prayer life as we age? Does our understanding of prayer grow and deepen, or does it remained locked within the words we memorized as children?

A disciple of Jesus raises this significant issue of prayer in our Gospel for this Sunday. He asks, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” I don’t know what prayers John taught his followers. But more obviously Jesus’ disciples weren’t sure they understood prayer well, as if there exists one right and correct way to pray to God.

Jesus uses this question to explore and elaborate the meaning of prayer. He teaches them a simple prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer. He begins by addressing God in the Hebrew as, “Abba,” or father. This was a term of endearment and implies a special and almost intimate relationship. It implies God is not distant or indifferent or wrathful, but that the loving Father. It suggests we come to God as children to a father who approach sharing their most intimate needs. Jesus understands God to be a loving Father caring deeply for our needs and helping us.

He then prays God’s kingdom will come. There was nothing usual about a pious Jews praying God’s kingdom will be established. When Jesus prays this petition, he gives new meaning to these words. He teaches the kingdom begins with him and grows like a mustard seed from something seemingly small and insignificant into something all-encompassing and sheltering. The kingdom brings God’s blessing to those who mourn, to the meek, to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. For Christians, the coming of God’s kingdom leads to the realization of our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also implies our wants become subject to or are realized in God’s will and kingdom.

When we pray give us our daily bread, we acknowledge all human life depends upon the grace and bounty of God, even something as basic as daily bread, the food which sustains us. We not only pray for God to grant us life giving sustenance, but recognize he alone sustains us.

Just as we require our daily bread to survive, so to must we be at peace with God and with others. That peace which passes all understanding, which makes life livable does not happen mysteriously or miraculously. Obtaining a sustaining peace is a great work. Let me offer two examples. Consider the fighting in the near East. Without forgiveness, there will never be peace in Israel or Iraq or anywhere else. Or let me give a more personal example. A woman wrote into an advice column. Her sister has been cut off from the family. This woman wants to reconcile with her sister, but her parents and other sister threaten retaliation. This woman is deeply conflicted. We cannot pray for peace, unless we are willing to be an instrument of peace. We cannot expect peace, unless like God, we are ready to extend forgive to others.

Finally, Jesus prays that we not be brought to the test. He asks we for the strength to resist temptation. Temptation is not something outside of us, but it is that within us that resists God’s will. We pray for self-discipline, that is the ability to control ourselves and our wants.

Jesus believes in the power of persistent prayer. He tells his disciples, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Some folks may believe this means God answers every prayer the way we want it to be answered. If that were so every golfer would hit a hole in one, every lottery ticket holder would come up a winner and the world would collapse in chaos. Every prayer will not be answered as we wish.

Let me suggest that the purpose of prayer is to discover God’s will for us and to bring us and this world into conformity with his greater purpose. Remember the prayer Jesus offered on the eve of his crucifixion. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want, but what you want be done.” Ultimately, God’s will shall be done. We pray we shall know God’s will and that it shall be accomplished through us.

Finally, we affirm all prayer is a form of dialogue with God. Though prayer we not only present our wants, but we become quiet and let God speak to us. Profound silence follows our petitions. We let God, as our Father, speak to us and reveal his will for us. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.