Mount Calvary Family,
The Ark of the Covenant was the symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His People Israel from the time of Moses. Israel carried it with them throughout their wilderness wanderings. The Ark was housed in the “Tabernacle [Tent] of Meeting.” A tent was appropriate as it traveled with them, reminding them always that God was with them. When they were finally settled in the land of Israel and David ruled from Jerusalem, he brought the Ark to Jerusalem. It was a festive time of thanksgiving and praise for all God had done for them in establishing them in this homeland He had provided. David shares his song of praise in 1st Chronicles 16, beginning with these words:
8 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
11 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
He closes with these familiar words of thanksgiving:
. . . Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
for His steadfast love endures forever!
David could have complained about the sacrifices he had to make and the struggles he had to endure to build his kingdom. He could have pointed out that so many of his forefathers died without experiencing the great blessings of that day. David could have bragged about all that he had done to achieve the goal of a kingdom for his people. But David recognized that the greatest blessings from God generally come through sacrifice. David recognized that it was God who had built His Kingdom through David and those who gathered around him. David also recognized that he had far more for which to thank God than a few fertile acres in the Middle East. One of my favorite passages from David’s writings comes from the account of the death of his son in 2nd Samuel 12:23, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” These few words reflect David’s confident faith in the resurrection and the certainty in his heart that God has something more and greater for the faithful ones who trust in God’s promises.
As we turn the page on our calendars to November . . . or as the new month pops up on our I-phones and Androids . . . our thoughts generally turn to Thanksgiving and the time set aside by our nation to thank God for all His great blessings to us. For many, Thanksgiving has become more about food, football, and Black Friday sales . . . about celebrating our “success” measured in all that we have as we set aside diets and gorge ourselves on all the bounty our land provides. Yes, there is generally the obligatory prayer before the meal in the Thanksgiving holiday specials of our favorite TV shows, but I am not really sure how many of the homes celebrating the day pause to thank God for His tremendous blessings as we gather. And, indeed, our blessings have been great!
The freedoms we hold dear and the great resources of our land are tremendous blessings from God, but we are reminded in the early days of this month, that those blessings have not come without sacrifice. On November 10th we celebrate Veterans’ Day, remembering those who sacrificed significant periods of their lives to deliver this freedom to us. Those men and women will never forget the comrades in arms who stood alongside them until they fell in battle, sacrificing their lives for their friends, their families, and the generations yet to come. Few good things come without struggle and sacrifice; that is the way of things in a world darkened by sin. But for the people of God in Christ Jesus there is always hope because we are confident that “God will never leave us nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5) We rejoice in that hope on the first day of November as we mark “All Saints Day” and again as we celebrate it the first Sunday in November, November 4th (also the weekend our clocks are to “fall back” with the end of daylight savings time November 3rd). It is a time to remember those who “will not return to [us]” but to whom “[we] shall go.” It is a time to celebrate because they knew Jesus during their lives among us as we know Him even now, and because they now know Jesus as we will, when we come to join them in the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior!
It is in our struggles that we most readily recognize our need for God, when life is difficult, when we find ourselves making the greatest sacrifices. It is in the hope we seek and the help that comes to us in times of struggle, and in coming through those struggles, thatwe see God’s presence in our lives most clearly. It is often in the hands of God reaching out to us through our Christian brothers and sisters around us that we best feel God’s presence. May we truly celebrate with Thanksgiving the many ways God has made Himself known in our lives through the blessings we have experienced, and may we be God’s hands reaching out to one another and to our neighbors as we seek to share our faith in God’s presence and in His power to deliver us from every struggle of life till He delivers us into the eternal joys of His Kingdom through Jesus, God’s Son, our Savior!
May your November truly be filled with Thanksgiving and praise as you celebrate all God’s blessings of past, present, and future.
Mount Calvary Family & Friends,
It was an exciting adventure for those of us who were able to make the journey to the Creation Research Society’s “Creation Museum” and “Ark Adventure”. Standing outside the modern replica of Noah’s Ark, it was astounding to grasp just how large it really was! No wonder it took Noah over 50 years to build it! Even at that he must have had help. I suspect that Noah was a wealthy man in his day, but he probably “blew it all” in the eccentricities that led him to construct the monstrosity . . . At least that’s the way it must have looked to community members who were probably more than happy to relieve him of any resources he wanted to spend to build the thing . . . But for Noah, what did it matter? He had God’s Word of warning and that was enough for him. What good would wealth be in a post-Flood world anyway?
It is not unusual to see depictions of the Ark as a fun children’s story about Noah and the animals who survived the Great Flood. But the dark side of the Flood with its devastation that shook our world to its foundations, that side of the story we try to overlook. For God, that’s what the Flood was really all about, holding humanity accountable for sin and making a new beginning for His creation. In Genesis 6 we read, “And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.’” We don’t know just how many people there were spread across the face of the pre-Flood earth, but we do know that of them all, only 8 survived . . . Noah and his wife, their sons Shem, Ham and Japheth, and their wives . . . every other living soul died. It was such a devastating experience that God set the rainbow in the sky as the sign of His promise that never again will God carry out His judgment in such a devastating world-wide flood.
It all makes me wonder whether atheists and agnostics really understand what they are asking for when they challenge people of faith with the question, “If there is a God, why doesn’t He end all suffering?” People often scoff at the idea of a God who cannot handle the issue. They don’t see that God has already done so once. Fortunately, He has promised not to do it again till the end of the age when Jesus returns in all His glory! The answer to their question is reflected in the judgment of God upon the earth we see in the Great Flood. For God to “reboot” our world and make a new beginning without sin, God would have to get rid of the sinners . . . that includes you and me. After all, God only left 8 people to populate the world the last time He “pushed he reset button” (and those folks were as “righteous” as people come) and see what their descendants have done to the world? The time will come when the last soul to be saved has come to experience God’s grace, but till then God is patiently waiting to give each one of us and everyone around us, plenty of opportunity to come to HIM. If you read quickly through Revelation, you should recognize that the world will again sink deeper and deeper into sin (just as it did in Noah’s day) before God’s judgment falls on the world once again. That day will once again be an awesome and fearful experience for the unbelieving world, but for those who know and trust in Christ Jesus it will be that new beginning so longed for by many.
Till that day comes, the Christian Church is charged with the responsibility to witness to the work of God’s grace in our lives. We are called to be “Noahs” to our world, building an “Ark,” not one of gopher wood to save a sampling of animals and a remnant of humanity. We are called to build an “Ark” of God’s loving care extended to all who will hear and trust in His promises. We are called to carry the warning of God’s judgment and with it the offer of life through the Gospel message of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. God’s Word and His Church are our “Ark” sharing safe harbor with us and caring us forward in faith toward His Kingdom. Our “Ark” is big enough for everyone! We are called to share His Word of Promise, God’s Word of hope and life, with anyone who will hear. That’s what our Camp Restore Detroit ministry is really all about. That’s the real purpose of everything we do as a congregation. The efforts we make to work on restoring our City are all about sharing with others around us that God cares and is acting in our neighbors’ lives through us, and in our lives through our neighbors, as we bear witness to one another of God’s grace and love in Christ Jesus! Together, by the power of God and the Spirit working in and through us, we are working to build a future that will endure forever in the lives of others we touch with the Gospel . . . That’s a worthy purpose for our lives and ministry!
May God bless you as you serve Jesus in all you do!
Mount Calvary Family & Friends,
Saint Peter strongly encouraged hospitality among the brethren. He wrote to the people of God scattered throughout Asia Minor, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9) The author of the book of Hebrews also wrote, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) In Genesis 18 we read how Abraham entertained 3 men, one of whom turned out to be the Lord Himself and the other 2 angels. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25, “Whatever you do for one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it for Me.”
I remember young seminarians talking about church fellowship activities as unnecessary diversions from the ministry to which we were called. It wasn’t many, for most of us at least enjoyed being fed. It was essential to us to eat whether those meals were essential to the ministry or not. However, I believe we see a reflection in God’s Word of something I have learned through my years of ministry. Table fellowship is very important to those who, work and serve together. Those cooks in the kitchen, the decorations committees, the people who move the chairs and tables to create the right set-up; all are important roles to ministry.
I pause now to reflect on the importance of meal times together as we are in the midst of a very busy and heavy schedule of meals at Mount Calvary for our Camp Restore efforts. I want to share a word of thanks for everyone involved. We hear repeatedly from our visitors to Camp Restore that they are amazed by the efforts to which our members and partners go to see that they are well-fed while here, especially the large home-cooked dinners when people from our congregation and community gather with them for meals.
It was the community meal hosted by Hope Warren last summer that first led Philonese Walker and Sanquise Powell to visit with us. At our most recent community barbecue, hosted by Trinity Clinton Township, I was introduced to a young mother enquiring about baptism for her preteen children. As we make contact with our community and campers through food and fellowship, I cannot help but believe God is using that time powerfully to build ministry connections that will help move Mount Calvary forward into its 2nd century of ministry! Thank you to all who are a part of that experience as we work and serve together.
Of course, it is not just eating together that matters. The involvement of Mount Calvary members in every aspect of our ministry is tremendously important if we are going to connect with our community in new ways and continue as “stake-holders” in the redevelopment of our neighborhood. From blight removal – to home repair – to visitation in homes and nursing homes – to children’s activities on and off campus – to water run-off resolution - to community gardens and the beautification of our own property, we are finding ways to “entertain” our neighbors as we invite them to our property and events to celebrate and work with us, and as we step out to join our neighbors in rebuilding our community. In so many ways, God is laying the foundation for our 2nd century ministry through your work and efforts! Thank you one and all!!!
I know you have heard it before. I am becoming quite repetitive I am sure. Still, I am constantly amazed by all that I am seeing happening at Mount Calvary. I truly cannot keep up with it all myself and am tremendously appreciative of all that everyone is doing in ways great and small to support our Camp Restore Detroit ministry at Mount Calvary and all that is happening here on so many levels. I can’t help but believe that this is the sort of thing Jesus had in mind when HE said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the world!” (Acts 1:8) It hasn’t been that long since our community seemed like “the ends of the world” right here “in our own backyard” . . . all that is changing as we step out in faith into our “Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria” to serve God in new and exciting ways as we see our community rebuilding all around us!
May God continue to give us the faith, wisdom, and strength to move forward and out in this ministry we share.
Pastor John Carrier
Mount Calvary Family & Friends,
If you haven’t heard, we are going to bi-monthly newsletters on a regular basis beginning with this issue. May and June are months of transition as the young people of our families, friends and community graduate from pre-school to kindergarten, kindergarten to elementary school, elementary to high school, high school to college, and college to graduate school . . . graduate school into the working world. Not all will choose to make that particular educational journey; it depends on our life’s goals and the tasks for which God has gifted us. Some will choose to pursue trade schools or on the job training at an earlier point. Some will abandon education early and step into the realities of adult life with little preparation. Whenever and however someone chooses to make the transition to the working world, it generally includes a few unexpected surprises. Like our generation before them, they will discover that it costs more to live than expected and income will be smaller than expected. Those dreams of freedom to live life as they see fit will soon be overwhelmed with the responsibilities of “life in the real world.”
The “real world” is a world of sin. It is a world filled with the challenges and struggles, temptations and consequences that sin creates. Fortunately, we have help from One who has experienced our world and overcame the darkness that threatens to overwhelm us, the darkness of sin and its impact on our world. We celebrate the victory of Jesus through the 7 weeks of the Easter season. Jesus shares the fruits of His victory with us in the promise of resurrection to eternal life, and in the assurance that God continues with us as we carry His Mission forward.
On the 50th day after Easter we will celebrate Pentecost and God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to us. Baptism shares the Spirit with us. We receive the Holy Spirit without the powerful expressions of His presence seen on that first Pentecost, but with the power to overcome our doubts and unbelief, the power to lay hold of the promises of God’s forgiving grace through faith in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit calls us, as God’s faithful ones, to carry the message of Jesus’ victory “to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the world!” . . . for us that might translate to “the 9th Precinct, Detroit, our suburban neighbors, and beyond!”
That responsibility is the driving force behind our Camp Restore Detroit ministries. It is all about extending the love of God in Christ Jesus to our neighbors who are struggling to rebuild their lives in Detroit’s difficult and deeply distressed urban context. We’ve had a few growing pains and unexpected challenges along the way (right now we are awaiting word from the City on the building requirements for proper licensing for our endeavors) but that is to be expected. Big changes are in the winds for Mount Calvary and that doesn’t come easily.
Change is never easy. There are always unexpected challenges. As we navigate the waters of change, whether it is a student stepping into adult responsibilities or a congregation stepping up to challenges in mission, it is good to know that God is with us to guide and direct us. Please pray for these young people taking on life’s challenges and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction. Please keep Mount Calvary and our Camp Restore Detroit efforts in your prayers as well, as we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit directing our way forward. Whatever changes and challenges are coming to your life, be assured that God has the future in His hands, just as He has had the past. Trust in His grace and pray for His guidance.
God bless you as you serve Jesus in your work and in your play!
Mount Calvary Family & Friends,
Jesus said, “I Am the Light of the world. The one who follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Light is a necessity to life. Darkness is a necessity to growth. Just a little junior high biology, if I remember it correctly, may help illustrate those thoughts. Plants thrive on light; it is the driving force of photosynthesis. But the same light that provides energy and sustains life kills the growth tip. That’s why the plant grows toward the light it needs, the dying side of the tip causes it to lean in its direction. Growth comes only in the darkness. The plant needs both darkness and light to grow. Constant light may leave a plant strong and healthy, but unable to grow. Constant darkness will leave a plant pale, sickly, and ultimately, dead.
People also need a little “darkness” in their lives to grow. It is facing challenges that lead to growth as we see that we do indeed have the resources to “deal with” the issues life throws at us. Between the gifts God has given us and the gifts God has given others He brings into our lives, we discover new strengths and grow in our relationship with God. . . . Unless we fail to see the “light” God brings into our lives, then our faith too will weaken, fail to thrive, and ultimately, may even die.
In order to grow stronger through adversity and the challenges life offers us, we too need to “bend toward the Light.” Jesus is the “Light” toward which we need to “bend”. We need to see God’s presence and work in our lives. We can see that “Light” when we spend time in God’s Word, the Bible. We can see that “Light” in unexpected ways when we are surprised by unanticipated resources or opportunities that enable us to overcome. We can often see that “Light” and its source most readily in God’s people who come to our aid.
It has been amazing to see how God’s people have come together and discovered new gifts or learned new skills that have brought us success thus far in our Camp Restore efforts. Every time it seems as though dark shadows are rising and threatening our efforts, something or someone is raised up by God to enable our forward movement. I’ve been surprised by people in City Government who have applauded our efforts and offered helpful advice on the best path forward (imagine, people from the government who really are there to help!. . . although I suspect that really is the goal far more often than we realize). I’ve seen it in financial gifts to help and assist our movement forward (we recently received an unexpected $1,500 gift to assist in our loan payment for Camp Restore, and that’s just the most recent example). I’ve seen the people of Mount Calvary rise up to lead tasks I am confident they would have baulked at just a year or two ago. . . God has indeed been shedding His gracious “Light” on our little enterprise. May He continue to guide and bless us as we move forward!
While I am at it, it would be remiss of me not to note, with thanks, the “Light” of God’s love in Christ Jesus shed into our personal lives as many of you have supported Lori and me through the loss of her Mom, and now her Dad. Your gracious understanding and support for the Sundays I had to miss, the cards we received, the presence of many of you at their visitations and at her Mom and Dad’s personal Easter celebrations at Saint Mark Lutheran were all deeply appreciated. We cannot thank you enough.
I need to thank you as well for remembering us with individual gifts and a gift from the congregation over the Christmas season. We both deeply appreciate the personal support you have shown for Lori and me.
May God grant you amazing blessings through this New Year!
Mount Calvary Family,
Andy Williams had it right when he crooned, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." It's a lovely pop tune that, like so many pop culture Christmas traditions, celebrates the celebration more than the heart of the season. As children of God, we celebrate the first snow of the season, the seasonal winter activities we so enjoy, and party times with friends just as do others . . . But we celebrate something more. . . . Each December, during the Christmas season, we celebrate the news the angels delivered on that Holy Night, "For to you is born this night, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!" Now that's something to celebrate! Our chief celebration at Mount Calvary comes again at 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve. Do you have a friend who needs that late night reminder of what Christmas is really all about?
Of course, no celebration is a success without preparation. Selecting music and preparing worship services is already beginning as I write this in early November. Our true time of preparation for Christmas, however, doesn't begin until four Sundays before Christmas, counting Christmas Eve this year. December 3 is the first Sunday of Advent as we begin our Christmas preparations in worship and praise of our coming Savior. The color of the season is Royal Purple or Royal Blue. Do you catch the theme? They are "Royal" colors, chosen to mark the arrival of the King and Lord of Heaven and Earth… Lord of the universe and all that lies beyond! He came to our aid in the helpless form of a baby, quite literally "born in a barn". He was laid on a bed of straw in a feed box for cattle and other domestic beasts. Any rational man would question the wisdom of such an approach. The first tactic of His forces’ battle plan in this war against sin and death was to retreat in the face of Herod's troops who were sent to the City of Bethlehem to execute every baby boy under the age of 2. In Matthew 2:18, the Evangelist describes the horror using the words of Jeremiah 31:15, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” . . . This is God's idea of a rescue plan? . . . Well, yes. God sent His Son to deliver these young children and other heirs of His promises to Abraham, those of every nation and people who share Abraham's faith in God and His promises.
Just how does this plan work when these children's lives are already lost? . . . It works through the death of the Man into whom this Child grew, Jesus of Nazareth. On Good Friday, Jesus gave His life on the tree of the cross for their sins, for our sins, for all sins, even for the sins of those brutal men who killed those children in Bethlehem by the sword that day, and those who killed Jesus three decades later on that cross. And how does that work? . . . It works through the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning, with the power to raise all who follow Him in faith. . . . And it all began with a child wrapped in rags and lying in a manger! . . . Only God could make a plan like that work . . . Thank God He did!
May the hope of Good Friday's sacrifice and Easter's Victory born in the manger that first Christmas fill your hearts with peace and joy this year and every year. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among those with whom He is pleased!" (Luke 2:14)
About The Author
Since 2015, Pastor John Carrier has been Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church's pastor in Detroit, Michigan. He is also the Director for Camp Restore Detroit. Mt. Calvary has a bi-monthly newsletter, which opens with words from Pastor Carrier, called "From The Pastor's Desk..."