Maybe it was the 1,000’s of jars of peanut butter lined up behind the altar at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church , destined for the less fortunate. It might have been the closing invocation in Inupiat, spoken by the aged native elder as she stood by Rector Michael Burke. Or it could have been the multitude of interactions between those two events last Sunday, November 24, the Last Sunday after Pentecost in liturgical time. But it all conspired to make it a meaningful Sunday service for me.
My revisit to this warm and friendly church was made to update how time changes this congregation that meets on the rise overlooking Tudor and Lake Otis. The folk music of Wade Hampton Miller and St. Mary’s Praise Singers greeted my ears as I entered last Sunday Morning. No untheological repetition or ear blasting rock volumes here, just Christian goodness with many tunes and lyrics directly from the hand of talented Miller.
Rector Burke delivered an awesome sermon on this special day designated the Celebration of Christ the King. He opened with the following illustration.
Jerry Schmalenberger, the former President of Pacific Lutheran Seminary in California, used to tell a story dating back to the time of the Nazi terror in Germany. In Wittenberg-Lutherstadt, a large statue of Christ stands in front of the Castle Church. Today, it is patched and repaired: for, on one Sunday afternoon long ago, a group of Nazi youth beat the statue to pieces with clubs. They painted the following words on a nearby fence: “The Reign of Christ is over.”
Later, several Christian youth saw what had been done. They repaired the broken statue. Then, taking the same discarded paintbrush and paint can the Hitler Youth had used, they added three letters to the Nazi message: “a-l-l.” The slogan on the fence now read: “The reign of Christ is over all.”
Burke challenged his parishioners to consider what role Christ played in their lives. In three closing questions he asked them to consider Christ’s role in their lives.
How important is Jesus to you?
Where have you placed Christ in the ordering of your life?
Is the reign of Christ “over all” in your life, or is the reign of Christ “over” in your life?
Yes indeed, the clear Christian theology is still intact at St. Mary’s!
After the serving of the Eucharist, Rector Burke invited this congregation to a Thanksgiving Day breakfast at St. Mary’s at 9:00 a.m. to be followed by a Thanksgiving Day worship service at 10 a.m. This church works for me, and it truly works in the community. Anyone could show up for these events and be warmly welcomed, fed, and ministered to.
I consider St. Mary’s to be a bright spot in Anchorage’s church community.