The Great Gift of Easter

It is still dark as night. The sun has not yet topped the trees. A slight breeze blows, breaking the mist into long fingers that twirl among the gravestones, wispy and white. We gather around the bonfire, a lit candle in our hands, grateful for the light and each other’s company, as we wait for the dawn.

There is something so very meaningful about gathering on the edge of a cemetery to await the Easter sunrise. The contrast between darkness and light, life and death, is vivid. You can literally reach out and touch it. The memory of loved ones long gone is sharp, and the longing to see them again intense. You speak in whispers, and move slowly as you wait for the music to begin – the sound that pushes the shadows away, and makes your heart rise and fall with the melody. You yearn for the words; to hear once again the promises of Easter – the empty tomb, the angel voices, the risen Lord, alive and well! And, as the sun spills its liquid gold over you, the reality of the resurrection races through your veins, and you throw back your head, and cry, “He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

We Lutherans live in the shadow of the cross. We remember the life, suffering, and death of Jesus all the time. We follow him out into the world, carrying his cross before us. But, the center of our faith is the resurrection! Because, without the resurrection, the cross would be meaningless. If God had not raised Jesus from the dead, his death would have been for nothing! But, it was not for nothing. Jesus was raised. Jesus is alive. And, because he lives, we have been given the great gift of Easter – the gift of hope. The hope that this world is not all there is. The hope we need to fully live our life today. The hope that when this temporary earthly tent in which we live wears out, we will be given a permanent room in heaven, and will see our loved ones again. And, best of all, Easter gives us the hope that we will see God face to face, and live in the joy of his presence forever!

Basil C. Hume said, “The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope – which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.” This is the gift we celebrate each Easter. This is the gift that we are blessed to receive and blessed to share with those who have no hope.

Come! Receive, once again, the great gift of Easter! Be reminded that miracles do happen! That the impossible becomes possible! Let God fill your soul with the gift of hope that leads to other gifts – to joy, and laughter, and the peace that only God can give. Come celebrate Easter with a community of faith that gathers in silence, but goes home dancing! Come, just as you are. We’ve saved a seat for you…

Easter Blessings,

Pastor Barb <><

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
Matthew 24:5

“Celebrate More Birthdays!” with Relay for Life

Grab your party hats and join our Zion Relay for Life team as we “Celebrate More Birthdays!” Our team will be on the track at this year’s event supporting all of our friends and family whose lives have been affected by cancer. The Relay begins on April 1 at 7:00PM and ends April 2 at 7:00AM. The walk will be at Rebel Field which has been designated as Effingham’s official site for all walks. If you can’t walk with the Zion Relay for Life team, you can still be a part of the team by helping us reach our goal to raise $1500 to fight cancer. The free will donations collected at the Lent Sunday meals, March 13th, 20th, and 27th will be added to the money our Zion Relay for Life team collects and will be donated to the American Cancer Society. Zion’s Relay for Life “party coordinator” is Cheryl Pannal, who is happy to help you with any questions or provide more information. You can call Cheryl at 772-5465 or 667-5315. All of us together can make a difference! To join the Zion Relay for Life team and celebrate life, go to Zion’s website or FaceBook page and register online or checkout the information in the church narthex. We hope to “Celebrate More Birthdays!” together with you!

WELCA March Update

March is a busy month for Women of the ELCA here at Zion. Our ladies are involved in presenting the program and hosting the World Day of Prayer service here at Zion on Friday, March 4th at 7:00p.m.. We are also providing the meal for our annual Mardi Gras Pancake Supper on March 6th with games starting at 4:00p.m. We’ll be hosting a baby shower for Brett & Misti Vandenhouten on Thursday, March 31st. (It’s a girl!) On April 23rd, we’ll be sponsoring the annual Easter Egg Hunt here at Zion. We are now accepting donations to help cover expenses for this event. Donations can be given to Dana Lee Smith or WELCA treasurer, Emma Lee Dasher. We invite everyone to take advantage of these opportunities to get involved!

Did you know that WELCA provides meals for bereaved families throughout the year and we sponsor wedding showers and baby showers? Anyone, men and women, can help with these projects. Donations to help with expenses for these projects can be given to our meal and shower coordinator, Melinda Heidt, or WELCA treasurer, Emma Lee Dasher.

Have you heard? Our “Circle of Friends” group has a new name. This group is now called “Sisters of Faith”. With a “new” name comes “new” excitement as they continue to serve God and others.

Remember……all ladies of the congregation are members of WELCA. Everyone is encouraged to get involved.

March 2011 Children’s Choir Update

We have 15 children singing in the choir with an average of 11 singing every Sunday Morning. We are having a good time at choir learning our songs, playing instruments, and singing at the Sunday Morning Worship Services. We will sing at the Ash Wednesday Service on March 9th at 7:00 p.m. and at all the Sunday 5:00 p.m. Lenten Services. We appreciate all you do to help and support the children as they sing at the Worship Services. Please continue to pray for us as we work with your children every Wednesday.

March 2011 LYO Update

February Highlights

Wow! Thanks to all the youth who helped with the Youth Sunday “Souper Bowl” service on February 6th. It was a wonderful service and many folks have commented on the awesome job the youth did in leading the service. Thanks to the congregation and all who supported “Souper Bowl of Caring”. We collected $375 for Manna House! We ended this special day with a great Super Bowl pizza party. We had fun watching the commercials, playing games and watching the game!

March

Wednesday, March 2nd 6:00pm-7:30pm: Youth Bible Study Join us for a time of music, fun and fellowship with God. Remember that the meal runs from 5:30pm to 6:00pm.

Friday, March 11th – Sunday, March 13th: All GA at New Ebenezer Retreat Center in Rincon The theme, “By Faith” comes from Hebrews 11. The speaker and guest musician for the event is Pastor Jay Gamelin. The bus will leave Zion at 6:30pm on Friday. Dinner will not be provided Friday night. Eat before you come! Youth need to bring a sleeping bag and pillow for bunk beds, towel, wash cloth, and toiletries (tooth brush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc.). Youth will need money for Sunday offering. We will arrive back at church on Sunday by noon. We will not be eating lunch. Please remember that ipods, cell phones, mp3 players and etc. are not allowed at the event! If there is an emergency that requires contacting a youth, call Dana Lee’s cell at 912-665-1377.

Wednesday, March 16th: No Bible Study – SCHOOL OUT EARLY

Sunday, March 27th 12:15pm – 3:30pm: Visiting Service Project Youth will need to bring a sack lunch to church. Following worship, we’ll eat and depart to visit some of our homebound members. Join us as we share a smile and spread some cheer!

Plan Ahead

Sunday, April 24th:  Sunrise Easter Service – Youth will serve Breakfast!!

June 19th-24th: AFFIRM at Berry College in Rome, GA Registration forms are available. A $25 deposit fee is required from all youth. See Dana Lee for forms and additional information.

News from the Sonshine Sunday School Class

During Advent and Christmas, our preschool Sunday School class began collecting children’s books for the Storybook Prison Ministry that is sponsored by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. We have received a wonderful thank you letter from the director of that program, Gail Beard. The letter is posted on the bulletin board in the narthex of the church for our congregation and guests to read and also see the picture of a young man who is reading one of the books provided by the program.

On March 6th, during our Sunday School hour, we will be having a Lenten decorating party. The color will be purple and we will make crafts that reflect our Lenten theme and decorate our liturgical tree. Pastor Barb will bring a special “show and tell” to help us learn about Lent and Ash Wednesday. Come join the fun and learn about the new church season coming up.

Pastor Kart Race!

On Saturday, March 5, 2011, Come on out to the Pineora Kartway Race Track and cheer for Pastor “Lead-Foot” Barb as she races against other area pastors in a Go Cart Race to raise funds for Robbie Moore, an Effingham High School student battling cancer. Pastor Barb says she is ready and raring to go, fully expects to win! The racetrack opens at 10:00 a.m. with the Pastor’s race at 2:00p.m. Cost is $10.00 per person to enjoy the race! See the flyer in the Narthex for more information, or ask Pastor Barb, who is waxing her helmet…

Flyer on the Event

Dedication of the Zion Prayer Labyrinth

In the Zion courtyard, we have constructed a memorial garden in memory of Dr. Paul W. Hart, a member of Zion who loved God and the beautiful world God created. At the center of the garden is a prayer labyrinth that is open to the community. Dr. Hart was dedicated to the preservation of nature and worked to that end within the US Department of Energy. A place of prayer set in the outdoors is a fitting tribute to his life’s work.

The labyrinth is an ancient way of praying as you walk. We have set aside this sacred space to help us grow in our prayer life. It is our hope that our neighbors will come and walk the labyrinth as well, and that they may find the peace of Christ that we have found in this place.

Zion welcomes the community to the dedication of the Zion Prayer Labyrinth on March 27, 2011 following the service.