Sunday, April 5, 2015

You Thought You Could Ruin Our Easter?

Today Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Charlotte celebrated its 100th Easter. For 100 years this community of God’s faithful people has been ushering in Resurrection Sunday with the resounding hymn, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.” This year, we heard it twice. Once as a glorious procession made its way down the center aisle and a second time when I led the children in our annual “Easter Bunny Hop.” (The song fits the steps of the “Bunny Hop” perfectly.)

It was a Sunday full of surprises. Perhaps the biggest one was something that none of us had planned. When people arrived, they were greeted by protesters on the front sidewalk. Can you believe it? On Easter Sunday! These “Christians” thought it was more important to stand in front of our church and spew hate than it was to be worshiping in their own church on Easter Sunday.


When I saw them, I was not happy. There were things we had planned to do on the front lawn, and instead we had to remain sequestered in the building.

The protesters were loud and obnoxious, but they did nothing illegal. Nonetheless, three police cars arrived to make sure. I thanked the officers and shared a picture with them that I had just taken next door at the Van Landingham Estate, where the children were having an Easter egg hunt. It’s a photo of one of our families. The officers commented on how great the picture was. I pointed to it and said, “It’s hard to believe that THIS is what these people are protesting, isn’t it?”


For the most part, I tuned out the high decibel ranting that kept going non-stop. I did manage to hear that I was leading my people to hell, something I have been accused of many times by just these kind of people. I consider their accusations high praise for my ministry.

One of our members heard the “preacher” say that there was something wrong with the name of our church. We had nothing to do with being holy, or the Trinity, or a church...but we could keep the Lutheran part. Ha! I love it! The member reporting this to me remarked, “They obviously don’t know anything about what it means to be Lutheran.”

Ironically, if the protesters thought they were going to scare anyone away from worshiping with us, their presence had the opposite effect. One woman from the neighborhood was taking her morning walk past the church. She was so angry when she saw them that she walked right into the church to worship. A family across the street quickly constructed their own signs to counter the ones the protesters were displaying. They got into quite a “discussion” with the protesters in the middle of the street. That's when one of our ushers invited them to worship with us, and they did. After worship, the same usher went to their house and gave them one of our lilies.

Have I mentioned how truly amazing the children of Holy Trinity are? Today I asked them to tell me about signs of Easter they had seen that morning. They said: Easter eggs, bunnies, butterflies… If I were to answer that question I would point to them as the greatest sign of new life, hope and promise for me. It never ceases to amaze me how well they understand what living the Jesus Way in the world looks like. 

Before I walked into worship, I read an email from one of our members who had attended a sunrise service where she was vacationing in Florida this morning. The service was of another flavor of Lutheranism that shall go unnamed. Afterward, she had a conversation with her son, who is about 7 years old. She asked him if he could tell the difference. He said, “At our church we believe God lets everyone go to heaven. They think only some people do.” Yes, he gets it.

On Facebook, someone posted the conversation between a mom and her young daughter that took place as they were walking into church this morning:
Child: Why are they yelling mean things?
Mom: They have bad things they want to say. Do you remember what happened when Jesus was headed to the cross?
Child: People yelled mean things at him.
Mom: And what did he do?
Child: He forgave them.

I really am so proud of the people in my congregation. They didn’t let any of the disruption going on outside the building ruin their Easter. Our worship together was truly glorious. And it was not about the ruckus on the street. It was all about Jesus.

During communion we sang “All Are Welcome”, a song that was chosen long before anyone knew what would greet us when we arrived at church this morning. The words took on new meaning for us: “Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face; let us bring an end to fear and danger: All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.”

He is risen. I know it’s true because I saw him this morning at 1900 The Plaza in Charlotte. 




25 comments:

Linda said...

I had seen most of the pictures taken this morning. I saw a beautiful Easter service. I was extremely surprised that protestors showed up on Easter Sunday. I am so happy that your congregation carried on as normal and that your neighbors stood up for your church. Things are changing; at least for the young people. Good blog.

Paul Christ said...

God Bless your witness and the testimony of your congregation. It is why I still have hope for our Church and the promise of the Gospel. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! -- from a man, who identifies as gay, living in Gastonia!

Marie Krum said...

PRAISE THE NAME OF JESUS!!

Anonymous said...

The little girl got it right....FORGIVE THEM!!

Linda Faltin said...

Holy Trinity and you, as their pastor, Nancy, are pointing the way for all the rest of us. Blessings galore...and an abundance of love from High Point.

Jeff Greathouse said...

Beautiful Post. I am so sorry that this occurred at your church. But, the love and grace that you and the church are showing are amazing and these pictures are amazing and beautiful.

Steven Stillwell said...

How interesting that your service was picketed in the morning and the service in the evening with New Life was not. Guess they don't know what an MCC is. If they show up next Sunday I will make it a point to show up all the following Sundays. It sounds like the neighborhood is a good one!

L said...

Pastor Nancy,
I am glad to see you continuing your good work at Trinity. I am sad to see that happen at your beautiful church.

Trinity is a very special place and will always hold a place in my heart.

~Lori (Haskell)-now Garber

WMD926 said...

I saw this posted on Facebook by a man that I knew when we were kids and he is now a Pastor in I think Pennsylvania or Massachusetts and we have reconnected through Facebook. Anyway I did go to your blog and read it. God's blessings to you and to your church. It sounds like you handled it just right and God used the protesters to bring others to your service. How awesome it that. From Wanda in Minnesota.

Mary Mastel said...

Blessings to you this Easter season and always! I belong to an RIC congregation in Portland, Oregon. (Central Lutheran) I admire the strength and faith of the people of Holy Trinity! Keep up the good work of inclusion and love for all!

Peace-
Mary Mastel

Snooze Hamilton said...

It's a shame that Jesus has to put up with namedroppers like these. At least he has congregations like yours to make up for them. If I remember right, Matthew 7:21 is the appropriate verse for this sort of thing?

May your spirit of goodwill come back to reward you tenfold (wish goes out)

Maurie Lockley said...

There are tears in my eyes after reading this blog. The tears spring both from sadness and joy! I loved the conversation about forgiving the folks who shout ugly things. I loved the folks from the neighborhood who chose to protest the protesters by worshiping the Risen Lord! I am saddened by the divisions within the body of Christ that caused the protests.

Kathryn Westerne said...

Happy Easter from the members and friends of Luther Place Church (DC)! Please visit us next time you come to our nation's capital.
Thank you for your powerful witness to God's incredible grace.

Anonymous said...

Rest assured people of Holy Trinity of Charlotte, if we were moving to Charlotte YOURS is the church we would attend first!! Peace be with you!!!

Cynthia Astle said...

From a United Methodist sister in Christ in Dallas, TX: Well done, thou good and faithful servants! Christ is indeed risen in your congregation, and you inspire me to keep on keepin' on.

Anonymous said...

what an amazing display of love by your congregation and neighbors.....what an extravagant display of ignorance by the protestors!!! Odd that they would choose the most important day of the Christian calendar to miss out on sitting in their own pews........ this is the sort of group that gives Christians a bad name......I hope I can visit your church some time when I am in the Charlotte are!

Valarie Keane said...

My friend and I have both shared this on Facebook. Your Congregation and your neighbors are the fulfillment of love your neighbor as yourself. You are also an inspiration to others because I believe all are welcome, too. May God shower you all with His love, graces, and blessings. And to the protesters may He shower them with His mercy and love and the graces to love thy neighbor as yourelf.

Budd Kirby said...

Congratulations to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church from Budd Kirby, Director of Music Ministries/Organist at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Charlotte, NC, a like-minded parish. You are obviously living out the Love of God in Jesus Christ and being successful. Alleluia, Alleluia! The Lord is risen indeed!

Rev. Susan Bame said...

Peace and Grace from your sister in Christ!

Brian Suntken said...

God bless you and your ministry

Anonymous said...

I'm torn Pastor Nancy. On one hand I love that your blog focused on the "elephant in the room" which was the protestors. And as always you did an excellent job summarizing the situation and focusing on the important messages embedded within. However, walking into the church Sunday morning I chose to ignore the protestors in favor of paying full attention to you, the love within our church, and most of all God. I simply said a silent prayer for them, and I walked on by. Sometimes ignoring the "elephant in the room" can help to make it powerless. Just a thought......But, another brilliant and compassionate blog as always-and really loving the photos of all who came to worship together, with you. You held a wonderful service!!

Anonymous said...

Matthew 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against youu falsely for My sake.

Tom a baptist.

Anonymous said...

Every Sunday after your sermon I leave feeling truly loved.
Thank you Pastor Nancy.
I love you too!

Anonymous said...

Unfold your wings and wrap them tightly around us.
You are our light.
I love you too.