School Supplies and Canned Fruit

Part of our mission as Zion Lutheran Church is to serve God’s people, especially the most vulnerable in our community.  We do that in a lot of different ways here at Zion.  For instance, we have this great connection with our friends at Taking it to the Streets, which provides food for the homeless in downtown.  You should come the next time we do this!

Late last week we received an email from our friends at Christian Assistance Ministry (CAM) saying that they are in desperate need of canned fruit and plastic children’s hangers.  We’ve been long-term  partners with our friends at CAM and have people at Zion that volunteer in a variety of ways there.  Thanks to your generosity, we had several people that brought in canned fruit that will help feed the hungry in San Antonio.  We will continue to collect fruit and hangers and will take them to CAM.

Our Women of Zion (WOZ) are in the middle of a great service project.  They are partnering to provide school kits to children across the world.  Our goal is to collect enough supplies for 150 school supply kits.

So far we’ve collected:
530 black and blue pens
100 rulers
124 boxes of crayons
118 scissors
185 erasers
115 pencil sharpeners
262 spiral notebooks
1305 pencils

We still need:
220 black or blue ink pens
50 more rulers
26 more boxes of crayons (16 or 24 count)
32 more scissors
35 more pencil sharpeners
338 70-page spiral notebooks (note: they are currently on sale for .17 at HEB and WalMart)

Can you help? For more information, stop by the WOZ table in the narthex or call the church office for more information.

As always, thanks for the many ways you seek to be a blessing to others!!


Today’s blog is by Travis Baker, Youth Minister.

At first, Detroit looked to be a new experience for our youth. They went in search of a place they could help. They went in search of the excitement that comes with a youth trip and a new city to explore. They went hoping they could reconnect with friends from the synod as well as make new friends from across the country.

In truth, all those hopes were fulfilled. Those hopes, however, paled in comparison to the experience they shared. Our youth went with expectations, but they returned having left those expectations behind. They returned as a group of changed people. They returned having shared in and become a part of the grand story of Detroit.

At first glance, it sounds great to lay claim to the numbers. Thirty thousand Lutherans all gathered into one city for service, for fellowship and for worship. The reality, however, is a different story. There were traffic jams. There were long lines at restaurants. There was a day with little food. But above and beyond that, there was a group of teenagers gathered together for a bigger purpose, to join in a grander story. The traffic jams became a way to remain in community on the bus longer. The long lines in restaurants became a way to get to know other Lutherans and fellow Detroitians better. The day without lunch became a way to spend more time in service to the community of Detroit. Instead of eating, our youth worked on a mosaic for a neighborhood park.

The youth of Zion travelled to Detroit for an experience. They left ready to share the stories of a city that has been mislabeled by the media, mishandled by officials, and misunderstood by all. They learned the names and the stories of the café employees, the food servers at Ford Field, the cops that lined the roads and the souls surrounding us in the stands at Comerica Park. They shared their faith in the middle of a city square, even as they handed out the leftover food from lunch to local homeless people, construction workers and a group of children. The youth spoke of their relationship with God to passersby who stopped to ask them where they were from and to seek a simple blessing from the guests of their city.

Perhaps the ultimate moment for our youth came while watching the Tigers play baseball. A gentleman turned towards a group of youth and asked if their perception of Detroit has changed. He smiled at the resounding yes that poured forth from the lips of our teenagers. Then he politely asked them to share what they have experienced.

Detroit is not a city that can be accurately described the media. Detroit is a city full of hope. Detroit is a city full of people that love where they live and love the citizens that walk the streets. There is life in Detroit. There is salvation in Detroit. There is God in Detroit. And for our youth, fresh off the trip and speaking strongly of a desire to return, there is the wisdom and recognition that they each returned from Detroit as a new person. They have been moved by the cohesion of a people put through the ringer yet working to come out the other side together. Our youth have been touched by the joy that comes from living the depths of the valley while knowing the mountain is worthy of the climb. Our youth have experienced life, and have experienced it abundantly, all while walking alongside their neighbors and friends, the good people of Detroit.

Holy Smoke 2!!

This Sunday our Lutheran Men in Mission is partnering with the Women of Zion for our second Holy Smoke! event.  Come out for some sausage, beans, and potato salad plates.  You can get them to go or eat in Fellowship Hall.  Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children.

The proceeds from this event go to help support Habitat for Humanity.  But how will this money be used?

Lutherans in San Antonio of all stripes (ELCA and non-ELCA congregations) have worked on a Habitat House in San Antonio as a joint partnership for several years.  We believe that as Lutheran Christians we can work together to help provide simple, decent, affordable housing for families in need.

This takes money to make that happen.  Lutherans across the San Antonio area are trying to raise several thousands of dollars to help with the construction materials.  Every dollar that is raised at Holy Smoke II will go to provide materials for this house.

So this Sunday after you come to worship, come and grab a plate to eat for a good cause.  Stay in the Fellowship Hall or take some home with you!


It’s the End of the World As We Know It!

Today I want to talk about the last things… The fancy church word pastors and scholars use is called “eschatology.”  It literally means the study of the last things.

A saying that is sometimes attributed to Martin Luther helps me to frame my comments – “If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today!”

The Nicene Creed declares that Jesus Christ “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”  From the beginning of our history, Christians have been living with the realization that Jesus will come again to bring a new heaven and a new earth.  Lutherans start with the assumption that this is good news.  All that is wrong with this world will be restored by God’s grace.

In the last several centuries there has been a renewed interest in eschatology by certain parts of the Christian church.  On its own, that’s not a bad thing.  To grossly oversimplify things, how we think about the end makes a difference in how we live in the present.  Lutherans haven’t really been having lots of conversations about these sorts of things.

But to have a brief conversation I think we need to start with the Bible.  Lutherans read the Bible with Jesus Christ as the center.  He is God’s Word made flesh.  While some Christians look at Scripture start with the assumption that God’s Word is a road map that predicts history or gives us propositions to believe or accept, Lutherans talk about how Scriptures center on Christ, the Living Word, who speaks to us through these ancient words.

Because Jesus is at the center of our reading of Scripture and because we stress God’s grace, we start with the understanding that all of life is in God’s hands.  God keeps and protects us as a shepherd keeps sheep.  This means that we don’t have to worry about the end of the world because it’s all in God’s hand.  Our job is not to spend inordinate amounts of time preparing for the end of the world by doing things like predicting the end of the world.  Our job is to be signs of the new creation that is springing up around us.  It is to do things like work for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2) and to trust that God’s kingdom is coming on earth as it is in heaven in/around/through us.  The daily tasks we do are signs of God’s kingdom breaking in that will culminate with the second coming of Jesus.

In other words, we Lutherans are much more interested in the signs of new creation that are springing up on earth than we are about when the end of the world will be. Our job is to live in hope and to trust that God’s desire for the world is good and gracious.

The Great Controversy – Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about a book that had been in several mailboxes by the title The Great Controversy.  I’ve not read the book yet and probably won’t get to it any time soon.  But here are some of my thoughts:  

The author, Ellen G. White, is a really important figure in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) tradition.  In the 1980’s there was a statement on how mainstream SDA’s think of her writings.  They believe that she had the gift of prophecy and that her writings are “the product of that inspiration, are applicable and authoritative, especially to Seventh-day Adventists.”  (For more on what they said, go to this website.)   Interestingly even though a woman’s writings are a really important part of their tradition, they remain divided on the ordination of women as pastors.

While Lutherans and Seventh-day Adventists share a common belief in the Triune God, we also have some significant differences.  For instance, SDA’s stress practices like tithing and Old Testament dietary laws as binding on Christians.  Lutherans stress the freedom a Christian has because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Another important distinction is that Lutherans primarily gather on Sunday because this is the day Jesus rose from the dead (see Acts 20:7), while SDA’s believe that Christians are obligated to worship on Saturday.

When I talk with Christians from other traditions, you can often hear different things emphasized.  For instance, Lutherans place a strong emphasis on God’s grace as a gift given to us.  While that’s a theme that runs throughout the whole Bible, a lot of Lutherans I know will find great comfort in Paul’s writings in the New Testament.

SDA’s stress two books in the Bible that are about the end of the world – the Old Testament Book of Daniel and the New Testament book of Revelation.  You can see glimpses of this on the back cover of The Great Controversy:  

Solemn and important… are the events taking place in our times.  But what do all these really mean?  Could these be warning signs, arousing us to some imminent danger?…  The Great Controversy reveals that the world is a theater of conflict.  The actors – you and me – are preparing to act our part in the last great drama.  And our choices and actions have a part to play in the outcome of this agelong struggle.”  

Notice the language of conflict that I mentioned yesterday.  Also notice the emphasis on the end of the world (i.e. the last great drama.)  Tomorrow I’m going to briefly offer a Lutheran response to this….

The Great Controversy in my mailbox

Several folks have asked me about a book they’ve received in their mailbox.  Here’s an image of the book:

The Great Controversy

Maybe you’ve seen it in your own mailbox.  I had several people asking me about it.  So here’s what I know…

This book was written by Ellen White, an important person in the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA).

The SDA’s were formed in the mid-1800’s by a group of people that were looking for the second advent, or second coming, of Jesus.  They also are a group of Christians who believe that Christians are still bound to keep the seventh day of the week (i.e. Saturday) as the Sabbath.  So if you put those two things together, that they keep the seventh day as Sabbath and that they expect the advent of Jesus, then you get their name, Seventh-day Adventists.

Of course there is much more that could be said about the SDA’s, but I’ll get back to the book many of you were asking me about this past Sunday.

Mrs. White wrote this about The Great Controversy:
“The Great Controversy should be very widely circulated. It contains the story of the past, the present, and the future. In its outline of the closing scenes of this earth’s history, it bears a powerful testimony in behalf of the truth. I am more anxious to see a wide circulation for this book than for any others I have written; for in The Great Controversy, the last message of warning to the world is given more distinctly than in any of my other books.”

One of the major themes of Mrs. White’s writing was the idea of a cosmic struggle between Jesus and Satan that gets played out on earth.  It looks like this book attempts to trace her understanding of Christian history (Luther has two chapters in it) and Scripture that ends with the second coming of Christ.

When I did a little bit of digging on the Internet, I found that this has been a project of Remnant Publications, an independent publishing house out of Michigan.  They’ve been asking for contributions from people to help send out copies of this book across the US.  Last year 350,000 households in Charlotte, NC received this book and 750,000 households received this book in San Francisco, CA.  Apparently they’re starting to send books to people in San Antonio.

Tomorrow I’ll have a little more about this for you…

-Pastor Russell

Life Together

by Vicar Emily Ebert

Life Together. We all have our own ideas of what the phrase, ‘Life Together’ implies. We all have our own communities of which we are a part, and our own ways of existing within them. We throw around words of ‘love’ and ‘community’ as followers of Christ, but how do those words get played out in our lives? Sometimes there are unconscious boundaries that prevent us from revealing our whole selves to our neighbors. If we are unable to reveal our whole selves, then we might begin to wonder about the depth of our relationships. If we are unable to face the realities – the joys and the struggles – in our own lives, in our community at Zion, in our various circles of friends, and even within what we see as our various circles of enemies, then what kind of relationships do we have? We need relationships that create systems of support and love, but we also need relationships that challenge each of us and help us grow as a community. In Psalm 133:1, it says “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell in unity!” That does not mean we will agree on everything, but it does mean we will listen to each other, bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:25).

This week we begin our book study on Bonhoeffer’s book titled Life Together. Bonhoeffer was a man who brought faith, doctrine, intellect, theology, action, and discipleship together. The book is based off of the experience of life in a community for an underground seminary during the years of the Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer not only challenged the German sense of community, but the sense of community within the German clergy, challenging action and inaction within the communities of the Holocaust. Bonhoeffer gives advice and guidance that can challenge us to think about how we live as followers of Christ, within our congregation and within the world. The purpose of the study is to build curiosity about what the words of Scripture and Bonhoeffer’s words mean for us now. Come, ready to dive in. Come, ready to challenge each other. Come, ready to question the world we live in.

Zion still has books available for $10 (also available on Kindle). Contact Karen Stein ( or Emily Ebert ( if you are in need of a book. You may also call the church office at 210-688-3090.

Each week, we will discuss one chapter of Bonhoeffer’s book. If you miss a week, that is okay. Let me (Emily) know, and I can send you the study questions for the week you missed.

1. Wednesdays – starting June 3, 6:30-7:30am at The Egg & I on Bandera (a great way to start off the morning, especially if you cannot make an evening Bible study time)
2. Wednesdays – starting June 3, 7-8:30pm in room 101
3. Sunday – starting June 7, come to Adult Sunday school at 9:30am
4. June 15-19 – 7-8:30pm, meet in the Narthex to study one chapter each night during evening VBS. Register with Karen Stein for this session by June 7th.

VBS 2015

Everest Vbs 2015 Logo

VBS is coming to Zion!  Our education director, Karen Stein is hard at work preparing for another year of great learning and fun June 15-19.  We thought we’d share a few pieces of information about this year’s VBS:

-Please register by going to this website by June 7.  While the morning session is already full, there are spots available for our evening session.  Important:  we cannot accept walk-up registrations.  Every child must be registered by June 7 so we can have adequate materials and adult supervision.  In addition, we do not have a waiting list for the morning session.

-This year’s theme is Everest and focuses on Mount Everest in Nepal.  There have been a series of powerful earthquakes that have rocked the people of Nepal.  Our church is a part of an international effort to provide aid and comfort to the people of Nepal as they help to rebuild their country.  As a part of our VBS, we will be collecting monetary items as well as other supplies to help the Nepalese.

-We are still in need of volunteers, especially for the morning session!  As of the writing of this blog post, we still need 10 crew leaders to help guide children to the various activities throughout the morning.  If you can help, please contact Karen Stein.

It’s going to be a great VBS!  Join us as we learn about God’s might power!

Loop 1604 Construction

Loop 1604 is under construction! Every day I see and hear the tractors and trucks working on 1604 and Braun. I need to share with you very important information about a road closure at Loop 1604 and Braun May 30-31 (Saturday and Sunday). Braun Road will be closed at 1604 while the contractor lays the beams that will eventually become the overpass at Braun Road and 1604.

A few details:
-I spoke with the deputy project manager from the construction firm handling this project. They had originally scheduled the road to close this weekend (May 16/17) but have changed weekends to May 30/31.

-If you cross Braun Road/1604 to get to the church, there are two detours TxDot is suggesting from their blog:
“We know the biggest movement will be the eastbound movement headed to the northbound Loop 1604 lanes (like you’re coming from FM 1560 and headed to Bandera Road). In order to do that, with the intersection closed, traffic will have to go all the way passed Shaenfield Road to turn around and head on your way….

Those coming from the Braun Heights area and headed south on Loop 1604 (like you’re going to Sea World) will need only to go to Bandera Road and turn around.”

We will do our best to promptly inform the congregation about Loop 1604 construction as soon as we hear anything!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Russell

Building Team Update

My father is a draftsman and works out of the house. As a child I remember him having clients to the house to discuss their house plans. There are a great number of details that go into building a house. My dad and his clients would look at a set of blueprints and spend hours talking about where to put everything in their house from windows to power outlets. Sometimes they would need to have discussions about their wishes versus their budgets. Those conversations were never easy.

I think about those memories of my childhood as our building team has been diligently working on the first steps of our master plan for facilities. We are blessed with a diverse group of people on the Building Team. They’ve been working hard with Alamo Architects and a contractor named G.W. Mitchell to do some planning that is necessary before we break ground.

This past Sunday in worship Don Josephson, Building Team Chair, shared information about what they’ve been doing over the last several months. Here are the highlights of Don’s temple talk:

-This process is a marathon, not a sprint. Before the first shovel hits the ground for construction, it takes about a year’s worth of planning. The Building Team is still on schedule with that planning and hopes to break ground later this year.

-This past Thursday the Building Team met with Alamo Architects and G.W. Mitchell to receive a detailed cost estimate. Earlier in the year, G.W. Mitchell had a large group of sub-contractors come out to the church to estimate every expense for this first step. Like any construction project, there were surprises that we did not expect. Unfortunately, the cost estimate for this first step was substantially more than our estimated budget of $5 million.

-Because the Building Team wants to be responsible stewards of the resources God has given to us, it will be necessary to rethink the first steps of construction. The pastors, program staff, Building Team, and Congregation Council will be gathering on February 26 to discuss how to proceed. After this meeting, we will have a congregational forum. The date for the congregational forum has not been set yet but we will inform the congregation as soon as possible.

– Even though we won’t be able to do everything we had hoped right now, we will continue to move forward with this master plan. We will not be stopping after this first step of construction. Our goal is to complete this master plan. It will take many years to complete, but we still believe that God is calling us to make this happen.

-As always, the Building Team invites your prayers and continued support.