Goldie, the Temple, and Us [Maria Tjeltveit]

Pentecost 28/C, Nov. 17, 2013
Mediator, Allentown
Canon Maria W. E. Tjeltveit, rector

[Maria Tjeltveit, rector at Mediator Allentown, said this sermon got more comments than any she has preached lately. Although it deals specifically with things at Mediator, I thinks it applies to many of our churches. It’s about adaptive change and technical fix as related to the church. She said she might entitle it: “Goldie, the Temple, and Us.”]

My puppy Goldie loves to sleep under our bed. Unfortunately, since she grew from 12 pounds to 45 pounds in the last six months, she can still squeeze under the bed but can’t get herself back out, because she gets stuck. After weeks of hearing her whine and having to drag myself out of the bed to drag her out from under it, I began looking for a solution to this problem so I could sleep through the night. I brought her dog bed up to the room but she would have no part of it at night. I tried having her sleep downstairs but she started barking at the slightest noise, and would only stop when I brought her up to our room.

As part of the Missioner for Growth Task Force, I learned about two approaches to problems: adaptive change and technical fix. In adaptive change, there is no clear solution to the problem and you need to change your behavior to adapt to the circumstances of the problem and work for a solution. With a technical fix, there is a concrete solution which you can apply to the problem and, voila!, the problem is solved.

I realized I had been trying adaptive change which wasn’t working with my dog. So I called a mattress store and discovered that there are things called bed risers, which you put under the legs of the bed to make the bed taller. A technical fix! Now Alan and I have elevated sleep and Goldie can get herself in and out from under the bed.

It may seem like a stretch to go from the problem of my puppy under the bed to Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple, in today’s gospel reading from Luke. But, if you hang in there with me, I promise I will make a connection.

The temple in Jerusalem that was built by King Herod, was not only massive and beautiful, it was the center of Jewish worship and life. The system of offerings and sacrifices at the temple shaped a person’s life from birth, when an offering was made for the first-born, to regular visits throughout the year, even if you lived away from Jerusalem. So, to predict the destruction of the temple, that “the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down” (Luke 21:6), was like predicting the end of the world.

The Jerusalem temple was in fact destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Jerusalem was razed and became a Roman city called Aelia Capitolina. The Jewish population was killed or driven out.

This was a huge problem for the Jewish people. The temple had been the place where God’s Name dwelt. Their central place of worship was gone, and the whole sacrificial system stopped. What were they to do?

There was no technical fix for the problem of the destruction of the temple. But there was adaptive change. Already, in the time of Jesus, a synagogue movement had shifted some of the focus away from the temple. With the temple gone, the locus of Jewish worship and life moved to the synagogue and the home. As the Jewish population dispersed around the Mediterranean they took with them the Torah and the teachings to guide them into a new kind of living faith. The destruction of the temple, as painful as it was, turned out not to be the end of the world, or the end of Judaism, because the Jewish people learned to adapt to their new circumstances and find new ways to live out their faith in God.

Reading about the destruction of the temple, with its stones being thrown down, may resonate with us in the mainline churches. Although the mainline or establishment churches, like the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian, Lutheran, United Methodist, and United Church of Christ, have not been destroyed, they have declined significantly in the last 50 years. No invading army has led to this but the changing culture has thrown some of our stones down.

Christmas Eve services when we had to put up extra chairs in the back since the church was so full….That stone was thrown down.

Being the church in which to be seen, where the Air Products executives and rising stars worshipped….That stone was thrown down.

Sundays reserved for church with stores closed and no youth sports on Sunday afternoons….That stone was thrown down.

National attention when our church leaders spoke about social and political issues….That stone was thrown down.

Young people raised in the Episcopal Church automatically coming back to church when they had kids….That stone was thrown down.

We are in a period when, on a national level, and on a parish level, things that we thought were set in stone have crumbled. Just deciding to go to church on Sunday morning is an active decision now, not a given. We live in a largely secular culture, where those who say they are “Nones” (meaning no religious affiliation), or “spiritual but not religious” are rapidly increasing. Even for those who go to church, that does not necessarily include worship, with more families coming regularly just for Sunday School. The church is increasingly marginal in our society. It used to be a place for seeking community, as well as faith, but now people often seek community on line, not in the pew.

Mediator is not exempt from these problems. Our attendance has declined dramatically since the 1960s, with the trend continuing in the last decade. We have some strong ministries and bonds with one another but we are an aging congregation and unless we do something, we will not be viable in the long run.

What do we do? Is there a technical fix for this? About 20 years ago some in the parish thought that moving to the suburbs might be a fix; an idea derailed by the bishop at the time, who said that Mediator could not sell this building. But there are small churches in the suburbs, so even a move would not necessarily have meant that we would have grown. This is a problem that requires adaptive change.

As many of you know, our Widening Our Welcome campaign this spring raised over $400,000 to renovate parts of our building and to hire a part or full-time Missioner for Growth. It would be nice if our new kitchen, when it is done, and the Missioner for Growth were technical fixes, but they are part of adaptive change. There is no one easy clear solution to the problems that face our parish and the mainline church. What we are called to do, and what the Missioner for Growth will help us do, is to learn about the culture and community around us and adapt our ministry so that we can find ways to proclaim the good news of God in Jesus Christ in language that people can understand and relationships they can trust. To do this we will need to change; perhaps our language, perhaps our behavior. We have already begun some of that change, with the Contemporary Eucharist on the fourth Sunday of the month reaching out to people who seek a shorter, simpler service. We are also reaching out to those who seek more formal worship, and will be using incense at our next Choral Eucharist.

Adaptive change to the problems faced by our Church and our parish, will move us away from focusing on institutional survival (trying to keep the temple from being thrown down) to seeing what God is up to in the community and world around us, and seeking to be a part of God’s mission to our hurting and hungering world. It will also challenge us to be able to articulate who Jesus Christ is for us and for others, in our increasingly pluralistic world. 

In today’s gospel, Jesus talks about people being taken before secular authorities, and says, “This will give you an opportunity to testify” (Luke 21:13). In a similar way, part of our adaptive change will be to learn to testify, to talk about our faith, in ways that people around us can relate to. We have been doing some of that in our Adult Forums, as we have discussed our parish history, and I will be inviting members of our congregation to testify or give a lay witness in place of the sermon periodically in the next year. If we can learn to do this in church then we can learn to do it in our communities where people need to hear about God’s transforming love.

Change like this is challenging. Some of us find change exciting, but others do not. We may not want the stones of our traditional way of being the church thrown down. We may not want to learn new ways of worshiping, speaking about our faith, refocusing on God’s mission toward the world around us. But doing the same thing we have always done is like Goldie squeezing her way under the bed, only to get stuck. The last seven words of an Episcopal church are: We’ve never done it that way before!

When the temple was destroyed, the Jewish people learned adaptive change to continue as God’s faithful people. We too can learn adaptive change, discovering what new things God is calling us to do, what God is seeking to do through us. In the process we can rediscover the truth that the church is the people, not the building; the body of Christ, continually being given for the world.

In the midst of change, may we trust that Jesus Christ is the one stone that cannot be thrown down. May Christ be with us, guide us, and bless us as we seek to embrace adaptive change.


The Summer—and our Lives—Begin and End with Our Lady

Howard Stringfellow
4 June 2012

The summer in very truth begins with The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (May 31) and has well entered its decline with the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15). When this discovery dawned on me, I began to see the season as a figure for life, for living well, and for letting life take its Providential course. Summer is much more than baseball.

Continue reading "The Summer—and our Lives—Begin and End with Our Lady" »

Lenten Evensong at Mediator, Allentown on March 4

By Clint Miller

Lenten Evensong
March 4, 4:00 p.m.

Mediator’s choir will sing Choral Evensong on the afternoon of March 4 at four o’clock. Of special interest for this Lenten Evensong will be a performance of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis composed by our own Neil Farrell. We are, indeed, fortunate to have Neil, his wife, Leslie, and their two sons, Liam and Jack as members of our church family. 

Neil and his family arrived in the Lehigh Valley from New York City a few years ago where Neil had a distinguished career as a professional musician, composer and singer. He was a frequent tenor soloist with most the city’s best professional and volunteer choruses; among the most notable being the renowned Renaissance ensemble, Pomerium,  Voices of Ascension and the New York Virtuoso Singers, to name only a few. For five years he was a member of the choir of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine and has also been featured as soloist on numerous recordings by these and other prominent musical ensembles. As a composer and arranger, his works have been performed and recorded by the above ensembles as well as The Western Wind Ensemble, Canticum Novum, and Equal Voices, among others. He has written more than a dozen anthems for the Choir St. Ignatius of Loyola, of which he was a member for 18 years. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were his first adult compositions written while he was in the choir at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Neil still travels back and forth to New York to perform with several of these musical ensembles, most recently with Pomerium. He also occasionally sings with our choir when his schedule permits and when we are in need of his enviable talents. 

The Choir will also sing Maurice Greene’s (1896-1755) wonderful anthem, “Lord, let me know mine end”, one of the choir’s favorites, which they last performed a couple of years ago. Greene succeeded to every major musical post in England becoming organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral (1718), organist and composer of the Chapel Royal (1727) and Master of the King’s Music (1735). He was also professor of music at Cambridge. 

Sadly, Gerre Hancock, the distinguished organist and Choirmaster of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan for over three decades, died last month, January 17, in  Austin, Texas where he was Professor of organ and sacred music at the University of Texas. He was renowned in the profession for his skills of improvisation, virtuosity at the organ and his superb skills as choir trainer. Writing about the St. Thomas choir in The New York Times in 2004, the music critic, Allan Kozinn, said, “ It produces a polished and beautifully balanced sound that for sacred music ….. is about the best that New York has to offer. The concluding voluntary on March 4 will be his organ composition “Aria” composed in 1963 and dedicated to his wife, Judith, also a distinguished organist and musician. 

As is our custom, a gala reception will follow the Evensong in the Commons Room so mark your calendars and invite a friend. 

Chancel Opera of Naaman the Leper to be performed February 12th at Church of the Mediator, Allentown

[ From Jo Trepagnier]

The Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Allentown is proud to announce a special addition to our Sunday service on February 12th (8 & 10:15am). A new sermon-length chancel oratorio in costume called “Naaman the Leper” (based on 2 Kings 5:1-19) will be offered. The parish has tapped some of its own choir members and parishioners including children to stage this new opera, with score and libretto by Susan Hulsman Bingham. Susan and Timothy Bingham are members of the Church of the Mediator.

Susan composes the scores (sometimes with the creative support of children) and her various pieces can be explored at The liturgical (or "church" or "chancel") operas are short pieces designed to replace the sermon in the worship service. Action takes place in the "chancel" -- that is, the elevated area approaching the altar, between the choir stalls in most churches.

Naaman is a prominent political and social figure who stands in high favor with the King of Aram. However, he has leprosy. Though his arrogance prevents him, at first, from heeding a suggestion by his young Israelite slave girl to seek help from the prophet Elisha, his illness wears him down. He grudgingly seeks Elisha’s help, even more grudgingly follows his simple prescription for a cure, and is healed of both inner and outer ill health.

Mediator welcomes all to explore this virtual way of hearing this great Bible story. The church is located at 1620 W. Turner Street and on-street parking is available., as well as parking at the Masonic Temple on Linden Street. A nursery for children under age 3 is open at 9:00am.

Soup Sunday at Mediator, Allentown on December 11th » Soup Sampler Sunday December 11

Soup Sampler this Sunday!

Taco Beef                   Pasta E Fagioli

Chicken                         Old Fashion Potato


Cooks & Bakers needed

See the attachment for recipes

PLEASE choose a recipe to make for the luncheon. We also need bakers to contribute cookies & brownies.

Hungry people needed

$5 per person, $12 per family

You can be on your way to do some last minute Christmas shopping or on your way home to wrap those gifts you’ve already purchased without having to worry about providing a hearty noon meal for your family.  Plan now to enjoy a warm bowl of homemade soup (or two or three!) and wonderful fellowship. PB&J for kids and great desserts also.

Any leftover soup will be offered for sale! 


"Come Meet John the Baptist at the Mall" Sermon for Advent 2

[By Canon Maria Tjeltveit, Rector of Church of the Mediator, Allentown]

Second Sunday in Advent
December 4, 2011
Church of the Mediator
Mark 1:1-8

I admit I was pretty shocked to see it on the sign for the Lehigh Valley Mall. Right underneath “Come Meet Santa at the Mall” it said “Come Meet John the Baptist at the Mall.” This was a first!

I turned into the crowded parking lot and finally found a space. Inside the mall it wasn’t too hard to spot Santa. Actually I saw the line first; little kids fidgeting, their parents looking bored or trying to break up squabbles before they got out of hand. There was Santa seated on a large chair saying “Ho! Ho! Ho!” his white mustache and beard bouncing up and down. He welcomed a small child onto to his ample lap; her sticky hand grazing his red and white suit. I stopped for a while and listened as Santa asked each child if he or she had been good (they all had!) and what they wanted for Christmas. The lists seemed as long as the line: Let’s Rock Elmo!, Fijit Friends, Lalaloopsy Silly Hair Dolls and LEGO Ninjango, Leapfrog Leap Pad Explorer, Kidizoom Twist, and Harry Potter Scene It, Angry Bird toys, Barbie Doggie Water Park, Moshi Monsters Talking Plush, Baby Annabelle…and on and on. Each child seemed to want every hot toy there was. Santa smiled and patted their heads, then had the obligatory picture before each child moved on. The parents looked glad to get the ordeal over with as they took their children’s hands and the animated children dragged them off to the nearest toy store.

I had to look a little harder to find John the Baptist. He was over in a quieter corner of the mall next to the water fountain. I guess Jordan Creek is a little too cold this time of year for outdoor baptisms. John, too, had a line waiting for him, although the line was shorter and the people in it were older, a few children but mostly teenagers and adults. John was sitting on a folding chair, dressed in a loose camel hair outfit that was drawn together by a leather belt but still hung from his thin body. His dark hair and beard were unkempt but his face and eyes glowed with an inner light that was compelling. He seemed both young and old at the same time. Those who approached him did not try to sit on his knobby knees but sat on another folding chair across from to him. Again I stopped to listen.

John looked in the face of each person who came to him and said “What do you need to let God turn your life in the right direction?” The answers didn’t always come at once but John was patient. I heard one person speak of how he was estranged from his parents and needed reconciliation. Another spoke of wrestling with addition to alcohol and pain medications and needing to be freed. One spoke of being in grief during this time when everyone else was celebrating and needing to know God was there. A teenager spoke about feeling pressured to go further with her boyfriend than she felt comfortable and needing to be able to assert herself and live out her own values. Someone mentioned feeling overwhelmed by the amount of stuff he already had and needing to find how to give in a meaningful way to people who didn’t have enough. A child talked about how he and his sister were always fighting or mean to each other and needed to remember that they really did care about each other. One had been unemployed for months and needed to believe that there was hope. Another felt so rushed in this season that she needed to know how to make time for God…. Each person’s need was different, personal, and it seemed like just speaking it out loud to John broke something open for them.

John would listen to each person. Sometimes he would give advice on what they could do. Then he would take each to the water fountain and let the water run over their hands and head. He would say to each one, as he handed them a paper towel, “I have baptized you for repentance, for turning your life around, and for forgiveness, but this is just the beginning. Someone is coming who is greater than me. I have washed you with water but he is coming and will draw you to God with the Holy Spirit. He is coming soon. Wait for him. Look for him. Continue to work with God to turn your life in the right direction. The one who is coming will come to you.”

I can’t say that I understood all of what John was about. But the line of people stayed steady.

I wandered around the mall a little more, going into a few stores. As I got near the exit, I recognized some of the people who had been in the line to meet Santa. The parents were weighted down with bags and looked frazzled, sometimes dragging a reluctant child by the hand as he cried that he wanted something from Cinnabon and how could Mommy be so mean not to let him have it.

I also recognized some of the people who had been in line to meet John the Baptist. Some of them were holding a bag or two, a few holding a child’s hand. Their hair was still damp, but their faces showed a kind of serenity and hope and they smiled at the people they passed as they went out into the cold air.

I watched for a few minutes and then I went and got in line to talk to John. What do I need to let God turn my life in the right direction?

Lenten Quiet Day, April 9, at Mediator Allentown

[From Tim Bingham, Mediator Allentown]

Saturday, April 9 at 9:30am

Contemplative prayer: Lectio Divina/ Centering Prayer

Lectio Divina dates back to the Middle Ages and has been a big part of the devotional life of Benedictine monks.  Lectio Divina starts with slow devotional reading of a scriptural text. (“Lectio”) As we read gently, slowly, and attentively, we look for a word or a phrase that seems to have special meaning for us on this particular day. We read as we listen for the still, small voice of God and when we find the word or phrase that “has weight”, we repeat this word or phrase meditatively. We are encouraged to meditate carefully and devotedly on this phrase. (This step is called “Meditatio.”)  The third stage in Lectio Divina is called “Oratio,” or prayer.  In this stage, we take the chosen phrase and we use it to guide us in a dialogue with God in prayer. In the fourth stage, called “Contemplatio,” we let our mind flow in contemplation.

The second type of contemplative prayer, called Centering Prayer, dates back to the 1970’s when three Trappist monks developed a method for prayer that does not directly focus on the Divine but rather sets up the mind to be conducive to the Holy Spirit welling up within us. Centering prayer starts with our choosing a one- or two- syllable word such as “Abba” or “Amen.”  This word is then expressly selected by us as a “sacred word” since we choose it as a symbol of our intention to consent both to God’s presence within us and to God’s acting within us. Then, as we sit quietly without any expressed thoughts, we watch our mind.  Whenever a thought appears, we introduce the sacred word that we have chosen, and the thought will dissipate. The goal then is to be still and have our mind relatively free of thoughts, so that we can “contemplate.”

In this upcoming quiet day, we will discuss these two forms of prayer and then we will have a brief period to experience a taste of Lectio Divina and of Centering Prayer.

Choral Evensong at Mediator Allentown, April 3

[From Clint Miller, Organist/Choirmaster]

Mediator’s Lenten Choral Evensong will take place on the afternoon of Sunday, April 3rd at 4:00 o’clock. The Choir will sing the music of four composers from different eras of musical history: an Introit by F Melius Christiansen (1871-1955), founder and conductor of the famed St. Olaf Choir, the Preces and Responses by Humphrey Clucas (b. 1941), a self-taught English composer as well as a poet and singer and Lay Vicar (member of the choir) of Westminster Abbey. The canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are settings by another Britt, Sir George Dyson (1883-1964) who was, among other posts, the long-time director of the Royal College of Music. The anthem at the Offering will be Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s  Sicut cervus (Like as the Hart) and Sitivit anima mea (My spirit  thirsts), settings of verses 1 though 3 of Psalm 42. Palestrina (ca. 1525-1594), “the greatest of the late Renaissance composers” was famous in his day, and if anything his reputation increased after his death. He was also the long-time maestro di cappella, the papal choir of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

A reception will follow the  service in the Commons Room.

The Episcopal Church of the Mediator
1620 Turner Street, Allentown
Parking is available in The  Masonic Temple lot on Linden Street across from West Park.


Lenten Prayer Booklet from Mediator Allentown

Allentown's Church of the Mediator is doing a small group study on the Baptismal Covenant during Lent, Water in the Wilderness. Canon Maria Tjeltveit, rector, put together a prayer journal for the first half focusing on one of the baptismal covenant vows each week. She intends to do the second half soon.

It is in booklet form (to be printed front and back) attached below as Water in the Wilderness, and one that runs consecutively (in case anyone want to keep it on their computer), attached below as Prayers.  Both are word files.
Maria says she has not done a prayer journal like this before so, if anyone uses it and wants to pass on feedback, she would appreciate it. Her email is [email protected]


Download Prayers.Part 1