Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thoughts as Lent ends April 15, 2017

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Photographed in the balcony of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, New Trier, Minnesota.

 

TODAY MARKS THE END of Lent, the 40-day period of intense spiritual focus that began on Ash Wednesday. For Christians like me, these past weeks have been one of contemplation as I consider Christ’s suffering and death.

As I read my bible and daily devotions, I felt sometimes overwhelmed by all Christ endured. The betrayal, the pain, the agony, the abandonment, the public ridicule, the horrific death… Mine is a normal, human emotional reaction.

When I react that way, it puts the difficulties of my life into perspective. Nothing I have endured matches what Christ suffered for me. How great His love. How great His sacrifice. I am grateful.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Rural Faribault church continues 55-year tradition with The Last Supper Drama April 7, 2017

St. John’s members portray the disciples in this undated vintage photo, the first record of a photograph from The Last Supper Drama. Actors, from left to right, are Luverne Hafemeyere, Earl Meese, Vicgtor Luedke, Howard Meese, Virgil Bosshart, Arnold Keller, P.L. Golden, Alvin bosshart, Paul Bauer, Elmer Covert Sr. and Arnold Bauer. Photo courtesy of St. John’s.

 

AS A WOMAN OF FAITH, I appreciate the opportunity to begin Holy Week in a visually memorable and contemplative way by attending “The Last Supper Drama” at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township. The drama begins at 8 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 9, as darkness falls.

For 55 years now, parishioners past and present, playing the roles of Jesus’ disciples, have presented this interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting. Each disciple actor stands and speaks of his personal relationship with Christ. It is moving, powerful and emotional to hear these monologues in the darkness of an aged limestone country church.

 

St. John’s 50th presentation of The Last Supper Drama in the sanctuary. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

While the actors alternate from year to year, the script and music remain unchanged from the original of 1963. There is comfort in that, in tradition, in the unchanging story, in the reverent respect and in the focused spotlight on Christ.

It’s an inspirational way to start Holy Week, in a mindset of contemplation.

 

The parking lot at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is nearly full 20 minutes before the congregation’s annual performance of The Last Supper Drama. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FYI: Click here to see photos and stories from past performances of this drama.

St. John’s UCC is located east of Faribault at 19086 Jacobs Avenue, a county road off Minnesota State Highway 60.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My Christmas wish for you December 24, 2016

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One of my children (probably my second daughter, Miranda) drew this baby Jesus on a card decades ago. I display that card each Christmas as a reminder of the reason I celebrate Christmas and as a reminder of how very much I love my three children.

One of my children (probably my second daughter, Miranda) drew this baby Jesus decades ago. I display this card, which also includes Mary and Joseph, each Christmas. It’s a reminder of the reason I celebrate Christmas and a reminder of how very much I love my three children. They each signed the card. It’s a treasure.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

MY DEAR READERS, I wish for you this Christmas the blessings of peace and happiness.

Wherever you are this weekend and with whomever, may you experience joy. Appreciate others. Hold close those you love most. Be thankful for them.

Realize that everything and everyone will not be perfect. So laugh instead of stressing. You’ll feel better.

Relax and delight in the moments—the hug of a son come home, the sweet scent of a baby on her first Christmas, the gathering of family at worship services and around your table.

These are the moments that matter. Merry Christmas!

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A cross on my carpet August 7, 2016

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LIKE ME, I’M CERTAIN you’ve had those moments when you’ve stopped, halted by an unexpected scene.

That happened shortly before 9 a.m. Friday as I passed through the living room toward my home office. I noticed shafts of sunlight slanting across the beige carpet in front of the La-Z-Boy recliner.

 

Cross on carpet 004 - Copy

 

The house had been dark and shuttered for days due to high heat and humidity. But on this blessedly cool early August morning, the windows and front interior door were flung wide, though the drapes were still partially-closed. Through those gaps and openings, the bright morning sun angled a cross onto the floor.

I stood there for a moment taking in the scene before grabbing my camera from my office. I needed to document this, to visually imprint the comfort I felt in seeing that cross—a reminder for me of my Christian faith and the hope I have in Christ. He is always with me. In difficult times and in joyful times.

Not every sermon comes from the pulpit. On this beautiful morning, a message came in slants of sunshine upon my carpet.

FYI: Click here to listen to my current favorite Christian song. Eye of the Storm, by Ryan Stevenson.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

With joy & thankfulness on Easter March 27, 2016

This stained glass window of the women at Jesus' empty tomb rises above the altar at Holden Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon, Minnesota.

This stained glass window of the women at Jesus’ empty tomb rises above the altar at Holden Lutheran Church, rural Kenyon, Minnesota.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

This shows a snippet of the center stained glass window in a trio above the altar at Trinity Lutheran Church, Wanamingo, Minnesota.

This depiction of the risen Lord centers three stained glass windows above the altar at Trinity Lutheran Church, Wanamingo, Minnesota.

He is not here; he has risen!

© Photos copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Scripture text from the New International Version of the Holy Bible, Luke 24:5 & 6

 

With gratitude & loving remembrance on Good Friday April 3, 2015

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St. Michael's Cemetery, Buckman, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, August 2012.

Christ crucified sculpture, St. Michael’s Cemetery, Buckman, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, August 2012.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.–     Hebrews 12:2

Photo copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A close-up Journey to the Cross March 29, 2015

Palm branches.

Palm branches.

PALM BRANCHES AND HOSANNAS. For the Christian church, both mark Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.

Small groups participated in 45-minute tours on "Journey to the Cross."

Small groups participated in 45-minute tours on “Journey to the Cross.”

This morning at the church I attend, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, Holy Week also began with a “Journey to the Cross” event. I was blessed to be a volunteer in this journey which led attendees through Christ’s final days to his glorious resurrection on Easter.

Participating kids (and some adults) carried passports. At nearly every station, stickers were distributed to place in the passports.

Participating kids (and some adults) carried passports. At nearly every station, stickers were distributed to place in the passports.

With passports in hand, kids and adults traveled from station to station, listening to performers role-play the parts of towns’ people, a temple worker, soldiers, an angel and others.

Participants had their hands washed by volunteers just as Christ washed his disciples' feet .

Participants had their hands washed by volunteers, following the example of Christ washing his disciples’ feet.

But this was about much more than sharing biblical history. This was about hands-on activities that reinforced the spoken word. This was about engaging the senses and experiencing Holy Week.

Matzo, unleavened bread from Jerusalem, was served as reprsentative of food from Jesus' time period.

Matzo, unleavened bread from Jerusalem, was served as representative of food from Jesus’ time period.

And therein lies the strength of “Journey to the Cross.” Participants received palm branches, felt the weight of the 30 silver coins Judas received for betraying Jesus, heard the crack of the whip against Jesus’ back, pounded nails into wood, tasted vinegar like that offered to Christ suffering on the cross, raised their voices in “He is risen!” at the vacant tomb and more.

A volunteer crafted this crow of thorns similar to the one Christ wore on the cross.

A volunteer crafted this crown of thorns similar to the one Christ wore on the cross. Tour participants saw it close up and could touch the crown.

I left with a deeper connection and understanding of what Christ endured. I could hear, see, feel, taste and smell the events of that final week. It was a memorable morning and the perfect contemplative beginning to Holy Week.

THE JOURNEY IN MORE PHOTOS:

Stop #1, Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:

Volunteer Theresa speaks to participants about Jesus' ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Volunteer Theresa speaks to participants about Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Stop #2, Judas betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver:

Randy, role-playing a temple worker.

Randy, role-playing a temple worker, tells how Judas betrayed Jesus.

Making coin rubbings in passports to remember how Judas betrayed Jesus with 30 pieces of silver.

Making coin rubbings in passports to remember how Judas betrayed Jesus with 30 pieces of silver.

Stop #3, Before the Passover meal on the Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet:

Actress Diane talks about Jesus gathering with his disciples and washing their feet.

Actress Diane talks about Jesus gathering with his disciples and washing their feet.

Rather than washing feet, hands were washed.

Rather than washing feet, hands were washed.

Stickers were handed out for placement in the passport after hands were washed.

Stickers were distributed for placement in the passport after the hand washing.

Stop #4, Remembering the Passover meal, Jesus’ last meal with his disciples:

Sings marked each station.

Signs marked each station.

Participants could sample various foods such as horseradish, matzo, grape juice and more.

Participants could sample various foods such as horseradish, matzo, grape juice and more.

Grape juice ready to be served.

Grape juice ready to be served.

Stop #5, Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane:

A sign marks the station focusing on prayer.

A sign marks the station focusing on prayer.

Stop #6, Jesus was whipped, beaten and teased:

Volunteer Leann talks about the torture Jesus suffered even prior to his crucifixion.

Volunteer Leann talks about the torture Jesus suffered even prior to his crucifixion.

Wayne played perhaps the most memorable role, that of a soldier whipping Jesus.

Wayne played perhaps the most memorable role, that of a soldier whipping Jesus.

The whip cracked across the floor, toward the mannequin representing Jesus.

The whip cracks across the mannequin representing Jesus.

Stop #7, Christ is crucified on the cross:

The stage was set with a cross, hammer and nails. Participants pounded nails into wood. Christ was nailed to the cross.

The stage was set with a cross, hammer and nails. Participants pounded nails into wood to remember how Christ was nailed to the cross.

This artwork and nails were placed at the base of the cross.

This artwork and nails were placed at the base of the cross.

Stop #8: As Jesus died on the cross, he said he was thirsty. He was given vinegar to drink.  (I don’t have any photos from this station.) Participants could taste vinegar.

A photo of Christ's face from a stained glass window in my church, Trinity Lutheran, Faribault.

A photo of Christ’s face from a stained glass window in Trinity Lutheran, Faribault. This depicts Him after His resurrection.

Stop #9: Jesus’ tomb is found empty on Easter. (I don’t have any photos from this station.) Those on the tour joined the angel and the woman at the gravesite in celebrating Jesus resurrection with these words: He is risen!

Stop #10, The final check-in station allowed participants to talk and write about their experiences:

What a young girl, Jennifer, wrote.

What a young girl, Jennifer, wrote.

FYI: “Journey to the Cross” is available for purchase through Concordia Publishing House. Click here for more information.

It’s described as “an outreach and educational event for your congregation and community. Through activities based on Scripture, participants experience the joy of Palm Sunday, the disappointment of Judas’ betrayal, the devastation of the crucifixion, the jubilation of the resurrection, and so much more. This family program invites children and adults to walk the path that Jesus walked.”

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling