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18th Street & Central Ave.

Barnegat Light, NJ 08006
ph: (609) 494-8676


The Rev. William McGowan, Pastor
cell: (484) 798-3929

Sundays Mornings:10am 
Full Communion Liturgy
Sunday School after Children's Message


Thursday, January 08 2015

Based on Luke 1:26-38

Sermon written and delivered by Elizabeth Lahti-Rosensaft (Dec.21, 2014)

As a child growing up in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, there was 

little to no mention of Mary, except in reference to Jesus’s birth. As my 

daughter used to say about birthing a baby, the Mom “popped” him 

out. Easier said than done! All of you Moms out there know that! I was 

told that “Mary” was someone for Catholics and no further mentioned 

was made. I always did wonder about Mary, though; especially when I 

myself was pregnant during the Christmas season.  Who was Mary? 

What was she thinking when Gabriel sought her out? What would 

Mary’s friends and family think? What would her village think? What 

was Jesus’s family life like? How did Mary cope with raising the Messiah 

and then being present at his crucifixion? All this I pondered; who was 

this “favored one”?

WHO WAS SHE: Mary was not of a wealthy or noble family. She was 

likely a 12 or 13 year old girl and already betrothed to marriage. That is 

hard to understand by today’s standards; a sixth or 7th grader! I don’t 

know about you, but I certainly wasn’t ready for motherhood at that 

age.  There was nothing outwardly remarkable about this young virgin 

Jewish girl, yet we know her destiny was spectacular because she had 

obedience to God that was unshakable.

Where was Mary when the Angel Gabriel came to her? Was she 

preparing a meal? Getting a bucket of water or out taking a walk under 

the stars of Nazareth? What was life like for a teenage girl of those 

days? Did she have girlfriends, siblings? Was she close to her Mom? 

Was she very much in love with Joseph and thoughtfully planning their 

new life together?

THE ANGEL VISITS: Can any of us even imagine what it would be like to 

just see the Angel?  I know I would probably clutch my heart at just the 

vision, never mind what the Angel was going to say! “Greetings, 

Favored One! The Lord is with you.” She must have shown some fear 

because then the Angel says, “Do not be afraid, Mary.” Gabriel goes on 

to tell her, “and you will conceive in your womb and bear a son.” Mary 

had to be wondering what her family would think of this…what her 

fiancée would think? Would he break off the engagement? What would 

the village say…in those days, women were stoned to death for being 

pregnant and not yet married. There was much to be afraid of.

 Gabriel tells her “how” she is to become “with child” and then adds, 

“Your child will be holy and called Son of God.” Wow! That certainly is a 

lot to take in, especially for one so young. Mary may have been thinking 

this could not be so and that is when Gabriel throws this bit of 

information her way. “Your relative Elizabeth, in her old age, has also 

conceived a son; this is the 6th month for her who was said to be 

barren.” So now Mary has a trusted cousin to verify this experience. I 

know I would be calling up my cousin really fast to discuss this on my 

cell phone, but in reality, it was probably a long, hot and dusty donkey 


Mary had asked a few questions of the Angel and then responded, 

“Here am I, servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your 

word.” Imagine: The whole of creation hung on the answer of a young 


THE MARY HEART: Whatever plans Mary might have been dreaming 

about prior to the Angel’s visit would have to be forgotten. There are 

sacrifices and surprises when we turn over our will and follow God. 

Mary accepts in blind faith…”Yes, Lord, even though I am very 

pregnant, I will go on a bumpy donkey ride to Bethlehem with my 

husband.” “Yes, Lord...I’ll settle for a stable to give birth.” “Yes, Lord. I’ll 

agree to let all those shepherds and animals see my baby.” “Yes, Lord. 

I’ll let my son leave home to be an itinerant preacher.” “Yes, I’ll follow 

my son, even to the foot of his cross.” Are these easy things to agree 

with? No, I don’t think I could do it.  But Mary says, “Yes” to God over 

and over.  Mary’s faith came first and all else fell into place.

 Mary surrendered her heart to God in everything she did.  That alone 

is why she should be recognized…a wonderful example to us all.  This 

young Jewish girl can teach us, by example, how to be better 

Christians…how to have a “Mary Heart”.  Someone once said that it is 

easy to do the will of God until it comes at cross purposes with our own 

will. It is then that the lines are drawn, the inner debate begins and the 

self-deception starts. Better to have a “Mary Heart” …a soul at rest and 

a body in motion.

I PONDER AS I WANDER: Mary probably felt that she was an unlikely 

candidate of God’s will. She couldn’t advance herself and also advance 

the will of God. It is said that she “treasured up all these things and 

pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Mary probably knew a lot of 

things but didn’t feel the need to share them with anyone. I know most 

of us like to think our children are the best and may brag about them 

from time to time. Anyone here think their kids or grandkids are the 

best? I may have told a few ShopRite clerks about Mia’s full academic 

scholarship and anyone else who would listen! Quietly pondering is not 

natural for me! How did Mary control herself NOT to talk about her 

son? She was raising the Messiah! Perhaps she was privy to some of his 

special skills? Remember the wedding in Cana when she directs the 

conversation to Jesus “They are out of wine”? In my years as a reader 

of detective novels, I know a specific detail is not mentioned like that 

for NO REASON. Was Mary implying that Jesus turn water into wine? 

What things had she witnessed in the past? What did his brothers think 

about this?

 This brings me to ponder what Jesus was like as a young boy. We don’t 

hear much until he is 12 and seemingly, had run away from home. How 

Mary must have suffered and worried! He was found after 3 days in the 

Temple, “I must be about my father’s business”. Eerie foreshadowing of 

the crucifixion, don’t you think?  Jesus doesn’t seem at all to notice his 

mother’s alarm and is very matter of fact about the event. Later in his 

life, after some time away from his family, his followers point out that 

his mother and brothers came to hear him speak. Jesus counters with 

“everyone who follows God is my brother, sister or mother.”  He, like 

God, saw the bigger picture, but Mary had a Mom’s heart and worried 

about his well-being. Mary had to feel some hurt mingled with her 



probably wondered why God chose her to be the mother to Jesus. 

“Why me, Lord?” As we read the Bible, we see that God’s requirements 

in selecting people to do great things sometimes come as a surprise.  

God uses the most unlikely people in the most unusual ways to 

perform His most perfect will.

Moses, a man known for having a speech impediment, was called by 

God to confront Pharaoh who was enslaving the Jews.  How could he 

do this without being a laughing stock? God said he would be with 

Moses and he was.

God used Paul, the biggest persecutor of the church to bring people to 

faith.  How can that be? With God, everything is possible.

David, the shepherd boy and youngest of his family, was selected for 

greatness. God made it happen.

God’s work didn’t stop with the Bible. We are living out “Bible Stories” 

all the time. Does anyone have an example of how God worked in their 

lives through an unlikely person? I’m sure you can think of some “God-

Incidences”. My Grandfather was a raging alcoholic and would have 

kept on that way except for a hole he fell into and broke his leg. He 

awoke in the hospital and pleaded with God to help him get right with 

Him before he died.  My Grandfather stopped drinking, started going to 

church, built a business with my Dad that is 87 years old today and still 

thriving. God is always credited with the success…much like 

Thrivent…”our hands, God’s work.”

This week at the hospital I saw a distraught new Mom and Dad with 

their 3 week old baby girl. Little Dana (names changed) had already 

been to several hospitals and told that her condition was terminal. 

Dana had been baptized and given last rites…her little body riddled with 

tumors and already paralyzed. Her healthy twin sister, Anna, was at 

home being cared for by the Mom’s divorced parents. The new father 

was very upset with God. Why didn’t his daughter have a chance in life? 

She never got to grow up and do anything! I told them the truth, I don’t 

know why this is happening but all we can see is a tiny part of the big 

picture.  Maybe later down the road, it will be evident how this tragedy 

can be something positive in their lives.   The new Mom continued to 

rock her baby and had a quiet smile.  In a small voice she said, “My 

parents had a horrible divorce and I can’t believe how well they are 

getting along now taking care of Dana’s twin, Anna, for us.” The 

husband admitted it was a miracle; usually the divorced grandparents 

were at each other’s throats! I bent to touch little Dana’s head; she had 

such a beautiful smile. “What power you have Dana…to bring peace to 

this family,” I said,” God is working through you”.  A three week old 

dying baby girl is an unlikely candidate of God’s. I believe she was 

chosen to do great things in her short little life…with her little Mary 


I, too, am an unlikely candidate of God’s. If you had told me 10 years 

ago I would be a Hospital Chaplain at Jersey Shore I would have said 

you were crazy. God works miracles with our “messes” but only when 

we open ourselves up to Him…allowing Him into our lives…to have a 

“Mary Heart”. I am amazed at my life and where it has been and where 

it is now. Working as a Hospital Chaplain is an awe inspiring job. My 

faith continues to grow as I see God at work every day. I am humbled 

that He has entrusted me with His sick children.

What is God calling you to do? Listen to the voice of your heart and 

follow Him. Have a Mary Heart and say, “Here I am”.

Posted by: Elizabeth Lahti-Rosensaft AT 06:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, January 04 2015

This article was written by Stan Zdep, a Zion church member.  It was published in LivingLBI magazine in the October, 2014.


Reprinted from LivingLBI, October, 2014

At noon On Saturday, May 3, I noticed the dark curtain that was ominously invading the field of sight in my right eye.  I knew that this meant a detaching retina and that my window for obtaining help was small.

But let’s start at the beginning.  My wife, Betty Anne, and I have been fortunate to be able to spend summers on  LBI and winters at our place in Jupiter, Florida.  This winter, after many seasons, we decided to put our condo on the market, with the realtor’s contract scheduled to expire on April 1.  We had planned to return to LBI on April 2.  Before we left, in early March we had an acceptable offer that appeared ironclad.  We began packing only to discover that the buyer backed out at the last moment for personal reasons.  My initial reaction was anger--anger at God specifically.  I had prayed for a sale, and not only had this not occurred, but I seemed to have been toyed with in the process.

Then, I remembered a clergyman once saying that sometimes our wishes aren’t granted because God has a greater (different) plan for us.  This consoled me and my anger dissipated.  But even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t envision what  God’s plan for me would be.

The day after we arrived back at LBI on April 4, we received a better cash offer from a different buyer who had  viewed the property earlier.  It proposed a closing date of  May 13, which was a week later than the original offer.  I did not realize then that I was about to have some serious eye problems, but God would provide the time, place and resources for me to prevail.  With this new closing date, God had just established the timetable that would coincide with my upcoming eye probems and the place (South Florida) where a miraculous series of events  was about to occur.  As a scientist, I define a miracle as science so advanced as to be currently unexplainable.

Betty Anne and I returned to Florida to pack our belongings on April 29.  At the airport rental counter I was asked if I wanted to upgrade to a luxury car.  I declined, but in the rental lot, a Cadillac awaited us.

The packing went smoothly until four days later when my retina began to detach.  Being a Saturday, my ophthalmologist’s office was closed, but the answering service forwarded the message to the on-call doctor who agreed to see me within the half hour.  He confirmed what I suspected, but delivered worse news that all eye surgery centers, including the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute satellite in nearby Palm Beach were closed for the weekend.  The Bascom Palmer Hospital emergency room in Miami was the only place in south Florida where I could receive prompt attention.  Had my retina problem occurred during a weekday, I would have had it taken care of at one of the local surgi-centers.  In retrospect, that would have been a serious mistake.

We left the ophthalmologist’s  office not knowing if Betty Anne could negotiate the complicated, eighty mile emergency drive to Miami.  Arriving back at the condo, we called Michael and Mary Ann, friends living on our floor.  This was the beginning of the resources being provided that I needed.  These friends would serve as angels on my shoulder until we returned to LBI.

Michael and Mary  Ann drove us to and from Miami.  At Bascom Palmer, a retina specialist on duty determined that fluid had already invaded the center of the eye known as the macula.  Immediate surgery to prevent this was no longer needed, so I was scheduled for surgery on Monday, May 5, the same day that the movers would be arriving at the condo.  In addition to these logistical  problems, we were worried about a persistent hacking cough I had that might undo a delicate retina operation.  I  also was concerned about having brought along sufficient hypertension pills to get me through almost two additional weeks in Florida.  I counted them, and there were exactly the number that I would require.

On Sunday, May 4,  Michael accompanied me on the return trip to Miami, while Betty Anne and Mary Ann stayed behind to supervise the move.  In he meantime, Mary Ann had been on the internet and discovered that Bascom Palmer had been named  No. 1 in ophthalmology nationally for ten consecutive years in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” rankings.  This meant that it also had to be  No. 1 in the world.

We stayed at a nearby hotel in Miami for two nights. Michael was constantly at my side pre-and post op at the hospital to assist and independently listen to everything I was told.  He returned to the hotel during the surgery which was supposed to last 30 minutes.  It took two hours because my cataract-replaced lens (IOL) clouded and prevented the surgeons from seeing the retina.  Two of Bascom Palmer’s top retina specialists  employed an endoscope to complete the operation.  Later my surgeon told me that Bascom Palmer was probably the only eye hospital to have such equipment available in the operating room.  The chances of surgery success without it were nil.

Five minutes after my arriving in the recovery room Michael appeared, telling me that he had ordered special recovery equipment by which I could remain face down, as required, for a week or more.  The only place where this equipment could be rented, predictably by now, was in Jupiter! 

While in the recovery room, separated by a curtain, a man in the next cubical was moaning in obvious pain.  When he implored Jesus’ help,  I also said a short prayer for him.

I overheard an attending nurse tell another patient that everyone had to remain in the recovery room for at least one hour.  Upon taking my blood pressure, she found it to be 168/95.  I told her that I was confident it would return to 137/78 within 15 minutes.  It did, and I was permitted to leave.  Upon passing the man who had been in discomfort, I noticed he was resting peacefully, apparently without major pain.

After a post-op examination the following day (May 6) I was cleared to return to Jupiter, worry free riding comfortably on the soft suspension of the Cadillac.  I had instructions for Betty Anne  to administer eye drops twelve times a day.  She dutifully did this. The discomforting news was that I would be unable to fly for at least six weeks due to the gas bubble that had been inserted in my eye during surgery.  We needed to be out of our condo in seven days, May 13, and had no idea what we were going to do.

One good thing, my hacking cough disappeared after the surgery and did not return until my retina had completely healed.

Beyond coincidence, Michael and Mary Ann told us that they would be driving to New York on May 15, and they insisted that we accompany them.  Moreover, we were invited to stay with them during the two days when our condo would be unavailable.  A quick call to the airline, Jet Blue,  resulted in our being credited for our return tickets, without penalty.

On May 9, I was able to meet with my surgeon at the Bascom Palmer satellite in Palm Beach, thus avoiding a long drive to Miami.  It was then I learned that my lens had become completely detached, and I would require another operation.  Apparently, it had been loose prior to the operation.  This explained the squinting I sometimes had to do to focus that eye.

Since we were about to head north, my Miami surgeon called Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia and arranged a follow-up examination with the surgeon who had been his primary professor while he trained there.

That Sunday, May 11, we attended church and were seated directly in front of a woman whom we recognized. We had exchanged pleasantries in the past, but not much more.  This time, however, upon learning of my eye problem, she placed her hand on my shoulder and related the story of her six-year old grandson who had an identical problem.  Speaking softly, she reassured me that all would be well.  I was certain of this as I realized God had just passed by and delivered a message to me.

After spending the final two days  of our stay in Florida with Michael and Mary Ann in their condo, we all headed north in their car.  The drive was leisurely, and we spent three nights in hotels.  The wind, thunderstorms and tornados remained a day ahead of us as we traveled in perfect weather.  Upon reaching the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel we learned that it had been closed by weather the previous day.

We arrived on LBI on May 18, whereupon Betty Anne called our friends, Larry and Judy who had looked after our house while we were in Florida, to inquire if they knew someone who could drive us to Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia on the 21st for my check-up.  Larry said that he did, and the persons’ names were Larry and Judy.  Thereupon, I became aware of the northern angels who would sit on my shoulder during the remainder of my recovery.   They already had been active in my cause by informing Pastor Bill at the Zion  Church in Barnegat Light of my situation and he had called twice to offer blessings and prayers.   Church members also prayed for me.

Larry and Judy drove us to Philadelphia  twice where we found the hospital but a few blocks from the Ben Franklin bridge, and a parking lot was located just across the street.  As Michael had done, Larry and Judy remained at our sides while we waited for my appointment when I learned that the healing was progressing nicely, but I would require another examination four weeks hence before my lens replacement surgery could be scheduled.

During this exam on June 18 I learned that my surgery could not be scheduled until August 5 to allow for complete healing of my retina.

August 5th finally arrived, and after an eighty minute operation, the old IOL was removed and a  new lens was inserted in my right eye.  The operation was a complete success, and my vision now is not appreciably different from what it was prior to the retina detachment.

In retrospect, I ask myself the question as to whether God caused my eye problems and the improbable series of healing events.  That would appear to be illogical.  Then, why do bad things happen to people?  Even Jesus on the cross didn’t seem to have the answer to this. 

What I do know is that I am trained in the powers of observation and can statistically separate chance from real phenomena.  Thus, one or two of the events that happened to me after the onset of my eye problems can certainly be attributed to chance.  But I am confident that the probability of all these being due to chance is not significantly different from zero.

I think we should all expect bad things to occur.  But when they do, if we are alert, we just might discover God standing near to ease our pain.  Believe me, it happens.

Since my recovery, I have often wondered why God came so staunchly to my aid after my eye problems.  One reason, I suspect, is that God loves me, and another may be that God wanted me to tell my story to you, and you probably  know why.

S. M. Zdep, Ph.D.

Posted by: AT 07:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    18th Street & Central Ave., Barnegat Light, NJ 08006
    (609) 494-8676
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