Nearly 100 congregants crowded into Quickel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Conewago Township Sunday to hear Bishop Mark S. Hanson deliver a special sermon.

In honor of the church's 250th anniversary, on the first Sunday of every month, the church is having a special speaker address the congregation.

Hanson, who as presiding bishop is head of the more than 10,000 Lutheran congregations that make up the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, delivered a sermon that resonated powerfully with the congregants.

"Fear. Rage. Resentment. Distrust. Those aren't words you expect to hear in a sermon for your anniversary," Hanson said in the opening of his sermon.

Charleen Walker-Horton greets Bishop Mark Hanson, left, and Bishop B. Penrose Hoover, center, at the Quickel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Conewago
Charleen Walker-Horton greets Bishop Mark Hanson, left, and Bishop B. Penrose Hoover, center, at the Quickel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Conewago Township. Visiting from Chicago, Illinois, Bishop Mark Hanson is the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Hanson delivered a special sermon at the church Sunday. (FOR THE YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS -- SHANE KELLER)

Drawing from a familiar passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 -- "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong" -- Hanson turned the verse on its head.

"Beneath the love and hope there is a fear of futility," he said, while acknowledging the verse's perennial popularity at weddings.

"It will all come to nothing if we are living a life of fear, rage, resentment and distrust. Paul was not writing poetic free verse for weddings. He was writing to a young church in Corinth that was in deep conflict, suffering from harsh divisions," Hanson told the congregation.

The generally accepted dating by Biblical scholars of Paul's letters to the Corinthians is 53 to 57 A.D., making it one of the earliest writings in the New Testament.

And lest the congregants of Quickel Lutheran, a church well along in its third century of existence, think that the Apostle Paul's advice to a young church more nearly 2,000 years ago has no bearing on them, Hanson warned them to the contrary.

"In an anniversary year, you are subject to the virus of nostalgia, a desire to live in the past, to glorify the past in a way it never really was," Hanson cautioned them.

"Paul was talking about our way into the future as the body of Christ," he said.

"There are religious voices heard as judgmental, determining who is worthy and who is not, drawing lines in the sand that become lines in concrete. God's mercy and grace are not limited to God's chosen people," Hanson said, adding that Jesus reached into the history of the people he was ministering to and showed them that God's mercy wasn't just for them, either.

The sermon resonated deeply with many people, one of whom was Maggie Quickel.

Her husband's "seven generations back great-grandfather" gave the land on which the church is built, she said.

Of the sermon, she said, "I thought it was absolutely wonderful. We're honored to have him and his wife both here. It was a very uplifting sermon and a very, very wonderful message, not to be afraid of what's to come."

For the Rev. Barb Barry, pastor of Quickel Evangelical Lutheran Church for the last 31/2 years, having Hanson there was "very humbling in light of our 250 years of ministry."

"What so particularly resonated with me was not to get stuck in the pas -- to use the past to move forward, building on our tradition," she said.

IF YOU GO

What: As part of its 250th anniversary celebration, Quickel Lutheran is having a different guest speaker on the first Sunday of every month for 2013.

Where: Quickel Evangelical Lutheran Church, 60 Canal Street Ext., Conewago Township

When: First Sunday of every month, 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

More information: www.quickellutheran.org