FROM PASTOR ANN MARIE WINTERS: “A new year begins in a flurry of white vows.” (George William Curtis)
I found this quote and it started a snow shower of thoughts:
A new year is a time when we make resolutions, taking stock of our lives and what changes might make us better people. Like snowflakes, our vows to do this or that fly here and there and settle over the landscape. We mean well, and chances are that our efforts will do some good in our lives and the lives of others. 2017 – a year of new possibilities!
2017 is also, first and foremost, God’s year of possibilities. And with God, there is more certainty of the effectiveness of the divine Word. God called us His beloved children at baptism, and that Word is certain. God’s Word, Jesus Christ, speaks forgiveness of our sins and peace, and that Word is certain too. The Holy Spirit brings us sanctifying grace; that too is certain.
For all our human words—resolutions that may come and go—isn’t it good to know that the Word of God is steadfast and secure. God speaks a Word and it goes forth like rain or snow to cover the earth, and it does not come back empty, but attains the purpose for which it is intended. God means it; we are His beloved children, saved by grace through faith. That is one Word that remains true through 2017 and beyond.
Happy New Year, and may your resolutions be blessed!
Pr. Ann Marie Winters
St. Paul Annual Congregation Meeting: The Annual Congregation Meeting will be held at St. Paul on Sunday, January 29, 2017, at 11:30 am.
FROM PASTOR WILLIAM D. LEITCH: During January, in the “Celebrate” insert, you will see words and phrases in the introduction like:
We come and see Christ revealed among us in word and meal. We go forth to invite others to come and worship the Holy One, and to receive the gifts of grace and peace made known among us.
Our baptismal mission is to proclaim good news to all.
Our story is much the same as the story of the apostles.
For Peter and his brother, Andrew, they met Jesus and Andrew asked Jesus, “Where are you staying.” Jesus said, “Come and see.” Philip found his brother, Nathanael, and told him to “Come and see.” This is where our faith story begins. Perhaps our parents brought us to church. We came and we saw. Or perhaps a friend shared their encounter with Jesus and then invited you to “Come and see.”
The next step was to “go forth” after seeing and encountering Jesus. Our baptismal mission is to proclaim good news to all. We come to worship. We come to see, but after worship, after our encounter, we go. It isn’t over when worship is over. We have been given a mission and we are sent. We go forth. But for what? Answer: To invite others to “Come and see.”
During the 1950s and 1960s, the church was immersed in a season of harvest. Parents brought their children to worship, Sunday School, VBS, Youth Group/Luther League, and servant events. The people were coming in such numbers that we were totally focused on programming and building.
We had large Sunday School teacher staffs. We had plans to expand our buildings to accommodate the many Sunday School classes. We were in the “harvest” mode. Just like the farmer who had to tear down his barns and build bigger ones for his bountiful crop, we were focused on caring for all the folks who showed up.
Unfortunately, we were so focused on harvesting our new members, we forgot how to plant. How many times do you invite others to worship with you, to “come and see”? When you do invite, what is the response? Do the hands go up and the response is, “We’ll try”? When the hands go up, that is a visible barrier going up to block the conversation. “I’ll try” is a graceful avoidance of continuing the conversation. So, now what do you do?
Even I find it hard to find “common ground” with many I invite. I’m convinced that I have a lot to learn about planting. How do we interest others to hear the good news of Jesus Christ? When the Gospel message is so incredibly awesome and life-saving, why do my words fall on deaf ears?
The disciples experienced the same frustrations, but they continued to go forth and invite. I am currently reading a book, “Finding Common Ground”. For now, just know that for the prophet Micah, the blessed ones are those who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. For Paul, they are the ones who find wisdom in the weakness of the cross. For Jesus, they are the poor, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. In baptism, we find our blessed identity and calling in this countercultural way of living and serving. Perhaps our most attractive way of inviting others is in how we live.
I will continue this article in February.
Meanwhile, go forth and invite others,
Living Lord Annual Congregation Meeting: The Annual Meeting of the Congregation will be held on Sunday, January 29, 2017, at 11:45 am in the Worship Space – mark your calendar! At this meeting, reports will be received from Standing Committees, Congregation Council Members will be elected, and the 2017 Budget will be approved. Your Annual Report will be on the table in the hall the week prior to the meeting; be sure to stop and pick it up.
Remember Mason Muse: You can help Matthew and Kristan Muse give young children new books at their wellness visits through the Warren Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics Reach Out and Read Program by contributing new, non-religion based, ages 6 months to 2 years books. The books can be dropped off at Living Lord Lutheran Church through Sunday, January 8, when they will be donated to WACHP in memory of Mason’s upcoming 1st birthday. We greatly appreciate your contributions and so will the families of the children who will receive these books. Thank you! Matthew and Kristan Muse
Needed: Summer Camp Staff: If you are a college age young adult looking for an exceptional job this summer, check us out. Why work at camp? You will grow in faith. You will learn life skills to be used at work. You will make new, life-long friends. It will look good on your resume. And yes, you will get paid. Go to www.campfrederickohio.com to complete an application or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 330-227-3633 to schedule an interview.