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St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church
2860 East Market Street, Warren, Ohio   44483
330-394-5741
Office email:   stpaulwarrenoh@aol.com
Office Hours 11:30 am – 2:30 pm

 

“Christ Emptied Himself”

Passion Sunday 2020

Today is the great feast of the passion.  We hear more of the events of Holy Week at today’s Service than at any other time all year.  The events from Palm Sunday through the Saturday vigil of Easter are packed into just one hour of worship this morning.  We are undertaking a remembrance of Jesus’ passion and death at breath-taking speed. And not only that, our Lord Jesus goes through a breath-taking transformation; he enters Jerusalem as a king, praised with Hosannas, palm leaves laid down before him.  And he leaves the world days later, as a crucified man lain in a grave.  The speed of the transformation will be breath-taking.  The drama is painful to watch.

We are not good at remaining conscious before such realities.  Our focus slips through the long reading of scripture.  Our composure slips too as the beloved Jesus is strung up on a cross.  However, there is a way to shore-up our flagging spirit.  We can take the worshipful attitude of the scripture we have just heard moments ago. We listened to the scripture reading from Philippians earlier– the ancient hymn of the emptying of Jesus Christ, and his exaltation.  Jesus gives us a way to retain our consciousness through this sad, somber passion reading today.

Christ Jesus emptied himself, being born in human form, and he humbled himself, even to the point of death.  Like our Lord Jesus, can we have the mind of a servant, rather than a powerful master?  The church as church is not called to be powerful or god-like, if that means having power over the world.  We might like very much to have great influence over the world.  But the church is called to be like Christ Jesus, who gave up power and privilege to be in the midst of the suffering world.  We are called as a church this morning to be conscious of the suffering of Christ and to have faith in him.  We should hold fast in faith together to the suffering love of Christ—the one who gave everything, even his life.

At this time, we might be acutely aware of the struggles of the moment that we face as a church.  How do we act in the world when we are physically separated from one another, due to the stay at home order because of the corona virus?  We are not in a status quo time!  We remain a church that worships and cares for our neighbor– not because of the power of our influence, but because of God’s promise that we have more than enough of everything we need to be a servant church.  Underneath the struggles of the moment, and beneath the threats of the times, there is encouragement in Christ himself.  There is consolation in love.  There is sharing in the Spirit.  We have more than enough of the spirit that will see us through hard times.

So, as we listen to the reading of the passion, according to St Mark, let us enter into a consciousness that we are here this morning, a servant church, emptying ourselves (humbling ourselves) because He emptied himself; giving ourselves in love because He gave everything in love.

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HERE, THE PASSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO MATTHEW SHOULD BE READ:  MATTHEW 26:14 to 27:66

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AFTER READING THE PASSION ACCOUNT:

The gift is given; his life is poured out; but it is as though we have watched from a distance.  If we can muster the courage to come together again on

Good Friday, we will participate in the stations of the cross.  The stations of the cross, for those who are not familiar, are mediations along the path that Jesus took when he moved from Pilate’s palace to the cross on Calvary.    It is moving to watch; We need each other to make the journey through this Holy Week.

We will need to have compassion to take that longer, closer look at Jesus on Good Friday, as he is crucified for our salvation.

Now, together, we slow down from this breath-taking, rapid transformation into the real time of  Holy Week. Please do your very best to spend time in the prayerful presence of God.  Worshipping and praying during this Holy Week before Easter is the best way that we can empty ourselves of the power of the world, and make ourselves ready to be the servants of Christ.

May it be so.
Rev Ann Marie Winters
March 29, 2020

 

 

March 24, 2020

Dear People of St. Paul,

I like what one friend told me today:  though a tiny, invisible thing—the corona virus—can cause us to change so many things about our lives, it cannot take away our prayer and our connection to God.  We have always got the ability to reach out in love to God and to our neighbors.  That is the first and greatest commandment—Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole strength, and your whole mind, and your neighbor as yourself.  If we do this, there is no doubt, we will experience life and its fullness.

Concerning the church, for a time, we are a “stay at home church.”  Honestly, what is that?  I don’t know about you, but I am yearning to see my church family who I see so often.  I am also yearning for the covid-19 virus to leave us—the sooner the better.  Who really knows just when that will be?  But until the “coast is clear” and we are able to congregate again for worship and all kinds of activities, we are still church together.  See Stacey’s letter about “Project Outreach” that went off without a hitch last weekend.  We are also innovating our communication methods, keeping Lynn and I on our toes, believe me.  We have realized that a monthly newsletter for April is just not going to be a realistic help; no one knows what to expect a month at a time.  Instead, we will have weekly letters by Constant Contact and snail mail.  Hopefully, you have received some encouragement and hope from our church communications.

I’d like to hear from you as well.  Look for the announcements about the “Anxious for Nothing” bible study and perhaps you will want to participate, or maybe you could order Max Lucado’s book—“Anxious for Nothing” through Amazon.  Call me on my cell phone if you would like to have help with this:  330-469-6296.  The best time to call is between 7:00 and 9:00 pm.  Or if my phone is turned off, leave a message, and I will call you back.

Starting today, as I write this, I am working from home; I am not going into the church office except for worship times, so the office phone is not the best way to reach me.  Lynn is working mainly from home too.  She will go in periodically each week to get mail and send out mail, and to check messages that may have been left.  Otherwise, her computer at home is the real workhorse for St. Paul’s communications.

What can you expect to receive from St. Paul Church?

  • There will be a weekly worship bulletin, with announcements, and a sermon. This week, however, Rev. Karl Biermann is preaching in a video sermon, and he doesn’t have a manuscript, so you will receive your next sermon for Palm Sunday.
  • We are going to continue streaming the mid-week evening prayer service on Facebook, and PSCP tv “Thomas Mossor” (by computer) on March 26 and April 2.
  • We will also have Sunday morning Service of the Word at 10:30 am. This can also be viewed after that “live” streaming time has ended. (Again this is by Facebook: St Paul Warren’s page, and on PSCP tv “Thomas Mossor.”
  • Do you need someone to help walk you through making these connections? Both Tom Mossor 330-272-3008 and Jim Kuzman 407- 276-6492 and available BY PHONE evenings after 6:00 pm.
  • Stacey is doing wonderful things with the youth. See her announcements.
  • I am doing a brief mediation or devotion on Facebook ( Paul’s page) on Mon., Tues., Wed., and Friday. I post it around 10:00 am.
  • By the way, Tim Martin, our custodian, is doing great work on very large jobs at the church: carpet cleaning, stripping and waxing floors, sanitizing, etc.
  • Diana Bauman and I are in regular conversation, and council matters will be handled by phone and email.
  • We are working on Celebrate Recovery online “Zoom” meetings; stay tuned for instructions.

I realize this is a long letter.  I will make it briefer in the future.

Wishing you Christ’s love and the blessing of Almighty God,
Pastor Ann Marie

PS:  Let’s keep the main thing, the main thing:  Love God and your neighbor!

 

March 24, 2020

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

During this stressful and uncertain time in our lives, we must remember that we can continue to do God’s work and support one another under any circumstance.  It is this very principle we live by that has inspired what we are calling “Project Outreach”.  I worked closely with Pastor Ann Marie to develop and implement this project quickly to provide expressions of care to those who are high risk in our congregation.  It is my hope that these cards, activity kits, and care packages will lift spirits and help reduce outings by those who are considered high risk.

Our team consists of Judy Dodge, Christine Mymo, Liz Chapin, Kelly Hutchison, Lyda Vigorito, Trisha Mossor, and Nola Bennett, whom you may have already seen delivering packages.  We are also offering our services to those that may need a medication or prescription picked up.  Again, the idea is to limit public exposure and keep our families safe. We ask that you be patient with us over the next few weeks.

Please contact me at 330-718-8820 (call or text) if you have any questions or need special help obtaining specific items or medication.  A special THANK YOU to Judy Dodge, Christine Mymo, Liz Chapin, Kelly Hutchison, Lyda Vigorito, Trisha Mossor, and Nola Bennett for braving this storm with me to care for others!!

Prayers and love,
Stacey Altiere

 

March 22, 2020 – Announcements

Praying for members with medical challenges:  Diana Bartlett, Rodger Bartlett, Elaine Benka, Ron Benka, Nola Bennett, Laurie Czoka, Evan Davis, Dominic Frazzini, Jerry Groves, Stephanie Groves, Carolyn Marsh, Carol Null, Jerry Null, Roy Seibert, Jane Shaw, Ken and Jerry Wareham, April Williams, Andrea Wollam

Remembering those who are home bound:  Pastor Richard Bowen, Charles English, Jim Illencik, Jean Maurice, Harriette Shaffer

Remembering those with special needs:  Gini Cage, Connie Fowler, Bryan Giocondi, Roxanne Meeker, Cindy Robinson, Ondine Shiau, Alton Smith, Dean Voye, Mark Voye, Bob Webb

Remembering those in the Military:  Jonathan Benka, Danielle Greenhill, Kirk Groves, Michael Maradin

In Sympathy:  Elizabeth Izant, the late wife of Rev. Kent Mueller, passed away on March 11, 2020, after a brief illness.  Expressions of sympathy may be sent to:  Pr. Kent Mueller, 2510 S. Steele St., Denver, CO  80210.

 

Visit us on the web at www.stpaulwarrenoh.org

www.facebook.com/stpaulwarrenoh on Facebook

 

SUSPENSION OF IN PERSON WORSHIP SERVICES:  According to Bishop Allende’s recommendation of March 16, we will NOT be gathering in person for our worship, at least until April 1 (and until further notice).  For those of you who have a computer or a smart phone, you will be able to go to the Facebook page for St. Paul Warren Oh (www.facebook.com/stpaulwarrenoh) and click on the video tab.  There you will find a very small group of musicians and singers who are leading a worship time for you at home.  We can send out scriptures and sermons to those who cannot connect on the internet.  Let me know if you wish to receive written materials by mail.  For those without computer or Facebook access, there are also other options, such as television broadcasts.

 

THURSDAY LENT MIDWEEK SERVICE – FACING THE CROSS:  Luke 9:51 says that Jesus “set his face towards Jerusalem”.  He did this to encounter the pain of the cross on our behalf, to take away our sins.  In our Lenten series this year, just as Christ faced the cross, we set our faces on the cross of Christ as well.  During these Lenten days, we also face certain aspects of our lives which are not always in line with the cross.  We come to terms with them by “facing the cross”.

Thursday, March 26:  Facing One Another

Thursday, April 2:  Facing Suffering

These services of evening prayer will be live-streamed on Facebook (www.facebook.com/stpaulwarrenoh).

 

CHURCH ACTIVITIES & MEETINGS:  The Church activities and meetings that were planned have been suspended until April 1, keeping with the practice of the NEOS of the ELCA and Bishop Allende’s recommendations.  We will keep you posted.

 

SHOPPING CART NEEDS FOR MARCH:  Instant potatoes, canned sweet potatoes, stuffing mix, gravy (jar or mix), Vienna sausages, canned fruit, cracker snacks, cans of food with pop top lids for easy opening.  Donations of food are still greatly needed.  They can be dropped off at St. Paul during office hours (Mon. through Fri. 11:30 am to 2:30 pm).

 

TITHES AND OFFERINGS:  Please mail your tithes and offerings to St. Paul.  We are in full operation, with staff to pay, electric and gas bills, and so on.  We rely on everyone’s help.  Thank you.

 

YOUTH UPDATE FROM STACEY ALTIERE:  All Youth Group meetings and activities are currently suspended.

 

From the Office of Bishop Eaton, ELCA:

God, our peace and our strength, we pray for our nation and the world as we face new uncertainties around Coronavirus.  Protect the most vulnerable among us, especially all who are currently sick or in isolation.  Grant wisdom, patience, and clarity to healthcare workers, especially as their work caring for others puts them at great risk.  Guide us as we consider who best to prepare and respond in our families, congregations, workplaces, and communities.  Give us courage to face these days not with fear, but with compassion, concern, and acts of service, trusting that you abide with us always, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Lent 4 A 2020     March 22, 2020     Pr. Winters

FIRST READING: Psalm 23

SECOND READING: Ephesians 5:8-14

GOSPEL:  John 9: 1-41

“No Longer in Darkness”

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”  Many of us recognize this famous line that begins A Tale of Two Cities.  Charles Dickens tells the story of days filled with darkness and light, good and evil.  I think these opposing forces may characterize the events of these present days that we are enduring.  “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

If I say the words, anxiety, suffering, and death, I could easily be describing the worst of times–everyday realities while we are dealing with the corona-virus in our nation and our world.  On the other hand, if we will cast our eyes upon the Lord, we experience the best and the worst side-by-side.  It is the best of times–confidence, goodness and kindness, and restoration are just as real to the faithful living during these times, when we cast our eyes upon the Lord.

I think it is no co-incidence that we have a gospel today that lifts-up the themes of light and sight, and the goodness and kindness of Jesus.  During the gospel of the man born blind, seeing is a blessing given to the blind man by Jesus, but in the process, we see instances of doubt, unbelief, and anxiety by others in the story.  The gospel writer, John, focuses attention on the people who knew the man who was born blind.  The ones who knew him doubted what Jesus was doing; they argued about whether he was even blind at all.  They didn’t easily believe that the man’s blindness was healed.  The people brought the question before the Pharisees, so that they could decide.

The parents of the man born blind were also un-believing, rather than opening themselves to the light of Jesus’ ministry.  His parents acted out of fear and passed the buck to their son.  They say, “He’s of age, let him tell you what has happened.”  There is much anxiety on everyone’s part because the stakes are high.  The people are threatened with being thrown out of the synagogue, if they confess belief in Jesus as Messiah.

Then an amazing thing happens; the man born blind is not only healed physically by Jesus, he also has a conversion to faith.  Grace is visible!  We see his faith grow in the ways he addresses Jesus:  First, he refers to Jesus as the man called Jesus.  Next, he answers the Pharisees that Jesus is a prophet.  As the Pharisees continue to challenge him, he asserts that Jesus is from God.  For this, he is thrown out of the synagogue.  When Jesus finds him, the man proclaims him as Lord and worships him.  By the end of the encounter, he has complete physical and spiritual sight—he sees who Jesus is!

During this time of high anxiety, are you looking to God and Jesus to shed light on your life?  There are so many ways that the Lord can enlighten us.  For some of you, it happens in this service.  You are physically or virtually present, or you are worshipping at home.  Perhaps you come to this message today feeling empty, or worked up, or tossed about by life.  Then at the words of scripture, in the music of hymns, perhaps joining your voices with others, or even in the sermon, you hear God’s voice.

Are you seeing what God wants you to see during these times?  There is always more to see than just bad and frightening news.  God has given us the Psalms for our spiritual encouragement.  Today, it is no co-incidence that Psalm 23 is appointed for our worship time. The images of Psalm 23 are what God wants us to see, especially today.  Perhaps you know it by heart.

The Good Shepherd image is the center of Psalm 23.  The psalmist is pictured as a traveler crossing dangerous places, much as a sheep who needs the guidance of the shepherd.  Our God is trustworthy and can be trusted to lead me through every danger and need.  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

The Shepherd finds just the right spot for the sheep to rest, to be restored.  “He leads me in right paths for his names’ sake.”  In Rev. Will Willimon’s Pulpit Resource, he says the Twenty-third Psalm is like an old friend that “puts comforting arms around us, and reassures us of a God who makes, leads, restores, comforts, prepares, and anoints; so that in darkness or light, life or death, we might dwell with God.”

This started me thinking about the presence of old friends.  I know in my times of trouble or anxiety, I turn to old friends, and find great comfort in their words and actions.  Sometimes God sends us the comfort of friends when we least expect it, too.  I heard the true story this week of a woman who has been battling cancer; she is doing well, but the weight on her spirit and the emotional burden on her family is great.

Just last week, they were feeling very worn out by the battle, and ready to throw in the towel.  The phone rang and it was one of the woman’s college friends whom she hadn’t heard from in all those many years since college.  Besides being delighted to hear the voice of an old friend, she was so encouraged and uplifted.  It turns out that her college friend is also waging the same physical battle against the disease.  But she is a shining example of good courage, of undaunted strength.  Her attitude is unbelievably positive, and her spirit is contagious.  When the woman hung up the phone from her conversation with her old friend, she was a changed person.  She had caught onto the light and life that her friend shared with her.  Her husband and family noticed the difference immediately, and they felt relieved and encouraged themselves.

You see, just as Psalm 23 says, goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.  Another way to translate the word “follow” is “pursue.”  The goodness and kindness of God will pursue us.  God’s mercy will look for us, search for us, leave no stone unturned to find us.  When we are plodding through life, scrambling for groceries, or trying to settle into quarantine, missing our regular routines, or securities, there come God’s goodness and kindness pursuing us.  God will not leave us to the dark valley by ourselves.  It may be the valley of uncertainty, but the Shepherd is waiting there to greet us.  Or perhaps we are in the darkness of anxiety and worry, the Shepherd comforts us with rod and staff that give us courage.  He prepares the table, even when we don’t know exactly what we’ll make for supper.  He anoints our heads with oil, and our wounds are tended with God’s good medicine.

I will close with words from our letter to the Ephesians: “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light.”  We are to live no longer in darkness, but as light in the world.  As the man born blind, put your faith in Jesus, who we know is the Son of God.  Rely on that old friend, Psalm 23 for the presence of the Shepherd while you travel through the dark valleys.  You are no longer alone in darkness.  Walk in the light of Christ.

AMEN

Rev. Ann Marie Winters

 

March 17, 2020

“Yet I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God who saves me.  My God will hear me” Micah 7:7

Dear people of St. Paul,

As you are aware, these are difficult, anxious times due to the news and instructions regarding our response to the corona virus.  I trust you are getting the news; if you are like me, you are getting even more news than you need!

I am writing to give you spiritual support and encouragement, as your pastor (or as Stacey Altiere has called me, “The Shepherd Mama”—a little levity is a good thing.)

According to Bishop Allende’s recommendation of March 16, we will not be gathering in person for our worship, at least until after April 1st (and until further notice).  For those of you who have a computer or a smart phone, you will be able to go to the Facebook page for St. Paul Warren Oh, and click on the video tab.  There you will find a very small group of us from St. Paul who are leading a worship time for you at home.  We can send out worship bulletins and sermons to those who cannot connect on the internet.  Let me know if you wish to receive written materials by mail.  For those without computer or Facebook access, there are also other options, such as television broadcasts.

The important thing for us as a congregation is to remain connected in whatever ways we can.  I will be in regular contact with you by letters that will come in the mail or by email.  We will follow the same practice as we do for sending our monthly newsletters.  Lynn and I will have our hands full in keeping our website and communications up to date, but do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions about the church.  Phone: (330) 394-5741.

Likewise, several people in the congregation are standing ready to help others who need help getting groceries, medicine, or other necessities.  Most of us have good social networks at this time, and as time passes, we will continue to be ready to help each other.

There has been lots of talk about social distancing, and that is all well and good; but very little talk about spiritual connection.  At times like these, spiritual connection is crucial to our well-being.  Let us pray always for our nation, our world, and one another.  And let’s reach out to one another for spiritual connection in prayer and worship of God.  Use the phone!

I offer this prayer that Bishop Allende made available on the synod website.  The author is Cameron Bellm, a blogger who lives in Seattle, Washington.

Prayer for a Pandemic

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
Let us choose love.

 

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.  Amen.

With love and care,
Pastor Ann Marie