From Pastor Ann Marie Winters

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
Pastor Winters Cell:  330-469-6296

July 26, 2020

Praying for members with medical challenges:  Diana Bartlett, Rodger Bartlett, David Baudo, Elaine Benka, Ron Benka, Don Brant, Laurie Czoka, Jerry Groves, Stephanie Groves, Nancy Hall, Carolyn Marsh, Roy Seibert, Jane Shaw, Ken Wareham, Jerry Wareham, Jean Waris, April Williams, Andrea Wollam

Remembering those who are home bound:  Pastor Richard Bowen, Bill Cohol, Marlene Cohol, Geneveive Costello, Jim Illencik, Jean Maurice, Harriette Shaffer

Remembering those with special needs:   Ted Buch, Gini Cage, Cora Campbell, Cindy Crisafi, Connie Fowler, Bryan Giocondi, Roxanne Meeker, Sharri Olson, John Prew, Mary Lou Robertson, Cindy Robinson, Scotty Santimarino, Sandy Seitz, Ondine Shiau, Alison Steuer, Rev. Paul Swartz, Dean Voye, Mark Voye, Bob Webb

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

The Eternal Light Candle burns this week in loving memory of Ida Wareham by Ken and Jerry Wareham.

Visit us on the web at:  www.stpaulwarrenoh.org
On Facebook at:  www.facebook.com/stpaulwarrenoh
On our website at:  stpaulwarrenoh.org

Update on our Pandemic Precautions:  Please remember that we are only in Phase Two of our return to in-person worship.  It is tedious, but we need to wear masks while we are in church, and maintain a 6-foot social distance.  I know we are happy to see each other, and to be together again, so it is critical that we follow the protocols that we have accepted as a condition to coming back.  There is a rise in cases of the corona virus in Ohio, and locally, and we must be vigilant about our actions.  Coming into worship, please fill the seats from the front of the sanctuary to the rear, and when we dismiss, go from the back to the front.  Please congregate for conversation only OUTSIDE in the fresh air.

Celebrate Recovery:  A program to support the healing of “hurts, habits, and hang-ups”.  We meet every Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.  We invite you and your family and friends to come if you suffer from abuse, grief, harmful relationships, divorce, co-dependency, depression, guilt, shame, drug and alcohol addiction, gambling, eating disorders, and so on.

Church Yard Sale Coming:  St. Paul will have a Rummage Sale in our front yard on Saturday, August 8, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.  We will accept many diverse items, including household items as well as clothing and books and small furniture.  You may drop off items beginning TODAY in the Youth Room.  Bring your things on Sunday mornings, or from 11:30 to 2:30 Monday through Friday.  The sale will be a Thrivent sponsored activity to benefit St. Paul Church, and pepperoni rolls will be available for purchase.  A bake sale will also be included.  In case of rain, the sale will be rescheduled.  See Stacey Altiere to help or for questions.

Grand-families:  Grand-families meets on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month in the Parlor.  We will meet Saturday, August 8, at 10:30 am.

Online Giving:  We have a new opportunity to give online through Tithe.ly.  If you are on St. Paul’s Facebook page during our livestream worship or at any other time during the week, you can scroll down on the home page and find Tithe.ly.  Using your device or computer, just follow the instructions to make an offering to St. Paul Church.  You may use a credit card or bank account to set it up.  You may choose to cover the small service fee as well.  Soon Tithe.ly will be on our website as well.  Tithe.ly can also be downloaded as an App.  However you choose, please continue to give generously to St. Paul Lutheran Church.  Every bit helps our mission.  Thank you!  Thank you!

Thank you:  Thank you to everyone who helped recognize my graduation.  It really meant a lot that my graduation was on your minds, especially considering everything that is going on in our world.  Having my senior year cut short, it warms my heart to know I still have the love and support of so many wonderful people behind me.  Thank you again, Nadia Chapin

Taken from the Northeastern Ohio Synod website:
Prayer for Racial Justice
Save us, O God, from ourselves, from racism often cloaked in pious words, from the machinations of white supremacy hidden in calls for civility, from micro aggressions thinly veiled in arrogance, from apologies when they don’t give way to action, from forgiveness without facing the truth, from reconciliation without reparation.  Deliver us, O God, from expecting siblings of color to continue to bear this emotional work, which is not theirs to do.  Grateful for the long arc that bends toward justice, we pray:  Grant us wisdom, give us courage for the facing of these days, by the power of the Spirit, all for the sake of the kin-dom that we share in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

ST. PAUL YOUTH UPDATE FROM STACEY ALTIERE

Servant Week:  Don’t forget to send in your questionnaire or contact Stacey Altiere at 330-718-8820 as soon as possible if your household was selected for this project!  As with everything we do, our “Servant Week” has evolved into a “Servant Project” due to work schedules, vacations, and availability.  Each Youth Group family will contact members of the church to coordinate a date/time to come to your home and perform outdoor tasks such as gardening, mowing, window cleaning, and car washing free of charge.  We are no longer restricting our efforts to one week as that may not work for all involved.  We simply want to help and get the work done!

School Supply Drive:  Start looking for those back-to-school deals!  Our youth are holding a school supply drive until August 30 for the Warren School District.  This collection began on July 20, allowing us to get the best bang for our buck.  The children in our community will need these supplies regardless of in-person or remote learning this fall, and we are collecting for ALL grade levels (for suggestions please visit the school’s website).  A few items that have been specifically requested by the teachers are:  pens, pencils, spiral notebooks, folders, 1” binders, crayons, glue, erasers, and pencil bags/boxes.  These are just a few items the children tend to go through the fastest and will need in their travels.  A collection box has been placed in the hallway.  Please contact Stacey Altiere at 330-718-8820 for further information.

Pentecost 8 A 2020
SCRIPTURES:  1 Kings 3:5-12; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
 “Parables”

Wow!  This Sunday’s scriptures are rich with meaning and message.  We have everything from the wisdom of Solomon to the wisdom of St Paul in his letter to the Romans.  There is truly a treasure trove just in these two lessons.  Then, we add the gospel, brimming over with parables; should I focus on the mustard seed, the leavened loaf of bread, the great pearl, the hidden treasure, or the catch of fish?  It practically makes my head spin, just looking at the parables alone.  This will not be a Sunday when I touch on all three scriptures and weave them into a coherent whole—we’d be here until tomorrow trying to do that.

What I would like to do this morning is share my experience of “going deeper” in scripture and prayer, and then reflect on how the parables and the work of the spirit have been a part of my journey recently.

I’ve been reading a book called “Unbinding the Gospel,” and the author, Martha Grace Reese, tells about a journey in prayer and outreach that a person and a congregation can make.  The book culminates with an experience for the reader- a 40-day prayer journey that is meant to prepare a person to venture out into the neighborhood, and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I had to choose a prayer partner for the 40-day journey, and I invited Kristina Truhan, who many of you will remember was a member of this congregation 10 years ago.  She went to seminary and is now a pastor in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas.  Pastor Kristina and I do the daily prayers individually, and then we reflect together one day each week, and pray for each other.  Our only agenda is to be with God, and to get ready to discern the next steps of outreach.

Through this prayer journey so far, I have been able to put a higher priority on the place of prayer in each day of my week.  Each morning, with only a cup of coffee and a bible, I do the prayer exercise for the day, before I do anything else.  I want to encourage each of you as well, to make your daily prayer a regular habit and a priority each day.  You will be amazed at how God is more present throughout your day.

The result of a daily prayer habit is like the impact of a little mustard seed growing into a great shrub, or a little pinch of leaven making a whole great loaf of bread.  Jesus told these parables so that we would see with new eyes the miracles right before us.  For instance, a tiny mustard seed is planted in the ground.  After a couple of weeks, a plant emerges from the soil.  Then in a month or so, there is a plant quite full of leaves and branches.  How does this happen?  There is the biological explanation, but that is not what Jesus is getting at.  He says that this miraculous growth is how God is in our lives.

Or take a tiny pinch of yeast, just a few grains, and mix it into a couple of cups of flour.  Add some water, and some sugar.  Then mix it all up, and put it in a warm dry place.  In just about an hour, the lump of dough has tripled in size.  We can say that there is a chemical reaction—the yeast germinates and grows, producing gas and bubbles within the lump of dough, and that is what causes the bread to rise.  However, if we look beneath what we see on the surface, we find that Jesus is telling us this miraculous growth is how God is in our lives, here as well.

What I am finding in my prayer journey with my partner Pastor Kristina, is that God is working in hidden ways to bring about change and growth.  She is praying for my growth in reaching people for Christ, and I am praying the same for her.  We believe in the promise of the mustard seed, and we believe in the impact of a little leaven.  We believe that God is at work bringing his reign through our ministries and through God’s church.

All of us have been taught that the world is mainly the product of our own actions.  We make a life for ourselves.  But imagine a world that is the arena of God’s action.  Can we yield ourselves in prayer to join with God in the coming of God’s kingdom?  In other words, through prayer, God is with us and we are with God;  when we are open, God brings about the reign of God in our lives.  I mean that human beings managing our own lives is nothing like living in the world where God takes action.  When God takes action, we find God’s love and grace around us, growing in miraculous ways.

Perhaps you may have experienced a miracle of growth in your life, or you are praying for one…  Where there has been a hardness of heart, God is softening the ground, and new life is sprouting.  This is often a process of growing little-by-little, day-by-day.

The other thing I have recognized in my prayer journey is also taught to us in today’s parables of the treasure, and the great pearl.  A farmer discovers a field with a hidden treasure, and he goes to sell all that he has, and then buys that field.  The treasure has more value than anything else in his life.  He gives up all he has to own it.

Or the great pearl.  Can you see from the back row that I have a great pearl in my hand?  It is not your ordinary pearl, it is the mother of all pearls.  It is part of the Godly Play children’s lesson for this parable.  I would sell everything I have to own this one pearl of great price.  Jesus says, the kingdom of God is like these great treasures.  The reign of God is so valuable that everything we have is like nothing compared to it.  Our most valuable possessions pale in comparison to what it is like to live with God—in God’s reign.

These parables are not stories about us or what we do.  They are stories about God, and what God is doing in and for the world.

I would like to tell you my own parable that I have found, and I’m not quite sure of the origin, but it seems to wrap up this whole sermon into one story that tells it all.  Please give a listen.

There was a man on the edge of a forest.  He cut down the underbrush, and he sold it to live on the modest profits.  He met a man of God who he asked for advice for his life.  The man of God told him, always go deeper into the forest.  When the man went deeper, he found wonderful trees and sold them for timber.  He became rich, but he remembered the advice of the man of God, and he went deeper into the forest, where he found a silver mine.  He worked it, and recalled the words, “Go deeper.”  So, he left the silver behind and dared to press on deeper into the darkness of the mysterious forest.  Soon, he found wonderful, precious stones.  He took them in hand, rejoiced at their brilliance, and then left them behind, as he remembered the words of the man of God, “go deeper.”  With nothing in his hands, he walked on and on.  Suddenly, at dawn, he found himself at the edge of the forest.  So, he took his ax, chopped the underbrush and sold it.

What does this mean?  Going deeper is praying.  Prayer will lead you to greater and greater riches in the spiritual life.  As you let go of your possessions, to seek after God in prayer, you will always be given more.  But the greatest most valuable thing of all is prayer itself—a life turned over to God will be blessed time and again, over and over, from beginning to end, … to beginning again.  AMEN

Rev Ann Marie Winters
July 26, 2020