Dear friends in Christ Jesus may God bless you this May, as we continue to celebrate the Easter Season.
Many things are happening in the life of the church and it is an exciting time for the people of Zion. The end of May we will have a New members reception during service followed by food and fellowship. We are quickly approaching Vacation Bible School, which will be the first week in June. Our older youth are preparing for
AFFIRM which is also coming up in June. The Congregational Council has voted to approve the use of the fellowship hall/ education building this June and July to LEAP learning, for summer programming for elementary aged children. They are a private business that was in need of a space to educate and look after children this summer. They will be providing financial reimbursement to the congregation for the use of the space. It will be an amazing opportunity for Zion to experience the joys and struggles of having a school or daycare like group in our space. I am sure we will grow in knowledge from the experience and be able to more accurately discuss any future plans for ways to engage the community through use of our facility.
With so much going on it is easy to get lost in the juggling of all the wonderful opportunities available to us; however, our mission is unchanged. Matthew 28:19-20, is the great commission where the resurrected Jesus sends out his disciples to make disciples of the whole world. This implies meeting people where they are, walking alongside them, loving them as the people God made them. In the midst of doing this we share the driving motivation of our lives; the faith, hope, and love found in Jesus Christ. It is in genuine care and truth that we do anything, not with ulterior motivations for church membership growth or tithing increase. The authentic love of neighbor, for the sake of ministering about the undying love of God for all people.
The Season of Epiphany is drawing to a close, with Transfiguration of our Lord the first Sunday in March. Ash Wednesday comes right after beginning the Season of Lent. Some may be asking what is the Season of Lent or how do I explain this season to my non-church family or friends. The Church Season of Lent is a focused time of discipleship normally involving individualized fasting and corporate dedication to deepening the community’s relationship with God. It is the time of the year that we encourage and pray for each other to be self-reflective on the things in life that draw us away from spending time in relationship with God. It is not that we don’t engage in discipleship all year round. It is during Lent that
we make a dedicated effort to go deeper than we have before, try something new in our walking with the Lord. It is when we are all striving together and encountering new struggles that we need each others support to persevere toward Easter Sunday. Then we can all rejoice in the victory of Jesus Christ over Death and Sin.
Now, I am sure that each of us has our traditional ways of practicing Lenten discipleship. By this time you have already finished your Girl Scout cookies and removed the last of the chocolate from the house. You have steeled yourself for the forty days to come of not eating out, or purchased your devotional study that you will engage in during Lent. However, I am going to make a special appeal this year to make Sunday School a part of our Lenten discipleship. Yes, I know that Sundays are supposed to be feast days and do not actually count towards the forty days of Lent. Even so, making the commitment to come to Sunday School for the season of Lent will enrich the season that is normally spent removing things from your life by adding an extra Christian fellowship time. The groups that we currently have are great and the education committee plans to introduce a new group looking at Christian music videos starting the first Sunday of Lent. For the season of Lent there will be breakfast offered before/ during Sunday School as well. Of all the seasons of the church this season gets the most attention because of its reputation in the world as a time of fasting. However, not all discipleship is based in denial of worldly pleasures. Some discipleship is based in spending time in the community of faith supported by the Love of God. May God bless your Lenten Season.
God loves you and so do I,
Grace and Peace, to you, from our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a year that we get to have a longer Epiphany season reaching all the way through the month of February. Ash Wednesday is not until March 6th and Easter falls on April 21st. So what will we do in the month of February; as we will not yet be in the season of Lent? What sort of spiritual discipleship should we, as people of God, be engaging in during this season of epiphany? The season itself has much to do with the revelation of Jesus Christ to the people. We started with the star and the wise men, but we make our way deeper into Jesus’ ministry through the Gospel of Luke. While most of us are familiar with Jesus’ ministry, this Epiphany season gives us an opportunity to read and study together the early ministry of Jesus told through the Gospel of Luke. All of the Gospels are good, but many times we end up mixing them all together instead of reading them one at a time in their entirety. For all the Gospels give their own perspective of Jesus Christ that should be received as it was revealed to them. The Gospel of Luke is no different; it portrays Jesus Christ in a different way from the other three Gospels. Only the Gospel of Luke continues the story of revelation past the resurrection and appearing of Jesus Christ into the Book of Acts. Luke wants the reader to know the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit and the continuity between the past, the present, and the future. This may open our eyes and ears to allow the Holy Spirit to give us an epiphany this season. So let us set time aside, in our personal Bible study moments, to read the Gospel of Luke, allowing space for the Lord to challenge our memories of how the story goes, and read with fresh appetite the revealing of Jesus to the people.
May God bless your study times and please share your experiences of
revelation with me and others at the church.
God loves you, and so do I;
Daylight Savings time has begun for most people in the USA. Hopefully, by now most everybody has made the slight of hand adjustment to all their time marking instruments (aka clocks). The only part that we really changed were our clocks. The sun itself continued with the same pattern it has had for eons. It is an illusion that we “saved” any time. It is also a misconception that a congregation in the 21st Century can function without a majority of the disciples and members contributing their personal time, abilities, and financial resources to support the overall ministry of the congregation and the larger church. You will be hearing more about the Stewardship Committee that is taking shape. The basic purpose of the committee is to help inform the congregation about the need for disciples and members to manage their time, abilities, and financial resources so that a portion can be used in the ministry of the church. For a congregation time, abilities, and money are the building blocks of ministry. Stewardship is about using what you have received to support ministry.
By the time you read these words, the season of Advent will be over, and the calendar year of 2017. The cycle of time continues to mark off the passage of opportunities. People have the choice of
regretting those missed opportunities or they can realize that more opportunities are possible in the next season or calendar period. May God’s grace relieve you of the guilt of having missed opportunities to share the message of God’s love with others. As the months in 2018 slip on by, may you recognize and act when you do have an opportunity to share with someone the difference it makes in your living to live as a disciple of Jesus the Christ. Perfect opportunities to share rarely occur and so sharing during an ordinary opportunity is the best time in 2018.
Three Expressions of the Church
People speak of the Church as if it were a specific organization and/or location. The church is where serving the needs of people occurs. Much of that caring occurs when congregations meet for worship and for small group meetings. Yet there is also the caring for others through activities of the Synod such as the financial support of Lutheran Services of Georgia. Yet again there is caring for others through activities of the ELCA such as Lutheran Disaster Response. Three different worldly expressions of the Church.
An author did a radio interview about the research she did for her new book. The subject matter was about where and with whom we are willing to place our trust. We need to trust our institutions such as food companies and government. The food produced by a company needs to be safe to eat and its contents needs to be what is on the ingredients label. Even peanut butter produced by major food companies use to be made up of only about 75% peanuts until the FDA set the standard much higher. When people stop trusting a company, people are more likely to stop being customers of that company. Would you get into the car of a total stranger? The author also wrote about some internet companies that work with the concept that their customers mostly trust not the company, but the opinions of people who are already customers of the company. As an example think of ride sharing companies. They have grown because of people trusting the opinions of others that getting into a car driven by a stranger is OK. The church as a social institution in our society is not as trusted as it once was in the past. What is therefore needed now is for members of congregations to speak about it being OK to worship in a congregation of strangers. The month of December is an opportunity for you to invite others to come and worship.
Over a period of 500 years viewpoints have changed. On Sunday, October 22 at 5 p.m. in the afternoon Roman Catholics and Lutherans in the Coastal Empire have the opportunity to gather together to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This is not a celebration of we were right and you were wrong, but of celebrating the gospel message of God’s grace being proclaimed by Christians. It is a gathering of people to celebrate that we have all felt God’s grace in the midst of our living.
Certainly we Lutherans should celebrate our denominational birthday of 500 years, but it is also important for our witness to the communities around us that you participate in this gathering of Christians at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Savannah on October 22. Think of it this way, this is an opportunity to show the un-churched that regardless of our differences we can gather together and accept each other as Christians. This is a special opportunity and you need to make a special effort to be a part of this specific celebration.
There will also be a special opportunity on Sunday, October 15 at 3 p.m. at St. Peter the Apostle congregation on Wilmington Island, for the final discussion about the Reformation and the relationships between Lutherans and Roman Catholics in more recent times.
It has been the trend that by the end of February the physical fitness centers have fewer people in them even though January is typically a month of increased membership and participation. After the holidays people often feel the need to exercise (get rid of those extra holiday pounds) and so they head to the fitness center. But the newness wears off faster than the pounds wear off and people choose to spend their time in other places. To be in appropriate physical shape (a healthy condition, not a pro athlete’s condition) requires one to participate regularly in physical activities. So it is also with your spiritual fitness. Regular attendance at worship along with time spent in personal and/or family devotions are positive ways to help one’s spiritual fitness. As we enter into the Lenten season on March 1 with Ash Wednesday, there will also be the opportunities to strengthen the congregational fitness by participating in those special weekday worship opportunities and the Sunday evening Lenten devotionals. Come and share faith and fellowship as we strengthen the spiritual aspect of the congregation.
Almost 40 years ago two Voyager spacecrafts were launched to explore interstellar space. Included on the spacecraft were recordings of sounds and images from Earth that other intelligent life might interpret to get an idea about humans. Recently several people were discussing if the opportunity came to create another recording of sounds and images of earth what would people want to include this time. Technology has greatly increased the capacity of recordings and so there was the possibility of many more things being included. But one person among the group suggested that more data (images and sounds) does not necessarily convey an accurate portrayal of human life. She talked about human beings as more than what we read, more than the music we listen to, or capture as photos. We are greater than the sum of activities we engage in while living.
As Christians we individually need to be able to convey a meaningful portrayal of our Christian faith. Worship is needed, but faith goes beyond worship. Christian faith goes beyond the words print- ed on paper and called the Bible. Christian faith is more than a name on a membership list. Faith is more than the sum of our activities. It is what we do because we realize that Christ has redeemed us from our sins. Faith is how we live day by day and treat other people as we are motivated by acknowledging the eternal love and grace of God.
In the vastness of space no creature may ever find the Voyager spacecraft and understand those recordings. However, your daily living will be seen by others and hopefully be interpreted so that they too will want to participate in the Christian faith because it has real meaning as revealed through you.
If our Christian faith is only active during Sunday mornings, then we have limited influence in society. As Christians we do not have answers to the many problems of society, but if we do not offer any engagement outside of Sunday mornings we certainly will not have any influence at all in helping correct some of society’s problems.
Many people believe that politics and religion do not mix, but that depends upon what you define as politics. There are partisan politics in which some folks seem to think that God is on their political party’s side and it is their way or the highway. Think of the prohibition movement that led to the changing of the Constitution of the United States and the mess that followed when alcohol became illegal. It has been a long standing saying that you cannot legislate morality, but it is possible to legislate deterrence.
It is of some benefit to society that we have drunk driving laws and that the law can make people take DUI classes after their conviction for driving under the influence. Those laws came about because of politics working towards public safety, and public safety is something that Christians are to consider. It is not politics for this congregation to allow the use of its facilities as a polling place during elections. It is a service to the community much in the same way when the congregation’s facilities are used by other community groups such as the Scouts or the Farm Bureau. What is not permitted is the use of funds of the congregation in support of a specific candidate or political party.
In this time of sound bites and pseudo-reporting on the Internet, people need to consider a variety of opinions in order to make better decisions. It is true that money talks but so do ordinary voices. To help you in the area of advocacy you can visit the following website http://elca.org/our-work/Publicly-Engaged-church/ELCAvotes. If you have concerns, call me (232.6215). Pastor Dave