Dear Partners in Ministry,
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You have no idea how often we as your pastoral team “brag on you,” giving thanks and praise for each of you and for all the great things you are doing and helping others to do in the different ministries within our congregations.
Here are some brief glimpses of the exciting things that we see happening and encourage us because of you and your willingness to support our collective ministry:
And these are just the tips of the faith in action iceberg in each of our congregations. The number of times our congregations are used for community service programs, i.e. AA, NA, GA, and other community functions is amazing, not to mention the outreach to all the “least of one of these” to whom we are constantly ministering and it is easy to see how each of our partner congregations are serving vital roles in their immediate mission field..
And this does not even begin to address what we do beyond our immediate area. Our Lutheran churches’ witness is constantly among the first on the scene when there is a major disaster, i.e. Katrina, in New Orleans, or a Tsunami in Japan, the recent floods in the northeast or elsewhere around our world. And we are frequently the last, if ever, to leave because we are congregationally based and connected.
So, you might ask yourself, “What does all this have to do with me?” And I would say, “Everything!”
You would then ask, “How can you say that Pastor John?”
And I would say that from my personal experience and from all that I have heard from other people who are faithfully using their time, talents, and finances serving and trusting the Lord, I have not met one who was financially broke or spiritually broken because they gave too much. After all, “Who does it all belong to anyhow?”
Rev. Billy Graham once said, “Give me five minutes with a person's checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.”
I am sure that we are all familiar with the opening of the Gospel of John:
“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning...”
But then let’s jump ahead and look at verse 16:
“16 From the fullness of his (Jesus’) grace we have all received one blessing after another. “(Gospel of John 1:1, 2 & 16 NIV)
And it is our recognition of God’s grace and the many blessings that He gives to each of us from which we are able to be real blessings to others.
A New Revelation In Stewardship
Recently a group of 19 representatives from our PLUM congregations attended the second in a series of “Stewardship for Stewards” seminars hosted by our Western PA Synod and Pastor Blair Morgan our deployed Staff Person for the ELCA. Having heard from many of those in attendance, it became clear that a more Biblical approach of looking at stewardship is evolving. We all know that everything was created by and ultimately belongs to God. Even our children are just on loan to us. (Remember the story of Abraham and Isaac?) But for far too long we have allowed our world view to infiltrate our faith walk into believing that what God has given us to use, whether it is our time, our talents, and/or our finances, are “ours to keep”. Our world wants us to believe or at least act like God transfers ownership with his blessings, similar to the way one gets a title from the state when we purchase a car. What is curious and although we might want to believe this to be biblical, there are no models in scripture to support that worldly attitude. Matter of fact, the exact opposite is at the heart of most of Jesus teachings. The rich fool, or the man building bigger barns, Luke 12:13-21; Zacchaeus the tax collector in the tree, Luke 19:1-10; the widow’s mite, Mark 12:41-44; etc.
So, what changes when we acknowledge the fact that everything we have is really God’s and it is our gift to be allowed to use it? In all reality, we can become more generous willing to share which makes us more content with life in general. After all it’s our human nature that makes it easier to share someone else’s stuff than to share our own. Question: “Are you more or less likely to give someone your bottle of water that you just got out of the family cooler at the picnic or the one you just bought at the local dairy mart?” Both have endless supplies but isn’t the real issue ownership, “Whose is it anyhow?”
Over the next several months we will be exploring stewardship with some new twists. We are doing this not as a way to manipulate you into giving more out of duty or guilt. Rather, as we know from our personal lives and stories, as an avenue to better understand the many blessings of grace giving. It is in the recognition of these blessings that we have been given that allow us the freedom and joy to give of our time, our talents and our resources. And, it is this joy that we want you to know. Therefore, join us as together we continue discussing and learning what it is to celebrate the true blessings of life as God’s chosen people.
In Christ’s Service,Pastor John Gropp
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600