GOD KEEPS SURPRISING US!
“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8.39)
I am inspired and my faith gets stronger when I watch how God is working in each of our seven PLUM congregations. We have much to proclaim throughout the city. Some of us are proclaiming loudly and others of us have a softer proclamation, using a lower tone. In any case, if you haven’t noticed what God has or continues to do among us, I invite you to take a second look.
St. Andrew proclaimed the Season of Advent with a Jesse Tree; it is a unique way of announcing the season. Trinity, Sheraden now has a free-standing altar (thanks to the generosity of Bethany, Dormont). The altar is professionally crafted and matches the woodwork in the chancel. Recently, in spite of their on-going financial struggles, the members decided to tithe (10%) of their offerings to benevolence. Bethany made 690 prepared Thanksgiving dinners (half of which were delivered to households in need). This was the 30th year of this ministry. Bethlehem had a wonderful Vacation Bible School with 45 children. It was followed by a block party with many, many neighbors coming out and appreciating the church’s effort. Members from Trinity, Mt. Oliver and Trinity, Sheraden helped.
Trinity, Mt. Oliver again hosted the PLUM Reformation Service with its mass choir. What fun! By the way, have you seen the newly installed projection screen in the sanctuary? It won’t be fully operational until the Spring, when the congregation moves back into the sanctuary portion of the building. Speaking of projection screens, if you haven’t been by Christ, Duquesne lately, you have missed an exciting sight. The renovation is complete. The pews are angled creating a dramatic center aisle that takes your eyesight straight to the baptismal font and the altar. Above the altar is the screen on which the entire worship service, including the hymns, is projected. The renovation provides a new and positive atmosphere for worship.
East Liberty Congregation is going through the greatest change of our seven. The congregation has moved out of the sanctuary and created a worship space in the fellowship hall that is quite cozy and practical. We are researching how to sell the pipe organ and to remove and preserve the stained glass windows. While the plan for the future is still a little unclear, the congregation is committed to staying in E. Liberty and either replace the present building with something more practical or moving to another location in E. Liberty. Indeed, God is moving in a powerful way in this congregation.
We have so much for which to give thanks and to proclaim to our city.
The Lucan text quoted above is the end of a healing story. Jesus was in the country of the Gerasenes. For Jesus and the Jews, this was a foreign and heathen land. He had encountered a man possessed with a demon. He called the demon out of him and, when the man wanted to go with Jesus, Jesus told him to ‘return home and declare how much God has done for you.’
We often get tired and burdened by the mission Jesus has given us. Some would claim we are too old. I point to Abraham and Sarah who were already 75 when they started out on their uncharted journey. Some would claim we are too few. I point to Jesus’ model of 12 men who were certainly limited in their education, experience, and resources. Some would claim we are very limited in our resources, our buildings need repair, the heating bills and the old boilers we have are making it difficult to sustain the church. I point to Moses’ people who received food every day in the desert (and their clothes and shoes did not wear out in 40 years of wandering).
Some of our congregations are over 100 years old. God has been at work to sustain the church and its witness for many, many years. Why? Could it be true that God has sustained the church in our respective neighborhoods because God wants us to among the heralds who proclaim the Gospel with all boldness. The manger and the cross loom large before us. “Rise up, O saints of God! From vain ambitions turn; Christ rose triumphant that your hearts With nobler zeal might burn” (LBW 383, ELW 669).
+Pastor Paul Koch
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600