Dear Partners in Ministry,
WOW, 2017 is here!
As a nation, we have a new president. This year, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of the Church and the Steelers are headed for the Super Bowl (oops-wishful thinking from the first draft).
I believe, if you allow me for a moment to wear my rose-colored glasses, all the signs are there that things are improving within the life of our Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries’ (PLUM) congregations. We are blessed in so many different ways. The powerful message of God’s love for us, new opportunities and second chances are being discovered and, like 2017, it is just the beginning.
The following vignette shares a healthy perspective of our human nature:
We’re always willing to give what we don’t have, until we have it.
Living a life where we practice good stewardship and healthy evangelism strengthens us to see everything we have as a blessing and gift to be used to further God’s kingdom. It is imperative for our congregations to grow.
First, I say this knowing that, currently, you have, or are about to receive, your statement of financial giving from last year and your offering envelopes for this new year of 2017. One is a record of our past and the other is a foretaste of what our congregations’ financial future can be. In good stewardship, we give joyfully because of an awareness of the amazing blessings God has showered upon us. And, when we are honest with ourselves, from our own experience, we know the conundrum. We are happier when we give a gift than when we receive one.
As we look at our individual stewardship this past year we might find that we were challenged, sometimes subtly, to look in new ways at our giving pattern. Only as we experience a loving God who comes to us are we able to experience the reality of a God with us.
And this brings me to my second point: Stewardship’s kid sister, Evangelism. As we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther and the Reformation of the church, may we be mindful that it did not come about without conflict, struggle and passion. As I listened to the stories of our churches’ ministries around the tables at our quarterly PLUM Board meeting this past Sunday, I am continually amazed at the broad spectrum of ministries taking place and the lives being touched through the efforts of our small bands of faithful servants. However, just like the financial statement mentioned above, those ministries are just a glimpse of some of the things we have done. Now, we must look to the future.
I believe that, on our horizons, things potentially could be headed for dramatic change. I also believe, and I hope I am wrong, that our churches are being primed to address challenges like we have never seen in our lifetime. Our communities will need to see our churches as places of strength, safety, protection and compassion. They will need churches that will stand with and, at times, for them. Where they can catch their breath as they hear and experience the peace of God’s presence in their lives and world. Tanks, bombs, legislation that isolates us from our world or attitudes that build barriers between us and our neighbors, both locally and globally, are not going to produce peace in our neighborhoods, communities, the Middle East or the world. Quoting scriptural passages, such as, “He has filled the hungry with good things” in Luke 1:53a, or “love your neighbor,” will not eliminate hunger or make our communities safer. God’s marvels do not just happen on their own. Rather, God works with and through us, using our time, talents, energy, connections and resources. Within PLUM, God has embedded each of our congregations in a different context. Therefore, each congregation may not respond the same in ministry to the needs around them. However, each of us should closely examine our communities to determine the needs that are unique to their location, while being bold in the face of adversity that may come our way. Ministry with others may not always be comfortable.
We are on a roll. God does not ask us to be generous with things we do not have, but rather to courageously and graciously give from the blessings we do have. And, for that to happen, it requires introspection and reflection, which is sometimes difficult to do. I ask that you allow the boldness of this Christmas experience to permeate all your/our actions through the church’s ministries this New Year. Stretch yourself in your giving, serving, and your use of the gifts God has given you as, together, we prepare ourselves for wherever the road ahead leads us.
Pastor John J. Gropp
Allow me to say a special thank you for all your prayers, kind thoughts, actions and words that you offered to me and our family over the death of my mother this past Christmas Season. What a fantastic gift she received and what a blessing each of you were and are for us. Let’s all say, “Praise the Lord”.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600