Loving And Forgiving

Dear Saints,

Call me crazy but I can’t wait for Lent this year. I’ve been pondering why. There are a few reasons.

First, we have so many new, interesting and creative ways to experience Lent together. The Lenten devotional is back for a 2nd year with so many beautiful daily offerings from so many of you. We also have a new year of “Lenten Wednesdays” with 5 new and creative evening sessions including some outside pro’s who are sharing their gifts with us. And then there’s the theme: Love AND Forgiveness; The beauty of Ash Wednesday being on Valentine’s Day lent itself to a “no-brainer” theme. We’ll also have Lenten witnesses each week in worship as well as continuing our plans to parallel of weekly scriptures and sermon themes with the Sunday School Curriculum.

But on a personal note I think there’s something even deeper for me. The re-frame of Lent from a time to potentially dark, dry and penitential experience to a journey of seeking opportunities to deepen our Love AND forgiveness of self and other is something we can all sink our teeth into. There is a wide opening at the shallow end of the pool for those who have never had an intentional Lenten journey. Or switching metaphors, we are all able to come to the edges of the shore-line together and venture in as slowly or as deeply as we want. We can more readily share and even laugh at our failed attempts to be patient or kind to ourselves and one another. We can listen to others who may inspire us to confess the less-than-perfect parts of ourselves. We can read other’s personal devotions and feel relief in the shared struggle of shame, regret and fear.

Yes, that’s it…it’s the shared experience of Lent this year that’s got me excited. As the old hymn says ”Jesus walked this lonesome valley” Thank God WE don’t have to walk it by ourselves.

Loving AND forgiving with you,

Our Mission Dollars at Work!

Thank you to the congregation for raising $1,490 for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) to support their work after Hurricanes, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the California fires. The Mission Co-Op designated an additional $1,000 for PDA, making a total of $2,490 that we are sending for this relief effort. On November 5th we will be doing some hands-on help to provide PDA with HYGIENE KITS and SCHOOL kits. The list of needed supplies is below and also on page 4 of this issue.

With joy, our church also contributed a total of $1,750 to the following local organizations: Johnsonburg Presbyterian Camp, Boonton Rescue Squad, which Kiwanis no longer funds, Cedar Hill Community After-School program at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Spark Hope Campaign of the First Presbyterian Church of Englewood NJ (whose building was destroyed by fire), and to RISE – the mission program in NY State that our adults and youths have participated in many times.

We are building Mission into the 2018 budget with the hope that we will once again be known as a church that puts Mission front and center.

Plans for developing the Mission outreach area in the lower level of Reighart are underway. Please contact the church office if you would like to be involved in any of our mission endeavors.

You Can Make a Difference!

Make a kit. Make two. If you and/or someone you know is asking how they can help those affected by the hurricanes, earthquakes and fires, please join FPC Boonton and put together kits from the list below:

Please bring full kits or items for kits to the library on Sunday, November 5 (All Soul’s Service).

School Kit
1 pair of blunt scissors
3 70-count spiral notebooks
1 30 centimeter ruler (12”)
1 handheld pencil sharpener
6 new pencils with erasers
1 large eraser
1 box of 24 crayons

Hygiene Kit
1 Hand Towel (approximately 16” x 28”, no fingertip or bath towels)
1 Washcloth
1 Wide-tooth comb (remove from package)
1 Nail clipper (UPDATE: nail clippers with metal files or emery boards attached are now accepted; remove from package)
1 Bar of soap (bath size in wrapper)
1 Toothbrush (in original packaging)
10 Band-Aids® or other adhesive bandage strips
Please do not add toothpaste to the Hygiene Kit. Toothpaste which has an extended expiration date will be added to international Hygiene Kit shipments just prior to shipment. Seal all items in a one-gallon plastic bag with a zipper closure.

Photo by Andrea Booher/FEMA

Give. Act. Pray.

Dear Friends,

As most of us are aware, Hurricane Irma – a record-setting storm – has caused tremendous damage. Starting on Sunday, September 17, 2017, and for the next four weeks, we will be collecting donations to support PDA’s Disaster Recovery fund. Please READ BELOW and either donate online at the link in the “GIVE:” section below or envelopes will be available in the pews entitled ‘Mission Envelope’, Faith Hope, and Love in Action or you can use the White general envelope but CHECK OFF THE MISSIONS or SPECIAL OFFERING SECTION and specify that it is for PDA. One of our members has already generously offered a $1,000 matching gift! Let’s see how much we can raise for these people in need!

Members of PDA’s National Response Team arrived in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to provide aid, assess damage, and offer spiritual and emotional care for those impacted by the winds and flooding. While PDA has already been in contact with presbyteries throughout Florida and Puerto Rico, the Church remains mindful of the areas where contact has, so far, been difficult to make. Once the information arrives from the Florida Keys, as well as the Caribbean islands nearly wiped from the map, the destruction of this storm will begin to be fully known.

There are years of recovery ahead. Will you help extend the hands of Christ by standing in the GAP? —

ACT: Put together Gift of the Heart kits for survivors in the affected areas — hygiene kits and cleanup buckets are especially needed. For more information, go to pda.pcusa.org/page/kits/. Contact the PDA Call Center to be notified of volunteer opportunities. Call 866-732-6121 or email pda.callcenter@pcusa.org. Learn how your congregation can help families that have lost everything. Stay informed and like us on Facebook or visit pda.pcusa.org. Share updates with your congregation.PRAY: God of help and hope, in the challenging days, months and years to come, work through us to bring relief and respite from urgent need,comfort and the hope of peace for those who grieve the loss of family, home and safety, and faith to walk on through weary days of rebuilding. May we be steadfast in love, stronger than death,and thus, with those whose lives we seek to sustain, together bear witness to your redeeming love. Amen.

PDA’s emergency response and specialization in long-term recovery is fueled by your generous gifts. Designate gifts to: Atlantic Regional Hurricanes DR000194. You can also give with a credit card by visiting presbyterianmission.org/GIVEIrma or by calling 800-872-3283.PDA is still in need of support for mucking out and rebuilding efforts in the Gulf region after Harvey. Thank you to those of you who have already directed gifts to (DR000169-Harvey).
Put together Gift of the Heart kits for survivors in the affected areas — hygiene kits and cleanup buckets are especially needed. For more information, go to pda.pcusa.org/page/kits/.
Contact the PDA Call Center to be notified of volunteer opportunities. Call 866-732-6121 or
email pda.callcenter@pcusa.org.
Learn how your congregation can help families that have lost everything. Stay informed and like us on Facebook or visit pda.pcusa.org. Share updates with your congregation.
God of help and hope, in the challenging days, months and years to come, work through us to bring relief and respite from urgent need,comfort and the hope of peace for those who grieve the loss of family, home and safety, and faith to walk on through weary days of rebuilding. May we be steadfast in love, stronger than death,and thus, with those whose lives we seek to sustain, together bear witness to your redeeming love.

Welcome Back To School

It’s hard to believe that we’re only days away from “Back to School”! As we all know either from our own experiences or our children, grandchildren, etc., back to school can be a time of mixed-emotions. It can be a time of excitement, new possibilities, new challenges, and opportunities to grow and learn. But it can also be stressful, for students and parents, as transitions and new challenges arise.

The rhythm of the church year is very much like the school year. We do as little ‘work’ in the summer as possible, so that the leaders can rest and return re-charged for a new year. However, just like teachers and administration, by the time church is ‘back in session’ and everyone returns, albeit more slowly than school, a lot of preparation has gone on for our new ‘program year.’ Sarah and I had a retreat in early August and dreamed up some new ways to do some of our special services, as well as to make some changes in worship including introducing some new hymns! The Worship and Christian Ed committees also had a terrific meeting (poolside) to share fellowship, as well as craft new ways to make worship and Sunday School more inviting and engaging, using the same stories/texts
in worship as in Sunday School.

Story is an important part of our faith and our life in community. Story is how the Old Testament Scriptures were handed down in what is known as the ‘oral tradition.’ You may remember the story of the burning bush, or when Moses parts the Red Sea… but you may have difficulty remembering the details of the story and/or why it matters to us today. Moses is one of the most well-known characters of the bible and we’ll be looking at his activity, but it is God’s activity that we’ll really be focusing on.

So…we’re all going ‘back to school’ by revisiting the wonderfully rich stories in Exodus to start off our program year, both in worship and Sunday School. You may not have gotten new Sunday School or church shoes for yourself (or even your kids) but I really encourage you to prepare yourself to be engaged, excited, stretched and inspired by our Fall plans.

There’s a very clever and inspiring commercial running on TV currently. As the scene opens there’s a young boy about 9 or 10, who nervously sits down at the lunch table by himself. Almost immediately, he knocks his reusable water bottle on the floor. Because it’s empty it makes a lot of noise and all of the other children take note. Instead of the rest of the children laughing and pointing at him (like they did back in the 70’s commercials), another student picks up on the sound of the water bottle and starts drumming with pencils on their plate. Another student starts a third rhythm by banging plastic cups on the table. Eventually the whole lunch room is engaged in ‘making music’ and dancing together making a joyful noise, that started with a mistake by the newbie. The commercial ends with them all standing together and saying to the newcomer, “welcome to our school”.

As our young families grow and seek to bring and keep their kids in worship and Sunday School, they will invariably drop things and make noise. As our older adults return, they too will drop things or talk louder than they think is audible to the pews in front and behind them. Newcomers will come and ‘kick’ the tires, to see if our church is the place where they can come and get connected and be accepted. When you hear, or see, and even talk to these people, may you not only be gracious, but warm and welcoming and invite their presence and even their noises as they try to fit in.

Remember, even Moses started out as a basket-case!

Welcoming all to come back to ‘school,’ in Christ,

The Ripple Effect

June was a wonderfully busy month in worship — especially celebrating our new members on Pentecost, honoring our scholarship recipients, and graduates, and lifting up this year’s VBS theme: Living Waters for the world.

Pastor Lorrie preached a super sermon on June 12th to lift up that theme. (see below) As we head into summer which will be filled with clean water of every type: lakes, streams, oceans, water parks, water balloons and easily accessible drinking water. May we all take to heart what Lorrie preached and carry our ‘water-gratitude’ wherever we travel, recreate and rest.  ♥ Rev. Jen

Picture this:

Somewhere in Cuba, it was still dark, the very early hours of the morning, when the young woman arrived at what had become known as The Fountain. She was thin and bedraggled, her eyes swollen from so much crying and lack of sleep. Her little boy, only 2, suffering terrible dysentery had finally been hospitalized and there seemed little possibility that he would survive. A nurse had told her that her only hope was to find clean water for him. A few weeks earlier, a water purification system had been installed in the community and she heard stories about that water being safe, but she had to get there and had to find clean bottles to put the water in.

Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a preventable water-related disease. 780 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water and this scarcity has caused more refugees than all the wars in history. Some predict that in this century, wars will more likely be fought over water than over oil.

In many ways, I don’t think that we can feel the sense of the importance of running water. We don’t know what a luxury it is. We have it when we turn the knob on our faucets. If we’re thirsty, we turn the knob, water comes rushing out, or we can take cold water out of the refrigerator. Many areas of our world today don’t have such luxuries. Finding fresh water can be a matter of life and death — not only for people, but for all living things.

A few weeks ago Sherm and I were hiking with friends at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge where we traversed a boardwalk over the pond. It was fun to see the shining shells of painted turtles as they swam just beneath the water’s surface. My friend was sketching the wild iris and yellow water lilies while recalling early Biology class, a thimble full of water from such a bog, placing it under the microscope and being absolutely dumb-founded to discover the amount of life it held. It was truly living water.

In scripture, running water is a powerful symbol for life. The Isaiah passage which was written to bring hope to a refugee people who had been forced to leave their homeland, is full of God’s promises to provide rivers and fountains and springs in the midst of wilderness and drought and hopelessness, God’s loving, caring, giving Spirit bringing not abandonment, but new life.

When we look at the world through the sunglasses of our culture we get stuck in the pounding percussion of these 3 words: I Need More!!! But when we let Jesus‘ story become our story we open our minds, our dreams, our hearts until we hear these 3 words: More Than Enough!!! And we become certain that there is no place or people beyond the reach of grace.

So let’s consider what we have received from God; this gift of the Spirit, it is not meant to stay within us, but is meant to flow out of us. Listen again to Jesus’words: “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Oh, are we not then to look for opportunities to become Jesus’ hands and feet, understanding a little better the plight of our sisters and brothers everywhere who regularly find themselves at the end of the line and the back of the bus? Aligning ourselves with those who put pipes, pumps, and filters in places near and far, we can become partners who give and receive the blessings of our common humanity, not as possession or commodity, but as gifts freely offered.

Living water is neither stale nor boring but fresh and flowing. It’s an image of power. Isn’t the same true for Spirit-filled believers and congregations? See the signs of the Spirit at work in a congregation, this congregation, dreaming dreams of new ministries, having visions of new life and mission, and now finding the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to attend to the practicalities of making them real. That’s what Pentecost is all about. Does this celebration of Pentecost have a ripple effect? You betcha!! We, the followers of Jesus, can now carry on Jesus’witness and ministry in the world because our lives have been empowered by the Spirit. Believers, remember to let your own living water brim and spill over from your heart, and know that you are a channel of life in this world.

Amen ♥ Rev. Lorrie Skinner

A Time of Change and Growth

Dear Saints,

Happy Easter!

I hope and pray that whether you were with us, or traveling, that you had a joy-filled Easter day and Lent as well. As I look back on this Lent, it has been filled with new leadership, new events, new talents and experiences. I truly hope that you had at least one meaningful experience throughout Lent, Holy Week and Easter. The attendance at our Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services all increased, and that’s due to many people making these services meaningful.

Easter attendance was about 80 less than the largest Easter service we’ve had in the last ten years but it is also in decline, as are weekly attendance numbers. If reading this makes you sad, mad or just uneasy, you’re not alone, but I’m not telling you anything new. Church attendance, in every Protestant denomination as well as the non-denominations, is also shrinking. There was even chatter among the African American churches this year of sitting out Easter service because it’s ‘just a fashion show and hat competition’ and the ‘real worship happens on regular Sunday mornings’.

I personally didn’t get a new Easter outfit (although I always plan to) but many of you looked great in bright ties and spring outfits and high heels (even the communion servers). Well Done!

I know at least in our church, even the most faithful get pulled away on Sunday mornings by major family events, sports, concerts, work, travel, and illness or just sheer exhaustion. The average attendee now comes once a month, not once a week. As a pastor I find this frustrating and distressing and I know many of you share this sentiment.

BUT, there is a major difference between shrinking weekly attendance and shrinking participation. We have the former, like every church on the planet, but we do not have the latter. Many among our members (including our leaders) are doing mission/ministry behind the scenes during the week even though they may be away on Sunday morning. Honestly it took me a while to see this and get used to it. This is the marker of not only a healthy church, but a community that is adapting to change, not shutting down because of it.

Pure ‘adaptive change’, is much harder to see and do, than ‘technical change’. Technical change, as described by change expert Ron Heifetz, is when the problem is clear and the change is affected by experts. Adaptive change requires new learning, where responsibility for the change lies with the followers, not the primary leader. I believe with the changing church environment, what we need to do is both technical and adaptive change. Heifetz describes that space as where the solution requires new learning and both the leader[s] and the followers are responsible for the change.

A great example of how a technical and adaptive change took place throughout Lent was our Lenten devotional. It was launched through members of session with my leadership and written by staff and members — including two of our youth. That’s the technical part.

Here’s the (exciting) adaptive part. At least three couples used the devotional as a way to start their day together before heading off to work. One Deacon gave a devotional to a non-churched family member. One Deacon took a pile of the devotionals to the Firemen’s Home. And one member had the courage to read one of the devotionals over the phone to an employee who was having a meltdown at work.

This is only one recent example of how we can affect change to sustain our mission and ministry. There are other examples as well, but we need to do this in all areas of our mission and ministry, not just a few. That’s why we need you all at the church-wide retreat April 29th. This will be an event of fun, spiritual growth and an opportunity for you to share your ideas, vision and perception of what we need to do to sustain and grow our community of faith.

If you’re not around, please find a Deacon or Elder and share your ideas about how we can do this ‘Jesus thing’ even better.

We’re not all going to be willing and able to spread God’s message at the same time. But if even HALF of us gather and seek the Holy Spirit’s leading then we can go into Pentecost with tongues aflame and hearts on fire!

Seeking the Holy Spirit with you,

A Peaceful Easy Feelin’

peaceful easy feeling...

Dear Saints,

I can’t believe we are celebrating 10 years of mission and ministry together this month! I have been pondering for a while what to write in this “10th Anniversary Edition” of the SPIRE. My nature is to attempt to cover the waterfront and try to mention and remark on all the amazing things we have accomplished, the numbers of people we have met, prayed with and for and impacted through mission and ministry. But alas, there’s not time (or space) to cover all the blessings we’ve experienced in these last 10 years.

I did however, re-read my first SPIRE article in February 2007. Already in that article I was addressing you as “Dear Saints”! Huh! I did not learn to call you “saints” because of advice from a colleague or in some seminar at seminary. I learned it here; because of your immediate and deep kindness, faithfulness, playfulness and willingness to partner
together from the start, like the saints in the early church in Acts.

I want to share with you some excerpts from that first letter because as much as we have grown and changed we have also stayed the same…in a good way.

The letter began: “Dear Saints, Wow! what a wonderfully warm and spirit-filled church you are! Your genuine welcome, enthusiasm and hospitality have been immediate and beyond my expectations.

The reason why we’re still partnering together ten years later is that you are still that same congregation in spirit and in truth! Yes, we’ve had some surprises and challenges as every church does, and many unexpected blessings, as well as continual new faces, new children and healthy finances that many churches don’t enjoy. But mostly it’s because you continue to be faithful to your call as Tekna Theou (children of God) as you seek to live out your baptism in community with others here.

The second revisit from that February article that I wanted to share with you was my dinner with 2 members
of the PNC (Marilyn Ward and Ken Nickel). When we arrived at Poor Henry’s on a cold Monday night, when little else was open, there was a 3-person combo playing music in the bar. As we sat down in that cozy dining room and
began perusing the menu, in the background I could hear the band playing an old, but classic song by the Eagles. I felt the Spirit stir deep in me as they sang… “I got a peaceful, easy feeling, and I know you won’t let me down, because I’m already standin’ on the ground.

I knew God was speaking to me and giving me assurance that I was in the right place with the right church. And I still do.

The last excerpt from the letter in 2007, was my attempt to encourage you as we began our time together saying: “As we worship, work, pray and discern together how God is calling us to be, change will happen… I pray that we work and grow that you all have a peaceful easy feelin’ about being part of First Church’s history and future.” And I still do. I thank you for a marvelous, fun, faith-filled and blessed decade at the diamond on the hill. We have grown and supported and strengthened each other through many years of mission and ministry; Again, this a story that not all churches can tell.

So, I now close this letter (my 110th SPIRE), the same way now, as I did then. “I pray that God will bless us all individually and as a church family, for many years to come.And I still do.

Serving with you in Christ,

[photo by Clik Maverick from Flickr]


Dear Saints,

Many of you know we had the pleasure of having the Rev. Brenna Nickel back with us for Christmas this year. As a child of the this church, it was a treat to have Brenna back here with us and she led us through a meaningful and unique worship service on Christmas Day.

Since most of you were unable to make it, I thought I’d share with you the theme of her sermon, as a wonderful way to kick off the new year. Brenna read John 1 and Matthew 2, as her sermon texts and used the Message version of scripture. John 1:10’s in the Message reads: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” What an interesting way to state God’s activity!

Brenna, in a very interactive sermon, led us in thinking about our neighborhoods and the kinds of people and buildings in our neighborhoods and the infinite number of opportunities there are to pray for and actively share God’s love in the neighborhood.

We again, had a wonderful and very active year of sharing God’s love in our neighborhood with the regular participation in St John’s luncheons, leading monthly worship at the Fireman’s Home, preparing and serving food at the Dover Soup Kitchen, and the wide participation in the Thanksgiving baskets and Angel Tree drives. The ROCK also went further from our neighborhood participating in the RISE Mission trip in Hornell NY. These are all wonderful and meaningful ministries that you have participated in. Well done, good and faithful servants!

But as your pastor it is my job, along with the leadership of this church, to encourage you to stretch even further. Given the option, most of us are more comfortable either participating in or funding the group mission efforts. The more challenging effort is to help others that we know, beyond the church, to learn about and experience Love (with a capital L).

The old word for this is evangelism and most of us cringe even to hear the word. We immediately picture shouting scripture on a street corner, assertive visits from strangers at our front door or even giving a testimony of a conversion experience. These are foreign and scary for mainline Protestants, especially Presbyterians who can be nicknamed “the frozen chosen”. While I don’t experience you like that, I do know we still have much work to do to meet and greet visitors when they come to our church, introduce ourselves even to our new members and even invite newcomers to events, special services, bible studies and the like.

While some of you do this already, it must not be left up to just a few. When Love moves into the neighborhood, if WE don’t spread this news, who will? I encourage you to make every effort to invite a friend, a neighbor, a coworker (or even your own spouse) to come and try something that we offer that can add meaning to their lives, again or perhaps for the first time.

As we ordain and install our new officers (and most of them are firsttime officers!) as well as add 7(!) to our membership this January, there are many options to deepen relationships, create new mission and ministry opportunities and grow our faith, together.

If our Christmas Dinner is any indication of the joy and fun we can have together… then after you’ve exchanged your last gifts, finished off the last Christmas cookie and had a few long-winter naps — MAKE A LIST. Put on it at least THREE new ways you can share and spread the news of Love coming down and moving into the neighborhood. The reason why you’re here is because likely someone did that for you. Now it’s our turn to do that for someone else who’s waiting to be invited, met or loved and Love, loves us.

Spreading Love in the neighborhood with you,

Dear Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I can’t stop thinking about you and the prayer that you left on the prayer wall:

“Please God, Find Me”

When I read your prayer, I was not only deeply moved, but I actually stopped in my tracks. It happened a few weeks ago when I went into the sanctuary in the middle of the week to get something I had left behind. The church was so deliciously quiet, except for the occasional ‘pops and cracks’ that happen when the afternoon sun warms the roof and sets the Rose window ablaze.

There were your words, sparse, boldly honest and so dear…You had the courage to write down what I (and so many people) feel and don’t cry out; in the darkness of the long nights, in dreams and nightmares, in cars or hospital rooms, at dinner, at Starbucks, in the bank or the supermarket, or when no hope seems to exist.

The fact of the matter is, I wish I had had the courage to write out this prayer — your prayer — on the prayer wall,
each and every time I feel despondent, rejected, dejected, lost, alone, afraid, lost, or all of the above. But you have and so now it’s there for all to see. And to hear. And to pray. For you. For Me. And for themselves.

But here’s my prayer back to you. And to me and to all who will see and pray your prayer.

I pray you discover that: You are already found. You are already known. You are already loved; fully, completely, unconditionally, no matter what. In fact, You are already etched on the palm of God’s hand.

“The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me!,” cries Israel. Then Isaiah responds on behalf of God:
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; (Is 49:14-16) 

And since we’re in Advent, awaiting the arrival of the light, THE light that is so bright, the darkness will not overcome it, read Luke: 78-79: “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

So, Anonymous, you may feel lost or forgotten but you are already found. You may just need to be reminded how
precious you are in God’s eyes and heart. And since God knows how hard it is for you to believe that, God sends
you (and all of us) God’s Son so that we can see the love ‘coming down’ to us and for us, again and again each Christ-Mas.

I hope this gives you some comfort. And I truly hope to find you and meet you, whoever you are, among all the other seekers who are watching and waiting and hoping for the same.

With hope for the Christ-child with you,
♥ Rev.Jen

Compassion in Action

Dear Saints,

As we companion our confirmation class throughout the year, we will be shaping our worship with the same themes that we are teaching the class. The theme for November is Mission and Stewardship. When I searched for “Mission” on Pintrest.com hundreds of ideas and images popped up. There were lots of wonderful photos and posters, but the one that struck me the most was a yellow post-it note saying “Compassion without action is just observation”.

Then, I searched on Pinterest for “Stewardship”. The image that caught my eye was a beautifully sketched tree with gorgeous, vibrant colors filling its limbs. The text above the tree read: “Where your treasure is, your heart will be also”. This comes at the end of Luke 12 (parallel to Matthew 6) in a sermon Jesus is giving the disciples about worry. Jesus, however, does not merely just tell the disciples (and us) to not worry because the Good Shepherd will tend to his flock. There’s also a call to action in verse 33: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor”.

Recently a friend of mine attended some lectures at her church that were given by Father John Hurley, the Pope’s “Missionary of Mercy” during the “Jubilee Year of Mercy”. In his three days of talks he reiterated many of Pope Francis’ hopes for the year. But the most profound thing he said as far as I’m concerned is: “You can be a believer, without being a disciple…

In the growing numbers of SBNR’s (Spiritual but not religious) we are losing not only regular church attendance, Sunday school participation and stewardship, we are losing the activity of doing works of mercy as a response to the gospel and its’ call on our lives.When Pope Francis launched
the Year of Mercy last year, he called his church to “rediscover and continue doing works of mercy; spiritually and corporally”. While the language of ‘doing works of mercy’ and ‘corporally’ are not so common in Protestant churches, the message from our Catholic brothers and sisters is that in
order to be a true follower of Jesus, we must seek to grow our faith and actively love and serve others through mission.

Elder Dan Keoppel preached about this a few weeks ago where he called all of us to not only be believers but also disciples of Christ. He proclaimed “It’s easy for us to respond to a new crisis
with spending for a relief effort. It’s harder for us to intentionally give, to the glory of God and in private. We give so that this church can engage in mission; so that we have a place that we can
pray together; so that we can come together and worship with music. We give so that we may give glory to God.

If we are teaching the future members of this church, the value and necessity of mission and stewardship then we’d better lead by example. All of us deeply care about hands-on mission, but not all of us are doing it, for the sake of Jesus Christ on a regular intentional basis.

November 13th is your time to jump in feet first. Every year the deacons have done a coat drive and combined it with the Saturday St. John’s Luncheon. It’s a big undertaking to organize and run the coat drive, yet only a few hands each year make it happen. It’s uncomfortable for some who have not come face to face with the eyes of poverty. It’s uncomfortable for some to feed others when we have so much abundance. It’s also overwhelming to help another try on and take home a coat, that used to be yours. It’s all a little challenging at first but then also highly rewarding and faith-building, spiritually and corporally.

Muster the strength. Make it a priority. Be a BELIEVER and a DISCIPLE…if you dare.

Feeding and clothing Christ’s own with you,
♥ Rev.Jen