Outreach and Community Service

The Outreach and Community Service Cabinet supports St. Luke’s members who work to serve and connect with our local and global community. These groups do great work, but we need more of our members — this means you! — to get involved and help out if we are to continue these efforts in the years to come.

Here are a few groups that fall under this cabinet, as well as ways for you to get involved now:

  • The Social Ministry team collects donations and organizes events throughout the year to help our local community. This team organizes blood drives, delivers donations to local food pantries, and coordinates our participation in the annual CROP walk to fight world hunger.  Get involved: Help with the Thanksgiving Turkey Drive or Christmas Card Tree to help local people in need. Contact Ken Schoy at kmschoy@att.net.

  • Each week, the Sunday Night Suppers team organizes volunteers to welcome around 70 people who come for a hot meal and friendly conversation. Get involved: Sign up to help on a Sunday night. Contact Janet Hoiberg at rich1401@att.net.

  • Global Links connects our congregation to the rest of the world. It supports our missionaries in other countries, as well as programs like ELCA World Hunger and Refugee One that have a meaningful impact on lives around the world. Get involved: Help with the congregation’s sponsorship of a refugee family, or help with the upcoming Winter Farmer’s Market. Contact Sue Weber at weberbsl@sbcglobal.net.

Beyond these groups, there are plenty more ways to get involved. We need Sunday greeters to welcome visitors, as well as people to help plan new member luncheons and community events like the Cedar Street Celebration. Are you more techie than social butterfly? We also need help planning and maintaining our website and social media accounts. Contact Jeff Mohl at jmohl@jeffmohl.com

Our congregation does a lot to serve and connect with the local and global community beyond our doors. If any of these activities appeal to you, please join us!

Jeff Mohl, Chairman of the Outreach and Community Service Cabinet

Stewards of God’s Kingdom

“’Stewards of God’s Kingdom Here’ – St. Luke’s 2017 Stewardship Appeal”

Last week’s Gospel lesson spoke of a beautiful vineyard that had been created by a loving landowner who took leave from the vineyard that he had created and had entrusted this vineyard to his servants who were to “steward” the vineyard in his absence. This allegory from Matthew gives us a very clear picture of the role of “steward” that is expected of us who are representatives, and partners with God in this journey of life.

God has entrusted us with the ministry of the church during the period of God’s physical absence on this earth. We are those “stewards” that are empowered to tend to the beautiful vineyard of God’s church in this “meantime” between the life, death and resurrection of Jesus until he comes in all of his glory at the end of time.

It is always important to periodically assess our role as “steward” of our beautiful vineyard called St. Luke’s. Over the next several weeks, we are going to be doing just that. Our congregation is broken down into 5 units of ministry to carry out the tasks of Christ’s work in this place. These Cabinets are:

  • Worship and Music
  • Outreach and Community Service
  • Faith Formation and Learning
  • Member Care
  • Congregational Life
  • Operations and Management

We have asked representatives from each Cabinet of our congregation to share briefly with the congregation through both the spoken and written word – an assessment of our role of stewards in our congregation from their perspectives. What are we specifically doing to serve the kingdom here? What can we do better? What are the needs of the community going forward?

Each Sunday, during this period, one of the cabinets will also host the coffee hour where representatives will be available to answer questions about the important work of their cabinet as well as listen to your concerns going forward. They will take that time to invite new folks with “time and talents” who can help support our ministries going forward.

At the end of five weeks, we have asked our Financial Management Team to share with you the challenges and opportunities that are ahead of us as a congregation. We will share with you in very realistic terms our financial needs that we have over the next 3 to 5 years. In late November, we will ask our members to once again make commitments to the ongoing ministries of St. Luke’s through your TIME, TALENTS AND TREASURES.

Thank you for being such gracious, and generous Stewards of God’s Kingdom!

Very sincerely,
Pastor Johnson

Good Stewards

There are a lot of allegories and images that are used in the Biblical material. In today’s first lesson and again in our Gospel lesson – the image of the earth as a vineyard is used. This vineyard is beloved, on a fertile hill, with choice vines, a watchtower in its midst, with a wine vat hued into the middle of it…..it is expected that this fertile vineyard will produce wonderful fruit. In both cases, the vineyard is left to be tended by stewards, while the owner of the vineyard has departed to another location.

These scriptures paint a beautiful picture of the world that God has created for us….rich, bountiful, protected…..and all that is asked is for the stewards of the vineyard to take care of this beautiful property!

In both cases, both in Isaiah 5 and Matthew 21 – the stewards of the vineyard have not tended to the vineyard in the way that the Lord and master had intended……and because of that….this landowner has now come back to settle accounts. In both cases, the landowner is disappointed and now offers judgement to those who have been the stewards of the vineyard.

Clearly we know that within the world economy there is enough for every living human being to have enough food, water, shelter and to thrive. And yet we see that the stewards of our vineyard have allowed great masses of people within the world to go without adequate food, clean drinking water, safe homes, good health care, and a safe place that is violence free.

Recently I was told of a bumper sticker on a car that read, “THE WORLD YOU DESIRE COMES NOT BY CHANCE BUT BY CHANGE”…… so I ask a simple question this morning: How many of us have settled to believe that the world we live in, with its great chasm between rich and poor in the world and in our nation, is just something we have to live with?

If we get nothing more out of these Biblical stories, the Lord of the vineyard is counting on you and me to be good stewards. And that will not happen by chance – it will happen when we seek the change in attitude, our witness to the truth, and our own actions that are bathed in the spirit and love of Jesus. I am reminded of a phrase attributed to St. Francis this weekend – “Preach the Gospel. Use Words if Necessary!” Be good stewards in your sphere of influence!

Celebration and Challenge

We would like to share some important financial details from the first 8 months of giving in 2017.

Our actual 2017 giving has stayed virtually current with the congregation’s actual expenses over the first 7 months of 2017. It slumped a bit in August – which is very typical. At the end of August, 2017, for the year we are $15,000 behind – comparing actual income to actual expenses. This compares to 2016 when at this time we were running an actual deficit of $82,000.00. Our General Fund giving for the first 8 months is $21,000 higher than it was at this point a year ago. This is great news!!! Thank you for your faithfulness!

Actual giving to anticipated giving is about $62,000 behind. This is also very typical as we historically receive about a fourth of our income in the last two months of the year. It will be important to make up this difference by the end of the year, to have a strong carry-over going into 2018. Next year is the critical year when we will begin paying our mortgage out of general fund revenues.

At the end of August, $352,000 has been contributed to the Debt Reduction Appeal. This represents 57% of our total goal after only 42% of the campaign completed. This is huge. We have already made lump sum payments of over $200,000.00 to retire the debt – we are hoping to make another payment in the near future. As promised, $7,000 of these funds have been set aside to support a refugee family in 2018 – more details coming soon!

Finally, we are pleased to report that the roof replacement is complete.  As approved at our congregational meeting, we had secured a loan for $100,000 to ensure that funds were available to cover a variety of potential costs related to this work.  Fortunately, the project came in under budget at $165,000.  As a result, with a combination of designated funds and a generous member gift, we are in the process of paying that loan off in full.  We have completed this project with no remaining debt and no adverse impact to our debt reduction campaign!

We have much to celebrate as we enter into the final months of 2017. With your continued strong giving as we complete 2017, you will help put this congregation in a healthy financial position to face the challenges of 2018!

Pastor Johnson

Thank You!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

When natural disasters strike like they have most recently – first with Harvey, then Irma, then an earthquake in Mexico and now seeing the devastation of Maria in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico….we can sometimes feel paralyzed as to know what to do or say. Our gifts seem so miniscule in comparison to the actual need of the regions in trouble.

At St. Luke’s, we are trying to put a human face on the suffering, and make a personal connection to at least two victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. One of our own members, Katie Stavrides, is a firefighter in Fire House #6 in Houston – she describes the atmosphere of this “house” this way…..

“#6 is a district house, our station has a District Chief who commands 5 stations, and we have a Tower, Engine and a Medic unit….12 people work at our station, in 4 shifts – all 24 hour shifts….Most of the guys are 20 years older than me….I am reminded by one of the firefighters that I have 12 older brothers who are here to stay….it is one of the best feelings in the world to know I have the support of my co-workers, regardless of the situation…..it is a big family feeling!”

She continues….“The city is trying to recover…..as firefighters we distribute water, help demolish and rebuild one another’s homes, and help to clean up our city…..there is a strong sense of community in Houston, and thus the new motto of the city is “Houston Strong”…..

“There are two men at my station who truly felt the aftermath of Harvey…..the first is Eddie….he and is girlfriend just had a baby a month ago…..their house was completely flooded….sheetrock will need to be cut out, what belongings were not destroyed have been sorted out and placed in storage….and they are now living with his brother……no one knows when they can get back into their home……the second is Hooper, with his wife and two small children….they were evacuated to a town 10 miles away during the storm….when they returned they found their home a total loss…..the hurt in his eyes and the sheer exhaustion in his voice is a testament to the helping hand he needs……”

Katie concludes….. “St. Luke’s – thank you for your prayers and contributions to my brother firefighters who really need help. Your willingness to help does not go unnoticed and is appreciated…..thank you!”

After our first week of noisy offerings for our Houston Firefighters, we received over $2500.00 in offerings – and that is without counting the change – which we will do this week after our final offering is taken. Thank you for your generosity – your gifts to this cause make a huge difference in the lives of others!”

Pastor Johnson

Big deal?

Liam has recently discovered a trick for diffusing the strong emotions when our children get upset about something small. “How big a deal is it?” he’ll ask. “Show me with your hands.” When you have to stop and think long enough to measure the size of a crisis with your hands, it leaves a moment for putting things in perspective. Usually the measurement is small, hands a few inches apart, and Liam says “Not such a big deal, right? Broken leg: big deal! Broken cookie: not a big deal.”

This parenting method draws on Martin Luther’s concept of adiaphora (which is Latin for indifferent things, things that aren’t matters of ultimate significance). Luther argued with his theological opponents about the big things, like atonement, and about the small things, like how to sing in church or what the pastor wears. But he knew how to distinguish between the two. Anything that wasn’t a matter of salvation was adiaphora. He could let it go. “How Christ’s resurrection transforms us: a matter of salvation! How many candles to light in church: adiaphora.” The concept of adiaphora is useful: it can help us put our anxieties or doubts or complaints in perspective, prioritizing the ones that matter most.

The problem with adiaphora is that there’s not always consensus on what matters and what doesn’t. A broken cookie may be genuinely traumatic for a toddler who’s processing the death of a grandparent. “Some people believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables,” wrote St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. “Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat.” This conversation probably sounds rather archaic to our ears. But for those to whom Paul writes, the question of eating meat wasn’t adiaphora. It was central to how they expressed their faith. And they were fighting over it.

We may not fight about eating meat these days, but there are plenty of other things we do fight about, particularly in politics. Some of those things are big deals—health care, wars, immigration—and others are adiaphora. It’s not always easy to know which is which. Amid this moral complexity, our Christian task is twofold: to discern what’s worth fighting for, and while we fight for it to remember that Christ died and rose for us all.

Pastor Elizabeth Palmer

 

I was once told by a parishioner…..”why is only an 8th grade education unacceptable almost everywhere but in church?” She was right about that! For many of us, the last formal education that we have had in church was Confirmation – often times ending in 8th grade.   We would like to change that at St. Luke’s, by inviting everyone to the wonderful adult study opportunities that we have available to members and friends of this congregation.

Each Thursday morning from 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. we have an Adult Bible Study that meets in the Conference room. We study the Biblical texts for the next Sunday’s worship service. We begin with the texts, but we often end with a powerful discussion about how we apply the text to our life. One of my professors at Gettysburg seminary used to say, “a study that starts in the Bible, stays in the Bible and ends in the Bible is not Biblical….” In other words, the Bible needs to be applied to our life experience to be the “living word of God”….that’s what we try to do on Thursdays!

The second and fourth Saturdays of the month, at 8:30 a.m. in the Conference Room we have Men’s Bible Study. Here we study scripture one Biblical book at a time – but we often begin there, but add wonderful discussion about how the Bible applies to our everyday life!

Wednesday Evenings, beginning on Wednesday, September 27, at 7:00 p.m., we have an evening study in the Conference Room. Our study will begin with a six week exploration by Bob Douglass on the book, “Deeply Woven Roots” which speaks to the power and importance of the church community in the 21 Century. We have the books available in the atrium.

We meet each Sunday morning beginning at 9:45 a.m. in the Adult Education Center – LL52 for the Restore and Renew Forum. This year we will look at a variety of subjects, including: The ELCA Social Statements pertaining to Race, Peace and the Environment. We will also learn more about our Islamic and Hindu sisters and brothers through a series on both of these powerful world religions. We will also look at the US Constitution – especially with its many implications regarding the faith of its citizens. Finally, we will be having Pastor Elizabeth Palmer, a book reviewer for Christian Century magazine, share thoughtful insights on some of the contemporary writings of people of faith.

And finally, we have an incredible library that has recently been renovated with wonderful books and resources for those who interested in expanding their faith knowledge base! Take a look when you are in the back hall of the first floor!

We hope that you will be open to taking some extra time this year to get back into faith education. It is a wonderful way to meet new people, and have your knowledge expanded on some very important issues facing us today!

See you in Church!
Pastor Johnson  

It was dusk last Monday night. I was riding on my motorcycle. Up ahead, near the woods, I saw a deer run across the road. I intentionally slowed way down to 30 mph because I knew that there was a potential for more deer ahead. Moving my head from side to side, I was watching carefully for another deer as I cautiously proceeded forward. When all of a sudden, literally out of nowhere, I saw a brown streak out of my right eye. The bike shook, plastic cracked and my lungs emptied of air. I had just hit a deer!

Have you ever had something like this happen to you? Suddenly out of nowhere, something happens that could literally change the course of your life? An accident, an announcement, a diagnosis, a phone call…..it can and has happened to many of us in our lifetime.

I think of these types of occurrences when I read our Gospel for this week. Peter had just been heralded by Jesus as “the Rock” for his confession that Jesus was the Messiah, son of the living God! Jesus said that it was on that confession that He would build His church. But the story takes on a quick and ominous turn in the blink of an eye.

Now Jesus was discussing how he was going to have to suffer many things, be led to Jerusalem where he would suffer at the hands of the Romans and be put to death. Peter hears this and immediately rebukes Jesus by saying…… “Lord that will never happen to you!” Before Peter can get the words completely out of his mouth, Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan”. In the wink of an eye, Peter goes from “the Rock” to “Satan” – he is called a “stumbling block” to the rest of the disciples. Once a hero, now a goat.

I can relate to that. I feel that way a lot. One minute you’re traveling peacefully down a road, and the next minute you’re left shaken asking yourself what might have happened. These are very turbulent times: a human crisis of historic proportions, and international crisis in Korea. Things are changing rapidly. The story reminds me that this is the way life is. Even as Peter becomes a “stumbling block” for Jesus, he is still beloved by Jesus at the same time! We may fail miserably in an endeavor, but that does not change the deep and abiding love Jesus has for each of us.

Things happen….they do….but trust in a savior who offers us solace for all the good and the bad we face in life….and who will never give up on us!

See you in church!
Pastor Johnson 

Jesus Asks the Question

Recently I was talking to some people who were visiting St. Luke’s.  They asked how long the church had been in existence – and I told them that we recently celebrated our 100 year anniversary.  We walked outside and they saw the cornerstone on the building that said 1928 – and I told them the story that St. Luke’s building was designed by the first woman architect to design a church in the Chicagoland area. One of the visitors said “so much wonderful history and such a beautiful worship area!” and I could only agree.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the powerful wonders of God working in our midst.  These visitor’s questions once again empowered me to think of the multitude of gifts that St. Luke’s has received from God over these past 100 or so years!  So many faithful members have sacrificed so much that we might have a beautiful place of worship, a community of encouragement based upon the love and forgiveness of Jesus, and a group of passion-filled people where God’s love is demonstrated on a daily basis through powerful acts of kindness and justice for all people.

Our Gospel lesson is also a great reminder of how God worked through Jesus’ disciples during his 3 years on this earth.  Jesus asks the question – “Who do people say that I am?”  And Peter replies, “you are the Messiah, Son of the living God!”….Jesus reminds Peter of the powerful acts that God is doing within their fellowship and how Peter’s confession will be the foundation on which Christ will build his church!

I guess we occasionally need to be reminded of the wonderful tapestry of God’s blessings that we receive on a daily basis….and how we are now charged to be that blessing to the next generation!  God is indeed at work in and through everything we do in Christ’s name!  Bathe in that blessing….and be that blessing to others!

See you in Church!
Pastor Johnson

 

 

America’s Original Sin

I remember as a young child how respectfully my father spoke of an African American co-worker at the Steel plant who was also a part-time Baptist minister. However, from the same period in my life, I remember the Sunday another member of our congregation brought to church a Black man who we later learned was a visiting African graduate student. When my father saw the student on the street he locked the car doors, something we never did in those days. It was only years later I understood the meaning of his actions.

I remember Eddie Harris. Eddie and I were in the same class for one year when my family moved to a new neighborhood. Eddie and I both played trombone and sat next to each other during rehearsals and concerts. At the end of the day Eddie went to his home in the “projects” and I went in the other direction to my home. I never really got to know Eddie. I can’t say he was my “friend.” The following year we went our separate ways to different junior high schools. I wonder what happened to him.

I remember moving into seminary housing at LSTC more than 40 years ago. We were tired having just driven half-way across the country. We knew no one and there seemed to be no one around to offer to help unload our meager possessions from the rented truck – except a few neighborhood kids. I remember to my embarrassment feeling uncertain whether it would be wise or safe to accept their offer.

We are not white supremists, neo-Nazis, or members of the Klan, yet we too need to confess that we are tainted by “America’s original sin.” As Bishop Miller reminds us in his recent response to the events in Charlottesville, we cannot be naïve about “the pernicious forces of racism, violence, and hatred that infect our souls, individually and as a society.” You and I have been taught, perhaps only by silent example. We too are infected.

As we begin a new school year with the blessing of teachers, students, and backpacks, we find ourselves with a unique opportunity to consider again what spoken and unspoken lessons we offer our children about race.

Pastor John Schumacher