features writings that offer contemplative and prayerful support of the Debt Reduction Appeal.
Consider in Prayer
“… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” – Matthew 25:35
When we think about these words of Jesus, we are reminded of the spiritual significance of being a welcoming community. Imagine being alone on a highway in the middle of a sudden blizzard. Feelings of fear, even panic, can set in as you wonder, “What will I do? Where will I go?” Then you see a roadside sign telling of a motel at a nearby exit. You feel relief flowing over you. There is a place to go; you are, at least temporarily, safe from the storm.
Our building expansion helped to make St. Luke’s that “port in the storm”, offering refreshment and renewal to our members and warm hospitality to the stranger. Our atrium provides an expansive space for fellowship and welcome to visitors. Music rehearsal rooms offer a place for choirs and musicians to practice. Our indoor ramp and elevator make our building accessible to all. Enhancements to our upstairs gym led to the creation of Henderson Hall and the capacity to host large numbers of people. This has enabled our Sunday Suppers Ministry, through which our church, working together with other area churches, has been able to offer a hot meal to between 60 and 90 persons each Sunday evening, September through May, for the past three years.
The stained glass window in the front of the sanctuary shows Jesus with outstretched arms and the words, “Come Unto Me”. As Christ’s church, may we always be ready to offer welcome to the stranger and hospitality to all who come through our doors. We thank God for our enhanced building space and all the ministries it has made possible.
Consider in Prayer
As the war in Syria continues to rage, refugees have flooded into Europe to escape desperate conditions. Disturbing images have filled our airways, as the world struggles to find an adequate response. Yet, we know this current refugee crisis is but the latest in a seemingly endless stream of such crises.
St. Luke’s has a long standing relationship with RefugeeOne, a nonprofit organization, which for 33 years has been assisting refugees fleeing war, terror and persecution. RefugeeOne works with churches to help immigrants build a new life in our country. As part of our “Beyond Our Walls” ministry, St. Luke’s will be sharing a portion of the proceeds from our Debt Reduction Appeal with this fine organization.
In supporting RefugeeOne, St. Luke’s is contributing to its mission of offering welcome and refuge to vulnerable people everywhere; of providing a safe and “sheltering wing” for them. Psalm 91 draws upon wing imagery to describe God’s love and protection: “… he will cover you with his pinions/and under his wings you will find refuge/his faithfulness is a shield and buckler…” We see similar imagery in the first few lines of a beloved ELW hymn, “Thy Holy Wings”: Thy holy wings, O Savior, spread gently over me/and let me rest securely through good and ill in thee.” These beautiful words from both Psalm and hymn offer reassurance of God’s tender love and protective care for each and every one of us.
We thank you God for our church home. We pray for all those, who have been forced to leave their homes in search of safety for themselves and their families. Bless RefugeeOne in its efforts to be a “sheltering wing” for these brothers and sisters. May St. Luke’s also always be a place of welcome and a refuge to all who come to our doors.
Consider in Prayer
In 2010 St. Luke’s undertook an ambitious program to expand and enhance our church building. That decision yielded our beautiful atrium, a skylight to illuminate our stained glass Peter and Paul windows and additional meeting rooms and classrooms. It also made our building more fully handicapped accessible with an elevator, an expanded indoor ramp and wheelchair accessible rest rooms. Our Debt Reduction Appeal is now underway, as we work to pay down the debt incurred in making those building enhancements.
We know that the church is not just a building. We too are the church, the people of God, gathered together as a faith community, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. This sense of church is so much more than the concrete that makes up the floors and walls of the building we come to on Sundays. We are truly God’s people, branches of the vine that is Christ, our shared life rooted in him. At the end of our Sunday service, we sometimes hear the words, “As our service ends, let our service begin.” This is a reminder that when we leave the church building we become the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
As we prayerfully consider supporting the Debt Reduction Appeal, these two senses of church come together: Church as the people of God and church as the building where we gather. We have created a beautiful space within our walls that is a reflection of our vision of our life together in Christ. May we continue to use our space to provide welcome and to reach out to all in need. May all who come through our doors feel a part of our loving St. Luke’s community.
Lutheran pastor, theologian and Nazi resister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison a poem entitled, ‘Who Am I?’ In that poem Bonhoeffer explores that question only to conclude, “Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.”
It is interesting to speculate about who we are. Our response can vary greatly with our changing circumstances and societal roles. As we move through life, we are at times, daughters and sons, wives and husbands, parents and grandparents. We are also neighbors, friends, members of a church community. Our identities may also be tied to our work and professional lives and the new possibilities that can open up after retirement.
To know Whose we are is an altogether different kind of thing. It is to know deep in our bones, in our successes and failures, and in each and every one of our daily struggles, that we belong to God. It is to believe, as Paul reassures us in his letter to the Romans, that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). It is to recognize that we are God’s dear children, not by virtue of our own efforts, but through God’s gift of Jesus, who in his life and by his death, taught us the true meaning of love and of service to others.
We thank you God that through Jesus you have made us Yours. Help us to hold on to that reality throughout all the changing stages and circumstances of our lives. We thank you too for our St. Luke’s family and all the wonderful ministries offered within and extending beyond our walls. May we be generous in supporting our church as we strive together to follow Jesus’ model of love in the world.
Consider in Prayer . . .
When we share our thoughts about St. Luke’s, lovely images emerge. For some, St. Luke’s is a living space, a community of believers who enjoy beautiful music, strong pastoral leadership and a commitment to the larger world. Others find St. Luke’s a visual and visceral experience that fills the senses and feeds the soul. Just as Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28, so too, our clearly defined front door welcomes all into a place that fosters fellowship, education, spiritual nourishment and refuge. And often, St. Luke’s is referred to as family, a home.
Like any family, St. Luke’s space allows for gatherings of joy and sorrow. Life’s sacred passages of baptism for wiggling babes, the union of lovers in marriage and mourning the death of a dear one happen in our place. In our own families, we seek to create homes where family members feel safe and loved. Contributing to the wellbeing of our families does not feel like a sacrifice; it supports values that are important to us.
As we proactively maintain our personal homes and finances, so too may we maintain our church home. To have “our house in order”, allows us to be prepared for future financial demands and feel secure. We may make financial decisions from a position of stability rather than out of desperation. More importantly, as we continue to manage our resources well, we may continue to focus on ministering to our members and serving those beyond our St. Luke’s walls.
You are invited to be inspired by all those who, in the past, planned well and provided the St. Luke’s home we know today, as we courageously serve all those who will share this spiritual home after us.
Consider in Prayer…
What image comes to mind when you hear the word “prayer”? Do you see someone bowing his or her head, eyes closed, hands folded? Perhaps someone kneeling or arms outstretched or even prostrate on the floor? St. Paul wrote to “pray without ceasing”. (I Thessalonians 5:17) “What!” you might think, “how would I ever get anything done?”
So what does it really mean to pray? As little children many of us were taught to pray, to give thanks before meals: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest…” Or before bedtime: “Now I lay me down to sleep…” When we got a bit older we learned the words Jesus gave to us: “Our Father, who art in heaven…” In our worship services many prayers are offered–prayers that ask God for guidance or blessing or we pray for someone who is ill or in trouble or someone whose loved one has died. Whether the prayer is a recitation of someone else’s words or our own words, it can be said that prayers are conversations with God.
Dr. Ralph Martin, the Catholic theologian, put it another way: “Prayer is, at root, simply paying attention to God.” Then to pray without ceasing can mean that one lives with a deep awareness of God’s grace and His presence in the world and in our own lives and, because of that awareness, every experience can become a kind of prayer. St. Francis of Assisi known for his dedication to service and generosity to others is reported to have said, “We should seek not so much to pray but to become prayer.”
As we go about our daily lives may each of us become more consciously aware of God’s presence and His gracious gifts to us. May our lives reflect this awareness through prayerful generosity and service to others in Jesus’ name.