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Fall Focus 2018: Finding Our Neighbors (Week 3)

“What Will You Live For – Give It Voice”

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55:6-13 and Mark 5:1-20

Parenting will strip you down, revealing your weaknesses.  It will ask for more than you have at any given moment and ask you to give your life when you feel you have nothing left to give.  If you thought about the literal costs and the personal investment it takes to parent, you might tremble or turn and run from the endeavor.

Parenting is also a crucible in which God remakes you into a vessel capable to pouring out love and mercy while giving gifts that others will need to survive and thrive.  And it leaves room for the loves songs we will live and write with our lives.

Isaiah 55 says God’s Word goes out and doesn’t return until it accomplished its purpose just like the rain falls and does not return to heaven until it has watered the earth, filling the lakes and rivers and giving life to the earth.

Perhaps also, God is busy parenting us, pouring out love and mercy, while giving us gifts that we will need to survive and thrive.

Listen to the struggles of one young woman, looking for life… and wrestling with herself and her father to search out what it means to live and thrive in the world.

There are many ways that the love and gifts of God invite us into the world to discover and to acquire the gifts that are needed in the world…. But living this adventure is a beautiful love song…. A Golden melody to the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier whose purposes are accomplished and who’s love song continues to resound in the lives and hearts of those who love God.

Connecting with our Community

Carver Elementary is just 1.6 miles up the road from our church. I’ve passed it countless times, it’s a little set back and it’s a nice brick building. Honestly, I usually pass is without a 2nd thought. Inside that school are over 600 students and more than 50 teachers. 82% of those students come from low-income families, and although the school as a whole is rated as “average” for academic progress on greatschools.org, it also reports that test scores are falling way below average and almost 50% poorer performance than the state average. What does that mean? It means there are some serious concerns!

I don’t believe the families don’t care and I don’t believe the teachers aren’t doing their jobs (in fact several of both come to our church). I don’t think these kids just aren’t smart. When you are hungry, are you able to concentrate? When there are holes in your shoes and your clothes are all faded – do you feel good about yourself? Poverty has many side effects, and one is a major blow to confidence and self-worth and it becomes a cycle when the kids don’t have the opportunity to see anything different modeled for them.

The school is currently without an operating PTA (parent-teacher association – normally responsible for fundraising, event organizing and school spirit among other things). The red flag for me here, is not that the parents or school are failing, its that we as a community have not been aware of how small actions on our part can make a big impact! Some of the families don’t have the time or even the skill set to provide for their students. We have the ability to empower children, support families, encourage teachers and make an impact on our community – a community that we HAND PICKED to be a part of.

Teachers’ resources are stretched thin. The supply kit cakes we put together and donated were very well-received and cards and words of gratitude were returned. We helped in part to fill the gap where families couldn’t afford to provide all the supplies for the classrooms. Good Sam community has also sent tutors and mentors over the years that directly impacted student and we’ve begun to create the opportunity for ongoing relationships. Continuing to show up as a community and being a presence at Carver will help to show these kids that they are loved and supported and give them room to have dreams! Let’s continue to step up and step in, not taking the place of parents and teachers, but coming along side them.

Maybe your own time and resources are stretched thin, but if you can do nothing else you can pray for this community every time you drive by it or through it on your way to church or work or just driving around town. Take a look around your home and assess what you could give of your possessions. That gently used kitchen item that may even still be in the box (I’m looking at you salad spinner and quick chop), those toys your kids have that they never play with, that white elephant gift you got at the office party and stuck in the back of the closet. Those shoes you bought that you wore once or anything else gently used in your closet. If you are ready to take that next leap of faith and deepen your personal connection to this community – assess where your time and talents can be of service.

What one thing in the list below excites you? Maybe you can’t personally help – but we are a community and you might know someone who can!

Tutoring – Ongoing, working around volunteers schedule to work with struggling students

Mentoring – Mondays 3-4:30 pm group meeting and projects, but they do need 1:1 mentors for kids in the program.

Holiday Helping Hands – Families are selected to participate by the school. “Helping hands” 1) collect gently used items for babies to adults household clothes and toys as well as NEW toys; 2) help sort and set up Nov 30th 3-6 pm;  3) Dec 1st 9am-1030am families pick gifts and can wrap them while kids play and volunteers help with all of this. After the event, volunteers help clean up.

Family Fitness Night – Oct 25th – This event gives families the opportunity to play together in an outdoor PE class. All activities are organized and extra adults are needed to help monitor stations.

Career Day – First Friday in May. This event gives 3rd – 5th graders the opportunity to meet and talk to community members about a variety of career paths. Volunteers will get breakfast and lunch.

Guest Readers – Do you have 30 minutes of an hour during the school day to come and read to a classroom? There are two weeks a year where volunteers are needed throughout the day to read to students: “American Education Week” in November and “Read Across America” in February.

Teacher Appreciation – Anything we can do throughout the year would be awesome! But especially during teacher appreciation week in May – extra hands are needed to help decorate teachers’ doors. Other ideas are bringing in a box of donuts or providing a light lunch.

Feed the Families (summer)- This program provides supplemental food for families during the summer months. Each summer we assist St Mary’s Caring in the partnership with the schools in collecting items to be given to families.

These are initiatives we have participated in with Carver for up to three years. We know there is more to do to give these kids a chance to dream big and see those dreams come to life.  What’s the next way we’ll connect?

   –Kelly Thurber, Good Sam Mission and Engagement Coordinator

Hurricane Relief and Lutheran Disaster Response

E-Alert from Lutheran Disaster Response

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
– Psalm 121:1-2

Dear friends,

The latest storm in a deadly hurricane season, Hurricane Michael, is threatening our neighbors with dangerous winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge. The storm made landfall with winds upwards of 150 miles per hour.

Your gifts ensure that our church will be able to provide help and hope for those whose homes have been devastated or who have been otherwise affected by Hurricane Michael.

Currently, Lutheran Disaster Response is monitoring Hurricane Michael and is coordinating its response with Lutheran Services Florida, the Florida-Bahamas Synod, as well as our partners and affiliates in other potentially impacted areas.

As a church, we’re ready to stand by our neighbors as they recover from this storm.

Please give to Lutheran Disaster Response today. Your gifts ensure that our church will be able to provide help and hope for those whose lives have been affected by Hurricane Michael.

Stay connected to the latest events and our response to this and other disasters through our Facebook page. Join us in prayer, and use this bulletin insert in your congregation to help spread the word.

With gratitude for your partnership,

Daniel Rift
The Rev. Daniel Rift
Director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

Fall Focus 2018: Finding Our Nieghbors (Week 2)

Building a Conversation

Scripture Readings:  James 1:19, Philippians 2:3-4, Matthew 6:19-21

  • When people talk, listen completely, most people never listen.   –  Ernest Hemingway
  • “Just as love to God begins with listening to God’s word, so the beginning of love for the person is learning to listen to them.”      –  Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.  –  Bryant H. McGill
  • “Often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to them seriously.”      –  Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.  Most people never listen.   –  Ernest Hemingway
  • When we listen with curiosity we don’t listen with the intent to reply.  We listen for what’s behind the words.  –  Roy T. Bennett

Sometimes we miss seeing the blessing and benefit we receive in finding our neighbors.  In our first session on Radical Hospitality we explored how being really present and creating space for another is a gift to them and part of the way God creates a graceful space for us to be present with God.  But when we welcome another, often elements of our own faith journey will come into play and we discover that God is giving us what we need as well.  This is the liberation that often comes with our learning to be about Radical Hospitality.

The next step is learning to play with that graceful space we make between us and another.  Here we have the opportunity to learn and practice the art and activity of building a conversation.  We are often very centered on what we want to say instead of learning to listen in order to connect.  Here are 10 things to consider…

Play video.

Filling graceful space between us and another with the activity of listening to understand and to connect is a great way to create meaning and better begin to see our neighbor, beyond what we thought we knew about them.  There is always more to learn and everyone is an expert in something.  Listen in order to discover what the another is gifted in.

You also might read Chapter 16 of “The Whole Brained Child” by Daniel J. Siegel M.D.  He talks about how our brains are hardwired for this kind of connection and our brains are built for this kind of connecting and learning to understand each other.

October Highlights

Good Sam Happenings 

October 7  [Sunday Theme] Fall Focus:  Finding our Neighbors “Building a Conversation”

October 14 [Sunday Theme] Fall Focus:  Finding our Neighbors “What Will You Live For: Giving It Voice”

October 21 [Sunday Theme] Fall Focus:  Finding our Neighbors “What Will “Finding Our Neighbors” mean for Good Sam and You?”

October 28 [Sunday Theme] Reformation Sunday “Faith and CHANGE”

 

 

Giving and Growing in Faith   

“Where your Treasure is, there your heart will be as well…”     (Lk 12:32-34)

Yes, it is October and as usual this fall we will be doing our Stewardship program called Consecration Sunday.  It is also true that in the fall, we begin planning for the next calendar year and what you give to ministry at Good Sam will certainly have great impact on what we can accomplish next year.

But it is not true to say that our Stewardship program is about getting you to give to what we want to accomplish next year!  There is a very different focus, connection and emphasis in our Stewardship programs here at Good Sam.   My purpose here is to remind or tell you about this different focus here at Good Sam.

In worship, we sometimes remind you that, giving can be an act of Worship.  We hope you have had a chance to think about the giving you do at Good Sam and you are also in the process of learning how to make your giving, a worshipful experience.

Giving is learned.  And learning to give is also a part of our spiritual journeying.  Why is this so?  I think about it this way:  When we give, we have the opportunity to connect how we give with learning to set ourselves aside, to practice letting go, seeking to discover what God is doing with us, as opposed to what we would do with ourselves.

Jesus invites us to love God with all our Mind, strength and will and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40).  It is pretty hard to do this if we continually focus mostly on ourselves and what we want.  Learning to place ourselves in God’s hands is an essential activity in the journey of faith.  Learning to celebrate God’s activity in our lives and respond to that Grace with Thanksgiving is also an essential movement in the journey of faith.

At Good Sam, each fall, we invite you to pick up your own progress and growth in these movements of faith and decide with God what steps you might take to grow in giving, letting go and trusting God will your whole life, and then turn to God with Thanksgiving.

When you start receiving information about this year’s Stewardship program at–called “Giving and Growing in Faith”–we hope you will stop to reflect on your own need or interest to grow in faith and invest yourself in this essential movement of growing in faith.  As always, we will make good and faithful use of everything you share with us to support life and ministry at Good Sam and our work in the community of St. Mary’s County and beyond.

Peace and Faithful journeying,

Pastor Mitch

Fall Focus 2018: Finding Our Neighbors (Week 1)

Radical Hospitality for the Rest of Us

Scripture Readings:  Hebrews 13, Romans 12, Luke 14

The Good News is that the Gospel of Jesus is alive and coming to us from others – and coming from us to others! The life of Jesus is bridging us to paths of hope and life giving acceptance that happen when God’s hospitality opens our hearts and engages our lives.

Today we welcome just a few of the people who are finding life and hope among us.  They bring with them an invitation to see what God is doing in the world and to welcome it into our hearts and into our lives as well.  This is the heart of Radical Hospitality.  It is a primary by-product of being made new in Christ.

Finding our Neighbors is about opening our hearts and our lives to God’s Hospitality, where we learn to open our lives newly and creatively to people God’s bring to us along our Journey of Faith.  This is what we mean by “Finding our Neighbors.”   It is a work of God, opening our lives and the lives of others as the life of Christ is poured out into our lives and into our community life, through God’s love and mercy.

Today, I want to share with you a vision for and seven signs of Radical Hospitality as God opens us to God’s work right here were we live.  They are called:  Radical Hospitality for the Rest of Us.

When we practice Radical Hospitality, two things happen.   First, those we welcome begin to experience the radical “Welcome” of God among us.  And second, we each on our own experience a participation in what God is doing and a liberation from our self-preoccupation.  The liberation that learning to practice Radical Hospitality wherever we go, is a liberation for us and our lives.  Liberation is what happens for all of us as God’s Radical Hospitality is accepted and shared.    This is “Finding Our Neighbors.”

It is a powerful way to live.  It is God’s way with us.  It is life giving for those who practice it and for those who receive it.

 

Fall Focus 2018: “Finding Our Neighbors”

Every year at Good Sam we bring a theme into our lives and explore it together for a few weeks. This year, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 21 we will be exploring the theme: Finding Our Neighbors.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus was exploring the question about right and just behavior with a lawyer who was asking aloud what the most important Commandment is.  Jesus said, “Love God and love your neighbor.”  The Lawyer asked, “Well, then, who is my neighbor?”
It was an important question in the interaction between Jesus and the lawyer, “Who is my neighbor?”  And the real answer is that question, “To whom can you prove to be a neighbor?”  We might ask ourselves as a church or ourselves personally, “Where can we prove to be a neighbor?”

This year, during Fall Focus we are engaging the theme: Finding Our Neighbors.  The discovery may be, that this is a personal journey, as much as it is a corporate or communal journey that we take together. Each Sunday, in these four weeks, we’ll explore a different expression or example of someone who searched out their own story and in the journey, found their neighbors and a new sense of community that was previously unexplored.

This season, we’ll explore these themes in “Finding Our Neighbors:”

Sept. 30     Radical Hospitality and the Liberation That Comes With It
Oct. 7        Building the Conversation; Listening to Connect
Oct. 14      “What Are You Ready to Live For?”  Give it Voice!
Oct. 21 
     What Does “Finding Our Neighbors” Mean for Good Sam and for You?

Join us for these four weeks.  Here are some ways to to engage and explore these discoveries:

  • Join us each week in Worship, beginning Sept. 30.
  • After Worship, join in discussion during “Coffee and Conversation” where  we’ll further discuss the message and the theme for that Sunday.
  • Join us on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 P.M. beginning Oct. 3 through Oct. 24 to review the video message from the previous Sunday and further talk on the theme.
  • Listen to the recording of each Sunday’s message and reflect on how your involvement at Good Sam might reflect this message and how your own everyday life might benefit from this theme.  Each Monday there is a new post on the Good Sam website that includes a link to the previous Sunday’s audio recording.
Learn more about Finding Your Neighbor…on your journey of faith and what will you do with this knowledge?

Making New Connections Is Building Life and Hope At Good Sam

Making New Connections Is Building Life and Hope At Good Sam

Perhaps you have heard that we are connecting with our neighbors with new energy and a deeper sense of welcome at Good Sam.  At Eat and Play Fellowship we have neighborhood children and families joining us; during the Eagle Scout project building the Stations of the Cross neighborhood children got involved and stayed to have a meal.  On Sunday September 30th we will be receiving a new group of members who are walking together in faith and there are others who are already becoming active participants with us in worship and in our community activities.  All of these activities are about Making New Connections.

Last week we received our first installment of our New Connections Grant.  This $9,000 will help pay the salary of our new Coordinator of Mission and Engagement, Kelly Thurber and other training and engagement materials in the next year.  We hope you have met Kelly and your ministry group is beginning to think about how you too can begin Making New Connections both at Good Sam and in our community. Kelly would love to be involved, help get the word out and assist you in these efforts.

Already our Making New Connections efforts are having an impact on our worship life, our fellowship life, the new and expanding relationship we are making in the community.  Thank you for supporting this  program through your participation, your good will, your offerings and your prayers to God for this work in which we all share.  I thank God for the steadfast and faithful love with which we are loved and upheld in Christ and I thank God for the faithfulness that is being reflected among us as we give ourselves in response to the love we have known in Christ.  I am so proud to be among you as your Pastor.

 

Pastor Mitch Watney

Sunday’s Sermon: September 16, 2018

…from Worship at Good Sam on September 16, 2018, Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Lessons: Isaiah 50:4-9,Psalm 116:1-9, James 3:1-12,Mark 8:27-38 

Sermon: “Hold the Tongue, Reserve Judgement and Wait on the Lord”

Prayer: O God, through suffering and rejection you bring forth our salvation, and by the glory of the cross you transform our lives. Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may turn from the lure of evil, take up our cross, and follow your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

The sermon begins after the reading from Mark’s Gospel.

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