Dec. 21, 2016
Good Samaritan Community,
I want to share with you all this great sense of blessing that I see in our community at Good Sam, both as I look at what God has done among us in 2016 and in what seems to be percolating among us for the year ahead.
In 2016 we took another large step forward into our growing sense of mission as a congregation–learning to fulfill our mission motto “Finding our neighbors along the journey of faith.”
We finished up reading “The Story” together in June and I wish you had heard the abundance of comments I received from so many of you about this experience. Again, and again I heard examples of new insights, new levels of conversation among families, great joy at a bright picture of God’s steadfast and long suffering plan to bring about life and salvation for all who will receive Jesus as Lord. We have several books and DVD lessons in our Library for those who might like to review or take this journey of reading the Bible. It is a wonder to see this whole picture of God working in human lives throughout history to bring people to faith. Let us know if you would like to check out these resources.
Not long after we finished “The Story” we launched into three months of exploring “God’s Work, Our Hands.” This was an ambitious effort with six different organized opportunities to reach out and meet people, making a difference in our community. By the time our September 11th Service of celebrating our efforts rolled around many of us were impressed with what had been accomplished by so many. We hope you too were blessed in these efforts. At our December Council meeting we reflected on the variety of ways that the “God’s Work. Our Hands.” efforts have had ongoing and lasting effects in our families and how it continues to connect us to people in our community. Indeed, God is faithful in working among us.
Our average Worship attendance for 2016 looks like it will be about 108. This is an approximate 10% jump from 2015. Also in 2016, we saw life and energy happen in other ways. We baptized 7 new believers. We welcomed 23 new members by Affirmation of Faith. We received 3 new members by Transfer. This means we welcomed a total of 33 new members to our community. I want you also to know that we have also seen a growing list of active participants as well. This means that there are an additional 29 people who are actively involved and connected to this congregation who are living out their faith lives among us. We began the year anticipating a financial shortfall of about $9,000. Yet, if giving continues as it has so far this year, we may finish 2016 with all our bills paid and some resources left to restore what we have borrowed from designated funds to cover operating costs. Stay tuned for these final numbers, and don’t forget to make your final year-end gifts before January 1. We may have great news to share on this front come January.
We have renewed our efforts to build strong faith nourishment for our children through the “Prayer Buddy” program and please watch this year for another effort we have added called “All Congregational Education Events.” They are happening five different times during the year to call the whole congregation together to celebrate our life, our faith and the ministry we share.
Also, stay tuned early in the year for great news about Music Director hiring and goals for 2017. The year ahead is certainly going to be filled with great stories of God’s faithfulness among us.
Peace and joy to you all, Pastor Mitch
“The Fall of Judah: How Far Down Can We Go?”
Prayer: Our mistakes repeat themselves, but your love is steadfast and must win the day. May your redemptive power in the life and resurrection of Jesus give us hope and may we breathe again of your Spirit and have life in your Kingdom. Amen
Listen to the Sermon:
As a congregation, one foundational partnership we have is with the Metro DC Synod and the 98 congregations that comprise that body. This last weekend in Leesburg VA we met and adopted a 1.7 million dollar spending plan heard from other partnering organizations like Gettysburg Seminary and Lutheran World Federation. We also passed a number of resolutions/Memorials to express our collective thoughts, perspectives and calls to action. You are invited to check out the Video Summary of Metro DC Assembly.
One notable resolution that came out of the assembly was one on racism and the events in Charleston on June 17, 2015. Perhaps you know that nine persons from the Emanuel AME Congregation meeting in bible study were killed by a visitor to their group. This visitor was a young white man who is believed to be a member of an ELCA congregation. These events are shocking and difficult to take in. We had other connections to this gathering as the pastor of the congregation graduated from an ELCA Seminary. Please take a moment to read the resolution that came from our assembly and perhaps hear Pastor Mitch’s sermon from the Sunday that followed. We also invite our Council and members to reflect of the effects and signs of racism around and among us as well.
- Link to Resolution from Assembly called “Racism and the Events in Charleston”
- Link to Pastor’s Message from June 21 returning from Assembly.
- Link to all the Assembly Resolutions from the Metro DC Assembly
Pastor Mitch and Shannon (Sara too) are on Vacation in Oregon visiting family. We will return in time for Mother’s Day and Worship on May 10th. Sara hasn’t seen her Grammy Jan and Grandaddy Bill for over a year. She is soooo excited. We look forward to returning rested and ready for more ministry together.
In my early days as a pastor I would try to get all my office work done during my office hours. It became a challenge almost immediately because I couldn’t seem to sit and focus on my writing or reading when the phone would ring or someone would stop by and want to visit. I couldn’t figure out how to get my office work done in the allotted time with all the interruptions! Then one day it occurred to me that all those interruptions were my job! The busyness of the other stuff was clearly not more important than the person right in front of me. I simply had to learn to keep first things first in my work.
Learning to have time for our neighbors is a similar challenge. It is so easy to miss the opportune encounter that passes in front of us if we think it’s not our job, not important, not what we are about – simply an interruption. Mission Focus for me is learning to see each encounter, every person who passes before me as a potential place where God would invite me to be alive, present, and actively listening and caring.
No, I can’t engage every passerby or every situation before me. Yet, learning to carry a mindfulness of each as it occurs living the question, “Is God inviting me to engage here?” really is a critical step in being mission focused. Good Sam, part of being Good Samaritans in our everyday lives is noticing the strangers to are alongside the paths we travel. Won’t you join me in practicing this mindfulness and active neighboring we call “Mission Focus?”
“Faith and Reconciliation in the Life of Jacob”
Fall Focus Coming Sept. 21 – Oct. 12
Overview and Where We Are Going
Jacob doesn’t begin life with any particular sense of faith. He experiences all of the family dynamics that challenge many of our personal families, not to mention our church families. But somehow amid the human drama the presence and promises of God come shining through. As faith develops in Jacob we will see how resolution begins to happen in Jacob’s life. Resolution begins where he is (in a faraway country) and will eventually invite Jacob to consider God’s call to face his own past and his own demons and to head “home” for reconciliation with his brother. All along the way the eyes of faith begin to see the hand of God guiding and sustaining Jacob. In this process of wrestling with people and wrestling with God, Jacob comes to a new name and a new identity of faith; he becomes Israel – a community of peoples.
Curiously, there is a wealth that comes along with this faith and reconciliation, but one is left to wonder if the real wealth of Jacob is in the sheep and goats and servants he owns or if the real wealth of Jacob is his developing confidence in God’s love and blessings and the faithfulness of God’s guidance in Jacob’s life. What would it be like to live our lives in faith with such confidence that we see every blessing flowing from the love and goodness of God? It might just flow from us in gratitude, blessing, and praise for what God continues to do in our lives.
We will notice how this journey of faith for Jacob continues in the lives of Jacob’s sons. We will wonder together how this journey of faith might be playing out in our own lives right now – in our hearts and before our very eyes.
Each of the four Sundays in this adventure we will read a new chapter in Jacob’s journey of faith. Join us in worship for these readings and a sermon to explore the implications for our faith journeys. You might also enjoy joining a small group during this Fall Focus to dig deeper into the rest of the story and talk about these themes in our lives. See the signboard in the Fellowship Hall.
We hope you will join us in this journey of faith – discovering deep connections between our humanity, God’s activity, and the gifts that come with faith in God’s faithfulness. We pray every blessing upon you as you journey these questions of faith in your life too.
Fall Focus at Good Sam
Faith, Reconciliation, and the Life of Jacob
September 21 through October 12, 2014
Come to worship … Stay for fellowship … Join a small group
We invite you to come and stretch your mind, grow in your biblical literacy, and think about how your faith may also be growing as Jacob’s did. Use this time to grow your faith.
Goals for this Fall Focus at Good Sam:
- Learn the story of Jacob coming to faith (Genesis 25-33)
- Discover the connection between faith and reconciliation for Jacob
- Learn about the ministry of reconciliation that Paul says is ours in Christ (2 Corinthians 5)
- Join a small group and meet a few new people
- Develop our eyes for seeing God’s work in our lives
Factoid: Did you know that “Bethel” means house of God (literally–the place where God resides)?
Thanks to those who participated in the Family Meeting opportunities on March 2. As discussed at those meetings, our Good Samaritan mission statement and our congregation’s ministry goals for 2014 are:
We invite you to take some time to reflect on our mission statement and goals, in order to consider places where you might be engaged in them, working alongside your fellow Good Samaritans. Please feel free to share your thoughts about these goals and ways which you personally may choose to be involved in our congregation’s mission and faith journey, or thoughts you may have to connect with people within and outside our Good Samaritan family. Use the “Leave a Comment or Ask a Question Here” dialog box here on the By the Way, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, speak to a council member in person, or any other way you would like to make your thoughts known, but please join the conversation… THANK YOU!
— John S., Council President
Epiphany is discovery, not just an “aha” moment but also the persistent dawning and awakening to something new. In Epiphany the star guides the magi to the child born King of the Jews, but there they discover the working of God in new and unexpected ways. The light of God is coming to all people.
One of the main ways we see God active in our lives is in the gifts that the Spirit of God gives. When these gifts arise in our lives we have a better view of what God is really up to. Their light reveals God’s presence and care. These gifts are the fruit of the Spirit that Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22-23. They are love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Last Epiphany Sunday I drew “gentleness” from the basket of stars. For a year now I have been reflecting on the gift of gentleness in my life. Mostly, that has come with Sara. As I am gentle with her, she learns to be gentle. I have discovered we are most gentle with those things that are precious to us. Also, in my life this year, I have been gently corrected and found myself in appreciation of the care with which those enlightenments have come. God really is working in our lives through these kinds of gifts that come from God’s activity, from us to others and from others into our lives.
This year on Epiphany, we will invite people to talk about these kinds of discoveries they have made about God’s activity and the spiritual gifts. We will also draw stars as an invitation to focus on that spiritual gift in the coming year. How will this gift play out in our lives in the coming year?
When I tell people that I am the pastor at Good Samaritan, I am often asked, “Where is that church?” I explain to people that it is right off of Great Mills Road near Route 5 and they are surprised that they have never noticed it there. Maybe you have had that experience too. Or maybe you’ve invited people to church and had to carefully explain to them to drive past the first two buildings to get to the actual sanctuary.
Our mission is to be a light to the community around us, but it’s hard to do that when people can’t easily find us. However, we are excited to share that this is about to change. Thanks to a generous donation or two specifically for this purpose, Good Sam will soon have brand new signage.
Starting about Christmas Day, we will have a new sign on Great Mills Road pointing to the life we share behind those trees.
Here are some of the highlights:
- The sign will be lit from dusk to dawn
- It will clearly display our logo along with our familiar name, “Good Sam”
- The message “We Welcome All” will be prominently displayed along with the ELCA logo, for those who are looking for a Lutheran church.
- The bottom third of the sign will have a double-sided LED message board capable of displaying letters of a variety of sizes. Each message will remain approximately 10 seconds and will fade to the next message. The sign is capable of up to 99 messages at a time. Each LED is also capable of displaying in the colors red, green, and amber.
- An arrow on the upright portion of the sign will point in the direction of the church and the address on Langley Road will be displayed in large letters.
This new sign on Great Mills Road will help people know that we are here. In addition to this sign, we will also be getting several smaller labeling signs on our campus to help people know how to find the program or building that they are looking for.
Where will these signs be?
- At the bottom of our driveway where Great Mills Road meets Langley Road, we will have a new hollow core sign where the old preschool sign used to hang. It will read “Good Sam Campus” with bullets for “Soup Kitchen,” “Food Pantry,” and “Church” with an arrow confirming that this is the turn.
- Once drivers have turned onto Langley Road, they will see another metal sign pointing up the driveway to the “Good Sam Campus.”
- As they approach the Soup Kitchen, a sign at ground level will read “Soup Kitchen” with the St. Mary’s Caring logo beside it. Our logo will be smaller and in the corner.
- As you approach the Disciples’ Den, you will see a sign that identifies both the Food Pantry as well as the Disciples’ Den meeting rooms.
- As you look straight ahead from beside the Soup Kitchen you will also see a sign (in the first flower bed) that says “Good Samaritan” with an arrow pointing to the church building.
These new signs will go a long way to help make us more visible in the community. Of course, signs do not replace personal invitation and word of mouth. Do you have a friend or colleague who could benefit from the community we share at Good Sam? Do you know someone who needs good news in their life? If so, maybe your personal invitation is what they are waiting for. Now you can tell them, “Look for the sign that says ‘We Welcome All.’”