Greetings, everyone –

 

Ya know what? It’s simply not right. I don’t care who you are or what position you hold. We share a common humanity with everyone on this planet. It’s not just a “Christian” thing…it’s a human thing to treat others with respect, to assume the best before the worst, to work to lift others up rather than to beat them down. I don’t care who you are. This sh*t has got to stop.

 

THIS SATURDAY AT CENTRAL

Our conversation on collaborative ministry continues with representatives from Bethlehem, Central, Messiah, and St. Peter. If you’ve been following along, you know these conversations have produced some interesting results. It started with a bunch of congregations feeling frustrated, anxious, and isolated. Now we have a larger concept of what it means to be church together and are finding courage to move forward in ways we might not have imagined possible or acceptable in the past.

-          After many years of struggle and self-proclaimed denial of their situation, the congregation at Bethlehem has closed its doors and is in the process of dissolving the congregation. Many of them continue to meet together at Orchard Crest once a month for worship and are exploring other congregations to become a permanent home for them. A number of Bethlehemites are looking at Central as their new church home.

-          Messiah and St. Peter have begun a conversation about becoming a two-point parish. In this scenario, each congregation would maintain its own building, identity, and unique ministries. They would work out a way to share the expenses of a full-time called pastor who would serve both congregations in worship and pastoral care.

-          We have also talked about supporting each other’s work through more tangible means. Members of Messiah have brought clothing to us for the Clothes Closet. St. Peter had a table of holiday gifts at our Scandinavian Bazaar. Several Bethlehem members have made monetary donations to Central. Both Pr. Betty from Messiah and Intern Seth from St. Peter participated in our Christmas Day service this year.

 

THIS SUNDAY AT CENTRAL

 

Council Meeting: 9:00am in the Fellowship Hall

 

Van Driver: There is no van service this Sunday.

 

Education Hour (9:45am): Join us in the Fireside Room for a conversation about the day’s Gospel text. Vickie Kennedy will facilitate the conversation.

 

Coffee Hour: TBD

 

In Worship: All the baptized have a calling in God’s world. God calls not just the clergy but also the youngest child, like Samuel. The story of the calling of Nathanael plays with the idea of place. Nathanael initially dismisses Jesus because he comes from Nazareth. But where we come from isn’t important; it’s where—or rather whom—we come to. Jesus refers to the story of the vision of Jacob, who called the place of his vision “the house of God, and . . . the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17). Jesus says he himself is the place where Nathanael will meet God.

 

Readings and Psalm

1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]

The calling of Samuel

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

You have searched me out and known me. (Ps. 139:1)

John 1:43-51

The calling of the first disciples

 

“Follow Me”

We live in a culture of invitation. Television invites us to join complicated story arcs so that we feel connected to the characters. Commercials invite us to see their product as a new movement and invite us to join it. We are invited to join groups on Facebook and invited into chat rooms and blog responses. The number of social networks is exploding as we are invited into ever expanding ways to connect.

 

Invitation is an essential part of our walk of faith, but here we frequently see ourselves not as the invited but rather the one who is supposed to be doing the inviting. We can misuse invitation, maybe using the phrase “invite Jesus into your heart,” which often results in the misunderstanding that we are carrying a little bit of Jesus wherever we go. But today’s gospel (John 1:43-51) emphasizes not invitation as our call to others to join the walk of faith but rather Jesus’ invitation to us to follow him. Jesus’ invitation is not that we carry him with us but rather that we follow where he would lead. When Christ invites Philip to “follow me,” may we hear that invitation in our own ears.

 

OFFICE CLOSED ON MONDAY

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, our office will be closed on Monday, January 15.

 

EXPLORING FAITH BIBLE STUDY (Noon on Tuesdays)

There will be no Exploring Faith study on Tuesday the 16th. This study will resume on the 23rd.

 

2018 SEMI-ANNUAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING

The first of our semi-annual meetings for 2018 will be on January 21st following worship. It begins, as a good Lutheran congregational meeting would, with a potluck downstairs. The meeting will include reports from our various ministries, the election of Synod Assembly attendees, and a vote on a revised budget for 2018.

 

Why do we need a revised budget, you may ask? Well, we recognized that the decision to give Communitas permission to move their worship to 9am would mean an increase in income. But guess what? That was not the only increase we discovered at year-end! In your regular giving to the work of ministry here at Central, we saw an 8.2% increase in giving beyond what we had budgeted for the year!! And since you tend to be such faithful givers, we were comfortable increasing our projected income for 2018 in those areas to match what we actually received in 2017. Thanks to this, we were able to revise the 2018 budget in ways that gave more money to the Stewardship Team for their work (wasn’t that a great dinner last fall?), the Worship team (isn’t it inspiring to have trumpets at Easter?), and to the Clothes Closet (our flagship service ministry). In fact, you might be interested to know…

 

A NEW KIND OF FINANCIAL REPORT

The giving in our congregation has increased steadily since 2012. Not only are more people giving but those who are giving are giving more.

 

But there is an unfortunately reality that tends to eclipse that good news. Our giving alone is not enough to cover our budgeted expenses…and that’s likely to be the case for some years to come. It’s not a “bad” thing or a “gloom and doom” thing…it’s just a thing. It’s just the way it is. It simply means that we have to find other ways to cover (or reduce) our expenses. You’ve already seen one of those efforts. As we increase the availability of our building for use by other groups (worshipping communities, weddings, etc), we expect to generate over $12,000 dollars in 2018 that will support our operating fund. We have submitted two grant applications from which we hope to receive $2,000 for our general fund in support of the Clothes Closet. We’ve had a request from one of our neighboring businesses to rent parking spaces for their staff. And the Council and Finance team continue to sort through various options for increasing our overall income in support of our work here.

 

So, here’s the bottom line. We have encouraged you to prayerfully consider increasing your giving each year…AND YOU HAVE! Somewhere in our method of reporting, we lost that emphasis. The chart we put in the newsletter has focused primarily on how the offering alone has measured up to our total expense and, as you know, that presented a somewhat demoralizing picture. It was also confusing. More than one person has asked, “How can we appear to be so far behind and yet have all our bills paid?”

 

So going forward, we will be presenting figures that include ALL of our income that contributes to our operating expenses. Thanks to your faithful, generous giving and to phenomenal stewardship on the part of our ministry teams, we finished 2017 in the black. You read that right…we finished the year with a small surplus. And in addition to that, we received an extraordinary demonstration of generosity and commitment at year-end that will help us establish an “emergency fund” for that proverbial rainy (or snowy) day.

 

As your called and elected leaders, we are so grateful for your faithful stewardship of time, talent, and treasure. Your commitment gives us hope and optimism and we will do our best to return that hope and optimism to you in the year ahead.

 

See you in worship!

 

Peace,

Pastor Dave

 

 
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