Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
I hope you have been having a good week. I have several things to tell you about today and hope you will take time to read the entire eNote.
To start with, don’t forget that St. Matthew’s Youth will be holding their annual Pink Elephant rummage sale tomorrow morning from 8:00 a.m. to noon. Pink Elephant is a fundraising event for St. Matthew’s Youth Ministry, especially for their summer mission trips. Your generous support makes it possible for our youth to grow closer to Jesus and serve Him in the world.
On Sunday morning (April 22), we will share the second sermon in our two-part series about The Greatest Commandment. When Jesus answered the lawyer’s question about which commandment is the greatest, he said, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Then he said, “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (See Matthew 22:34-40.) In other words, everything that we do as followers of Jesus “hangs” on loving God and loving our neighbors. Last week we considered what Jesus said about loving God. The message this week is simply called: Love Neighbor. The Scripture readings will be Romans 13:8-10 and John 15:12-17. (If you missed it, the first message in the series is available on our website.)
Then, on Sunday April 29, we will have three special worship services. At the 8:15 and 11:15 services, St. Matthew’s children’s choirs will present their musical, “Down By The Creek Bank.” Come join the children at the “ole” fishing hole where they will be fishing, eating lunch, and playing games. The children will be singing about Jesus feeding the multitude, friendship, our “five senses,” and where we each fit in God’s puzzle. You won’t want to miss it. At the 9:45 service on the 29th, the Modern Worship Team will lead a new-fashioned hymn sing: familiar songs set to new music. This is one of the Sundays in the year that we encourage you to attend more than one worship service on Sunday morning. I hope you’ll attend one of the children’s musical services and the hymn sing too. It is going to be a great Sunday at St. Matthew’s.
Looking ahead, on May 20, we will be celebrating Pentecost and confirming members of our 8th-grade confirmation class at the 11:15 service. This is one of the highlights of the year for me. These young men and women will be officially professing their faith for the very first time and embarking on a life-long journey of growing closer to Jesus as members of God’s Church. As a church family, we will have an opportunity to reaffirm our faith and our commitment to Christ and offer our support to our new sisters and brothers in faith. I will be telling you more as the 20th draws closer.
I was in a waiting room this week with a few minutes of time to kill, so like many people in 2018, I checked my email on my phone and then caught up on news and online articles that I wanted to read. One of the articles was from the Harvard Business Review and was about the importance of self-awareness. The article says that there are two types of awareness: internal and external. Internal self-awareness is how ability to know ourselves, our “values, passions, aspirations, . . . and impact on others.” External awareness “means understanding how other people view us, in terms of those same factors listed above.” (See https://hbr.org/2018/01/what-self-awareness-really-is-and-how-to-cultivate-it.)
Two things strike me as important about what I read in the article. One is that awareness is powerful and is essential for all aspects of our lives, including our relationship with God. Two is that awareness is powerful and essential for individuals and for organizations like churches. For me, this is one of the benefits (or should I say, blessings) of St. Matthew’s participation in the Next Level Innovations program. Last year I had opportunities to increase my self-awareness through the clergy peer learning group. Then during the NLI weekend and town halls, I learned more about the “values, passions, aspirations, . . . .” of the St. Matthew’s Church family. And I think the St. Matthew’s Church family has had opportunities to become more aware of the “values, passions, aspirations, . . . .” of brothers and sisters in the church and also – this is very significant – “how other people view us” and the impact the church is having on its community. The ministry focus event, the demographic studies, and the NLI weekend retreat helped increase St. Matthew’s internal self-awareness; the district NLI team and the mystery worshippers helped increase St. Matthew’s external self-awareness.
As the Church Council and other committees and teams lead St. Matthew’s Church into the future, this organizational self-awareness will be critical. But I want to encourage you to join me in increasing self-awareness of our individual lives and our relationship with God. We do this by learning to see ourselves the way God sees us through our practice of spiritual disciplines (worship, prayer, Bible reading and study, hands-on service, financial giving, . . . . etc.) We do this by paying attention to the gap between God’s vision for our lives and the way we are today. We do this by making a commitment to trust God and allow God to transform our lives. This is how we grow closer to Jesus (both as individual Christians and as a church.)
Finally, in next week’s eNote, I am going to tell you about a new series of sermons that will start on May 6. It’s entitled This Thing Called Church. It’s designed to help us (as individuals and as a church family) be clear about what the Bible says about the Church: what the Bible says about why the Church exists; what the Bible says about the purpose of the Church; and what it means to be a member of the Church. I believe it will help St. Matthew’s Church understand what is important to God as the Church envisions its future.
I look forward to seeing you every Sunday in worship.