|Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
I hope you are doing well this week and have been warm and safe during the cold winter weather.
When Cocoa (our dog) and I went outside for her late-night and early-morning bathroom breaks this week, I was struck (literally) by the bracing cold temperatures, and I was struck (figuratively) by a wave of thankfulness that we could very quickly return to our warm, safe home. This week, of all weeks, was a powerful reminder to me of why the hypothermia prevention shelter is such an important ministry. During the coldest months of the year St. Matthew’s, along with dozens of other churches and faith-based groups in our community, opens its doors and provides shelter to our homeless and home-insecure neighbors.
I use the word “neighbor” intentionally. That’s because Jesus also used the word “neighbor” in his summary of God’s greatest commandment (see Matthew 22: and Mark 12:29-31). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus affirms this summary of God’s law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) If you read the entire passage, Luke 10:25-37, you will discover that for Jesus, being a good neighbor requires that we serve people in need, even if they are very different than we are. I think that, when we host the hypothermia shelter and support FACETS, we are honoring and obeying God and fulfilling part of Jesus’ expectations for his disciples. When we have been blessed (to have safe, warm homes), I think that God is pleased when we share our time, talent, and treasure to bless others.
Another way to think about this is what some members of one of the churches I served before I moved to St. Matthew’s told me. The church I served along with other congregations in the community were working together to start a ministry similar to FACETS hypothermia prevention shelter program. Two members of my church were helping lead the effort. This couple had retired from well-paying jobs in Northern Virginia and had moved to the Shenandoah Valley. When I asked them why the shelter program was so important to them. One of them said, “There but for the grace of God, go I. “As followers of Jesus, they knew that they had been blessed by God’s grace. They had worked hard in their lives, but they also recognized that all good gifts have their origin in God’s love and grace. And they treated others the way they would want to be treated.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
~ Jesus (Luke 6:31)
I am very proud that St. Matthew’s is a hypothermia prevention shelter congregation. Our week to host the shelter is February 17-24. Hosting the shelter is a significant project and your participation is needed. Even if you can’t stay overnight, there are many ways to get involved. If you have not done so already, please sign-up and plan to help.
New Sermon Series Starts Sunday
We’ll be starting a new sermon series on Sunday morning (February 3). It’s called, A Reluctant Servant: Lessons from the Life of Jonah. The Old Testament story of Jonah goes back many centuries, but its lessons are very relevant for our lives today. Like Jonah, we hesitate to respond to God’s call. Sometimes we run away. Like Jonah, we find ourselves angry with God, yet God never gives up on us. Over the four weeks of this series, we will let Jonah’s experience teach us as we answer and obey God’s call to serve God’s purposes in the world. It’s a great story with many valuable lessons. Please join us every week if you are in town.
Souper Bowl of Caring
Finally, as is St. Matthew’s tradition, our Junior High Youth will be collecting food items and financial donations for the Souper Bowl of Caring on Sunday morning (February 3). The food items will go to the Ken Jackson Food Closet and the money will go to Food for Others to support their food distribution programs. In 2018, St. Matthew’s distributed 522 bags of food and helped 277 families. (Individuals/families can get a bag of food once every 30 days. Some individuals/families come regularly for help, others come only occasionally.) We collect and distribute food (and partner with Food for Others) throughout the year, but the Souper Bowl of Caring is a valuable reminder of two things: one, that our youth are committed to helping others and lead us as we serve our neighbors; two, that despite the relative affluence of our community, some of our neighbors need some assistance. On Sunday morning, look for St. Matthew’s Junior High Youth before and after every service and make a donation. Don’t forget that you can give by text; use the keyword, SOUPER.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.