About StMatthewsUMC

Next Level Innovations

NLI Update from the Strategic Worship Team: Recommendations to Church Council -March 19, 2019

The Strategic Worship Team was created to evaluate the current worship schedule and identify ways for all age levels to engage with both Sunday School and their preferred worship style.
Language from the NLI Report: The team will evaluate the current schedule with a goal to provide an opportunity for all age levels to engage with Sunday School and worship.  In particular, there was an expressed desire for the youth to be able to participate in the modern worship service without having to choose between Sunday School / Confirmation and worship.

The team recommends the following:

·         New service schedule

8:30 a.m. – Traditional worship

9:45 a.m. – Sunday School for all ages

11:00 a.m. – Modern worship

·         Offer Children’s Worship for both 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. services.

·         Ensure a robust offering of Sunday School options for all ages.

·         Begin new schedule in September with the start of a new school year.

In addition to eliminating the conflict between Sunday School and services, the committee considered the following advantages to this recommendation:

·         The modern worship service is given equal value to traditional worship.  There is a perception reflected in the survey comments that attendees of the modern service don’t feel as valued as the traditional service attendees.  Given the logistical/time constraints of the current service schedule, the modern worship team is limited to the scope of worship experiences that could be offered during this service.  The later time would allow for more creative planning of the modern worship experience.

·         Given the rehearsal time needed for traditional choirs before service, the early service is preferable for the traditional service so adults/youth/children aren’t leaving Sunday School early each week for rehearsals.

·         In addition to considering the service preferences for our current congregation, the committee also considered which option might allow for growth.  The modern worship style seems to have the widest appeal for young families and youth, so offering it at the later time seemed the best option.

***Please note that this recommendation is not a final decision.  Church Council has the authority to make the final decision regarding a change to the worship schedule.***

We appreciate that the data doesn’t offer a clear solution.  We could spend months gathering additional data, debating options and considering the merits and challenges for each one.  We understand that making a change to the worship schedule later this year could negatively impact church attendance.  We also believe that not making a change to the worship schedule could also negatively impact attendance as there will continue to be a conflict between the modern worship service and Sunday School.  In the interest of providing closure for this NLI initiative, our team came to a consensus on this recommendation for Church Council.

You are welcome to share any additional thoughts or observations you have by emailing Mandy Lloyd, mandylloyd.cdci@gmail.com, or speaking with any member of the NLI Strategic Worship Team: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.

We will be hosting a town hall meeting on Sunday, March 24, at 4:00 p.m. to discuss the information learned from the survey and the committee’s recommendation to Church Council. We invite you to continue the conversation with us!

 

NLI Update from the Strategic Worship Team- March 12, 2019
Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the survey!  The team met in February to review the data and results were shared at the Church Council meeting on February 27.  In our on-going effort to ensure transparent communication throughout this process, we are now sharing the data with the congregation.  Survey Summary  We received multiple comments/questions about an option to offer simultaneous services – i.e. a traditional service in the sanctuary at the same time a modern service in the social hall.  The committee does not recommend this as a viable option for St. Matthews at this time.
The committee will meet again in March to finalize our recommendation to Church Council.  After reviewing the data summary, you are welcome to share any additional thoughts or observations you have by emailing Mandy Lloyd, mandylloyd.cdci@gmail.com, or speaking with any member of the NLI Strategic Worship Team: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.   We will be hosting a town hall meeting on Sunday, March 24, at 4 p.m. to discuss the information learned from the survey and the committee’s recommendation(s ) to Church Council.  We invite you to continue the conversation with us!

Worship Team NLI November 2018 Update

 

We enjoyed hearing from so many of you during our Listening Sessions in October and November.  Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas with our team!  To meet the current needs of our congregation and to carry on in our mission to invite and welcome new people to our church, St. Matthew’s will continue offering both traditional and modern worship services as well as Sunday School on Sunday mornings.  The team agrees that the best time to make a change in our Sunday morning schedule will be either May 1 or September 1, 2019.  We are currently drafting a survey to share with the congregation to solicit input on proposed schedule changes.  Surveys, both online and paper copies, will be published in January.  The team will meet again at the end of January to review the results of the surveys.  We aim to submit our final recommendation to Church Council at their February meeting.  Ideally, we will have at least 6 weeks to communicate any change in the Sunday morning schedule to our church community.  Keep in mind that no final decisions have been made at this time, and our goal is to ensure transparent communication throughout this process.

If you have additional thoughts or questions, you can email Mandy Lloyd, mandylloyd.cdci@gmail.com, and/or connect with any other member on the team: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.  We invite you to continue the conversation with us!

NLI Update October 2018

 

Fall is a busy time at St. Matthew’s, and NLI is no exception! In September, the Vision Alignment Team and Church Council members met with St. Matthew’s NLI Mentor, Rev. Reggie Tuck, who led them in a discussion on discerning the values that best characterize St. Matthew’s. The Worship and Communications Teams have been meeting since this summer, and just this past Sunday, the Worship Team hosted two of three planned listening sessions. A total of 60 people attended both sessions and shared their thoughts on worship. The next listening session will take place Tuesday, October 23, at 7:00 pm in the sanctuary. If you’re unable to attend, but would like to share your thoughts with the Team, please email Mandy Lloyd, mandylloyd.cdci@gmail.com.

The second session of Financial Peace University began on October 7. As you may recall, one of the five NLI recommendations we received suggested offering Financial Peace University. So far this initiative has been a great success.

Another NLI recommendation being implemented this fall is the formation of life groups. A successful pilot program was held last spring, and 3 life groups involving 37 St. Matthew’s members began meeting in September. The groups are meeting on a weekly basis through the end of this month. We have one adults group, one parents of teens group, and a blended young adults/young families group.

As we move through the fall into the Advent season, you’ll see additional opportunities seeking your participation. I hope you will take advantage of them, so that we can include your input as we take this journey.

Please feel free to contact me with your questions, suggestions, and ideas.

Blessings,

Amy Chai

acericksen@gmail.com

Church Council Chair

NLI Update from the Strategic Worship Team
Listening Sessions Scheduled in October
The Strategic Worship Team was created to evaluate the current worship schedule and identify ways for all age levels to engage with both Sunday School and their preferred worship style.  As part of the team’s discernment process, we invite you to attend a Listening Session and share your thoughts with us.  We are specifically interested in the following information:
  •  Why is corporate worship (worship with others) important to you?
  •  Which service do you usually attend and why?
  •  What factors impact your worship attendance decisions?
We hope you can join us at one of the following sessions:
– Sunday, October 14 @ 9:45 a.m. or 11:15 a.m. in Room 302 in the Adult Education Wing
– Tuesday, October 23 @ 7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary
If you are unable to attend a Listening Session, but would like to provide input to the team, please email Mandy Lloyd, mandylloyd.cdci@gmail.com.

NLI July 3, 2018 Update

I would like to introduce to you the members of our NLI Strategic Worship and Communications teams. The Strategic Worship Team is tasked with evaluating the current worship schedule and identifying ways for all age levels to engage with Sunday School and worship. The Communications Team will develop a strategic communications plan that will contemplate updates to St. Matthew’s website and social media presence, as well as address the ways we communicate to those within and outside of the church through our bulletins, symbols, and signage.

 

The members of the Strategic Worship Team include: Nancy Cappel, Susan Ely, Ken Landers, Mandy Lloyd, Lyle Minter, Cathy Moberly, Darold Plate, and Elaine Steele.

 

The members of the Communications Team include: Susan Adams, Fran DelVecchio, Kim Lauer, Chris Laughlin, Keith Robertory, and Lori Taylor.

These groups will begin meeting shortly, and we will be sharing their progress as they move forward. Additionally, each group will be looking to the congregation for feedback and input as they do their work. Stay tuned for these opportunities. I want to thank these members of our congregation for agreeing to help lead us as we discern how best to address the critical issues of worship and communication. Please keep these team members and their efforts in your prayers.

 

The Vision Alignment Team has also continued their work. The members of the Vision Alignment Team are John Alexander, Leeanne Alonso, Carolyn Andrukonis, Karen Chevalier, Earl Conklin, Neil Hough, Beth Lanthier, and Boe Workman. At their last meeting, they considered a draft presentation created by Boe Workman, which includes the feedback St. Matthew’s members provided during the NLI Weekend last fall and input from the Discipleship Committee. The Church Council will hear more about the VAT’s progress and plans for congregation outreach, which they expect to begin in the very near future. This outreach will occur in multiple forms and in a variety of settings so that everyone will be able to provide input.

 

Please continue to be in prayer for our church as we implement the NLI Report Recommendations, and please feel free to contact Neil or me with any questions, concerns, or comments.

 

 

 

Blessings,

 

Amy Chai

Email:  acericksen@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

From Pastor Neil

Here is an NLI update, as reported to the St. Matthew’s Church Council on February 28, 2018. After more than a year of preparation, we held our NLI Retreat weekend in October 2017. The weekend culminated with a celebration worship service and a presentation of our NLI report. This report describes St. Matthew’s areas of strength, areas of weakness (where we have room to grow) and outlines five Innovations that are designed to help us take the next steps of faithful ministry. After much discussion and two lively town halls, the Innovation Report was accepted by an 84% majority of members present at a called Church Conference in November. The five Innovations are in the areas of: vision alignment; communications; worship; discipleship; and generosity.

Work is underway on several of the Innovations and you will be hearing much more about them in the coming weeks. At its January meeting, St. Matthew’s Church Council approved a seven-member Vision Alignment Team (VAT) consisting of: John Alexander, Leeanne Alonso, Carolyn Andrukonis, Karen Chevalier, Earl Conklin, Beth Lanthier and Boe Workman. The VAT is just beginning its work of discerning God’s vision for the next season of St. Matthew’s ministry. They will be meeting with our mentor, Reverend Reggie Tuck on March 18. One of the primary questions they are considering is: what does God’s preferred future for St. Matthew’s Church look like? As part of their work, they will be asking the entire congregation to join them in the discernment process. So, I want to ask you – as part of your Lenten spiritual discipline to pray for God’s guidance for St. Matthew’s Church. Ask God to help us dream God’s dreams for our church and community. Ask God to give us courage to move into the future with confidence and faith and hope, not fear and anxiety. Ask God to help us grow closer to Jesus and have a clearer picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

In other NLI news, a Discipleship Team is being formed and is meeting this week to start envisioning a plan that will strengthen our ability to be and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Members of the Discipleship Team are: Annette Landers, Chris Ligon, Jenny Ligon, Gail Krieder, Sean Moran, Susan Moran, and Keisha Smith. The Trustees are exploring ways to improve signage in and around the church. And, starting on March 18, we will be offering Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. The Church Council, VAT, and Discipleship Team, along with other church leaders are reading Membership to Discipleship: Growing Mature Disciples Who Make Disciples by Phil Maynard so that we can have common language as we carry out God’s mission together. Members of the Discipleship Team will be attending an Intentional Discipleship workshop led by Phil Maynard on March 15. These were all action items outlined in the Innovations Report.

As I said above, some of this work is just beginning and you will hear a lot more in the coming weeks. More importantly, you will be invited to grow closer to Jesus in your own life and participate in the discernment and decision-making processes as we dare to imagine what God is dreaming – not only for St. Matthew’s Church, but for the community and the world that so desperately needs to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus. God has blessed St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church with an abundance of gifts, so that we can be a blessing to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,

 

On Sunday afternoon, we held a called Church Conference to vote on the Innovations we were given in the NLI Report. Here are the results of the voting:

 

Total votes cast, 150: Yes, 126 (84%); No, 24 (16%).

 

I want to thank everyone who participated in the town halls and came out on Sunday afternoon to participate in the Church Conference. Whether you voted “yes” or “no,” your passion to do God’s work and commitment to St. Matthew’s Church is evident. Please continue keep St. Matthew’s UMC in your prayers as we work together to fulfill God’s dreams for the church and community.

 

Attached is the link for the NLI Report St Matthews Final Innovation Report 10.15.17.

In Christ,

 

 

 

What is Next Level Innovations (NLI)?

NLI is an investment in our larger churches that have a recognized potential for reaching more people in their community and inviting them to become disciples of Jesus.  These churches have healthy and coachable leadership (clergy and lay).

NLI is based on similar programs in other UMC conferences, such as Missional Church Consultative Initiative (MCCI) out of West Ohio Conference and Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) from the Missouri Conference.  Like the above mentioned programs, NLI has multiple components including a foundation of prayer, monthly clergy training, two to three laity training events, an intensive weekend of church study, a detailed report and recommendation for innovations specially developed for the church, and follow up coaching for a year or more.

 

Who is Invited to Participate?

District Superintendents have carefully studied and selected potential church participants.  Churches selected have met size, health and potential growth requirements.  Leadership, both clergy and lay, should be teachable and ready to lead change.

 

What is the Church’s Commitment?

NLI churches commit to a number of activities over a period of three or more years.  They commit themselves to a practice of daily prayer for the ministry of their church.  They support their pastor’s participation in monthly training.  Each church forms an NLI team that helps the pastor implement the training they receive.  Church leaders participate in two to three training events designed for laity, around issues such as breakthrough prayer and stewardship.    Church leaders and attendees participate with a consultation team and mentors in a weekend long intensive study of the strengths and weaknesses of their church, and the best potential innovations to move forward.  Upon receipt of the NLI report and recommended innovations at the end of the weekend, the church will hold a series of town hall meetings to decide whether or not to proceed with the innovations.  If the innovations are accepted, the church then works with their mentor to implement the innovations. If the innovations are not accepted, the mentoring, peer groups and laity training come to an end.

 

What is the Clergy Commitment?

Clergy participants are expected to attend approximately nine NLI meetings – these will be held locally for the majority of the work day.  There will be associated reading and projects with these trainings.  Clergy are then expected to return to their church and with the help of their NLI team begin to implement the ideas and innovations about which they have learned.  Clergy will help organize, prepare for and fully attend the Innovation Weekend.

Topics that are likely to be included in clergy training are all from the larger church perspective, including breakthrough prayer techniques, how to lead change, stewardship, discipleship, staffing, and aligning vision with staff and laity. Special topics may be designed for the needs of each particular group of churches.

 

What is the District Commitment?

The District will provide leadership and administration for NLI and secure outside funding to offset much of the significant cost of this ministry.  The district will secure training locations and leaders and district staff will participate fully in each of the NLI weekends.   The district will arrange for and oversee the Innovation Mentors for each church. The District is giving significant staff time to the development of this process and these churches over the next several years, all without increasing the apportionments. This is possible due to the income from the new District Offices and grants from the Virginia Conference and the Virginia Foundation.

 

What is the cost?

The overall cost of NLI exceeds $10,000 per church.  Each church will be asked to contribute $3,000 over the course of three years; $500 for the first year, $1500 for the second and $1,000 for the third.

In addition, clergy will be asked to purchase books and materials for their training and each church will be asked to cover the cost of hospitality and meals for the weekend Innovation Consultation team.

 

How is this different from every other conference/district program we’ve seen come to us over the years?

First of all, this program has been developed after a study of several very successful programs in other conferences and states – this model of super-charged training of the clergy, mentoring, and an intensive weekend study, followed by individualized plans for growth has been used over and over again over the last ten years or so to revitalize congregations throughout our denomination.

We didn’t want to just take someone else’s model though – we think Northern Virginia churches are unique, and large churches in our area have significant struggles that are not the same as other churches.  So we invested the past year in interviewing and designing this program with a team of large church pastors who have already succeeded in growing large churches in this area. The team committed to bringing you the best resources they wished they’d had as they grew their churches- and that became NLI.

This was never intended to be a one size fits all program; each church will take what they need from the program and contextualize it to the current situation. Each church will have an individual mentor, so it is not just information shared, but a plan to implement with accountability as well.

There is also a significant investment of Conference and District funding and staffing. These investments would not occur if there was not significant belief that NLI will make a difference in these churches and in their communities for Christ.

 

What if we already have a mission, vision and strategic plan set out, or in development?

NLI is intended to work with the church wherever it is in its lifecycle to help move to the next level. As a church lives in to their current strategic plans, the pastor may develop more resources and the laity may find available training through NLI that can help their current strategic plans.  The innovations that will come from the Innovation Consultation Weekend will not occur until year 2 of the NLI process, and at that time the church can discern if those innovations become a new part of the strategic plan, or they can choose not to implement them.

 

How much laity time and effort will this take?

How much clergy/staff time and effort will this take?

Each church should have an NLI team that has been oriented to the process, and will assist the lead clergy in communications and accountability. During the first year, this group will meet at one Orientation meeting, and 2-3 additional times with the lead pastor for training, as needed.  There should also be a team working to prepare for the Innovation Weekend Consultation that will occur in the second year; they will do a self-study of the church and prepare for the special weekend.  After the weekend, if the church goes forward with the Innovations, there will be substantial laity teams working on each of the Innovations.

For the first year, the major time commitment will be for the lead pastor. There will be approximately nine full or partial day meetings to develop resources, insight, and leadership techniques specific to large, Northern Virginia churches to help lead changes that are to come. The pastor may need additional help or scheduling work-arounds, and the church should be prepared to allow this time investment.  Other clergy and/or staff can plan a role in both some of the training events and in assisting the pastor in implementation and administration.

 

Who is our mentor, and how does that part work?

Mentors have been recruited and will be assigned to churches by the NLI District team, including your District Superintendent. Our mentor is Reverend Reggie Tuck, Senior Pastor of Messiah UMC in Springfield.

Mentors are for the whole church, and will probably most often have a one-on-one relationship with the pastor as well. They will coach, resource, challenge, and help implement innovations throughout the entire process. Your church will not be alone in figuring out what to do next – you will have a mentor who has already done this work in their own churches and ministries.

GPS Week of March 17, 2019

Series – 6 Decisions That Will Change Your Life

Sermon – The Decision for New Life

Scripture Readings: 2 Corinthians 5:16-19, John 3:1-8
Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:3-6)

Monday March 18 — John 1:35-42
The journey of Christian discipleship begins with a three-word invitation from Jesus: “Come and see” (John 1:39). Jesus invites everyone to enter into a new relationship with him—to follow him every day and learn to live and love the way Jesus lived and loved. For Christians today, this requires a commitment to worship, to prayer, to reading and study of the Scriptures (especially the four Gospels), and to sacrificial giving and service. How have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see”? Do you follow Jesus’ example every day? What is the next step for you?

• Prayer: Calling God, grant me the courage I need to follow you every day of my life. I will go where you send me and do what you ask of me. Amen.

Tuesday March 19 — John 3:1-8
Nicodemus was a Pharisee (a highly religious teacher and leader of the Jewish people) who visited Jesus at night. He recognized God’s presence in Jesus’ actions, but misunderstood when Jesus told him that he must be “born from above” (John 3:3). Jesus calls his followers to experience a new beginning through the power of the Holy Spirit. This requires that his followers let their old life “die” so that they can be born again. How much of your life are you willing to surrender (let “die”) so that you can be born again through the Holy Spirit? What are you holding back? What are unwilling to surrender to God?

• Prayer: Almighty God, today I am ready to be born again through the presence and power of your Holy Spirit. Transform my life in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday March 20 — John 3:9-16
The new life offered by Jesus is a gift from God. It is not earned by living a good life or doing good works. New life is the result of God’s love for the world through Jesus Christ, which is freely given and must simply be received in faith. When Jesus says that the Son of Man will be lifted up (in John 3:14) he is referring to his own death on the cross. New life begins when we believe that Jesus died for the salvation of the world. Do you believe that salvation is a freely offered gift from God, or do you believe that you can earn your salvation? Have you accepted the grace of God, offered through Jesus Christ, God’s own Son?

• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for loving the world so much that you sent Jesus to be our Savior. I believe in your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday March 21 — John 3:14-21
Jesus affirms that God offers every person the freedom to choose to follow Jesus and walk in God’s light. New life is a gift that can (and should) be accepted. It is also a gift that can (but should not) be rejected. New life in Christ begins when we accept the fact that God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. For many people, this is not easy to accept or understand. Jesus says that judgment begins when people reject God’s love and the invitation to walk in God’s light. Can you believe that God’s loves the world enough to sacrifice his Son to save it? Can you believe that God loves you enough to sacrifice his Son to save you?

• Prayer: God of Love, thank you for sending Jesus to save me from sin and to provide your light for my life. I accept your love today. Amen.

Friday March 22 — John 3:22-30
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist was very popular and influential. Many people wondered if he was God’s Messiah. John himself told people that he was not the Messiah but was sent by God to prepare the way for the Messiah. Each of the four Gospel writers emphasize that Jesus—not John, nor anyone else—is God’s Messiah. Do you ever look to another person to be your Savior? Do you ever trust yourself or another person more than you trust God? What needs to change in your life so that you will trust God completely?

• Prayer: Eternal God, grant me the courage I need to trust you completely. I believe that Jesus is the only Messiah I need. Amen.

Saturday March 23 — John 3:31-36
One of the primary themes in John’s Gospel is that Jesus’ earthly life and ministry testify to the nature and character of God. If someone wants to know God, they must know Jesus. Jesus’ life reveals what is important to God: God’s concerns, God’s priorities, God’s passions, God’s sacrificial love, and God’s desire to save and redeem humanity. What attracts you to Jesus? Why have you chosen to follow him? Which of Jesus’ characteristics are most important to you? What do these characteristics of Jesus teach you about God?

• Prayer: Gracious God, today I renew my commitment to follow your Son, Jesus. I want to experience your love and saving grace. Amen.

GPS Week of March 10, 2019

Youth Musical – “Surrender”

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

Monday March 11 — Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is known as the Shema. For centuries, these words have been part of Jewish prayer services, passed down from generation to generation. It is a reminder that we worship God, not only because we are in awe of God, but because we love God. We remember that God loves us and is worthy of our love and adoration. Loving God is our primary purpose in life. What does it mean to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”? How do you express your love for God? How does God’s love for you affect your life?

• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for loving me in ways and for reasons that are beyond my understanding. Increase my love for you. Amen.

Tuesday March 12 — Matthew 22:34-40
When Jesus was asked to name the greatest, or most important, of the many commandments in the Hebrew Scripture, he quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. He then quoted Leviticus 19:18 and said that these verses summarize the primary message of Scripture. These great commandments help us understand God’s priorities for our life. They serve as a lens that helps us focus our attention and our actions. How would you describe your purpose in life? Is your life purpose aligned with God’s purpose for your life? What helps you focus your attention and your action?

• Prayer: God of love, forgive me for failing to love you fully and failing to love my neighbor. Grant me courage to obey your Word. Amen.

Wednesday March 13 — Matthew 18:1-5, Matthew 20:25-28
On more than one occasion, Jesus’ disciples asked him who was the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1) It seems that they were jockeying for position in the Kingdom, and were looking for status and recognition. Jesus’ response was to say that in God’s Kingdom greatness looks like humility and service. Jesus clearly had a different definition of greatness than his disciples or the rest of the world. How do you define greatness? How do you feel about Jesus’ definition of greatness? How does Jesus’ definition change your life?

• Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the teaching and example of Jesus. I am humbled and willing to serve you today. Amen.

Thursday March 14 — Matthew 9:35-38
According to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, he called men and women to follow him not only so that they would learn about God and God’s Kingdom, but so that they would also share his ministry and serve God’s purposes in the world. The greatest of Jesus’ disciples are the ones who answer Jesus call to follow him and to serve him in the world. In what ways do you serve God’s purposes in the world? In what ways do you participate in Jesus’ ministry? Do you labor for the harvest?

• Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to answer to your call and join you in ministry. Here I am, Lord, use me today. Amen.

Friday March 15 — Matthew 28:16-20
Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus sent his disciples into the world to make more disciples by baptizing and teaching them. The church calls this the “great commission.” It is one of the two “great” pillars that individual Christian life and the Christian community (the Church) is built upon: the great commandments to love God and neighbor, and the great commission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. How is your life built upon the two “great” pillars? In what ways do you participate in the two “great” pillars of the church: loving (worshipping) God and helping make disciples of Jesus Christ?

• Prayer: Almighty God, grant me the courage and desire to be “great.” Increase my ability to love and my willingness to serve. Amen.

Saturday March 16 — 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Second generation Christians, like the apostle Paul, saw themselves as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. They believed they were the resident representatives of the risen Jesus Christ in the world, and that God was using them to share the Good News and invite people to be reconciled to God. To become an ambassador of Jesus Christ is to accept a new identity with a new set of responsibilities. It is what happens when “everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Do you see yourself as an ambassador of Jesus Christ in the world? If you were the only Christian a person ever met, what would they think about Jesus Christ? Does your life inspire anyone to follow Jesus?

• Prayer: Merciful God, by your grace make me a new creation. I am willing to be a resident representative of Jesus Christ in the world. Amen.

GPS Week of February 24, 2019

Series A Reluctant Servant: Lessons from the Life of Jonah

Sermon – Being Angry with God

Scripture Readings: Jonah 3:10-4:5, Jonah 4:6-11
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. (Jonah 3:10-4:2)

Monday February 25 — Exodus 20:1-6
The basic terms of God’s covenant with humanity is (from God’s perspective): I will be your God; you will be my people. (See Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:12, and Jeremiah 30:22.) From God’s perspective, the covenant relationship is based on (God’s) steadfast love. From humanity’s perspective, the covenant relationship is based on (humanity’s) love for God and obedience of God’s commandments. Think back over your life. How have you experienced God’s steadfast love? Have you responded to God’s steadfast love for you by loving God and keeping God’s commandments?

• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for making and keeping your promises to me. Give me strength to make and keep my promises to you. Amen.

Tuesday February 26 — Psalm 145:1-21
Psalm 145 celebrates the goodness and greatness of God. There is an element of thanksgiving for what God has done, but the emphasis is on God’s character—the person and nature of God. Verses 8 and 9 are the heart of the Psalm: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” Whatever else we know about God, we can rest in the assurance of God’s grace, mercy, compassion, and steadfast love for all of us and all of creation. Do any of God’s characteristics trouble you? If so, which ones? Which of God’s characteristics are most important to you?

• Prayer: Gracious God, grant me a sense of assurance that your grace, mercy, love, and compassion will sustain me always. Amen.

Wednesday February 27 — Jonah 3:10-4:5
The story of Jonah is about God’s willingness to offer second chances to Jonah and to the city of Nineveh. When Nineveh repented and God did not destroy it, Jonah became angry with God. He knew that God would show grace and mercy and steadfast love. He knew that God would keep God’s promises. But he didn’t like it. Have you ever been angry with God? Was it because of something God did? Or was it because of something God didn’t do?

• Prayer: Merciful God, today I surrender everything to you, including my anger. Calm my spirit and teach me to trust you fully. Amen.

Thursday February 28 — Jonah 4:5-11
The Book of Jonah ends with a conversation between Jonah and God about a bush and about the city of Nineveh. God’s message to Jonah was framed in the form of a question: if Jonah was so concerned about something as trivial as a bush, shouldn’t God be even more concerned about the people of Nineveh? What kind of relationship do you have with God’s love and God’s forgiveness? Do you ever feel the way Jonah felt? Does God’s love and forgiveness bother you?

• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for your love and forgiveness. Forgive me when I refuse to accept that you offer your love and grace to everyone. Amen.

Friday March 1 — Luke 13:22-30
Some of Jesus’ words are difficult to understand. As he made his way to Jerusalem, he was asked about salvation. His answer was troubling to many of his hearers then, and it’s troubling to many hearers today. He said that some people who expect to enter God’s Kingdom will not, and that people from the four corners of the earth will be welcomed. What do you think about Jesus’ message? How does it make you feel? Can you accept the breadth and depth of God’s grace?

• Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus and for the gift of salvation. Today I choose to follow him, trust him, and obey him. Amen.

Saturday March 2 — Acts 10:34-48
Peter, who was one of Jesus’ disciples and a leader of the early church, was led by God to have an encounter with a man named Cornelius (Acts 10:1-33). Cornelius was a Roman centurion, which means he was a Gentile—someone who was not an Israelite and who was assumed (by Peter) to be outside the reach of God’s grace. However, God, through the Holy Spirit, led Peter to understand that Gentiles like Cornelius could also be God’s people, and could be saved from the power of sin and death by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Are you willing to consider the possibility that God, through the Holy Spirit, is leading you to a new understanding about the scope and the power of God’s grace? What is God teaching you today?

• Prayer: Almighty God, open my eyes to see and my ears to hear your message of love and grace. Teach me what I need to know. Amen.

GPS Week of February 17, 2019

Series – A Reluctant Servant: Lessons from the Life of Jonah

Sermon – Getting A Second Chance

Scripture Readings: Jonah 3:1-10, Luke 11:29-32
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. (Jonah 3:1-5)

Monday February 18 — Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-4
The prophet Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh to proclaim a message of judgment. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh and tried to run away from God. But God did not let Jonah get away. Through a storm and a big fish, Jonah was brought back to the place where he could hear God’s call a second time (Jonah 1:4-2:10). This time, he went where God sent him. God gave Jonah a second chance. Have you ever been given a second (or third) chance to answer God’s call? If so, how did you respond?

• Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for giving me many chances to answer your call. Grant me the courage and faith I need to respond. Amen.

Tuesday February 19 — Jonah 3:1-10
In response to Jonah’s message, the people of Nineveh believed God, put on sackcloth and ashes, and began to fast. The king of Nineveh made a proclamation that the entire city — including the animals — would fast, and that everyone would repent and turn to God, hoping that God would accept their repentance and spare their lives. Fasting, sackcloth, and ashes are all signs of repentance. How do you signify your repentance? How do you demonstrate your desire to change your ways and (re)turn to God?

• Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy, I confess my sin and my need for your grace. Forgive me and restore me to fullness of life. Amen.

Wednesday February 20 — Daniel 9:3-10
Sackcloth and ashes are also physical demonstrations of humility. There are many Biblical accounts of individuals or groups of people humbling themselves before God, confessing sins, and seeking God’s forgiveness and mercy. In modern times, we use ashes at the beginning of the Lent (on Ash Wednesday) as a sign of our need to confess our sins and renew our commitment to God and God’s way. Ashes acknowledge our mortality and remind us that we need God’s amazing grace. What helps you remember your mortality and your need for grace? What will help you confess your sins today and renew your commitment to God? What are the next steps in your Christian life?

• Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the witness of Scripture and its reminder of my need for your grace. Show me your ways. Amen.

Thursday February 21 — Mark 1:14-15, Matthew 4:12-17
Jonah was not the only one of God’s servants to call for repentance. The New Testament Gospel writers tell us that Jesus proclaimed that God’s Kingdom had come near and that people should repent and believe the Good News. It is a universal message: when we encounter the presence of God, we become aware of our sin and our need to turn back to God. Graciously, God offers us many chances to turn away from sin and turn to God. How have you experienced God’s presence this week? How have you experienced God’s love and grace? How has God’s love and grace changed your life?

• Prayer: Loving God, thank you for sending Jesus to be my Lord and my Savior. Today I choose to repent, believe, and follow him. Amen.

Friday February 22 — Romans 10:14-17
Just as God called and sent Jonah to deliver a message to Nineveh, God still calls and sends people to deliver the Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Even those who, in the past, have rejected God’s call (like Jonah) are given second and third chances to respond with faith and obedience. How did you first hear the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ? Who were God’s messengers in your life? Who helped you learn to trust and obey? Is God calling you to share the Good News with someone today? If so, will you go where God sends you?

• Prayer: Heavenly Father, I have not always been willing to answer your call. Forgive my reluctance. Use me today. I am ready. Amen.

Saturday February 23 — Luke 11:29-32
When he was asked for a sign, Jesus reminded the crowds of Jonah and the people of Nineveh. The people of Nineveh — who repented at the proclamation of Jonah — would judge “this generation” if they did not repent at the proclamation of Jesus. After all, Jesus is so much greater than Jonah. The death and resurrection of Jesus is a sign of God’s power at work in the world. What does it mean to you? How have you experienced God’s power at work in your life and in the world? How have you responded to Jesus’ death and resurrection? Have you repented?

• Prayer: God of Grace, thank you for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Grant me a new life of grace and peace through him. Amen.

GPS Week of February 10, 2019

Sunday February 10 – Jonah 2:1-10, Luke 5:15-16
“I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me;” – Jonah 2:1-10
“But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” – Luke 5:16

Monday February 11 – Matthew 6:5-8
Jesus gives instructions in Matthew 6 about how we should pray. He uses comparisons of people who pray for attention and people who pray in private. Jesus encourages us to have a personal and private prayer life. Prayer is not about the attention we get from others but instead about being in relationship with God. During this week try and find time to pray privately and focus your prayer on building your relationship with God – asking for clarity about how God calls you or guidance in your day to day life.

  • Prayer: God, you are always with me and today I desire to know you more. Strength my commitment to spending time in prayer with you. Amen.

Tuesday February 12 – Hebrews 12:1-2
The line, “let us run with perseverance the race,” is well known. This passage refers to the practice of our faith. Jesus is the model, or “perfecter” of our faith. Just as we would practice to run a 5k, practice an instrument, practice for a play, our faith requires practice. Practicing our faith includes reading the Bible, worshipping, serving others, giving of what we have, and sharing our faith. When we intentionally practice our faith we are made more like Christ. Consider how you practice your faith today, what practices can you add or what practices can you strengthen?

Prayer: God, today I ask hope to practice my faith more and more working to draw closer to you and be more like Christ. Guide my faith practices each day and make me more like you. Amen.

Wednesday February 13 – Psalm 69:13-18
Jonah quotes all the Psalms in this week’s GPS. The writer of Psalm 69 asks for deliverance from their enemies and the deep waters that threaten to overtake them. The Psalmist offers a prayer to God and chooses to trust in God’s steadfast love. While we may not experience literal “deep waters,” we do find ourselves overwhelmed; being overtaken by the things of life. Sometimes it’s grief, or debt, family situations, problems at work… Jonah models the choice to pray at the darkest point in his life. Read the Psalm again and be comforted by God’s steadfast love.

Prayer: God of Steadfast Love, whether in times of joy or times of trial help me to trust in your unfailing and relentless love. Amen.

Thursday February 14 – Psalm 5
The writer of Psalm 5 relies on and trusts that God will hear their voice. Prayer isn’t just offered to an unhearing or uncaring God. Instead, Psalm 5 reminds us that when we prayer God listens. We can bring joys and struggles before God and God will remain with us, will listen and will not abandon us. The end of Psalm 5 asks for God’s protection and and trusts in God as a shield. When we go to God in prayer we build up our reliance and trust in God. Today, wonder about your prayer life. Do you bring all prayers to God or just some prayers? How can you choose to expand your prayer life; trusting that God will receive and respond to each prayer?

  • Prayer: Abiding God, I know you are with me always. Today, I lay before you every hope and every burden. Comfort me and inspire me. Remind me that you hear every word. Amen.

Friday February 15 – Psalm 42
Psalm 42 ends with the words “hope and help in God.” What help or guidance do you need from God today? Pause now and lift these up to God. The Psalmist describes all the ways their soul is “cast down.” However, the Psalmist chooses hope. Pause now and reflect on hope. Where and when do you experience hope? How can you include hope as part of your prayer life? Lift up your hopes to God now.

Prayer: God of both help and hope, you are my rock. In my darkest moments and my greatest joys you remain constant. Today I choose to trust in your help and live in your hope. Amen.

Saturday February 16- Psalm 139
The title of this Psalm is “The Inescapable God.” Jonah discovered that wherever he found himself God was truly inescapable. The end of Psalm 139 says, “Search me of God and know my heart.” How are you inviting God to know all of you? Read Psalm 139 throughout the day; just a few verses at a time. As you read the Psalm consider how God is “inescapable;” remembering that God remains with you always.

Prayer: Inescapable God, your love is relentless and your presence is constant. In every moment of the day remind me that you are with me. Amen.

GPS Week of February 3, 2019

Monday February 4 — Esther 4:12-17
The Bible is full of call stories. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find accounts of God calling women and men of all ages and life situations to serve in very special ways. Queen Esther is one example. She was called to use her royal status to save the Jewish people. You may or may not have been called to serve in such a dramatic situation, but you, too, have been called to serve God in a unique and special way. How have you experienced God’s call in your life? What has God called you to do? How have you answered God’s call?

  • Prayer: Gracious God, open my eyes and ears to see and hear your call in my life. Show me how you want me to serve you today. Amen.

Tuesday February 5 — Jonah 1:1-10
Like Esther, Jonah was called by God to serve in a unique and special way. He was sent to Nineveh, a great Assyrian city. (At one time, Nineveh was the largest city in the world.) However, Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. Instead, he set out for Tarshish, trying to escape God’s presence (and God’s call). Jonah was neither the first nor the last person who tried to avoid God’s call and escape from God’s presence. Have you ever resisted God’s call? Have you ever tried to avoid God’s presence in your life? If so, what happened? Are you resisting or avoiding God’s call in your life today?

Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I resist your call and try to avoid your presence. Give me courage to answer your call. Amen.

Wednesday February 6 — Luke 5:1-11
Many people who experience God’s call feel like Peter in today’s reading. We want to tell Jesus (or God) to “go away from me” (Luke 5:8). We don’t believe we are worthy of God’s attention. We don’t believe we are worthy of God’s presence. And we don’t believe we are worthy of God’s call. But God still calls people like Peter, and people like us. God does not call us because we are good enough. God calls us because God is good enough. Have you ever pushed God away? What were your reasons? What would it take for you to leave your fears and doubts behind to follow Jesus and serve God? What is holding you back today?

Prayer: God of Love, remind me today that you call me not because I am worthy or good, but because you are worthy and good. Amen.

Thursday February 7 — Acts 9:1-19
The ninth chapter of the Book of Acts describes two different kinds of call stories. Saul — an opponent of the Christian movement — was called to be a missionary to the Gentiles. Ananias was called to help Saul discern and answer his call from God. Sometimes God uses dramatic means to call us. Other times, God uses a quiet voice, but in every situation the appropriate response to God’s call is to say, “yes.” Has God ever used another person to help you answer God’s call? Has God ever called you to help someone else hear and answer their call? Have you ever hesitated to do what God has called you to do?

Prayer: Eternal God, shine your light in my life. Help me to see clearly where you want me to go and how you want me to serve. Amen.

Friday February 8 — Luke 8:26-39
Sometimes God calls people to leave their homes and share the Good News in faraway places. But other times, God calls people, like the Gerasene, who was a demoniac, to go home and share the Good News with their friends and family. We often resist God’s call because we are afraid that God is going to send us someplace we don’t want to go, but if we will listen, we may discover that God wants us to serve where we are. Does anyone close to you need to hear the Good News? Is it possible that God is calling you to share the Good News with them?

Prayer: Loving God, send me to people who need to hear the Good News. I am ready and willing to go where you send me. Amen.

Saturday February 9 — Luke 9:57-62
Not everybody is ready to follow Jesus and go where God sends them. Like Jonah, some people resist or run away. Others, like the would-be followers of Jesus in today’s reading, want to follow Jesus and serve God on their own terms. Their willingness to be a disciple of Jesus is conditional. They will follow Jesus and go where God sends them only when they are ready. Their response to God’s call is: “not now, maybe later.” What conditions, if any, do you place on your willingness to answer God’s call and follow Jesus? If you have not decided to follow Jesus and go where God sends you, what are you waiting for?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I hear Jesus calling me to follow him. With your help, I am ready — unconditionally — to say, “yes.” Amen.

eNote Week of February 1, 2019

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.

In Christ,

 

Enote Week of January 31, 2019

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.

 

In Christ,

 

GPS Week of January 27, 2019

Monday January 28 — Genesis 20:8-18

Human beings were made to be in a relationship with God. Although the first use of the word “pray” does not appear until Genesis 20:17 (according to many modern English translations of the Bible), we know that from the very beginning, God related to humanity in direct and personal ways. (See Genesis 3:8-13 for an example of a conversation between God and the first humans.) How do you relate to God? In what ways does God communicate with you? How do you communicate with God? What are your habits and patterns of prayer?

  • Prayer: Loving God, grant me wisdom to maintain my relationship with you. Hear my prayers and help me experience your presence.

 

Tuesday January 29 — 1 Samuel 3:1-21

God uses a variety of means to get our attention. (See Exodus 3 for a familiar example.) Sometimes, God wants to get our attention and we either do not hear the sound of God’s voice, or fail to recognize that God is calling us. Samuel needed the help of Eli to discern. Eli taught Samuel to be ready and, when he heard God’s voice, to say, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9-10). How does God get your attention? When you hear God calling, are you willing and able to listen? What might God be saying to you today? Sit quietly for a few moments and listen patiently for the sound of God’s voice.

  • Prayer: Eternal God, teach me the sound of your voice and open my ears to hear. Speak, for your servant is willing to listen.

 

Wednesday January 30 — Isaiah 56:1-8

Worship and prayer are completely interconnected: worship is prayer and prayer is an act of worship. Both worship and prayer are sources of God’s joy—channels by which we experience the joy of a deep and lasting relationship with God. When have you experienced joy in the past week? Was there any connection between your experience of joy and your prayer-life? Was there any connection between your experience of joy and worship?

  • Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me when I fail to experience your joy because I fail to spend time with you in prayer and worship.

 

Thursday January 31 — Luke 22:31-34, 39-46

According to the New Testament’s Gospels, Jesus taught his disciples to pray by his words (see Luke 11:1-4) and his example. For Jesus, prayer (conversation with God) was so ingrained in his daily life, that it comes as no surprise that, at a time of crisis—a time of great stress—Jesus prayed  for his disciples and spent time alone with God in prayer for himself. How do the daily events of your life shape your prayer-life? Are you able to spend time with God in prayer in times of crisis? How does your prayer-life help you navigate stressful situations in life?

  • Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the example and teaching of Jesus. Help me follow the example of his prayer-life.

 

Friday February 1 — Philippians 1:12-26

The apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was written while Paul was in prison. But it is probably the most joyful letter in the New Testament. In the opening chapter, Paul describes his situation in a way that celebrates with great joy the spread of the Gospel. Paul endures, because

he knows that God is doing great things through his ministry and his witness. The faithfulness of the Philippians is a source of great joy. Think of the most joyful times in your life? Have these always been “good times”? What might bring you joy during one of life’s “bad times”?

  • Prayer: Faithful God, remind me today that you are with me always. Teach me to trust you in good times and in bad times.

 

Saturday February 2 — Philippians 4:4-9

The fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians includes his final exhortations. He calls on the church to rejoice always, to not worry, and to take everything to God in prayer (with thanksgiving). He also calls on the church to think about things that are “worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). His words provide the “secret” to finding joy in a stressful world: pray, be thankful, remember God’s blessings in life, and “keep on doing the things that you have learned and received” (Philippians 4:9). Make your own list of things that are “worthy of praise.” In prayer, thank God for everything on your list. Use your list keep you focused on God’s blessings when you’re in a stressful situation.

  • Prayer: God of Grace, you have blessed me far more than I will ever deserve. Help me stay focused your gifts of love and grace.