Rector Search Committee update – March 2017

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By MaryLee Pakieser and Sandy Seppala Gyr

The Rector Search Committee continues on its journey to discern a new rector for Grace.

As we reported, the Community Ministry Portfolio, which describes our parish and ministries for potential candidates, was posted on the clergy transition web site in December. Our posting will remain open until March 31. We elected to place an advertisement with Episcopal Digital Network, which reaches more than 70,000 clergy and other active and involved Christians.  We believe this is a way to reach a broad audience and increase the number of candidates who might be interested in Grace.  To view our ad, click here https://goo.gl/QC9Iqb

We are close to receiving a list of candidates.

Canon Bill Spaid, our Diocesan Transition Officer, receives all applications and conducts the initial vetting to determine which candidates qualify for our consideration. He has received applications!   Hopefully in the very near future we will be receiving the list of candidates and start the interviewing process.  The committee will screen the initial group of candidates to determine those we will invite for a first interview.  As we start this phase of the work we are bound by confidentiality to not discuss our work outside of the committee – We are mindful that those applying for this job are in a vulnerable state as they are discerning a change from their present position.

As we continue our work, we ask you to hold our committee, Canon Bill Spaid, Bishop Whayne Hougland and all the candidates in your prayers.  We invite God’s Holy Spirit to guide us in our discernment, and we appreciate your patience as we engage in this holy work on behalf of the parish.

Engaging the Word: 03/26/17 (The Fourth Sunday in Lent)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, David gets anointed by Samuel, we regard God as our shepherd, Paul urges us to live as children of the light, and Jesus heals a man who was born blind.

The anointing of David by Léon Bénouville, 1842. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The anointing of David by Léon Bénouville, 1842. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Samuel 16:1-13: This week’s reading tells how David came to be anointed king of Israel. You may recall the events leading up to this: Samuel was the last of the Judges, and a prophet as well. The Israelites demanded a king, and, even though there were many disadvantages, God allowed them to have their own way. God directed Samuel to anoint Saul as the king. Saul had some victories, but he disobeyed God, and God regretted choosing him.

God then orders Samuel to Jesse’s house in Bethlehem because he has chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be the new king, a king after God’s own heart. Samuel is worried because he needs to travel through Saul’s territory, and if Saul finds out what is going on, “he will kill me.” God provides Samuel with a plausible story that he is traveling to Bethlehem to offer a sacrifice to the Lord.

When Samuel reaches Bethlehem, he invites Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. Samuel thinks that Eliab must be God’s choice, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature…for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” One by one, the sons of Jesse pass before Samuel, but none of them is God’s chosen. Samuel asks if there are other sons, and Jesse says that the youngest is taking care of the sheep.

When David was brought in, God tells Samuel that he is the one. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.”

Landscape with Shepherd and Sheep by B. Jaroš, c. 1924. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Landscape with Shepherd and Sheep by B. Jaroš, c. 1924. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Psalm 23: Attributed to David, this beloved psalm uses the image of God as the Good Shepherd, who provides for his people and guides them through life and death.

The Twenty-third Psalm has helped many people me through rough times. One way to allow it to seep into your soul is to do this: Read the Twenty-third Psalm, slowly, prayerfully, five times a day for seven days—first thing in the morning, immediately after breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and just before bed. It will help to bring you back into right relationship with God and regain your balance. This idea is from a book by Methodist minister Charles L. Allen, called  God’s Psychiatry. One thing that especially sticks with me is the phrase, “He makes me lie down.” Whenever I’m ill or injured, I think maybe God is “making me lie down” for a reason, and I pay attention. As Allen says in his book, “Sometimes God puts us on our backs in order to give us a chance to look up.”

Ephesians 5:8-14: Scholars think Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians while he was in prison in Rome, or that a later author wrote it in Paul’s name. It’s likely that the letter was meant to be circulated among a group of churches. In this week’s reading, Paul urges the Ephesians (and us) to walk in the light of Christ.

Paul says, “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” We should take no part in works of darkness, but expose shameful things to the light where they can be transformed.

Christ healing the blind man by G. Assereto, c. 1640. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Christ healing the blind man by G. Assereto, c. 1640. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 9:1-41: In this week’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man who was born blind. The blind man is healed and grows in faith. The Pharisees just grow in hostility.

As they were walking along, Jesus and his disciples came to man who was blind from birth, and the disciples wanted to know whether the blindness was the result of the man’s sin or his parents’ sin. The idea that suffering was a punishment for sin was a common assumption at that time. Jesus said, “Neither…he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Jesus spat on the ground, made mud from his spit, and put it on the man’s eyes. He then told the man, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” When he did so and came back, he was able to see. Well, that got the neighbors buzzing. They thought maybe he was some other man, but he kept saying, “I am the man.”

They brought the formerly blind man to the Pharisees, and they questioned him. He told them what happened. Instead of rejoicing at the miracle, the Pharisees debated whether Jesus could have come from God since this healing occurred on the Sabbath. The Pharisees ask the man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Then they interviewed his parents and questioned the man again. They wanted the man to give glory only to God, because they reviled Jesus and called him a sinner. The man said, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” The healed man goes on to teach the Pharisees. He said, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” The Pharisees were insulted at the man’s speech and drove him out.

Jesus heard about the incident and found the healed man. He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Unlike the Pharisees, who remained in spiritual darkness, this man gained his sight, first physically, and then spiritually.

Vestry minutes – 2/21/2017

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Vestry minutes.

Vestry Members: Clare Andreasson, Karl Bastian, James Deaton, Maria DiStefano-Post, Eddie Grim, Kathryn Holl, Sue Kelly, Michael Mittelstaedt, Bill Smith, Jeff Tibbits, Marian Vermeulen, Jeff Wescott (Absentees in Italics)

Guests Present: None
Staff Present: Ann Hackett
Clergy Present: The Rev. Carlton Kelley

Prayer and Check-in:
We reflected on the question: what brings you delight?

Scripture & Study:
Today is the feast day of the Transfiguration. Carlton asked: what will Lent be for you outside of what feels like a drudge? Consider Lent a time of housekeeping to make ourselves ready to receive the gift of Easter.

Approve/Amend the Agenda:
The February 21, 2017 agenda was approved by acclamation.
The minutes from the January 10, 2017 meeting were approved by acclamation.
The Annual Meeting Minutes from January 22 were approved by acclamation.
The Special Meeting Minutes of January 24 were approved by acclamation.
The Special Vestry Meeting Minutes of February 4 were approved by acclamation.

Reports:

Rector Report:
The Jubilee House continues to work through some issues related to the new house manager position. On 2/23/17 Clare Andreasson, Rev. Carlton Kelly, Eddie Grim, and Bill Smith will meet with Glenda Andrews to discuss this.

Rev. Carlton had a conversation with Bishop Hougland making him aware of the letter that the vestry decided to send to Bishop Curry.

Treasurer’s Report:
Mark Stackable presented the finance report. Two meetings were held in February 2017 concerning the budget.

Ending in January it looked like Grace had a net operating budget, a surplus, of about $7770.93. But there is $8200 that was put toward the principal of the mortgage that was not accounted for in the January Cash Inflow Outflow Report. This will be corrected.

There is a full audit (done every 5 years) coming up for Grace for the finances. The Finance Committee is taking bids from accounting organizations to help with the audit. Dennis, Niergarth Gartland (DGN) gave an estimate of $10,600 and the Finance Committee is looking into a number of other accounting groups to bid.

The vestry discussed an increase of giving that has occurred since the January call to the congregation to consider increasing pledges in order to help meet our budget needs. In one of the responses to this call, Grace Church received a generous donation of $10,000. The Finance Committee suggests that the vestry bank this recent $10,000 gift. Vestry discussed putting it in savings and using it when needed to be applied to the budget.

Finance Committee feels having a quarterly meeting on the budget is a very good idea to keep the congregation informed more frequently to help prevent surprises.

Jeff Tibbitts pointed out that there might be potential savings for Grace Church to switch from our current Charter phone system to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). Mark suggested that the conversation is in motion for investigating the potential.

Parish Administrator Report:
The signers of various bank accounts are changing. The vestry reviewed the list of those who will have signature privileges. The Foundation puts forth the name of Bill Pierce as Treasurer.

Motion by Marian Vermeulen, seconded by Eddie Grim, to approve the 2017 account signers as listed. Motion passed.

The Board of Grace Episcopal Church Foundation met on January 31, 2017. They welcomed the following new members to the Board and present them for vestry approval: Jessica Rickard, Tom McClay, Kersti Bruining, and Dan Bush.

Motion: by Eddie Grim, seconded by Bill Smith: to elect the 2017 roster of the Foundation Board Members as presented. Motion passed.

Motion by Michael Mittelstaedt, seconded by Bill Smith, to add Jeff Wescott to the roster of the Foundation Board. Motion passed.

From the Foundation Bylaws: Section 3 Distribution. Semi-Annually the corporation shall distribute to the Church a sum equal to 2.5% (ie annually) of the Total Value of the investments as of the last day of the preceding 12 fiscal quarters The Board determined the first of two distributions this year to be $5754.20

Motion by Sue Kelly, seconded by Jeff Tibbitts, to accept the Foundation distribution of $5754.20. Motion passed.

Motion by Eddie Grim, seconded by Bill Smith: to designate the Foundation distribution for the purpose of the rector search. Motion passed.

Motion by Sue Kelly, seconded by Eddie Grim: to apply a very generous gift of $10,000 to bring down the deficit in the budget for 2017. Motion passed.

Discussion ensued about the cost of the roof repair as one of the upcoming needs of the church, with discussions of a potential future capital campaign. Discussion followed of applying for a Bishop Whittemore Grant that could be used for roof repairs if needed.

Motion by Eddie Grim, seconded by Jeff Tibbitts, to place the $10,000 gift accepted above into the savings account and designate it as part of Leap of Faith Fund. Motion passed.

The office received a request for the use of meeting space by Catholic Social Services for a Sex Offender Treatment Group.

Motion by Eddie Grim, seconded by Karl Bastian, to allow the application for a Sex Offender Treatment group to meet at Jubilee House on Grace premises.

Discussion ensued. Significant concerns were raised. Vestry felt that numerous questions would need to be answered before we could accept this request. Carlton offered to follow up and contact the group for more information.

Motion withdrawn by Eddie Grim.

Motion by Marian Vermeulen, seconded by Jeff Tibbitts, to approve the budget as presented including and using the additional congregational donations and funds saved from 2016 and unused Leap of Faith Donations to balance the budget. Motion passed.

Karl Bastian shared some ideas for increasing revenues and donations to help offset our recurring budget deficit. Discussion ensued.

Senior Warden Report:

  • Clare Andreasson will find a date to set for the first Quarterly Meeting for the congregation.
  • Vestry needed to fill leadership/liaison positions that are remaining, filling and confirming the following positions below.
    • Karl Bastian – Stewardship / with Marian Vermeulen
    • Jeff Wescott – Foundation
    • Jeff Tibbitts – Finance Committee
    • Maria D, Sue K – Nominating Committee
    • James Deaton – 150th Anniversary Committee
    • TBD – Delegate to Convention / Alternate
    • Michael Mittelstaedt – Clerk
  • Clare expressed gratitude for the work of the vestry, bringing the gifts that Grace needs in the moment.
  • Safe Harbor Dinner: all openings for evening meals have already been filled. Vestry will serve dinner at the next Safe Harbor this year.
  • The 2/18/17 Dance in the Parish Hall was very successful and other activities are being planned.
  • The vestry fully supports Donna Olendorf’s plans for a Youth Group Urban Adventure in Chicago and a Godly Play training session to be held at Grace Church.
  • On 2/26/17 Clare Andreasson will share an announcement with the congregation following the 10am service. She will explain why the vestry decided to send a letter to Bishop Curry.

Junior Warden Report:
No report this week – James Deaton is out of town.

Old Business:
None

New Business:
None

Forum for Congregational Concerns:
None

Core Ministry Reports:

Rector Search Committee:
Placed an advertisement for the position on a generally circulated job posting database. Canon Spaid has seen a number of candidates and the Committee is preparing for initial interviews.

Follow-up & Follow-through:

  • Thank you Notes
    • Donna Hinton caretaker, resigned to apply herself fully to her own cleaning business
      • Sue Kelly will write a thank you Donna Hinton

Meeting closed in prayer at 8:30 pm
Respectfully submitted, Michael Mittelstaedt, Vestry Clerk

God planted a seed in my heart that was indestructible: a story of healing

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes.

By Barbara Klugh

healing handsAlthough our Lenten series is about sexual abuse in the church, my childhood experience was much more common. One in five girls and one in ten-to-twenty boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. I was sexually abused by my maternal grandfather for seven years, beginning when I was three until he died when I was ten. I’m telling my story in the hope that someone else will find healing, too.

Why did I never tell my parents? I learned in therapy that it is common for children to protect their parents from these terrible secrets. In my child’s mind, I couldn’t tell my mother because my grandpa was her father, and she would feel so bad. I couldn’t tell my father because I was convinced that, if he found out, he would kill my grandfather and go to jail.

By the time I went to therapy I was married with children of my own. Therapy helped me to come to terms with my experiences, and I recommend it to anyone who is suffering from past (or present) abuse, whether sexual, physical, or emotional.

I became a Christian at age 52 and was baptized and confirmed here at Grace Church. I began to read the Bible passages listed in “Forward Day by Day.” One day I read Mark 14-16: Jesus said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” Immediately I felt a loving warmth, which I now call the Holy Spirit, infuse my being, and knew that, at my very core, I was not defiled—I was clean and, no matter what, God had planted a seed in my heart that was indestructible.

Jesus took on the world’s violence and sin by his death on the cross. And, as his followers, often we, too, will suffer unfairly from the world’s violence and sin. Yet I learned that my memories of childhood abuse were easier to accept when I recognized that God was—and still is—protecting my immortal soul through every adversity. My Lenten prayer is that all people will realize that God’s presence and protection are with them always.

Keeping up with your pledge

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Ministry of the week.

Generations of GenerosityIn a perfect world the projected income for the budget would come along in neat packages of 1/12th in January, 2/12ths in February, etc. But, like in our own lives, income and expenses ebb and flow throughout the year. To the extent that is possible, there are ways to keep your financial giving to Grace current. Whether you are hunkered in because of weather, traveling to sunny parts of the country or home because of illness, giving to Grace can continue even if you don’t attend worship services.

Several options exist whether you have electronic access or not:

  • Use the DONATE button  which is located on every page of the Grace website
  • Make arrangements through your bank for automatic payments to be mailed to Grace in the form of a check
  • Make contributions yourself via snail mail
  • Use a book of envelopes to keep yourself on track; you can pick one up in the Commons

Quarterly statements (January through March) will be mailed or emailed  in April to those households that made a pledge in 2017. Be sure to review them for accuracy. If you have questions or would like to make a pledge now, pledge information is available in the Commons.

Join Generations of Generosity and make contributions to this place called Grace.

 

 

Engaging the Word: 03/19/17 (The Third Sunday in Lent)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

By Barbara Klugh

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.

In this week’s readings, God instructs Moses to strike a particular rock to get water for the thirsty Israelites, Paul tells us about the growth that comes from being in right relationship with God, and Jesus shares his identity with the Samaritan woman at the well.

Moses Striking Water from the Rock by Nicolas Poussin, 1649. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Moses Striking Water from the Rock by Nicolas Poussin, 1649. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Exodus 17:1-7: In this week’s reading, Moses and the Israelites are traveling “by stages” on their journey to the Promised Land. God has delivered them out of Egypt, divided the Red Sea, made bitter water sweet at Mara, sent them manna and quail to eat. Now you would think they would not only be grateful, but also trust that God will continue to provide for them. Instead, they are camped at Rephidim, and complaining to Moses of their thirst. “So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” God commanded Moses to strike “the rock at Horeb” and water will come out, which it did. Moses “called the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarreling; strife], because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’”

It’s easy for me to think, “What a bunch of ingrates,” but I recognize that I, like the Israelites, forget about God’s daily blessings and provision all too easily.

Psalm 95: Vs. 1-7 of this royal, or enthronement, psalm is used as a canticle called the Venite (Lat., come) for Morning Prayer in our Prayer Book. The first seven verses call us to sing to the Lord, our Creator, with joyful noise, thanksgiving, and praise.

Paul preaching on the Ruins by Panini, 1744. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Paul preaching on the Ruins by Panini, 1744. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Romans 5:1-11: In our reading this week, Paul tells about the joy that comes from being “justified by faith,” being made right with God, through Jesus Christ. The big deal to me is that when Paul says we are justified by faith, he’s not referring to our faith, but to Jesus’ faith. Therefore, “we have peace with God” and access to God’s grace.

Paul adds, “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” And even more, “Christ died for the ungodly…God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us.”

Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Angelica Kauffman, 1796. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Angelica Kauffman, 1796. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 4:5-42: This week’s reading is about Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well, an encounter that is reported only in John’s Gospel. Jesus and his disciples were traveling from Judea to Galilee, but had to go through Samaria, and came to the city of Sychar, where he stopped to rest by Jacob’s well at noon—Jacob had acquired land there. The disciples went into the city to buy food.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus asks her for a drink. The woman expressed surprise that Jesus would even talk to her, being that he was Jewish, and the Jews and Samaritans had been at odds for centuries; moreover, she was a woman. Jesus replied obliquely, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman doesn’t get what Jesus is saying but she isn’t intimidated by him either. She responds almost dismissively, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it? Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus knows about the woman’s personal life (five husbands in the past and no husband now), and she understands Jesus is a prophet. She wants to know which is the proper place to worship—Mount Gerizim, or Jerusalem. Jesus says true knowledge comes through the Jews. “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

“Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” So not only was the Samaritan woman transformed, but her testimony led others to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the World.

Register now for the Bishop’s April workshops

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Ministry of the week.

The Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr., was elected at a Special Electing Convention on May 18 to be the 9th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan.

The Rt Rev. Whayne Hougland, Bishop of the Western Diocese of Michigan, will host a workshop at Grace Church on Saturday, April 1.

This annual gathering gives leaders in the Episcopal churches in the Traverse Deanery area a chance to connect, share thoughts and pray together. The Bishop’s presentation will be called “Adaptive Leadership in Reformation Times.”

There will be four breakout sessions that will include the following:

  1. Nuts & Bolts of Church Finances
  2. Discerning Our Own Racism
  3. Thinking Theologically in Today’s Culture
  4. Communications Tech Desk (for help with church websites and communications – please bring your laptops/tablets with you).

The workshops begin at 9:30 am with refreshments; the Bishop’s presentation starts at 10 o’clock. The event is free and lunch is provided. Childcare is offered. Please contact the office by March 28 if childcare is needed. You may register here.

The Diocese requests that all parish leaders, including vestry members (and especially NEW vestry members) and delegates and alternates to the Diocesan convention attend for the benefit of their role in the congregation. Staff members and leaders of ministries are strongly encouraged while other interested congregants are welcomed as well.

Contact Ann Hackett 231-947-2330 if you need help registering.

 

Stephen Ministry offers care to people going through tough times

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Ministry of the week.

By Barbara Dancer
Stephen Minister

Barb Dancer headshotWhen was the last time someone really listened to you?  We’re talking about that undistracted, full attention kind of listening.  That is one of the ways that Stephen Ministers care for others.

What is Stephen Ministry?  Stephen Ministry is a one-to-one lay caring ministry within our congregation.  In collaboration with Central United Methodist Church, we have Stephen Ministers who bring distinctively Christian care to those in need.  Irene Cotter, Linda Schubert, Bill Montgomery, and Barb Dancer are all Stephen Ministers who work with care receivers in our community.  For certification we completed 50 hours of training with role playing to help prepare us to provide one-to-one care to people experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, relocation, or separation due to military deployment.  Our goal, as Stephen Ministers, is to bring confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting.

Have you ever had a crisis in your life that you needed to work through with someone who was outside the situation?  Maybe the word “crisis” is too strong.  How about a nagging issue that you need some perspective on?  Maybe you had something uncomfortable to discuss where confidentiality was key?  Or maybe it was something simple, but you just couldn’t let go.  Stephen Ministers are congregation members trained by Stephen Leaders to offer high-quality, one-to-one Christian care to people going through tough times.  A Stephen Minister typically has one care receiver at a time and meets with that person once a week (for about an hour) to listen, care, pray, encourage, and offer emotional and spiritual support. Twice a month, Stephen Ministers gather with their Stephen Leaders for supervision and continuing education.

It’s been over a year since we completed our initial training, and I’ve personally learned so much and grown in my relationship with Christ and his church.  Being a Stephen Minister has stretched and challenged my faith and world view.  Truly listening to another is hard, but so rewarding.  We reap the benefits in our relationship with our care receivers, and it flows over into other areas of our lives.  It truly is in giving that we receive – and the blessing of being a Stephen Minister is something  for which I am so thankful.

If you or someone you know would benefit from the support of a Stephen Minister, please feel free to contact one of us:  Irene Cotter (231-932-1522), Barb Dancer (231-223-7379), Linda Schubert (231-463-7397), or Bill Montgomery (231-421- 3260)

You can also contact Reverend Kelly or any of the members of the Grace pastoral care team.  We are here to help you.  Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, NRSV).

What is a Stephen Minister: http://www.stephenministries.org/stephenministry/default.cfm/1596

Care Receivers tell their stories: http://www.stephenministries.org/stephenministry/default.cfm/1597

Engaging the Word: 03/12/17 (The Second Sunday in Lent)

Posted by & filed under Engaging the Word.

 By Barbara Klugh

Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John  3:1-17. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, God calls Abram to leave everything he knows and go to a new land—and he obeys, Paul explains that Abram was righteous because he obeyed God’s call by faith, and Jesus  tells Nicodemus the way to eternal life is through faith in the Son.

Abram Called to be a Blessing. Bible card by Providence Lithograph Co., 1906. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Abram Called to be a Blessing. Bible card by Providence Lithograph Co., 1906. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genesis 12:1-4a: This week’s reading is brief, but signals a momentous shift in the biblical narrative. So far, the stories in Genesis are the Creation, the Fall, Cain and Abel, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Deceit, sin, shame, rebellion, murder, violence, and hubris have entered God’s good creation. Now God takes the first step toward mending this broken world. God’s call to Abram (later renamed Abraham), and Abram’s faith in God’s promises led to the birth of the nation of Israel, and began the restoration of creation and the blessing all the families of the earth. Here is the entire reading.

The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

We have the hope that God’s dream of the complete restoration of all creation will be realized because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham. I’m reminded of Paul’s comment in Romans 8:22: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” God is still active, saving the world through his Son, and God will have the last word. And we, like Abram, can respond with faith to God’s call in our time.

Psalm 121: Our psalm this week is one of the Songs of Ascents (Pss. 120-134), which were the songs the pilgrims sang as they went up to Jerusalem. The psalmist expresses confidence in God’s protection in all circumstances. Psalm 121 is one of the psalms for Noonday in the Prayer Book. Click here for an exquisitely simple video of the Westminster Abbey Choir chanting Psalm 121.

Apostle Paul mosaic in Monreale Cathedral, Sicily, c. 1270. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Apostle Paul mosaic in Monreale Cathedral, Sicily, c. 1270. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17: In this week’s reading, Paul argues that Abraham was in right relationship with God by faith, not by the law. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Abraham’s faith came before the giving of the law and before he was circumcised. “For this reason, it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants…” All people who share in the faith of Abraham had are spiritually related to him, “for he is the father of all of us.” Indeed, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, descend from Abraham.

Jesus and Nicodemus by William Brassey Hole (1846-1917). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jesus and Nicodemus by William Brassey Hole (1846-1917). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 3:1-17: Recorded only in the Gospel according to John, this week’s reading is the story of Jesus and Nicodemus. Although he is a Pharisee and leader of the Jews, Nicodemus is a seeker. Unlike other questioners, he does not come to Jesus to trap him—he realizes that Jesus is “a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus is thoroughly confused because he doesn’t realize that Jesus is talking about a spiritual rebirth, not a physical one. And this birth comes by God’s Spirit. Jesus likens the Spirit to the wind—it will blow where it blows and we can’t control the Spirit any more than we can control the wind. Nicodemus said to Jesus, “How can these things be?” He just can’t wrap his head around these new ideas.

Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Here Jesus is referring to the lifting up of the bronze serpent in the wilderness (Num 21:4-9). When people looked up, they were healed. Jesus will be lifted up on the cross, and those who believe that he is God’s son will be saved.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Although Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about at the time–he was ‘in the dark”–later he defended Jesus when the authorities unjustly accused him (7:50-51), and then he supplied the spices for Jesus’ burial (19:39). Through the encounter with Jesus, the light of the Spirit was planted in his soul, and, by God’s grace,  Nicodemus began the journey to of spiritual transformation.

Vestry seeks the wind of the Holy Spirit

Posted by & filed under Grace Notes, Voice of the Vestry.

By Clare Andreasson
Senior Warden

Sr. Warden Clare Andreasson

Sr. Warden Clare Andreasson

Sometimes it is an image that grounds me and brings me grace.

In late January, the week before the vestry retreat, Rosemary Hagan and I met to prepare and to pray.  During our prayer, as Rosemary spoke of the wind of the Holy Spirit, an unbidden image arose in my heart.  I saw a small sailboat tacking back and forth in a strong wind through heavy seas.  It was hard going, and yet the boat seemed to be dancing on the waves.

I shared this at the meeting after church last Sunday, and explained that this image feels to me like an apt metaphor for the work the vestry has been called to do.  A sailboat is rarely able to move in a straight line from point A to point B.  The wind changes direction, and the sailors need to adjust their course.  They need to be attentive to the wind and to work well together in order to stay afloat.  It may be hard, but there is joy in the journey.

We, as a vestry, are seeking prayerfully to work together so that the “wind of the Spirit” fills our sails.  I feel deeply honored to be a part of this group of courageous, wise, and dedicated women and men.

The image of the sailboat also reminded me of a Celtic Christian prayer I learned in the early years of our marriage when my husband and I were living in England.  The Celtic Christians lived in perilous times, yet their prayers were saturated with a sense of the presence of God in every aspect of their existence.  They lived courageously.  Some took to the sea in small boats, abandoning themselves to the wind and the will of God.  This is their prayer – and mine:

God of the elements, glory to thee
For the lantern-guide of the ocean wide;
On my rudder’s helm may thine own hand be
And thy love abaft on the heaving sea.