Pastor’s Ponderings

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8 NIV)

Dear Friends in Christ,

The Bible tells us that “the earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1).” Recognizing this truth is the first step in leading to a life of faithful stewardship. Stewardship is the theological understanding that everything we have is a gift from God, therefore, we are to be thoughtful in how we use our gifts for the care of creation and one another.

Stewardship is really a yearlong practice, essentially a way of life, still, many churches place a special emphasis on stewardship in the fall of the year. Each year, Stewardship Sunday is a day set aside for our members to make a financial pledge and a pledge of time and talent to the ministry of St. Mark’s church. This year, that day will be Sunday, October 17th.

St. Mark’s Church is blessed to have many faithful, servant-minded members, and over these past several years we have received a couple substantial financial gifts, which together with your consistent faithful giving, has given us the opportunity to envision a bright future.

This year St. Mark’s Stewardship committee is looking to place a particular emphasis on the many talents of our members and the opportunities St. Mark’s provides for service in ministry. Apart from your financial gifts, each of you have gifts to share; gifts which God has first given you for the purpose  of serving God, through service to the church, the world, and those in need.

I appreciate the verse above, from Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, because Paul recognizes the diverse talents and abilities that members of the church have to share. Not everyone has the gift of prophesy, the ability to teach or lead, or even the means to give generously, however, most of us have the capacity to give encouragement and show mercy, and these are by no means less significant. 

When you fill out your time and talent sheet this year for Stewardship Sunday, even if you cannot commit to being an usher, a reader, or serving on church council, consider noting how you plan to share your gifts in other ways. You might serve others by running errands for a homebound neighbor or by bringing them a hot meal.

You may not have the means to increase your financial pledge this year, but you could plan to increase your patience with people you encounter each day, or plan to be more forgiving, or you might commit to devoting a few minutes each week to praying for people on St. Mark’s prayer list.

You may not believe you have the talent or wealth to make a difference in the world, but each of us has something that God has given us to share, and when we commit our gifts to God’s purpose, they will do great things.

Servants together,

Pastor Bob

Pastor’s Ponderings for September

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

Dear Friends in Christ,

As you know, St. Mark’s COVID Task Force recently made the decision to require masking once again during our Sunday morning worship services. On the one hand, this was a difficult decision to make as we are all tired of masking and physically distancing, and none of us want to go back to more restrictions. Still, when we looked at this objectively and simply looked at the data and the advice of local health officials, there was no other clear alternative.

The list of reasons that warranted this decision are many and I won’t attempt to share them in this forum. However, it was not just data and professional medical advice that drove our conversations, and swayed our decision, but also several personal reports of people (both vaccinated and unvaccinated) who have been bedridden or hospitalized with the Delta Variant. Ultimately, our main concern is keeping our members safe and not contributing to the growing problem in our community.

During any difficult time, one of the most challenging things for a Christian to comprehend is how God is at work within the chaos. This can be true for personal disappointments, community tragedies, and yes, even during this time of a worldwide pandemic.

The Bible verse above comes from what biblical scholars call Second Isaiah. Beginning in chapter 40 of Isaiah, a new prophet (Second Isaiah) brings words of comfort to a nation living in exile in Babylon. The prophet assures the people that God will set the captives free and return them to their land. In 538 B.C.E., the Persian ruler Cyrus captured Babylon and allowed the exiles to return home to rebuild their lives and their temple in Jerusalem.

In chapter 45 of Isaiah, God says, “I have aroused Cyrus in righteousness, and I will make all his paths straight; he shall build my city and set my exiles free… (Isaiah 45:13)

God uses actual people to serve God’s intentions. In this case, God used the foreign ruler Cyrus, the king of Persia, to set God’s chosen people free and to bring them home once more.

It is still the same today. God uses men and women to serve God’s purposes. I believe this is true with the fight against the COVID virus. God has used scientists to develop a credible vaccine that has saved countless lives. God has used doctors and nurses to administer the vaccine and to care for patients who have become hospitalized. God uses friends and neighbors to bring people to vaccination clinics, to care for those who are homebound, and to encourage those who are discouraged.

Let’s us continue to do our part to be a positive influence in the community during this difficult time. And when you see someone in need who is discouraged, may you be moved to say, “Do not fear; I will help you.” After all you never know when you may be serving God’s good purpose.

Servants together,

Pastor Bob