Opening by Pastor Frank Espegren
We say it a lot, but what does it really mean to be “open to God”? Openings - our Lenten/Easter theme this year addresses this very question. Our Sunday exploration during Lent will not sugarcoat it. We will explore and ask questions about the openings, sometimes unwanted, that come to us through suffering, hoping against hope, foolishness - the types of human experience we would otherwise run from as fast as humanly possible. And that’s the point – these Lenten Openings are not readily accessible when left solely within the sphere of human experience. The gift of these Openings only become real for us through divine intervention – through God showing us where these openings can actually lead. This Lent, I urge you to commit to an open posture – keep an open mind as we study the scriptures together, considering the Faces of Christ in our Lenten study, how God surprisingly teaches us not only to be like Christ for another, but to also see the face of Christ in the “other” as well. Once we go through an opening created by the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will be shocked to see where it leads, and blessed beyond measure as we continue to faithfully follow. These Openings lead to Holy Week and Easter. We find that what is humanly impossible is not impossible for our God. Even the most dreaded dead-end we can imagine, death, but not just that, the wretched death on a cross, becomes an Opening for God’s good purpose for you and me and the whole world. On April 1st, Easter Sunday, we will celebrate the greatest Opening of all time – an Open tomb, and the announcement for us all, the Crucified One is “not here,” rather, “He has been raised,” and “Going ahead of you.” So, know this as we explore the Openings of Lent – the Easter promise is that there is no opening or experience or possibility that Jesus has not already been through. He is both ahead and has already been there – Christ knows the openings into which we peer with trepidation. The Openings are our Journey! Thanks be to God that Jesus has gone through them all and beckons us to follow!
Blessings this Lent,Pastor Frank Espegren
Council Update by Gwynnae Byrd
I want to welcome our 4 new council members: Kim Hendricks, Devin Hill, Joel Kimmelshue, and Charlene Singley! I am grateful for their willingness to serve! I also want to thank those council members who were termed out and whom I will miss seeing every month – Peter Brostrum, Charlaine Hamilton, Karen Harris, and Vicki Ibarra. They are all strong leaders whom I know will continue to stay engaged in St. John’s.
In my President’s Report for the Annual Meeting, I noted the challenges and celebrations of 2017. It appears that 2018 will be no different. We’ve started off the year with a few key staff members changing course. We will miss the friendly face and administrative talents of Kevin Lamb, who is devoting more time to his educational studies. And we will miss the professional competence of Diane White, whose consulting business has grown to full time. We are very fortunate to have someone to fill Diane’s position immediately – Linda Baldwin. Linda is currently working fulltime as our Executive Coordinator and is willing and able to step into the interim director role for a six-month period. Linda has massive experience working as an administrator in academia, and knows St. John’s. The strengthening of St. John’s administrative core remains a high priority for us and we will focus on filling our gaps with highly qualified staff.
In addition, our partnership with City Church, which is occupying the First English property, remains strong. I was privileged to attend their first major fundraiser last month, which was fun and awe-inspiring. There was an impressive presence of local elected officials and community leaders who fully support the work they are doing in Oak Park. If you didn’t have the chance to see the video they produced about all the improvements they’ve made to the property, you can view it here: https://vimeo.com/251754572.
I encourage you to attend our next Council Chat on April 8, to hear the latest in what’s happening at St. John’s. Come with your questions and comments!
St. John’s Spring Read!
by Rebekah Turnbaugh
The idea of having a book that the whole congregation dives into came from our outgoing Executive Director of Administration, Diane White, from her time on college campuses. They would have a book for a semester, and as the academic term went on, the college campus would be abuzz with people discussing the same book.
Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles was my favorite Christmas present and I drank it in. As I returned from the holiday break, the St. John’s office and any meeting (or really, any conversation) in which I was involved was abuzz with me prattling on about some brilliant idea in this book. Perhaps Diane, in her wisdom, knew that I needed more people to talk to instead of ruining it for the whole St. John’s staff.
Anyhow, let’s do a “Spring Read” at St. John’s, and let’s start with this wonderful second book by Father Boyle! Many of you may have already read his first book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, and may already be familiar with his work at Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention organization in the world. This second book invites us to step into the margins with a sense of awe, dispense with judgment, and challenge ourselves to understand what kinship is and what it calls us to. This, for me, is the foundation of my faith practice.
Won’t you read this book with me? Then on Sunday, May 20, we’ll have an opportunity to get together and discuss the book during the education hour. You can find a copy of the book in the St. John’s library in Oehler South, or it can be easily purchased online and likely in local bookstores (so you can mark it all up like I did). I look forward to discussing this with you in May!
Family Promise: Looking for New Leadership
By Verne Gore
PROMISE - A statement telling someone that you will definitely do something or that something will definitely happen in the future; an indication of future success or improvement; a reason to expect that
Our mission at Family Promise is to help homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response. Here at St. John’s, being a “Church for the City,” we live to share God’s love in the world by beginning in our community and city.
A simple act of kindness: our listening ear to a tiring heart; our offering of a cheerful voice to a saddened spirit; our offering of a quenching drink to a soul that thirsts is the beginning of a genuine healing process for someone in need. Preparing a meal that invites renewal of the body can bring a smile of fulfillment to our homeless families that we serve in Christ. Their need for spiritual support, love, and understanding from someone that has true faith through the Holy Spirit is essential for all types of healing—for ourselves and for those we promise to serve in our lives.
For the past 5 years as I have served as the St. John’s Family Promise Coordinator, I have experienced a profound positive change in my personal faith and have seen it in others as well. This is the special bond I share with the Holy Spirit.
Yet after 5 years in this role, I feel that it is time to grow new leadership for this ministry. This could be a role taken on by one individual, or shared between two, and I commit to training and supporting any new leaders who take on this role. If you might be feeling the Holy Spirit nudging you in this direction, please contact me at 916-533-2924 or by email email@example.com.
Holy Week Day Camp
by Sarah Jessop Street
Last year, as a sort of experiment, St John’s began offering Holy Week Day Camp. Our goal was somewhat simple: to offer childcare and service opportunities for our children and youth during spring break. Pastor Leslie, Jessica Knudtzon, and I worked together in joy and love to provide something that could help our young people to feel ownership, connection, and pride in their church. We hoped to help parents who might be scrambling for childcare during the week of spring break. And we hoped to offer clear and age-appropriate teaching around the complexities of Holy Week for our youngest members. We were astounded by the depth of thought, grace in service and the capacity for joy that St John’s children demonstrated in their working and learning together. Throughout the course of the week, these young people were able to feel as though St John’s really was their church. Because we believe so strongly in the importance of our young people having full access to the church, this year we are renewing our commitment to Holy Week Day Camp.
Holy Week Day Camp is a service and learning camp provided to the children of St John’s ages 6 years through seniors in high school. We meet daily during Holy Week (March 26-30) from 8am to 4pm. Participants do not need to commit to attending for the entire week in order to join us. This camp is provided free of charge with the help and good will of volunteers and staff. Children are expected to participate in service projects throughout the week-- both for the church and for our community here in midtown. High school students can use hours gained during this time to count toward their community service requirements. If you are interested in signing-up please contact Amy Paulson, Youth & Family Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also welcome volunteers to participate in this week of joyful service and learning. Please know that you do not need to commit to helping for the entire week in order to join us in service; however, because this is work with children, we would need to connect before the work begins. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Amy Paulson at email@example.com
by Bill Sailer
We have now begun our journey into the Lenten Season here at St. John’s. We look forward to this season, and for ushers, it is one of the busiest seasons we have. Having led the ushering volunteers for nearly 12 years, I know 90% of all that attend our services. It is in my heart each Sunday to welcome and share God’s love with all of you, and it is an honor to serve and help you at each service. As the family of Christ, we reach out to each other at all of the services, reminded of Christ’s love, enjoying our faith, and struggling with all that happens in our world each day. Our great volunteers that welcome you at our doors need some people to assist us at the 9:00 am service, to fill-in periodically, and to help during the Holy seasons as well as every Sunday. If you have the call in your heart to assist us, please let us know. You can help when you are able, or you can join one of our teams. All are welcomed and needed. We are a family and we need your help. Thank you for prayerfully considering this call to serve.
Bill Sailer, Head Usher, St. John's Lutheran Church.
Help beautify our sanctuary for our Easter services with the purchase of lilies for $10 per plant or azaleas/hydrangeas for $15 per plant. March 25th is the deadline for your dedication to be included in the Easter bulletins. You can pay via check, cash or online. Make checks out to St. John’s with “Easter Flowers” written in the memo line. Cash is also accepted. You can place these options in the offering plate or send to the church office. Plants may be taken home following the 11:30 am Easter Service.
Order by calling the front desk at (916) 444-0874 or click here to order online.
The Importance of Physical Exercise
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
2 Corinthians 5:7By
During this Lenten season we would like to invite you to make walking, reflecting and prayer a part of your daily Lenten practice. Jesus traveled a long journey to the cross and we believe that walking can be an act of spiritual and physical devotion. This is an “Opening” for you to spend time with your Heavenly Father.
We make decisions everyday regarding our physical, emotional and spiritual health. It is so easy to procrastinate and fill our days with everything but that which is good for us. As you begin on a new physical exercise journey and decide to be good stewards of the body God has given you, challenge yourself, but also set reasonable goals for yourself whether it be going for a daily walk, increasing the amount of steps you take each day, wearing a pedometer to measure the distance you walk each day or trying a new form of exercise.
There are many benefits of regular physical exercise. These include:
• Increases energy level
• Improves muscle strength
• Helps maintain a healthy weight
• Improves brain function
• Good for your heart
• Lowers your risk for developing type 2 diabetes
• Enhances your immune system
• Helps reduce likelihood of developing some degenerative bone diseases
• May help reduce the risk of certain cancers
• Improves sleep
• Improves mood and sense of well-being
• Can reduce some of the effects of aging
Walking to the Cross is a 40-day devotional designed for the Christian season of Lent. It invites you to make walking, reflecting and prayer a part of your daily Lenten practice. Check out this resource and others that include six week walking programs and accompanying devotions in the Our Store section of www.churchhealth.org.
If you have any questions, please contact one of the parish nurses. May you walk by faith and grow stronger spiritually and physically during this Lenten season.
CONNECTIONS FAIR - Update
By Rebekah Turnbaugh
On Sunday, February 18, we held our first-ever Connections Fair! This was our attempt to connect people who are interested in small groups, with one another. Small groups are important at a church of this size because that is where deep relationship-building and intimacy can be formed and, at moments, small groups are also places where caretaking and healing can happen. And, they can also just be a lot of fun!
We had 44 people attend the Connections Fair, and an enthusiastic energy was felt in the room. After a brainstorming and matching exercise, we had nine new small groups formed and new people joining some of our existing groups. If you were unable to attend the fair, below is a listing of our current small groups and contact information should you wish to get more details or get connected.
Pre-existing small groups:
● St. John’s Women of the ELCA (WELCA)
Contact: Shelly Brassil, firstname.lastname@example.org, 916-429-1996
● Starting Over (a group for people who have lost spouses and are starting over)
Contact: Shirley Capp, 916-476-6109
● LLL Book Club
Contact: Donna Shadle, email@example.com
● Pub Theology
Contact: Sue Dwyer-Voss, Ronsue@winfirst.com, 916-203-5407
● Craft Night
Contact: Pam Debnekoff, firstname.lastname@example.org, 916-531-2403
New small groups:
Leader: Mike Meyer
● Sexuality Discussion Group
Leader: Kara Haug
● Nonviolence Group
Contact: Jerry Pederson, email@example.com, 916-392-7923 OR
JP Stroup, JPStroup@gmail.com, 916-868-5805
● Bible Study/Prayer Group/The Psalms
Leader: Mike Meyer
● Midtown Dinner Group
Contact: Maryann Hanner, firstname.lastname@example.org
● Writers Group
Contact: Joyce Milam, 916-202-3026
● Young Professionals & Mentor Matching
Contact: Dominique Kagele, email@example.com, 775-287-9482
● Walking/Hiking/Running Group
Contact: Candace Cox, 916-606-0757
● Movement/Dance Group
Leaders: Kara Haug & Philip Flickinger
Stay tuned next month to learn about group ideas that were either in search of a leader or of joiners. You may find some kindred spirits out there!
For groups without a contacts listed, please contact Rebekah Turnbaugh at firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-444-0874 and she will connect you to the leader of a group.