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Epiphany stretches the Nativity story beyond the well-known manger scene. As if having a child on the road wasn’t tough enough, the continuation of the story with the Magi following a newborn star to find this newborn king preludes further hardship. The Magi return home from their visit of the Christ child by another road so as not to rat out Jesus’ whereabouts to Herod. Herod, the facile King, propped up by Empire, decides the “Good News” of Jesus’ birth is bad news for him (and his failed leadership). So he chooses violence in the face of love (which of course never really works). Love always leaks out! God warns Joseph in a dream, and they run, the Holy Family becoming refugees, fleeing to Egypt to protect their son. Only after King Herod dies does the Holy Family return to their home in Israel.
The Epiphany story is filled with modern overtones: violence, forced migration, the decision to honor (or not), pluralism, and so much more. The Magi coming is the first sign that Jesus will appeal to a broad range of people. It also is the first sign that Jesus will be ally to the refugee and all compelled to run in this life. It is also the first sign that Jesus will be counterpoint to a world drunk on violence.
Through this Epiphany and season following, we will consider all of this through our theme – Coming Home. Coming Home assumes first that one has left. Some of us do so voluntarily, leaving home to stretch and grow - Coming Home changed by the experience. One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is welcoming home our young adults from college, military service, and work in far-away places – to see how God is working in their lives as they grow into adulthood. Coming Home is a chance to check in on that growth. Indeed, we all should follow their witness and resolve to grow in positive ways in the New Year – in service, in faith, in discipleship. Our theme also compels us to consider what it means when Coming Home is dangerous. Coming Home is not the same experience for everyone, but it is important work that we do.
I challenge you to Come Home in some significant way this Epiphany season. Specifically, I urge you to consider coming home to God. I guarantee you this – as long as Home is denied anyone, for any reason, not a one of us will be fully Home. Let us consider this as our ongoing prayer (as we’ve been saying in our opening Litany in worship recently), quoting St. Augustine of Hippo: “You have made us for Yourself, O God; our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.” God – the source of Home for you and all people! Peace for the restless - love instead of violence.
Pastor Frank Espegren
Call Committee Update
Call Committee Chair
The Call Committee continues to work diligently in the call process of the third pastor. At this time, we have completed the following milestone tasks:
· Developed the Call Committee
· Conducted multiple staff and congregational interviews
· Summarized/discussed all comments from the interviews
· Completed the Ministry Site Profile (MSP)
· Submitted the MSP to the ELCA
· Developed our interview questions
· Received paperwork for five candidates
· Video interviewed each of the five candidates
· Discussed and ranked each candidate amongst their peers
We are now at the stage of deciding which candidate(s) we may want to bring to St. John’s for a private and confidential interview with our committee. We are seeking a pastor that brings diversity and complementary skills/experiences to St. John’s and also a person that best addresses the following top five ministry tasks from the MSP (listed alphabetically):
1. Building a Sense of Community
4. Small Group Ministry
5. Spiritual Formation/Direction
If you have any further questions or thoughts, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or anyone else on the committee.
Many thanks to all of you for your prayers and patience as we move through this important process.
If you have any questions for the Call Commitee, please contact Joel Kimmelshue at (916)-517-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Debra Cribbins
Stephen Ministry Leader
What are your plans for 2019? Have you asked yourself meaningful questions, such as:
· How will God use me this year in the lives of others?
· What areas of my life do I want God to transform, reshape, or change?
· What do I want to see God do in my life this coming year?
· What is the kind of person God wants me to become?
In Ephesians 3:16-21, the Apostle Paul blesses the church with words of encouragement and praying for God to give them strength in their inner being, for Christ to dwell within their hearts, that they be rooted and grounded in love, and for them to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. With these words, you can prayerfully consider the questions above and with the answers discerned, we hope that you decide to use your gifts to become a spiritual companion.
Since 1975, more than 600,000 Christians from all walks of life have trained and served as Stephen Ministers. They became Stephen Ministers to help others who are hurting, but quickly discovered that God blesses them in amazing ways as well.
Stephen Ministers often learn that the more they are in tune with people’s needs through listening, caring, and modeling the love of Jesus, the more they are amazed at how God is at work in their own lives too. They learn how to live life in a new way, sharing Christ’s love with others to bring hope and healing. They experience a richness of God’s grace beyond anything imagined.
If you have a willingness to serve others and grow deeply in your connection with Christ, please contact Pastor Jon, the Parish Nurses, or a Stephen Leader.
If you have a hurting heart and need to talk about it and have a spiritual companion walk beside you to help heal it, please contact the Parish Nurses regarding connecting to a Stephen Minister.
May this new year draw you into the abundant richness of Jesus more than you ever thought possible.
SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING: Making St. John's Grape Jelly
By Jo Hoffmeier
In 2013, the Kirchhoff family donated rows of barbera grapes from their vineyard to St. John’s to make our communion wine. The understanding was that members of the congregation would tend the vines as well as harvest while their son, Clayton, a promising vintner, would produce the wine. This became known as St. John’s Vine to Chalice project.
During the first harvest, in which the very best grapes were selected for the wine, the lesser quality grapes were left behind for compost. Not wanting any of the grapes to be wasted, on a whim, the discarded grapes were collected, sorted, washed and prepped for what was to become St. John’s Grapeful Jelly. That first year about 40 jars of jelly were made and then sold on a Sunday morning. Proceeds were then designated to the Central Downtown Food Basket.
As the years have passed, each year, the vines are tended, grapes are harvested for wine and the “seconds” become Grapeful Jelly. Over 500 jars of jelly have been lovingly made by a crew now dubbed the St. John’s Jelly Jammers!! Each year the amount of jelly produced increases and each year is a sellout thanks to the wonderful generosity of our members. Proceeds continue to benefit our neighbors served by the Central Downtown Food Basket. This year, the Jammers, as a test case, made 20 jars of grape syrup and it too was a sell out!!!
A huge thank you to all of you buying this jelly/syrup. “Making something out of nothing” while living God’s love in the world…that’s St. John’s Grapeful Jelly!