In just one week, our congregation has boldly lived as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” precisely as Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew 5:13-20, our lectionary text for this Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany. My sermon this Communion Sunday is entitled “Being Salt and Light,” as we continue to celebrate and lift up our brave people who are stepping up and stepping out to make this world a better place.
Last Sunday, we handed out “Blessing Cards” as part of the worship services. The cards say: Go. Be. Love. The world needs you. Many of you took that message to heart, and you are meeting the needs of the world – being the salty Christians of this earth, and being the brightest light of Christ when you encounter darkness in this world.
Last Sunday afternoon, our Children’s Director Mary Torok hosted a Postcard Party at the church in follow up to her participation in the Women’s March on Washington. Even though she is an introvert by nature, Mary stepped up when the television cameras arrived, and gave a “spot on” interview about the importance of being engaged in the public square as people of faith. (Missed the interview? It’s linked at the church Facebook page). Kudos to Pastor Mary, Pastor Rachael, and our Office Administrator Kelley for making all of the arrangements for the event, and to our Worship Pastor Dan Clark for arranging for media coverage. Our new staff team is on fire for justice!
Then on Tuesday, we had the privilege of hosting the Maryhaven “One More Chance” program to equip those helping people and families impacted by gambling. Too often people feel alone and helpless when they are suffering from an addiction. So at St. John’s we seek to provide resources like the One More Chance program, Healing Broken Circles for those impacted by the criminal justice system (every Thursday evening), and AA (every Friday evening) to meet the needs of our community. Thank you Pastor Rachael for helping to facilitate our new community care programming at St. John’s!
On Wednesday, we served yet another homemade meal to over 150 of our homeless and marginally housed neighbors, so they might be fed both physically and spiritually, through The Largest Table ministry. Life long church members Sharon and Joan devote many hours each week organizing our lunch volunteers and all of the arrangements for the meal. Long time church members and new volunteers work together, being salt and light to our lunch guests. These salty Christians have smiles that radiate and dispel the gloom and despair of the homeless. Their eyes light up with the excitement and joy of Christ when meeting a new person in need, and their laughter pierces the nervous silence of those standing in the lunch line for the first time. As Christians, we are to infuse joy and hope and gladness into our world, in whatever way we can. If you want to know how to do that, come visit us any Wednesday for lunch. Joan and Sharon will help you get started!
On Thursday, our pastoral team and church members joined in the Interfaith Prayer Rally for Welcome in Columbus. Pastor Dan, through his work with Faith in Public Life, was instrumental in bringing together Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and interfaith clergy to join together to call for justice and welcome as people of faith. #NoBanNoWall #ResistBigotry
It’s not often that all of these different faith traditions – conservative, progressive, Christian, Jewish, Muslim – agree on something, and Thursday’s event is to be celebrated for its unity, wisdom, grace, and action. Here at St. John’s, we are called to remember that Jesus was a refugee, and we have been commanded to welcome the stranger, loving our neighbor as ourselves.
You may know that Pastor Dan works for Faith in Public Life when he is not leading our contemporary worship music program at St. John’s. If you are interested in supporting Pastor Dan’s continued justice work for the common good, please give generously at http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/donate and write OHIO in the 'Additional Information' field.
And that’s not all! On Thursday evening, I had the privilege of representing St. John’s through my service on the Host Committee of the Equality Ohio Allies event, www.equalityohio.org, honoring OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith for his commitment to LGBTQ inclusion at The Ohio State University. We were blessed by the courageous gay athletes in attendance, as well as by the leadership shown by Coach Smith in making OSU’s athletic program welcoming for all. Some of our St. John’s PFLAG participants were in attendance Thursday evening, and we had great conversations about what can be done in our community to live more inclusively.
Finally, today (Friday), we were blessed to be included in an article in The Columbus Dispatch entitled “Women of God: The number of female pastors in the nation is growing, though slowly.” We hope you are able to read the article via the link below, or it is attached for your convenience.
You can read the article, "Number of Female Pastors Grows, but Still Lags Men" here.
This was just one week in the life of St. John’s! This is but a taste, a glimpse, of the justice work we do with our wider community, as we continue to be as spiritually salty and light-filled as possible, living our faith in public witness each day in the world.
Part of our justice work is to commemorate Black History Month in February each year. This year we will be singing select anthems during the 11am offertory to live into this special time.
In addition, we were pleased to host Dr. Raymond Wise and the Raise Gospel Choir in advance of Black History Month recently, as the first concert in our renowned Triune Concert Series. The church was packed for the gospel concert, and it was a wonderful evening of learning, song, and celebration as we honored our African American musical heritage in this country. Thank you to our Minister of Music May Schwarz, the Chancel Choir, and the many other volunteers who made the concert and the reception an amazing success!
Our new worship schedule is:
9am Traditional Worship Service
10am Coffee, Connect, and Learn
11am Contemporary Worship Service
Please be advised that THIS SUNDAY, February 5th, we will be taking photographs during and after the 11am contemporary worship service to prepare for the re-launch of our website in the spring. Please see Pastor Rachael if you do not want to be included in these group photos. We hope, though, that you will make a special point of attending the second service this week, so that we might represent our church in all of its salty Christian light – as we shine a Beacon of Hope so bright that all will see the light of Christ!
With abundant hope,