Shared Vision

January 2021

From the Pastor's Desk:

What Holds Us Together?

The Church in the 21st Century has shown a tendency to divide and break apart. The 20th Century was a time of growing unity among the various denominations. The Ecumenical Movement fostered dialogue between Protestants and Catholics. Different Protestant traditions began to work more closely together in a variety of areas. Within the various Protestant traditions, including the Lutheran Church, there were movements toward mergers.

As the 21st Century began, however, a new trend arose. Denominations began to split apart. One of the first to see a major split was the Episcopal. Our own ELCA has seen about 10% of its congregations depart to form new denominations. Most recently, the United Methodist Church has begun talking about an amicable split between different parties.

I could explain these divisions by listing the cultural, political, theological issues that were the cause. In other words, I could ask the question, "What is tearing us apart?" However, for the time being, I would like to ask a different question, "What holds us together?"

The Augsburg Confession has an interesting answer to that question. Article VII says,

[The Church] is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.[1]

In my opinion, a large part of our problem today is that in the 21st Century, too many denominations are not content to focus on what really matters. What really matters, according to the Augsburg Confession is the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Why is this? It is because it is through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments that people are brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

In Article V, the Augsburg Confession says:

Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. And the Gospel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this.[2]

As St. Paul says,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16, NRSV)

The problem, as I see it, is that too many churches have lost confidence in the power of the Gospel. If Paul is right, the Gospel is the most powerful thing in the world. Through the Gospel, God frees people from slavery to sin, raises people from the dead and gives them eternal life. What else can do that? Absolutely nothing.

It's when churches lose confidence in the power of the Gospel, that they start dabbling in other things like economics, politics and cultural issues. To make a difference, they believe, the Church has to have an economic plan, a political platform, and take a side in the culture wars. Ironically, it is these very economic, political and cultural issues that divide the churches. In trying to be relevant, they only become weaker.

As your pastor, I believe that it is enough that we agree on the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. I do not believe we need to agree on economics, politics or cultural issues. There is nothing more relevant to the 21st Century than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Bible says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)

Yours in Christ,

Rev. David A. Charlton

[1] Theodore G. Tappert. Augsburg Confession (Kindle Locations 87-89). Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid. (Kindle Locations 80-81). 

LUTHERAN MEN In MISSION

March 2021 Bible Study Breakfast

The LMM monthly Bible Study will be Saturday, March 20, at 7:30 A. M. in the Parish Hall. We are continuing the Course on "Spirituality." This is the third session where we will be discussing the subject "Gifts and Calling: What is the Will of God for My Life?" The Bible study topic is "Hearing God: 'Listening to the Shepherd's voice'" (John 10:1-21). This Bible Study will follow Option 2: Advanced: Teaching with Margin Questions.

John 10:1-21 (NIV)

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

10 "Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

7 Therefore Jesus said again, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?"

21 But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

As chapter 9 in the Gospel of John unfolds, the sight of the blind man, whom Jesus healed, became clearer and clearer. And the blindness of the Pharisees became darker and darker. In comparison to the Pharisees, who were bad leaders of God's people, Jesus was the true Shepherd of all God's people. The healed man who believed in Jesus represented all believers who would come out of Judaism to follow Jesus, as sheep follow their shepherd.

John 10:1-18 falls into three parts: verses 1-6, 7-10, and 11-18. Verses 1-6 put the Pharisees to the test again with what John calls (verse 6) a "figure of speech" - a kind of parable, or word picture. It's very general with a sheepfold, sheep, a door, a shepherd, a gatekeeper, and a stranger. Jesus does not identify himself with any of them explicitly. He leaves that to the Pharisees, and to us. Then in verses 7-10, he says, "I am the gate" (verses 7 and 9), and he unpacks what that means for us. Then in verses 11-18, he says, "I am the good shepherd" (verses 11 and 14), and he unpacks for us what that means for us.

One way to sum up these three parts would be to say that in verses 1-6, Jesus is gathering a flock - a people for himself from the Jewish fold. In verses 7-10, he is explaining why he is gathering this flock - that they might have life "and have it to the full" (verse 10). And in verses 11-18 he is explaining how he is gathering and giving Life to this flock - by laying down his life for them, and taking it up again. That's the summary, but reading these verses, we see that so much more is going on. We should listen carefully to what Jesus is saying about his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for his sheep.

Discussion will focus on the overwhelming significance of the voluntary and total nature of Jesus' sacrifice for us and how we benefit from his suffering and death on the cross. How often do we think about it? What effect does our reflection on this greatest of all gifts have on our daily lives?

All men of the congregation are invited to attend.

DISCERNMENT COMMITTEE

Thanks to everyone who attended, in person or via Zoom, the first class presented on February 21st by the Discernment committee. During this hour Pastor David discussed the historical Lutheran background of Theological and Civil Righteousness/Justice. This information provides a foundation for our second class which will focus on Social Justice and ELCA Advocacy. Social Statements (teachings and policies) and Social Messages issued by the ELCA are specific stances on relevant issues from 1991-2019. These are readily accessed under Resources at ELCA.org. Below are more specific links for those interested in researching areas of social justice, as well as current ELCA statements, actions and publications. We encourage members to become informed about these issues, and we look forward to conversations about Social Justice during our next class on Sunday afternoon March 21, 2021 at 3:30pm. This will be held in the St. Paul sanctuary for social distancing and will be available as a Zoom meeting. Questions or comments, please email discernment@stpaulniceville.com .

ELCA Advocacy ELCA Advocacy - Advocacy ministries of the ELCA want to share stories and your voices about public policies and relevant advocacy issues that are of interest to you. - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Publicly Engaged Church - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (elca.org)

Faith and Society - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (elca.org)

Religious news & social issues Archives - Living Lutheran

2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly summary of actions - ELCA

LUTHERAN WORLD RELIEF QUILTERS

Dear Sisters and Brothers of St. Paul,

The Panhandle Conference hosted a Lutheran World Relief (LWR) ingathering at Holy Trinity to pick up quilts and kits to be transported to the LWR Warehouse. Whether you donated fabric, cut quilt squares, tied knots, donated items for baby care kits, assembled kits, blessed, or helped pack and weigh the quilts and kits, you are part of a 75 year plus ministry to people in need around the world. You are bringing hope and the light of Christ to those in need.

St. Paul's quilters made 153 quilts and WELCA assembled 24 baby care kits. Holy Trinity had 158 quilts and 151 personal care kits and Good Shepherd had 40 quilts, 1 fabric kit, and 53 school kits. The grand total was 351 quilts, 24 baby care kits, 1 fabric kit, 151 personal care kits, and 53 school kits totaling 1,752.6 pounds.

The last time we were able to participate in a LWR ingathering was August 2019 in Daphne, Alabama. At that time five (5) ELCA congregations donated 332 quilts, 25 school kits, and 385 personal care kits weighing a total of 1,858.7 pounds.

Again, thank you for your faithfulness to this important ministry! The generosity of your time, talents, and resources is a blessing to so many beyond our church and our community!

Your sister in Christ,

Phyllis Wade, President

Florida-Bahamas Synodical Women's Organization

MARCH 2021 NEWSLETTER LWR

LUTHERAN WORLD RELIEF QUILTERS

LWR Quilters are making quilts! We finished 10 quilts in February. LWR Quilters next monthly Quilt Tie is the third Friday and Saturday, March 19 and 20, in the Parish Hall. We begin about 9:30ish. As always, come and go as you like.

Quilt and Kit donations to Lutheran World Relief were down in 2020. Due to the covid-19 virus, most church Ingatherings were canceled. In September both LWR warehouses were totally empty of Quilts and Kits! In October a group of 24 churches in Missouri took matters into their own hands. Members of the 24 churches brought their items to the parking lot of St Andrews Lutheran in Columbia and loaded them in a rented 26-foot moving van. One couple drove them over 450 miles to the LWR warehouse in St. Paul, Minnesota. Lutheran camps also joined in the effort to get items to the LWR warehouses. Seven Lutheran camps scattered around the United States offered space where Quilts and Kits could be dropped off and stored over an extended period of time. In 2019 LWR distributed 333,405, but in 2020 LWR only 264,585 Quilts were sent. That is down 68,820 Quilts. The number of Kits was also down. School Kits went for 210,725 to 174,055. Personal Care Kits went from 137,760 to 71,900. Baby Care Kits went up from 51,915 in 2019 to 52,860 n 2020. LWR volunteers also made and sent 40,750 fabric face masks in 2020. I hope our Lutheran churches continue to work on Quilts and Kits during this difficult time. Then when Ingatherings begin again we can flood the LWR warehouses with gifts!

Florida was one of the few places that held their annual Quilt and Kit Ingatherings. It was good to have our Quilts and Baby Care Kits counted with those from other Florida Churches. Usually our items are counted with the Southeast, not Florida, since we used to take them to Alabama.

We received a donation of three more boxes of fabric this month. We have lots of fabric, but we could use a few more volunteers. Come join us on March 19 and 20 in the Parish Hall.

Easter Baskets for God's Older Children

As we walk our Lenten journey, we get to look forward to that Glorious Easter morning! In celebration of Christ's victory over death and evil, WELCA is offering Easter baskets for 38 residents at Twin Cities Pavilion. Just like the rest of our lives, it will be a bit different this year. Instead of sending baskets home with congregation members, we are asking for donations to fill the baskets with hard candy, mints, chocolates, all types of sugar free candy, no-slip socks, word search books, combs, nail clippers, toiletries of any type, lip balm, and anything else one could think of. Monetary donations are also welcomed to be used to purchase goodies for the baskets. Any leftover monies will be added to WELCA funds to be used as needed for other charities. Please drop donations of goodies or money in the basket at the red sanctuary doors on Sunday mornings, or in the office during the week on later than Wednesday evening March 31, 2021. Thank you in advance of your generosity.

~WELCA~

AUTOMATED EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATORS (AEDS) -

St Paul Lutheran Church has 2 AEDs for use in an emergency. One is located in the Gathering Room hanging on the east wall (near the classroom door) and the other is in the Family Life Center/School in the Lobby.

TATTERED AMERICAN FLAGS

If you have a worn out, tattered, or faded US flag you need to properly dispose of, you can bring it to the church and Don Cleveland will deliver it to his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post for a proper and respectful disposal.



Community Pastoral Counseling

A ministry of St. Paul Lutheran Church and School

Rev. Robert R. Lutz, PhD Diplomate

American Association of Pastoral Counselors

Call 850-843-3083 for Information or to make an appointment