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What we do matters! Those words struck my heart earlier this fall in Chicago. We were gathered on a beautiful fall weekend, all of us having put in long hours in preparation and travel. All gathered were dedicated servants in the Church -lay leaders, synodical vice-presidents, staff persons, pastors and bishops. “Why do we do this?” the speaker asked in her devotion, noting the time lost with family and away from the colorful outdoors. “Because it matters!” was her answer. For the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we do this work as a servant Church. This work matters!
The season of Advent is upon us promising the gift of God’s tangible presence for a world desperately in need of healing and reconciliation. Advent proclaims the coming of God, the Good News that in Christ all things are being made new. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, 'So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!' This is more than a slogan for the 25th Anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 2013. It is the Promise of God. Each candle that we light on the successive weeks of Advent anticipate the new thing God is doing in our very midst. As we celebrate the coming of God among us, we lift up the many ways God is at work in this Church. We proclaim this Good News of God in Jesus Christ because it matters!
I know the work we do as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America matters to Pastor Janice Hawley and the members of Hillside Community Lutheran Church in Spring Hill, Kansas. Eighteen months ago Pastor Hawley, a 2011 graduate of Wartburg Seminary, began her work as Mission Developer in this newest congregation of the Central States Synod. They are growing and expanding but need the prayers, encouragement and support of the larger Church.
The work we do matters to Pastor Odir Flores-Canales and the members of Iglesia Luterana de la Resurreccíon in Garden City, Kansas. Pastor Canales’ roots are in El Salvador but God led him into Lutheran circles in this country and into the candidacy process of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Under Pastor Odir’s leadership the regular Sunday worship attendance at Resurreccíon has grown to over 100 and satellite worshipping communities have begun in Dodge City and Syracuse.
The work we do matters to students in Campus Ministry at Washington University in St. Louis as well as at the University of Kansas and Kansas State. The campus ministries at these institutions reach out to a wide array of students and bears witness to God’s amazing grace in the context of higher education.
Likewise at Bethany College the work we do matters impacting the lives of young people. A highlight for me at the October Board of Directors meeting was an evening meal with six freshman students who spoke with excitement of their first two months in a new program called Bethany Pathways.
Every one of us has been moved by the stories of heartache and suffering with homes lost and coastland reconfigured because of Hurricane Sandy. Because of our own experiences in Joplin and Chapman and Greensburg, I know the work we do matters to families and individuals in the midst of that sorrow and loss. Because we are a church with a history, structure and expertise, 100 percent of the gifts contributed to Lutheran Disaster Response go directly to people in need. Our partners in disaster response are grateful for the Lutherans who are “the last to leave.”
This fall I have visited with students at both the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque. I know that what we do matters as they study and prepare for pastoral and diaconal ministry. A huge concern is the growing cost of theological education and the burden placed on the backs of our first call pastors.
Finally, I know what we do matters to people like Pastor Gleb Pivovarov in Krasnoyarsk in southern Siberia and to young twenty-something adults like Anastasia and Nikolay and Dmitri who in the past year were baptized and confirmed. The Holy Spirit is at work through our companion synod relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia and the Far East and the ELCA Global Mission Unit strengthening our work in God’s mission.
Because it matters for the sake of Gospel, I am writing to seek your gift to strengthen and increase the mission support from our congregations. Fifty percent of all gifts received will be forwarded to support the ministries of the whole of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and fifty percent will help this synod to meet our commitments to the seminaries, to Bethany College, Camp Tomah Shinga and the Hollis Renewal Center, and to maintain our support of campus ministries.
I love the prayers of Advent:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.
I pray a rich stirring in your heart and soul and mind. I know these are different and challenging days for the Church. But for these days we have been baptized and in these days the Holy Spirit is still calling us to participate in God’s reconciling mission in the world.
Because these things matter, I invite your generous year-end gift.
May the advent of Christ lead us to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Christ’s peace and love,
Gerald L. Mansholt
To give by mail:
Central States Synod, ELCA