From the Rector

By the Rev. Eric LongEric Long color

Among all the articles I have written thus far for this newsletter, the one which has overwhelmingly received the greatest response spoke about our responsibility to welcome all people who come through our doors as guests sent by God. I noted that when newcomers step out of the normal patterns of their lives into our church, they are opening themselves to God and seeking to see where the way of Christ intersects life. At St. John’s, we do an exceptional job at welcoming people during their initial moments of entrance through dedicated greeters and ushers. Where things get more complicated is during the next steps, as people can easily struggle to make the move from walking into our worship space to plunging into the expanse of our community life. Therefore, we, in turn, must be faithful to them and God by making their path into the fellowship and work of the Church as accessible as possible.

Our parishioner, Patton Coles, felt led to craft a new ministry program to help St. John’s shepherd people deeper into the life of our parish. Out of many conversations and hours of planning, what has emerged from Patton’s efforts is The St. John’s Ambassadors Program. The Ambassadors will serve as responsive guides, dedicated to transforming regular visitors into connected members of our church. They will answer basic questions, make sure newcomers know how to be a part of our programs and ministries, suggest avenues for greater engagement, and simply serve as friendly ambassadors for St. John’s. The intent is to open ever more broadly the front doors of our church, while shutting the many back doors through which people are slipping away. If you are interested in assisting Patton with this vital, new ministry of hospitality, please contact him and be an Ambassador for Christ at St. John’s (Patton.Coles@wellsfargo.com or 540-520-2095).

Another area where we meet those God sends our way is through our Outreach Ministries, by which our church serves those in need. Let me brag a minute: St. John’s is the most determined and generous parish I have ever been around when it comes to helping neighbors near and far in Jesus’ name. We do tremendous good through the monetary gifts and volunteer hours graciously given in love to those who are hurting. The good news is that through your generosity, the financial resources have been available year after year to give substantial care to those who come to us for assistance. The bad news is we have an acute need for volunteers to help with these ministries. Our most pressing need is for people willing to offer some time on Tuesday mornings at any point between 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. On these mornings, neighbors from the valley who are in need of emergency assistance for utility bills and other basic necessities come to St. John’s for our TRUE (Temporary Relief for Unexpected Emergencies) program. Again, the aid offered comes by way of your gifts and is staffed by our own volunteers. To a person, those who give of their time in this way speak of their own lives being transformed by their service. Yet, they need back up, and thus it is time for others of us to step up. While this might be intimidating for some, there is no need to let that be an impediment, as there are numerous ways to be helpful. If you would be willing to welcome in Jesus’ name those in need, please contact the Reverend David Olson (dolson@stjohnsroanoke.org) to get involved.

TRUE and St. John’s Ambassadors are but two of countless efforts our parish makes to be the people Jesus has called us to be. By seeking and serving Christ in all persons, we not only live into our baptismal vows, but also partner with God in reshaping the world ever more in Jesus’ image.

I don’t know about you, but for me, there is nothing more needed in the world, or needful for me to do with my own life.

Serving with you,

The Reverend Eric Long, Rector

Advertisements

From the Rector

By the Rev. Eric LongEric Long color

“Money is the root of all evil” is a popularly quoted “biblical” passage which can be found nowhere in the Bible. Yet, people continue to believe it to be scriptural, despite the fact it is not. At least one reason it is not found in Holy Writ is because the comment is false. Money, while capable of being dreadfully misused for wrong, has in the right hands accomplished tremendous good. Habitat for Humanity houses, disaster assistance, the outreach ministries of our parish, along with countless other wonderfully impactful programs are accomplished through the generosity of gracious people. Each comes by way of money. These few examples could easily be partnered with millions more, both small and large, to demonstrate how money has been utilized to achieve good ends.

The actual biblical statement that is misquoted comes from I Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.” No doubt, you immediately notice the obvious difference between the accurate quotation and the false. The issue at hand is where your affections lie with regard to money. When our treasures become the desire of our hearts, the center of our affections, and an end to themselves, evil easily creeps into the scene.

All of this begs the question: what is the place of money in your life? Is it something you voraciously chase no matter the tax on your soul? Is it something you look at in a utilitarian way simply to get what you need to make it from one day to the next? Or, do you view the treasures of your life as gifts which God has entrusted you, about which God, therefore, has a claim? If you have never asked yourself these questions, I challenge you to do so.

Of course, many roll their eyes when the pastor starts talking about money. Ulterior motives are never far from such discussions, even in the church. Yet, far from having base motivations for bringing this up, I am mindful of my responsibility as a priest, especially in a world where the love of money has caused great pain and in which money matters have wreaked tremendous havoc within marriages and families. Simply put, I would fail in my vocation if I never raised such questions. So, I’ll make you a deal: I promise to never talk about money more than Jesus did.

Indeed, the Church must talk about money not simply so that the parish light bill is paid, but because the state of our very souls depends on such conversations. Jesus spoke about the place of money in our lives more than any other moral issue. Think about that and then realize how little, by comparison, we actually think or talk about money as a spiritual and moral issue at all. As followers of Jesus, we must guard our hearts ferociously in financial matters because the stakes are too great to leave to chance. Being deliberate about money as a spiritual concern is a calling that is inseparable from our call as disciples of Jesus.

The end result of God’s people being intentional and faithful in this area is the opportunity it presents for us to accomplish God’s good ends through the gifts that fill our lives. Jesus will use our gifts in powerful ways as long as the treasures of our lives are not what we treasure most.
St. John’s has long been a church that has thrived because of the investments of her people in time, talent, and treasure. The immense blessings of this parish are not the result of coincidence or luck. Instead, they flow from the people of God inspired to do the work of Christ through the gifts of their lives. Our future course will be set in precisely this way. Our horizon of possibility will rise as each of us contributes what God calls us to offer. When our people heed God’s call to give, St. John’s is undoubtedly a divinely used means for Christ’s grace to be born in our world.

As our Stewardship season begins this year, I believe our faithful past is but prelude. Without question, God wants St. John’s to have an ever greater Jesus-sized impact on the world God loves. To that end, I challenge each and every person who calls St. John’s “home” to dream about what is next for us as a people, and to entrust into Christ’s hands all that fills our lives, most particularly those things we treasure most.

What will God do through us next? Join the effort and help us find out!

Faithfully,
The Reverend Eric Long, Rector