In Case You Missed It


Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. – Hellen Keller

Please check the kiosk for volunteer opportunities at church – sign-up if you are called to serve our Lord, Jesus Christ. Read about church and community happenings on the kiosk.

Do you know of a community event that others may like to know about as well? Please get the information to the office so items can get on the kiosk for our church community to see.

From the Office

You may call, e-mail, or put a form under the office door (located on the kiosk or in the mailbox outside the office door) to communicate with the Director of Communications. We ask that items be in the office by 9:00 am on Mondays to ensure announcements and/or articles make it into the e-weekly on Wednesdays and items be in the office by 9:00 am on Thursdays to ensure announcements and/or articles make it into the Sunday bulletins. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

From the Pastor – October Newsletter Article written by Pastor Richard Pokora

Let me call this article “A Practical Guide to Christian Discipleship.”

No one hands new members a manual with the do’s and don’ts of being a member, or disciple of Jesus, in a modern church setting. Certainly, we receive a Bible to provide us guidance, but that document is much to decipher, digest and apply.

Thru this newsletter, I want to offer several suggestions for navigating church membership/discipleship issues on a practical day by day basis.

The first truth to learn about membership is that it is rooted in our Lord’s command to love others, as He loves us.  Love is a positive and not a negative response to conflict. If someone says or does something we dislike, respond in a positive way. Offer constructive suggestions, rather than negative criticism. The Apostle Paul says love builds up. Build up the other and work together to achieve the goals Christ sets for us, as His disciples.

Churches and their members may say or do things that aggravate or offend others. How do we respond in those situations? The Apostle Paul reminds us “we are to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit…” We have a responsibility to maintain the unity of the congregation, despite disagreements.

Anger bubbles right to the surface when we are upset by what we do not like. Step back and cool down before responding to others. Think about what your response will be. Respond in a manner that does not anger the other person but encourages them to join in thinking through a better way to express feelings or accomplish the task at hand.

Inevitably, mistakes will be made. Others make mistakes and so do we. Martin Luther once said, “Simul justus et peccator.” We are both sinner and justified at the same time. Despite our best intentions, our words and deeds do not always accomplish the goals we set. Let the past failures go and focus on creating a better future. Forgiveness expresses love and maintains church unity.

Church membership is an expression of discipleship. Everything Jesus says about discipleship applies to membership. Membership implies commitment. Christ commits to us, and we commit to him. Commitment is an expression of our love for others within the congregational setting. That congregation is the incarnation of the body of Christ. Commitment is the corner stone of church unity. No commitment, no unity. No unity, no body of Christ.

I once knew a couple who joined one church after the other, but sooner or later left the congregation in a huff. They didn’t just forsake a church, but their discipleship as well. Christ expects us to bond with our congregation, as an expression of our love for others and discipleship.

Remember this. The local congregation is the visible body of Christ. Membership is an expression of discipleship. We are called to love and forgive one another to maintain the unity of the congregation. Most importantly, we recall that church membership and discipleship coexist in the congregation through us. They can’t be separated for our convenience or in anger.

Message from October 9th by Pastor Pokora

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

The gospel reading today finds Jesus in a border place, an in-between place— the region between Samaria and Galilee. There, he is approached by people who live across a different kind of border: ten lepers, whose illness made them ritually unclean and outcasts from society. Without getting too close, without crossing the boundary that separates them from Jesus, they beg him for help. Jesus tells the ten to go show themselves to the priests. As they go to do as Jesus instructed, they are cleansed, healed of their ailment. Of the ten, only one turns back, praising God. He kneels at Jesus’ feet. And that one is a Samaritan.

In order to understand this story, we need some background about lepers and Samaritans in the time of Jesus. In the Bible, “leprosy” doesn’t refer to the specific illness we call leprosy or Hansen’s disease today. It referred to a variety of skin ailments, including infections, eczema, or psoriasis. According to the Hebrew Bible, leprosy could also infect clothes or even buildings—probably referring to mold or fungus.

What’s more important than the scientific or medical causes underlying so-called “leprosy” in the Bible is the theological significance attached to the ailment. People with these skin diseases were considered ritually unclean. And a thing or a person who was unclean could transfer their uncleanliness, could infect other people or places or objects with uncleanliness.

For this reason, lepers were excluded from society. No one wanted to associate with them. They were forced to live outside the community, never allowed to come close. If they recovered from their ailment, they would have to present themselves to a priest, who could declare them ritually clean again, allowing them to rejoin society. Other than that, they were outcasts for life. The ten lepers in our reading today were outcasts. They were excluded from community. They have to stay at a distance, calling out to Jesus without getting close enough to infect him with their uncleanliness.

Of these ten, at least one of them was also a Samaritan. For Jesus and other Jews of his time, Samaritans weren’t just a different group—they were enemies. We’re so used to the phrase “Good Samaritan” that we forget how outrageous that would have sounded to Jesus’ contemporaries. A Samaritan was anything but good.

The Jews and the Samaritans in the time of the New Testament had a great deal of history in common. Both groups considered themselves descendants of Abraham.  Both groups viewed the Torah, the books of Moses, as definitive for their lives. But sometimes, our closest neighbors are the ones we feel the most animosity towards.

The animosity between Jews and Samaritans was fierce. Each side viewed themselves as the legitimate heirs of the great leader Moses. The Jewish people believed the proper place to worship God was at the Temple in Jerusalem; the Samaritans, meanwhile, worshipped God on Mount Gerizim in their own territory—that is, up until the Jewish people destroyed the Samaritan sanctuary. You can imagine how these two groups felt about each other.

So, if you were there that day, when Jesus encountered those ten lepers… if you were one of the first Christians, hearing this story in the gospel of Luke… just think how you would react. One leper returns praising God and falling at Jesus’ feet—and he is a Samaritan. A Samaritan! The outsider, the foreigner, the other, the enemy is the one who kneels before Jesus and thanks him.

Now, the point of this story isn’t that the nine were bad and the one was good. All ten believe that Jesus has the power to help them. All ten, when Jesus sends them away, follow his instructions at once. This proves that they all have faith in Jesus. They have faith that they will be healed if they do what he says.

That doesn’t happen in our gospel reading. When Jesus tells the ten lepers, “Go and show yourselves to the priests,” they don’t argue with him. They don’t say, “We’re unclean! How can we show ourselves to the priests in this state?” They don’t demand that Jesus heal them right there on the spot. They do what Jesus instructs, going with faith that they will be healed.

All ten lepers believe that Jesus can help them. And all ten are right—they are all healed, made whole again. Presumably, the nine go on to see the priests; the priests declare them clean, and they rejoin society. No longer outcasts, no longer ostracized, they are given a new lease on life. Because Jesus healed them, their lives are forever changed for the better.

So what lesson is there in that one leper, the Samaritan who turned back? We don’t know why he decided to return to Jesus. All we know is that he saw that he was healed, and instead of proceeding on to the priests who could declare him clean and allow him to rejoin society, he turned right around and went back to the one who had healed him.

The Samaritan, it says, began praising God with a loud voice. Now, if a Jewish person wanted to go to the most appropriate place to honor God, they would go to the Temple in Jerusalem. If a Samaritan wanted to go to the most appropriate place to honor God, they might go to their holy site, Mount Gerizim. But this Samaritan former leper praises God all the way to the feet of Jesus.

The Samaritan understands, on some level, that God and Jesus are one and the same. That the presence of God doesn’t fall most fully on Jerusalem, or on Mt. Gerizim, but at the feet of the Galilean preacher named Jesus. To praise God and give thanks, the Samaritan returns to Jesus and falls at his feet.

The “moral” of this story isn’t a simplistic one about gratitude. All ten lepers have faith in Jesus, and all ten are healed, with no regard to their expression of gratitude after the fact. But there is a lesson in the Samaritan leper, the one who recognizes that Jesus is something more than just a prophet. The one who is not just healed but transformed by his encounter with Jesus is responding with worship and praise.

There are many things we ask God, big and small. We pray for calm in the midst of stress, we pray for comfort when we are afraid. Sometimes, we cry out for healing like the lepers in our story today: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” We pray with the hope and faith that God will hear us, that Jesus will have an answer for us. Today, I want to encourage you to think of something God has done. Some prayer that was answered. Again, it could be big or small. Take a moment to think of something God has done for you.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.