Dear MLEPC Members and Friends,
Long before I started Seminary, God was drawing me to ministry. In those years of career, raising kids and taking care of aging parents, I was drawn to "how to" books about ministry. Some of those books are still on my bookshelves today, with titles like Treasured Friends, The Girls with the Grandmother Faces, Fifty Plus (really!), and one I read that drew me out of the business world and into ministry, A Time for Risking, Priorities for Women. And then there was The Encouragers, Discovering Your Ministry of Affirmation, published in 1982. When I was asked to write the lesson for this week's sermon/study series, I went right to that book and reread it. It's the story of a student who took a one-year cram course on the Bible after several years of working, and in her first term the "Author of Discouragement" was having a heyday. She quotes C. S. Lewis' Uncle Screwtape, "You are marvelously distracting these Bible school humans from the purposes of our Enemy. Well done, good and faithful nephew." Ever feel like that? In this season of Pittsburgh's gray skies, pastoral care needs and losses, I can certainly relate, and perhaps many of you can as well.
What do we do with seasons of discouragement, knowing that they will come? We look to the Author of Encouragement, God Himself. Scripture gives us precious words of encouragement; even when we find ourselves in the psalms of lament, they end with words of hope. For example, Psalm 10 begins "Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" But it ends with these words: "You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them and you listen to their cry." God is our encourager, and it is us, his people, who carry out that mission in the church and in the world today.
In Acts 4, we meet a man nicknamed Barnabas by the disciples, which means "son of encouragement." As we read his story throughout Acts, Barnabas was indeed an encourager, and he teaches us by example how to encourage others. He met Saul (Paul) and encouraged the disciples to believe that Saul, who was once a persecutor of Christians, was actually a changed man. He tapped into God's resources, he was full of the Holy Spirit and had faith in Jesus Christ. He affirmed others, he was loyal, and he was humble. Barnabas knew when to get out of the way to let the Apostle Paul take the prominent role, allowing God to work through him. Barnabas is a tough act to follow, but we can encourage others in small ways. At the Bible college the author of The Encouragers attended, the faculty was especially discouraged and "The Barnabas Committee" was formed by the students. They would leave little typed notes of encouragement in silly rhymes with small attached gifts, delivered via campus mail or left at office doors at night. Once they left a bag of lollipops for a faculty meeting, and received the following poem from the faculty, showing that their message, "encourage one another", had spread across the college campus.
Each one of us, dear Barnabas, finds our vest buttons hopping,
Not only for the pride of you, but calories - lolli-popping.
Our "pulchritude," our "attitude," our "fortitude," our "tickers",
Were touched, enhanced and blessed by your bag full of lickers!
How might we be encouragers across the generations - aging, seasoned church folk to those younger or even newer to the faith? The New Testament scriptures draws us into relationship with one another, and what can be more encouraging than that? There are many times that the phrase "one another" is used, here's just a few: accept one another, just as Christ accepted you (Romans 14:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), have equal concern for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25), serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32). I've made copies of 59 "One Anothers" found in the New Testament, and you'll find them in the Narthex and drive-through lobby on Sunday if you want to pick one up for reference. This week, I challenge you to find some way to encourage another person of another generation! And I'd love hearing how you went about it!
Love, in Christ,
News and Notes
- All-Church Retreat, March 13-15, you'll find brochures in this week's bulletin and people will be in the lobby to help you register this Sunday. One of the room options has had a slight decrease, and that is reflected in the revised brochure. Note: we want everyone to have an opportunity to go, and if you have a financial hardship, please do let one of the pastors or those at the table know. Scholarships are available.
- Each year the EPC requests that churches provide financial support to the denomination (through General Assembly) and to our local presbytery (Presbytery of the Alleghenies). The finances are used to fund the EPC's mission and vision, missionaries across the world, as well as fund church planting opportunities in our Presbytery and internationally in Sierra Leone. This year, the per-member request is $37.50. MLEPC encourages each member to contribute this amount to help defray the church's assessment. Members may contribute to their portion of the denominational assessment in one of two ways. If you make use of envelope giving, please locate the green envelope in your envelope box and return it with a check made out to MLEPC. If you use on-line/mobile giving, you can click on the link on the MLEPC website to go to the TITHE.LY website to make your donation, or use the TITHE.LY app.
- Women's Ministry of MLEPC invite all women to consider another opportunity to have the chance to study the book of Esther. On Friday afternoons from 1-3pm in the City View Room, from February 14th thru April 24th, please come to enjoy a time of brief teaching on the book of Esther followed by the viewing of Beth Moore's Esther study on "It's Tough Being a Woman". As we learn history and insights about one of the two books of the Bible named after a woman, let's together see what nuggets God has to share to our hearts. Any questions, please feel free to contact Liz Mayfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 833-5313.