Believe in God, believe also in me.
As you read this, Ron Hiatt, myself, and the other eleven people in our group are about midway through our trip to Tanzania. After arriving on Tuesday, 2 May and spending the first day and a half near Kilimanjaro, we have traveled to Dodoma to be a part of our delegation’s presence at the installation of the new Bishop of the Dodoma Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.
Someone asked me recently what I hoped to teach the Tanzanian people we will meet while I am there. The truth is, I look forward much more to what I will learn from these Lutheran Christians.
The continent of Africa and countries such as Tanzania are some of the few places in the world where Christianity is growing. The number of Christians is rising, even as the numbers decline in the United States and other places.
We American Lutherans have access to the best technology. We have big, beautiful church buildings. We have decent infrastructure. All of the pieces seem to be in place for people to come easily to places of worship to be fed by the Word and at the Meal and to be sent back out to spread the love of Jesus. And yet we see the numbers of those who claim to be Christians falling. Why is this the case?
I don’t know all the pieces of the answer to that question. I do know that people have filled their lives with other things, and that a communal life of faith, worship, and service often is placed low on the schedule. I know that some do not feel welcome in houses of worship, or they feel that what they hear when they are there does not give them inspiration and strength for the lives they live day-to-day.
Whatever I may learn from Tanzania Lutherans will not translate fully back into an Midwest Lutheran experience. But I suspect that different ideas about faith, worship, community, fellowship, and joy may open my eyes to some new possibilities. I hope that I can carry some of that back with me to share with you, as I open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to a new glimpse of Jesus.
Do you remember a recent Sunday when it was warm enough to have air conditioning working in the sanctuary to be comfortable and it was less than comfortable? Do you remember another recent Sunday when it was cool enough to have heat on in the sanctuary and it was less than comfortable? In between those two Sunday situations was the installation of new sanctuary air conditioning equipment and then an operator error (by Connie Thomas) to return ALL CIRCUITS and ALL other CONTROLS to heat, as was needed for Sunday service. Sorry for the cool Sunday. It is my hope we will all forget that week when we are comfortable in the summer air conditioning.
Operation Christmas Child
In the month of May we are asking for donations of coloring books and story books. They can be dropped off in the Giving Grace Room or to the office during the week.
Sunday Fellowship Time
May 7th – Jan Dustman and Karlene Jaquillard
May 14th – Muffins for Mom – If you would be able to donate a dozen muffins for Mother’s Day, please call Sue Wagner at 419 475-8972 or e-mail at email@example.com. The muffins can be any kind. The more varieties the better! They can be homemade or bought from a store. Thank you in advance for donating muffins on this special day.
On Sunday, May 21, Grace’s graduates will be honored at our 10:30 a.m. service. If you are graduating from high school or college or have a family member who is graduating, please contact the church office with the information.
Blessing Ron, Pastor Brenda and all who left for the mission trip to Tanzania.
Food for Toledo
During Lent 721 pounds of food was donated to Grace’s Food for Toledo Program. Thank you, members of Grace, for embracing Grace’s Lenten project. Food for Toledo continues throughout the year with donations given to Aldersgate United Methodist Church for their food pantry. Food can be dropped off in the Giving Room across from Room 3 or dropped off at church on Monday mornings. If you have any questions regarding the Food for Toledo Program, please contact Mary Schneider.
Celebrating the Baptism of J.J. Maxwell on Sunday April 30.
Meditation on John 14:1-14
By Vicar Dave
When the kids were younger, we lived in a house in the Old West End of Toledo. In case you’re not familiar with it, this neighborhood was once the affluent section of the city, right around the beginning of the 1900’s. In keeping with the style of the time, Toledo’s wealthy built these enormous Victorian homes, so big that they needed a staff to keep them up. Some of the beautiful giants were even big enough to have an entire floor that was dedicated to being a private ballroom for the homeowner to entertain in. The one we lived in didn’t have a ballroom, but it was so big that the kids spent hours just running around, playing hide and seek and such. I have some very fond memories of listening to them enjoying that old mansion. Even the smaller ones are great for entertaining family and friends. There’s plenty of room for everyone.
Today’s Gospel talks about the Father’s house having many dwelling places. It makes me envision an old Victorian home on some sort of super steroids. The structure of such a place is incomprehensible to me. Yet that’s what Jesus tells us the Father’s house is like. Not necessarily the Victorian architecture, but a home so big that it can fit ALL of God’s children from all time. I remember some big family gatherings at my parents’ house, where it was crowded and noisy. And glorious! We had a big table where we’d all enjoy a feast and then we could go to another room and chat with everyone, or we could find a quiet corner of the house and rest. The feast that God has prepared for us will be even more glorious. And we’ll spend the rest of the day, the rest of eternity, enjoying each other’s company, or in quiet contemplation, or just loving God and each other. One of the things I look forward to is enjoying the playful sounds of the children and hoping that I can be one of them! I would love to have all that energy and wonder again, especially in the Father’s house, as I picture it being filled with wonders and joys both simple and complex. When I hear the children playing among us, during worship or some other time when we gather in fellowship, I think the Father’s house must be filled with that sound.
Jesus tells us today that He’s there, preparing a place for us and that He’s going to take us there so that we can be with Him! Thomas asked Jesus how he was going to get there. After all, Thomas didn’t quite know where Jesus was going. But Jesus reassures him that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life”, and that He will take Thomas, and all of us, to the Father. I liked the way this was put in the “First Nations Version” of the New Testament. It reads: “I am the Great Spirit’s (God’s) pathway, the truth about who He really is, and the life of beauty and harmony He offers to all. There is no other guide who can take you to the Father.”
In the chapter immediately preceding today’s reading, Jesus is talking about His coming death. He could tell that the disciples were worried about this and sought to reassure them with the vision of the Father’s house and letting them know that they would have a place there, with Him. May we all rest each day in the assurance that Jesus has prepared a place for us with Him, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
Grace Lutheran Church is an official community garden with Toledo Grows, we are small but mighty. The name of our garden is “Bless the world be God’s Grace” and we need your help. If you have gardening items you no longer need or can help with some pots, we would like to plant some plants in our court yard garden for vegetables and some herbs. There is more to come.
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!