First Love

For the 28 youth and six adults who traveled to Atlanta this past week, it probably feels like it’s been a month, because so much has happened, but it was just last Sunday, that as a congregation, you prayed over us as we prepared to load into four vans and head to Atlanta to serve Christ and make the world look more like the world Jesus shows us.

What was supposed to be an eight hour trip to the city became twelve-plus hours because we were having such a good time visiting at our lunch and dinner stops, but we finally made it to First Iconum Baptist Church on Moreland Avenue in Southeast Atlanta, which was to be our home away from home.

Each morning of this past week, after breakfast and a time of prayer and devotions, we split up into work crews and were dispersed into the city alongside another youth group from Petersburg, Illinois, who was about our size, and with whom we shared the experience.

And our service sites were a great mix of Mary and Martha. There were sites that were mostly hard physical work and sites that were mostly visiting with people and building relationships, and the wonderful thing is that it seemed like everyone got to experience some of both.

We volunteered with a couple community gardens, and with the temperatures pushing a hundred every day it certainly qualified as hard work.

We worked in a furniture bank, building prefabricated end-tables, coffee tables, and desks.

Some of us worked with an agency called Open Hands, others with Meals on Wheels, both of which gave our youth a chance to prepare and deliver food, and visit people who were in need of a meal and a friendly conversation.

Several groups volunteered in elder care rehab facilities: singing, exercising, dancing, making art projects, and visiting with residents.

One group spent each day with the YouthWork’s Kids Club – playing with and befriending the children in the neighborhoods in and around Southeast Atlanta.

The theme for the week was FIRST LOVE, and we immersed ourselves in the Prodigal Son story; a story, which like the story of Mary and Martha, features a pair of fighting siblings.

We were invited to remember that we love because God has first loved us.

Each day we would split into work crews, work at our sites until about 3pm, and then return to the church to get cleaned up for supper. We ended each day with a fun outing in the community, worship, and a time to think about and share stories from the day.

Several of our young men in the group were impressed by and told stories about a man named Karinga, who was in charge of and ran the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm. The five acre farm is located in the heart of a troubled neighborhood, which is a food desert: a place in which residents do not have access to fresh, affordable, healthy food; where there is no grocery store nearby and residents otherwise would have to shop at convenience stores. Karinga’s love of God’s earth, deep knowledge of varied farming techniques, and seeming ability to work and talk and laugh all day without ever stopping to take a break, while we drifted to the water cooler, was impressive. His work of making fresh fruits and vegetables accessible has made the community healthier.

Several groups visited the A.G. Rhodes Elder Care Facility, and worked with John, who is a music therapist. He brings his guitar and plays the old songs the residents remember from their youth, taking requests and calling them by name. John had the residents sit in a large circle around the room and then invited the youth to stand in the middle, also in a circle, facing out towards the residents, so they could look at one another and interact. We played “I’ve been working on the railroad,” as requested by a woman, he later he told us, whose father had worked for the railroad, and she smiled from ear to ear through the whole song. Later, as we sang “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” it was as if we were witnessing a foretaste of the kingdom to come. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to get a dim vision of God’s intentions for us, and this was one of those moments. In the room, John played his guitar, many of the residents were beating drums and tambourines, one woman was singing into the mic, our youth were dancing, and residents were getting up to dance along too. All of sudden children appeared, I’m not sure who they were, but there were people of all ages, young and old, men and women, black and white, all dancing and singing together. It was as if we could see in this picture what God would have the world look like, and as a gift, we were a part of it.

One of our young women on the trip worked with the Kids Club each day in Atlanta. On the first day she met KJ, a four year old who wouldn’t engage with or interact with the group and who wouldn’t talk with the volunteers. This young lady got a box of juice for KJ, and from then on they were inseparable. He had a wonderful week. When they went to the park on the last day, he said he wanted to pick flowers for everyone, but there weren’t any flowers – only grass and shrubs, so he picked grass and gave it to our group. KJ – four years old, now – shared with the group about his faith in Jesus and on the last afternoon asked, “Can you please stay?”

Of course, it was hard to look at KJ and tell him that we couldn’t stay, but the institutions and agencies and the people whose passion is the engine of their good work do stay in Atlanta: Karinga and John and many, many more people.

We were blessed to have had the opportunity to serve. One young woman in our group put it this way: “Going to serve like that, for me is a chance to take the focus off of myself and to love others.”

And that’s it. In all our service, we think we are going to give and we find that we receive. We think that we are going to change and we are changed. We think that we are going to bless, but we are the ones who receive the blessing.

Pastor Chad, from Urban Recipe, a co-op on Grant Street told us, somewhat shockingly, “we don’t need you here.” His point was they have an on-going, well-oiled system that works to distribute millions of pounds of food a year. It was a reminder to us that even more than the work we would do, to be intentional about building relationships with the people we were meeting and to savor the brief moment we had with them.

Pastor Chad was suggesting we act like Mary, not Martha: to know that the work we are called to is relationship, and to love, and to see Christ in others. To be attentive that our business doesn’t take precedent over making time to simply BE – to be with one another, to be with the Lord, because that is the blessing.

On the last night in Atlanta, we were invited to participate in a footwashing. The YouthWorks staff washed the feet of our Epiphany adult leaders and then we, as adult leaders washed the feet of our youth. It was a special moment, as youth gathered around one another. After each youth had their feet washed, we would gather around them and all lay hands on them as an adult prayed for them.

One young woman in our group who is headed off to college in a very few months said, “Epiphany has meant so much to me and I realized in that moment that this night was not the end of my time with Epiphany, but it was the end of my time as a youth. It was a conclusion. And I hope and pray that for a community like Epiphany while I am away at school.”

On behalf of myself and Tyler, Emily, Mark, Dan, and Tatiana, I want to thank you.

We were so proud of our youth, and their service, and their ability to converse with people from all walks of life – old and young, and particularly people who have had a hard go in life, people who have been hurt by life and for whom a kind conversation and genuine respect are so valuable.

On behalf of the Epiphany Youth Group, I want to give you thanks as a congregation.

These young men and women are able to go to Atlanta and serve, able to serve here in Richmond with such passion and purpose, and they share love…because they have first been loved, by this congregation…they have grown up witnessing and experiencing the love of Christ here, in the word, at the table, in this community.

So thank you for your prayers and for your love. Thank you for giving us so many opportunities to serve here at Epiphany, and cultivating in our youth a love of Jesus and a love of service in his name.

Thank you for letting us represent you in Atlanta and for being excited to hear many, many more stories of our adventures this past week.

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First Love

For the 28 youth and six adults who traveled to Atlanta this past week, it probably feels like it’s been a month, because so much has happened, but it was just last Sunday, that as a congregation, you prayed over us as we prepared to load into four vans and head to Atlanta to serve Christ and make the world look more like the world Jesus shows us.

What was supposed to be an eight hour trip to the city became twelve-plus hours because we were having such a good time visiting at our lunch and dinner stops, but we finally made it to First Iconum Baptist Church on Moreland Avenue in Southeast Atlanta, which was to be our home away from home.

Each morning of this past week, after breakfast and a time of prayer and devotions, we split up into work crews and were dispersed into the city alongside another youth group from Petersburg, Illinois, who was about our size, and with whom we shared the experience.

And our service sites were a great mix of Mary and Martha. There were sites that were mostly hard physical work and sites that were mostly visiting with people and building relationships, and the wonderful thing is that it seemed like everyone got to experience some of both.

We volunteered with a couple community gardens, and with the temperatures pushing a hundred every day it certainly qualified as hard work.

We worked in a furniture bank, building prefabricated end-tables, coffee tables, and desks.

Some of us worked with an agency called Open Hands, others with Meals on Wheels, both of which gave our youth a chance to prepare and deliver food, and visit people who were in need of a meal and a friendly conversation.

Several groups volunteered in elder care rehab facilities: singing, exercising, dancing, making art projects, and visiting with residents.

One group spent each day with the YouthWork’s Kids Club – playing with and befriending the children in the neighborhoods in and around Southeast Atlanta.

The theme for the week was FIRST LOVE, and we immersed ourselves in the Prodigal Son story; a story, which like the story of Mary and Martha, features a pair of fighting siblings.

We were invited to remember that we love because God has first loved us.

Each day we would split into work crews, work at our sites until about 3pm, and then return to the church to get cleaned up for supper. We ended each day with a fun outing in the community, worship, and a time to think about and share stories from the day.

Several of our young men in the group were impressed by and told stories about a man named Karinga, who was in charge of and ran the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm. The five acre farm is located in the heart of a troubled neighborhood, which is a food desert: a place in which residents do not have access to fresh, affordable, healthy food; where there is no grocery store nearby and residents otherwise would have to shop at convenience stores. Karinga’s love of God’s earth, deep knowledge of varied farming techniques, and seeming ability to work and talk and laugh all day without ever stopping to take a break, while we drifted to the water cooler, was impressive. His work of making fresh fruits and vegetables accessible has made the community healthier.

Several groups visited the A.G. Rhodes Elder Care Facility, and worked with John, who is a music therapist. He brings his guitar and plays the old songs the residents remember from their youth, taking requests and calling them by name. John had the residents sit in a large circle around the room and then invited the youth to stand in the middle, also in a circle, facing out towards the residents, so they could look at one another and interact. We played “I’ve been working on the railroad,” as requested by a woman, he later he told us, whose father had worked for the railroad, and she smiled from ear to ear through the whole song. Later, as we sang “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” it was as if we were witnessing a foretaste of the kingdom to come. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to get a dim vision of God’s intentions for us, and this was one of those moments. In the room, John played his guitar, many of the residents were beating drums and tambourines, one woman was singing into the mic, our youth were dancing, and residents were getting up to dance along too. All of sudden children appeared, I’m not sure who they were, but there were people of all ages, young and old, men and women, black and white, all dancing and singing together. It was as if we could see in this picture what God would have the world look like, and as a gift, we were a part of it.

One of our young women on the trip worked with the Kids Club each day in Atlanta. On the first day she met KJ, a four year old who wouldn’t engage with or interact with the group and who wouldn’t talk with the volunteers. This young lady got a box of juice for KJ, and from then on they were inseparable. He had a wonderful week. When they went to the park on the last day, he said he wanted to pick flowers for everyone, but there weren’t any flowers – only grass and shrubs, so he picked grass and gave it to our group. KJ – four years old, now – shared with the group about his faith in Jesus and on the last afternoon asked, “Can you please stay?”

Of course, it was hard to look at KJ and tell him that we couldn’t stay, but the institutions and agencies and the people whose passion is the engine of their good work do stay in Atlanta: Karinga and John and many, many more people.

We were blessed to have had the opportunity to serve. One young woman in our group put it this way: “Going to serve like that, for me is a chance to take the focus off of myself and to love others.”

And that’s it. In all our service, we think we are going to give and we find that we receive. We think that we are going to change and we are changed. We think that we are going to bless, but we are the ones who receive the blessing.

Pastor Chad, from Urban Recipe, a co-op on Grant Street told us, somewhat shockingly, “we don’t need you here.” His point was they have an on-going, well-oiled system that works to distribute millions of pounds of food a year. It was a reminder to us that even more than the work we would do, to be intentional about building relationships with the people we were meeting and to savor the brief moment we had with them.

Pastor Chad was suggesting we act like Mary, not Martha: to know that the work we are called to is relationship, and to love, and to see Christ in others. To be attentive that our business doesn’t take precedent over making time to simply BE – to be with one another, to be with the Lord, because that is the blessing.

On the last night in Atlanta, we were invited to participate in a footwashing. The YouthWorks staff washed the feet of our Epiphany adult leaders and then we, as adult leaders washed the feet of our youth. It was a special moment, as youth gathered around one another. After each youth had their feet washed, we would gather around them and all lay hands on them as an adult prayed for them.

One young woman in our group who is headed off to college in a very few months said, “Epiphany has meant so much to me and I realized in that moment that this night was not the end of my time with Epiphany, but it was the end of my time as a youth. It was a conclusion. And I hope and pray that for a community like Epiphany while I am away at school.”

On behalf of myself and Tyler, Emily, Mark, Dan, and Tatiana, I want to thank you.

We were so proud of our youth, and their service, and their ability to converse with people from all walks of life – old and young, and particularly people who have had a hard go in life, people who have been hurt by life and for whom a kind conversation and genuine respect are so valuable.

On behalf of the Epiphany Youth Group, I want to give you thanks as a congregation.

These young men and women are able to go to Atlanta and serve, able to serve here in Richmond with such passion and purpose, and they share love…because they have first been loved, by this congregation…they have grown up witnessing and experiencing the love of Christ here, in the word, at the table, in this community.

So thank you for your prayers and for your love. Thank you for giving us so many opportunities to serve here at Epiphany, and cultivating in our youth a love of Jesus and a love of service in his name.

Thank you for letting us represent you in Atlanta and for being excited to hear many, many more stories of our adventures this past week.

Peace People

This past week twenty-two of our youth at Roanoke College for our KAIROS event. 147 youth from around the synod gathered with another 50 college students and adults for a week of life together in Intentional Christian Community.

The week is built around a small group model. We worship throughout the day and also observe the ancient practice of “praying the hours,” which means the community stops eight times throughout the day at appointed hours for readings from scripture, for song, and prayer. And each youth is a part of a small group made up of about ten students, for study and conversation.

KAIROS means, “God’s time,” and it really is true that it feels like a time apart, touched by God’s presence, away from the stresses and busyness of life back at home.

The news we heard as we arrived home was that at least 28 people are dead in Dhaka, Bangladesh, after a ten hour hostage crisis yesterday.

It happened in a popular, upscale restaurant in the city. Streets were filled with gunfire from assault rifles and exploding bombs and the violence only ended when Police and SWAT teams were able to kill the militants.  They were able to save dozens of Bangladeshis and foreigners who were terrorized, but many had been severely tortured.

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the terror attack at the restaurant in Dhaka, saying the attack was one of retribution and that their attacks will continue as long as warplanes kill Muslims.

Just by chance, the White House also released a report yesterday that stated, since 2009 the US has carried out 473 airstrikes outside of areas of active hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, killing at least 2,300 combatants but acknowledging that we have also killed between 64 and 116 non-combatants.

The Islamic State will continue terror attacks as long as we and other countries fight against them… And we will continue to fight against them as long as they perpetrate violence.

And it’s easy to see we are caught in a cycle of violence.

And as we gather today we hear Jesus calling us and sending us out into this very world to be people of peace.

In our own neighborhoods, we are fortunate to be unfamiliar with hostage situations, but in Richmond there are shootings and drug trafficking and violence daily. There are men and women and youth battling depression, addiction, loneliness, and chronic illness.

We are people who can, at times, experience difficulty finding peace in world, in our families, in ourselves.

Jesus gives clear, quite detailed, instructions – to his apostles and to us – as to how to take his peace – the peace of God – the only real peace – into the places of need in the world.

Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ASK the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

And so the Lord commends us to prayer before we ever set one foot in front of the other.

In my own life, I have found that I complain to others less if I complain to God first. Which is to say, time in prayer with God makes us into people of peace, people who have taken our troubles and struggles and suffering to God and have remembered again that he is with us in the midst of our sufferings and hardships.  To be a messenger of peace, Jesus says: we ought to first be a people of prayer.

Jesus then says: “I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.”

And so the Lord acknowledges that the task to which he sends us is both dangerous and urgent.

We are sent out like lambs into the midst of wolves…there is bullying in schools for being a Christian and perhaps among adults too. In many places in the world Christians are martyred for their faith.  The message of the gospel meets a hostile world, and Jesus wants us to know about it up front.

But Jesus says, whenever you enter a town, and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick who are there and say to them, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you. But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into the streets and say: Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you, and yet, know this: the Kingdom of God has come near.”

Our Lord encourages us to persevere with our message no matter the reaction we get.

Our message is that in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the Kingdom of God has come near!

When people welcome this message, we rejoice that another name has been written in heaven!

But when people reject the message, we say, “Know this: In Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the Kingdom of God has come near!”

No matter how our message is received…our message is the same.

The Kingdom of Jesus’ peace is coming and nothing we can do can stop it. Explosions in Bangladesh can’t stop it.  Airstrikes can’t stop it.  It is coming.

As Luther says, When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer for God’s Kingdom to Come, we are not praying for the Kingdom to come into the world – that has happened and is happening – we are praying that we might be a part of it.

And so with these words we hear today, Jesus sends us out into a world desperately in need of peace, as his representatives and ambassadors.

And we pray that the world will receive the One who is the Prince of Peace, who could have chosen violence when soldiers came to arrest him in the garden, but chose instead to be crucified, taking the violence and retribution of the whole world on himself to meet its ultimate end in his cross.

One day the whole world will see. And for now, there are times when our witness brings peace to people in need.

I saw a glimpse of this at KAIROS.

We take all our meals together in the Roanoke College Cafeteria and one day early in the week I had breakfast with a young man, and in the course of our conversation he shared with me that while he had been to KAIROS before and other Virginia Synod youth events, that he didn’t believe in God. He said, “My mother thinks it’s just a phase, but it’s not.  This is me. This is what I believe.”

Of course, that’s hard to hear. It makes me sad for him, but my perspective is that it’s not for me to make anyone believe.  I am called simply to make Jesus a part of the conversation.  It is God who creates faith, and typically, I don’t like to push in these kinds of conversations.  But I couldn’t forget our conversation. I just kept thinking about it.

So when I saw the same young man at lunch a couple days later, I sat down with him again, and when everyone at our table had left and it was just the two of us left, I thanked him for sharing with me about not believing in God and said, “I want to ask you, if it’s okay, why would you come to KAIROS? You have been here before, so you know what it’s like.  You know we sing to God, and pray to God, and talk about God pretty much the entire day, every day for a week…and you don’t believe the person we’re talking about, and talking to, exists…so, why did you come?”

The young man said, “When I come to KAIROS I can walk up to anyone here and start talking to them. Nobody judges me.  People accept me for who I am.  This is pretty much the only place in my life where I can do that.”

He is with people of peace.

One day, the whole world will see. One day, the violence will cease and the wars will end.

But even now, there are times when our witness brings peace to people in need, even if that need is as basic and as simple as finding a community where you can experience the peace of not having to work to be someone you’re not, and finding a community that accepts you and loves you for who you are.

May Epiphany, and all of our congregations, be this kind of place.

Brothers and sisters, even in a world of violence, where wolves lurk and peace is hidden, thanks be to God that Jesus offers us his peace: in one another, in this community, in his word and in his supper…and sends us out in joy to be messengers of his peace, even as he goes with us.

 

 

 

 

Godspeed for Christy Huffman

For a long time, we have known this day would come. And now the days have drawn near, and Christy and her family have set their face to go to Virginia Beach.

In fact, Nate is already there serving at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church. His ordination is now behind him and his installation is set for next Saturday.

Christy will now be at home with Cora, Ada, and Jack, as they settle into a new life together on the coast.

 

Christy and Nate: we are so happy for you….but we will miss you.

Christy, I will miss being your partner in campus ministry, leading chapel together, devising Christmas programs together with Kevin, and asking you at least once a week to help me unfreeze my computer, set an away message, or upload to the church website. I have your phone number, so I know I can still call even when you’re in Virginia Beach…although you may not answer.

Epiphany will miss your devotion to faith formation, your creativity, your worship leadership, your singing voice, your smiling face, and your persistent positivity.

But now the Lord calls your family to new ventures.

Our call to discipleship has seasons, and as your season among us comes to a close, we look to you as an example of faithfulness.

You have said, “I will follow,” even though it means selling your home, saying goodbye to friends, leaving family, and uprooting your life.

And so you are a parable and a sign to us of the kind of life we are all called to live…one in which we are at least open to these things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not all of us will be called to such extreme life-changes, but some will.

A young woman among us leaves very shortly for South Africa to serve for a year with the ELCA, headed to another continent to share the gospel among villages, towns, and with people she can’t yet imagine.

There are at least four members of Epiphany who are current seminary students, and several more in college on a pre-sem track, all who will be uprooted to go to school, uprooted again to go on internship, uprooted again to come back to school for a final year, and uprooted again for their first call…and they might be thinking: foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but seminarians have nowhere to lay their head.

Many more of us have moved jobs after feeling God has called us in a new way, some of us are called into marriage, some of us are called to be parents, some of us are called into friendship with particular people.

Each one of us, even if we never change our zip code, are just as called to get up and follow. We may not move geographically, but we are all called to move for him.

 

In his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul speaks about it by saying, “For freedom, Christ has set us free.”

No slave who is set free stands still. Watch them move!

And Christ has set us free to love one another…as much or more than ourselves.

We’ve tried and failed enough by now to know that this can be as challenging – or even more challenging – as any geographical move.

The movement of the heart from idolatry, jealousy, anger, and factions…to love, patience, kindness, and gentleness: It would be nice if there was a moving company you could contract with, at least to do the heavy lifting, but it isn’t so.

It is hard work to move from the ways of life that gratify the self to self-less living…least of all, because selfish living feels so good.

Our two year old, Lucia, is the blond down front, who so many of you have commented is so well behaved on Sunday mornings.

When she gets mad she holds her breath, turns red, and shakes. When she’s really mad, she bites.

And I look at her in those moments and think: that must feel so good.

Anger feels so good…to really give yourself to it.

Even James and John ask Jesus if they can call down a fireball from heaven like the prophet Elijah before them to obliterate the Samaritans because they had the audacity to reject the message, which looks a lot like the kind of anger we’re seeing in the populist movements of this country, and in the United Kingdom, and in so many other places.

Quarrels and strife, dissentions and factions feel good. It means there’s always something or someone to talk bad about, and what an opportunity it is to display our wit and feel that much better about ourselves!

Like candy, all these taste good, but have no lasting value, doing nothing but damage to us and to our communities.

The Fruit of the Spirit is an acquired taste.

Whereas the works of the flesh are all about taking – a thing we come into the world understanding – these fruits of the Spirit are all about giving out of love for the other. And that is not easy.  It is hard work, and only Christ can help us crucify the flesh and live and be guided by his Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My grandfather and grandmother lived in a home they inherited from his family outside Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

Grandmother loved flowers: hydrangeas, tulips, roses, daffodils, dahlias, irises, marigolds.  Half of her yard was flowers and people would stop frequently as they drive by her home on highway 321 to ask if they could walk through her flowers.

Early in their marriage, Grandpaw would say: “Why would you want to plant all these flowers? Let’s plant vegetables! Let’s plant something we can eat!”  And he meant it, too!

But I only ever heard about him saying this after he had died.

All I remember is him working in the flower garden with Grandmother in the spring and in the fall, digging up her annuals for her, cutting flowers and bringing them inside to her.

And love changes your priorities.

I think Grandpaw really did come to love flowers because he learned to see them through Grandmother’s eyes.

 

With the love of the Father, Jesus invites us into a life of intimacy and friendship, where we can learn his priorities, his values, his desires.

Jesus invites us to follow him – leaving behind our comforts, yes. Putting him ahead of our own desires, yes.  And even prioritizing him over our families, yes.

All of which can seem terrifying.

But the life he leads us into is one in which our lives produce and give to the world love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

When we die to ourselves, Christ can live in and through us for the sake of the world, and we see with the Father’s eyes the value of the people Jesus cares about: the hungry person, the homeless person, and the hurting person.

 

 

Today is a kind of death.

Because even though we know we are united eternally in Christ, following him can actually separate us from one another in the short term.

Christy and Nate: you are now called to a new ministry, in a new place, among new people, and the gift we give you, in addition to our love and prayers, is to release you from service.

Part of us may want for you to remain, but knowing that Christ is calling you, we give God thanks for you and pray you into the future, which God holds for us all.

 

And as we say our goodbyes today, we see that sometimes Christ calls us to leave our home and what we know behind for him.

Perhaps more often, for most of us, his calling won’t require us to sell a home or pack boxes, but his calling is no less drastic. We are always called to move for him…

Today, Jesus Christ calls Wallace Baxter Garner into the Kingdom of God through baptism, where he has received the promise of life forever with God.

Today, God calls Ashley Vavra to join this congregation, and to share her passion and creativity and faith among and through us.

Today, God calls 22 of our high school youth to Roanoke College for a week of living in Christian Community focused on following Jesus.

Today, he calls all of us to be unwavering in our commitment to him and to put him above all things.

Thanks be to God, for the One who has called us to this work, promises to give us the strength and the faith to do it.