I hope everyone has a Joy filled Christmas! I pray this New Year will be Fruitful!
As I reflect upon the year of Lord 2023, it brings a mixed bag of emotions. There are so many things that make me smile and be happy about, such as the wonderful ministry our small congregation offers to our community. Just in the past four weeks, I have hauled to The Salvation Army thirty Thanksgiving baskets and forty-six bags of Christmas presents for those less fortunate. Our food pantry is now feeding, mostly meats and vegetables, to around 450 different people per month. While Meals on Wheels serves the elderly and handicap, two hundred meals a day, right from our front porch. They could serve more if they had additional volunteer drivers. (Hint, hint).
Since we have installed the sign, AA, Alcoholics Anonymous has grown rapidly. Some days, its standing room only. I cannot give you a number as to how many lives and families have been redeemed through AA, but it is a lot. It is a lot because AA teaches the same thing Lutherans teach—a very practical approach. Step one—admit you have a problem. Step two—come to realize that only God can restore us to sanity. (Good Lutheran theology)
Yet, that is not all we do for our community. We open our church home to a variety of community groups, such as, In Season Ministry, Stamp Collectors Club, Garden Club, Homeowners Associations, Anniversaries, Baby Showers and Birthdays. Council just approved a request to become a “Cold Night Shelter” for the homeless when the temperature drops below 40 degrees. Plus, hopefully this week, Peace will have a signed contract to host a Christian based school for approximately seventy-five nineths through twelfth graders.
Still, that is not all we do. We proclaim the message of the gospel in a manner that gives hope and comfort to many, in person and online. We visit the sick and shut in. We bury the dead and celebrate with the living. Plus, we must never forget the quality of responsible citizens the church continues to raise up through Jesus’ teachings, citizens bearing “good fruit” for Palm Bay and the world. This year, Peace welcomed more new members than previous years.
So, you see, there is a great deal of ministry happening at Peace Lutheran to make a person smile and be happy. And get this, we do God’s work with barely a hundred members, one full time pastor, four part time employees and a whole bunch of volunteer angels, who are being the hands of God. Remember also, we have eight buildings that demand a great deal of tender loving care. All this, on a budget of $250,000! Folks, that is what I call being frugal with the treasures you offer to God.
Yet, there are few things to be concerned about, like making our budget! What makes me sad is that we do not have enough current members who see and understand the value of church and our ministry. I say this because this year Peace will not meet our budgeted income by a whopping $50,000! I am certain everyone reading this letter knows that we cannot continue the level of ministry if our expenses exceed our giving. We either begin to cut ministry or giving must increase. Those are our options.
To tell you the truth, I have always had faith and still do, that if we, Peace Lutheran Church proclaim the gospel in purity and administer the Sacraments rightly, if we keep Jesus Christ in the center of our Lampstand, continuing His work the best we know how, if we do these things, God will always provide, always. But please try to remember that our God works through us. God’s Work! Our Hands! Think about it…
Here in a few days, you will be receiving a Stewardship packet in the mail. Jesus refers to us quite often as stewards. We are the ones who take care of God’s property. Within this packet is a letter, teaching that the giving of our first fruits makes a person more Christ-like, more in the image of God. Please read this letter carefully.
Since God promises to provide for our every need, we promise God, to give of our time, talent, and treasures, now providing for those around us in need, both physically and spiritually. Also, in the packet there are two half-sheet cards and one envelope. The cards are “Love Letters to God.” Fill out both cards, keeping one to remind you of those promises, returning the other card in the envelope provided. If you made this promise last year, your Love Letter is being returned to you, unopened. I believe what you offer to the Lord should be between you and God. I also genuinely believe, if we keep Jesus in the center of Peace Lutheran, proclaiming His good news and continuing His hard work, this Lampstand will shine brightly in the year 2024, and God will once again give us many more reasons to smile and be happy.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
Pastor David Trexler