Dear Friends in Christ,
Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Our church grounds look so beautiful with all the changing colors. As our sermon series on The Way of Gratefulness has been reminding me, we have so much to be thankful for both as individuals and as a community. Gratitude is not just what we feel, it is what we say and do; it is a disposition that can be chosen and cultivated even in times of difficulty. So, what are you thankful for right now?
Margie Joehnck and SPRC took me by complete surprise on Pastor Appreciation Sunday with a wonderful unique gift of a lined bag with a cross and flame embroidered on it made from a pair of jeans! The words of appreciation that Margie spoke really touched my heart and filled me with gratitude. I am so glad that God sent me here to Sierra Pines UMC – it is a blessing to be your pastor. Thank you to you all for this gift and for your support.
I am thankful for the saints that have served this church over the last 31 years. Their generosity, and yours, over the years enabled us on October 28 to celebrate that the last payment has been made on our mortgage. We remembered with thanks Jim and Joy Hommon whose legacy started our Endowment Fund that grew sufficiently for us to withdraw $44,103 of interest to become debt-free. There is a picture on the front page of the “mortgage burning” ceremony and a video on our website. We had a good time celebrating with Rev. Blake Busick, our District Superintendent.
We are one in the Spirit and connected in ways we do not always see. You never know whose life you are touching and if your path will cross again. I am sure we all have stories of coincidences, or as I prefer to call them, God-incidences. My son Derek is living in Switzerland for a few months and last week he went on a hike with a group of foreigners all living in Basel. Among that group was another American man called Norval. As they were hiking and chatting, Norval said that as a child he had lived in England for a couple of years. As the conversation continued, they discovered that Norval was my next-door neighbor in England when I was a young girl! Yes, the house immediately next door to me! Although he was closer in age to my youngest brother, we had all played together. It is a small world indeed. Imagine what might happen if we assume that every stranger is a neighbor? After all, the Bible tells us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2).
As my heart rejoiced at my son’s story, it was crushed just a few minutes later with the news of another hate crime and the deaths of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill. That is the real-life neighborhood of Fred Rogers, host of the show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, who is known for saying, “”When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” In the days ahead, may we be the helpers. I encourage you to reach out in solidarity and get to know our Jewish neighbors.
— Pastor Joan