Graduate Recognition Sunday

Graduate Prayer - Laying on of Hands

Prayer for our 2016 Graduates and Laying on of Hands

In case you missed it:  Sunday, June 5, was Graduate Recognition Sunday at St. Thomas.  We honored all of our 2016 graduates and Rachel Sullivan gave an inspiring message, offering God’s blessing to all (see below for an excerpt of Rachel’s message).

Grad Pic- 2016

2016 Graduates (from left to right) Lilly, Jillian, and Anna Chambers, Lily DiLorenzo & Ben Porter

Congratulations to the following graduates:

From High School- Jordan Barker, Anna Chambers, Jillian Chambers, Lilly Chambers, Lily DiLorenzo, Brody Fulsher, Ben Kelenski, and Ben Porter.  From College- Abbey Moehlau, Elliot Pearson, Allie Richardson, and Victoria Thompson, and with an Advanced degree- Alesha Beistline.

“Dream Big, Live Small” – by Rachel Sullivan

    It was a Saturday night in 1980 and I had just finished rolling up my wet long hair into pink sponge rollers.  The next day was Sunday so I had to be looking my best.  I raced through this task because I was on a mission….to get to the living room as fast as possible because two back-to-back episodes of my two favorite shows were about to begin.  Two hours of TV viewing bliss.  The Love Boat at 8:00 pm followed by Fantasy Island at 9:00 pm.  Rachel PicBut as I made a beeline for the comfy avocado green chair I was forced to pause.  In the air was the sweetest aroma known to humankind….my Mom’s homemade apple pie baking in the oven.  There is nothing like it…is there?  My mom had a secret recipe for her pie crust that no one knows to this day but it always browned to perfection and melted in your mouth.  This was her tradition.  Every Saturday night of my childhood my mom would bake a pie.  Most of these pies were for her family, but, on many occasions two pies were baked.  One of the pies might have went to the neighbor down the road who just found out her son was diagnosed with a serious illness or for my great aunt and uncle, both in their nineties, living in a remote farmhouse struggling to get by and always very appreciative of a pie visit from my mom.  It may have been a small gesture for my mom to throw another pie in the oven if she was already baking one, but, it meant a lot to the recipients of those pies.  It was a small thing done with great love.  Incidentally, her skill at baking pies was not passed down to the next generation namely me.  Matt often states that he was sold a “bill of goods” when he married me because he thought “like mother/like daughter” and hasn’t seen a pie produced from our oven in the past 20 years.

Today the message is entitled “Dream Big….Live Small.”  Last year on Graduation Sunday I gave a message that encouraged all of you to dream BIG.  I stated that we should have confidence in knowing that God can do “immeasurably more than we can even think or imagine” according to Ephesians.  And I still hold fast to the notion that our God smiles when we have visions to do big things because He knows that you are giving Him an opportunity to shine.  But, today I want to impress upon you the importance of the small things we do in life.  As we extend small acts of self-giving love in the course of our normal daily routines, God’s love becomes real to those around us.

…Here is the good news.  God’s love for you and God’s love for the larger world in need cannot be separated.  We don’t have to add more overwhelming activity to what we already got going.  Rather, our daily life—the commute to work and the play dates for our kids—are the exact places in which we express and experience God’s love for a world in need.  The adventure of loving a world in need is—at its best—about giving Jesus, in us, access, through us, to the ones around us he already loves.  It’s about doing small things with great love.

So what does this look like?  Graduates, you are going to have rich opportunities to build Christ-centered relationships in the days to come.  Rule Number One  is to see, hear, know and respond to others—simply be aware.  If you are going to college this fall, you can ask yourself these questions and if you are an adult in the working world these questions can also be modified to address you:  Are there students on my campus that regularly dine alone?  Have I gotten to know any of the international students?  Do I know the names of those wonderful people who serve my meals?   The people that God loves are with us if we just open our eyes to recognize and know them.

Even choosing classes can further equip you to serve in God’s kingdom.  Look for opportunities that will open your eyes and educate you for mission.  Even among required courses the possibilities are endless.  A class in environmental studies can help you learn how our nation’s overconsumption affects the poor around the globe.  Learn Spanish to give you tools to build bridges across cultural divides.

Frederick Beuchner once said:  “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  Are you a kid person?  Tutor a student at a local elementary school or help at Vacation Bible School.  Are you a good cook?  Gather three friends and serve a tasty meal to another friend that is having a difficult time.  Do you build?  Spend a Saturday afternoon working on your elderly neighbor’s broken fence and then take him out for coffee afterward and really get to know him.

Whatever you do, it all begins with one thing.  God is not expecting you to save the world single-handedly.  As you move with Jesus, your job is simply to get up in the morning, put your feet on the ground and ask “What do you have for me to do today?”

(To hear the message in its entirety, visit our St. Thomas website: stthomaspres .)

In the New Testament, Tabitha was known for her good works and acts of charity.  Graduates, as you take this next step on your journey of life ask yourself this question: what will you be known for?:

Jordan Barker—“Generous Giver”

Anna Chambers—“Determined Achiever”

Jill Chambers—“Full of light and love”

Lilly Chambers—“Gentle and Kind Soul”

Lily DiLorenzo—“Passionate Spirit”

Brody Fulsher—“Courageous Leader”

Ben Kelenski—“Strong Warrior”

Ben Porter—“Patient and Faithful”

Whatever it is, I hope that it is measured by the small acts that you do with great love through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

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Welcome New Members!

On May 22, seven people professed their faith in Christ and joined the church!  Please make a point to welcome them to our St. Thomas church family.  They are:

New Member pics- Emma and Lauren

Emma and Lauren Barr

Emma and Lauren Barr, 21542 Marina Circle, Macomb Twp., MI 48044. Ph: 586-899-1366.  Emma and Lauren are the daughters of Beth and Todd Barr.  Emma is currently a junior at Dakota High School and enjoys singing and playing soccer.  She is exploring colleges and is considering in a career in nursing.

Lauren attends Albion College, majoring in education and is also a resident assistant during the school year.  Lauren is passionate about teaching others and plans to work at a summer camp this summer.

 

New Member pics- Brock family

The Brock Family:  Rich and Angalique, children: Joe, 13; Gianna 11; & Noah, 7

Richard and Angalique Brock, 4967 Shelbyshire, Shelby Twp., MI 48316.  Ph: 586-718-3776.  Rich and Angalique have three children, Joe is 13 years old, Gianna is 11 years old and Noah is 7 years old.  Richard is a groundskeeper at a historic cemetery in Detroit and he enjoys outdoor construction and landscaping. Angalique is a teacher in the L’Anse Cruise School District.  She enjoys running and is interested in knitting.

 

Josephine LoFrano, (not pictured) 56396 Chesapeake Trail, Shelby Twp., MI 48316.  Ph: 586-207-1133.  Josie has been attending St. Thomas for almost a year, and enjoys the senior luncheons.  She has 3 grown children, 8 grandchildren and 12 great-grandkids! Josephine loves spending time with her family.

New Member pics- Tim and Amanda

Tim and Amanda

 

Tim and Amanda Nagi, 1417 Brians Way, Rochester Hills, MI 48307.  Ph:  616-594-9045.  Tim and Amanda are new to our area and have been attending St. Thomas for a few months now.  Tim is a business analyst, and enjoys listening to music and playing the trumpet.  Amanda is a data scientist and enjoys reading, sewing and playing the flute.

 

Confirmation- Part 3!

Confirmation 2016- Communion Table

Communion Table decorated for Confirmation

Confirmation by Liam Smith

Caring.  God cares for every one of his creatures making sure he looks after them every second 365 days of the year.  Pretty tiring but he does it for his love for us his creation.

Outstanding.  What a God!  A God who knows everybody in the world by name.  And loves everyone the same no matter what their history.  It’s good to know no matter what I do I can always go back to God.

Never changing.  God is unlike us in that he never gets in fights with us. He always wants the best for us and he always wants to be right by our side.  God wants to be close to us and it’s our job to let him into our lives.

Friendly.  God is the best friend anyone could ask for.  He watches after you and always has your back.  I think of him as my extra set of eyes watching out for me even when I’m not looking.

Interesting.  I’ve learned a lot about God from confirmation class.  However I know there is still a ton to learn about God.  This makes me very interested as I continue in my faith journey making me want to know more.

Reviver.   God not only can raise people from the dead physically he also can revive people mentally giving them new life and bringing in light into their lives.

Mighty.  God controls everything.  This reassures me that I have someone like him in charge.  It also tells me to trust in him because although I want to be in control it’s much better if I just let him take over and have full control.

Teacher.  I have learned lots of lessons from being close to God.  I have learned lessons from the gospel and from going and being involved in church activities.  This has made me into the person I am today.

Incredible.  I think of a hero.  God is more than a hero though he is incredible. God has given sight to the blind and sound to the deaf.  God can do the impossible.

One of a kind.  No one is like God.  He is powerful but gentle at the same time.  I can’t think of anything like that.  God can really do it all.

Needed. Without God nothing would be here – I wouldn’t be here, you wouldn’t be here, everyone wouldn’t be here.  If there is one thing I learned from confirmation class is God is needed.

Confirmation 2016- Liam Mitchell Maggie

 

Statement of Faith by Mitchell Williams

JESUS CHRIST

J – Jerusalem.  I chose Jerusalem because it is such an important place for Christianity.  It is referenced 806 times in the Bible.  I also think I am an important part in Christianity, just like everyone else.

E- Easter.  I chose Easter.  I think it’s pretty obvious why I chose Easter, but if you were wondering, it is the day Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  It is one of my favorite holidays because it is such a happy time.

S – Sabbath.  I chose Sabbath because I think it is important to set aside time for Him.

U – Unconditionally.  I chose unconditionally because God loves everyone unconditionally.

S – Scripture.  I used scripture because it is pretty much the center for Christianity; because it’s not only in one part of Christianity, it’s in every part.

 

C – Christmas.  I used Christmas because it was the day Jesus was born and it is also my favorite holiday because I feel closer to family.

H- Healing.  I used healing because Jesus was known for many things and healing anything was one of those things.  He heals me in stressful times and also helps other people to get over those times.

R – Resurrection.  I used resurrection because even after being crucified, Jesus resurrected from the dead.  To me this means that I am never dead in Christ.

I -Idol.  I chose idol because Jesus should be our only idol and nothing else.  To me, he is my idol.

S -Sin.  I chose sin because Jesus died on the cross and relieved us of all our sin.  To me, this means that I am never lost in Christ.

T-Trinity.  I chose trinity for the holy trinity.  The trinity gives me guidance through life.

 

Confirmation Class- 2016 Worship

 

Statement of Faith by Ted Kosarek

HOLY SPIRIT

H- Hopes and dreams for every person.

O- Other gods don’t compare.

L- Listens to you always.

Y- Yield.  I will strive to Yield to His will for my life.

S- Sins.  My Sins are forgiven by His grace.

P- Provides me with strength and light.

I- Inspires me to help those in need.

R- Ready to accept my sins.

I- Interested in me and will always listen.

T- Treats you with care.

Confirmation- Part 2!

Confirmation 2016- Bench

Confirmation Class 2016- Front row:  Sam, Thomas, and Mitchell.  Back row: Maggie, Ted, Will, Tori, and Kate.  (Missing: Liam)

 

Nine young people joined the church on Sunday, May 15, 2016 – Pentecost Sunday.

They all did a wonderful job leading worship and sharing a part of their faith journeys with us.  In case you missed it, here are some of their statements of faith:

My Faith Statement – by Victoria Johnson

HOLY SPIRIT

H- Having faith in God has helped me in many ways.  The most important one is not over worrying.  I know that God will make everything as it is supposed to be.

O- Our church is like a family.  I have so many memories that make me smile still just to think about.  Our love for God has brought together so many people I care about and who care about me.

L- Loving God has never been difficult for me.  I love Him as a friend, protector, and father.

Y- Youthfulness of God means He will live forever, and I can trust and love Him forever.

S– Songs we sing in our church always lift my mood.  It’s relaxing and calming to see everyone singing in unison.

P- Praying is calming in stressful situations.  It helps me God is there to help.

I- Interacting with people with very similar beliefs helps me enjoy learning about God  and praising Him.

R- Realizing God would save me because I love and believe in how amazing He is makes me feel safe and protected.

I- I found how to love God through mostly hymns, people, and the stories of Him and His son.

T- Trusting God has helped me be happy and trusting of other people.

 

Statement of Faith by Sam Caldwell

HOLY SPIRIT

H– Hero.  God is like my own personal super hero who I can spread to others.

O– Only God can judge me for who I am and only He can change me.

L– Lord, only you know what is best for me.

Y– Young or old, I will spread your word to everyone I possibly can.

S– Sam.  I am Sam, I am yours and you are mine.

P– Prayer is most important; spread it to everyone you can.

I– I am a child of God.

R– Resurrected from the cross, you came back to show you’re alive and real.

I– I am granted eternal life in heaven.

T– Thank you, God, for helping me in hard times, for curing my sins, for always being here with me, no matter what happens.

Confirmation 2016- Helping in Kitchen

Helping in the Kitchen

Statement of Faith by Thomas Bassett

T- Thankful.  I am Thankful that the Good Lord has blessed me with a wonderful and supportive family and many friends.

H- Helping.  I believe in Helping people.  This is something that is important to me.  I enjoy assisting others with whatever they may need— which makes me feel like I can do anything after.

O- Opportunity.  I have an Opportunity to try my best in spreading the Lord’s word.  I will also take any opportunity that God will give me.

M- Messenger.  I am a Messenger of God’s word.  I want to be God’s hands and feet and share His message with others.

A- Always.  I will Always try my hardest to do what I need to get done.  I am also always trying to be the best person I can be.

S- Strive.  I will Strive to be the very best person I can be and to make a positive difference in our world.  I will do this to honor and worship God and to show others how great God is.

More to come!

Nine Young People Join the Church!

Confirmation 2016- Class pic

Members of the 2016 Confirmation Class  (from left to right):  Will Kosarek, Tori Johnson, Maggie Zanlungo, Kate Bassett, Ted Kosarek, Mitchell Williams, Liam Smith, Sam Caldwell, Tom Bassett

Nine young people joined the church last Sunday on Pentecost and Confirmation Sunday!  The youth did a wonderful job as they led worship and shared their faith with the congregation as they joined the church.  Here are some of their statements of faith.  Check it out!

Confirmation Essay – by Maggie Zanlungo

Who were you a year ago? How far have you come since that day?  Is the person you currently are the person you have always wanted to be?  How do you know?  The most popular answers to these questions are simply somewhere along the lines of I don’t know.  What is your plan?  What is God’s plan for you?  How are they related?

I think we can all agree that we’ve wished for a cheat sheet sometimes.  My school counselor recently addressed my fellow classmates and I at a college collaboration.  She said, “You don’t get to pick and choose the things that happen to you, you can only decide the kind of person you become because of it.”  Although the speech had nothing to do with God or religion, it gave me perspective.

As far as I know, every Christian is taught some varying principles about God at a very young age.  In my personal experience, I was told that God loves me, just as he loves all of his creations.  I was also taught that God was all powerful, he could move mountains, and part seas, and even scare away the monsters lurking under my bed.  And as a final rule, I was taught that God had a plan for me; he had a plan.

Suddenly, I was connecting the dots between my counselors speech and the plan that would never fail me, but I was the one who had to choose how I would process the ups and downs of this plan.  When the dust settled would I live in bitterness or rise from the ashes?

Again, I referred back to the easy answer:  I don’t know.  I wanted to be the person God wanted me to be, but I didn’t know where to start.  It all comes down to choice:  How will you handle the best and worst of situations?

The bad and the good walk hand in hand, so be prepared for both.  I don’t know a lot of things.  For example, I have no idea how to calculate the surface area of a sphere, or when humans will make it to Mars, but I know God has a plan for me.  I now that he has a plan to show me what I need to do be a good follower.  I don’t know if I will leave the world a better place than it was when I came into it, but God knows.

He has a plan for all of us, so we should not fear what is coming next,

because God knows.

Confirmation 2016- at Joes

Work Day at Joe Hallman’s last fall

William’s Faith Statement – by Will Kosarek

C- Creative and loving

R- Righteous- he is a fair and just leader.  He rules with love.

E- Everything and everyone is his beautiful creation.

A- Among us all.

T- Tortured on the cross for our sins.

O- Original- I don’t have to be the same as everyone else to be loved by God.

R- Ruler of my destiny— his word will help guide me through the journey of life.

G- Great creator of everything.

O- Outstanding Perseverance- He endured the cross for all people to be forgiven.

D- Diamond in the rough- he lived as an ordinary man with extraordinary powers.

A Drawing by Kate Bassett

Confirmation 2016- Kate Bassett

by Kate Bassett

Kate writes:  “My drawing represents new life and new things growing into the world.  God brings new things into this world every day and creates things that are all around us.  His creations can breathe, dance, and show emotion.  God gives the blind sight and the deaf hearing.  He gives us life.  He gives and gives, and we can forever be grateful!

Congratulations to all our confirmands in 2016, and the adults who have helped teach and mentor these students along the way.  May God’s blessing continue to be upon all of you!

Stay tuned:

More pics and Statements of Faith will follow!

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Easter 2016

Coming to understand the truth of the Resurrection is not just a hop, skip, and a jump out of the tomb, but rather it is a life-long journey of faith.

I love this time of year!

The grass is greening, day lilies and tulips are beginning to emerge, and buds are forming on trees.  The other day, I walked by a pond and the air was filled with a cacophony of sound— frogs chirping out their praise after a long, cold winter; in a place that had been ghostly quiet just the week before.

New life is bursting forth all around us!  The new life of spring is emerging from the death of winter’s grip.

In her book “Out of the Ordinary,” Joyce Rupp compares the greening of the earth in springtime to our “spiritual eastering,” an inner transformation and rebirth after we’ve had a long winter spell of spirit.  She describes watching for the grass to green each spring, and says that often times it is a long, slow process.  It happens only after a long time of waiting.

Our Scripture passage on Easter (Luke24:13-35) was a story of a “Spiritual Eastering.”

It is the story of two disciples on the walk to Emmaus on the first Easter Sunday.  It not the story of instantaneous recognition and transformation, but rather a journey of faith.

The story begins with two people walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a journey of about seven miles, scripture tells us.  One of the disciples, Cleopas, is named, and the other remains unnamed, we don’t know who he or she is.  In so doing, Luke invites us to place ourselves in the story.

It is a journey that begins in the midst of deep sorrow and sadness.  The two disciples have just witnessed the execution of someone special, someone they knew and followed, someone they thought might be the One to redeem Israel, someone whom they undoubtedly called friend.

Take a moment, and imagine their pain and sorrow over the loss of close friend…  Place yourself in the story, walking along with them in the midst of their sorrow and sadness.

Moreover, as they walk along, the two disciples reveal that they have heard some confusing, perplexing news.  Women had gone to the tomb earlier in the day, and it was empty!  The body of Jesus is missing!  The women had said that they had seen him, but now he was gone!

Imagine their doubt and confusion over hearing this perplexing news…

What was happening?  They just didn’t know.  Could it be true?  They just weren’t sure.

Along the way, a stranger joins them in their journey and asks them why they are so sad.

The appearance of this stranger adds to the mystery and irony of the story.  Who is this stranger?  How could he not know of the events that have just taken place in Jerusalem?

They said that others went to look for Jesus, but just couldn’t see him!  Do you catch the irony here?  They are looking right him, but they don’t see or recognize Jesus either.

Still, they journey onward, talking with this compelling stranger.  It is not until the end of the journey, when they invite this stranger into their home and he breaks bread with them, that their eyes are opened and they begin to understand.

Like the burgeoning of spring around us and the greening of the earth, our understanding of the resurrection and seeing Jesus is not always an instantaneous event, but indeed more often than not, it is a journey of faith.

Joyce Rupp says, “Eastering isn’t always a quick step out of the tomb.  Sometimes rising from the dead takes a long, slowly-greening time.”

Rupp talks of people she knows who are longing for an inner greening, and yet are in the throes of a spiritual winter:  a widow whose husband died much too early; a man who is struggling with a job loss and now faces a career change in midlife; a family that is contemplating a move cross-country, far away from friends and family; a colleague who is struggling with clinical depression and can barely get out of bed.

“Each one needs an ‘eastering,’ a bright greening, and oh, how they long for it to come soon,” Rupp says.  “[Yet], it can’t be hurried.  No amount of hurry, or push, or desire can make the green happen any sooner.  It may be a painstakingly slow process, a tiny bit of life gradually weaving through the pain and questions.”

She concludes, “My hope for you this Easter season is that you will trust the resurrection of your spirit, believe that the joy and new life will come to you, even though it may not be there for you now.”

Amen!  “Eastering”— coming to know the truth and the power of the resurrection— can take a long time.  Indeed, it takes a long time of patient waiting before new growth and transformation begins to appear.

Where are you in your spiritual journey?

Know that no matter where you are, Jesus promises to meet you on the journey of life and faith.  Jesus promises to meet us in our sorrow and sadness, as well as the joys and celebrations of life.  He promises to walk with us throughout all of life, through the difficulties and challenges we face, and even in the midst— especially in the midst— of our doubts and questions.  Jesus journeys with us through the mysterious of faith and life, and points our hearts back to God.

The journey to resurrection is not a quick journey.  Like the greening of the earth around us, it is a process that takes time.

Indeed, it takes a life time to complete!

 

 

What to Do When God Seems Far Away…

My God Why have you forsaken me

Yesterday, Pastor Jaime preached a powerful sermon on understanding the Psalms as lament, focusing on Psalm 22.  It is perhaps the most stark and startling— and well known— Psalm of lament.  Psalm 22 is the prayer that Jesus utters on the cross.

Here is a portion of Jaime’s sermon:

The Psalms of lament call God to account; they point out the discrepancies and incongruities in life and faith; they give voice to our distress and pain.  And giving voice to our pain is necessary to our healing.  Because when we voice it to another, we discover we re not alone.  We all struggle.

I remember a time a few years ago, when things were falling apart for me.  I was struggling with some issues in my extended family and at the same time my church family was struggling with some changes in the constitution of the P.C.(U.S.A.).  I couldn’t understand how a God I had served so faithfully for so long would allow me to suffer so intensely.  I was angry and confused, and I remember experiencing deep feelings of inadequacy as a pastor.  Maybe if I had done this differently, or that differently, we wouldn’t be in this challenging, hard place— I wouldn’t be in this challenging, hard place.

And one day, when I didn’t even think I could get out of bed, this is what I heard God say:  “Jaime, when things were going well, was it all because of you and your great efforts?”  No.  I knew the answer was No— it was not because of me.  “OK then, now, because things are going badly, is it all because of you?”  No.  I knew that the answer to that was No, as well.  OK, then, when things are good, it’s not all because of you, and when things are bad it’s not all because of you.”  What a relief!

(To see Pastor Jaime’s entire sermon, go to our website:  http://www.stthomaspres.com)

Our Bible study on the Psalms asks the question, “What does it mean that the Psalms in their frank, conversational style have been used through the centuries as liturgy in worship?”

As I thought about this question, the answer came to me that it is okay to be honest, to be real.  Somewhere along the way we got the notion that we have to be prim and proper in church, and that is unfortunate.  Because what God really wants is honesty— honesty of the heart.

When we come to worship are we prepared to be fully honest before God?  To open our hearts completely?  Can we create a space where it’s okay to cry out in lament as well as sing songs of joy and praise?

Michael Jinkins in our study Invitation to Psalms says:  “The psalms of lament— especially individual psalms of lament— often map the course of a life transformed in the crucible of suffering.  The change is not only psychological; it is also spiritual, representing fundamental shifts in our way of understanding God’s relationship to the world and our relationship to God.  …The psalms of lament stand as testimony to the fact that the Lord is a living God, and sometimes following the Lord involves a sprint and not a leisurely stroll, even though the course we are running is long, with lots of twists, turns, up, and downs.”  (Michael Jinkins, Invitation to Psalms, Abingdon Press, pp. 86-7)

The journey of faith is indeed a marathon, although many times it feels like a sprint.  Either way, the Psalms beckon us out of our comfort zones and into a deeper relationship with God.   The journey of faith encompasses all of life— our greatest joys and triumphs, as well as our deepest sorrows and struggles.  Through it all, we trust that God is there, even though God may seem far away.  Often it is in times of sorrow and suffering that true transformation takes place, and it is in those times that we need God’s grace the most!

Journeying Together,

Pastors Jim and Jaime