From the Pastor,  Rev. Julie Sterling

(Reprinted form the Nov. 2018 “The Bridge”)
Stewardship Sunday is just around the corner. Time to make plans and request
commitments for the coming year. As we prayerfully pull together our church budget for
2019, I wonder what blessings God has in store for our church. How will God warm our hearts
to new ministries? How will God call us torespond to our community? Most important,
how will God help us grow in faith and commitment as individuals as well as community. Active stewardship is more than just meeting the budget for the year. It is a response to the word of God. By giving back in faith and love, our perception of our place in this world changes. To quote Andrew Dhuse, “God’s will is not an itinerary, but an attitude”.

Every year I prepare for Stewardship by selecting a stewardship themed study or reading
to use along with my daily devotion. This year I’ve chosen the book “Treasures of the
Transformed Life” by John Ed Mathison. In the introduction, Mathison focuses on a Bible story
from Matthew 13:45-46: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine
pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” In
the story, the merchant was actively looking for his treasure. We too actively look for things we desire. The lesson is clear. As people of faith the true treasure is the kingdom of God.

How do we embrace active stewardship? Is it something that we can accomplish filling out
our pledge card on Stewardship Sunday or is it something more? If so, what can we do
throughout the year to become healthier stewards? Also, how do we change our perspective on giving so stewardship talk is more inviting?

During our October Presbytery meeting, Rev. Deborah Rexrode, Associate GeneralPresbyter and Stated Clerk for Stewardship, Presbytery of the James shared a message in worship titled “Called to Steward God’s Church.” In her sermon she emphasized stewardship as a part of active ministry that we ,should engage with throughout the year. She also reminded us that active stewardship involves prayer and study, community building and fellowship, along with personal commitment in response to our life with God. Good stewardship is transformative. When we actively search for the treasures of the kingdom, we find ourselves growing as Christians and becoming closer to God. Eleanor Powell sums up good stewardship as such:“What we are is God’s gift to us. What we
become is our gift to God.” Friends, let us join on this journey of stewardship together. The discipline of giving is an essential part in our life with God. We are called as Christians to use or time, talents, and tithes to assist God in the work of the church. Ask what you can faithfully do to give of yourself this year.

Any gift is a blessing! To quote Woody Allen, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Blessings,
Rev. Julie Sterling

Every morning I try to start my day with a moment or two of devotions.  In past churches my schedule made it impossible to do this am thankful for this precious time of study and prayer.  It has become as essential to me as morning exercises or daily vitamins.  Maintaining a healthy relationship with God is a work in progress and it is important to come to God each day with focus, devotion, and prayer.

The other day while reading my devotional from “Daily Feast” I found myself truly inspired.  The devotion reading focused on Proverbs 9:1-6, highlighting God’s invitation to each and every one of us to a blessed, fulfilled life.  The scripture reading speaks of Lady Wisdom preparing a great banquet for all to share.  The tables are set and filled with fine foods and wines.  For verses 3-6 the invitation is clear:

She has sent out her servants, and she calls
    from the highest point of the city,
 “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
To those who have no sense she says,
   “Come, eat my food
    and drink the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways and you will live;
    walk in the way of insight.”

         This is a good passage to turn to as our days shift from Summer vacations and activities to the more structured moments of Fall.  Lady Wisdom gives us a valuable lesson.  Our walk of faith is a process of both structure and ease, discipline and laughter, focus and joy.  When we give our lives to Christ, we are given a life rich with the beauty of all God’s creation.  Yet in our faith we are also called to search for wisdom and truth and embrace a healthy life, fitting of the body of Christ.

Choosing the feast of Wisdom means searching out what is good and right in our lives, and noting satisfies us better than the grace and love of Jesus.  Knowing this, we must make choices that are healthy and helpful to our own well-being and the wholeness of others.  Simply put, we must ask ourselves if we are investing wisely in the gift in front of us or are we squandering the blessings of God?

In the coming months I will ask the church walk with me on a path of renewal.  I pray as we join in faith and fellowship we can work to be a healthier, happier church as well as stronger people of God.  Together we can support one another to pursue a life of wisdom that satisfies our very soul.  The feast is prepared and ready.  It is our choice to accept the invitation!

The three churches of West End Baptist, Oxford Methodist, and Suffolk Presbyterian have
planned joint worship services during Holy Week. Please join us for the following services:
Maundy Thursday Service:
March 29, 7:00 p.m., at Oxford Methodist Church,
Rev. Julie Sterling (SPC) preaching
Good Friday Service:
March 30, 7:00 p.m., at West End Baptist Church,
Rev. Rita Kanten (OMC) preaching
Easter Sunrise Service:
April 1, 7:00 a.m., at Suffolk Presbyterian Church,
Rev. Bob Pipkin (WEBC) preaching. West End Baptist will provide refreshments after the service