John Newton: Amazed By Grace

2018-02-03 15:41:23 dporzel

John Newton: Amazed By Grace  Grace2

By Barb Mazarakos

 

There is a common piece of advice given to writers when they start out to “write what you know”. These words are often the purest, coming from a place close to the heart where feelings and thoughts mostly unspoken find their way into the world. Such is the tale of one of our most beloved hymns, Amazing Grace.

 

It is ironic that the man responsible for these beautiful words was once known as “The Great Blasphemer.” For the first seven years of his life, John Newton grew up under the watchful eye of his Puritan mother, being taught the Word of God. When she died when he was 7 he was left to be raised by his father, who was a stern man of the sea. At 11 years old John went to sea with his dad and quickly adapted to some of the less desirable traits of sailors, including cussing, drinking, and overall debauchery.

 

Newton became impressed in the British Navy but by his bad behavior (and an attempt at desertion), he was demoted to the rank of common seaman. He ended up serving on a slave ship but didn’t get along with the crew, who ended up leaving him in West Africa with a slave trader by the name of Amos Clowe. Clowe gave Newton to his wife, who mistreated him as she did all of the rest of her slaves. In 1748, after 3 years of captivity, Newton was rescued by a seaman who was hired by his father to find him. They began their trip back on the ship Greyhound, which spent over a week thrashing around in a storm on the open water. As the sailors struggled to manually control the ship, Newton had the first moment of his conversion. He cried out to God for help in the middle of the night and the ship was spared. Newton began to spend time studying the Bible and in prayer, just as his mother instilled in him in his earliest years.

 

He gave up on gambling, women, and drinking, but continued to run slave ships and be involved in slave trading until 1754 when he suffered a stroke. Again he cried out to God for help. The next year he took a position as a tax collector but began studying Greek, Hebrew and Syriac in preparation for serious religious study. He was married to his childhood sweetheart and adopted his two nieces and worked as a lay minister, even applying to be ordained. It took 7 years for him to be accepted and he was ordained as a priest on June 17, 1764 in Olney, Buckinghamshire.

 

While in Olney, Newton would write hymns to accompany his services. In 1772 he wrote “Faith’s Review and Expectation”, or what we now know as “Amazing Grace”. In 1788, 34 years after leaving the slave trading business, Newton published a pamphlet called “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade”, which gave details of the condition of slave ships and denounced his former business, even saying “It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”The pamphlet was so popular it was reprinted and sent to all of the members of Parliament. Later, under the direction of William Wilberforce, slavery was outlawed in Great Britain in 1807. John Newton lived to see this happen but then passed away in December of that year, amazed by grace and no longer lost.

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Christian Faith in Action: William Wilberforce

2018-02-03 15:37:21 dporzel

Christian Faith in Action: William Wilberforce Heart of the Church

by Pete Schrank

 

We see in the press every day the claim that this person or this action is racist. As followers of Christ, we are obligated to speak out and support those that seek justice. The word justice is found 131 times in the Bible in both the Old and New Testament. The first reference from Proverbs 21:15 “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” This verse seems appropriate for the topic of William Wilberforce and his faith in action.

 

William Wilberforce was born in Hull, England on August 24, 1759. When William was just nine years old, his father died. William was sent to live with his aunt and uncle, and during this time was exposed to Evangelical Christian teaching. At age 21, he was elected to Parliament and almost immediately went to work to abolish slavery in the British Empire.   William had the council of many famous Christian leaders; i.e., John Newton, the former slave ship captain, who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace. He also corresponded with John Wesley, who was one of the founders of the Methodist faith. The Quakers joined forces with William as well.

 

Though discouraged at one point, William even contemplated leaving Parliament, but John Newton convinced him that God had placed him there for a purpose.   God has a purpose for all of us. We may not have a clear view of this purpose like William Wilberforce or Pastor Ray, but we are called to deliver our own witness, whatever that may be.

 

Back to the story of William. In 1805, Wilberforce put forward his thirteenth motion for the abolition of the slave trade, only to have it rejected again. Mr. Hatsell, the clerk of the House of Commons, said to him, “You ought not to expect to carry a measure of this kind.” He had been disparaged by false scandal, threatened by slave ship captains and business leaders.

 

Finally, in February of 1807, a motion in favor of abolition was carried in the House of Commons, winning by a huge majority of 283 to 16. Wilberforce’s long, hard battle had succeeded. But this was only applied to England and not the entire British Empire. It took another 24 years, and just three days before William Wilberforce’s death, to completely abolish the slave trade.

 

The abolition of slavery was not the only battle that Wilberforce fought. He wrote a book about using his Christian faith to guide his politics. Wilberforce gave away a fourth of his annual income to the poor, as well as partially supporting Charles Wesley’s widow from 1792 until her death in 1822. He, and the Clapham Community, stood for education for the masses, prison reform and improvement in factory conditions. They fought child labor, savage game laws and flogging in the army. They even intervened on behalf of persons outside of Britain, including the American Indians. They founded the Church Missionary Society, as well as the British and Foreign Bible Society.

 

All of these things Jesus asked us to do; clothe the poor, feed the hungry, visit the prisoners, and give justice to all of the oppressed, are the responsibility of all that call themselves Christians.

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Pastor's Corner - February

2018-02-03 15:34:51 dporzel

Pastor’s Corner:  The Feast of StephenLove and faith

 

As I write in the cold days of January, a Christmas-season song comes to mind, and with it a very important ministry of Christ Lutheran Church. The song, in part, goes like this: “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen. When the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even….” The song goes on to encourage the helping of those in need and concludes, “Therefore, Christian men, be sure wealth or rank possessing Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.” It is a hymn that remembers the work of St. Stephen, his day being December 26, as a caregiving deacon of the early church. The song and the day lead us to give thanks to God for the Stephen Ministry of Christ Lutheran Church.

 

The motto of the national organization Stephen Ministries of St. Louis is “Equipping God’s People for Ministry since 1975,” and its theme Scripture passage is “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). This one-to-one lay caring ministry that takes place in congregations uses the Stephen Series system to equip and empower lay caregivers – called Stephen Ministers – to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting, often experiencing grief, divorce, job loss, illness, or some other life crisis.

 

On Sunday, January 21, Stephen Ministry leader Gerry Bronzell and I will join with our 14 other Stephen Ministers to commission our newest Stephen Minister, Tammy Marr. Tammy has completed a comprehensive program of training and will join in monthly, continuing training with her fellow Stephen Ministers as she gives care within our congregation and community.

 

We praise the Lord for our very active Stephen Ministry at Christ Lutheran and for the care-full guidance of leader Gerry Bronzell. May God enable us to share the grace and hope of Christ in Christian caregiving in these days after the Feast of Stephen and always!

 

Pastor Ray +

Pastor’s Corner:  The Feast of Stephen

 

As I write in the cold days of January, a Christmas-season song comes to mind, and with it a very important ministry of Christ Lutheran Church. The song, in part, goes like this: “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen. When the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even….” The song goes on to encourage the helping of those in need and concludes, “Therefore, Christian men, be sure wealth or rank possessing Ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.” It is a hymn that remembers the work of St. Stephen, his day being December 26, as a caregiving deacon of the early church. The song and the day lead us to give thanks to God for the Stephen Ministry of Christ Lutheran Church.

 

The motto of the national organization Stephen Ministries of St. Louis is “Equipping God’s People for Ministry since 1975,” and its theme Scripture passage is “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). This one-to-one lay caring ministry that takes place in congregations uses the Stephen Series system to equip and empower lay caregivers – called Stephen Ministers – to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting, often experiencing grief, divorce, job loss, illness, or some other life crisis.

 

On Sunday, January 21, Stephen Ministry leader Gerry Bronzell and I will join with our 14 other Stephen Ministers to commission our newest Stephen Minister, Tammy Marr. Tammy has completed a comprehensive program of training and will join in monthly, continuing training with her fellow Stephen Ministers as she gives care within our congregation and community.

 

We praise the Lord for our very active Stephen Ministry at Christ Lutheran and for the care-full guidance of leader Gerry Bronzell. May God enable us to share the grace and hope of Christ in Christian caregiving in these days after the Feast of Stephen and always!

 

Pastor Ray +

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"Where Everybody Knows Your Name..."  

2018-01-04 18:20:13 dporzel

 

By Heather GreenIPhonePix1923a[1]
Years ago there was an extremely popular sitcom with a very sentimental theme song. I actually learned to play the theme song on the piano and played it for a recital. Incidentally, the recital was held at Christ Lutheran because Sandra Knopp was my piano teacher. I absolutely loved the lyrics:

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,

And they’re always glad you came…

You want to be where people know

People are all the same…

Where everybody knows your name.

 

I really felt the significance of these words when I moved back to Illinois and came “home” to Christ Lutheran. A few short weeks after I moved back, my daughter was born prematurely. The outpouring of love I received was overwhelming. Pastor Walt was there the day she was born. Pastor Ray visited a day later, followed by Pastor Shawn. It didn’t matter that I had moved away and had only visited occasionally at Easter or Christmas when I was in town. I was back and I was treated as a long-lost family member. I was finally home, and I was loved.

 

Although I had lived out of state for many years, I knew that every time I visited, I would see familiar faces. Sometimes I saw friends I had been confirmed with, other times I saw a former Sunday school teacher, or sometimes the folks who always sit in the second pew. Everything and almost everyone was familiar. And someone always greeted me by name. I had joined a church back in Virginia, but there was no sense of familiarity like there is at Christ Lutheran. The root of “familiarity” is family, and that is just what Christ Lutheran is – a family.

 

We are not only a family in Christ, but we are also a family in that we take the time to get to know each other and genuinely care about each other. This is definitely unique to Christ Lutheran. I consider myself blessed to be part of such a familiar congregation, where somebody always knows your name.

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My "Other" Home 

2018-01-04 18:18:25 dporzel

 

by Barb MazarakosOther Home

 

When you hear the word “home”, many sayings may run through your mind: Home sweet home. Home is where your story begins. ET phone home (ok, that one may pop up more for those of us of a particular generation). Whatever phrase you may think of, “home” has a certain connotation for most of us, one of a place that is safe and comfortable. Where you are loved and feel secure. It’s a place where you are known, and so are all your silent imperfections, but you are welcomed and accepted and wanted. Hopefully for you, “home” is your happy place.

 

For me, Christ Lutheran has long been a second home. Those who have long known me might remember me as the young girl in the children’s choir or the awkward pre-teen in the Sunday School program. I was a Sunday School teacher and eventually Superintendent; I was a VOYAGER before that was what the high school group was called; I’ve served on committees, been a lector and sang with Joy and Praise, and have even ushered more than a few times. For a while, I struggled as we sometimes do with things at home, and I stayed away. That was a hard time. But then I came back. I missed my “home” and I missed my church family. Because those who have known me through all of those phases of growth and leadership and awkwardness have become some of the very faces I so look forward to seeing when I am here. You have become important to me as models of worship and cherished memories and I needed to come back to that.

 

The things that make a particular church the right pick for you may be different than they are for others. But for me, after the theology (which is always my first and foremost), it’s the feeling of family that has made this church my home for most of my life. Some places may be bigger or trendier or more casual. If that is what works for you and you feel refreshed in the Word of God, then may He continue to work in your soul that way. I will never put down another church if someone is being brought to the Word and leaves feeling renewed to go out for Jesus. But me? I like seeing the same faces I have seen year after year. I love that my children are going to VBS with the children of people I grew up with. I cherish some of the earliest memories of my wedding day when we pulled up to the doors of the Greek church and members of my church family were already there waiting for us (because Lutherans know that being on time is being late!) Here you get a call and a prayer or a personal visit when you are in the hospital. People comment on how your children have grown and ask about your extended family even if they only know of them from your stories, because you aren’t just a number you are a person. Everyone may not call out your name when you walk in the doors, but they might as well. Because when you are here, you are part of the family.

 

So thank you, my big, wonderful, CELC family for creating a place that truly feels like home. Because they also say Home is Where the Heart Is, and my heart will always be here with you.

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