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 Pastor's Corner 

In This Season of Giving …

A number of years ago, John and I decided to simplify our Christmas gift giving. Our siblings are all successful adults, who live in nice houses filled with lovely things. They are able to purchase pretty well anything they need whenever they need it. Trying to find special and meaningful gifts on a tight budget that also allowed for shipping them to distant parts of Canada and the USA seemed so overwhelming.  Then we discovered ELCA Good Gifts.

ELCA Good Gifts provides more than 50 different gift-giving options that grow the church, fight hunger and transform lives. These gifts, starting at just $10, provide direct support for the church-wide ministries of the ELCA. Our gifts support projects in 83 countries about the globe. These include literacy training and education, anti-hunger programs, refugee support, health care, programs designed to enable families to become self-supporting, and more. More than 90% of your donation goes directly to program support in the areas of greatest need.  

Our Advent tree in the Narthex is decorated with ELCA Good Gifts ornaments and will remain up through the Advent and Christmas seasons. You are invited to select an ornament (or several) and make a donation to St. Stephen’s (write “ELCA Good Gifts” on the memo line). Take the ornament(s) home as a reminder of your gift, or, you can do as John and I intend to do, send the ornaments to our siblings letting them know that we’re honoring them by supporting good work in their names. 

If you prefer to purchase more traditional gifts for your loved ones, you can still provide life-changing opportunity for marginalized artisans, farmers, and their families around the world by purchasing Fair Trade Gifts from SERRV on Sunday, December 10. Shop for beautiful handmade gifts for your family and friends: chocolate bars, jewelry, scarves, purses, baskets, puzzle boxes, nativity sets, onyx sculptures, leather banks, and many other items. 

Through your purchase of fair trade gifts, artisans in 25 countries are lifted out of poverty.  They are given a voice and treated with respect.  They can earn a fair income, send their children to school, learn new skills, and develop community projects like water wells and medical clinics. Remember to bring cash or a check.

In this season of giving, consider giving a double blessing (1) to your loved ones, and (2) to those who struggle for so many of the things we take for granted. 

Blessings,
Pastor Ritva

Bible Study

Christ speaks to us through the Scriptures to create and maintain our faith and fellowship for service in the world. One of my greatest joys is opening the Scriptures to others, showing them how to listen for God's Word speaking in their lives. I invite you to join me in exploring God's Word in the one of the following venues:

Bring Your Bible to Brunch on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, noon, at Lion Bridge for food, fellowship, and an informal conversation about the Scripture readings for the following lunch. 

Women's Bible Study on Tuesdays at 10:00am in the Fellowship Hall. This fall, beginning September 5, we are exploring Wm Paul Young's Lies We Believe About GodHere you will find handouts and notes for our current study, as well as previous studies. Please feel free to download and use in your personal devotions, or with the small groups in which you gather for conversation and prayer. 

Sermons

The sermon is the place where you should always hear the good news of God's love for you and for a broken world. It is also the place where you might be called to repent of seeking life and salvation in things that are not God. May God's Spirit speak through my words to touch your heart and engage your mind. If you missed worship this week, you can check out what I said below. 

Recent Sermons 

Past sermons can be found here.

Listening (or reading) for God's Word in a sermon is a bit different than listening to or reading other types of presentations. To help you get the hang of it, check out Professor Sam Giere's work at www.withearstohear.org

Teaching/Learning

Pastors teach a lot: confirmation classes, new member classes, small group studies, Bible studies, and occasionally lead adult learning sessions on Sunday mornings. Current schedules for our Sunday morning adult learning sessions are available on my Teaching/Learning page. You can find PDF's of some adult education presentations I have made in the past on my website. Occasionally those presentations are videotaped. Here is my presentation on "The Bible and Human Sexuality" from November 2013. 

To Know, Live, and Share Christ

 

St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, ELCA

610 31st Street SE | Cedar Rapids, IA 52403 | 319-364-2637 | ©2014