Dear Friends in Christ,

As St. Paul bids farewell to the elders from Ephesus he reminds them,

“I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:20-21).

Shrinking Back or Springing Forth

On Saturday afternoon, Rachel, Hannah, and I went down to visit with Rachel’s folks (physically distancing) in southern Hancock County and to spend some time in the woods. It was restorative to see God’s creation “springing forth”, and it was even better to see this year’s first Morel Mushroom.

In the Book of Acts (20:13-38), Paul meets with the leaders from the house churches of Ephesus to bid them farewell. It is a sad but hopeful meeting. Paul knows that he will never see them again, but he also assures them that they have all the gifts and skills necessary to “shepherd the church of God”. Paul also reminds them of the mission that he was given by God: to not shrink back, to proclaim the message, to teach publicly from house to house, and to testify to both Jews and Greeks. Paul was given a mission by God, and that mission to preach, teach, and witness empowered him to never “shrink back”, but to “spring forth”.

The prophet Isaiah also writes about God’s promise of restoration and renewal, and uses the language, not of “shrinking back”, but of “springing forth”. For those who are living in Exile, God will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. God promises a new thing to people who are living in great difficulty; even now it “springs forth”.

As you consider next steps for your own life and for the life of your parish, how are you dreaming about God’s call to “spring forth”.

The mission of the Northwestern Ohio Synod ends with a call by God to be a part of God’s restoration and renewal. We are “Sent by the Crucified and Risen Jesus to Make Disciples, Equip Leaders, Strengthen Parishes, and Launch New Communities for the Renewal of Northwestern Ohio and the World. And this call to partner with God in restoration and renewal is never accomplished by “shrinking back”, but always realized by “springing forth”.

One of the ways the Northwestern Ohio Synod is springing forth is through our commitment of Making Disciples. At the January 25, 2020, Synod Council meeting, the Synod Council set aside funding to hire a Lead Coordinator for the Discipleship Initiative. In early April the Synod Council met again and decided to not ‘shrink back” but to boldly “spring forth” and hire Calla Gilson.

Calla served as an intern in our Synod back in 2017, and brings an impressive array of gifts and skills, including a year of teaching at a Lutheran School in Palestine through the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) Program.

During the Tuesday, May 5, 4:00 p.m. Zoom meeting for Pastors, Deacons, Synodically Authorized Ministers, Seminary Students, and Parish Leaders, Calla Gilson will be sharing some exciting news about ways we might “spring forth” to imagine and embrace God’s promise of restoration and renewal.   

Until then, I invite you to consider, “How are you partnering with God to “spring forth” during a season where it is so tempting to shrink back?