Being an Offering

Lauren Seganos preaching at National Junior High Conference in July. Photo by Glenn Riegel

Lauren Seganos preaching at National Junior High Conference in July.
Photo by Glenn Riegel

A sermon by Lauren Seganos for the National Jr. High Conference 2015

“Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1-2, The Message).

What comes to mind when you hear the word “offering”? I think of the offering plates we pass during worship. Children drop in pennies or quarters. Adults write checks to their congregation. And these offerings are collected to pay the pastor’s salary, the church air conditioning bill, or for a rented van so the youth can go to National Junior High Conference.

Now imagine what it would look like if, instead of dropping money into the offering plate, you hopped into the plate yourself? Imagine sitting in the plate, your knees bent to your chest, and grabbing the sides of the plate with each hand. People pass you along, probably giving you strange looks, and the experience reminds you of crowd surfing.

What a ridiculous thing to imagine, being in the offering plate with envelopes and cash. But what might it look like to be an offering to God? How might that work?

Growing up, I loved to sing, and from what I could tell, the people around me enjoyed it too. I grabbed every opportunity to do it—in school and community choirs, in school musicals, at school basketball games, and at church. Singing was something that brought me joy.

But in junior high and high school, a friend always sang better, getting the part whenever we auditioned for musicals or solos in concerts. No matter how hard I tried, she always performed better than me. Once, I was asked to sing at a coffee house, but out of spite or pride, I refused. “I’m not as good as her, so why sing at all?” I thought. I wasn’t special or unique, just an ordinary, average singer.

After college, I realized that even though I won’t sing for a career or be the best, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t sing at all. Today, you’ll find me singing while I’m doing everything, especially while driving my car or cleaning my apartment. I know now that singing is one of the best ways to nourish my soul and praise God by using my gift.

Maybe you can relate. Is there something that nourishes you and gives you deep joy? Maybe you do it every day: like kicking around a soccer ball, writing stories, or drawing. Maybe you make people laugh, or help others feel included and loved. These are gifts God has given you. And it’s not about being the best. It’s about using those talents every day, in ordinary ways, to bring joy to yourself, to others, and to God. This is what it looks like to be an offering to God.

Lauren Seganos is a licensed minister at Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa.. To hear the full version of this sermon visit www.brethren.org/podcasts  . Learn more about National Junior High Conference and Youth and Young Adult ministries at www.brethren.org/yya or support them today at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

 

Christian Citizenship Seminar 2015

Participants at Christian Citizenship Seminar in 2013. Photo by Rachel Witkovsky

Participants at Christian Citizenship Seminar in 2013.
Photo by Rachel Witkovsky

By Kristen Hoffman, BVS volunteer with Youth and Young Adult Ministry

Christian Citizenship Seminar happens each year and is a powerful experience for all who attend. CCS brings together youth who are passionate, discerning, and concerned about justice and the well-being of our denomination, our communities, and our nation. Participants of past years have shared that their week at CCS was filled with experiences they remember for the rest of their lives.

The 2015 Christian Citizenship Seminar, held April 18 – 23 in New York City and Washington D.C., will focus on the complexities of US immigration policy, suggested reforms, and the consequences of both on immigrant communities. At CCS, high school aged youth and their advisors will explore the issue of immigration and the ways in which faith helps understand and form beliefs about it. This experience will help equip them to understand immigration and to educate their own communities about issues related to immigration.

During this week-long event, participants will explore the ways in which their lives intersect with the lives of immigrants through hearing personal stories from immigrants in the U.S., people who work with immigrants, individuals who are connected with both theology and immigration, and those who work in advocacy and policy-making. Participants will gather new cultural insights in New York City through attending multicultural church services and the United Nations, and in Washington, D.C. they will visit Capitol Hill and meet their representatives and senators to discuss the topic of immigration. Throughout the week, there are important times to get to know other participants, worship together, and reflect upon the day’s events.

Through this conference, students are empowered to take home what they have learned, stay informed about the issue of immigration, and to share about their learning experiences to teach others.

Thank you for supporting great learning opportunities like these that build community and train leaders to address the needs of today.

Learn more about Christian Citizenship Seminar at www.brethren.org/ccs or call Kristen Hoffman at 847-429-4389 or email her at khoffman@brethren.org. Support this and many other life-changing conferences at www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

New steps in the new year

Where will God lead you in 2015? Photo by Glenn Riegel

Where will God lead you in 2015?
Photo by Glenn Riegel

By Matt DeBall, coordinator of Donor Communications

January can be a great time for setting goals and reflecting; a time to observe our steps from last year and chart a new path for this year. We might make personal challenges related to fitness, nutrition, recreation, relationships, or finances, but sometimes we also receive challenges from God.

God has surely given great challenges to others in the past. For Abraham, God called him to leave his family and explore a foreign land filled with unfamiliar people. For Esther, God led her to a new role and called her to take a great risk to save her people. For both, the choice was available to reject God’s call, but by trusting in God and summoning a great amount of courage, they stepped forward and accepted God’s challenge.

In 2015, there are many events and opportunities to partake in ministry through the Church of the Brethren. Perhaps God is calling you to participate in one or more of the following ways:

Pray for our international partners by receiving the weekly Global Mission Prayer Guide.

Grow by attending a transformative conference like the Intercultural Gathering, Young Adult Conference, National Junior High Conference, Annual Conference, and National Older Adult Conference.

Serve through Brethren Volunteer Service for a year-long project, attend a summer workcamp of the Workcamp Ministry, or spend a week at a disaster project of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Give to support the continued work of the many life-changing ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

Like Abraham and Esther, we have the choice to remain where we are or to follow where God is leading. While it would be easier to carry on in 2015 just as we did in 2014, God may be challenging us to do something new. May we listen to the Spirit of God, step forward in faith, and trust God to guide our steps in the coming year.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

New adventures

Ministry Summer Service interns preparing for their summer adventures at orientation in May. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

Ministry Summer Service interns preparing for their
summer adventures at orientation in May.
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Lauren Seganos, Ministry Summer Service intern

“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

It is both exciting and challenging to begin a new adventure: move to a new place, start a new job, meet new people. But as people of faith we trust that, wherever we go, God will be there. This summer I, along with several other young adults, had the opportunity to put our faith into action through Ministry Summer Service (MSS) of the Youth and Young Adult and Ministry Offices of the Church of the Brethren.

MSS provides young adults with summer ministry experiences in congregations, camps, district offices, and national programs. I participated in MSS as a seminary student seeking leadership development in a Brethren congregation, and I was blessed to serve at the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren in Elizabethtown, Pa.

One of the most important lessons I learned this summer was finding confidence and trusting in my authority as a young, female minister. This was something that my MSS mentor, Pastor Pam Reist, and I discussed at the beginning of the summer, and it was a repeated theme throughout my experience. My 10 weeks at ECOB was an affirming exercise in finding my confidence as a minister and learning to trust in that authority more each day.

During my time at E-town, I also learned that pastoral ministry—being invited into people’s most special and vulnerable times—is truly a privilege. This summer I was present for and participated in anointings, funeral services, post-surgery prayers, end-of-life blessings, communion, and many other moments of vulnerability, connection, and community. I learned that pastors have a unique role in the Christian community, and to serve as a pastor of a Brethren congregation is a challenging and rewarding call.

God was surely at work this summer—in the ministry of MSS, in the congregations, camps, and offices who welcomed interns, and in the lives of those young adults who took on a new adventure to serve the church. I am thankful for Ministry Summer Service and the gift it offers young, emerging leaders in the Church of the Brethren.

Learn more about MSS at brethren.org/mss or by emailing bullomnaugle@brethren.org . Support this important ministry at brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Punks

Jarrod McKenna blesses Dunker Punks at National Youth Conference. Photo by Nevin Dulabaum

Jarrod McKenna blesses Dunker Punks at National Youth Conference.
Photo by Nevin Dulabaum

By Maddie Dulabaum

Sitting on the stadium floor next to my friend Aaron before worship on Wednesday night, I was afraid that National Youth Conference might pass me by with only a gigantic pillow to show for it. I’d always heard that NYC was a life-changing experience, but so far I hadn’t really felt changed.

Enter: Worship on Wednesday night.

I had enjoyed Jarrod McKenna’s workshop about causing Christ-like trouble the day before, so I was excited about the word he would bring that night. I was not disappointed. As he introduced the concept of the “Dunker Punk,” my fear of leaving NYC unchanged dissipated. Jarrod reminded us that only eight brave people started our Brethren Dunker Punk movement more than 300 years ago, that they began a “Mustard Seed Revolution.” Then he called for eight more brave brothers and sisters to continue this radical love, and I was changed. For the first time all week I felt an overwhelming sense of call.

When Jarrod asked for at least eight people to come and stand with him, to dedicate themselves to being Dunker Punks, I didn’t hesitate. In the mass of people flooding the stage, Aaron and I were side by side.

After the service, we sat outside the arena while people bustled around us, getting psyched for the concert that was about to follow worship. “Do you think tomorrow all these people will remember that they stood?” Aaron asked.

That question has consumed me ever since. Watching everyone laugh and scream as they made their way back into the arena for the concert, it was easy to think that maybe we wouldn’t remember. Maybe we would forget that we aligned ourselves to the renewal of our heritage of Christ-like love. Maybe we would get back home and everything would return to how it was before NYC. Maybe all of this would just be a great memory.

But that hasn’t happened. With a Facebook page, Twitter handle, and website devoted to the Dunker Punk movement, our little Mustard Seed Revolution has already spread beyond Fort Collins and NYC. With those two tiny words we claimed a name and started something with big potential. With our lives that often feel small, we came together and realized our strength. It seems incredible to think about but, then again, we Brethren have always been called from small beginnings.

Maddie Dulabaum was a youth participant and member of the news team at NYC this summer, and will begin college this fall. To read coverage from the conference, visit brethren.org/nyc . To support the Youth and Young Adult Ministries that are dedicated to creating experiences like NYC for Brethren young people, visit brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Blessings

Photos by Kendra Johnson, Katie Cummings, and Ron Lubungo.

Photos by Kendra Johnson, Katie Cummings, and Ron Lubungo.

An excerpt from a sermon by Christy Waltersdorff, based on Matthew 5:1-12.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God.”

Somewhere along the way I started signing letters with the word, “Blessings.” It is a meaningful word that wishes all good things to whomever I am writing. It has the fragrance of grace—that promise of a gift undeserved.

In Matthew’s Gospel we find a list of blessings in the Sermon on the Mount. But more than that, we find a call for action, a teaching that is counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, radical, subversive—just like Jesus, himself. It is not concerned with what is practical or possible, but calls us to turn the values of the world upside down.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you areno more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

Matthew helps us to see that we can believe these impossible things because of what we know about Jesus and the God who sent him. God blesses us and asks us to bless others.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

One of my Sunday school teachers used to say that the best way to think of the Beatitudes is as “be-attitudes.” They are ways of being—nine blessings that speak the language of grace, proclaiming truth that is the opposite of truth as the world knows it.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family” (The Message).

In his hilltop sermon Jesus addressed those who were, right then, dealing with difficult and painful realities. “Blessed are you who are poor in spirit, at this very moment, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.” Not after you die, not two hundred years from now, but right now.

That promise remains true today. God is with you no matter what happens. You are blessed right now, and you are never alone. God is a God who cares about the meek, the mourners, the peacemakers, those who suffer.

And even as they assure us, the Beatitudes call us to live as the people God created us to be, right here and right now. They encourage us to bless each other as we have been blessed by God, as an act of grace. A blessing is a prayer. It is a gift from God. Blessed are you… Amen.

Christy Waltersdorff is pastor of the York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., and a worship coordinator for National Youth Conference. For suggestions of ways to bless others, visit www.brethren.org/volunteer, www.brethren.org/pray , and www.brethren.org/give .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)