Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Maybe you noticed that I missed worship at St. John last Sunday, February 25. Actually, I was at Victory Bible Camp as 28 of us (32 on Saturday) participated in the annual St. John Confirmation Retreat. This year’s theme was “Be Holy – Different from the World.” We considered many verses of Scripture surrounding this theme, especially Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
At the retreat we listened to God’s call in our lives to be holy. We talked about how God “transforms us” so that we are different than the world around us in our relationship with our Creator, our Savior, and our Comforter. We talked about how God “transforms us” so that we are different than the world in our relationships with others. We also talked about how God “transforms us” so that we are different than the world in our care for our bodies.
You will be glad to know that the retreat went very well. Often middle school students are distracted when it comes to studying. Sometimes they are worried about their image, or how others view them. There are times that middle school students, being self-conscious about themselves, can also pick on one another and be mean. Maybe some of you remember those days yourselves.
However, this weekend I watched new people fit in with the larger group and be accepted. I watched shy people speak and share. I observed our students showing care for one another, instead picking on one another. I saw young people express their faith and help lead worship. I watched learning which translated to faith in action. I returned from this year’s retreat encouraged, as I do most years.
You may wonder about why confirmation retreats can be so effective. Why do these students listen in a retreat setting, when often they have trouble listening in a classroom? I find some insight from Jesus’ parable of the sower or planter. Jesus teaches about a farmer who plants seed. Some of the seed grows and bears fruit, but some does not grow. Jesus explains why in Matthew 13. Verses 22-23, especially speak to me.
18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
One of the situations at a retreat that is different from a classroom has to do with distractions. First, those attending are in a beautiful setting, away from their everyday chores and worries. In regular classes we tell students to put away their electronics. But just last week I found one of my students looking at their phone during class. However, at Victory, there is no cell signal. Phones don’t work and “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” cannot so easily distract from the truth of the word of God. Over a weekend, the Word of God has a chance to sink in to hearts full of trouble and distractions. The students have an opportunity to encourage and care for one another. It is wonderful to see the Word of God work in the lives of His people and bear fruit.
You may hear me joke about going on a retreat with “middle school students. . . PRAY for me!” But, I confess, there is still a middle school student inside me. I personally enjoy these retreats. I love to see God work in the lives of these young people so that they know His love and His promises are real. I find joy in seeing God’s children act like brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps you want to rejoice and thank God with me.
A Child of God, Rejoicing to See God Work in the Lives of Middle School Students,
P.S. Here are some pictures from Lenten Fellowship meal served by the Berberichs, the Colbergs, and the Knuths on February 21. https://photos.app.goo.gl/qiRchAwpDos8pVJf2
P.P.S. As mentioned above, the Confirmation Retreat was held last weekend, February 23-25, at Victory Bible Camp. Here is a link to a few pictures. (If you would like a copy of the retreat program and Bible Studies I can share that with you.)
P.P.P.S. Some of us went fishing at the confirmation retreat and we caught a couple of nice fish. Here are fish pictures. https://photos.app.goo.gl/vTgIomtcBtG6DdP63
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.