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January 2018


Dear Partners in Ministry,

As we enter 2018, it has all the earmarks of being as exciting and unpredictable as any of the years of our past.  The one thing of which we can be certain is that the Lord will place challenges in our path that will give us pause, but which are not insurmountable if we remain faithful to our Lord’s call.  I believe that we are in for a great year.  As our individual congregations continue to stabilize and reach out to those beyond their doors in their ever-evolving roles and possibilities of “God’s Work, Our Hands,” and as the advantages our Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM) cooperative ministry is experienced less as a disadvantage and more as an opportunity, we cannot help but have an exciting year.  Remember, “All things are possible for those who love the Lord.”  Mark 10:27b.

As we are just starting winter and beginning our New Year, I would like to share with you the following story:

Earl Palmer, the pastor of University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington, writes that there are three critical elements in skiing downhill:

1. You need to aim your body down the fall line.

2. You need to keep your weight on the downhill ski.

3. You need to go fast.

He explains, “If your body is not aimed down the fall line you cannot turn effectively. If your weight is not on the downhill ski, you will catch the edge and fall. If you have no speed, you will force your weight around and likely fall. You need to master all these elements to race effectively. The problem is that all three run counter to our instinct of self-preservation. All three seem contrary to reason and good sense. Yet any skier knows that without these you cannot ski well.”

Likewise, Palmer says, the same applies to our Christian giving. “It runs counter to our instincts, giving us an insecure feeling that we will fall short in other areas. But the reality in giving, like skiing, is that when we tithe the opposite is true. Instead of falling on our faces, we actually begin to move with freedom down life’s slope, enjoying the gift of the moment rather than living anxiously in the uncertainty of changing conditions.”



The same counter-instinctive actions must be taken when we are driving on icy roads—we must turn into the slide and pump our brakes (newer cars have brakes that apply and pump themselves). 

As we begin 2018, I would like to do two things: 

Ř First, I would like to thank each of you for the many and varied ways that you used your God-given time, talents and resources to support the ongoing ministries of your church this past year.  In all honesty, without you, not much would get done.

Ř Second, I would like to challenge each of us to stretch for the new year.  Think about it.  (And this is not the reason we should give, but is a part of the reality of our giving.) As within each of our homes, the cost of everything is increasing such as our utilities, energy, insurance, supplies, and food.  Just to maintain the necessities at last year’s levels will require more from us than last year.  The same is true within the life of your church.  But do you know what?  The real blessing of giving is that it makes us happier.  Also, there is something that is yours to give that is without price, and yet is priceless – that is your gift of faith in our God, who saves us, and your love for your neighbor.  If we are truly honest with ourselves, we are all able to tithe in all areas of our lives—financially, time and talents—one is not more significant than the other or can be replaced by the other.  So I challenge you seriously to tithe wholeheartedly in the name of our Lord and His church.  After all, God has been the originator of ALL the gifts in your life.

As in the story above, skiing is counter to our instincts, as is riding a bicycle, flying in an airplane, or driving a car. Yet, with practice, these can become second nature to us.  The same is true with “tithing your time and your resources.”  With the chaos and busyness of our lives, we can easily forget what is important to us.  For instance, the following illustration hones in on what is important for some:

Are we possessed by our possessions?

“When the landing gear of US Airways Flight 479 collapsed at Charlotte several years ago and the crew ordered an evacuation down the emergency slides, almost half the passengers reacted by grabbing for their carry-on luggage .... One man grabbed two bags. Another struggled with a large bag. A woman blocked the aisle struggling to get a garment bag out of an overhead bin.”

—William R. Phillippe, A Stewardship Scrapbook
   (Louisville:    Geneva Press, 1999), 124.

We are so inundated and overwhelmed with the world’s communication of selfish values that we become desensitized to God’s grace and truth.  Let us not get to the end of our lives and find that, like the people on the plane, we spent our lives grasping for things of little value.

Why not try tithing?  Re-examine your life from an “abundance” point of view rather than a “scarcity” point of view.  Try exploring from an “I can’t” stance to an “I’ll try” stance.  I think you will be surprised by the outcome in experiencing the promised rewards of faithful living.

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor John J. Gropp


...For the 2018 Lenten Journey, which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 14th (Valentine’s Day), this year we will be looking at stewardship.  Plan on attending for a refreshing, challenging experience of how God reaches us with His blessings.




Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110        412-466-7773