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Evalgelical Lutheran Church in America Northeastern Ohio Synod
Letters from Pastor Alan Smearsoll

September 2018

Shortly after the mass shootings of earlier this year, God gave me a vision. It was a vision that spoke of the Church and how it might be of help in preventing such violence when all other resources seem to be failing. It was a general vision, but one I felt compelled to share with Bishop Eaton of the ELCA. I found an e-mail address for her and proceeded to tell of this vision for the Church. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t spelled out in some “dream” or clear picture, but given to me in thought. I hit the “send” button and waited. Not long after I received what was a very generic response from someone who obviously replies for the Bishop to e-mails she receives. I know this because I know Bishop Eaton personally and she would
not have responded to me in this “generic” manner. I think, since I used the word “vision,” that      person thought I was a bit crazy. I doubt my e-mail went any further.

Peter recognizes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when he declares to the people “this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:  ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days, I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.’” (Acts 2:17-18) This was in response to some in the crowd saying that the people speaking in different languages were just drunk. If Peter hadn’t spoken up, where would the Church be today?

Earlier this year, I asked Property Division to walk through the buildings and assess the needs of each and set out a one-year, five-year and ten-year “vision” of projects that need to be done. They did so and you will be hearing about some of the more financially challenging projects that we will need to have done in the next ten years. The point is that they now have a vision and this vision provides direction. When Peter had a dream about eating food that was unclean, the Spirit led him to a Gentile’s home, where he should not have gone, because his vision provided direction that even the Gentiles are God’s own.

Visions are Spirit led, that is, not human wishes and wants but divine inspiration. Visions lead into the future and provide motivation. The Church moves forward with vision. Jesus provides that vision for the Church in many ways. Remember when he said “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink….” He was giving the disciples a vision of what it truly means to serve. In so doing, Jesus provides direction for the Church that is to come. This is just one of many examples.

The Spirit is at work at Emmanuel. Just in the last week and a half, I have heard the word “vision” and “mission” from two separate parties. That makes me excited! The Spirit is moving. It is good!  What vision will we have for Emmanuel? What mission will that lead us into? What impact will this have on the people of Emmanuel as we go into the next ten years? Better yet, what impact will this have on our surrounding community? Come, Holy Spirit, come! 

Pastor Alan
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