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

September 2022

As we begin another school year I am reminded of the great commission of Jesus from Matthew 28:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” I am also reminded, in connection with this, of Paul’s words in Romans, chapter 12:  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

What is it to “make” disciples? First and foremost, a disciple is a student or follower of a teacher, in this case, the teacher is Jesus. So, to make disciples is simply to invite people to follow Jesus’ teaching. This begins with baptism and the learning never stops. It must be noted that following Jesus is not “conformative” as Paul describes, for that is to follow the ways of the world. Following Jesus as disciples is “transformative.”

We conform to teaching. We are transformed by experience. Jesus taught his disciples many things. He transformed his disciples by their experience with him and by the outpouring of the Spirit that came after him.

As we enter our second year of the Dandelion Project, I hope what you are seeing is work being done that “transforms” our Christian lives individually and collectively as a church as the Spirit shows itself to us in new and wonderful ways. When we are transformed by the Spirit, our faith blossoms and we see the world around us with the eyes of a disciple as we experience Jesus.

Some are misled by the devil into thinking that this transformation is somehow “complete” and we need no more “learning.” Not so. “Baptized we live among God’s faithful people; we hear God’s word and share in his supper; we proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed; we serve all people, following the example of our Lord Jesus; we strive for justice and peace in all the earth” (Affirmation of Baptism service, emphasis added). These are not idle words. These are active words. Our Christian education and transformation is life-long and happens as we participate in these actions.

As we send our children back to school for another year of education, let us commit ourselves to being open to the Spirit’s transformative power in our lives. I encourage you to make a pledge to yourself to open the door to further education in the faith by attending worship more regularly; participating in Sunday School (both adult and children); committing to daily devotional time; volunteering to help the church in new ways; the list goes on. Let the Spirit transform you!

Pastor Alan 

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