Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Big September at St. John's

Weekends in September 2014 have been filled with celebration and support of mission and outreach at St. John's Lutheran Church in Norfolk, Nebraska.

The month began with an event titled "Get Fired Up!" as St. John's kicked off its Sunday School Year with a "Go Fly A Kite" Worship Service. Kites & streamers were flown around the sanctuary during the 11AM contemporary worship service. From Noon to 2 p.m., St. John's members moved outside to participate in BBQ & Pie-Baking Competitions (won by David Merritt of Norfolk and Linda Downs of Battle Creek, respectively), as well as Games in the Field for Pre-K children through Adults, which included 5 areas of athleticism: Foot Race, Bubble Gum Blowing, Musical Chairs, Egg on a Spoon, and Water Balloon Toss. Approximately 140 people enjoyed the outdoor activities.

A REALLY BIG Weekend at St. John's was experienced during worship on September 13 & 14. St. John's celebrated the mission and ministry of St. John's Women of the ELCA (WELCA) by installing WELCA officers and gathering a "noisy offering" to help send quilts, school kits, and health supplies to others in need through Lutheran World Relief (LWR). Also displayed on the pews were 50 quilts made by St. John's women during the past year, which will be sent through LWR in November. But the REALLY BIG surprise for everyone in worship was the announcement of an anonymous donor giving $10,000 for a reverse offering, which was handed out in $50s and $5s to all of the adults and children in attendance at all three services.

A similar reverse offering was distributed three years ago in September 2011. Several weeks ago, a letter once again appeared in the senior pastor’s mailbox. Its writer said he or she would like to donate $10,000 to St. John’s for a reverse offering. After confidential conversation was held among the pastors and congregational council, it was decided this time around, the congregation would not be told about the distribution of the reverse offering ahead of time. Instead, the congregation would be surprised by the gift under the guise of a "REALLY BIG WEEKEND at St. John's."

As part of the reverse offering program, the church distributed the $10,000 to everyone in attendance at worship for the weekend, members and guests alike. The $10,000 was separated into envelopes containing $50 and $5. All children received $5, and nearly every adult received $50, “until we ran out of $50s, and had to hand out the $5s,” said Assistant Pastor Rev. Justin Wiese of St. John’s. As these gifts were distributed, each person in attendance was asked to:

1. Take the gift. (”It’s a gift from God. You don’t say, ‘No, thanks,’ to God.”)
2. Wrap it in prayer, and let your heart be open to how God might lead you to use the gift.
3. Ideally, multiply the gift if you can.
4. Don’t put it back in the church offering plate.

"The $10,000 reverse offering of 2011 has had an impact beyond St. John's many times over," said Rev. Wiese. "Now annual events like the Garage Sale for Bright Horizons, the Bark-B-Q for the Animal Shelter of Northeast Nebraska, and Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministry (NeLCM) in Norfolk's Folks & Forks are well supported by people beyond the membership of St. John's, and the financial gifts generated from these events provide much needed funding for organizations and ministries beyond St. John's. And those are just a few of the many impacts of the 2011 reverse offering."

St. John's members will begin telling stories of the impact of their 2014 reverse offering later in October.

[Read about the Reverse Offering from September 18, 2011 here: It's a Norfolk Daily News story written by Kathryn Harris.]

How do you follow up a REALLY BIG weekend at St. John's? With an EVEN BIGGER weekend. On September 20 & 21, Nebraska Synod Bishop Brian Maas will be preaching at St. John's during all three worship services (Saturday night at 6 p.m., and Sunday morning at 8:30 & 11 AM).

A graduate of Pierce High School, Nebraska Wesleyan University, and Yale Divinity School with a certificate of studies from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Bishop Brian Maas was ordained in 1992. He served three congregations: Emmanuel Lutheran, Tekamah, Nebraska; Immanuel Lutheran, Kansas City, Missouri; and First Lutheran Church, Lincoln, Nebraska. He was elected Bishop of the Nebraska Synod in June 2012. Bishop Maas and his family live in Lincoln, Nebraska. The bishop of the Nebraska Synod is elected to a term of six years, and may be reelected.

Bishop Maas will also be the special guest during NeLCM-Norfolk's fall signature event & annual fundraiser, Folks & Forks, which the public is invited to attend.

The 4th Annual Folks & Forks will be held on Sunday, September 21, 2014, at 3 p.m. at St. John's Lutheran Church, Highway 81 & Benjamin Avenue in Norfolk. This year’s event presents The Three O’Clock Show with Rev. Justin Wiese featuring the Northeast Area Jazz Ensemble (NAJE).

“This year, our approach to Folks & Forks is to blatantly claim our hometown of late-night roots. I’ll tap the energies of Johnny and Jimmy, and NAJE will be an amazing house band, providing great big band and jazz music throughout the show.”

The Three O’Clock Show will feature a variety of talk show segments, including an interview with Bishop Maas, Amy's Hallmark's It's In the Cards, Food Challenge: Cooking for One with First Choice Catering, Mother Knows...Best?, Nifty Nine, One for the Money, and more!

“We’re going to cram all sorts of fun, fundraising, giveaways, and stories into an hour’s worth of live talk show, and then invite all the “folks” gathered to enjoy delicious dessert in our fellowship hall,” said Rev. Wiese.

Following the show, “forks” will be needed as First Choice Catering Pies & Culver's Frozen Custard will be served. All afternoon long, over 100 items will be on silent auction from 80+ businesses, groups, and individuals.

Items on the auction include: Dinner with Bishop Maas at Divots Sunday night at 6 p.m.; an Eat.Play.Stay package from Divot's in Norfolk; a Huskers vs. Illinois Football Experience package from The Lutheran Center (UNL), which includes parking & tailgate; 2 adult season tickets to the 2014-15 Norfolk Community Theatre; a kids sport racer pedal car, and many baskets, items, gift certificates for restaurants, and more!

“The financial support of so many people in Norfolk continues to amaze me,” said Rev. Wiese. “So many non-profit organizations ask the many businesses, organizations, and individuals in Norfolk for help, and they continue to say ‘yes.’ I am most certainly grateful for the wonderful leaders that graciously help our community time and time again.”

More information about Folks & Forks is available at

NeLCM’s mission across the state on 11 college campuses is to invite people in academic settings more deeply into Jesus Christ and the community which bears his name, so that they may discover and fulfill their vocations as disciples. In Norfolk, NeLCM serves Northeast Community College & UNMC College of Nursing Northern Division students & staff by providing weekly pastoral presence through group events, individual conversations, theological reflection, and weekend worship at St. John’s.

Written by Rev. Justin Wiese, who serves as the Assistant Pastor of St. John’s and the Campus Pastor of NeLCM-Norfolk.

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