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Dear Friends,

The apostle Paul had this salutary habit of letting the churches he founded overhear his prayers for them. In almost every letter, a prayer comes toward the beginning in which he thanks God for them, asks God to gird them with hope, fill them with endurance, endow them with joy. But in his letter to the church in Ephesus he prays for them twice. Once at the beginning (1:3-14), and a second time later on (3:14-21).

In that second prayer, he’s keen to ask for God’s blessing on the Ephesian faithful, that they would be “rooted and grounded in love,” would have power to comprehend the “breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love” for them and all the world.

I’m struck by Paul’s prayer that we be rooted and grounded in love. What are your roots? And what helps ground you? My roots come from Minnesota, the Lehn and Rubis families, lots of farmers and teachers, and mostly Protestant Christians. My grounding practices include breath prayer, walks in nature, reading, and spending time with family and dear friends. How about you?

But in his prayer the apostle Paul is inviting us to go even deeper than our family roots or grounding practices. He’s inviting us to go into the heart of God, the core of creation, the essence of life itself: and that’s love. Love is the deepest, widest, and strongest truth in the universe, and the only thing that will last forever. But most days we are not told we are “rooted and grounded in love.”

In a culture that values workism above all else, we are told we are worth the money we produce.

In a time when fear and hatred draw headlines, we are told to pick sides and blame other people.

In a world that esteems appearance, achievement, and affluence, we are told to conform or else.

First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette exists to help us live a different way, to follow the way of Jesus: to be rooted and grounded in love. Not in workism, fear, or affluence, but in faith, hope, and love. To value work that serves others, that realizes God’s dream. To practice forgiveness, hospitality, sabbath, and simplicity. To pray and listen. To trust with confidence that our efforts are not in vain and that, in the end, love wins and “all manner of thing shall be well” (as Julian of Norwich reminds us). And so we keep our hands to the plow.

To that end, our Giving Team is excited to share that the stewardship theme for 2024 is “Rooted and Grounded in Love.” This theme invites us to return to our deepest roots and to ground ourselves in the unshakable love of God at our core. And to notice that everyone and everything else is caught up in it, too: our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, even our enemies.

We invite you to join us in giving thanks for all of the resources – spiritual, theological, physical and financial – that support this indispensable work.

I’m excited for all that 2024 will hold at our church. Opportunities to grow in connection with God and one another through worship, faith formation, mission, and community engagement. Ongoing discernment about how to serve the needs of our neighbors with the love of Christ – so they can flourish and experience their goodness.

Each year our church changes – beloved church members pass away and we gather for funerals, amazing babies are born and baptized, some of us move away, kids go off to college, and new people join us on the faith journey. Taking all of that into account and pondering God’s call on our church in 2024, we invite you to prayerfully consider a 5% increase in your financial commitment over 2023, as our mission partners are in great need and our building and grounds costs have increased due to inflation and cost of materials.

This year, Commitment Sunday will be held on Sunday, October 22. We will hold our regular 10am worship service that day (in person and online). On that day, we will celebrate our financial commitments and thank God for all the gifts that are shared. We encourage you to either mail the pledge card you received by mail to the church office or pick one up in the office when you are here. You may also pledge online through our church website.

Here’s our challenge and invitation to you. You and I are here “to be rooted and grounded in love” – to be present, to be grateful, to be of service, to realize God’s kingdom of justice and joy, compassion and peace.

We’re not asking you to do what you cannot, only what you can. When we all respond to God in gratitude for all God has given us, it will always be enough.

Thank you in advance for your commitment and generosity!

With gratitude and love in Christ,

Rev. Jeff Lehn, on behalf of the Giving Team (Amy McJoynt and Dan Johnson)