St John's Lutheran Church, La Grange IL 60525 (LCMS)

St. John's Lutheran Church and School
47th Street and Brainard Avenue, La Grange, Illinois 60525


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All Around the Neighborhood

February 17, 2013

Last week the season of Lent began with Ash Wednesday. From before dawn to late into the evening, I received one blessing after another through the people who I encountered through ashes and prayer. It included visits to nearly all of our school classrooms and our Ash Wednesday services. For the past couple of years, however, I’ve added something special to this day: sharing prayer and ashes with friends and commuters who frequent the Caribou Coffee shop near the La Grange Metra station.

Some of my colleagues have asked how this works. Actually, it’s a very informal and spirit-led experience. It’s all about relationships. I know a variety of people in our local coffee houses. They are places where I read, pray and visit with people nearly every morning—occasionally by appointment, but most of the time it just happens. Along the way, I’ve met fascinating people and with them had many occasions for prayer. One question often opens the door to pray, “How can I pray for you?”

It is those simple routines and growing relationships that led to sharing prayer and ashes on Ash Wednesday. It’s not a mass gathering or a public service. It’s a variety of small, but powerful encounters, which can take place all over the neighborhood. Ash Wednesday is just one day among many. What I experienced in prayer and conversation is one that can multiply among us every day. This can be a way of life for all children of God who bear the mark of their baptism.

Where do you frequently visit with friends, neighbors, or coworkers? Whether it is the coffee shop or the salon, the grocery store or the restaurant, the office water cooler or the Metra, over the backyard fence or working out at the gym, there are places where you visit with people and where you are frequently forming new relationships. You and I are surrounded by people that God is giving the chance to bless. He’s not looking for you to wave a Bible or preach a sermon. He’s just looking for the chance to show people what he’s really like, by putting you there. The Bible says, “We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) Jesus even anticipates a fear common to all with this promise, “Do not worry what you will say for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12). And imitating Jesus, the familiar children’s song says, “All around the neighborhood, I’m going to let it shine.”

So when a colleague asks me, “How do you do that coffee shop ‘ashes’ thing?” I don’t know what to say other than, “I just do it.” It’s no big deal or change for me because I’m in one of the places where I’ve been with people over and over again. It just fits. Your place to bless might not be the coffee shop, but there’s already a place that you’ve been time and time again with people that the old song would call your “neighborhood.” At St. John’s, we call it “Judea,” the place we live, work and call our community. If you’d like to take one step further into your neighborhood add this question to the ones you already know to ask about the weather, sports and headlines of the day: “How can I pray for you?”



(c)2012 St. John's Lutheran Church and School | 505 S Park RD | La Grange IL 60525
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Pastor's Blogs

Bill Geis has led a variety of missional ministries for over 20 years. He has served as senior pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in La Grange, Illinois since 2004. He is the proud father of teenage daughters, Erica and Monica. His partner in ministry and in marriage, Sandi Geis, serves with him on the team at St. John's as prayer ministry leader, devotional writer and music teacher. He has a passion and calling to rally Christian communities and disciples to help people Meet Jesus in authentic and life changing ways.

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