Growing in God's Grace

Quarterly Newsletter for First Lutheran Stewards
February 2022
"Helping God's people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through the use of the time, talents and financial resources God has entrusted to us."
For the "God's Work, Our Hands" service project this past September, First Lutheran disciples gathered to work on the preschool outdoor classroom. They trimmed hedges created a Forsythia tunnel, dug holes for native plants along the perimeter of the classroom, and spread mulch.

The outdoor classroom is now open and the preschool students are enjoying exploring it for the first time. With nature constantly changing, there will always be something new to discover!
Trusting in God’s abundance empowers us to live lives of generosity.
First Lutheran Disciple's Faith Story
Living Our Faith – What a Joy It Is!
By Jay Zumbrun

Growing up next door to a Catholic convent and across the street from the rectory of several priests in Catonsville, I was surrounded by a Catholic church, chapel and Catholic school. My religious roots started there and continued through 12 years of a Catholic education. At that young age, I did not fully appreciate what faith meant and how important it was to be in my life.

After marrying my wife, Linda, in 1975, I ‘converted’ to Lutheranism at her encouragement. Raising three kids and moving around the area, we attended Salem Lutheran Church in Catonsville, St. Johns Lutheran Church on Waterloo Road in Columbia and finally came ‘home’ to First Lutheran in 1999.

Having served as an Assisting Minister and Reader at each of the congregations we attended, in addition to various other roles, I realized the value and blessing it was to serve God in each ministry. My spiritual journey was awakened significantly when I attended Stephen Ministry training at FLC in 2007 and began to walk with fellow disciples who were experiencing a difficult time in their lives. I learned to simply listen (a hard thing for me to do) and walk the walk with someone who was grieving the loss of a loved one, a job, good health, etc. It was humbling then and continues to be a blessing to be among a loving and caring group of fellow Stephen Ministers who provide true Christian caregiving to those in need.

I have always found that ‘God moments’ are all around us. We simply need to keep our eyes and ears open to realize that, despite difficult times and situations, God’s presence is there in the people we meet and the opportunities we have to serve God and our neighbor. As a member of the Social Ministry team at First, I have marveled at the gratitude that people have expressed when they are given a helping hand, provided food when times are tough, or shared God’s blessings with those who simply needed a kind word or gesture. These experiences have humbled me and given me the desire and the motivation to meet people where they are and give back a small portion of the many blessings that God has given me and my family.

One of the favorite parts of my week is attending the Sunday morning adult bible study, Living in God’s Story. These discussions have opened my eyes to the wisdom of the bible and the messages that are contained in the scriptures. My ‘church family’ means the world to me, and I could not imagine not having them in my life. I truly believe that God meant for each of us to be part of a faith community where we love, share and grow as we navigate a very complicated world. It is in fellowship and outreach with others that we truly see God’s face in others…a true blessing.

Despite the various consequences of the pandemic, it has been a gift to participate in the Men’s Bible Study and Fellowship Group (guilt-free breakfast) and discuss the scriptures and simply get to know other guys in the congregation who also hunger to live out their faith.

I look around and feel God’s embrace and comfort when I see my wife, children, their spouses and our grandchildren. I experience God’s many blessings when I participate in the ministry opportunities at First and grow spiritually when I share my faith journey with my fellow parishioners….what a joy it is!

The Danger of Wealth
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24)

In this passage from Matthew and in numerous others in the New Testament, Jesus gives a clear warning about the danger of wealth. As citizens of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it’s a warning we should carefully heed. The point of these passages is not that money in and of itself is evil. Rather, the point is that wealth has a way of luring us to trust in it – a way of convincing us to stake our future on our accumulation of it – a way of tricking us into thinking that without it, we are nothing. When we fall into this trap, we have started trusting in something other than our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

“You cannot serve God and wealth,” Jesus says. And yet, many of us in the US try to do just that. Of course, we want to serve God, but we also put our trust in the financial security we think can come from wealth. Jesus says that’s a problem – we can’t divide the object of our ultimate trust. Jesus doesn’t want wealth to become the object of trust that causes one of his beloved to stop trusting in him. Jesus wants our total trust. Trusting in wealth has much allure because our world defers to those who have accumulated much. But Jesus wants us to store up our treasure with him – to be his disciple – to know the eternal importance of serving God and not wealth.

How do we ensure our trust is not misplaced? A recurring theme throughout the New Testament is the Christian duty to give generously to the needs of others. And this is not to be a burden, but a consequence of the fact that some have more than they need, while others have less than they need. Generous giving can break the power of wealth. By giving money away generously, especially to God’s work in the world, we show that we do not try to serve God and wealth. Rather, we use the wealth that God has entrusted to us for God’s purposes. By giving money away generously, we put money in its proper place, and place our trust with Jesus, the only one ultimately worthy of that trust.

(adapted from “Money and Possessions in the New Testament,” Ask, Thank, Tell, chapter 3, by Charles R. Lane, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006.)
We invite you to continue supporting one or more of these ministries as you are able. Please go to GET INVOLVED on our website for details. Thank you for continuing to live into God's mission!

  • Blankets for Project Linus
  • Clothing and textile donations for House of Ruth MD - the big blue bin is open! 
  • FLC Altar Guild Worship Assistant
  • Donations for Grassroots Day Resource Center
  • Howard County Food Bank & Community Garden
  • Food on the 15th
  • Breath of God Lutheran Church
  • Clean cotton fabric/sheet donations to the Sewing Circle 
  • Virtual Food Drive
  • Community of St. Dysmas Congregants
  • Women and Children's Shelter/Soup Kitchen
Total Pledging and Giving Summary

Our total giving for 2021 was a little more than $953K, a 9% increase over 2020 giving.  The additional $80K in giving compared to 2020 was driven by the Capital Reserve Fund appeal.  Positive indicators of our growth in discipleship – the number giving more than $5000 increased from 42 in 2020 to 46 in 2021, and the number giving more than $12,000 increased from 8 to 14.  We have received 90 pledges for 2022 totaling about $373K, while last year we received 106 pledges totaling $425K.  To see the full summary chart of pledging and giving compared to previous years, click here.

Our 2022 faith spending plan is 10% greater than our 2021 plan – reflecting our increased investments in our music and worship experience, our learning opportunities particularly for our youth, and increased communication and engagement.  Please prayerfully consider increasing your offering in 2022 to allow the fullness of our planned ministry for our faith community and our neighbors to be realized.   
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Generosity Statement

We believe that we are created in the image of a loving, generous God who creates us to live in relationships of love and generosity.

We commit to living lives of generosity, welcoming, growing, and sharing in God's grace, and using the abundance God provides to meet the needs of others.

We invite all disciples to experience the joy of fearless generosity, giving our time, talents and treasure so that each of us, our community, and the world might be transformed through the ministries of First Lutheran Church.
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Stewardship Ministry
3604 Chatham Road
Ellicott City, MD 21042
Office: 410-465-5977