SIGNS...they are everywhere! Telling us what to do, what not to do, how to do something, where to go, where not to go; advertisements urging us to buy this or that or vote for him or her. Some are small and difficult to see or read, others huge like billboards. I remember our son so carefully following the traffic and road signs when he was learning to drive. Yikes! There are also "signs" that tell us something is about to happen, such as a thunderstorm, political unrest, and in today's world, a viral pandemic. Yes, there were apparently many "signs" that a pandemic could easily invade our lives! And now, so many signs out there urging us to wear masks, social distance, wash our hands! Even signs on the floor in grocery stores telling us how far we should stand apart from each other in line!
There are many miraculous "signs" in the Bible, one of the most memorable being the Star of Bethlehem announcing the birth of Jesus Christ and leading the Magi to Him. There is the "Book of Signs" in the beginning of the Gospel of John which speaks of seven notable events or miracles performed by Jesus, such as the changing of water into wine at Cana, Jesus feeding the 5000, and Jesus walking on water.
God constantly sends us "signs" of his grace and love that leave us in awe and wonder!
I also remembered a song about signs. I could recall some of the lyrics and a bit of the tune, but had to look it up. It is actually called "Signs" and it was written by Les Emmerson, of the Five Man Electrical Band, a Canadian rock band from the early 1970's that I had never heard of. Anyway, the story goes that he was "road-tripping" on Route 66 in California and noticed the beautiful scenery was obscured by many billboards and signs. From this experience, he wrote the lyrics to the song that describe four instances of encountering signs that angered or concerned him. It became a hit both here in the US and in Canada. And, don't forget the song, "Love Shack", by the B-52's. It starts off with, "If you see a little sign by the side of the road that says...".
So, where am I going with all of this about signs? And how does it relate to the question,
"What does St. Paul's mean to me?"
Mike and I moved into our current home in late 1997 and married in April of 1998, in a Lutheran church in Reisterstown that I was attending at the time. We decided on this area of Howard County because it was centrally located for our job commutes, and we had heard the schools were good. Important for the future! We were busy with our new life, learning about the area, deciding what grocery stores and restaurants were nearby, etc.
It was also important to us that we find a church in the area. I was raised Lutheran, Mike, Catholic. We were a little indecisive at that time about which denomination we wanted to pursue. I have to say that I very much wanted to find a Lutheran church. Then, one day, I was driving north on Route 29 from the Burtonsville area, heading home, and I saw, YES, you guessed it, a SIGN. A small, partially hidden by foliage, SIGN, with an arrow pointing west and the words barely readable, "St. Paul's Lutheran Church". Now, the traffic circles were not there yet and neither was the community of Maple Lawn. But we followed this sign and found our church!
And I suppose you can say, "The rest is history". We did not look further. I remember being warmly welcomed by Pastor Rod and the congregation. I was immediately awe-struck by the physical beauty of the church. I still am. Mike and I became members of St Paul's and joined the congregation. Judy Hewitt was our new member sponsor, thank you Judy!
A couple of years later, our son, Eric, was born, on August 17, 2000.1 remember those back-of -the-church-pew days so well! He was baptized at St. Paul's by Pastor Rod in November of that year, and celebrated his First Communion, in 2008, again, officiated by Pastor Rod. He attended Sunday School regularly and was confirmed when Pastor Carolyn joined our church. Eric's confirmation class was her first class at St. Paul's! It was a great group of kids. I think this class holds a special place in her heart. He went on to attend Road Trip, under the guidance of Pastor Carolyn, to Detroit, while in high school. What an experience for him! He is now a rising junior at University of Maryland, College Park! How time flies!
Over the years, it has been a blessing and a comfort to us knowing that we have had, and will always have, a nurturing and caring church family at St. Paul's. We have found it rewarding to serve and give back to our church by assisting with ushering and with various church functions, such as the annual Yard Sale, which was sorely missed this year!
I taught Sunday School for a couple of years and served on Council for two years as Chair of Christian Education. These were very rewarding experiences for me, both spiritually and personally. I learned a lot about how the church council leads and manages a Church, and about teaching young children the Bible and religion. Speaking of LEAD, I am a recent member of the LEAD committee, and I serve on the 150th Anniversary committee, which is continuing to come up with creative ideas to celebrate our wonderful heritage as a congregation. More to come on that in the near future. Just wait and see!
Most recently, I have become involved in the Adult Sunday School class led by Pastor Dave. We have such lively, interesting, spiritually uplifting discussions, both in person and on ZOOM. I have learned so much more about the Bible and how these ancient writings can relate to our world today. In today's uncertain and complicated times, this has been such a comfort.
So, what does St Paul's REALLY mean to me? Family, friends, community, spiritual comfort, religious education, thoughtful and powerful prayer, a safe place to unburden, a forever SIGN of God's enduring and everlasting LOVE.
God's Peace to all of you,