Spiritual Fellowship Retreat 2017

St John Lutheran Church

Christ Centered Worship and Education

Spiritual Fellowship Retreat Honors the 500th Year of the Reformation

By Mary Kay Pershing

It was a sunny March day in Sugarcreek, Ohio.  Sugarcreek is in the midst of the tranquil rolling hills of Holmes County in the heart of Amish Country.  Pictures of Amish quilts and bucolic farmland scenes graced the Dutch Valley Restaurant walls.  It was a good place to enjoy fellowship, light-hearted conversation, a good lunch, and above all to refresh our souls in Word and Sacrament.  

The Retreat brought together six congregations:  St. Mark, Steubenville; Resurrection, Malvern; Calvary, Parma; Christ the King, Lodi; Hope Evangelical, Sunbury; and St John Lutheran, Massillon.  Thirty-five individuals attended the event.

The date and theme for the retreat were easy to remember.  The date was March 4 th … and the theme? You guessed it, “March Forth!” To be more precise, the full theme was “March Forth in the Church Militant.” Pastors John Telloni and Chris Cahill used the Martin Luther hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” and the first three Articles of the Apostles’ Creed, from Luther’s Small Catechism, to look at the Reformation in a way to help us “march forth” both in our culture and in our individual lives.  

The retreat opened with a Service of Word and Sacrament, with Pastor Cahill serving as liturgist and accompanist (on his banjo!), and Pastor Telloni delivering the sermon.  In his message, Pastor Telloni introduced the retreat theme, “March Forth in the Church Militant,” and used the powerful thoughts contained in Luther’s great Reformation hymn to proclaim the Gospel.

In 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg.  He wrote “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” when he was in exile.  The words of the hymn are largely taken from the 46 th Psalm and make clear Martin Luther was not looking to any earthly protection, or fortress.  He was looking to God.

When we look at the First and Second Articles of the Apostles Creed, we see the Father Creator and Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.    We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.  Pastor Cahill led all in an exercise to examine basic desires for:  Understanding, Love, Safety/Security, Significance, Purpose, and Belonging.  If we let go of desires for self, then God can fill us.  Our goal is to look like Jesus.   The culture may talk about redefining the law, but as Christians we know that we cannot talk about the law without talking about Jesus. (Hebrews 1:1 and John 1:18).   The law is the way God intended things to be.

Some believe that Jesus taught us to love, that He was a mystic and a great guy.  But to us, He is our Savior.  He purchased and won us.  The Lord is in the center of every aspect of our life, both here on earth and in eternity.   

The Third Article is about the Holy Spirit and sanctification.  Pastor Telloni led us in a drawing exercise entitled “A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words.” The ark of the Covenant has a gold lid with angels on either side (to protect the presence of God and His saving promises) with the mercy seat in the center (God abounding in steadfast love).    The mercy seat related to the Day of Atonement where God did appear.  The New Testament is full of this same imagery:

Nativity (Mary, Baby Jesus, Joseph)

Baptism of Jesus (Dove, Jesus, Voice of God)

Transfiguration (Moses, Jesus, Elijah)

The empty Tomb (angel at the foot, empty spot, angel at head

In Revelation 21:22-27 we read that God and the Lamb are the temple.  The Glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its light.

In closing, Pastor Telloni compared the Theology of the Cross with the Theology of Glory.  The Theology of Glory is one in which one saves oneself by one’s own efforts and is success-centered.  The Theology of the Cross is about the hiddenness of God and has to do with Christ’s work, His presence, and how we draw closer to Him.

Many thanks to Pastors Telloni and Cahill for their leadership, and to the members of St. John’s Vision Team for their planning and efforts (Rev. Dr. Michael Bennett, Mary Foulks, Larry and Sharon Meyer, Betty Minch, Frank and Mary Kay Pershing, and Cal Shunk).

Holy Communion Celebrated Every Sunday at Both Services

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

1900 Wales Rd NE, Massillon. Ohio 44646

Church Office: 330-837-4645

"One in the Spirit: United in Christ and with Each Other"


Worship Services:8:00 am & 10:30 am       Sunday School and Bible Classes: 9:15 am