The chairperson of our congregation (Kent Kramer) and I meet each month to plan the agenda for the next Council meeting. This past week we met at a busy deli called the Rasberry Patch.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of people lining up to get their lunches Kent and I spent most of our time talking about the most important part of our Council meeting. We’ve come to call it, “Maintaining Our Focus.”
It is here that we spend time, sometimes a good part of our meeting, discussing where God is leading us as a congregation. This part of our meeting has been an “amazing and beautiful time,” to borrow Kent’s language, but also one that is very frustrating.
First, I want to be very clear that we confess that our focus is Jesus Christ and God’s mission. Having said that, following Christ and pursuing God’s mission is filled with obstacles and landmines planted by our own sinful selves and the devil. Sometimes it feels like we haven’t left first base.
We’ve heard time and time again that we are to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and engage the real needs of people in our community, but we would rather keep the Gospel to ourselves and not get too close to the pain and brokenness of others.
We know that we are to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching, but its easier to go home and leave the baptizing and teaching up to the professionals (pastors).
We know that we need to gather weekly in worship and in small groups to be fed on God’s Word and Sacrament and to grow to love one another, but we generally have too many other things demanding our time and energy.
It’s not that we don’t like and value the church. We all enjoy the vehicle we’re sitting in. The problem though is that it’s stuck.
As Lutherans we believe, teach and confess that God’s Word has the power to make believers out of unbelievers, saints out of sinners, children of God out of enemies of God. We believe that God’s Word has to be the center of our life as a Christian community and as individual members of it. We believe that only God’s Word can change our hearts so that they begin to die to these things that keep us stuck.
This fall I am encouraging us to gift our lives or the life of someone else with a copy of The Lutheran Study Bible. After Christmas I will be leading a five-part study series on using this Bible. It is my hope that God will use this as a launching point to change our attitudes and create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us (Psalm 51:10).
Martin Luther wrote (WA 48:155) the following about the Bible as God’s Word and its power in our lives:
Whoever believes and holds to Christ’s Word, heaven stands open to him, hell is shut, the devil is imprisoned, sins are forgiven, and he is a child of eternal life. That is what this book teaches you— the Holy Scripture— and no other book on earth.
God can create new beginnings for us all. He has promised that in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who comes to us every time the Word is proclaimed and shared.
I pray that you will avail yourself of this invitation to engage the timeless conversation of God’s Word that promises us the fullness of life in Christ Jesus (John 10:10). It is only in this way that we together can move forward on the journey Christ is leading us on.
– Pastor Tim