One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13B (Aug. 2, 2015)

Lessons:
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29 (24, 25)
Ephesians 4:1-16
St. John 6:24-35
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
Psalm 51:1-12

Prayer of the Day:
O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied. Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:24So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ “32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”


St. John 6:24-35 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,
and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Brady and Landon feeding birds in Venice; March, 2006

Brady and Landon feeding birds in Venice; March, 2006

When our boys were young we had an opportunity to visit the plaza at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. They couldn’t wait to feed the pigeons. They had been watching others do it, and it looked like great fun. So they dropped a couple of Euros in the vendor’s hand, and received two small bags of feed. As soon as they turned away from the booth, the pigeons had them in sight, and swarmed them from every direction. There were pigeons on their feet, their hands, their arms, their shoulders, their heads… and so tightly surrounding them that they could hardly even move!

Jesus must have felt like that in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. In the text we considered last week, he fed some five thousand of them in the wilderness. When they came after him, and he realized that they were about to try and forcibly make him their king, he slipped away to the mountain to be alone. That night many of them fell asleep in the wilderness (stuffed with food like Thanksgiving Day afternoon?). When they awoke to find that he had left for the other side of the sea, they swarmed after him (like Venetian pigeons?), and in a tone that bordered on belligerence, began to demand of him: When did you come here? How can we control the power of God? When will you give us more bread?

They had their fill of bread the day before, and it aroused in them a deep appetite. But this was not the kind of appetite Jesus wanted to fill. They were looking for bread – for another free lunch. He was in search of hearts hungry for grace, and lives hungry for the presence of God.

It would be months – perhaps years – before his followers would understand the difference. But once they did, life would never be the same for them. They feasted on their crucified and risen Lord. He became present in their midst in a manner that met their eternal appetite for peace and love and joy and hope. As the brothers of Taizé have taught us to sing:

Eat this bread. Drink this cup. Come to me and never be hungry.
Eat this bread. Drink this cup. Trust in me and you will not thirst.

Let us draw near to Jesus Christ, and be nourished by his presence. He longs to feed our hearts and souls through the word, through the sacraments and through the spirit of the gathered community. This is a feeding, which endures longer than life itself. One that grounds us in the power of God, and transforms our lives.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How did the five thousand who were fed by Jesus in the wilderness respond to that event?
  2. Why did they follow him in boats across the sea?
  3. What did Jesus mean when he told them that if they were fed by him, they would never thirst or hunger?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I been focused, in an unhealthy way, on “what I can get from God?”
  2. When have I been aware of the way my faith in Christ feeds me spiritually?
  3. How do the eternal dimensions of God’s gifts to me make a difference in my daily life?

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13B (Aug. 2, 2015)

Lessons:
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29 (24, 25)
Ephesians 4:1-16
St. John 6:24-35
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
Psalm 51:1-12

Prayer of the Day:
O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied. Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

6:24So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ “32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”


St. John 6:24-35 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12B (July 26, 2015)

Lessons:
2nd Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-18
Ephesians 3:14-21
St. John 6:1-21
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14

Prayer of the Day:
Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth. Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven and share this bread with all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:1After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.7Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”10Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.20But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.


St. John 6:1-21 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Philip and Andrew

This weekend’s Gospel lesson features two of the lesser-known disciples of Jesus. Those of us who have spent any time at all with the Bible can recall story after story about Peter and James and John. They make up the inner circle of Jesus, and are often with him when none of the others are present. But the disciples in this week’s story, Philip and Andrew, are not as well known. In fact, other than those passages where the Gospel writers name all twelve disciples, these two are mentioned only four times.

We meet Philip in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. In that passage, Jesus calls Philip to follow him. Philip not only follows Jesus immediately, but also becomes instrumental in convincing Nathanael to do the same. We meet Andrew when Jesus passes by a group of fishermen. Andrew is Simon Peter’s brother, and they were partners in a Sea of Galilee fishing enterprise near Bethsaida. Along with James and John (the sons of Zebedee), Jesus calls Peter and Andrew to follow him. All at once they drop everything, leaving Zebedee with the boats and nets, and begin to follow Jesus. In John 12, Philip and Andrew are instrumental in introducing a group of Greeks to Jesus.

The fourth appearance of Philip and Andrew, of course, is this weekend’s Gospel lesson. As is often the case, a large crowd has been following Jesus, largely because of the healing miracles he is performing. On this particular occasion there are about five thousand people present. Jesus looks at them, then turns to Philip and asks him where he thinks they might find food to feed such a crowd. Philip is the pragmatist: “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”

Jesus isn’t looking for pragmatic advice, though. He is looking for signs of faith, and finds them in Andrew, who foolishly but hopefully says: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Andrew realizes what a silly notion that is and begins to back-peddle, but Jesus ignores that and calls for the boy’s lunch. He gives thanks and distributes it to the crowd, and those five thousand people discover that they have more than they can eat.

How many times have individual believers, congregations, or denominations shied away from an opportunity for ministry because they had the pragmatic attitude of Philip? “We couldn’t do that with six months of income! Let’s pass on it, and hope someone else is able to do it.” And another chance to reach someone for Christ is lost.

This Gospel lesson is an encouragement for us to put aside the pragmatic short-sighted attitude of Philip, and take up the foolish but faithful position of Andrew. If five barley loaves and two fish can feed five thousand people, imagine what Christ can accomplish with what you and I have to bring to the table! Indeed, with Christ, all things are possible.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What thoughts must have been going through Philip’s mind when he saw the crowd?
  2. How were Andrew’s thoughts different than Philip’s?
  3. What do Jesus’ actions reveal about each man’s perspective?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Do I tend to identify more with Andrew or Philip?
  2. What ministry lies before me (or us), that I doubt my (or our) ability to accomplish?
  3. How would my perspective change if I believed that all things were possible?

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 12B (July 26, 2015)

Lessons:
2nd Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-18
Ephesians 3:14-21
St. John 6:1-21
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14

Prayer of the Day:
Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth. Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven and share this bread with all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:1After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.7Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”10Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.18The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.20But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.


St. John 6:1-21 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

Welcomed, and Sent (sounds familiar…)

Date: July 19, 2015
Liturgical Day: The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 11B)

a time for Sabbath
invited to faithfulness
Jesus calls us all

Summary:
Jesus leads his disciples away from the crowds, so that they might experience some time away with God. In doing so, he invites us into lives that are marked by Sabbath and service.

Download Sermon: 2015 Pent 11B

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 11B (July 19, 2015)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22
St. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Semicontinuous Series:
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37

Prayer of the Day:
O God, powerful and compassionate, you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us. Heal each of us, and make us a whole people, that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.  


St. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Welcome. Now Go!

“Welcome to Arizona. Now go home!” So read the popular bumper sticker that graced quite a few Arizona-registered automobiles when I moved there in the mid-1980s. A similar sticker, with the words “Colorado Native” on it, can be seen in our state. A bit more subtle, but perhaps it expresses the same sentiment: “I was here first. I liked it when I got here. You newcomers are destroying what we used to have. It’s time for you to leave.”

With a different intent, perhaps we Christians could use the same phrase to refer to what the life of faith is all about: “Welcome to the church. Now go.”

In the verses that precede this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls his twelve closest followers and sends them out two by two, with instructions to cast out demons and anoint with healing oil those who are sick. The Greek word for sent out is “Apo-stello” – the word that gives us our English word “Apostle.” Those twelve followers; those twelve disciples; those twelve are called Apostles because Jesus sends them out to carry his message and ministry beyond the reach of what he can do himself. They do just that, and their ministry is so powerful, and makes such an impression, that even King Herod hears about it (St. Mark 6:14).

As this week’s lesson begins, the disciples return to Jesus, excited about what God has accomplished through them. Jesus undoubtedly senses that they are exhilarated by these experiences, but also drained by them. And so he invites them to come away with him to a deserted place and rest a while. “Welcome,” he says, “into this experience of my grace and peace, and be renewed.” Yet as they make their way across the water, the crowd perceives where they are going and runs ahead of them. When Jesus and the twelve arrive, it is no longer a deserted place. They are met by a massive sea of human need, and out of his deep compassion Jesus goes out once again to bring them healing and hope.

So it is with the life of faith. We are welcomed into God’s healing grace and peace. Then, filled and renewed, we are sent out to share those gifts with the world that surrounds us. Exhilarated but exhausted from that ministry, we are again welcomed into God’s healing grace and peace, and the pattern continues.

Every Christian congregation is called to be the kind of deserted and restful environment that Jesus envisions for his closest followers. Within the walls of our worship spaces, we seek to provide a profound experience of God’s grace, peace and healing. And then, filled and renewed by this experience, we are called to go once again, to spend ourselves in service of God, so that others might know the love and compassion that God has for them.

So welcome to church. Now go, in Christ’s name. Thanks be to God!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What must the disciples have experienced as Jesus empowered them for a ministry of healing?
  2. Why were they in need of a “deserted and restful” place after that ministry?
  3. How do you imagine they responded when they got to that place and found it filled with people?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When has my faith provided me with the rest and peace and healing I’ve needed?
  2. When have I been able to minister, strengthened by that rest and peace, in ways that I never could have imagined on my own?
  3. How does the pattern of being welcomed into God’s grace and being sent into the world  play itself out in my own discipleship?

Conflicting Ways of Life

Date: July 12, 2015
Liturgical Day: The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10B)

John and King Herod
two contrasting ways to live
which one will we choose

Summary:
Herod is faced with the conflict between two distinct ways to live: the way of the world and the way of John and Jesus. So are we, and we know which way brings life. Let us commit ourselves to humility and service, and honor Christ with all we do.

Download Sermon: 2015 Pent 10B

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10B (July 12, 2015)

Lessons:
Amos 7:7-15
Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-14
St. Mark 6:14-29
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24

Prayer of the Day:
O God, from you come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works. Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.


St. Mark 6:14-29 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Truth Telling… and Grace

The new Pastor was greeting worshippers after worship on his first Sunday as they left the building. One after another thanked him for joining their community of faith, and for his thoughtful sermon. Then came Robert. He told the Pastor that it was one of the worst sermons he had ever heard, and that he really missed their old Pastor. The new Pastor was still reeling from these words when the next person extended her hand (having heard what Robert said), and tried to comfort him. “Oh, don’t listen to a word Robert says. He doesn’t really think that. He just repeats what everybody else says…”

Truth tellers can be hard people to be around.

Many of us have developed social sensibilities that guide our interactions with one another. We don’t just blurt out our criticisms, unless there is a legitimate reason to think that it will initiate a process which could help the person grow. And when we criticize, we do so in a thoughtful way, affirming other strengths (perhaps to gain credibility), and making it clear that our suggestions for improvement are just one aspect of a larger picture.

John the Baptizer seems to be more truth teller than socially sensible. St. Matthew and St. Luke report that his message begins with these words: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7 & Luke 3:7) Here in St. Mark’s Gospel we learn that John does not confine his ministry to the individual piety of those who come out to hear him. When political figures misbehave, John calls them out publicly. Herod, who had seduced his brother’s wife away and married her, is known for his bloodthirsty ways. John has every reason to steer clear of him, but he chooses instead to challenge him. In fact, in the Greek New Testament St. Mark uses the imperfect verb form, “had been telling.” John’s challenge to Herod is not an offhanded remark, or a brief sermon illustration. It seems that he is telling the truth to Herod over and over again, at great risk to his own wellbeing.

John is committed to truth telling, because he understands this is the only way for his listeners to experience grace. At the heart of the Christian faith is the reality that none of us is worthy of the grace God showers upon us. We all stand together at the foot of the cross, and are graced with the gifts of forgiveness, renewal and eternity.

In First John we read, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1st John 1:8-9] We do well to be grateful for John, the Baptizer, and the other truth tellers in our lives, as they help us to be open and honest about our need for what God most wants to share with us: the gift of forgiveness, and the promise of a new beginning.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did Herod and John have such a troubled relationship?
  2. Why was Herod interested in John (in verse 20)?
  3. What did John hope his truth telling might accomplish for Herod?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who has been a truth teller in my life?
  2. When have I become aware of a need for forgiveness that I had?
  3. How has God’s forgiveness shaped me, and molded me?

Astonished to Offended

Date: July 5, 2015
Liturgical Day: The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8B)

at the Synagogue
astonished to offended
hometown reactions

Summary:
Jesus challenged the people of Nazareth to the point that they were offended. He challenges us as Christians, and as citizens of this nation. How will we hear his challenge? Will we be offended or inspired?

Download Sermon: 2015 Pent 9B

What Is Our Service to Be?

Pastor’s monthly newsletter article for July, 2015

What is our service to be, our sacred ministry?
What does God ask?

[Delores Dufner, OSB, 1993]

Just to be clear: I don’t believe that God has a “plan” for every action you or I should take throughout the course of our lives, or that the essence of faithfulness is to discern and follow such a plan in a step-by-step fashion. (On the other hand I don’t believe God is bound by time, but transcends it, and is already present at the end of our lives, already knows the course they have run, and awaits us there – but we’ll save that for another newsletter article…) I do believe, however, that God has gifted each one of us in particular ways, and has in mind that we will use these gifts, to the best of our abilities, as we work together to do the will of God.

The Apostle Paul understood this, and dealt with it in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus. He wrote, “The gifts [God] gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” [Ephesians 4:11-12]

The essence of faithfulness has to do with discovering how God has gifted us, understanding what our unique strengths and abilities and passions are, and discovering how to put them to work in a way that builds up the body of Christ.

At Saint Peter, many people have done just that. Their abilities and passions for worship, children, music, art, service, learning, leadership or witness have led them to invest their time and energy in the work of God that takes place in and through this congregation. It is a deeply satisfying experience to know that you are making a difference in the lives of others. And it is a particularly meaningful experience to know that you are putting your gifts and abilities to work in a way that honors the God who entrusted them to you in the first place.

My hope for every believer is that he or she might discover how to do this in their families, in their chosen vocation, in their home congregation and in the world. And my expectation for every church leader (including the Pastor!) is that he or she might do everything they can to lead each participant in our ministries to discover this and live it out.

This summer I will be working on a plan, with the leaders of our congregation, to reach out to members of our congregation and explore with them how they might become more involved in ministry. I hope it will lead to a richer experience of faithfulness for each person. And I hope it will strengthen the proclamation of our congregation as we seek to reach out to the world around us. This is our sacred ministry. This is what God asks. May we be found faithful, as we seek to use our abilities and passions in a way that honors our creator.

God’s peace to you,
Pastor Dave

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