What Are You Looking For?
February 2011 Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Article The question, “What are you looking for?” is the first recorded saying of Jesus in John’s Gospel. John the Baptist, whose role it was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, pointed Jesus out to two of his followers. “Look, here is the Lamb of God.” Immediately they began to follow him. Jesus turned and saw them following him and asked, “What are you looking for?” (St. John 1:29-42)
On Sunday, January 16, after some introductory comments based on that text, I took an informal survey of the congregation, asking what worshippers were looking for in their participation at Saint Peter, and in their faith in Jesus Christ.
Based on the responses I received, it seems there is much that people are looking for in their relationship with our church. Many of the responses referred to existing aspects of our ministries: meaningful worship, warm fellowship, a variety of educational opportunities, service projects in the community, a welcoming environment, and support in raising children. Some voiced their appreciation that Saint Peter is a safe place, a place to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ proclaimed, and a place that is life giving.
Other responses referred to personal well-being: showing interest in a church that brings peace, inspiration, a sense of purpose, meaning, hope, acceptance, forgiveness, a growing spirituality, an opportunity to serve. Yet others have to do with our relationship with God: coming to know God better, experiencing God’s forgiveness and salvation, growing deeper in faith, and developing a better understanding about our faith.
That’s a tall order for any congregation. The optimist in me assumes that some of these things are happening, since they are so often mentioned by those who responded. The realist in me assumes that the leaders of our church have a lot to do if we intend to continue offering opportunities for this to happen. The believer in me is grateful that while we are called to create opportunities for ministry, it is the Holy Spirit who uses them to help people grow.
Interestingly enough, I write this column as the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy is approaching. In his address on that day, JFK famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.” Even as we explore what we are looking for from our church and our faith, perhaps President Kennedy would remind us that we also have much to give.
As you explore your own thoughts about what you are looking for at Saint Peter, consider what you might do to help make it happen. Your commitment, and mine, is where our congregation’s true strength lies. It may be that even as we attempt to answer the question “What are you looking for?” another one emerges: “What are you looking to give?”
God’s peace to you all, David J. Risendal, Pastor