We see God's people gathered together, growing up and going out by God's grace.
God's People Gathered Together
We are, Peace In Christ, God's People Gathered Together. In Confirmation, we stress the five functions of the Holy Spirit saying, He "calls, GATHERS, enlightens, sanctifies and keeps." The Spirit's GATHERING draws us to God, and brings God's people together. Community is God's idea. He draws us to himself and to each other, healing our brokenness, and placing us in relationship with Him and each other.
That means however we got here, God had a hand in it. Give whatever reason you want: "I was looking for a small church" or "It's close to where I live" or "My sister goes here" or I wanted Missouri Synod" or "They let me smoke" or "I like the Pastor" or "The congregation is friendly" or "They provide joyful, nurturing worship and solid study." God gathered us up and brought us here under "one Lord, (in) one faith (through) one Baptism."
And what a collection He brought! We are varied in spiritual backgrounds and traditions from one to many to none. We are conservative and moderate and liberal (even in our beliefs). We are serious and shy and funny and friendly and caring and, at times, the opposite of all of those. We are from Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Texas, California, Indiana, Georgia and just about any other place and perspective you can name. We are single, married, widowed, divorced, blended, separated; and God has GATHERED (US) TOGETHER to be his people in this place. We are family, God's family.
And what is this family about? It's about belonging: God has given us a place, we fit in, and are a part with others. It's about acceptance: God receives us and asks us to include others. It's about forgiveness, God's for us, and that made active in our community. It's about working together to share and use our gifts for God and others. It's about worship and sacrament nurturing, motivating and challenging us.
But it is more than that. It's God's understanding that there is strength in numbers. That gathered together in him he can do far more in us and through us than we can do on our own both to support and strengthen and challenge each other but also to increase our witness and impact on the community. That's why we are gathered together.
"Growing up" - most commonly we've heard this from someone when we were acting in an immature or childish way. For our purposes we have said it reminds us of Paul's words to the Ephesians in Chapter 4, verses 11-16, are full of "process" words, words that indicate we are on the move (growing) in faith, in works, in maturity and as a body, words like "built up", "reach unity", "become mature", "attaining", "grows and builds itself up." All of these words refer to our growth and maturation as the people of God, the body of Christ in this place.
Not the last part of our Vision Statement by any means but a very significant one. Actually the members of Peace In Christ are doing better at reaching out but far from where we need to be. The following excerpt from "Jesus Means Freedom" by Ernst Kasemann make the point most profoundly about how important going out, mission, outreach is in the life of the Christian and Christian congregations.
"The Long Road"
.... What human beings never can do, Christians must never even wish to do, namely, build impregnable citadels on earth take their stand on what is conventional so as to abandon the future for the sake of the past. Every one of us is called every day to an exodus, as Abraham had to migrate from his father's house into an unknown country. Anyone who will not join in the march loses touch with God's people, even if he dwells in temples.
What is true for the individual is no less true for the church as a whole. It too, is constantly being called on to break camp, and it has to leave behind what was once its gain; otherwise it is ruled, not by the Spirit, but by its own tradition. A continual exodus is the reverse side of Christian freedom. To be free, one must be able to give up what is old, and so answer God's will today and tomorrow....
(Excerpt from "Jesus Means Freedom" by Ernst Kasemann p. 115
By God's Grace
The last part of our Vision Statement reads "by God's Grace." Simply out, God's grace is defined as "undeserved love." In confirmation instruction, we often use this definition: "Grace is God's riches at Christ's expense". How would you define grace? One author, Beuchner, calls it "crazy, holy grace". Crazy because "no one could have predicted it." Holy because "ultimately it is farther away than OZ, deeper down than Doom, holy because it heals and hollows." I personally like that.
Three qualities of grace are fairly consistent. Grace occurs serendipitously, in unexpected circumstances or through unlikely persons. Grace has the quality of universal love, being loved in relation to a person or situation. Finally, grace has a result. Invariably at the time, or upon recollecting, a person experiences a change in perspective or direction. In short, Grace surprises us, makes us feel loved, and changes how we see life.
In other words, when we say "we see God's people, gathered together, growing up and going out by God's Grace", we realize:
Spiritual guides encourage us to be in creative discipline (study, service, prayer, solitude) in preparation for grace. To that encouragement the question often comes: "If Grace comes by surprise, then why the discipline?" Anthony DeMella's One Minute Wisdom answers:
"Is there anything I can do to achieve enlightenment? - As little as you can do to make the sun rise. Then why all these burdensome disciplines you prescribe? - Ah. So that you will be awake when the sun rises!"
Peace - Pastor Dave
Last modified: April 03, 2013