It has been the trend that by the end of February the physical fitness centers have fewer people in them even though January is typically a month of increased membership and participation. After the holidays people often feel the need to exercise (get rid of those extra holiday pounds) and so they head to the fitness center. But the newness wears off faster than the pounds wear off and people choose to spend their time in other places. To be in appropriate physical shape (a healthy condition, not a pro athlete’s condition) requires one to participate regularly in physical activities. So it is also with your spiritual fitness. Regular attendance at worship along with time spent in personal and/or family devotions are positive ways to help one’s spiritual fitness. As we enter into the Lenten season on March 1 with Ash Wednesday, there will also be the opportunities to strengthen the congregational fitness by participating in those special weekday worship opportunities and the Sunday evening Lenten devotionals. Come and share faith and fellowship as we strengthen the spiritual aspect of the congregation.
Almost 40 years ago two Voyager spacecrafts were launched to explore interstellar space. Included on the spacecraft were recordings of sounds and images from Earth that other intelligent life might interpret to get an idea about humans. Recently several people were discussing if the opportunity came to create another recording of sounds and images of earth what would people want to include this time. Technology has greatly increased the capacity of recordings and so there was the possibility of many more things being included. But one person among the group suggested that more data (images and sounds) does not necessarily convey an accurate portrayal of human life. She talked about human beings as more than what we read, more than the music we listen to, or capture as photos. We are greater than the sum of activities we engage in while living.
As Christians we individually need to be able to convey a meaningful portrayal of our Christian faith. Worship is needed, but faith goes beyond worship. Christian faith goes beyond the words print- ed on paper and called the Bible. Christian faith is more than a name on a membership list. Faith is more than the sum of our activities. It is what we do because we realize that Christ has redeemed us from our sins. Faith is how we live day by day and treat other people as we are motivated by acknowledging the eternal love and grace of God.
In the vastness of space no creature may ever find the Voyager spacecraft and understand those recordings. However, your daily living will be seen by others and hopefully be interpreted so that they too will want to participate in the Christian faith because it has real meaning as revealed through you.
If our Christian faith is only active during Sunday mornings, then we have limited influence in society. As Christians we do not have answers to the many problems of society, but if we do not offer any engagement outside of Sunday mornings we certainly will not have any influence at all in helping correct some of society’s problems.
Many people believe that politics and religion do not mix, but that depends upon what you define as politics. There are partisan politics in which some folks seem to think that God is on their political party’s side and it is their way or the highway. Think of the prohibition movement that led to the changing of the Constitution of the United States and the mess that followed when alcohol became illegal. It has been a long standing saying that you cannot legislate morality, but it is possible to legislate deterrence.
It is of some benefit to society that we have drunk driving laws and that the law can make people take DUI classes after their conviction for driving under the influence. Those laws came about because of politics working towards public safety, and public safety is something that Christians are to consider. It is not politics for this congregation to allow the use of its facilities as a polling place during elections. It is a service to the community much in the same way when the congregation’s facilities are used by other community groups such as the Scouts or the Farm Bureau. What is not permitted is the use of funds of the congregation in support of a specific candidate or political party.
In this time of sound bites and pseudo-reporting on the Internet, people need to consider a variety of opinions in order to make better decisions. It is true that money talks but so do ordinary voices. To help you in the area of advocacy you can visit the following website http://elca.org/our-work/Publicly-Engaged-church/ELCAvotes. If you have concerns, call me (232.6215). Pastor Dave
A note of appreciation to all the persons who participated in the Ministry Site Profile (MSP) surveys that were available after two worship services. The five MSP Task Force members combined all the opinions and have produced several summary pages. For those interested in looking at the summary pages of the raw data, they will be available on the tables at the entrance to the worship area. For those persons interested in a condensed interpretation of the data, continue reading.
There were 39 survey packets turned in with responses on at least some of the pages. There were 27 sheets of page 4 that had one or more hand written comments and another 12 sheets that contained no responses at all regarding the top priorities for the pastor to focus on for the first year of ministry and also what congregational members would do to help the new pastor focus on those ministries. At a total of 39 surveys, the packets reflect the opinions of a limited number of members in the congregation. Some of those opinions converge in agreement and others point in different directions. In other words, we will need to acknowledge that we are individuals and yet we need to work together, not for our own goals, but for the goals that will help in achieving ministry through the congregation.
The opinions of survey participants show the majority agreeing that the perceived critical tasks for the pastor during the first year are youth ministry, worship, pastoral care and visitation, and building a sense of community. There was also an interest in the pastor being an effective communicator and helping people develop their spiritual life. There is much ministry to be done, and in order to accomplish it, the members of the congregation will need to work together with each other and participate in a variety of activities.
Please be in prayer that the guidance of the Holy Spirit will be felt and will lead the decisions of all the many people that will be involved in the call process.
More than a few decades ago and across this nation on the West coast, public schools did not start until the Tuesday after Labor Day and did not get out for the summer until in June. So school starting in August and especially early in August does seem strange. Things that are not part of our experiences seem a little strange and at times foreign or even wrong just because they are different from our background.
Roman Catholic friends of ours became God parents to a baby girl some decades ago. The child grew up and recently got married in Indonesia (the homeland of her parents). Included in all the festivities was the wearing of tradition wedding apparel which was not in the style of United States apparel. The God parents were invited and traveled to Indonesia and were furnished with traditional wearing apparel. The pictures of the God parents showed them looking far different than normal, but they did it out of love for their God child. Because of our love of God, there will be times, when we will need to show our love by better understanding how people different from us are still God’s children and live different lives than we think. People receiving welfare cash assistance are not necessarily lazy slobs, but may have been laid off from their work. In fact in the 20 years since States started receiving cash welfare money in block grants, many States have used much of that federal taxpayer money for other actions. In Michigan part of the welfare money is used to fund grants to help pay for tuition at private colleges of even middle income students. People with criminal records may have made one mistake and that was being in a car with someone else when the car was stopped and drugs were found in the car. What is it like to be a police officer? What is it like to have people treat you differently simply because you are short, or over weight or your skin is a different color or any number of other “differences” that set you apart from others?
The apostles were a different group of people even as we think they were all from the same area. Simon the Zealot (a patriot of Israel) was not likely to think kind thoughts about his fellow apostle Matthew who had been collecting taxes and handing them over to the occupying Romans. Somehow with Jesus’ love they were able to work together and in their situation to even travel together to accomplish what was their ministry for their time and place. May we see not differences that separate us but the love of God that brings us together.
One of the many steps involved in calling a pastor, is completing a Ministry Site Profile (MSP). The MSP is about the ministry of the congregation and the context in which that ministry takes place. There are questions that need to be answered by members of the congregation regarding what types of ministry would seem to be the most important for the congregation as a whole to be involved in with the new pastor. The five member MSP Task Force will be announcing in the coming weeks the Sundays on which surveys will be available for members of the congregation to complete to help provide data in the MSP. Watch for announcements in the bulletin.
These surveys will ask for your impressions about the congregation and will also be asking what abilities a pastor needs to have to serve the needs of the congregation. The idea is for you to think beyond your individual perspective and preferences to think what would help the ministry of the whole congregation. Additionally, we need to realize that the society around us has changed and therefore what was needed may no longer work well. In the 1950s congregations would form by building a building. Now it takes the individual evangelism of the members inviting persons to participate in some aspect of the ministry of the congregation.
The days of summer vacation will soon be here, but some are already on their summer break, at least local students are on summer break. Some youth from Zion are going to participate in June in the Southeastern Synod’s annual Affirm event which should be fun and inspiring. Some families will take summer vacation trips that hopefully will be fun and relaxing. Summertime is a change of pace for some people and for others their routine continues on unchanged or only changed slightly.
For the congregation there will be some slight changes and there will be some significant temporary changes as in the case of providing a Vacation Bible School program for the first full week in June. The ministry of a congregation may change at times from the hectic-ness (and sometimes hectic mess) of Holy Week to a more relaxed schedule in the summertime (but only after VBS is accomplished). Yet there is always ministry to do and there is always the need for disciples supporting the ministries of the congregation with their presence, their abilities, their prayers, and their financial resources. There is no break from maintaining the facilities of a congregation even when members are absent from worship, whether it is winter or summer or at any time of year. So remember that even when you are away from worship because of vacation, work, illness, or any other reason, your congregation needs your continued financial support.
Living is a serious matter and so is the need for some humor to help bring some joy to our living. Comic strips bring humor and also sometimes carry a point. The April 17, 2016 edition of the Savannah Morning News contained Sunday comics and on page 4G in the upper right corner was the man Brutus walking and meeting the little neighbor girl Hurricane. She asks where he is going and he says to the public library and invites her to come along. She says yes and then explains why she loves to go to the library by saying “They have computers you can use. They have concerts and show movies ..and they have tons of DVDs and CDs you can borrow.”
Brutus responds, “Yes, they do. Times certainly have changed! Would you believe when I was your age, libraries didn’t offer any of those things!” The little girl’s response was “Really? Then what did you go to the library for?” You could supply the answer to the young girl’s question, but what if Brutus was going to church? Times certainly have changed for libraries and also for congregations.
Today libraries continue to share knowledge not just through books but also through the use of computers and DVDs and get people into the building through movies and other events. Today congregations still have the task of increasing the spiritual awareness of individuals who come through their doors, but times have changed and how we share a spiritual awareness is also changing. Individual Christians need to be able explain to others why there still is meaning and purpose in entering through the doors of a church to worship within the community of faith. Think about and be prepared to answer the question ”Why do you go to worship?”
The Easter season of the church year has arrived early this year with Easter Sunday occurring and there are still four more days before April even begins. The festival nature of Easter Sunday is a joyous celebration giving us hope for eternal life with God coincidentally fostered in the Northern Hemisphere by the budding and blooming of spring. Sometimes Christians get so focused on the promise of heaven for them as an individual that they are of little help on earth. Christian faith is more than receiving through faith in God’s grace eternal salvation. Christian disciples are given new life here on earth to make a difference in the world around them. It is like those dormant plants that when spring arrives they are the same plants, but they do SHOW a difference as spring arrives and they grow during the year. Consider the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17 “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything has become new!” Let us celebrate the hope of the resurrection to eternal life with God as we work together to share the message of the Good News of God’s love for this world* and the difference it makes in our daily living.
Opportunity is about to knock. Will you consider responding to the knock? Specifically to the opportunity to invite people to Easter Sunday because it is seen as a “special Sunday.” A Sunday that people find is easier to come to even though the resurrection of Christ is celebrated on all the other Sundays during the year. Who do you know that does not participate in the ministry of another congregation? If you do not know, this is an opportunity to give an invitation and find out if they indicate they participate in a congregation. As part of the invitation offer to give them a ride or to meet them outside the church building at a certain time. Invitations can be extended to neighbors, relatives, coworkers, and people who belong to another group that you both participate in such as a scout group. Do consider in the coming weeks who you will invite to Easter Sunday worship, March 27th.