Pastoral Letter for Easter Season
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our crucified and risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It is now a little more than one month since we last met together in our sanctuary for worship, prayer and holy communion. Over the course of this month, the Holy Spirit has preserved us in our common life together in Christ. Through Internet connections and applications such as Facebook, YouTube and Zoom we have gathered together around God's Word for worship, teaching and prayer. Through traditional phone and wireless connections we have reached out in fellowship to care for, encourage and comfort one another. Through mail and delivery services or even through gifts we drop at the doorstep, we have reminded each other of the connections we share to each other through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I praise and thank the Lord for you. I praise and thank the Lord for the love you have shared and received from each other in Jesus' name. I praise and thank God that throughout this month, you have worked so diligently and generously to slow the spread, to protect the most vulnerable and to sustain the mission of Christ, using your many and diverse spiritual gifts in so many new and creative ways. I praise and thank our Lord for you!
Yet now it seems that we will need to patiently persevere in this way for at least another month. Just that realization can be overwhelming and disheartening. So, I write to you today so that you do not lose heart, but instead you might be strengthened in your faith in Jesus and inspired in your love by participating fully in the common life we share.
First, I want to point out that the common life we share in this strange and backward world is not less church than it was a month ago. We remain today what we have always been, members of Christ and through Christ members of one another. We might long to see our friends face-to-face, to greet each other and to even share a cup of coffee or piece of something wonderful Judy baked to share with us. We might miss singing in the choir, playing in the band and all the joy that Spirit gives to our worship when we are all together in the sanctuary. We might even feel as if all that we loved about going to church has been taken away from us. All these are signs of grief. When we lose what we love, we grieve.
Yet it is important for us to remember that we grieve the loss of all these things because we love them, and perhaps even more important for us to keep foremost in our minds that we have lost all things we love because we have set them aside for a season out of a deep and abiding love for the health and well being of our friends, family and neighbors. In love we have offered these things up as offering to the Lord and as a prayer of intercession for the health and well being of the people of this community. In doing so, we have actually strengthened our commitment to each other and our common life in Christ. Over the course of these next 50 days (from Easter until Pentecost), you may want to set aside some quite time to consider the many ways you are sacrificing what what you want or what you love for the sake of another's benefit and to strengthen the common life of our community. Consider this work of love and reflection as a kind of training camp to prepare us for the mission Jesus is preparing us to carry out in the months and years ahead.
Next, I want to take some time to write to you about the celebration of the Lord's Supper. In consultation with our bishop and our church council, we have decided to not celebrate the Lord's Supper until it is either safe to gather our whole assembly. If it appears that assembling the whole congregation will be neither safe nor prudent for an extended period of time, we will look for opportunities to gather a small and representative body to celebrate the Lord's Supper together and then deliver it to the homes of the rest of the community.
There are three main reasons that this is our practice. First, the sacraments are never a matter of private or individual piety, but they are Jesus Christ truly present for us through these physical elements and within the community of saints the Holy Spirit has gathered around Christ through faith. Second, Christ's presence for us through the Word and in the fellowship we share and extend to each other in faith is sufficient to sustain us in the Spirit in faith, hope and love throughout this season when we are apart and yet together in the Spirit. Finally, we want to use this time that we have been given to lay the foundation for stronger community, cohesive fellowship and clearer witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and so our practice in this time should look to set a pattern that can be sustained for the sake of the fellowship and mission we share.
In this time between Easter and Pentecost ... and beyond. We have an opportunity to discover a new and fuller meaning to what we have read about the gatherings of our ancestors in the faith.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. ... Day by day as they spend much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all people. And day by day, the Lord added to their numbers those who were being saved." (Acts 2:42, 46-47).
In this passage, we can see the prominence the community of Jesus gives to three practices -- gathering for teaching, worship and prayer. We can see how Christ is also present in our homes as we live and work, eat and pray as a household. In the weeks ahead we can work together to develop the habits and practices that will form the foundations for a new common life together, and, as your pastor, I will work along with you to encourage, support and nurture this common life by calling us to gather for learning, worship, prayer and fellowship, and to provide households with guidance and resources so that our homes become houses of prayer, worship and service in Jesus' name.
Here are some of the ways, we can gather together to strengthen our faith and deepen our love. Be sure to sign up for the St. Paul's newsletter and check the St. Paul's Web site so that you can have access all the links and and resources you need to fully participate in our life together.
Weekly Bible studies. We will offer two Bible studies each week. One on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and another on Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m. We will use the Zoom platform to gather for Bible study.
Nightly Prayer meeting. Gather on Zoom for Bedtime prayers each night at 9:00 p.m. It's a time to check in and share our lives together within a service of Night Prayer.
Weekly worship. We gather for worship on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. for a service of evening prayer with prayers for healing, and again on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. for service of the word. Weekly worship services stream live on Facebook and are then available in recorded form after the service. Recorded services are also available on YouTube and on EdisonTV.
Phone Calls and Care Team. The congregation has been organized into small groups with one care team member assigned to stay in touch with the people in the group. Yet, this is a ministry we can all share. Please, reach out to all of your St. Paul's friends and use your directory to take a risk and call someone you may not know yet. Don't be afraid to offer and ask for prayers from one another.
Pastoral Conversations. You can feel free to call, text or email me at any time during your day, depending on the type of care and conversation you might need. If I'm not available at the time, I will get back to you as quickly as I can. If you would like a longer or face-to-face meeting, you can schedule time for a 30-60 minute phone call or for a Zoom meeting with me, much like we would have in my office.
Devotions and Family resources. Each week, we will e-mail copies of Taking Faith Home, an excellent household resources for daily use throughout the week. In addition to this excellent resource, we will e-mail links to children's bulletins and Sunday school family pages each week. In addition to these, please share with me and with each other any helpful resources you might run across in the course of your day.
Make use of social media. Of course, follow St. Paul's on Facebook and Instagram. But also, take some time to seek out and follow each other on social media. Post pictures, share ups and downs, check in with each other, and who knows, you might even make a new friend!
Share. Share. Share the good news! Its never been easier to invite the friends and family in your community and your friends and family from across the nation and around the world to join you in worship, prayer or study.
Be generous. Thank you for your generosity and your partnership in this mission. Your gifts and offerings make a difference now more than ever in the ongoing life of this community and in our outreach to love and serve our neighbors. The work of our Food Pantry continues. At the current time, the greatest need for our food pantry is basic food stuff and volunteers. If you have the means to be generous with your food and with your time, please let me know. In the weeks and months ahead, there may be need for us to greatly expand the frequency and level of service we provide through our food pantry.
Finally, I know how easy it is to get discouraged and to be overwhelmed. I too have bad days, by God has provided comfort and renewal through God's word, particularly in the good news of Jesus' resurrection and the coming of God's kingdom among us through the crucified and risen Lord. St. Paul reminds us that when we were reborn into God's kingdom through baptism, we died to the way things used to be, the way we used to be, and were raised up to live according to the ways of God's kingdom and God's righteousness. In this season, as at all times, Jesus leads us to seek out the kingdom of God and God's righteousness, promising that all that we need for this live will be added to us as gift of our gracious and loving Heavenly Father. We know that things have changed in our world and in our society setting the course for a future we cannot yet see. But we can see the future of God's new creation that God has brought to birth in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is that future we strive toward, together, even now.
In closing, I encourage you once again to use this time to establish a daily habit of prayer by choosing a particular time that works best for you and to pray for those who are sick, those who are working in hospitals, nursing homes and all manner of care facilities, serving in ways they never imagined, for each and every person who is involved in the supply networks we rely on for the basic ingredients of life, for our local and national government leaders, for scientists and researchers, for the lonely, isolated and grieving, and for all those people that you have promised to remember in prayer as well as those that Holy Spirit brings to your mind or places on your heart in the course of a day, for this community of faith that we might grow in faith, hope and love, and finally, please remember me in your prayers.
The peace of Christ fill your hearts and minds in love,
Pastor James Krombholz
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