BUILT ON THE ROCK ...
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals … and to prayer” Acts 2:42 (NLT)
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Grace, mercy and peace to you in name of Jesus Christ.
With the start of a new month, it is becoming apparent that we are entering a new stage in our journey together. This past week, Governor Murphy sketched an outline for the slow and, we pray steady, restart of the states economy. This weekend, parks and even golf courses are being reopened, with provisions for social distance and minimal contact, so that we might enjoy the sunshine, warm weather and exercise. In the days ahead we can look forward to the reopening of workplaces and businesses, again with provisions for social distancing and minimal contact. Churches, including this congregation, are working together with local colleagues to developing guidelines and outline provisions so that we can gather for worship, fellowship, study and prayer together in person. Before we take these next steps, however, we stop to make sure that we are clear within ourselves about our purpose, our mission, and our witness to the community. It is my prayer that this letter will help us clarify our vision for the future and unite us in Christ’s mission for the days and weeks ahead.
How You Think and Talk Matters
Six weeks ago, we changed the way we go about the most basic aspects of our life together. At that time, I wrote to you to let you know that the church was not closing, but we were, out of love, adapting to the threat of novel coronavirus so that we could slow the spread, protect the vulnerable and sustain Christ’s mission. Though guided by Governor’s Murphy’s executive order, I asked that as followers of Jesus Christ we intentionally and deliberately let go of certain practices — gathering in the ministry center for worship, for example — and intentionally and deliberately pick up some new practices — gathering in worship together online using tools such as Facebook, YouTube and Zoom. It has not been easy, but you have made these adjustments with such grace and humor that I have been overwhelmed and inspired by you and by Holy Spirit has been at work through you. By God’s grace, we are working together to accomplish what God has called us to do in this time by being the people that God called us to be in Jesus Christ, not just for a time such as this, but eternally.
We intentionally and deliberately changed our practices so that we could continue our mission. I hope you understand the power of that sentence to ground our thinking and our plans for the future. How our practices adapt and change in the weeks and months ahead will be informed by many sources, including health experts and local, state and even federal government, but these practices will be intentionally and deliberately shaped by God’s love for us in Jesus and driven forward by our enduring call to abundant life and mission in Jesus Christ our Lord. So, bear with me as I make some distinctions.
We Move Forward In Christ’s Mission.
As we follow Jesus and move forward, mission clarity and focus will help keep us grounded, faithful and on the right track. Our mission is simple: Share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. There are two dimensions to this mission. One is directed toward the fellowship of the members of this community. Through the good news of Jesus Christ we gathered into fellowship with Jesus and each other as part of this community. Through this life together we are each sustained and nourished by gathering for worship around word and sacrament, caring for each other through fellowship and prayer, and studying together so that we might deeply root and ground ourselves in this Gospel. The other dimension follows Jesus out into the world in witness, love and service. The Gospel is proclaimed through the living of our lives, the love and care we demonstrate and enact for each other and the way we see and communicate God’s vision for a world healed, whole and well in God’s praise.
I hope you can see how life in a time of novel coronavirus we have not been separated from Jesus or each other any more than any power can separate us from the fellowship we enjoy in God’s love through Jesus Christ. It is my deepest prayer for you that you discover the resiliency of your faith and life, your purpose and meaning in God in the midst of the pandemic. I hope you can see how we remain, even today, mission-driven and mission-focused, even as we continue to make adjustments to our practices and to the way we carry out this mission.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we will plan to make some new adjustments to our practices and our ministries so that we can faithfully and effectively respond, according to mission, to the new realities of our lives together.
Food Pantry: Mission Activated by Love
I have left one ministry for the last because it figures to be the centerpiece of our outreach to a suffering neighborhood for some time to come. The St. Paul’s food pantry, along with other food pantries and food banks in this state has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking to feed themselves and their families and to plug gaping holes in their household budgets. I cannot thank our food pantries volunteers enough for their inspiring and tiring work over these past six weeks. The scope and scale of this ministry is expanding rapidly. We have increased the number of food pick ups, the amount of food we purchase and the number of days we are open, and there is a need for us to continue to expand this ministry and to make it sustainable for the long term. As we move forward, we need more volunteers and more food to share. We need volunteers in a variety of areas: pre-bagging and distributing food, picking up food from various sources, traffic direction in our parking lot, as well as administration and even technology. To respond to the growing need, this ministry is faced with the challenge of having to scale up service while continue to serve … not an easy task. What can you do?
I know that this a lot to take in all at once. So, let me try to sum it up as succinctly as I can. What we as a community have done over the past six weeks, we have done intentionally, deliberately and as an expression of the mission this congregation — to share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ, we look to move forward together in Christ’s mission in a way that will continue to slow the spread of novel coronavirus and protect the vulnerable in our community. The Holy Spirit has given us not only the gifts, talent and creativity to sustain our mission but to scale up our service and outreach I the days and weeks ahead. The future will look different from the past, but then again, that isn’t anything new for us. Every living thing changes … and this vibrant and dynamic community of Jesus’ disciples is no different.
In closing, I am profoundly moved and inspired by the members of this congregation. I can see Christ among us in ways I had never known or noticed before. I can’t wait to see and hear how God is leading you, as part of this congregation, to live, love and serve in such a time as ours. I wonder, what is God calling you to say and do that will share the good news of Jesus Christ this month? I wonder.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. James Krombholz, DMin
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