Roslyn. June 19, 2018
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!
On Sunday, June 3, 2018, you, the people of God at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Living Word, voted to call me as your part-time pastor. I wanted to take this opportunity to address some concerns that some of you may have regarding this change in call status and to consider what it means for us as far as ministry in this community of Roslyn.
The whole church, across denominational lines, is facing difficulty when it comes to how we are going to fund the important work we do. Our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is encouraging congregations to be creative about how we seek out revenue streams as well as how we spend the resources we already have, given how limited they are. As part of that, given our current financial situation at Living Word, we had an important call vote on June 3, complete with deputy from the synod, to change my call from full time to part time. This move will help our congregation in the short term to focus attention less on compensating me but on living the witness of the gospel in the Roslyn community. Our community is changing rapidly, and it is important that the Christian witness continue in the Roslyn area.
This vote was a move of faith in God’s promise to lead from death to life—although it does not mean the way ahead is not without its challenges. Please hear this clearly: I am very proud of you, the people of God at Living Word, because you have taken a leap of faith and are trusting that, no matter what happens, God has your back. It was a courageous move.
We are people of faith. What we do is to always be rooted in our trust, our commitment, our reliance on our relationship with God. God graciously gives us everything we have, and to that end, we live, and move, and have our being—as St. Paul remarks—in God through Jesus Christ. The greatest gift we have is our relationship with God, our faith. All that we do rests solely and squarely on the foundation of our faith.
In the months ahead, this truth must take center stage. Not to say that it has not thus far been our motivator here at Living Word, or the center to which we gravitate, but we need a revitalization. We must always keep faith ever-present and at the forefront of our minds. At the heart of faith is trusting God. We can trust because of our relationship with him, because of our faith. Trusting God must be the focus of everything we do going forward.
Part of revitalizing our relationship with God is refocusing on our discipleship. At Living Word, we use the Five Marks of Discipleship to help us frame our lives of discipleship. Each mark helps us stay balanced so that our whole spirituality is healthy:
- We worship weekly. The center of our life together is worship. Part of revitalizing our worship is to return to our center—to Jesus. Each week we are nourished by Jesus’ presence in the reading of Scripture, the preaching of the Word, and the sacrament of communion. Worship equips us to go out and live our lives in service to the world, in reflection of the love of Christ.
- We study diligently. We can always learn more about our faith, whether in Scripture, in devotion, in history, etc. The more we know, the more tools we have to better live out our faith so that we can carry out our mission of sharing Christ in our community.
- We serve joyfully. Service is a key element of our lives of discipleship. We take seriously that service toward others is service toward to God. We have been given a great gift in the promise of God in Jesus Christ, and we want to share that with others. Christ has freed us to love and serve our neighbor.
- We give faithfully. Financial giving is an important part of Christian discipleship. It takes resources for our congregation to do ministry, both at home and in the wider church. Financial gifts and offerings mean we can better be faithful in our calling to live a fully integrated life as a community of believers.
- We pray constantly. Prayer is nothing more than a conversation, a communion if you will, with God. Prayer is the lifeblood of our relationship with God. Prayer is not something among others that we do as Christians, but it is what we do as Christians. So my first challenge for us is to give ourselves anew to a life of prayer. Prayer alone and with each other. Prayer now and constantly. Let us see where God is active, not only in the obvious but also in the unexpected. God is active here, even when we do not first see it. God is active everywhere. Seeing that activity is about trust in God above all else.
In the coming months, together with the council, I have developed ways to help us to focus on looking more closely at these marks of discipleship as we seek to revitalize and recenter ourselves on our mission—to share Christ with the community. At the same time, we will become revitalized and recentered in our lives of faith, in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, through refocusing on our spirituality. I have a challenge for us at Living Word in the coming months. I challenge us to see this new time of pastoral ministry, of part-time pastoral ministry, as a new era of ministry in general. This is a time where the membership becomes the center and driving force between the individual, particular ministries that we do. This is a time where the membership finds new and creative ways to live out the mission of sharing Christ with the community, of bearing the good news to the our immediate community of Roslyn. We have a holy opportunity to see this time as a movement of God’s Holy Spirit among us. We have the chance to see it through the eyes of faith as a catalyst for change.
We are blessed to be part of a new thing, and we take hope that death is but the gateway to new life. God does not abandon the promise of faith. We are blessed to still be part of the mission of God’s holy church in this place of Living Word and in the Roslyn community. Let us refocus on what God is calling us to do here, at Living Word, to be faithful and to minister to those around us in this community. God is equipping us so that we can live out the mission of sharing Christ with this community. God is still accompanying us along the way of sharing with Roslyn that indeed, God does love us for the sake of one who was willing to give his life so that we might live. We share in God’s holy mission. Let us not give up now. Let us go forth sharing Christ with the community, trusting that God is right there beside us and already there waiting for us wherever we end up.
May God who gives us a will to do these things, graciously grant us the strength and compassion to perform them; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yours in Christ,