Dear Friends, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Pastor Joel asked if I would provide the pastor’s message, the “Pastor’s Page” for July for the Faith Ambassadors Lutheran Parish congregations. It is my honor to do so…. I promise in the future they will NOT be this lengthy.
WORSHIP SCHEDULE: This is mostly a house-keeping article. For the summer, the north congregations decided to combine worship services for August. Some are “naturally” combined for July for special events. We uplift the bravery and consideration of Redeemer for going to one service, this is a help and wisdom beyond words. We do continue to attend to the issue and uplift keeping all congregation doors open every Sunday, so at the very least, “can’t miss it” signs are being posted for the month on front doors of sites with combined services. The worship/preaching schedule is included in this newsletter.
COMMUNION: Until such time we have a Transitional Pastor on board, we will do our best to ensure that communion is available in each building site a minimum of once a month. Depending upon available pulpit supply, we may or may not be able to provide communion twice a month for some. Know that if you wish to commune more often, everyone is openly invited to any of the FALP congregations for communion at any time it is available.
TRANSITIONAL PASTOR AND THE PROCESS: In regard to the process for seeking an additional professional for FALP, at least during the transition: We also take this seriously. We are currently in a discernment process (The FALP Council is the “we.”) We first must determine what the thrust of our Parish is…that is, is our focus on simply keeping doors “open” for as long as possible? OR, are we prepared, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to launch into deeper and broader mission and ministry, our second thrust and most important purpose for creating a strengthened Parish. The FALP Council is in agreement that a major focus needs to be on Youth and Young Adult (including young families) ministry…that takes expertise, experience, and training. If you have additional or other thoughts, please share them with a FALP Council member.
WHO ARE WE? The motto, if you will, or main goal and purpose for our existence, expressed by the FALP Council in the most abbreviated form is this: “Serving our Neighbor.” We must now discern what that means! It is not easy to come up with a succinct, distinct, memorable, do-able, and worthy goal that we believe furthers God’s Kingdom, but then we must put energy and action behind that goal, lest they be empty words.
THE PROCESS At the same time, we must learn to be patient and trust the process. The Nebraska Synod of the ELCA is made up of amazing and faithful witnesses to the Gospel. We have a Bishop who wishes us well and does all he can to uplift us as we work together. We have assistants to the Bishop, ours in particular is Juliet Hampton, she asks the right questions to lead us to find our own answers for who we are and what do we really want in our search for why we exist as Gods Church, as Mustard Seed Christians/An Easter People…surprisingly, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. To do this right, it will take time. Your prayers are sought…for both a mutual selection of a Transitional Pastor who can help lead us into who we need to be on God’s behalf and eventually a more permanent clergy/staff member down the road to keep us traveling and serving in the right direction. Meanwhile, congregations will be led in worship with opportunities to expand our knowledge of this amazing Nebraska Synod, working on our behalf in God’s world, and we ask your patience, trust, encouragement, and prayers.
A PERSONAL NOTE AND THE GOSPEL: When I was much younger, I discovered Pogo Possum in the funny papers. Never mind that much later, “southern attitudes” began to grate against my nerves…. One of my favorite Sunday expressions was from Pogo himself, “I have met the enemy, and he is us.” Laugh-able and yet so true. We sometimes get in our own way of doing God’s will…we might be a Mustard Seed/Easter People, but we still like things the way we like them, any number of versions of “MY way!”
When in Seminary, now a decade ago, when we candidates became weak kneed, and that happened more often for us that I care to admit, the professors and our mentors would remind us, usually, not very tenderly, “It’s not about you!” Each time that would bring us up short. While it sometimes stung a bit, it was so true. We, as Mustard Seed Christians, or Easter People, or whatever term you would like to use, “it is NOT about US!” Nor, about what we think or want to make US more comfortable! It is about God’s Kingdom, it is about doing God’s Will and prayerfully, carefully, quieting ourselves, listening and discerning, to the best of our ability with the help of the Holy Spirit, what that means. It sometimes means stepping out and doing the brave, but seemingly foolish risky thing. Sometimes it means following the process and taking our time and living within the law until we are driven to distraction. It is often only then that we can see the grace upon grace that God heaps upon God’s children. It takes a bushel load of faith and patience! So, if it’s not about ME, it’s not about YOU, then who IS it about?
When I was in Israel, I had two pinky rings made. One has on it the inscription John 3:16, 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”, the other Galatians 3:28, “28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” So when I wear them both and open my arms at the altar and in prayer, these words are intended to be all inclusive. I believe that is how Jesus intended them. Along with Jesus showing us the way to love God and love our neighbor; showing us in the flesh, even right up to the moment of his physical death, and not only that, Jesus commanded it: Mark 12:30-31 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” In these words and this Gospel I stake my life and ministry. My prayer is that you will do the same.