Sunday, July 1, 2007

Pastor Erik--July 2007

This is what Transformation looks like!

When you tap into what God is up to in the world, and (often through trial and error) figure out what part God is calling you to play in it, it’s often amazing what God will do. As Christians we know that God takes ordinary things and does extraordinary things with them. Think Communion and Baptism. As Luther asks (and answers) in the Small Catechism: “How can water do such great things? Clearly the water does not do it, but the Word of God, which is with, in, and among the water, and faith, which trusts this Word of God in the Water.” The same is true for us. How can ordinary people do such great things? Clearly we do not do it, but when we allow God to work through us and act in faith (that is to say, trusting in Christ), God can use us to do his work in the world. More often than not our response to God’s call is “OK, God, I’m not sure you have the right person, and I’m not sure just what you are wanting from me, but I’ll give it a shot.” When we stretch ourselves to follow where we think God is calling us, and trust that God will use us for whatever he has in mind, this is precisely where God takes up our ordinary actions, and transforms them. And when we live lives of service in response to God’s call, God takes our transformed actions and transforms us as well.

An example. There is rather simple ministry that has begun among us, that I believe is the “first fruits” of our Transformation. In March, while the Transformation team was away at training in Issaquah, the Holy Spirit was busy at work at Bethlehem. When we returned, Rose Greiss and Clara Donder responded to an invitation I had issued to accompany me on a communion visit to one of our homebound members. During this visit, I encouraged (they might say tricked) them to assist with distributing Communion, and they agreed. A simple action, surely, but the Holy Spirit grabbed a hold of it. As we drove back to the church, we spoke about how one recognizes God’s call, and these two women recognized that this may in fact be something God was calling them to be a part of. But the Holy Spirit wasn’t done yet. Out of that first visit, suddenly a whole team of folks have risen up to visit and bring Communion to our folks who have trouble getting to worship.
From where I stand this is a major miracle. Once God raised up some leaders who felt called to this ministry, I imagined that it would take a whole year before we could find a team of people that felt called to this ministry, help them feel trained and educated enough to serve as Eucharistic Ministers in people’s homes, and set up a plan so that everyone who was unable to come to worship could receive Communion at least every other week. But within a month, there was suddenly a team of Eucharistic Ministers, our ministers were training and mentoring each other, and sharing with one another the joy that comes from hearing and responding to God’s call. Incredible! Amazing! This can only be God at work!
But the Holy Spirit wasn’t done with us yet. Out of this group came an idea to encourage more of our members to accompany them on visits, so that our folks know that “when you can’t come to church, the church will come to you.” And so last month we held a “spring sing,” like Christmas caroling but in the spring and singing hymns. It was a wonderful afternoon and a powerful witness to those of our church who have trouble getting out that they are still a part of our community, and that we (and God) still care for them. Now instead of one visitor (the pastor), or a couple of people (our Eucharistic Ministers), we suddenly had a small congregation gathered in their homes as we sang hymns, fellowshipped, and shared Communion with them.
But the Holy Spirit wasn’t done with us yet. We were singing at the care home of one of our members, and after we had finished the family members of the man next door thanked us. The man next door was dying, and his family was holding vigil at his bedside. Our singing, quite unbeknownst to us, was for them a gift from God. They spotted my pastor’s collar, and wondered if I wouldn’t mind saying a prayer with them. As I stood around the bedside of a dying man I had never seen before, holding hands with his loved ones, and prayed with them it was clear to me that God was at work. I believe God put us all in that place on that Sunday afternoon to be an answer to prayer. And I also believe that God put us there so that we would get a glimpse of what Transformation looks like. Simple actions, responding to seemingly ordinary callings, and yet being open to the Holy Spirit doing what the Holy Spirit does—transforming everyday, ordinary things and people into the means God uses to proclaim the Good News. It’s miraculous!
Pastor Erik