YOU ARE IMPORTANT IN THE MISSION WE SHARE
The 2012 Synod Assembly is right around the corner! The theme this year is C4.02e. In an age of technology and computers, etc. one would think that the theme is quite a techno title. I can see robots at the registration table and in the cafeteria! The reports of the committees are done with holograms - not the real people! My imagination could go on for quite a while. Alas, C4.02e is really a section of our Synod’s constitution, which reflects the witness of Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. This particular section of the constitution identifies the primary setting for the exercise of our Christian faith as the daily vocation of the baptized members of the church. It reads:
“This congregation shall nurture its members in the Word of God so as to grow in faith and hope and love, to see daily life as the primary setting for the exercise of their Christian calling, and to use the gifts of the Spirit for their life together and for their calling in the world.”
What does this mean to you and me? It means that the church’s location is right smack dab in the middle of your daily life. It is there any time you use your spiritual gifts to help each other and the world. It is there when you are spreading the hope and light of Christ. YOU are the church - the church IS its members.
Within the life and ministry of our congregations we are fed with the means of grace, taught to know and love Jesus, urged to care for those who are the most vulnerable, our sins are forgiven and we are sent out of the doors of the building to use our gifts of the Spirit in our daily life.
Many of our congregations are looking at their Stewardship programs and focusing on mission. Each of us have a concern for the reduced finances and attendance, the best use of our buildings and what the future holds for each congregation. All of these concerns are real - but they can all be addressed by “attending to the well-being of the Church in its primary location - your daily life.” (Bishop Kusserow)
Last year’s Synod Convention’s theme was “O Day Full of Grace”. Isaiah’s joyful response to his vision of the glory of God, “Here am I; send me!” (Isaiah 6:8) reflects the natural behavior of the human heart to respond in joy and trust when it is exposed to the grace of God. The Augsburg Confession captures this truth in the language of Article VI, Concerning the New Obedience: “Likewise they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God’s will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God.” Can you see how God’s grace leads naturally to our joyful response?
On the first three Sundays of Easter, our lectionary has us reading about Jesus’ appearances to the disciples. In week two, we looked at John’s account of the Risen Lord appearing to the disciples; week three gives us Luke’s account. In each of these texts, Jesus appears to the disciples; they are afraid and unbelieving. He convinces them that he is, indeed, their teacher and friend raised from the dead and that they, believing in him, are to continue his mission in the world.
Within these two important resurrection accounts there are key similarities:
· Encounter - failure to recognize
· Explanation - interpreting the resurrection through the lens of the scriptures
· Eating - Jesus breaks bread or eats fish
· Enlightenment - the disciples eyes are opened, hearts burn, and recognition
· Exit - Jesus departs
In Luke 24:13-35, we have the story of an encounter between Jesus and Cleopas and his un-named friend. These two men are returning home to Emmaus and were discussing the events of the last few days. They believed that the women’s report of the resurrection was just an idle tale. They encounter a stranger on the road and tell him what has happened in Jerusalem. They report the news of what happened to Jesus and how the tomb was supposedly empty. But, as this stranger observes, they are foolish and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!” (Luke 24:25) Jesus then tries to explain to them, connecting the dots between what happened and is happening to him and what the scriptures have foretold. They invite this stranger to eat with them and it is in the breaking of the bread that they are enlightened; their eyes opened, their hearts burn and they realize that they have been speaking with their Risen teacher. Instantly Jesus exits.
The two disciples hurriedly return to Jerusalem. They excitedly tell their companions what happened to them. The gathering of disciples encounter Jesus but, again, they do not understand what is happening. They appear to connect this figure with their crucified teacher, but they think that he is a ghost. They are filled with confusion and doubt. Jesus then seeks to explain what is happening by offering them his body, showing them the wounds of the cross.
Next, as he did in Emmaus, he eats a piece of fish. After all, ghosts do not eat, do they? He continues his explanation by opening to them the scriptures to show that everything they have learned and he taught before his crucifixion led them to this moment.
Although Jesus did not send Cleopas and his companion out as witnesses, that was exactly what their encounter caused them to do. But, in this second, parallel narrative, Jesus directly tells the disciples that they are to be witnesses. Then, as he did in Emmaus, Jesus makes his exit.
Our stories read much the same way. We come with our doubts, confusion, fears and misunderstanding. Through worship each week, we encounter the risen Christ. In the reciting of the scriptures and the preached word we are offered explanation, proclaiming the good news of what God has done and is doing. We eat with Christ, breaking the bread of the resurrection in the Eucharist. The Spirit brings enlightenment, opening our hearts and minds and setting our hearts afire. Finally, the exit should be ours, for Christ has sent us out into the entire world to be witnesses to this amazing news.
As you live your daily lives, remember that you are the church - living out your calling in the world through the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the glory of our Risen Lord and Savior.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!!
Rev. Melba Dibble
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773