Dear Partners in Ministry,
Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another." (Hebrews 10:25)
Now that the summer of 2021 is drawing to a close, we have a fantastic opportunity to review the past and plan for the future. With the realistic concern of the effects of COVID-19 and now COVID-19D, it has truly been an unusual summer; and in all reality, last year and a half. Yet we are gathering and celebrating God’s word and have been strengthened by His meal.
So, what can we learn from all of these experiences? From my perspective, one of the major things we must learn is that each of us is important and critical to the life of the church. I share the following story to highlight my concern.
There once was a member of a certain Christian congregation who, though once very active in her church, got “out of the habit” one summer and stopped attending and participating regularly.
A ministry team from church came to her house to let her know that she had been missed at church. It was a chilly evening. The team leader found her at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire in her fireplace. Guessing the reason for the visit, the woman welcomed them, led them to a big couch near the fireplace, and waited.
The team made themselves comfortable but said nothing. After a few minutes, the team leader took fire tongs sitting nearby, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember, and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone.
Then she sat back in the couch with the rest of the team, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination. As the one ember's flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and "dead as a doornail." Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.
Just before the team was ready to leave, the leader picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it. As the team reached the door, the host said, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the 'fiery sermon.' I shall be back in worship Sunday."
This past year, if you’ve accidentally slipped into the habit of missing worship, remember (as this woman did) that Christians grow and “glow” with the love of Christ best when we gather together to worship, study, and pray (as the scripture above indicates). For those of you we’ve missed seeing this Covid year, we hope you will be back in worship soon! After all, as the scripture above indicates, worship matters to God, so it should matter to us!
I am amazed at how lightly each of us takes our role, as though our lives as part of the group don’t matter. We tell ourselves that we can be replaced, or no one will miss us. It’s all a fib we tell ourselves to sooth our consciences. When death takes one of our own, can they ever be replaced? When a child leaves home for school or a job, are they ever replaced?
Whether our role is to support, lead, encourage, or challenge, it is significant and critical to the family of God here at our PLUM congregations. In other words, you are needed here. And if I personalize it, when you are not here, people get sacrificed. Things don’t get done. Stories aren’t heard or told. A smile, a handshake, a nod of acceptance is missed. And those who look to you for acceptance, encouragement, or help are sacrificed. Ironically, we all can be used as examples. Human nature always justifies our dirt and overlooks our strengths. Seldom do I experience people striving to be like the pillars of the church. When we attempt to justify something that we have done or left undone, who do we use for a contrast…someone who did it better or someone who failed worse than we did? The devil made me do it syndrome, instead of, “God wanted me to care for … and I failed, am forgiven and now I will try harder.”
We forget that individuals make up a group, a family, or a team. When someone is missing, it isn’t that we cannot adapt to the change or that there isn’t someone there to fill in; it is that it weakens the group. I am told that a local high school football team’s policy is that if you miss a practice, you lose the opportunity to play that week’s game. Some will say that I am being overzealous in stating how important you are to the life and witness of the church. Either we believe that God wants what is best for us and that is why He sent His Son Jesus to die for us, or we live as though what we do is insignificant and not important to the faithful around us.
So much for my “rant” of summer frustrations. I know that for many, Christ’s witness through you flourished wherever your life’s journey took you. I just want you to know how important you are here. And, if we are to continue to grow in faith and service, then we need everyone’s help. The body of Christ, of which we are all members, is evolving. We need to build on that which we have learned in the past and challenge ourselves to do better in the future. We must never see ourselves, as individuals or a congregation, as insignificant. Things won’t get done if you don’t do them. So, let’s pitch in and make it happen. The “Good News” awaits.
Here at Christ Lutheran Church (INSERT the Name of your congregation), there’s a place for you in worship. Each of us needs regular corporate worship in order for our souls to be fed properly. So, regardless of your pattern of worship up to now, we hope you’ll remember the lesson of the fire coals and plan to make a regular habit of worshipping with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as we move into Fall at CLC (INSERT the church’s familiar name)! Regardless - Remember, God loves you and we do, too!
Pastor John and your Pastoral Team.
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773