Pastor's Pen March 2013

Two things I will never be accused of are not loving and supporting our Lutheran Church and not encouraging meaningful worship. Over the years, I have come to appreciate the administrative work and the worship services that are part of the experience at all levels of the Church. I have a deeper understanding of what it means to be God’s people in Mission for Others. Through the leadership of Bishop Susan Johnson and the National Church Council, Bishop Michael Pryse and the Eastern Synod Council, and Chairperson, Laura and St. Paul’s Church Council, I personally have been encouraged and inspired to live out my faith as a child of God.
For me, gathering together to pray, sing, hear God’s Word, and participate in the sacraments, is pro-foundly spiritual. In our Church, nationally, synodically, and here at St. Paul’s, we have many people who are gifted as they share their talents in developing and leading worship. I am grateful to them for their guidance so that I may continue to share God’s love and grace with others.

Throughout the years I have had many memorable worship services that have touched my heart and soul. This happened to me not long ago. I was sharing the peace with one of our members saying, “The peace of the Lord be with you” and his response was, “Hockey is back.” I laughed, and continued to share the peace with others. I kept reflecting on those words and I can see the deep theological
implications in his statement. Hockey is back. Commentators speculated that the game of hockey had been hurt because of the recent lockout of players. Fans kept asking, “How many games would be lost and would there be a season?” For some cities, the strike had financial implications as fans showed their displeasure with the whole incident. I thought I would be one of them and not watch National Hockey League games for this season. I have to report that I am watching and enjoying the games. Maybe it has to do with a shortened season.

Hockey is back. When I analyze the sport, I see it as a team game with much excitement. Players pass the puck to each other with skill and grace, the defense supports the goaltender, and the coach puts together lines that will help bring out the scoring finesse of every player. I do not know of any hockey games where those in attendance just sit back without cheering and want to be entertained. Players see the fans as an extra player in their own arenas. Those behind the scenes work very hard to see the stands full and make the product exciting so fans will express their support.

The church has many similarities. God’s people are a family, a team, working to do the mission of God. We gather for worship, not just to be entertained, but to participate and experience the wonder and mystery of God’s love for us and for the world. We are called by the Spirit to lead godly lives, to pro-mote the unity and welfare of the congregation in the bond of peace, to proclaim the Gospel, and to renounce the evil one. We partake of the Sacraments, support the church with offerings, and participate in the life and worship of the congregation. Being member of St. Paul’s in the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is a visible display of our faith and what God is doing in our lives.

For the past few months, if not the past year, I have heard much about the life of St. Paul’s and how there are so many empty seats / pews in the sanctuary. There is also the reality that finances are low. Your Church Council is contemplating how to address this situation. Many things need to be considered in this equation as how to promote God’s work in our gathering, encouraging individuals to become active and faithful participants in the body of Christ. Our National Church and the Eastern Synod have many wonderful resources to encourage stewardship and growth, both individually and collectively as a congregation. The problem is that resources are just resources unless we are willing to use them and become passionate in implementing them. National Bishop Susan Johnson encourages a call to spiritual renewal and deeper discipleship within our church, including regular attendance at worship; daily prayer and scripture reading; yearly involvement in a program of study; regular service in the community (not just the congregation); regular and proportional giving similar to the understanding of the tithe found inscripture; and commitment to sharing the good news with those around us, beginning with our family and friends. Also known as: Pray, Read, Worship Study, Serve, Give, and Tell. This year, Michael Harvey, creator of Back to Church Sunday, will be presenting his work in our K/W Conference. How can we not take advantage of this? We can talk to the talk and plan the plan for as long as we want but there needs to be that kairos moment when we are willing to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

I am keenly aware that the church has been accused of having a small percentage of people who are willing to be involved, such as on a committee or offering leadership roles in worship or church council. We at St. Paul’s are a family, a team, who need to acknowledge the wonderful ministry that is being offered here and the dedicated workers, players so to speak, who give of their time, talent, and treasures. We also need to acknowledge that every member, young or old, is an important gift to the church. My prayer for St. Paul’s is that we participate in God’s call to grow the church and grow our own spiritual faith. “Hockey is back” and may we get in the game to enjoy the team spirit, the fellow-ship and the joy of service.

Pastor Jeff