Dear Partners in Ministry,
Have you committed any new sins recently? You know, not just a sin that is new to you, but a sin that has never been committed before. One of those sins that would make God sit up and take notice of you and your creativity and ingenuity.
This past Sunday, as we were going through the words of “Confession and Forgiveness” at the opening of the service and I responded with God’s words of absolution, I began to wonder if there was anything “new,” either thought or said silently, for which I am declaring God’s absolution. Interesting thought, eh? It’s my guess that the sins that we were confessing and that which I was declaring absolved by God were the same type of, or more likely, the same sins that we confessed last week, and the previous week before that, and the week before that. You get the point. And, imagine God hearing from his believers, his baptized, these hundreds of thousands and millions of confessions every Sunday and daily in between, week after week, month after month, and year after year. (And you think listening to my sermons is bad); and Jesus looks down from the cross and says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Well, believe it or not, I am not going to encourage you to come up with any “new” sins for God to forgive; but on the other hand, I am going to ask you to explore something else new. Our churches and families are facing many issues -- some theological, some economical, some sociological, and some spiritual among others.
Dr. David Lose, a very down to earth Lutheran theologian who just became the new President of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia wrote an interesting article entitled Living Beyond Fear (June 17, 2014 at workingpreacher.org), superficially exploring the body’s physiological experience between fear and excitement. Dr. Lose writes some reflections on the Gospel of Matthew 10:24-39 connecting the two -- the physiological and the spiritual.
In the article he states that physiologically our human bodies have identical reactions for fear as we have for excitement. The same systems fire the same energies that are released when confronted with the "fight or flight” mechanism in our bodies. These emotions can motivate us to amazing action or numb us into a fearful stupor of inaction or fear of change. In one instance, we might have stage fright and in the other we might “damn the torpedoes full speed ahead.” Therefore, if in fact we are going to expend similar amounts of energy either physiologically or emotionally fearing what the future holds for us as people of faith in our community mission congregations as we do as people of faith moving in our world, I would encourage us to choose the latter. Our world where we live, work, reside, and play, needs to see us willing and able to care for humankind where they are, and the scriptures tell us "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can who can destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
Therefore, I challenge you to set some time aside during the recreation portion of your summer and use some energy to come up with new ways to re-create the witness of your church for the sake of those around us. I/we look forward to hearing, not your confessions of how we have failed, but rather your visions of how we as the body of Christ might reach out to the world in which God has placed us.
Let us know what you see.
Pastor John J. Gropp
A reminder: All are encouraged to attend the PLUM Picnic at West Mifflin Park, 1:30 PM, on August 24.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600