Through the summer we have been discussing some changes that are upcoming in the life of our congregation, St. John’s Lutheran Church. Of course, the biggest change is the plan to go to a permanent schedule of two worship services on Sunday mornings. I have received input from a number of our members, both pro and con, and I continue to welcome your comments, concerns and questions. The responses have got me to thinking about what each of us wants our church to be. In the informational voters meeting back on the 1st of June I had you fill out a survey in order to find out what was important to you as individual members of the congregation, and to get a handle on our collective mindset. From the responses it was very clear that in order to accomplish what we desire we are going to need to grow, we'll need more people to get it done. Thus the need for two services, we have to have room to put them on Sunday mornings.
Looking strictly at what we, you and I, want our church to be is leaving out the most important person, or should I say persons, from the discussion. What we really need to focus on is “What does GOD want HIS church to be?” The Apostle Paul states it quite clearly in his letter to the church in Ephesus; “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (5:1) In a loving family the little children will see what their parents do, hear what they say, and then repeat. They’ll want to be like their fathers and mothers. In God’s family that’s the plan too. In order to be what God wants us to be we should be imitating him. Since Jesus is the image of God the Father in human flesh He is the one that we are called to be like, both individually and as a group, a congregation.
Several years ago the famous phrase in Christianity was “What would Jesus do?” It was on millions of rubber bracelets (WWJD). That’s really not a very good question because we have the answer right in front of us, recorded in Scripture. A better thing to focus on is the question “What DID Jesus do? As it relates to us, as the family of God here at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Spokane, WA we can quickly and clearly see that He wasn’t much concerned for his own convenience and comfort. After all, He lived the life of a wandering prophet and He did die for his Church…which stands as the antithesis of seeking your own comfort. Are we fixed on the idea of our congregation being focused first and foremost on what is convenient for us and makes us most comfortable? We should all chew on that for a while.
Okay, if we’re going to be imitators of Christ we need to zero in on what He was up to; use his actions as our model. We all know that He perfectly fulfilled the demands of the Law of God. We also know that this is impossible for any of us to do, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to be obedient children, empowered by the Holy Spirit that dwells within us and receiving the forgiveness that Christ won for us at the cross when we stumble and fall. The mission of Jesus on earth was to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God that had come in him, preaching and teaching the truth, his life, death and resurrection for our justification. When John the Baptist was in prison and wondered if Jesus was indeed the One who was to come, Jesus responded; “Look at what’s happening, the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, good news is preached to the poor.” (Matthew 11:4-5) Jesus was doing all the things the Old Testament prophets had said that Messiah would do, and we are called to continue his ministry.
Our Lord met people wherever they were, not requiring them to come to him. Along with proclaiming his Gospel He went about healing, feeding, and bringing life to where there was only death. He went to the difficult and dangerous places. He took time out for prayer and to be with his friends. He intentionally prepared and equipped those friends to carry on once He had returned to his heavenly home. From the cross He forgave those who were putting him to death, made sure his mother would be cared for, and gave forgiveness and life to a murderer who was being executed alongside him. That’s the model that He left us with, the selfless and sacrificial model of a suffering servant. The model of perfect love for his Father and for all people.
Is that what we model? Is that our attitude? The truth is that we fall far short, all of us. Please join me in praying that the Holy Spirit will change our hearts so that we may be conformed to the image of the Son of God, our “Beautiful Savior” Jesus Christ.