As we come to the end of another year, the Biblical verse that comes to me as a prayer for the advent season and as reminder of our task as a church, for the new year is 3 John 1:2.
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.”
As the song writer reminds us
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul
The task of the Church as a Community of Grace and Generosity is to help people affirm – Whatever befalls our pathways we must together be able to say- It is well, It is well with my Soul.
We look back at 2022 and we have much to thank the Lord for the sustaining love we experienced. What then should be our task as the Church as we envision 2023.
Helping People Discover their Spiritual Connectedness to God
We often sing the Ann Quigley hymn
There is a longing in our hearts, o Lord for you to reveal yourself to us
There is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God
For justice, for freedom, for mercy, hear our prayer
In sorrow, in grief, be near, hear our prayer, o God
For wisdom, for courage, for comfort, hear our prayer
In weakness, in fear, be near, hear our prayer, o God
Our responsibility therefore is to be the catalyst wherein this longing of the hearts of the people be identified, nourished and directed towards fulfilment. In a context where lesser and lesser people are opting for expressed religiosity the call to make Church a habit one cherishes is a very interesting challenge. Encouraging people to love and live the Word of God, to have quiet times nourishing their spirit and soul and to enjoy a love relationship with God will be our joyful duty.
Strengthening the Bond of Fellowship
Connectedness to God is always made manifest in the connectedness to each other. Fellowship is an important element of the life of the church. “I come not only for the rites and rituals of the church but more for the joy of fellowship with each other”, would be a testimony that we as a church would love acknowledging.
One of the prayers that we need to pray together better is
BIND US TOGETHER, Lord, Bind us together
With cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, Lord,
Bind us together,
Bind us together with love.
The sense of belonging, the sense of family, the sense of ownership, the sense of being a community that cares and loves is what the identity of being a member of the church should feel like. When each person is committed to all and when all are committed to each person the community of grace becomes a fragrant and attractive community.
We should ensure all are equally invited and welcome and all are equally part of the whole.
Making Manifest the Love for the Neighbour
When in Matthew 11: 3 John the Baptist sends to Jesus a pertinent question- Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus replies with a very important affirmation- Go and tell John what you hear and see: the vision impaired receive their sight, the lame walk, the ones living with leprosy are cleansed, the ones with hearing difficulties hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
This in fact is the manifestation of the kingdom of God among us. The sense of Neighbourliness should govern our attitude to others and our presence should be a transformative presence.
Jesus’ call to love your neighbour as manifest in the Samaritan strategy was to truly to be a community available to be of love and care. To see, To stop, To come by, To bandage the wounds, To spare time to reach the wounded to places of healing, To share resources and To make a long time commitment of care.
When we are able to help people in situations of No Hope and transform their life contexts to full of Hope- it is there our existence becomes meaningful and salt like.
There are several corners in our neighbourhood where people live in darkness and lighting a candle of hope should be our responsibility.
Growing as a Caring and Sharing Community
Some of the comments that we heard this year that cannot be ignored can be thus listed
“I was sick and was shuttling between hospital and home for over few weeks. It’s sad no one reached out to me at least over the phone”
“I went through one of the deepest abysses in my life these last few days. I was surprising that no one cared.”
“If it is not at hard times like these in our lives, when else do we need you and the church more?”
“I felt like fish out of water in a new context in which I was placed, the church could have come by as an oasis of hope, but you were absent”
“I feel better belonged elsewhere”
God sometimes speaks to us through hard words like these. This is an opportunity for us to introspect where we are going wrong, to repent and to correct ourselves.
We are called to be a caring and sharing community. There are several people living around us who need the caring touch of the church and that can come only through each one of us.
We should not think pastoral care is somebody else’s responsibility. It is everybody’s responsibility.
Our caring should extend to all those who were once part of the nest and flew away for various reasons. We should keep sending out signals that you are always welcome here even if it is for occasional events if not to be back as part of us.
The resources that are required for the running of the church is already in the valets of its people. We only need to put in our share and all will be well with the resources for mission and ministry for we trust in a God who never fails his beloved ones.
Preparing people for larger leadership roles
One of the greatest excitements for us a community is its plurality and multicultural nature. People of several nations and ethnicities worship together joyfully with us. And therefore, we should be careful to offer an inclusive leadership model owned by all. We thank the Lord for each person who guided this church thus far so beautifully.
The challenge is that several people bestowed with wonderful and very special leadership skills use three typical evasive responses. First, I am very busy- I cannot do it. Two, Let someone else do it. Three, May be some other time, Not Now.
We need people who owns the mission and ministry of the Church. The core message of Jesus in John 10:45- I have come not to be ministered unto but to minister should become the ministry model of a few of us whom the Lord identifies for larger roles of leadership in the church.
This leadership should be inclusive and comprising of people with vision and faith in the provisions of the Lord. It is good that people give way after serving meaningful terms but it equally important that we prepare people to take on the baton of leadership for the next laps in the journey of the church towards the future of God. This would include our role in local, ecumenical and global leadership.
Being the Missional Presence
The life breath of the church is mission. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose- Jim Eliot ones said and that should be the mindset as we prepare for mission. It was C T Studd who reminded us of a mission beyond the sound of the church and church bell to reach out to people in the edges and the margins with the gospel of love and life. Henry Martin reminded us, “The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of Mission- the nearer we go to Christ the happier we are to go farther from home and its comforts to the joys and adventures of mission”.
While we continue to give for missions, while we strengthen further our mission to our neighbourhood, very specially in Freiburg and Germany we should not lose focus on the task of preparing missionaries from among us to be send to the nooks and corners of the world.
Yes each one of us are missionaries wherever we are placed but we could also be missionaries called and send to corners where we might be asked to be the light that shines there helping to lighten those that need to be lightened.
May I wish you all the Peace of Christmas and a new year filled with the abounding Grace of God