Grace be unto you from our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Before I officiate at any marriage ceremony, there is the expectation that the prospective bride and groom meet with me for pre-marital counseling sessions. Through a process of discussions over a period of time, we focus on communication skills, problem solving, goal setting, financial stability, and family origins, exploring how all these impact the couple now and how they will affect the couple in the future. While many discussions are positive and celebratory, other discussions lead into painful problems and situations that must be brought out into the open and worked through so the relationship can move forward in a positive way. As you can imagine, this type of discussion is difficult as emotions and energy are spent in coming to terms with a situation that one or both parties at first thought insurmountable.
It is no different when two congregations seek to work with one another to provide a full time ministry that they would not have otherwise on their own. It is pre-marital counseling on a higher level, compounded by the fact that many more people and personalities are involved. The process can be slow and cumbersome, or it can be fairly smooth in sailing forward. It involves the willingness to bring out into the open that which can be painful, but which also must be dealt with in order for that issue to not be a stumbling block in the relation going forward. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John 8:32 “The truth will set you free.” But even as differences and difficulties are worked through, it is also just as important, if not more so, to celebrate the accomplishments and those moments of coming together as one in the unity of the Spirit.
As Brush Creek Lutheran Church and Penn-Zion’s Lutheran Church contemplate a journey forward in a relationship of ministry together, each person of each congregation is called upon to either step back from time to time, or to put forward the effort necessary at all times (and most particularly in critical moments) to reflect, respect, share, compromise, and most importantly, LOVE your way into a relationship which honors God rather than each person’s or congregation’s own desires. The coming together of two congregations is, and always should be, focused on honoring God and the building up of His Kingdom.
The most difficult aspect in all of this is the challenge to each person (and congregation) in diminishing the glaring spotlight of our own personal wishes so the glory of God is able to shine more brightly. When we focus on ourselves and expect everyone to do as I say and desire, we more often than not block out the light of God’s countenance and guidance. That is to say, our selfishness in what we expect to maintain our own comfort zones usually becomes the bright spotlight which blinds us and others to the better and far more superior Light of God, who is “the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path.” (Psalm 119: 105) And if we cannot see the path before us, we stumble and fall.
As we move through Lent and contemplate this potential new road for Brush Creek and Penn-Zion’s Lutheran Churches, let us remember how it is that God gave Himself freely to us in unconditional love by sending His only begotten Son into the world; who willingly emptied himself of anything he could claim from the kingdom of heaven, and who became obedient unto death so that you and I might be forgiven of our sins and live eternally with God. What a wonderful gift indeed! And so I ask you, for the good of the cooperative parish that may be born soon, and for the spread of the Gospel so others might live, are you willing to empty yourself of whatever it takes for the church of Christ to move forward in this time and place, and how is it that you will be found obedient for the sake of the Gospel?
As your pastor, it will be an honor and a privilege and an adventure to continuing serving you in ministry in whatever capacity God has in store for us, and to further explore answers to the questions I have raised. May God bless each of you and your loved ones in these Holy and Blessed seasons of Lent and Easter, and may His peace dwell with you richly.
In Christ’s name,
COME WORSHIP WITH US