Paul writes, “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”—Ephesians 4:1-5
Whenever I have something difficult to say, I spend a lot of time pacing. As I have been reflecting on what I want to say in this article, I have been doing a lot of pacing. Truthfully, I’m weary. I’m weary because I am worried about our congregation as we enter into this time of coming back together. For well over a year, we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to work side by side, we haven’t been able to sit in a room together and study scripture and discuss difficult topics, we’ve been separated in worship by pews and poles and masks and technology and so forth. My concern is that we as a congregation are not knit together as tightly as we need to be.
On my recent vacation, I celebrated the 20th Anniversary of my ordination. I didn’t post about it on social media nor did I say much about it to anyone. In my 20 years as a pastor, I’ve had the congregations that I have served struggle with difficult issues. As hard as those struggles were, I knew that we were connected enough as a congregation to survive, that we loved one another enough to get through the struggle before us. We have struggles ahead of us as a congregation and I can’t even tell you what those struggles will be for certain, but they will come. Do we have the connection to one another to weather the impending storm? Only you can answer that question.
For the next two months, we are going to continue to have one service at 10am. We have an opportunity in front of us to get to know one another in a way that we have not done so before. We will all sacrifice a little, maybe you feel like we are singing too many hymns, or maybe you don’t think a guitar is an appropriate instrument to lead church singing, maybe you prefer the Lord’s Prayer from the 8:30 service, maybe you wish Pastor Tom and I would wear our vestments on Sunday morning. I know you all have your opinions about worship. When asked what our current worship style is, I call it “shaken not stirred.” It’s not blended, it’s not traditional or contemporary.
Here’s my challenge to you, for the next two months, I want you to focus in on Ephesians 4:5, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” This, siblings in Christ, is central to who we are as God’s people. And the challenge has always been to keep the central things central and not let the periphery things distract us. Paul has given us our calling, “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
So, be curious about the people with whom you are worshipping. If someone is in the pew that you normally sit in, sit behind or in front of them and get to know why they like that spot, maybe they have a reason beyond “this is where we always sit.” When a part of the worship service feels strange to you be curious about those for whom that same part of worship feels comforting. When we have fellowship time this summer grab a cup of coffee or some juice and get to know someone new, don’t just sit with your normal group. Reconnecting as a congregation is everyones work.
My prayer in the midst of my weariness is that by the end of the summer we will have laid a new foundation of love and trust for one another. That worship will simply be worship and not need a qualifier of any kind. That each of you has made an investment to build up the Body of Christ in this place. That each of you will see how we are united in Christ and recognize that when we focus only on our differences, the evil one has already won.
Storms lie ahead. Will we recognize that Jesus has power over the storms or will we let fear step between us? I’m reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite songs, “No one gets to miss the storm of what will be just holding on for the ride.” We are being called into action, to be active participants in this ministry we share. We are being called to be humble, gentle, patient, and to bear with one another in love. This won’t be easy work, but it is our work together. And, I believe it is work that won’t leave us weary but instead will bring us new life and new energy.