My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
We have been discussing the Letter to the Ephesians during the Sunday morning Forum Hour these past several weeks. Scholars have, over the course of the centuries, spent much time studying the contents of the letters written by Paul and the other leaders of the earliest Christian communities. By comparing and contrasting the narrative found in each, it becomes apparent that there is more at work here than meets the eye. There is more here than just the written word on the page. There must have been a process, now not entirely clear, that unfolded from the time of Jesus’ earthly life to the written accounts about his ministry that we have in canonical form in the New Testament.
The revelation, for me, in these studies, is the realization that the earliest Christian communities were fluid and in a constant state of evolution and change. They were not the monolithic blocks of static faith that we often associate with the present Church. They were trying to figure out who they were and what they believed, all in the presence of the risen Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They were often attacked for their beliefs and there was real risk when they gathered for worship. This is quite a contrast to what many of us experienced growing up. Indeed, sometimes you and I subconsciously translate the opening lyrics of Martin Luther’s famous hymn from “A mighty fortress is our God” to “A mighty fortress is our Church”. I trust that all of us understand that such a translation is problematic on several different levels.
It seems to me, and I’ve said this before, that we need to acknowledge and embrace the fact that the Church today is much more like those earliest Christian communities than was the Church of sixty years ago. The world is in great flux, the importance of religion is being seriously questioned, and at times even disparaged. Frankly, even if we feel called to join a community of faith, we are just too darn busy to do so.
Sounds unsettling, does it not? Nonetheless, I want you to know that, despite all the variables and unknowns, I believe that this is a very exciting time for the Church. With these variables come new and greater opportunities to be the Body of Christ serving and sharing in the world today. With the unknown comes the awareness that God, and God alone, is our mighty fortress, and that by faith, all obstacles are overcome and all challenges are met by God’s grace and the love of Jesus Christ.
I hope that you are planning to attend the Annual Meeting on October 21st. This is our time to gather as a congregation to discuss these new possibilities and opportunities before us. The coming season in the life of our congregation will be both challenging and exciting. By God’s grace, you have an important part to play both in the present and the future life of this community. Your prayers leading up to that gathering, and your presence at the meeting, are very much requested.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rev. Rob Banse