Monday, July 4, 2011

The Spirit of the Lord is on me -- Luke 4:18

Praise God!

This is a month of anniversaries for me. If you read your July newsletter (you HAVE read your July newsletter, haven’t you?), you know that this month marks my 5th year at Atonement. How incredible to think that 5 years have gone by already! It seems like just months ago we were dodging Day care children and wondering when they were going to start all that construction…
But this month is also the 20th anniversary of my ordination. Yes, I became a pastor 20 years ago, when Bishop Reginald Holle, my stepmother Rev. Roberta Lindner and Rev. Bernard Philabaum laid hands on me and prayed God’s Spirit would fill me. The Bible passage that day was Luke chapter 4, where Jesus comes back home to Nazareth to guest preach in the synagogue. Everyone is silent as He reads from Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me to preach
good news to the poor,
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to release the oppressed and proclaim
the year of the Lord’s favor.

That’s quite a job description for any pastor, any Christian, any congregation to contemplate. But it gives us all some important questions to think about:

1. Is the Spirit of the Lord upon ME? upon our congregation?
2. Has God anointed me for a special task or ministry?
3. Are the fruits of my life GOOD NEWS to the poor and suffering around me?
4. Do I understand, believe and trust that I am living in the LORD’s FAVOR?

As I reflect on 20 years of ordained ministry, I am painfully aware of times I neglected God’s favor and call to difficult tasks -- times I needed to change but didn’t, and times I needed to stand steadfast but caved in to popular opinion. But I also celebrate the grace that lifted me, strengthened me, stretched and renewed me, and finally carried me to Wesley Chapel, Florida to live, love and work among you all. All ministry belongs to God and anything good that comes from our human efforts are made so by His Spirit.

I am just back from a whirlwind vacation, where I had the opportunity to worship at the first congregation I served in Vassar, Michigan, and to visit the newly constructed sanctuary of the other church I served, St. Paul Lutheran in Greenville, Michigan. These are the church families I have loved, prayed and cared for. Both visits were sacred, holy moments for me, to see both congregations doing well, growing and changing under direction of the Spirit of God.

It fills me with joy as I pray for you, for your growth in Christ, for your love and discipleship, to know that the Spirit of the Lord is upon you too. We walk together, work together, live, laugh and love together in the name of Jesus, who makes all our efforts mean something. I thank God that you are part of his family, Atonement’s ministry, and my life!

from the newsletter

Would you be our nursery coordinator? Or maybe Sunday school superintendent? How about a member of the outreach or worship and music team? Or help get the senior’s group or member care team going again?

Hold on -- Summer’s the time to lay back and relax. Travel, put your feet up, take in the sun. Please Pastor, don’t make me think about all this church business.

All right, take it easy for now, but get ready! After a little R&R, it will be time to start some rebuilding. Not bricks and mortar building – not yet. But leadership and volunteers.

This month marks my 5th year here at Atonement. What a great 5 years it has been, and how far we have come -- we have grown spiritually, grown in attendance, grown in giving, and grown remarkably in service to the community. We’re off to a great start.

But we have also grown a little tired. After 5 years of pushing ahead, some groups and projects have run out of steam. Some of us who were regular attenders have found it hard to get back in the habit. Some of us who never attended much have stopped altogether. Some great ideas that never got off the ground have been forgotten or laid aside.

Spend the Summer relaxing and renewing your strength. Pray about how you will deepen your faith life and your participation in God’s mission at Atonement. Because when Fall hits, it’s time for take off.