Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easter: Just the Beginning

April 18, 2012
“You are looking for Jesus, the Nazarene, who was crucified.
He has risen!”
-- Mark 16:6

 Friends of Atonement,
            What an Easter! 
             The builders and landscapers had worked extra hard to make our property look neat and lush, planting new trees and finishing up the parking.  We had a church packed with faces new and familiar, children hunting eggs, young people serving breakfast, and countless smiles.  There was a brightness in the air and a freshness on the breeze that morning.  Joy bubbled up in our songs, prayers, and the good news we celebrate: Jesus is alive, and his Spirit is with us!
            This year Atonement turns 25, and like most healthy 25-year-olds this congregation is vibrant and energetic.  I see retired members putting in the hours and effort for our ministries that they once did for their jobs.   I see members in the work force who may spend half the weekend doing a project at church.  All of you contribute in some vital way – with finances, time, and prayers – to build on the work God is doing here.  Thanks again for making a difference and for your many faithful contributions.
            As we look at our growing community, the Wal-Mart coming in down the street, the hospital being built down Bruce-B-Downs, the park and community college being planned for Wiregrass, we know God has plenty of work laid out for us for the next 25 years.  The angel proclaimed, “He is risen!” to stunned disciples who stood looking into an empty hole.  Little did they know that their life with Jesus was just beginning!  For us too, 25 years young, God is just getting hold of us, just now positioning us to reach the Wesley Chapel community that is to come. 
            We want to be ready as new people arrive and God sets before us new opportunities to share His love.   That’s why your council has called together a group of people who will organize and lead a capital campaign over the next few years.  Their job is to help us get financially equipped for the future.  Hopefully you have seen the plans for building another building out back to allow for large gatherings and storage space.  Further work also will be done on the current building to keep it in good shape.
            Jean Zabel (otherwise known as Noah’s grandma) has taken on the task of leading the capital campaign team.  Other members on the team are Wayne Stock, Walt Frank, Carol Erlwein, and Frank Reams.  They are deeply committed to helping our church reach future generations, and have chosen the theme, “Laying Foundations for the Children of God.”  They’ve also shown a great concern for accountability, that all the money used for and raised by the capital campaign be used wisely.
           It’s true that we’ve written lots of big checks lately to pay for the work being done around our property.  A couple weeks ago, our treasurer stumbled into my office, looking like he’d just seen a ghost. 
          “What’s wrong, Joe?”  I asked.
          “I just wrote out a $6000 check – for grass!”
It’s pretty incredible how much it costs for materials and labor, not to mention county permits.  But God has blessed us with a debt-free congregation.  We have covenanted to do all we can to stay out of debt, and He is providing us the means. 
           But it’s clear that now is time to begin looking toward tomorrow.  To keep all those young happy faces we saw Easter morning in church and involved, we need to continue welcoming, loving, and encouraging our children and young families.  We also continue “laying foundations for the children of God,” investing in the future of this family of faith we call Atonement.  As our risen Lord called Peter to “feed my lambs,” (John 21:15) Jesus asks us to share our best with those whose faith is fresh and tender.  We know it will mean more work, more sacrifice and commitment, but also more and more joy bubbling up in our hearts as we see the Spirit work and watch God’s kingdom grow.

Pastor Scott