"But there are also many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” -- John 21:25
“Every day I write the book” – Elvis Costello
At the end of the Gospel of John, we have this surprising statement. John says that this gospel he wrote was only the very tip of the iceberg in telling the full and complete story of Jesus. So what we have, as beautiful and amazing as it is, is more like the Cliff Notes to the life of Jesus than the full Director’s Cut. He does his best to hit the highlights because he wants us to know this man whose story he tells. But he picks and chooses, and he does so with a clear purpose: “…these are written so that you come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing, you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). So we’re informed that he’s given us the stripped-down version of a story that, if it were fully told, would require an earth-sized library to hold it all (or at least buildings crammed full of terabyte hard drives).
Atonement will turn 30 this year, just one week after the Lutheran movement turns 500 on Reformation Sunday. We have lived through interesting times as a congregation – we’ve gone from being a mission church in the boonies to finding ourselves right in the heart of a booming suburb. We’ve weathered storms of conflict, low attendance, and insufficient income. We carried on through years when the church almost closed and we witnessed years when we’ve made great strides in our mission and ministry. We’ve gone from being a barely seen church sitting a ways back from the main road to one that is up front and known in the community as a place where people find help.
But think of all the things the community doesn’t know about us. Sure, they know we care about the community, but do they know that we have an active youth program and Sunday school? They surely know about our food pantry and drive-through prayer, but do they know we have a worship service where all are welcome and where young and old together sing new and old songs to the praise of God? Do they know we believe in God’s radical grace that empowers us all to be ministers, priests, and witnesses to God’s love?As our council came together for our annual retreat last month, we tried to identify the core values that flow from our identity as Lutherans and from our mission to share the love of Jesus, glorify God and extend His kingdom. These values are the important principles that we are passionate about – things we hope to communicate clearly to our community, and to always keep before us as we move forward. Here’s what we came up with:
At Atonement, we give praise and glory to God by…
Å sharing the love of Jesus in Word and Sacrament
Å helping others in need, whether they are members or not
Å growing enriching relationships with God and our neighbors
Å creating a safe haven where faith is nurtured and people experience Jesus
Å seeing and treating all people as Christ in our midst
Å reaching out to our community to bring people closer to God
Å having fun
[OK, I admit it. I put that last one in there. But I do feel that following Christ brings with it an undeniable and irrepressible spirit of joy, which I see over and over at Atonement!]
John wanted people to know that there’s much more to knowing Jesus than they can get from reading his book. Still, he wrote to change hearts and share the story of our Risen Lord. It is this Jesus himself who brings us new life. By knowing him we gain a new life perspective. By following him we develop a new life-style.
Just so, we hope to be an open book like John’s gospel. We hope that when they read us, they find out about our Risen Lord. Can they see his face in ours? Will they sense his heart in our actions and hear his grace in our words? Will our events and hospitality at Atonement -- will our outreach and work in the community communicate that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that believing in him brings life? Do they see that life in us? May God continue writing his Easter story in each of our hearts, and may we always be ready to be read!