I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s gracewith me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (Philippians 1:6-7)
We members of Messiah often face some tough days. This past week, I have had conversations with brothers and sisters facing serious disease, family discord, financial difficulties, homelessness, and more. Institutionally, our old van broke down again at the cost of over $1000. For a small congregation, there is a lot going on here, and not all of it seems good.
Yet amidst all of this, we keep coming back and reaching outward. Why? We have been blessed to live an abundant life found in hope. This isn’t the hope of our secular world – as when we hope to win the lottery and magically have our financial (and other?) problems drift away. It is a hope found only in the reality of Pentecost.
The Spirit is moving in, around and through us. It offers us unexpected opportunities and roots us in Christ’s victory. There is an understanding and expectation that God is doing something here, and that although bad things will happen, God is always good. So although we might at times feel like we are in prison with Paul, we share similar hearts and expect the same wonderful destiny.
Rather than relying on any strategic planning and committees (although these can be helpful), we surrender to the Spirit. We are flexible because we know that we are reeds that God might allow to bend but not break (Isa. 42:3). We are courageous and generous in our love for our neighbor and one another because we believe God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our abilities. Yet if it seems we are about to fail or give up, scripture goes on to say, it is God who will provide us a way out (1 Cor. 10:13). We are strong because despite any quirkiness, shortcomings or disagreements, our abilities or challenges, we strive to live out our baptismal covenant to love and forgive one another as Jesus loved us first (John 13:34). We don’t obsess about mistakes and program challenges, nor do we fret about political differences. We meet people and embrace them as they are (2 Tim. 2:23-26; Rom. 12:9-21; Gal. 3:28). We can come to our assembly without makeup or dressed to the nines because we know we are welcomed, known, and loved here (Mark 9:36-37). I have witnessed how we live as family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and I and others are encouraged and inspired to believe in Christ all the more.
Yes, there are many larger, well healed congregations on our street and in our community doing wonderful things. (The Spirit is at work there too.) Yet, we pass those by to share in a call to this unique spiritual home called Messiah Lutheran. It is a place where both our needs and our talents fit into and find purpose. As brothers and sisters, we don’t give up or turn away when life gets hard. Instead, we dig in and get to work defending and confirming the Gospel. We hold on tight to one another and Christ to face our problems together and overcome. We do so trusting the Spirit is upon us.
Tough times will come and go, but the love we share – Christ’s love for us – will last forever. All things remain possible. All is and will be well.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation. This post was first published in The Messenger, the newsletter of Messiah Lutheran Church (June 2014).
© 2014 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.