Fall Greetings Bethlehem,
I am writing still filled with joy and elation after this past Sunday. We had an amazing Reformation Sunday, blessed our new bathrooms (the blessing is included below), and enjoyed a wonderful Oktoberfest. Thank you to all who were involved in making it such a joyous day!
Given that my mind is still on Reformation, and the fact that Pastor Laura and I recently attended a continuing education conference for clergy out in Palm Desert, I’d like to share with you one piece of learning that has stuck with me. One of our keynote speakers was Bishop Yvette Flunder, a UCC pastor with a church in San Francisco. She talked about something that all of us Californians are very familiar with – earthquakes. Buildings are now fitted with all sorts of features to help them withstand earthquakes; mechanisms that help them move with the ground, almost as if they are alive. And buildings without them, the immobile, rigid, unyielding ones, well, those don’t stand much of a chance when the ground beneath begins to move. Bishop Flunder said, “Monuments have a hard time withstanding shaking, and the first thing that gets destroyed is the façade.”
The Reformation was one such quake that shook the monument of the church, causing the facades that we had created to crumble to the ground. And exposing that which was pure and central to our faith. The framing and foundation that is core to this thing we call the church. Central tenants that Luther called us back to – sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide; word alone, grace alone, faith alone. Trusting scripture, the Word of God, over human tradition. Trusting in God’s grace as opposed to our own merit. Trusting that all of this is accomplished through faith and not works. These are truths that can help us build a church that is alive, that can survive the shaking of the earth that tears down the facades we create.
In this season of reformation (and really, we are always in a season of reformation) I invite you to take a moment to reflect upon your faith and the church as a whole. What facades have we put up that obscure the teachings of God’s love and grace for all people? From others? From ourselves? What is it that needs to change in order for us to truly believe, to know deep within our bones that we are justified by grace, through faith, for Christ’s sake, apart from works? And what can we as the body of Christ here on earth do to share that message with the people who need to hear it most?
Gracious God, we ask your blessing upon these new bathrooms. We give thanks for the generosity of this congregation that enabled their restoration. We ask that you guide the water along right pathways, lest it stray from its piping. We ask that you remember the promise you made to Noah, never again to flood this world. Grant that these new bathrooms may sustain and support the ministry of this building, providing relief, reprieve, and refreshment of spirit for all who pass through these doors. In Jesus name, Amen.