I write to you all in a time of reflection. As I am writing this letter, it has been three days since our congregational meeting. A lot was said and discussed at this meeting. We talked about our past but also our future. Our President, Richard Hollenbach, gave a very thought-provoking address.
He pitched to us what he called “Faith 5.0,” a new version of Faith. In his address, Rich talked about a Synod stewardship conference that he and I attended the day before. The name of the event was “Stewardship Extravaganza: Generosity and Vitality in the NOW Normal.” Rich told the congregation about how this event focused on shifting the Church from a “new normal” mentality to a “now normal” mentality. The pandemic caused congregations to shift into a new normal, but this normal is not new anymore. In essence, we will never go back to what we used to think of as normal.
The goal of the stewardship conference was to brainstorm what it means to live faithfully in this “now normal.” Rich spoke about how now with Faith having called me as its 5th pastor that it was time to shift our focus to the future. What is our place in Christ’s mission here on earth? What is Faith called to do? This is a very big question. There are so many things that need to be done in this world. Where do we start?
I was discussing this question with a group of pastors a couple of days ago. One of the pastors said something that stuck with me. She said “God is love. We have to start there and everything else will come from it.” This statement, though very simple, is quite true. We have to start with love! The story of Christ is one grounded in love. We have a God that desires so much to be in relationship with people that God came down, fully human, to earth. God truly loves us, and it is in this love that we too are called to love. In fact, Jesus commands us to.
In Matthew 22, we get a series of questions asked of Jesus in order to test him. The Sadducees asked Jesus a question about the Resurrection. When the crowd heard Jesus’ answer they were astounded. “When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, an expert in the law, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (verses 34-40).
Loving God is the greatest commandment, closely followed by the commandment to love our neighbors. So, let’s start there! Let us love! Then, let us pray. We may not know what the future holds, but God's love will guide us along the right path.
God’s Peace, Blessing, and Love be with you all,
Pastor Ethan Doan