This September we return from vacations and our Sunday worship returns to 10:30 am to begin a new school year and a new program year together at Faith Church. You also continue your search for a new pastor to lead you in your lives in faith. This is a good time to ask yourself a question posed every morning when you look in the mirror, “who are you?” and more importantly, “whose are you?”
This is the question St. Paul asks in writing the first of two letters to Timothy, his younger partner in ministry. Paul poses the question to Timothy by remembering who he was before the voice of the Risen Jesus stopped him and spoke to him on the road to Damascus. Paul recalls he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence” who had “had acted ignorantly in unbelief.” Paul once thought he was doing God’s will by persecuting Christians. While Paul thought he could save himself by persecuting others he had no need for Jesus. When he finally saw himself as a sinner too, he realized “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” just like him. Until we see ourselves as sinners, who have separated ourselves from God and from others, we have no need for Jesus to save us.
When Pope Francis was elected in 2013 a reporter asked him who he was and his first response was, “I am a sinner.” We face ourselves as sinners every Sunday when we begin our worship with the confession and forgiveness of our sins. Jesus offers himself to us in Holy Communion saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.” On our own we are lost and lonely sinners but thanks to the grace, mercy, and patient love of Jesus Christ, like Paul and Timothy before us, we are made part of a new creation and members of his living body, the church. So, Paul can begin this portion of his letter to Timothy writing, “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service.” in spite of his past sins. So, we can be grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ who strengthens us, judges us faithful and calls us to his service. We are not just sinners, but beloved children of God called to serve others.
While I was learning to preach at seminary in Philadelphia, I also learned to pray on retreats to Mount Saviour Monastery outside of Elmira NY. It became my spiritual home where I still retreat to pray. They are a small Benedictine community that welcomes everyone, even Lutherans, to share in their work as shepherds and in their discipline of praying the Psalms seven times each day. One of their brothers, David Steindl-Rast has a Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell. He delivered a Ted Talk that got millions of views online and created a website: gratefulness.org, based on his simple observation. People are not grateful because they are happy but are happy because they are grateful. People who are grateful for all that God has given them are more likely to be happy even in difficult circumstances.
I am grateful to continue serving as your Bridge Pastor & this September, I encourage you to be grateful like St. Paul, for sharing in the grace, mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ who calls us into the service of God and our neighbors.
Hoping to see you every Sunday.
Pastor Bruce +