Last month we celebrated the sacrament of Holy Baptism with two young children in our congregation. Baptisms are always a highlight of the worship service as the baptismal candidate is brought forward and presented for the sacrament, where they become a child of God, an inheritor of eternal life, a member of the church and church family that worships here at St. John’s. When we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Baptism, the final portion of the liturgy always touches my spirit as the congregation officially greets the newly baptized with these words: We welcome you into the Lord’s family. We receive you as fellow members of the body of Christ, children of the same heavenly Father, and workers with us in the kingdom of God. (LBW, Holy Baptism, p125) Think about that – “we welcome you into the Lord’s family; we receive you as a fellow member; a child of the same heavenly Father; and a worker with us in the kingdom of God.” That is a fantastic welcome. It is a life changing welcome. And it is a challenging welcome that becomes a part of every person’s identity as a child of God and a member of God’s family for the rest of our lives. Welcome to the Lord’s family!
It is my observation that St. John’s does a wonderful job of welcoming people into the family of God and membership in this church. You are a friendly congregation. You are a welcoming people. Your concern and compassion for others is obvious. It is very common for guests who visit with us to tell me how welcome they feel and how many people have already spoken to them as they came into the church for worship as well as on their way out. My usual response is that St. John’s is a great congregation and a wonderful place to be pastor. Both statements are true.
This past month provided several examples of what a great family St. John’s is and how this family comes together to get things accomplished. As Dorian came our way, I put out the call for assistance to prepare the historic church for the hurricane. At the appointed time, over 40 of you were on hand to make certain everything that could be protected was protected. What normally would take well over several hours was accomplished in less than half an hour. The same was true when it was time to put the church back together after Dorian passed. I sent out the call, and our church family rallied to take care of things. Thank you. Kelly Donahue even made the trees that had come down in the storm disappear. And there are others of you who readily and quickly walk away from your other responsibilities to make certain that this place of worship is always ready to welcome people into the presence of God. This is what it means to be a part of a family and especially a part of the family of God.
Every day and every week this church lives out the challenge we all have received in our baptism: to belong to the Lord’s family and be a worker in the kingdom of God. During October, I encourage each of us to think about what it means to belong to the Lord’s family, and then, as we count our blessings for being part of such a wonderful family, perhaps we might want to invite someone to come belong with us as we worship the God of creation and the Savior He sent into the world. There’s a place and a welcome waiting here for everyone.
Now, look through this month’s Herald as you make note of all the times your church family is getting together for worship, education, and fellowship. Put these many opportunities for the congregation on your calendar and make every effort to be present when we gather. These are family events you want to make certain you’re at, for these are times when you know you are being held in the hands of God and being hugged by brothers and sisters in Christ.
Pastor Butler +