Pondering From The Pulpit
Sometimes I take advantage of this column to share devotional thoughts from the scriptures. Sometimes I use the space to update you concerning church events and activities, and occasionally I simply share a thought or a congregational need. I think this month you may get all three. So, let’s get started.
First, as we enter November, and with December quickly approaching, our schedules will be getting busy. Depending on when this newsletter reaches you, we will or will be about to celebrate Reformation Sunday on October 31st. We know the phrase “saved by grace through faith and not works” and we will be discussing that and its implications on Reformation. There was a time when Lutheran churches were packed on Reformation, just like Christmas and Easter. Not so much anymore, but I hope you’ll help us pack the church as we hear and proclaim this liberating and saving message. Then, the very next week we will remember the beloved departed saints since last year’s All Saints’ Sunday. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and we will gather for a special Thanksgiving Service on Tuesday, November 23rd at 7:00PM. And then it’s Advent on November 28th. Four Sundays later we will celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve with a 3:00PM Children’s Service, followed by our traditional Candlelight Christmas Eve Service at 8:00PM. The musical preludes for that service will begin at 7:30PM and we ask that everyone be seated and ready to worship by 7:30PM so you can enjoy all the music. And our Christmas Day service returns at 7:00AM on December 25th.
Second, we have all made adjustments because of COVID. Our worship liturgy was abbreviated, communion moved to receiving the sacrament with only the body of Christ being distributed, we canceled singing hymns, then brought back only a few verses, and now sing entire hymns. We created online services. Essentially, we did everything we knew to do that enabled us to worship while protecting the health of our members. With the vaccine, we have relaxed some of our guidelines and during the month of November we will slowly return to normal, with the caveat of remaining flexible if something doesn’t work. Beginning on Reformation we will return to chanting the communion portion of the liturgy. We will also bring back receiving communion by the form of intinction, while still doing this as a continuous table with the congregation coming down the center aisle where I will offer you the body and blood of Christ. Then as we continue through November on our way to Advent, other portions of the worship service will be added until we reach the point where we have returned to our full service.
And finally, I want to speak with you about what it is going to take for us to return to pre-COVID status and strength as a congregation. St. John’s is not a congregation with thousands of members where at any point 70% can be missing and the activities of the church continue to happen. We would be considered a small to medium sized church and as such, for ministry to happen, it takes all of us. When everyone is present, we are as a bright shining light proclaiming the Gospel and presence of Christ. When people are absent, our light is diminished. One of our commitments in life needs to be to Christ and participation in the body of Christ which is the Church. Worship, Christian Education, activities – need all of us to make certain they are carried out, so Christ is represented in the world. Our Stewardship Program will be kicking off on November 7th and this provides a wonderful opportunity to re-engage or engage more fully. Additionally, we are in the midst of putting together a new Pictorial Directory and we want every member represented in the project. We need your participation and your picture (now being taken at every worship service.)
There’s a lot more that could be said, but as we all re-engage or engage more fully, St. John’s will return to a more normal, vibrant voice and presence of Christ in the world. So, I encourage you to consider how you will be a part of your church family as we are emerging from COVID. And a special “thank you” to those who have worked so hard during COVID. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know.
I look forward to seeing you this Reformation Sunday (and perhaps we could all wear red, the liturgical color of the day), and in the days ahead as the Holy Spirit reawakens us to the call of Christ through the Church.
Pastor Butler +