Grace to you and peace!
This Sunday we will gather for our Annual Meeting. As we gather we will spend time in worship, celebrating and remembering God’s presence and provision through 2020. We will recall the challenges, gifts, grief and joy that were part of all the happenings of this past year. We will pray together, discern together and hope together as we anticipate how God will lead us and provide for us in 2021. In my pastoral report I remind us that Jesus is the builder of the church and is invested in its life and ministry. As I work my way through the report booklet that was sent to us last week I marvel at the reminders that we have continued to be the church even through a difficult year. If you have not had a chance to read through the report booklet and additional materials we invite you to do that before Sunday.
In Tanya’s report she ponders 8 powerful questions as she reflects on this pandemic year in the life of the church. Tanya’s concluding words in her report respond to two of her questions.
“What is the most important lesson you learned this year?
The most important lesson that we have learned is that our building is not the church. We, the people are the church. Church was never canceled. We changed our format but we have never been more committed to love, worship, care, serve, give, pray and commit to God’s mission to help bring the Kingdom of God, here on earth. So what words would I chose to sum up 2020? Surrendering. Caring. Reimagining. Hope.”
I say something similar as I near the end of my report. “The church that Jesus said he would build was never primarily about worship gatherings and programs in a building. It was always about ministry to and with people for the purpose of building God’s kingdom and living God’s way of love, light, hope, joy, justice and peace for the sake of the whole world.”
The church that Jesus builds is for the sake of building and advancing the mission of God’s kingdom in the world. Over the last few years we have discerned together our purpose statement: To be Rooted in Christ, Growing Together in Faith and Extending God’s love. As we the church live into this purpose we join God’s mission and we partner with God in building the kingdom of God.
The song, “Build your Kingdom Here” by the band Rend Collective speaks so powerfully to this calling for the church as it offer this prayer:
Build your kingdom here, Let the darkness fear, Show your mighty hand, Heal our streets and land. Set your church on fire, Win this nation back, Change the atmosphere, Build Your kingdom here, We pray.
Come set Your rule and reign, In our hearts again, Increase in us we pray, Unveil why we’re made, Come set our hearts ablaze with hope, Like wildfire in our very souls, Holy Spirit, come invade us now. We are Your Church, And we need Your power, In us…
As the apostle Paul writes to the church at Ephesus he reminds them that God’s power is available!
18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1)
Sunday is not only annual meeting day, it’s Valentine’s Day!
Why do we celebrate this day?
In an article I read this week I was reminded that Valentine’s Day was initially a Christian feast day honoring a martyr named St. Valentine, a 3rd-century Roman saint. One of the most famous legends of St. Valentine is that he was a priest who agreed to officiate marriages for young soldiers even though these marriage were illegal. Emperor Claudius II forbid young soldiers from marrying in fear it would distract them from battle. St. Valentine went against the emperor’s order and married couples in secret. I guess the secret got out because the emperor had St. Valentine imprisoned and eventually executed on February 14.
Another legend suggests St. Valentine helped Christians escape the harsh Roman prisons. On one of these escape missions, or when we has confined in prison himself, he ended up healing a prison guard’s daughter from blindness. Some legends suggests he not only healed this woman but also fell in love with her! He then wrote her a letter and signed it before his execution, “from your Valentine.”
The early legends of St. Valentine’s Day are intriguing. And the love we celebrate on this day is a varied as the people who celebrate it. We may have mixed feelings about this day that celebrates human love. God reminds us that our worth is not determined by the cards or gifts we receive or don’t receive on this day. Our worth is anchored in God who is love, and in our identity as God’s beloved child. We ultimately receive love because Jesus chose us and claimed us as holy and beloved!
See what love God has given us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. 1 John 3.1
Blessings as you receive and extend God’s love!