Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ--Greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
You hear a lot these days about the "new normal," that our world has forever changed and there is no going back. Now, to be sure, some of those changes are here to stay. And, like all things, some is good and some not so good.
But what about the church? One thing your Board of Elders, the Church Council, and I have been intensely focused on is NORMAL. Over this past year, when so much was NOT normal, people needed normal. People needed to know that some things do not change; that there are some things you can always count on. That's what Jesus certainly is, and, therefore, what the church should always reflect--that the Church is built on the Word of God with Jesus as her cornerstone; that in a world where the foundations of many were shaken this year, here is a foundation you can count on; that not even the gates of hell will prevail against God's church!
So we tried to be as normal as we could. Now, of course, there were changes as we tried to protect the physical health and well-being of the members of St. John as best we could. But we were determined to carry on as normal as we could, and do things as we normally do. This included having all our services at the church, even ADDING services when we were encouraging people to come, but in limited numbers at each service. It would have been easier not to! But this is our Church and her doors will never be closed, even if some of you couldn't (and still can't) be here for a time.
Now, to be sure, during this time we also instituted some new things. And so as things now begin to open back up in our world, and people begin to feel more comfortable being together and interacting again, there's a lot of talk about the "new normal," and we wouldn't be good Lutherans if we didn't ask the question, "What does this mean?" What are we going to do with this new normal?
Well, my friends, we're going to continue to do the same things we've always been called to do--to wake up, rediscover old truths, and get to work!
First and foremost, we need to put our faith, trust, and understanding in Jesus. We can't look to the world to lift our spirits, restore our security, or provide us peace. We need to look to God for everything we need and recognize that when our needs are met, it's by His hand and His alone.
Secondly, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to examine our hearts, realign our priorities, and work on deepening our relationship with Christ. Come to church. Pray more. Read your Bible more often. Find more ways to show God's love and kindness to others than you ever have. Look for opportunities to encourage, pray, and care for one another.
And finally, we need to remain a light for the lost. In fact, we need to shine that light brighter than ever! We are blessed to live in an age where "social distancing" doesn't mean we can't share and spread the Gospel. We can use phones, the internet, social media, and endless other tools to continue to proclaim Jesus' name and saving power. Let's use this opportunity to get better and better at acting like Jesus when we're using these tools.
So, resist the urge to rant and rave on Facebook; resist the urge to complain and grumble; resist the urge to grow angry and bitter. There are many opportunities before us now--perhaps even more--as there have ever been. God is still working, still saving, still making Himself known. Let's be a part of all He's doing. Let's let Him use us to reach out to a lost and hurting community. Let's work together to make St. John "a home for sinners, a place for the wounded, a light in darkness, a refuge for the weary."
God's richest blessings!
Pastor M. <t><
"[Jesus said,] 'On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'" Matthew 16:18b