Friday, June 9, 2017

Annual Message to Holy Cross

God is good all the time and the movement of the Holy Spirit has been manifest among us as our congregation has experienced a year of both fruitfulness and transition toward new missions and ministry.  God has been at work with, among and on us.   

God's Work With Us 

Acts 2:39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (NRSV)

We have been faithful in mission to those in need in Springfield.   Our food ministry continues to serve over 30 clients in the immediate area.   We have searched out how God brings healing and renewal to those in crisis by contributing to the work of the Market Street Mission by providing worship monthly on the fourth Sunday of the month.  We have been able to raise awareness for those without homes in our area through the interfaith vigil, housing summit, and candidates night.  Our nursery school has experienced a substantial increase in enrollment for next year which is a wonderful blessing to us and those in the area it serves. 

We are also blessed to have the opportunity to work with Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey (LSM) as they plan to use Holy Cross for its Lutheran Senior Life ministry to Union County.   This will relieve us from many of the burdens of maintaining a large facility while providing a way for us to minister and bless a wider circle of people in our community. God sent Jesus into the world to walk with those in the world.  As as an expression of Body of Christ in this place we are called to do the same thing.   The Holy Spirit is clearly calling us to continue this work as it is how we represent Christ to our community.  

God's Work Among Us 

(They) soon understood that “they were not simply there to learn new techniques of preaching and instruction” but (were) initiates into a new manner of being a Christian (which)… required spiritual nourishment: prayer, Bible study, and meditation on the essential matters to expand the moral imagination. (Marsh; Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer P. 231) 

God has been at work among us to build our community. We have baptized, communed, confirmed, and led people to renewed lives of faith.   We have welcomed new people into our congregation from diverse backgrounds, and walked with those who have been with us for a long time through life's changes.  One of our elders, Eric Kussman has been approved as a candidate for ministry in the ELCA and is currently serving an internship at Zion Lutheran Rahway. 

We pray for the coming year for God to lead us to build up our worship opportunities so that more of us can experience a new life in Christ through Word, Sacrament and Community.  Our worship attendance has been down due to a variety of factors and we will need to find ways to keep our life together vibrant and growing.  We also pray God will call a few people to step up and help with our our Sunday School and Youth ministries.   As secularization takes root in our society we need to be there for the next generation so that they may have an abundant life in Christ and not just an ordinary life according to the worst of the world.  We are hopeful that the restructuring of our ministry through the partnership with LSM will afford us more resources to help bring new people to Christ and revitalize the lives of the faithful. 

God's Work On Us 

Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NRSV)

One of the things that has grieved me during my tenure at Holy Cross is that our facility has drained so much of our resources in the effort to keep up with its requirements.  This has had a corrosive effect on our mission.  It can at times lead us into the thought we need to reach more people so that they can come and help us pay for this wonderful facility and by counting the numbers we can trumpet ourselves as a success.  In the end the congregation like so many in our world today wakes up and finds that they have stored treasures on earth rather than in heaven with God.   

The Holy Spirit has been leading us address this for many years.   With the initial approval by the state of New Jersey for the Lutheran Social Ministries project, it is looking like we will find a way to repurpose our facility to be a blessing to others and ourselves.   It is my prayer that then we can build a ministry that leverages our resources for the benefit giving people a new life in the Spirit.  In a sense I am asking that we leverage the temporary for the eternal. It is my hope that freed of the burdens of facility care we can move on to a more intentional and vibrant care of souls, outreach, and discipleship.   There will still be sacrifices, but they will be more clearly seen as happening for God's purposes rather than our own. It is clear that God has a plan for Holy Cross, it is not the plan many of us expected to have happen but perhaps that makes it more exciting!  God is indeed at work with, among and on us, so we can be both hopeful for a blessed future and joyful for a meaningful present.  In summary we are blessed each and everyday to have the privilege of following Christ and I look forward to seeing what God has in store for the coming year. 

Respectfully submitted in Christ, 
Pastor Knecht 

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