Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Gospel In Word and Service

To Meet the Needs of our Community 

In my lifetime I have seen momentous changes in the church.   There have been changes in how we worship,  who gets to lead congregations, how churches are organized and how we communicate.  What has not changed is the heart of our witness to Jesus Christ.   Christ gives the promise of eternal life and we demonstrate  through our actions that this new reality starts now.   Since the founding of the church at Pentecost, disciples of Jesus share his teachings and make disciples using two main tools, Word and service.

The Word brings the hope we have in God through the Gospel story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   We tell the story of Jesus and how the Gospel works in the lives of the people who have opened their hearts to God.   The Word or story of God's saving action for humanity changes hearts, lives and minds.  In fact, the Greek word the New Testament uses for one to open their life to God (μετανοέω), (which is normally translated "repent") means to change one's mind.  Hope changes how we think about things.   The most important thing about this hope is that it strengthens and leads the disciple live out what God calls him or her to do.

Service is living out our call to the glory God and the benefit of others.  The Word states what hope looks like, service makes it tangible and real.   Service is living proof of the truth of the Gospel.  In the book of Acts, which is the biblical blueprint of the church, the Word is always accompanied by service.  The apostles not only speak the Word to persuade, but also work to heal, set free, include, reconcile, advocate for and feed their neighbors.  Both Word and service are vital for the spreading of the Gospel.  A wonderful example of this occurs in acts chapter six, where the apostles open up avenues of service for new people in the early church.

 And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.”Acts 6:2-4 (NRSV)

Acts chapter six shows us that there will be people who are better called to administering the Word and prayer and there are others more equipped for tangible acts of service.   The important thing is to make sure that both are provided for.   An important point to note is that just as individuals will gravitate towards either the Word or service in their faith life so will congregations.

For the first part of my tenure at Holy Cross we were clearly a church that gravitated to toward the Word.   Preaching worship, small groups and VBS were Word centered to bring about changes in hearts and minds.   As we moved through the years the service component became more pronounced, through our food ministry started by one women's small group under the initiative of Heidi Klebaur, and our mission activities spearheaded by our seminarian Erich Kussman.   We now continue to move in this direction through our potential partnership with Lutheran Social Ministries.

Lutheran Social Ministers of New Jersey is planning to use the 2002 building for its Lutheran Senior Life (PACE) program.  This helps fixed income seniors receive the care they need while continuing to stay in their homes.  Our congregation will move into our previous sanctuary for worship and Sunday activities.   Holy Cross will continue to devote itself to God's Word.   It is my hope that freed of the overhead of a facility that sits largely empty most of time, we will have more resources to devote to spreading God's Word in Springfield.   More importantly, our devotion to those in need through our partnership with LSM and our continued ministry through our Christian Nursery School will help demonstrate the veracity of what we proclaim.   This is that the Gospel is for those far off and those near to God of every generation no matter how they are classified by the world or the world classifies them.   I am hopeful that the relationships we form through our service will help open people up to hear and take in God's Word which can help make a positive difference in their lives.   As we move into this new balance of the essential actions of Word and service, I ask for your prayers for its fruitfulness through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Be blessed
Pastor Knecht