Ok, this idea came out of the necessity that there were no supply pastors available to fill in for me while I was on vacation…..NO SERMON? AGGGHHHHH! WHAT TO DO?! My idea: write an epistle. Might be a teachable moment about the bible…..and maybe they’ll get something out of it too. Below is the “script:” narrator’s words in italics, the letter in standard print. Would love to get feedback on what you think of the idea!
In the Early Church, letters were written by apostles such a Peter and Paul to the various churches in the ancient world. Because the apostles considered themselves missionaries whose role was to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world, they wouldn’t stay in an area. However, in their absence, they often wrote letters to the churches they established. The letters’ purpose was varied – sometimes to teach and instruct, sometimes to address issues of conflict and confusion in the churches, and to encourage and comfort early Christians confessing faith in a world that didn’t understand and persecuted them.
The process would be that these churches would receive the letter, have it read aloud in the community of faith, and then discuss its application to their situation. In the spirit of this early church practice, we have a letter here from Pastor Aaron, who we all know is away on travels of his own……
Greetings from Minnesota! As you know, I am off in Minnesota for a time of rest and renewal – or perhaps more plainly, I’m on vacation. Know that I am thinking of you, and I give thanks for all of your varied gifts and roles you fulfill in your lives – all witness to the greatness and faithfulness of our God.
There has been a lot on my mind during vacation….and I can’t help but wonder what effect my absence for two weeks is having on our church. On one hand, I know that you are all very capable of handling things on your own – you’ve been without a pastor for years before I came to be your pastor. But on the other hand, I know well that my absence may create another reason to “skip” church, especially when you mix it in with the nice summer weather and busy weekends.
And to be honest, I think that’s ok. Just like I need this time of rest and renewal for me, so I hope and wish the same for you. Of course, I want you to be continually nourished by communal worship where we come together to give thanks to this great God in Christ we have, because I believe it is life-giving to do so. But God gives life in a variety of ways, through the same Holy Spirit.
But what I wish to talk to you about is what it might mean to “skip” faith – which I think is detrimental to our lives. “Skipping faith” is well, simply becoming indifferent and apathetic to the presence and action of God in our lives. It’s seeing no need for grace and love and forgiveness in our lives, and seeing no need to extend it to our neighbor. I think that “skipping faith” is ultimately not trusting that God is present and active at all.
It has been over 2,000 years and Jesus Christ has not returned. And many Christians, and perhaps even ourselves, we get caught up looking upward towards heaven and wondering, “When is Christ going to come and fix the mess we call this world we live in?” I even read a new article in which a cardinal in the Roman Catholic church said, “It’s been 2,000 years and Christ hasn’t returned….and it doesn’t look like he’s coming back anytime soon, at least not in our lifetime.”
Scripture tell us today, “People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” Why do you stand there looking up, when if you look around, you will see me all around, and you will know that I am with you?” We look for God in far off places and for a life beyond, far off for some, closer for others. Jesus is something we’ll see only on the other side of death….and perhaps, some of us are faint of heart in that promise, the promise of life in Heaven after death.
The Scriptures you read today reminds us that before his Ascension into heaven, before his death on the cross, Christ promised us the gift of his everlasting presence, that we would never be alone. Jesus promised us that through him, we belong to God. God will never sever that tie, that relationship. And whether we think we need it or not, God’s grace and love is extended to us over and over in Christ. And whether we trust and believe or not, God by his Holy Spirit is present and active in all things. God is with us in THIS WORLD, IN THIS LIFE.
In light of that news, “skipping faith” isn’t actually possible, because Christ is continually faithful to us. You may become indifferent, you may become apathetic to God’s grace and love, you may even simply think you have no need for it. But that doesn’t stop God from being God; and God continues to love the world, and that love changes the world.
And if that’s the case, even over 2,000 years later, in what ways do we sense and know that Christ is with us? Because if we find Jesus’ words so long ago to be true, then we have to stop looking up toward heaven waiting to see some cosmic, apocalyptic event. We have to start looking around us, beside us, and beyond what our human senses and minds usually comprehend.
And perhaps, if we can together identify some of those ways we sense and know Christ is with us, then maybe we can be a bit more tuned into them. And if we’re a bit more tuned into them, then no matter where we are – church, work, vacation – and no matter when – today, tomorrow, a hundred, or even another 2,000 years from now – a life of faith moves from an apathetic and indifferent one, to one of meaning and peace and hope….to abundant life in God.
So, what does this all mean for us? Do his words comfort or challenge us….or both? What does our pastor want us to consider in our church today? What do we do with his words? As the early church did, we will discuss our pastor’s letter among each other.