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Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 2011

Worshipping, Growing, and Serving

By the time you read this newsletter article, we will have begun our discussions on the new vision for our church. Based on what we learned from our Healthy Connections meetings and through the conversations that have arisen from the Regional Outreach Conference, I have been trying to develop a new vision for the church.

Vision is a tricky word. From what I understand, to cast a vision for a church is to present a visual picture of what life is to look like in this place. What does the mission of the church look like when it is lived out in our community of Moorpark? In order to get at this question, I think it is helpful to establish what a vision is not. A vision is not a mission statement. As the church that Jesus himself established (Matthew 18:18) we receive our mission from Him. We are to make disciples of all nations through baptism in the name of our triune God and through teaching everything Jesus has given us to know (Matthew 28:18-20). We don't get to, nor do we need to, come up with a new mission statement. It has been graciously given to us by our Lord who is with us in His church always to the end of the age to accomplish His purposes through us (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:20-21). To try and develop a new mission would be, at least in my mind, to circumvent what Christ has already clearly called us to do and to be.

A vision, on the other hand, is about seeing what the mission of the triune God looks like in a given place. So, for example, many years ago when the church put together our Biblical Purpose Statement, they were demonstrating how it is that Christ was working out His mission through the congregation. What I intend to happen with this new vision is to paint a picture of what our mission and purpose looks like in concrete terms. I see this vision as a framework within which we are able to recognize how our church is carrying out God's mission and how each of us fits into that mission.

So, getting back to our question: What does the mission of the church look like at Faith Lutheran in Moorpark? What does it mean for us here in Moorpark to be baptized, learning disciples? These are the types of questions we have begun discussing in our sermons this month. The answers are grounded, not in our work, but in the work of Christ for us. We are first and foremost a people baptized. That is, we are those who have been raised to a new life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:3-7). We are a people who graciously receive God's saving work from the cross in our baptism as well as every Sunday as we gather to hear His Word and receive His sacraments. Therefore, fundamentally, we are a worshipping people.

When we worship by receiving God's Word and sacraments and responding in praise we are encountering God in a special way in which we do not encounter Him anywhere else. We could think of this encounter like a farmer planting seed (Mark 4:26-27). In worship the Lord speaks His gospel to us and plants it in us. Such an encounter is, however, not to be left on Sunday and forgotten the rest of the week. Rather, we are to continue to grow. But we cannot do that on our own. We need to be nurtured, cultivated, fertilized, and nourished. The Holy Spirit works through the study of the scriptures He inspired to cause growth in our faith (2 Timothy 3:16). Through personal and group Bible studies we see Faith as a people growing in what God has already declared them to be: His forgiven, righteous children.

When God plants seeds and they grow through the nourishment of His Word, they become fruit producing branches (John 15:4-l7). Jesus is the Word that is planted in us and causes us to produce fruit, that is, to live our lives in such a way that Jesus works His blessings in the world through us (Ephesians 2:8-10). Our relationship to God is passive, that is to say, God does all the work in saving us, forgiving us, nurturing us, etc. It is based on the gift of faith. But our relationship with the world is based on love. It is faith active in love (Galatians 5:6, James 2:17). Our relationship with others is described by St. Paul in Galatians as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). So, if our lives are lived with Christ at work in us, what will that look like?

In the New Testament, it seems to me, that love and service are almost interchangeable words. When Christ wants to show the disciples how they are to love each other He washes their feet, a humiliating act of service (John 13:1-17). If this is the God who is shaping us, if this is the Lord to whom we belong, then such humble service will shape the way we love one another within the church and those outside of the church (Galatians 6:10). In light of all of this, I envision a place of humble service. We are a people formed by a loving and serving God. We are a people serving others because of the love of Jesus. This takes place in a variety of different ways, which we will discuss this month and throughout the life of the church.

What is Faith Lutheran Church all about? We are all about Jesus. What are you doing here? Maybe asked in a better way: What is Jesus doing with you here? He is making you and me into worshipping, growing, and serving disciples. This framework simply recognizes who we are as a result of God's baptismal work in our lives. Baptized disciples at Faith are worshipping, growing, and serving. What exactly does that look like? Well, join us for worship this month to learn more. What is more, as you find yourself in this family where God has placed you, you will continually learn what this looks like in your life and the life of the church!

Pastor Bob

Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email