Dear St. Lukers,
I am writing this as I finish up preparing for my Wednesday night class, “What Are We Fighting For: Coming Together Around what Matters Most.” This study, written by United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton, leads the church through raising our viewpoint beyond the arguments of our denomination and struggling churches; about styles of worship, who is receiving the most attention and care in a congregation, how we will be in ministry with communities of people, to a higher vision of what is essential in the life of the church.
In this week’s chapter, Bishop Bickerton writes about four essential practices of every church: grace, relationships, joy, and hope. His leading Scripture for the week is Luke 15:7:
“In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives.”
Jesus speaks this Scripture after some of the righteous, upstanding church folk are grumbling behind his back because of the guests he has paid attention to at a dinner party. Jesus was caught not spending enough quality time with the good church folk at supper, but instead spent time with “sinners.” Jesus tells the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Reminding those with ears to hear that the Son of God came to seek and save the lost. He reminded them that the Kingdom of heaven party doesn’t happen with near as much joy as when followers of Jesus go out to diligently and unabashedly search of the lost.
Bickerton writes: “If we are to reclaim our vitality and purpose as representatives of the message Jesus placed into our hands, we must discern and examine the essentials – those principles and passions we are to live out until Jesus returns. In his name, we are called to be the conveyors of things just as grace, relationships, joy, and hope. If we won’t, who will?” (pg. 88)
Over the last two weeks, we have discovered how those essential practices he mentions are lived out here at St. Luke’s. We have asked questions to help us see our gifts as a body of Christ: acceptance, hospitality, community, discipleship, service, worship, connection, and ministry across the age levels have been our key answers (to read the results, click here). But we cannot just capture how those essentials build us as disciples, now we have to ask how God has given us those gifts, strengths, and essential practices to help us fill the church’s PRIMARY role: to seek and save the lost. The ways we care for one another, support and help one another, and grow together as community are all meant to fulfill one singular purpose: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” (Matthew 28)
This week we begin the next step of discerning God’s 2020+ Vision for St. Luke’s. We begin to dream about how God has gifted us and put us together as a body of Christ to reach people for the mission Christ gave us in Matthew’s gospel. We begin this week by listening to the story of Jesus and Bartimaeus. Mark 10:46-52 is the story of Jesus seeing someone in need and asking them a critical question. I invite you to read it and prayerfully consider the Bartimaeus in your life. Those waiting for healing and hope. Consider who are the sheep in your sphere of influence. How often do you recognize the essential practices of the church? Grace, relationships, joy, and hope are meant for those sheep, as much as for you. How can we find ways to ask the question of Jesus, in order to diligently and unabashedly be in search of those far from God? When was it possible you were Bartimaeus, longing for someone to ask you that critical question from Jesus?
Join us Sunday, as we gather at the communion table and God reveals to us who is missing, and how those gifts of the sweet spot we have experienced, maybe the gifts someone else is waiting to receive in God’s name.
Grace and Peace,