Power of together.

God said, “let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.”

The early Church understood the power of community. The Book of Acts tells us, right from the get-go, after Jesus’ Ascension: All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. In other words, they were together, of one heart and mind, one in prayer, one in love and support for each other. Even in the face of all they feared, they were together as One in the Lord! 

Pentecost came and thereafter the community grew. People were added, not at distance, but in community. Led by the Holy Spirit, a pattern of life developed: They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life… All who believed were together and had all things in common; Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We may find it hard to fathom, but they could not get together by phone, Skype, Zoom, or Facebook. They could not support each other by sending a check. In fact, to learn from the Apostles, to pray, and to do what Church does, required them to be together. This togetherness brought them a power and influence beyond human comprehension.

What did this togetherness do? It brought them favor with all the people, i.e., the people saw their goodness, it was apparent and every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. People wanted part of what the Church had and were brought to salvation in Christ exactly because of the together they observed. That’s real power, power from together.

Now, many a preacher could launch into the lack of togetherness in today’s world and heap laments on all of us, but it is not true. The vestiges of the early Christian together life, that power, remain still today.

It starts here in our together and the together we have with every Sunday worshiping Christian. It comes from our baptism into the one body of Christ. It comes from our sharing in the bread and cup, the Lord undivided.  It comes from our reading the Acts and Epistles and reading the ‘you’ therein as the plural ‘you.’

From here, we bring the symbols and signs, the sacrament of together to the world as families. This is where our Christian growth, maturity, and discipleship are most often seen. It is the place from which will come favor with all the people. And those who are being saved. It is what we specially celebrate today.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Wholeness, completeness – words that present a sense of the ideal, and concepts that are so hard to live on a day-to-day basis. As a Church dedicated to scripture, and considering that we classify the proclamation and teaching of God’s word as a sacrament. let’s take a moment to consider the Bible. I remember classes from grade school on up – and the oft repeated question – what is the Bible? The expected, technical answer, which most kids got wrong? The Bible is a Book of Books. A Book of Books? Makes it seem as if the Bible is a kind of library, and indeed it could be considered that. However, my classmates and I would invariably get the ‘answer’ wrong, blurting out – “It is a book.” But what if we were right? My classmates and I were right because perhaps, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we were seeing the bigger picture, the completeness, the wholeness of scripture. All of scripture, from its inspired stories, histories, prophecies, and poetry in the Old Testament is one. It points invariably to the coming salvation found only in Jesus Christ. The Gospels give us Jesus in His complete revelation – the call to live life as He lived, the call to be a true sons and daughters of the Father as He is the Son of the Father. The invitation to accept Him as our Savior by confession of our sin and belief by faith. The remainder of the New Testament interprets the Gospel into keys for daily living within the wholeness of the Christian community. We dedicate the month of November to remembering our dearly departed. We have a lesson here. The wholeness and completeness of scripture is life’s model, who we are and where we are going. Life is not a series of separate stories and events, just a book of books, or unrelated chapters. Our life extends from birth to eternity. We are not just separate people and events. We live in a continuum that has, as its goal and end, life in the eternal wholeness and completeness of God Who holds all things together.

November and days of remembrance, days of honor and prayer, days of Thanksgiving. We have an active schedule throughout the month including the most important aspect of our life together – regular worship and fellowships that renews and strengths us for the totality of our life in Jesus.

Read more in our November 2019 Newsletter.

Yes!
TOGETHER!

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.

Welcome BACK TO CHURCH! If this is your first time visiting with us, we want you to know how happy we are. If you are longstanding faithful parishioners, we want you to know how happy we are.

You may be thinking to yourselves, why is he happy, why should the community be happy if I am here? Maybe he is just one of those pastors who is happy at just about anything?

Well, yeah, but that’s not the point.

The real point of our joy is the same point St. Paul was making about himself. Paul was overjoyed because he was taken from a life without meaning, without purpose, without hope, to a life regenerated – new life in Christ Jesus. He had eternal life in Jesus and the joy of now working TOGETHER in the community of faith. He received mercy, not allowance to continue his own way, but the mercy necessary to be changed into the very image of Jesus in communities throughout the Mediterranean.

For those who are joining us for the first time, for the first time in a while, or are here again, returning faithfully and diligently, today’s call is about rejoicing in knowing Jesus deeper and better, to experience His exorbitant mercy, and to be changed into His image in our world.

Relying on Jesus and being His image is not an easy choice. It is not popular – and definitely puts us into the core countercultural movement of our time, but so it was with Paul and all the early Christ followers. Paul counted it as mercy – to be saved from sin into a new life that actually mattered, and he worked together with others to spread knowledge of that salvation. Paul stood as an example of what is possible in Jesus, and so must we.

Today, and each week we are happy you are here. We are happy that the mercy of Jesus is so all encompassing, so total, that He will not leave any behind. We are happy because now together, in Jesus, we celebrate and rejoice.

you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

What does it mean to be all-in with God? Throughout Church history we have confronted the problem of minimalism. It is the problem of just doing enough. It seems somewhat counterintuitive. If we love something or someone, we want to do more than we are even able. We stretch ourselves, we exceed our perceived boundaries, and reach for the stars for the one we love. Yet, not many do that with God or His community, the Holy Church. Priests would tell you that in hearing someone’s confession, there are two types of sorrow the penitent may have for the sake of absolution. They can have ‘attrition,’ that is a fear of punishment or they can have ‘contrition,’ a deep sorrow for having offended God, for having broken relationship with Him. While both qualify as adequate, attrition is minimalistic – only that which is absolutely, barely necessary. I remember being told as a teen the minimums required for Holy Mass. I could arrive and stay from the Gospel to Communion, and then leave. It was just enough. Some (and it rarely ever happens in our parish) use the bare minimum as their way of dealing with God and His community. Yet, a God who calls us to be all-in with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength will not look kindly on a love that is loafing or limping or lowest common denominator. His call to us is to live love deeply, wholly, and completely. Our own consciences call us to that truth. There is much for us to do as we enter the month of September. The Solemnity of Brotherly Love reminds us of Jesus’ all-in call to love God and neighbor. BACK TO CHURCH Sunday calls us to take action – to invite and build up the church with at least a 25% gain in active participation. This new season reminds us that we have the opportunity to renew our own faith and participation in God’s community to the maximum. Let us live that call and be all-in.

September is here and the calendar is full of events that bring us together and renew great friendships. We have the Solemnity of Brotherly Love, BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY, and regular worship and fellowships that renews and strengths us for the journey together.

Come, be All-In together.

Read more in our September 2019 Newsletter.

All we need is
faith and love!

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.

We were looking through the closet in our office at home – a closet that has been changed into a set of storage shelves. We were looking for bags and ribbon for our basket social baskets – ribbons found, no bags. A trip to Michael’s and all set.

While looking through the closet I came across a lovely table runner from Poland. It is intricately woven together. That is what today is all about.

The community to whom First John was written was facing a crisis. Former members were denying that Jesus was God’s flesh and blood Son, fully human and fully God. Like many churches facing doctrinal conflict, the community was confused, afraid, and unsure of what to do. Who should they believe? How could they know what was true, and what was not? How should they react? Their closely woven life of faith and love was coming undone.

John’s response in a lesson to the community was both simple and confident: You know who you are – the faithful. You know whose you are – you are God’s. You know what you have been told from the beginning – love God, love the brethren, and keep God’s commandments. God’s own Spirit is with us to show us the way forward. There’s no need for confusion, anxiety, or fear. Focus on living your faith woven together in unity and love.

John echoes Jesus’ conversation with his disciples on the night before his death: “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them;” and “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”

Loving God, loving God’s children, and keeping God’s commandments are all an inseparable part of our life in Christ. They are links in the chain of faith. We live in an interwoven reality that is the Church of God – the basic principles of Christianity. Like that beautiful table runner, every thread is linked together into something beautiful; something that gives joy and that makes love strong and real.

In today’s Gospel we have all the markers from the First John community. Perhaps the first display of fear and anxiety in the Christian community. Jesus settled the Apostles crises quickly. Yet the Apostle Thomas was missing. He was the one thread missing. He exhibits some aggressive non-belief. His thread was not just unraveled, but frayed and nearly broken. We get that way. The comfort is that Jesus returns for him as He returns for us – Jesus won’t let us stay unraveled. Easter is to live restored, interwoven, and unbroken.