This past month I had the opportunity to go to Atlanta, Georgia for the Rostered Ministers Gathering – the first of this kind of event. It came in response to the need to have Pastors, Ministers of Word, Deacons, Associates in Ministry, Military Chaplains, Hospital Chaplains, and Directors of Evangelical Mission in one place at one time.
It was an incredibly uplifting time. There were plenty of classes, bible study, and worship experiences, making it a great opportunity to connect with so many people serving the church in so many ways! It was truly inspirational to see all the good that our church does in the world.
When I say, “our church,” I’m not speaking directly of North Beaver Creek. While in Tanzania I learned how different our mindset was from theirs. If I asked one of you what church you belong to, I imagine the response of “North Beaver Creek Lutheran Church.” Maybe some might say the Lacrosse Synod, or of the ELCA. In contrast, were I to ask a Tanzanian which church they belonged to, I would get a response of “the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, the Eastern and Coastal Diocese, a congregation in Kitunda Relini.”
It was interesting to explore this different mindset. Because in our world, when we hear about the National Church of the ELCA, it seems to resonate in a negative way. “Church wide is telling us what we need to do. Always want us to send money. What are they doing for us?”
We do support our national church, as well as its programs and outreach ministries. Our church of the ELCA has an incredible impact in the world, in our outreach ministries, malaria and AIDS campaigns, world hunger, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Walk for Water, partner congregations, and partner synods, domestically and internationally. As a church – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lacrosse Area Synod, and North Beaver Creek – we have been called, gathered, and sent to the world. Our mission includes feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, healing the sick, and proclaiming Christ crucified and Risen. By this, we are proclaiming the promise of the resurrection, that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life!
While in Atlanta, I got to sit in a pew of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr., his father and grandfather preached. It’s a block away from the house where he was born as Mike King Jr. His name was changed after his father Mike Sr. came back from Germany where he learned the story of this “re-former” who stood up when his conscience told him to. He returned and changed both his and his son’s name to Martin Luther King Sr and Jr.
I sat there – where the powerful word of God began a movement – a REFORMATION! I wept with great joy and hope in our heritage of being a reforming church.
We are on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the protestant reformation, living in an age where “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles, and misguided men – MLK” “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor political nor popular but he must take it because his conscience tells him to – MLK”
Let us all take this identity of a church that stands for its convictions and its conscience: A church that is continually being made new, reformed, restored, justified and sanctified by the waters of our baptism, to arise daily a new creation in Christ; called, gathered, and sent as the body of Christ as servants to our neighbors, servants of the vulnerable, servants of the voiceless.
Never alone, marked by the cross of Christ, sustained by the Holy Spirit, FOREVER!