“What Kind of Salvation does Jesus Bring?” I asked that question in my sermon this past Sunday in reference to Jesus’ Baptism in Mark’s Gospel, and I suggested the following answer: “It means everything that comes to mind when we try to turn the word ‘with’ (as in “I am with you”) into practical action.... It means everything we try to say when a friend’s loved one dies and we wish we could be there and hug and help and heal and hold.... It means all the ways we seek to make concrete the intangible links between us and other people.... Most of all, it’s what The Church is called to be – our standing beside one another as a visible sign of standing beside ‘God in Christ.’”
So often this newsletter article each week turns out to be an effort at painting a happy face on life and faith and relationships which consume so much of our time. And more often than not, there is a lot to be happy about, especially when I am privileged on a daily basis to witness the final words above from my sermon last Sunday: “our standing beside one another as a visible sign of standing beside ‘God in Christ.’”
Yet we all know life isn’t always that way, nor is church life in particular. Our congregation has weathered a tremendous storm the last 5 years or so coming out of a building project that almost doubled in anticipated costs (from $3.3 million to almost $7 million), so that today we find ourselves still seeking to overcome a final indebtedness of close to $850,000. This New Year (2015) will be the first year we address this remaining debt only through the General Fund Operating Budget as all Capital Campaigns formally ended in 2014. The next 3 or 4 years (especially this year!) promises to test our perseverance and planning and faith given such a daunting challenge and the tight financial condition of the church ending 2014. Such a challenge is worth meeting head-on, however, because without the investment of Capital Funds over the last several years many of our ministries would have suffered significant damage and I am doubtful our Weekday School would have survived.
As we begin 2015, it seems the final sentence from my sermon quoted above really does have new meaning for me as to “what The Church is called to be – our standing beside one another [and ‘with’ one another] as a visible sign of standing beside ‘God in Christ.’” And as I concluded my sermon Sunday prior to the Ordination and Installation of new officers: “The Gospel of Mark’s account of the Baptism of the Lord is God ‘in Christ’ saying to us: ‘I am totally immersed in you.’ And ... our Laying on of Hands and our holding hands with one another as The Body of Christ is our saying to God: ‘O Lord, help me, help us, help us now to be totally immersed in you.’”
God's grace and peace to you, and Happy New Year!