Thoughts from Our Pastor
7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. – Galations 6:7-10
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Eph 1:2 It is hard to believe that it is already almost Autumn. This is a time of the year that means many different (and good) things to so many of us. Some of those include: cooler weather, a return to the “normalcy” of routine (the kid’s go back to school), the church calendar begins to return to a more familiar pace and though our schedules seem to be busier, they give us the comfort of order compared to the carefree mood of summertime.
Perhaps it’s the colors that begin to show up that are your favorite. Or the foods, like apples and warm cider on a cool evening. Though there are certain colors that excite more than others particularly around these parts. We cannot escape or ignore the fact that here in the heart of western PA for just about everyone Fall can only mean one thing-you know what I am about to say right?! Especially in Beaver Falls and Pittsburgh-IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON and we bleed green and gold or orange and black or blue and white or gold and blue or whatever the color combo is for your school or team!!!
In football country and especially in the Steeler nation we are nothing if not fans, right? I’m told we’re some of the best fans in the world. World travelers report the existence of Steeler fans in almost every major country. Most sports fans and especially Steeler fans would define themselves at the very least as an “enthusiastic admirer”, a definition used by Christian author and Pastor Kyle Idleman to describe what a fan is in his book entitled, “Not A Fan”. We will be using this resource as part of a six week sermon series and Thursday evening study beginning on Sept. 19 at 7 pm at Riverview UMC as we continue our theme of discipleship and being disciples (followers) who are made or transformed to make disciples.
Perhaps you are not particularly fond of football, though I’d be careful admitting that openly around here. However, most of us do have something or someone we admire that we might consider ourselves fans of. What about Jesus? How would we describe our relationship with him? The “Not A Fan” series will have us examining that question closely and learning about how we might describe ourselves right now. If you had to define your relationship with Christ right now through this lens of fan or follower what would you say? You might wonder, “What’s the difference and how the heck does that have anything to do with us and Jesus?”
You will be seeing many signs of this journey toward deeper relationship–literally, as we begin. There will be activities and visuals in worship that bid each of us to unpack this question and what impact it might have on us individually and as a worshipping community. I’m sure that along the way we will be challenged but especially loved, comforted and supported in discovering together just what is required as we open ourselves to hear the call of Christ to our hearts-beckoning to us to take that next step deeper into the heart of God through intimacy with Christ.
All summer through this time, this liturgical season-if you prefer the technical terminology- of “ordinary time”, we have stayed with and studied the subject of what it means to be invited and called into God’s heart and so we continue on the journey and ask some important, life changing perhaps life challenging questions. What might be involved in answering that call to participate in the Kingdom of God? What will it mean to follow and to allow ourselves to be made into fishers of people, people who go therefore and make disciples of all nations-all places?
We have already discovered that discipleship is not instant and that minds and hearts and hands are all needed. All of these will be transformed in the process as Jesus invites us into intimate relationship with Him. We learned that with the life of Christ as our example and how through the power Christ through the Holy Spirit we may be transformed by the teaching and love of Christ. We are not only invited into the process, but we are commanded to participate in God’s Kingdom so that others may hear the call of Jesus Christ and accept the invitation of Christ to all people into God’s heart. This may be accomplished when we choose to allow the Spirit to work in us and through our words and our actions towards others. The fruit such service is apparent (or not) in our obedience to the teaching and commands of Christ to go to all people and all nations, making disciples and making room for each child of God as Jesus Christ was so careful to do for each one of us, paying the ultimate price.
In the coming weeks and months the focus of your leadership and our ministry will be finding ways to continue to “make room” for God’s children of all ages right here at Central as well as finding ways to thrive and do the things we love to do-serving our community. The days have been difficult for a while now and most are saddened and frightened about the level of decline our church continues to experience. Yet the Centralian Christian spirit is alive and well and we are excited for the wealth of possibilities that wait even as we struggle financially as a church and a charge.
As we search for what will save us, we can and do rely on the one who will save us, and we remember that we are not limited, as people of faith in Christ, by our own abilities and resources. Faith calls us beyond what is visible (2 Cor. 4:18).
Recently, a large projection screen was donated and placed in our sanctuary so that we may use multimedia presentations and videos to better minister to those who worship with us now and to prepare for those who we expect to come. Future plans include the possibility of having movie nights. We also plan to complete another Natural Church Development survey so that we can evaluate and improve our ministries. This is good news because we are intentionally entering the process of holy conversation together.
As we begin to work through this transformative process, we are confident that we will become closer to God and to one another. The way will not be easy or quick and it has not been, nor will it be, painless. We are going to have to be willing to seek out the best selves in each other, the ones that God has created us to be and the ones claimed by Christ. This will require grace. Not because we deserve it, but because while we were yet sinners we received such grace from Christ (Rom 5:8). We all will need to be disciplined in using the routes we have been given by our church to communicate with one another. These are routes that your leadership is dedicated to assessing and refining over the next weeks and months.
9 And I will put this third into the fire, refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.
They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, “They are my people”; and they will say, “The Lord is our God.” Zec 13:9
Moving forward in ministry together with Christ and through this season of uncertainty and refinement is what your Pastor and church leadership are dedicated to doing. As followers of Christ we must recognize that a life of discipleship does require a cost to be counted, a cost not unlike that paid by Jesus Christ for each of us (Lk 14:27). In Christ’s loving example, as those who call ourselves disciples, we must be willing to take up our crosses, dying daily to self (Lk 9:23), bearing with one another in love (Gal 6:2) and sacrificing self in service to others so that all may be included and given room in God’s Kingdom (Jn 13:14).
I firmly believe that we stand in a hopeful time of possibilities and a turning point for the life of our faith and our congregations. What once was hidden i.e., our hurts, our fears, etc… have been brought out into the light where the love and healing grace of Christ has victory (2 Cor 4:6). We have God’s promise that we are never alone (Heb 13:5) and the assurance that Christ can do far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20-21). What could be more hopeful for the people of God than that?
I invite and encourage everyone who can be there to participate in the upcoming Charge Conference on September 15 at Riverview UMC at 7 pm. Let us demonstrate our love for one another as we continue the conversation about the future of our church.
Your Fellow Servant in Christ,