“Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy…” – I Peter 1:8
The letter of First Peter was written in the second half of the first century to early Christian churches established throughout Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). As noted in my sermon of April 27/28, Peter likely had the apostle, Thomas, and the first week of Easter in mind in the verse quoted above. Recall that Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the apostles on Easter evening and said that he would not believe unless he saw Jesus, himself. A week later, Jesus appears to Thomas and all of the apostles and Thomas expresses belief. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” You realize that blessing falls not only upon the churches of Asia Minor but also upon each of us, right!
Reflecting on my life of faith, I must confess that I cannot express the feeling about my faith any better than Peter proclaimed it, “an indescribable and glorious joy.” When I mentioned that in my sermon, many of you shook your heads in agreement. Unfortunately, I must say that I meet, know, or hear of many people whose lives are far from indescribable and glorious joy. In Christian compassion, we want others to have the same joy that we know through our faith, experience, and relationship with Jesus and each other in this community. I offered a visual image in my sermon that several people said they resonated with, “Lutheran Church of the Resurrection is a lifesaver of hope and community in an ocean of hopelessness and isolation.” Yes, one great irony of the digital age of connectedness is that so many of our neighbors feel hopeless and… isolated!
In this year of our congregational theme of building bridges, I wonder if we can’t build bridges through multiple doors into our community of hope and care. I realize that it is difficult for most Lutherans to be evangelists. We are better at living our faith in service than we are at casting out the life saver of hope by invitation to join us for worship. However, I wonder if it might be easier for us to invite non-church-affiliated friends to LCR events that might be of interest to them? Mixing metaphors, that is, building bridges to other doors than our sanctuary.
Let me offer you a few examples of what I mean. Jay Guenther first got involved with LCR through our Yoga classes and contemplative worship services. Betti Glynn first got involved with Anderson Churches for Racial Unity. Through getting to know a couple LCR members and me in ACRU meetings and discussions, she started coming to worship, and then she (actually John, first) joined the church. Last summer, Emily Chesnut attended LCR for the first time when we hosted the Emanuel Nine commemoration worship service with Allen Temple AME Church. Emily has great interest in justice issues, became interested in our efforts, and joined LCR in our last new member class. Each of these, in my estimation, is an example of a bridge to a different door at LCR. The only thing missing from these stories is that none of these individuals was invited onto the bridge by an LCR member; they found the way on their own. This is where you come in and where I want to make an emphasis and a plea.
We are going to begin emphasizing and publicizing LCR events more intentionally. Each week, in our worship folder, on the very last page, facing the benediction/dismissal page, we are going to list special events taking place in the life of our congregation. It is my hope that every LCR member will consider those who are in your sphere of influence – neighbors, co-workers, friends, school associations, sports teams, music/art organizations, book club, and even your enemies (Jesus said to love them, right?) – and consider who you can invite onto a bridge to an LCR door.
For example, in the worship folder (and weekly announcements) beginning with May 11/12 weekend, you will see the following:
Memorial Service for those who have experienced perinatal loss – May 19; do you know a family that has experienced perinatal loss? Our society does not often make space to acknowledge the grief and pain and remember the death of children. While perhaps difficult, this would be an excellent opportunity to invite a friend. My experience is that these families, universally, find comfort in these memorials. (See below.)
Vacation Bible School – June 3-7; who do you know with children? Do you know teens who need service hours? Do you have a friend who could volunteer in the kitchen making snacks? Invite them to join us.
4th commemoration of The Emanuel Nine – June 14; who do you know that is concerned about race relations? Who do you know that likes to sing (we’ll have a community choir)? Who do you know that enjoys diversity? Invite them to Allen Temple with you. (See page 11.)
Pride Parade – June 23; who do you know that is concerned for LGBTQ rights? Invite them to walk with LCR’s group.
Amid the challenges and loneliness of life, we have an indescribable and glorious joy because of our relationship with Jesus and each other in this community. Oh that our neighbors would know the joy! You hold the “life preserver” in your hand. Please be intentional about throwing it out broadly. As we used to say at the end of every worship service a few years ago, until it became rote, “And next week…invite a friend!”