Monday, February 13, 2012

Opening Devotion for an Annual Meeting

Welcome in the name of Christ,
the one who came to be one of us,
that all might be saved.

As we gather today for our Annual General Meeting we reflect on the past year, and plan for the year to come.  I’m sure most of you would agree that this past year has had its struggles – we have witnessed a growing impact of secular society on participation levels in the worship services and programs of the church; we have discussed the ramifications of the motions coming from the Human Sexuality Statement passed at the national convention of the ELCIC, and discovered deep differences of understanding around this topic; we have experienced concern and worry as our Senior Pastor was diagnosed with cancer and has gone through a time of difficult treatment and surgery. In some ways it might feel like a year we wish had never taken place.

But we are not given the choice of when we live, and while we might feel these are times of increased struggle and hardship, the truth is, the Christian church has always faced challenging times.  Throughout the New Testament there is evidence of similar struggles almost 2000 years ago.  The early church had to function within a culture that seemed overwhelmingly powerful and irresistible.  They even had to encourage attendance at worship – as we read in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…”

The first Christians wrestled with differences of understanding in terms of acceptable practice and doctrine within the church.  Paul argued for the acceptance of Gentiles without the condition of circumcision, and in the letter to the Romans we read these words addressing differences of understanding:
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.  Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables.  Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.    (Romans 14:1-8)
Listen to Paul’s declaration “We are the Lord’s” – that’s what holds us together. It is Christ who called us into fellowship with one another, Christ who holds us together in love.  A love that will not let us go, even in death!

Hearing a diagnosis of cancer reminds us of our own mortality, and at such times we need to remember these words – in life, in death, we are the Lord’s!  Facing our own mortality has a way of putting things in perspective – we learn what really matters – and what we discover is that what matters most is relationships – our relationship with God and one another.  We were made us to be in communion with God and with others – but because of sin, our age-old self-centeredness, we struggle in these relationships.  We wrestle in our relationship with God, we disharmonize in our relationships each other – but in the end the final word is not struggle, the final word is promise: “We are the Lord’s.”

As we gather to reflect on the past year, with its mixture of occasions to celebrate and times of strife - and as we collectively plan for the future and our common mission, with all the challenges and uncertainty that goes along with such endeavours; may we always remember what holds us safe and secure, what brings us together and gives us a mission, what has sustained the church of Christ from its very beginning until the present time – may we remember, and be grateful for, God’s love and mercy.


  1. Your posts are excellent and enjoyed! Keep them coming.

  2. Thanks Kristy. I appreciate knowing my posts are being read in places like Norway!