A Community Worthy of the Gospel…

by Pastor Vera Guebert-Steward

pastorvera-at-altar

I’m guessing that you may get tired of my fascination with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But his work, life, death and legacy are such a profound blessing to me and an encouragement for the church. I pray you appreciate, if you don’t already, his work and wisdom, too. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship he writes “The community of the saints is not an ‘ideal’ community consisting of perfect and sinless men and women, where there is no need of further repentance. No, it is a community which proves that it is worthy of the gospel of forgiveness by constantly and sincerely proclaiming God’s forgiveness.”

How often I have yearned for the ‘ideal’ community and have even strived for it in my almost 18 years as your Pastor; as if creating such a community is within my power and could possibly be up to me. That is so far from the truth. Every time we hit a bump in the road or “bottom out” on some divisive pothole, I feel as though I have failed. But according to Bonhoeffer, we are not responsible for creating community. That good work has already been done by Jesus himself. Instead, it is our responsibility to live into it with as much forgiveness, grace and mercy that we can muster. To suggest that we are somehow responsible for creating something only God can fashion, is a bit of an insult to the Creator and Author of life and love; our lives and loves.

Bonhoeffer goes on to say: “The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.” While challenges sometimes exist in the church and even between brothers and sisters in Christ, the more we focus on the cross of Christ and on those in need that Jesus puts in our lives, the less energy and time we’ll have to hurt each other. We are human, after all, and that means we will sometimes insult, accuse, hurt, sin against and find fault with a brother or sister. But this I know…ELC is a powerful place and as Richard Rohr writes, “It is at the bottom where we find grace; for like water, grace seeks the lowest place and there it pools up.” Maybe the next couple of months might be a good time to rest in the lowest place in order to be lifted up by our generous and merciful God.

The quiet days of summer are upon us. I give God thanks for this time to breathe, take notice of creation, relish in the fresh mornings with their glorious songs of birds as they wait for our feeders to be brought out to them, so they can eat. I give God thanks for the furious flapping of hummingbird wings and the sounds of North Turkey Creek flowing with full force through our back yard. I give God thanks that we have time to reflect on God’s goodness, on the beautiful community of saints God has gathered at ELC, and the abundance of forgiveness, grace and love we share so freely.

May your summer days be filled with soft reflection on the family of faith that you belong to here in Evergreen. May you trust that our congregation is worthy of the Gospel because we live in love and proclaim and grant forgiveness. We offer such gifts to one another because that is what, God in Christ, has offered to us. Blessed Summer my family in Christ.