Notes from Pastor John
We begin another church calendar year, our 137th. The tradition of beginning a school and church year dates back to when children stayed on the farms for har-vest. We were much more agriculturally oriented and sensitive to the sea-sons. These traditions took hold and continue from year to year although children and teenagers are seldom driven by the seasons anymore.
Our year begins with a significant change. We will move our worship experience from 9:30AM to 10:00AM. The change will occur the first Sunday of the new church calendar year on September 10th. This new time accommodates others who wish to participate with us, and will help many who help in the morning wor-ship experience. Our catch line is “10 on the 10th.” We need everyone’s help in get-ting the word out. Following our morning worship experience, we will share in our first potluck for our fellowship time.
That we are celebrating our 137th year is a testament to the faithfulness, service, giving’s, and dedication of the First Baptist fellowship, both members and participants. Faithfulness, service, giving’s, and dedication are all necessary for a healthy congregation. If even one of these elements is missing, the church begins to suffer. We enjoy the fellowship and have all been blessed by the ministries of the church. It all happens when people join in to help. We can at times become too de
pendent on one committee or group, not realizing how overworked and tired its members are. When everyone con-tributes something of their time and re-sources, we lift up the church and it re-mains healthy.
One of my favorite stories is about a group of monks who were faced with having to close their monastery. The five members were heavy hearted and were trying to figure out what to do. One of the more audacious suggestions was that they treat each other and every visitor as if that person “were Jesus in disguise.” They committed to this plan and in very little time the monastery was thriving.
I wonder if we could extend this lesson to our church: to treat everyone and each other as if each “were Jesus in disguise.”
What would this entail?
One of the first things we would do is to draw close to the person. I would try my best to get as close to Jesus as I could. Almost everyone in our country has faced the desire and struggle to be-long. One of the biggest psychological issues we are facing as a culture is loneliness. In a day when everyone is connected through the Internet, some people are more isolated than ever. Some-times the handshake or hug we share with someone else on Sunday morning is the only human contact that person will experience during the week. Calling someone by name is a key part of welcoming and recognizing someone else. Being welcomed and recognized is one of the crucial things that helps others feel that they belong. Although we are good at recognizing and greeting everyone, we need to be even more sensitive to welcoming people and insure that everyone is greeted multiple times. If the visitor were Jesus, I believe everyone would want to greet him.
If Jesus were to show up, I would hang on his every word. Every person, from the homeless to the very wealthiest has something to share. It might be a story, an insight, a piece of wisdom, an experience. One of the best ways to get what they can contribute to you is to ask questions. My dad once said, “I think I am able to ask anyone something about themselves, be they a prince or a pauper.” He enjoyed very much knowing what others had experienced and done in their lifetime. If Jesus showed up in disguise, would I be willing to ask questions to get him to reveal himself? I have about a thousand questions I would like to ask him. I should practice them with those who are in front of me. People connect through shared stories and experiences. The skill most needed by a good conversationalist is the ability to listen.
I think if Jesus were showing up, I would want our facility to look its best. I don’t think I would want him to see me sitting, but doing something. There is always something someone can do for HIS church. It may be acting as a greeter, picking up after the service, serving at the fellowship moments after worship, taking out our trash, mowing the yard, or pulling weeds. None of these actions are especially difficult or time consuming, but they are all needed to make HIS church presentable to both the community and to HIM. I like to look at things, not as my responsibility, fault, or problem, but with the question “What can I do about this situation?” If Jesus showed up in disguise, I think he would want to see me serving. What can you do?
If Jesus showed up in disguise, I don’t think he would want us to keep it a secret. I don’t think any of us would. We would probably all be saying, “Don’t tell anyone this, but Jesus is showing up in disguise at our church on Sunday.” If what we do in worship, Christian education, fellowship, and missions is valuable to you, it is valuable to someone else. Who? How do I get them to our church?
Every night on the nightly news, the commentator closes the program by saying, “Thank you for spending some of your evening with us.” I cannot begin to count the blessings I have received from participating in the Christian faith. They are too numerous to count. In my hurry, I occasionally for-get to say “Thank you!” I hope it is not too late to treat everyone with an attitude of gratitude. We can be thankful to those we don’t know, “Thank you for worshipping with us!”
Maybe Jesus is in disguise. HE is the other!