December 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ – …..

May grace and peace be yours in abundance (I Peter 1:2a). …..

In February I began a series of brief articles on the Marks of a Missional Congregation relying heavily on Stephen P. Bouman’s, The Mission Table: Renewing Congregation & Community (© 2013 Augsburg Fortress).  Over these past months we have considered that a congregation in mission:  is always listening…to God and to the neighborhood; mentors and trains its leaders; nurtures communal leadership; faces paralysis with courage; risks new things without fear of failure; reroots in its community; is shaped by Word and sacraments; and is clear about money and relationships.

Each article includes Scripture, questions for reflection and discussion, and a prayer.  Perhaps your church council, adult study, youth group, coffee group will use these monthly writings as a time to engage in learning, discernment and reflection together.  Previous month’s articles are available on the synod website: www.albertasynod.ca

A congregation in mission is propelled by the resurrection of Jesus.

The apostle Paul made clear throughout his ministry that his mission, like ours, was born on Easter.  He never ‘got over’ that appearance of Christ on the road to Damascus:

While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me.  I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”…Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus (Acts 22:6-7, 11).

For Paul, this experience was both conversion and commissioning as an apostle.

In Italian artist Caravaggio’s 1601 painting of this scene, Paul is flat on his back with legs outstretched, arms raised up to heaven, and eyes shut since he has been blinded by the light  (www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/CoreArt/art/bar_cvgg…). The central figure in the painting is the horse, which is shown sensitively lifting its hoof so as not to tread on the poor creature sprawled beneath its belly in the dust.  The encounter with the risen Christ is a devastating one; it lays Paul on the ground in absolute vulnerability.

Is it too much to say that unless that is our church – every baptized person and every congregation as a center for mission and every institution and network in the fabric of our church – lying there in the dust and blinded by the light, we will never recover the Great Commission to “go therefore and make disciples,” to baptize and to teach them the way of Jesus Christ?

Reclaiming mission is to be again stunned by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, to reclaim our utter dependence on the risen Lord.

Stunned, we are ready to listen – to God, to partners in the household of faith, to our neighbors in the world, to signs of the resurrection all around us.

Read and Reflect: Acts 22:1-21
Discuss and Reflect:
1.        What in this reading leads you to say, “I wonder about…?”, or, “I noticed…?”
2.        When have you encountered the risen Christ in ways that changed the direction of your life or moved you deeply?
3.        Has your congregation ever experienced a ministry or program dying and something new being raised in its place?  Share of this experience together.
4.        Comment on the following: Reclaiming mission is to be again stunned by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, to reclaim our utter dependence on the risen Lord.  

Pray together: Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, but always to your glory and the welfare of your people, through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.   Amen.   (Commitment, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 86)

I have heard from many that their congregation, council, small group has been using the monthly articles for shared learning, discernment and reflection together.  It is my intent to continue this practice in 2015 focusing on Philippians.

The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

In Christ Jesus –
Shalom,
+Larry

The Rev. Dr. Larry Kochendorfer, Bishop
Synod of Alberta and the Territories
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Spirit -Led Leadership  –  Hope-Filled Discipleship  –  Innovative Tradition  –  Collaborative Partnerships