I want to whet your appetite for blessedness.
Not in the way that some TV preachers have hi-jacked the term and transformed it into money and material success. No.
Blessedness for congregation we will learn is about being a church that both experiences God as well as serves God. It is "a glimpse of what the church can be." Imagine coming to church and not merely experiencing church, but experiencing God.
Perhaps you already do. Perhaps some times or most times. Perhaps not at all.
I won't make assumptions one way or the other.
But if we could do more to create the potential for those at Trinity to experience God, wouldn't we?
This summer, the Trinity's council (including me) are reading N. Graham Standish's "Becoming A Blessed Church." I probably used up an entire pen underlining passages in this important book, which we could spend the next several years unpacking, reflecting upon, and being challenged by. (And I think we just might).
In the foreword, a pastor, Stanley Ott, notes:
"In the church's own "activity trap" of people and programs, we can easily lose sight of our Lord. We lose touch with what it means to experience God's love, presence, and power. It is easy to be so consumed by what we are doing for God that we miss the experience of being with God, the experienced of being blessed. (My underlining).
"A church is alive not because its organization is busy. Churches are alive because God is alive.
Let's face it - for those active in a congregation - myself included - it is so easy to view the task of ministry as just the stuff that we do. Busy, busy, good stuff. Important stuff. But somehow we do miss the experience in the midst of our work for the Lord of being with the Lord.
Perhaps we might ask ourselves:
Are we, the community of faith called Trinity Lutheran Church, open to God at our core? Do we have a sense of Christ in our midst? Is God's call and purpose the driving force in our direction? Our decisions?
Maybe? Somewhat? Perhaps better put...sometimes.
Would like to be able to say "yes" more often?
I think so and pray so.
Standish notes that most mainline churches struggle with this.
Churches can become so rational and functional and programmed that they fail to see themselves as the body of Christ, guided by Christ as their head. Yes, they do good things. Perhaps many good things, but they fall into the trap of believing God is in heaven and the church on earth.
Being open to God's purpose, power, and presence nurtures in a church a "vibrant sense of faith, hope and love." Such a church, according to Standish, "is not afraid to serve God in its own way." Rather than trying to fit into some mold or expectation of what a church is - "it is concerned with responding to God's call and God's call alone."
How many times do churches just want to imitate some other church judged successful by some benchmark? They figure, if so and so church does such and such and it is successful, then we should too! Never mind humbly seeking to determine God's particular will for one's church. That takes time. Patience. Faith. Hard work. Do churches have something to teach other churches? Sure. But that is never the place to start.
Standish and I both believe that we should come to worship prepared to meet Christ.
Standish goes on to say that "where there is no expectation of encountering Christ, the church atrophies and dies."
We know churches like this. churches that have lost all expectation of encountering Christ. Whose best days are some time in the distant past rather than right then, right there, because Christ ---is---THERE.
I will close for now, hoping to have intrigued you at least a bit with the idea of becoming a blessed church, with the Vineyard Guild Prayer that Standish shares in his introduction.
Holy God, beloved Trinity,
let me always be rooted in you so that I may live in you and you in me.
Bless me so that you grace may flow through me,
allowing me to bear your fruit to a hungry and helpless world.
As I wander, prune me of all that inhibits your growth in me.
Let me do nothing apart from you so that your joy may be complete in me.
In Christ's name I pray.
Ever with you in Christ,
your vagabond Pastor