Epiphany 4

 

“Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations’” (Jeremiah 1:4-5).

Grace. As Lutheran Christians, “grace” is our favorite word. It is the word that Martin Luther rediscovered in the Bible over 500 years ago that led to the Protestant Reformation. It is the word that claims that our relationship with God, our salvation, is pure gift—a gift gained for us in full through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In the words of Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (2:8-9). In Christ, God has already done everything for us. Everything that we do is now our grateful response.

Our congregation’s mission statement powerfully captures the centrality of grace—To be and make disciples of Christ, in response to God’s grace. God’s grace comes first. Our being disciples of Christ and our making disciples of Christ comes only in response to the grace God has first given us in Christ. Several weeks ago now when the leadership of our congregation met for an entire day together to discern how to best move forward regarding our campus improvements, we started by talking about who we are as a congregation. As we shared, this word “grace” kept coming up. It became increasingly clear that St. John’s is a congregation that believes that God’s grace is for all people and not just for some. God’s grace embraces all. God’s grace welcomes all. God’s grace reaches out to all. On the cross, Jesus died for all and from the grave, Jesus rose for all. By it’s very nature, grace cannot be limited or it is no longer grace. Grace is for all.

How then do we live out the centrality of grace in our life together as God’s people? One of the answers is HOSPITALITY. Hospitality is our human response to the grace that has first been shown us in Christ. As Christ extends the hospitality of relationship with God to us, so too are we, through both our words and our actions, freed to extend the hospitality of relationship with God to others. Hospitality becomes more than coffee and cookies. (Don’t get me wrong... there’s nothing wrong with coffee and cookies, especially chocolate chip!!!) True Christian hospitality that extends forth from God’s grace is about opening ourselves to others, especially to those others who are different than us. Until we learn how to extend true Christian hospitality to others, we are not fully living in the grace that God has first extended to us.

The leadership of this congregation is united in identifying that the primary need for our physical campus is hospitality. Our buildings, our parking lot, our signage are simply not as hospitable and welcoming as they need to be in order to help us most fully live out our mission to be and make disciples of Christ, in response to God’s grace. At its core, it is not about our buildings. At its core it is about our mission—God’s mission. However, aligning our physical campus with our congregation’s mission is key to the continued vitality and growth that we all want for St. John’s.

If God’s grace is for all and if our mission as a congregation is for all, then how can we make sure that our physical campus is for all and that all experience the grace of God in Jesus in this space?

Called by God’s GRACE+

Pastor Greg

 
Tucker GoodComment