Being PRAYERFUL Stewards of our Relationship within Conferences

Being PRAYERFUL Stewards of our Relationship within Conferences

The months of September and October found me once again on the road spending evenings within our eight conferences. A focus of those gatherings was my presentation followed by holy congregational/parish conversations around the theme of “Why Mission? … Because Jesus Said So!” Within my reflections, I sought to remind us that we gather in church buildings to be fed with God’s written Word heard in proclamation and study and with God’s visible Word offered in bath of baptism and meal of body and blood; so that we can scatter into the world to touch the lives of other people with this hope-filled and life-giving story. Loving, forgiving, caring for, and advocating for people in the name of Jesus, in other words, is not just confessional and constitutional for Lutherans. It is in fact biblical!
I quoted Biblical texts each of those evenings, including Jesus’ call to the first disciples, his reference to us as the light of the world in the Sermon on the Mount, his pronouncement in Luke that we are witnesses to Jesus’ suffering and resurrection, and his commissioning of the first disciples to baptize and teach people of all nations found in the closing verses of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. What has struck me about these texts, as I have continued to ponder them, is that Jesus most often addresses his missional call to ministry not to individuals but to people who are formed into community by his call.
This communal focus was a second component of the evening. It was reflected in the design of the gathering. I had asked our pastors and associates in ministry to bring 3-5 people with them so that they might TOGETHER be in holy conversations amidst the congregations of their conference. Again by design, the final question to be addressed by each congregational group in the course of their holy conversations was, “For what shall the people and congregations of this conference pray when they think of your congregation?”
Those prayer concerns were shared in the plenary session that concluded each of the evening meetings. We included them as petitions in the closing prayers and we have been collating them and sending them to all of the congregations in their respective conferences … so that we might be praying for one another in our conference congregations every Sunday and perhaps even daily.
Being people of mission means our focus is not only on our immediate church community. Rather it means looking beyond ourselves to others, and not just with what we have left over! Says Jesus in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke, “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. … Do to others as you would have them do to you.” These are pointed words; there is no fluff here. Some of us may be deeply troubled or disturbed and disagree with their intent. Nonetheless they are words of Jesus spoken to his followers … to me and to you … to us. Of course, Jesus never said being one of his disciples would be easy, and I think it was for that reason that he sent his disciples out to engage the world in groups. Yes Jesus calls us one by one, and we are baptized one by one, but it is together that we are, gathered, enlightened, and sent so that we might be vital and confident witnesses to Jesus and for Jesus in the world.
Why mission? Because Jesus, the one who has all authority, said to do so, not though just within a congregation, but also in the company of other congregations. As Lutherans in these Allegheny hills and valleys we are blessed by neighboring faith communities, let us be prayerful stewards of the relationship we share in the name of Jesus continually praying – “Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord” … and may God’s people in the Allegheny Synod say … AMEN! +Bishop Pile