Summer is here! Okay, I know that summer doesn’t technically begin until June 21, but for all practical purposes in places ruled by the academic calendar, summer is June – August. Things tend to slow down at this time of year. It’s a good time for a vacation week or two. But in the wake of annual reports written for our congregational meeting, staff reviews, and my own goal setting for the coming program year, it’s also a good time to think about making plans – not only about the coming program year, but also about the bigger picture of how we can be faithful to our calling to be the church of Christ in this particular time and place.
The world is changing at what seems like an unprecedented pace. Technology is changing how we live. Jobs are changing. How we spend our time and our money is changing. And how we relate one another and to traditional institutions and traditional ways of doing things is changing too. All of this change can be seen as a threat, especially to traditional institutions like the church. Or it can be seen as an opportunity. Or even, maybe, as a mix of both threat and opportunity. How we regard the change that is in front of us will influence how we see the nature of our mission. If change is only bad, then we might be tempted to circle the wagons and defend our cherished traditions at all cost. If change is only good, only an opportunity for better things to come, then we might be tempted to throw out everything traditional in favor of the new flavor of the month. If we regard change as a mixed bag, as both potentially destructive and constructive, then we will have to be discerning about how we live into the future faithfully.
I think you will realize by now that it is that latter alternative that characterizes my approach. I am convinced that there are some core affirmations and practices that are essential to Christian faith and community. It’s no coincidence that I took time last fall to teach a class on the Lutheran Confessions for the synod’s adult faith formation program. I find them to be a compelling summary of the Christian faith, even though they are nearly 500 years old. And not only did I commit myself to teach and preach in accordance with those core affirmations in my ordination vows (and again in my installation as your pastor), but I find them to be ever before me, continually informing my thinking and my practice.
But with those core affirmations and practices firmly at the center, I believe there is also great freedom in the Lutheran tradition for how they are applied and lived out in different times and contexts. That means that in times of rapid change it is particularly important to think carefully about how our current practices advance those central things, and how might actually be an obstacle to them.
We are entering the season of Pentecost, the time of the church in the liturgical calendar. Pentecost is when remember that Christ has called the church into being by the power of the Holy Spirit to be his agents in the world, to make known the good news of his love for the life of the world. I’m going to take some intentional time this summer to think about these things, do some reading, and engage in conversation with colleagues and church leaders. If you are interested in thinking about these things with me, I’d welcome your input and collaboration. I’m also going to take some time for rest, relaxation, and reconnecting with some neglected areas of my life.
However you spend your summer, I pray that it will be a time of rest, renewal, and recommitment to your vocation as a follower of Jesus in all aspects of your life, not least of which is this community of faith. May God bless us richly in the weeks and months to come.
+ Pastor Repp