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The Incredible Gift of the Community of Faith

4September2012

I think in general I speak for all pastors when I say that, at least at some point in our day to day ministry, we wonder if what we are doing makes much of a difference in the lives of the communities and amongst the people we serve. Our hope is that God is using us as vessels of his mercy and grace but quite often the feedback we hear most is how we have fallen short or that there is some problem to be fixed. But every once in awhile we get a glimpse of pure hope in the words of one of the saints, who we weren’t sure was even listening, and it keeps us going, marching forward, tending, preaching, teaching, walking beside. That happened for me (for us as a congregation) about a week and a half ago.

At the beginning of August we sent one of our nineteen year old young men to the Navy. We prayed over him, blessed him, had some sandwiches with him and bid him godspeed. Before he went I spent some time with him one on one because I knew he was a bit nervous to go away from home (something new) and to boot camp (something foreign and difficult). We recalled together his entrance into the community of faith when he was just beginning his high school years. He and his younger brother were baptized and proceeded to do the work to become confirmed in the faith. I reminded him of God’s promises, that he would never be alone and that if we needed strength all he needed to do was to confess his faith and pray the way that Jesus taught him, “Our Father who art in heaven. . . ”  He called one morning to tell me that his leave date was moved up and that he would be going in the morning to Great Lakes. We said goodbye again and I gave him one more blessing, hoping that he heard it and would be able to draw on his faith when he needed it.

Last week I received a letter from him. Wow!  A letter from a 19 year old young man to his pastor!  Has this ever happened before? Does this kind of thing still happen today?

He wrote to me with a message to the entire church.  His request was that I read his letter in worship because he wanted to tell the congregation that he knew they were praying for him and that he was returning the favor daily. He wanted everyone to know that he was alright and that he was depending on his Lord. He wanted his parents to know he was doing well, other than the wisdom teeth he had pulled the day before, and that he had been to worship there.  I wanted to the congregation to know that this evidence of our faithful journey and the impact we have on young people’s lives doesn’t always come back to us so soon. (Soon is a relative term I suppose!) Devin’s letter fit so perfectly with Peter’s confession to Jesus that day in the gospel lesson: Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life! We have come to KNOW and BELIEVE that you are the holy one of God!!

Devin asked us for a group picture so he could see our faces and remember the gift that is his faith family. After our late worship we all filed out of the sanctuary and this is what we did:

Image

This picture and two others are now on their way to our young sailor. I hope he finds it as encouraging as his words to us! It reminds me that we are all in this together. . . we love one another, support each other, and sometimes we even mention to each other the fact that it matters. On the back of his envelope to me he had scrawled the words, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,” and “Our Father who art in heaven. . .” On the blue envelope that is coming his way it says on the back, “I thank my God every time I think of you.”

Amen.

ACL@CCD

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