Caution: God at work

All Saints,

If you are reading this, you matter to this congregation.

Your prayers and gifts of time, effort, and money make a difference. People meet Jesus through All Saints’ ministries of worship, education, and service. That would not happen without you. God’s work is done with your hands. You are a blessing.

If you are reading this, this congregation matters to you.

In a way, it’s backwards to speak first of how you are a blessing, because this congregation exists not to be blessed but to be a blessing. I fear that, during this time of renewal, the message you hear is all about how you can help All Saints, and not at all about how All Saints can help you.

What are you hearing? I very much would like to know. Really. Drop me a line.

At redevelopment training in Houston, one of the presenters asked a question and invited us to talk about it in groups of two or three. The question relates to all of this—to All Saints mattering to you, and you to All Saints. When it was asked, it immediately struck me as a question I wanted to ask you:

When has this church been there for you when you needed it?

“This is about our heart,” the presenter said. He meant that in two ways: this question is about our heart and renewal in our congregations are about our hearts too. When has this church been there for you when you needed it?

We have been together almost a year. April 1, 2011—no joke—was my first official day as your pastor. And over these months, I tried to listen beneath your words and stories to your hearts. I’ve heard faith and conviction, doubt and fear, hope, disappointment, love, and pain. It’s been a turbulent year for our hearts—a turbulent year after many turbulent years.

It’s worth pausing to note that. Even as I hope and believe the worst is behind us, it’s worth remembering where we have been. In the psalms, lament gives way to hope. But without lament? Without recognizing what has been hard, what is hard now? Without lament, we get stuck. Our lament has to go all the way to the bottom. The deepest of the dark stories must be told and heard before it can be healed.

And, in psalm upon psalm, there are seeds of hope mixed in with the lament. It sounds like this: “God, it’s hard now, sometimes very hard, but we remember the wonders you worked in the past. Do new wonders now. Save us.” Even in a very short one, like Psalm 13, we can see this pattern.

The question is: Who is at work in this time and place? This congregation? Is it humans alone, or is it God? The question is: What do we remember? What memory of what God done already will sustain us until God does a new thing?

When has this church been there for you when you needed it?

If you are reading this, you matter to this congregation, and this congregation matters to you. Don’t forget why and especially don’t forget Who matters most.

Thank you, and thanks be to God.

Pastor Clark Olson-Smith

One Response

  1. your Good Soil story at |

    […] Last month, I asked, “When has this church been there for you when you needed it?” […]

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