I thought I would reflect a little on the summer. It is difficult to believe that this is the first week of September, summer has just flown by.
During the summer worship I shared on the New testament letter called Ephesians. It is a letter written to the church centered at Ephesis and it was intended to be shared broadly with many churches. The writer, who may have been Paul, wrote it to help the church which was a blend of Jews and Gentiles, have a deeper understanding of their life together in Christ. I used shoes as a metaphor for different aspects and challenges of out faith. We have collected over 70 pairs of shoes to go to different agencies in our area. Thanks to everyone who brought in shoes to give away. (I also preached barefoot as a symbol of our connection with those who have no shoes, and also the practice of removing shoes when we stand on Holy Ground. I found this a real joy and wish I could do it all the time)
The life of the church goes on and continues to need people committed to taking the risk of faith-filled living, which brings me to a couple of other thoughts.
One day on my vacation, I was sitting, just sitting absorbing the day and it’s peace and celebrating the beauty around me. Perhaps like me, you have experienced a wonderful joy and closeness with God when you are out, and see the wonder of the day. It was a lovely gift to me to just sit, and I thought about how often people tell me that they worship when they are outside and that they do not need the church for worship. In that moment, I echoed that truth and that joy.
But strangely enough as I sat there I began to think about where I would worship on my Sunday off, and what the worship would be like, and who I would meet. And I realized that as great a gift as those moments of quiet and solitude were, they are only a very small part of my worship, longing and experience. A part of Psalm 84 popped into my mind ( I had to look it up to remember which Psalm it was from). The Psalm begins
“How lovely is your dwelling place O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord, my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
and then it continues on verse 10:
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”
I believe that we can worship and experience God in so many places besides the formal church setting, but I also want to affirm that it is so important for us to connect with one another as a Body of Christ, together in “church.”
We may find challenges at church, but it is also one of the best and richest places to grow in faith in a way that involves our lives beyond a beautiful moment of solitary reflection and worship. So as I sat and reflected on the wonder of God’s creation around me I found myself really longing for the connection with others in worship. Perhaps you do too.
So that leads me to another thought. Later that day I got a telephone book out ( yes, I still use a telephone book) and looked up churches in the area where I was staying. I ended up in the section that said: “Churches, Independent”.
Going down the list, between two other church listing, I found an interesting listing. In a list of about 8 or 10 churches there was one listed as “ The Mattress Store”. It naturally caught my eye, and I had some fun reflecting about worship in a “mattress store”. Would we each get our own mattress? Would we get to chose – soft or firm, could we dial up our faith number like you dial up a mattress firmness number? Perhaps we could say to the usher: “Ah, today I will take a “4” please. Uplifting, but not so challenging that I feel as if I have to respond. I just want to be comfortable today, thank you very much. Maybe next week I’ll opt for a higher number.” So all of this is silly, I know, but it does come to mind! What faith number would you pick in a Mattress Store Church?
Finally in the same vane, of giving people access to our church in a more updated format from the telephone book, We have a new website up and working: http://www.westspringfieldumc.org. As time goes on we hope to post much more information about our congregation and the opportunities for worship and ministry together. Thanks to Heather Murphy and her friend Sarah Platanitis who worked together designing it for us.
It has been a good summer for me and I give thanks to God each day for the wonderful moments when I sensed God leading my life and for the gift of each of you. Some of you I know well and some I only know a little, but I know that each of you has a faith story and it is important. As always, I invite you to come to worship and be part of the journey here at he West Springfield United Methodist Church.
I send each of you blessings and I look forward to the fall and our lives together.