On 13 September, the first Sunday after Labor Day, we will once again celebrate our “Mass in the Grass” at Deland Park (on the waterfront at the foot of Erie Ave.) This will happen “rain or shine,” with the park shelter reserved. The one service (at 10:15 a.m.) will allow us to offer our regular Sunday worship in another place, and to invite as many people as we know to join us in worship, prayer and praise, to be followed by a picnic meal, games, and fellowship.
With “Mass in the Grass” we kick-off a busy season. Sunday School and Adult Education restart the following week. Choir and Episcopal Youth Community will be active again. Our Grace Abounds web-based ministries will continue to accelerate in development, with this month being a busy time for physical construction, equipment installation, and content development. And, opportunities for volunteer service in the community abound, through LoveINC, SCIO, ReBike, The Salvation Army, ... the list goes on.
What is common in all this activity is what is thematic at any time we wish each other a Happy New Year. It is (as in the making of New Year’s resolutions) the intention to take a new start as an opportunity to dedicate our wills to becoming who we wish to be.
Who we wish to become and be is, in fact, one way to look at our identity in Christ, our vocation to follow the Lord. And, when we think of the word “vocation” the first word that generally comes to mind is “work”. Which means that in resolving to refocus on our Christian vocation we need to first stop and again engage with what it means to do God’s work, described by Jesus at John 6.29 as believing in Him, as following Him, and being His disciple.
Everything that we do as a worshiping community, all that we are as the Body of Christ in this place, must be work which is Christ-centered. And this work requires focus. It requires that we don’t allow God to become just one “priority” amongst many. It means that all of our priorities are set with reference to our identity in Christ; that worship and prayer, service and mission, ongoing formation and all outreach must be grounded in following Jesus Christ! In all that we do, in every ministry and program, in the content of all forms of communication and outreach and community-building that is embodied in Grace Abounds, ask yourself two questions. First, ask “What is God calling me to?” How will you experience yourself—with all of your gifts and with anything you would change—as one created in the image and likeness of God, and for whom God has given His only Son? Second, ask yourself, “How is God equipping me to share this identity and vocation with those around me?” How will I experience God, and share this experience, with other members of His Body in this worshiping community, and how will I share my faith with others, to invite them to join with me in worship and prayer, service and mission, ongoing formation and outreach? How does God equip me to share in ways that allows others to come to do the work of God?
A final note: Most New Year’s resolutions are abandoned within a month because most people set unrealistic goals. If I say I am going to lose 20 pounds, and run 3 miles in 24 minutes, that’s just not going to happen again. So, if I focus on a goal like that I will quickly become discouraged and quit. In focusing on the work of God, be practical and take small steps, steps that you can measure success upon. These can be as simple as (1) setting aside time every day for prayer; (2) being attentive to God’s word in Scripture, as in the praying of Morning or Evening Prayer, or in some form of ongoing Bible study; (3) fasting by skipping one meal a week, and dedicating the money saved to a work of charity; (4) ... the list goes on! In these small practices we experience success and reinforcement, and we are formed as those in Christ. “Activity” become identity, and identity determines activity. And then? We are never merely “busy”; we are alive in Christ!
Yours in Christ Jesus,
The Rev. Dr. Karl C. Schaffenburg Rector