Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Character and Context (Brian E. Konkol)

The following is a pastoral letter first published in the "Dialogue" of Lake Edge Lutheran Church (Volume 29, Issue 10: October, 2012), and can be found at:

As we consider the various changes that are currently taking place at Lake Edge Lutheran Church, we are mindful that such moments in history carry with them a diversity of emotions.  For some, change brings excitement and energy, while others feel an outpouring of anxiety and fear.  In other words, some jump for joy, while others mourn and shed tears.  In all reality, the far majority of us are somewhere between these two extremes, for we are excited, yet also nervous, and while we are energized and thrilled, we are also anxious and concerned.  And so, as we wrestle with the assortment of thoughts, emotions, and expectations that accompany us during these times of change, it is important to remain grounded in prayer, keep faith, and humbly ask God to show us a path forward.

In the midst of this period of significant and persistent change, God calls us to be faithful in two primary ways: 1) Faithful to our CHARACTER, and 2) Faithful to our CONTEXT.

On the one hand, the CHARACTER of Lake Edge Lutheran Church is that which defines our identity, and among other things, our CHARACTER is rooted in who God is and that which God is calling us to be.  In other words, we belong not to our church, but God’s church, thus it is God to whom we are ultimately accountable, and it is God to whom we seek for direction and strength.  And so, we are called by God to remain true to our CHARACTER, which is found in our vision, mission, and values.  And so, in order to remain faithful to our CHARACTER, the time is upon us to review and reflect upon our identity, for such acts are incredibly important as we move forward into the future.

In addition to our commitment to CHARACTER, we are also called by God to be faithful to our CONTEXT, for the world around us is constantly changing, thus God’s church requires flexibility and an ability to adapt to new and unfolding circumstances.  As stated by Jaroslav Pelikan, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”  And so, in order to honor the mothers and fathers who helped build God’s Church in the past CONTEXT, we should not blindly accept what has always been done before, but rather, consider our current CONTEXT, and do what is best to ensure a proper future for those who will come after us. 

All together, we recognize that living in faithfulness to both CHARACTER and CONTEXT is by no means easy, nor it is rarely clear.  Nevertheless, we dwell within this tension of life, and as we move forward with faith, we trust that what remains the same in the mist of our various changes is the amazing grace of God which is revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  As was the case 2,000 years ago, we at Lake Edge Lutheran Church have nothing to fear (Acts 5:38-39), thus we can listen for God’s voice with humility, yet move forward in the way of Jesus with boldness, for the God of peace and love is on the journey alongside us, each and every day.     

In the coming weeks and months, some changes will take place naturally, while others will require more intentional discussion, compassionate listening, and thoughtful decision-making.  Through it all, we should remain mindful that each change will bring gains and losses, joys and pain, and of course, support and resistance.  However, in the midst of it all, while our CONTEXT will most certainly change, our CHARACTER found in Jesus Christ must also remain, and the God that binds us together into this beautiful community of faith will continue to shape us, guide us, mold us, and move us.  And so, as we thank God for the faithfulness of those who came before us, may we continue down the path of change that God has laid before us, so that we may Dare to Embody the Gospel together, and by God’s grace, strive to be all that God is calling us to be.