A St. Peter Mystery: New Lutherans Arrive (but Why?)

Well, I checked the mail at home today before I came to St. Peter, and was delighted to find a new issue of The Lutheran magazine in with the advertisements, bills and local paper. I love this magazine for the good writing, interesting articles, Peter Marty’s column in the front and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s column on the back page. I am also very fond of the page with church humor, bulletin bloopers and cartoons, since I am easily amused. But I was especially excited about the cover article titled (in big letters), Reinventing Sunday School, since we are doing that kind of thinking here at St. Peter right now! I slipped it in my bag to take with me to the office to read. I was surprised and delighted when I arrived at St. Peter to find a pile of about a dozen copies of the same magazine sitting on the counter. “How nice”, I thought, “that the congregation uses these in some way!” Then I sat down to read and enjoy the new issue.

The article on Sunday School was really interesting (heads up, E Team!) and Peter Marty had a very moving piece on suicide as part of his Challenging Conversations series. And I was moved by the review of the new film, Boyhood, so that I want to go and see it. But the part that really grabbed me, the piece that inspired this train of thought, was in Bishop Eaton’s column, way in the back.

Bishop Eaton was commenting on 1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”

In the second half of the column she says, “I wonder, sometimes, if the church is a little embarrassed by the foolishness of the cross. The foolishness is not just that the brutal and humiliating crucifixion of Jesus is actually the way God’s love was manifested, but that God’s love is so complete. This is the overwhelming simplicity of God. God loves us completely. There is no way or any need to dress that up. It just is.
 
(emphasis mine)

Yes, I thought. That is it. Because we are loved so completely, so unconditionally by God, we are free to love each other in our homes, and also in our workplaces, our neighborhoods and our communities. We are free to care about places like Ferguson, Missouri and Gaza and Iraq and El Salvador. Bishop Eaton ends her column with these words, “In God’s love, we have been given our life so that, in love, we can give our life away. That is divine foolishness.” I marveled that as people of St. Peter, you have already begun to grasp and live in this “divine foolishness”. I know this already because I have seen it in your logo (Living Our Vision Everywhere), and I see it in your lives and in the life of the St. Peter community.

So, I asked Carrie in the office how the congregation uses The Lutheran, and why there was a pile of them sitting there. She didn’t know. So whoever ordered the copies of The Lutheran, thank you! How will they be used? This inquiring mind, at least, wants to know.

What is Faith Formation, Part 2

What’s going on in Faith Formation?
First of all, a lot of listening, watching and learning. It would be foolish, and not very helpful, for me to come in as Faith Formation Coordinator and try to tell everyone how to be a better Christian. I am not the one doing the forming, God is. So first of all, I am trying to see what God is up to at St. Peter.
My first impressions have been that God is doing quite a lot! I have been going to team meetings to learn about the various ministries already in place, and to try and see the connections between them. While I am mostly listening, I am also thinking, and imagining and dreaming of ways to strengthen and grow the ministries.
I am meeting people- as many as I can. That’s why you will see me at both worship services on Sunday mornings. It’s simply the best way to meet people, and see how you interact with each other. I’m working on putting names and faces together, and making a bit of progress. But for now, please don’t be offended if I ask you your name more than once!
The task force asked me to make Education a top priority, so I have. The E-Team and I have had several meetings, and are shaking things up in Sunday School and tweaking confirmation. Each Sunday School class will be taught by a two person team, so that the teachers have some flexibility in their schedules. And the E-Team is working on writing the curriculum for the E100 in new ways, incorporating more hands-on and group activities. More fun for the students, less stress for the teachers is our goal.
Soon, on September 7th, we will begin a new educational year with our Super Duper St. Peter Sunday School Spectacular! (That name just cries out for an exclamation mark!) Come and see, come and find out what’s going on! At this point we have focused on children and youth, but we are thinking about adult learning as well. In my office I have a quote from an 86 year-old Michelangelo, “I am still learning”. If it was good enough for the painter of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, I think it’s pretty good advice for the rest of us as well.
But the biggest thing going on in Faith Formation is the new energy I sense among us. Many of the people I have met with and talked and listened to have expressed a sense of excitement- God is about to do something good among us! It is a feeling like we are on the edge of a big event, or going on a wonderful trip. There is anticipation about having a new pastor soon. I have heard thankfulness about the gifts of leadership and friendship Pastor Diane shared with the people of St. Peter, and sadness at her death. But now God is doing a new thing, building on what Pastor Diane and other leaders have done and taught. Moving forward, climbing higher, going deeper into relationship with God is the very essence of Faith Formation. We are on the right track, folks. Alleluia!