09092018 16 Aft Pent 15 Aft Trinity Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“We are Congregationally Focused!”

09092018 16 Aft Pent 15 Aft Trinity Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

September 9, 2018

“We are Congregationally Focused!”

Sermon Audio

In the last three weeks we have encountered three of the four values of the North American Lutheran Church.  Yet, with today’s last value, we have the opportunity to say, “We are Congregationally Focused” yet in the same breath, asking ourselves the question, what does ‘congregationally focused’ mean for us here at Emmanuel Lutheran Export, PA?

In my ministry as a Pastor in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, Virginia, Kansas and South Carolina, I have visited individuals who attend many different churches.  Each person I have visited are very complimentary of how the church they choose to attend was ‘welcoming’. When I asked, what welcoming meant to them, they simply said, people say ‘hi’.

If the metric for being ‘Congregationally Focused’ is if people say, ‘hi’, then it could be said, that Wal-Mart with their greeters is the most ‘Congregationally Focused’ congregation in the United States.  Yes it is a business and the Gospel isn’t about Jesus, but the dollar sign. Honestly, simply saying ‘hi’ should not be the height of the bar if we believe we are ‘Congregationally Focused’. We as the Church of Jesus Christ have the opportunity to be servants in partnership for the Glory of God to be revealed for us!

When the mantra of “We are Congregationally Focused” is held before our eyes it is with the understanding that we ‘strive’ to connect with one another on a personal level and help facilitate and show the love of God to and for others for our church and our community.  This is clearly demonstrated by what we do ‘quietly’ here at Emmanuel. I say quietly, because I know many of us do not know what happens here at the church, specifically the number of groups and the number of ministries we support.  

Our ministries include providing a safe place for people with addictions to come and meet in a safe environment and support one another as they deal with challenges whether of alcohol, drugs or how families need support.  Another aspect is the number of Girl Scout Dens or Troops we provide a safe place for building up young women to become the future leaders of our community. Matter of fact we had three from one group here yesterday to help us in our clean up.  And finally our own Scout Troop and Venture Crew that not only utilizes Luther Hall, but also like the Girl Scouts, gives back to our church through their service, whether weeding, cleaning and even helping we the people of Emmanuel prepare for the Convocation.  This is what it means saying “We are Congregationally Focused”.

For it is a clear demonstration of the love of Jesus Christ by our sharing our facilities that we demonstrate, “We are Congregationally Focused”.  We clearly connect with the Psalmist today by our ministry to all of these groups.  For the connections we make with these groups allows us to clearly articulate, lay claim to and show that our focus is not just ‘navel gazing’ or ‘only on ourselves’, but we go beyond the simple ‘hi’ and give to others through our facilities in a way that gives God the greatest Glory.

Yet, it might be asked, why should being ‘congregationally focused’,  ‘traditionally grounded’, ‘mission driven’ and ‘Christ centered’ be an emphasis for us?  Why should these ‘core values’ be held, explored and emphasized for us today as members of the NALC?  Simply it is because our commitment to these values, our demonstration of the centrality of Jesus Christ sending us on the mission of proclaiming the Gospel and the traditions of many generations to and for members of our congregation and our community is why this church was founded 198 years ago.  It was these values that emboldened the people to build the first church in 1870, lay the foundation for the future and with the growth of our founding fathers, move from Export to here on the hill in 1964, worship in Heritage Hall and build where we worship today.

We are the living legacy of the previous generations.  These values are the building blocks of tradition that provide the structure and stability founded and based upon the Word of God and the gift of grace Jesus Christ died on the Cross to offer us today.  And the legacy we have and hold here today depends not only upon the strength we find in the values of NALC, but upon we the members of Emmanuel. The values we have and hold and lay claim to today pointing to the fact that “We are Congregationally Focused” solidifies and launches us to ask the question we face next in the coming weeks.   “What does membership here at Emmanuel Lutheran, Export, PA, really mean?”

I’d like to leave you with one final thought.  By our demonstrating clearly our belief in these four core values, God will bless us.  What we can do as I was reminded this week by a member is that we can trust God to build and rebuild our trust level in one another to such a degree that others will want what we have with each other and especially with God.  A trust that what God offers us, His grace, His mercy and His love will bring others to want to worship with us as Members of the Body of Christ here at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, in a healthy relationship with one another and with God where we demonstrate clearly “We are Congregationally Focused”!  AMEN!