My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV of the Holy Bible
The passage of scripture above is what I posted on our church Facebook page (Bethany Lutheran Laurens) Monday afternoon. Then I shared I shared on my page and almost immediately got a response from one of my friends, "A beautiful scripture." along with the response came, "Thank you for posting these" Sometimes in our life of discipleship we wonder if we are making a difference. We wonder if our words of encouragement and actions are appreciated and even noticed by others. I must confess, I wonder too. Even though we may have experienced God's presence in a powerful way we still have our failings, our aches and pains, and sufferings as we live our lives and even doubts about God's work in our life. We may even ask God, "Why?" I try to follow You Lord, yet I suffer, I doubt at times, or wonder if my witness is effective. For Paul, the apostle, it was a thorn in his side. When Paul asked God, "Why?" God's response was, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness." What better place to see weakness is on the cross of Christ? It was there that God worked our forgiveness, out justification, and our salvation. Your witness does make a difference whether you see it or not.
God's Grace Over the Last Four Months
These are words that have given me hope over the last several months as we have attempted to carry out our ministry at Bethany. Many pastors have felt the burden of some of the decisions made regarding in-person worship, whether or not to celebrate the sacrament. If they celebrate what does it look like to celebrate it safely and and in a responsible way. Many pastors, from an article I read on pastoral burnout have taken the brunt of unhappy congregational members for decisions no matter what direction was decided. The criticism has come no matter what the decision was, even to the point of asking the pastor to leave. That has not happened here! I am so thankful that we have been understanding, patient and gracious as we tried to work through these issues. Yes we have altered some of the ways we do worship, and taken a fast from Holy Communion. I often rely on God's promise that His grace in sufficient for me. Even the isolation at the front end of the pandemic was a time of relying on the sufficiency of God's grace. At the same time I have experienced the lots of grace from you all, God's people of Bethany. And it is that which I give thanks to you and to God!
Holy Communion Celebration Returns In September
As I write this it we are heading into September. After meeting with the worship committee, it was decided that we will begin the celebration of Holy Communion on the first Sunday of September. Then we will follow our regular pattern of offering the sacrament every first and third Sundays and special festivals. However, there will be a few changes. I will wear a mask and/or face shield. I will also sanitize before the celebration. I will distribute both the bread and wine with the words, "The Body and Blood of Christ given and shed for you." I will drop the wafer into your hand and then you proceed to the table on either side where you will take your cup and drink. Cups will spread out in the tray to prevent touching a neighboring cup. We will use ushers to give you direction as when you may approach the altar to receive this gracious sacrament. This will help with the social distancing. There will be sanitation bottles available throughout the sanctuary. If you are not comfortable with taking communion, we understand and will honor your decision.
Adult Bible Study on the book of Acts begins on September 20th
This study will cover the beginning of the Church from the day of Pentecost through Paul's journey to Rome. It is a story of how the Church grew from Jerusalem, then to Samara and to the gentile world in Asia Minor and Europe. Though the story of the Churches growth is a major part of the book and how the work of the Holy Spirit brought this about, another sometimes forgotten theme ties this book together. It is the theme of the chief doctrine of the Church. We are justified by God's grace through faith. That is the gospel which Paul proclaimed to the Gentile world. That salvation is not dependent on our ability to follow God's Laws. This particularly comes up in Acts 15 in the Jerusalem Council whether or not non Jews needed circumcision. Thankfully it was discerned that circumcision was not required because salvation comes through God's grace through faith in God's promises won for us on the Holy Cross of Christ. We will also read about the sufferings that Paul went through to proclaim this Gospel, the rimes he was stoned and imprisoned. Yet through it all Paul is assured that God's grace is sufficient and that in weakness God's power is made perfect. In Closing Well, that is all for now. Thanks for taking the time to read through this and hope to see you back in church soon if you haven't been with us for a while. If you still feel a bit weary on returning, the services are live streamed and posted on the Bethany Lutheran — Laurens Facebook page. If you access our services on Facebook, please let us know you are watching by commenting in the comment section.
May the Grace of our Lord strengthen you in the days ahead.