Lenten Series celebrates our Neighbor’s Faith
By Pastor Joe Vought
Community Lutheran Church
Throughout this recent Lenten Season, we welcomed other Christians to join us for Wednesdays in Lent to share their faith and witness with us. It was an informal and relaxed way to welcome our Christian Neighbors to Community Lutheran and have them share the distinctive gifts and blessings of their tradition. Over five Wednesdays in Lent we were privileged to hear from the following leaders and churches:
Pastor Wayne Snead Galilee United Methodist Church
Father Rob Merola St. Matthew Episcopal Church
Father Art Johnson Christ the Redeemer Roman Catholic Church
Pastor Brian Clark Riverside Presbyterian Church
Thomas Varghese Immanuel Mar Thoma Anglican Church.
We offered this series mindful of the fact that, although we gather as Lutherans in Worship every Lord’s day, whenever we gather to pray for the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we pray for the One Church in all of its diversity- Christian disciples who are Methodists, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Indian Anglicans and many more who name the name of Jesus. St. Paul reminded the Corinthians, “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ.” (Corinthians 12: 1-2) “There is one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of all…” (Ephesians 4:4-6). And yet, within this one Body there are many expressions and gifts that give glory to Christ, expressions and gifts which we may learn to appreciate in each other.
Each guest was a blessing and shared gifts which we as Lutherans might do well to emulate ourselves. From Pastor Wayne of Galilee United Methodist we learned of John Wesley’s devotion to Jesus and the “method” of Methodists to live lives of sanctification and growth in grace. From Fr. Rob of St. Matthew’s Episcopal we learned of the Anglican “middle way” between Roman Catholicism and the Reformed Faith that finds expression in a Book of Common Prayer, Sacraments, beauty and reason. From Fr. Art of Christ the Redeemer Atonement we learned of Franciscan spirituality in the Catholic Church that embraces the poverty of Christ and serves Christ in the neighbor in parishes, hospitals and among the poor. From Pastor Brian we appreciated the Presbyterian gifts of God’s Sovereign reign and grace and churchly life that values freedom and democratic worship. And finally from our Immanuel Mar Thoma friends we met an ancient tradition originating with St. Thomas himself that finds expression in Orthodox liturgy, Indian ethnicity, Anglican theology, a Reforming spirit and Ecumenical outlook to share with other Christians.
I want to thank all those who attended for your gracious hospitality and welcome toward our guests, your eagerness to learn more about their faith. I think we made new friends as we shared a simple meal at the tables and then gave our attention to each guest to learn and appreciate another Christian tradition. The simple gifts of hospitality, sharing a meal and giving our attention to others cannot be underestimated, but in my mind are the very essence of Godly welcome and love. It is what Jesus did with his disciples. When we do this with strangers and welcome newcomers, I believe we welcome them as we welcome Christ. Read the Emmaus Road Easter story (Luke 24:13-32) and I don’t think there is any doubt about it.
To welcome other Christians as fellow disciples, to share our faith with them, to be curious about their traditions, to discover what we have in common and what we might learn from one another is to live into the mind of Christ, who called his disciples “to be one, as He and the Father are one, so the world might believe.” (John 17:20-21) When we do this we not only strengthen our own faith but the witness of Christians around the world. But then that is what the Risen Christ of Easter always does as He goes before us to make all things new, promising that He will gather other sheep who do not belong to this fold, so there will be one flock and One Shepherd (John 10:16).
May the risen Christ go before us to make all things new, help us continually to share the gifts of hospitality, our friendship and faith with others so the world might believe!