By Paul Koch –
I don’t know if I say it very often; I love being a pastor. I really do. And one of the great things about being a pastor is that I get to see so much of our life together in the church that many aren’t able to witness. What I see throughout a week in my congregation is simply stunning.
Tuesday and Thursday morning some of our members along with a bunch of ladies from our community gather here to work out. There’s a bunch of kids riding their bikes and a bunch of mommas getting fit. There’s support and encouragement and a lot of hard work. On Tuesday evening there is usually something happening. It could be an LWML meeting. It might be the elders of the church gathering to make sure all the services of the church are covered and all is done in good order. Then again, it might be a voter’s week and the assembly gathers beginning with a prayer and devotion to help us be faithful stewards of all God’s rich blessings. Then again, it might be the night Evangelism and Planning meet to find new ways to impact our community.
When I arrive on Wednesday morning, there is a small group of men already here busy trimming bushes and weeding the flower beds. They are here early, with smiles on their faces, to make sure our church home is a beautiful one. Soon the quilters arrive to make quilts for the cold and shivering children of the world. My first volunteer secretary arrives to make sure we have bulletins ready for our Sunday worship Service and she also deals with all the correspondence that needs to be handled. In the evening our newest confirmands start showing up: sometimes with smiles on their faces, sometimes wishing they were anywhere else. Before we begin our Wednesday Night Adult Bible Study, I see the Poelstra’s and the Milton’s arrive to make sure the youth of our church have a safe place to eat and gather for fellowship and study.
On Thursday, various members come in and out of my office for counseling or just a quick chat or occasionally to express a concern. My second volunteer secretary arrives and gently reminds me to get a newsletter article finished so she can print them out. Of course, on Thursday evening the Choir begins to gather to rehearse songs that will deepen and broaden our worship. On Fridays this place is hopping! Our ministry to the homeschool community brings families to our campus where support and encouragement and the freeing words of Christ are proclaimed. Other volunteers start to arrive to mail out the newsletters or set up the communion ware for our service on Sunday. On Saturday things get moving early. The Men of Grace Bible Study group gathers together. These faithful men who have continued to support and lift each other up through thick and thin might be making breakfast or simply savoring a fresh doughnut. My wife comes to lead a study on the Psalms and usually the flowers are brought in for the altar. There are cleaners and sweepers in full swing, putting the finishing touches on this place, so that our gathering on Sunday might be wonderful.
Then of course, there are all the Sunday school teachers preparing their lessons and the VBS team who met during the week to set a game plan for the future. There’s the budget committees, the in-home Bible Studies, the services at the Town House and at Cypress Point assisted living facilities. There are visits made to shut-in’s homes and the group that gathers just to walk on Monday evenings. These are just a few of the things I am privileged to witness. But make no mistake, they leave a lasting impression. For what I see is love. What is seen are reflections of a far greater love.
St. John writes, “By this we know love; that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” You see, what I witness throughout a typical week is but a small sampling of your love. Love among the children of God abounds. It abounds from the cross and empty tomb right into each and every one of you. It then abounds in your own life. I only see a slice of it here at this place, but it abounds away from here as well. It is in your homes, in your families, and in your vocations. There is the love of God.
However, that love does not flow unhindered. If our heart is the fountain from which our love springs forth into the lives of others, we must admit that we suffer from heart trouble. There are many blockages and clogs along the way. In fact, our own heart is often the problem. It has weak and erratic beats. Our heart is a constant reminder, not of our victories of love, but our failures to love as we should. Inscribed upon our heart is the law of God, and so our heart become the bearer of bad news. We cannot escape its constant accusation and condemnation. So, I might speak about seeing your acts of love, but all you can think about is the times you failed to do what you could, all the times you hurt those you should have helped, all the times you did not let the love of God have its way with you.
But, be of good cheer. For even if your love doesn’t rush like a river, even if it just trickles out and is barely perceptible, your God has not abandoned you.
John speaks of your imperfect love when he says, “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” God is greater than your heart. God is greater than its imperfect beats and greater than its accusations that point out your failures to love. God is greater than your broken love and His love never fails. His love never ceases to flow. Every time you come before him broken and hurting, and every time you come confessing your sin, He pours out His overflowing gift of love. His love is greater than your heart.
So then God blesses you. He declares that you are forgiven this day yet again. You are cleansed in the blood of the Lamb. But His love is of such great abundance that it flows through you. It is there in the activities I see throughout the week. It is there in your homes and at work. For in His love He has given to you His own Spirit. His Spirit will not let the flow of love be turned off. As long as the Spirit of God remains within you, as long as you received that Word of forgiveness, you will love. Not just in word or talk, but you will love in deed and truth. For our own heart trouble cannot stop the love of Christ.