Shalom,

The church is a place where we gather together. We often do not think about what constitutes the word church. The Greek word in the New Testament that we translate “church” is ekklesia or gathering. Jesus informs us in Matthew 18:20 that “wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is with them.” So to be “gathered in his name” is to become a group assembled for the expressed purpose of loving, listening to, following, and participating in the way of Jesus Christ. Being gathered in Jesus name has both an inward and outward, personal and shared aspect to it. The succinct description Jesus offers in Matthew 18:20, is a refining of what it means to be the church. In other words we are gathered around Jesus, and he is with us. This kind of gathering can and does happen in all sorts of places, including church buildings. You know you put your hands together to form the steeple turn them over and see all the people. The church building is no guarantee that Jesus is there or could be called ekklesia. So standing or sitting in the church building does not make us followers of Jesus. To be followers of Jesus we must love God and neighbors with all our heart. Part of that love is serving those who are not a part of the gathering, yet we welcome them in and love them. Vacation Bible School is one of those gatherings and loving situations. This year’s Ship Wreck theme helps us see the world as castaways seeking to be saved. That as we read in John 16:33 “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world.”

That gives us the assurance that we are not alone in this world. In fact when we feel unsure of life and that no one cares “the Lord will hold us close” (Psalm 27:10). When loneness makes us worry “the Lord comes to the rescue each time”(Palm 34:19). Being able to know that Jesus is there for us, helps us to know of his love for us, and the same the love we are to have for our neighbor’s. As people of the United Methodist church we are to first “do no harm, do all the good we can, and attend to all the ordnances of God.” These are no legalistic rules. They are more of a set of practices to help us shape grace filled habits for ourselves and others. To strengthen our practice we are to come together in our Sunday school classes, Bible Studies, and small groups to check on each other, and our walk with the Lord. In our Methodist history we have often asked the following question of each other: “How is it with your soul?” We all need to ask ourselves and those close to us how it is with our soul. We need this because God loves us and we need not lose sight of that within our souls. We ask those close to us the same question because we love them as well. This is a key question to shape us as disciples of Jesus Christ.
As followers of Jesus we also need to be able to put the gifts God has given us to work as an “Action of Love.” We need time with God and our friend the Bible to discern the Holy Spirits leading. In other words we need as God will remind us from time to time; “Be still and know that I am God” (Palm 46:10). We need to remember this is where we are able to hear the Spirit’s leading. In the silence of our bible reading in the silence of our prayer we will find the self-giving gift God has for us to share in Jesus. This is where we are engaged because we are the messagers of God’s message of grace, which over comes our sins and the sins of the world, “for the Son of Man, came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). In other words Jesus came to right our wrongs and rescue the world from itself. As the White Cloud United Methodist church we are called to share in this message and ministry. Ask yourself if you know the one who rescues and if you know it is Christ; ask your friends and neighbors if they know the one who rescues. Let us be the light in the darkness of the world that Jesus has overcome. Amen.

Peace and grace

Pastor Ed