Strength in Christian Community
Pastor Paul Nelson
Dear friends, Thank you for making Lent, Holy Week, and Easter such an incredible blessing at Immanuel. I could see God at work as we came together to share good news and love of Christ. It reminded me again of why it is so important for us to gather together as the people of God and worship. I know there are a lot of competing distractions in our lives that make it easy to miss worship, but let me share some encouragement with you about why it is so good, and so important, for us to worship. These aren’t my words, but I find them powerful and encouraging, and I hope you do too!
Christianity is a team sport. You might see yourself as a terrific baseball pitcher. But if you only throw baseballs in your backyard at a plywood cutout, you’re not really playing baseball. To grow you need teammates to play with, and even someone standing in the batter’s box ready to swat your best fastball right back at you. Same with being a Christian. You can’t do it well by yourself. We’re the body of Christ, coming together to rely on one another; no one stands alone.
It’s not all about you. We’re sent to church to serve others as much as we’re sent there to be served. Believe it or not, you possess gifts and talents your brothers and sisters need. If you’re not present, you’re denying them blessings and benefits God intended them to enjoy.
Your fellow parishioners, including your pastor, will make you mad, hurt your feelings and get on your last nerve. This is exactly what’s supposed to happen. Finding ourselves offended and disappointed helps us know just how shallow and petty we all can be. It sands down our rough edges. Also, watching God work miracles through the smelly, imperfect, hypocritical men and women who make up a congregation reveals to us the unfathomable depths of God’s grace and love. It renews our faith. We realize he can use anybody — even us.
Your fellow Christians will reveal aspects of the Lord you’ve never seen. Others have experienced God in ways we haven’t. They’ve seen revelations we’ve never imagined. Over time, all these very different visions merge into a greater portrait of God than we’d ever otherwise behold.
Your fellow churchgoers will inspire and comfort you. Sure, some Christians will let you down, because they’re human and that’s what humans do. But you’ll also find disciples who’ll sit beside you in court when your kid’s up on drug charges, and who’ll hold your hand when your spouse is lying in a coffin, and who’ll bring you soup when you’re sick with the flu. When everything’s going wrong, they’ll assure you it’s going to be OK in the end, because they — and God — have your back.
You’ll get plenty of laughs. You’ll sing and pray, sure. You’ll snore. You’ll grow fidgety. But as much as anything, you’ll experience joy — and mirth. Each church is a microcosm of the human comedy. When you’re not cussing about it, the sheer surreal madness of it just leaves you clutching your rib cage, shaking with laughter, tears of gratitude streaming down your cheeks.
Thanks for being part of the body of Christ that is Immanuel. See you in worship!
Summer is Coming… It’s Coming Indeed!
We have fully launched into spring. This Minnesota climate requires us to bounce from winter jackets to shorts, then back again, on any given day. For the most part we take these changes without complaint. The promise of warm summer days are worth the trouble.
Life at Immanuel takes on a different pulse in spring as well. I hope you had an opportunity to attend one of the four Easter morning worship services, as well as our Good Friday and Maundy Thursday services. They were inspiring and meaningful – and FULL! Perhaps our new colorful sign on Eden Prairie Road had something to do with this. Whatever the reason, thanks be to God!
I had the opportunity to hear both Pastor Paul’s and Pastor Angela’s Easter sermons. It was a BOGO morning for me. In Pastor Angela’s Easter sermon she talked about Great Expectations; one being the expectation of a fulfilling Easter day. That idea resonated so clearly with me at that moment. The chaos of the prior four weeks flashed through my mind: the necessary church busy-ness leading up to Holy Week.
This year I was able to participate in the music ensemble and choir. I hadn’t put in nearly the rehearsal time that most of the other musicians had, but I have enough experience to appreciate the time and effort involved in planning music for these key church services and events. It starts with selecting and arranging the music well before the first rehearsal, and is ongoing even as musicians negotiate their seating arrangement on Easter morning.
I don’t believe that anyone involved in these preparations see this work as a taxing for two key reasons. First, the amazing leaders and members of our church are the best people to work alongside. They are talented, organized, creative and just plain fun to be around. Second, every member’s contribution toward the collective goal is clear and meaningful to each of us. On Easter morning when the fruits or our labor were realized, it was just as fulfilling to the “insiders” who put it all together. For Immanuel’s staff members and volunteers, the experience and the meaning of Holy Week isn’t about the great expectation of sitting in the pew on Easter. It is as much about the feeling of contribution and the fellowship experienced in the preparations when it all comes together.
The season of Lent is over 40 days long. During that time we reflect on human suffering and pain. And we prepare. To the outsider, this probably doesn’t seem like a fair balance: 40 days of work for 1 day of Easter celebration? That might be what they see from outside the church. But the TRUTH is that our sins are forgiven on that day of resurrection, and that reward is endless. As Christians, we understand the necessity of remembering and reliving the journey each year. It’s a little bit like a Minnesota spring… times a thousand. It’s well worth the trouble.
A member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America