Love One Another

Love One Another

 

From the First Vice President of the English District, Pastor Ben Eder

Many years ago, when I was fairly new in the ministry, our country was facing one of those severe recessions that seem to pop up with some regularity these days. I remember turning to one of my parishioners, (a young engineer with a steel company) and asking him, “How is your company going to handle the recession?” He explained to me that the CEO recently paid a visit to his plant and told the assembled workers, “Ladies and gentlemen, a recession is upon us; I am here to announce that we choose not to participate.”

Those words have stuck with me as I have continued to labor in the Lord's vineyard in the succeeding years. There is no question that the landscape around us is changing: we are living in a postmodern, post-Christian era in which the Church's influence upon the culture is quickly evaporating. The reports from the field – from our pastors and congregations – are often dire and bleak: we hear of dwindling attendance and shrinking budgets. For many, morale seems to be at an all-time low.

Yes, we know that conditions are difficult, and that the culture is not as supportive of the Church as it used to be. However, I am here to tell you that as bleak as conditions may seem to be in the world, “I choose not to participate.” That is to say, I choose not to give in to the “doom and gloom” of the naysayers as long as Christ continues to give me the health and the will to proclaim his Gospel.

To be frank, we in the Church are often our own worst enemies in this regard. Our attitudes, and our language, can be very self-defeating. At times Jesus would rebuke his disciples and others with the words, “Where is your faith?” I know that “Lutherans love Lent,” but we don't have to act like we're in Lent all of the time! We are a Resurrection People, for Christ lives and he abides in us through his Word and the Sacraments.

Even though the Church faces greater challenges in the Western world today, I choose not to participate in the hand-wringing and defeatist attitudes of some in the Church; rather, I choose to continue to participate in the world with the life-saving, life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ! When times get difficult, churches have a tendency to become a “fortress” in order to preserve doctrine (think “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”); this is all well and good, but also remember that a fortress has a drawbridge which connects the Church with the world outside. As our Lord has made clear, we are in the world but not of it. Jesus and his disciples did not “hide,” but rather they were engaged in the streets, communities, and hillsides where they were active in ministry: they went where people were.

Bishop Hardy's theme for the next three years is “Love One Another.” It is our prayer, and goal, to see more pastors and congregations of our English District showing, practicing, and demonstrating the love of Jesus to our neighbors both near and far. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant us the will, zeal, and resources to do so.

Pastor Ben Eder
Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Kenmore, NY
First Vice President of the English District