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Life in Greencastle - The Church Gathered and Spread

"There was a time when I wondered why more people did not go to church. Taken purely as a human recreation, what could be more delightful, more unexpected than to enter a venerable and lavishly scaled building kept warm and clean for use one or two hours a week and to sit and stand in unison and sing and recite creeds and petitions that are like paths worn smooth in the raw terrain of our hearts? To listen, or not listen, as a resplendently robed man strives to console us with scraps of ancient epistles and halting accounts, hopelessly compromised by words, of those intimations of divine joy that are like pain in that, their instant gone, the mind cannot remember or believe them; to witness the windows donated by departed patrons and the altar flowers arranged by withdrawn hands and the whole considered spectacle lustrous beneath its patina of inheritance; to pay, for all this, no more than we are moved to give - surely in all democracy there is nothing like it. Indeed, it is the most available democratic experience. Only in church and at the polls are we actually given our supposed value, the soul-unit of one." - John Updike, Churchgoing

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This Sunday is our annual congregational meeting, which amounts to something like a "state of the church" moment. It provides us with the opportunity to hear a bit about the ways God was at work in our congregation this past year, to reflect upon God's gifts to us and also what new opportunities, responsibilities and challenges may await us in this coming year. There will be an annual report available for any and all who would like to see one way we capture that picture.

It also happens that we will be exploring Philippians 2:5-11 in our Adult Bible Study and in worship. Many people believe Philippians 2:5-11 is an early Christian hymn, which means that for about two-thousand years now congregations have been gathering to proclaim Jesus as Savior and Lord. The debate is still going on as to whether they had annual reports back in Philippi.

But, we know they had pot-lucks ... or was it a pitch-in? Oh, that's right. They referred to their special meals as "agape feasts," but though the name was different it wasn't much different than what we will do together as a church this Sunday. They gathered after a week of work and running about and around in Philippi to pray their prayers, sing their songs, and to bring before them the teaching of the apostles or prophets. The praised God, turned to the Lord for help, and lifted up the names of friends and family. And then, after worship, they would lay out their food on the tables and dish out a spoonful of this and a spoonful of that. They would sit (or was that recline?) elbow-to-elbow, and they would do what Jesus would often do when he walked this world as flesh-and-blood. They would share a meal.

As I said, we will do the same this Sunday. Cathy, Marilyn, Sharon and some others will help get our tables and chairs set up, and you are invited to bring something you'd like to share with the rest of us. If you cannot, do not let that discourage you from joining in on our feast. And please feel free - if you need to - to bring your dish in early and place it in the refrigerator in the fellowship hall.

I cannot help but notice, though, as we prepare to gather and consider how God is at work in our congregation, there is ample evidence around us that the Kingdom of God is much bigger than just what's going on in Greencastle Presbyterian Church. The Christian Church is a connected body, linked together by the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:19) at work all over the world - including places like Philippi, Rome, Greencastle, and Indianapolis.

I know this has come home to many of you in the last few days as our wider community has been following the news about Becky Greenlee. Becky and her family are very integrated into the life of Greencastle. Besides being an incredible asset and counselor at Deer Meadow Elementary School, she is a beloved mother and friend to many. Currently, she is in need of our prayers after she suffered a heart-attack this past Sunday. Unbelievably, the doctors had all but given up hope on her, but today - miraculously - she has shown small, but oh so hopeful signs of life and connection to this world still. So, I invite you to pray for her family, for her friends and fellow workers at Deer Meadow, and for the congregation of Greencastle Christian Church, of which Becky is a member.

I also came into my office today to discover a little pink envelope with an address from South Korea. It was a letter and a small gift from our friend Kosumo Bang. She and her family have recently moved to South Korea from Japan so that her husband, Wansik, can prepare to enter ministry full time and so that they can eventually return to Japan to plant a congregation. Kosumo passes along her own prayers for us as well, and I have posted her letter in the hallway leading to the fellowship hall. That letter, too, is another piece of evidence that our church today is not all that different from the Philippian congregation back then.

I smiled when I saw the letter not only because I have enjoyed getting to know Kosumo, but also because I had been preparing to lift up a story about Japan for all of you on Sunday.

Friends, I hope to see you Sunday. It will be good to worship with you, and it is always a gift from God to be able to participate in life together.

One final quote I bumped into this week:

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - Albert Einstein

May the Lord continue to strengthen you and His Body for His work in the world,

Wes

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