November 2010 Newsletter

Dear Friends in Christ,

Consider these words from Paul's greeting to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 1:2-3.

"To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

In just these two verses, Paul conveys a great deal about what it means to be the church. First, he reminds the church at Corinth and us today that the church belongs to God. The church does not belong to the pastor, or the Board of Trustees or the Administrative Board. The church does not belong to any particular individual or group, nor does it belong to the community as a whole. The church belongs to God. Paul writes: "To the church of God that is in Corinth." The church belongs to God and exists to serve God and fulfill God's will. Our business as the church is not to glorify or satisfy any particular person or group. Our reason for being is not to accomplish any humanly conceived agenda. The church belongs to God and its purpose is to praise, glorify and satisfy the Lord, to pursue God's will intentionally and wholeheartedly.

"To the church of God that is in Corinth". The church is God's and exists to serve God, but what that service entails, what that body may look like, how a specific congregation pleases the Lord, will vary from place to place, depending on the nature of the community and God's vision for ministry in that location. The church at Corinth was a young, struggling fellowship in which Jews and Greeks were learning to live and work together as servants of Jesus Christ. It was a congregation in its formative stages trying to resist the influences of a pagan world. The Christians at Corinth were wrestling with what it meant to follow Jesus as aliens in a hostile environment. These were some of the challenges the church at Corinth confronted in Paul's time in that Greek city of the Roman Empire.

The church of God in Fishkill has its own particular challenges to meet. How do we inspire one another and those outside our fellowship to seek the living Lord? What does it mean to worship God with wholehearted devotion when there are so many distractions all around us and we are sometimes weary from our busy lives? How do we encourage one another to grow patiently and persistently in the knowledge and love of God through prayer, bible study, and Christian fellowship, in the midst of a fast paced society of instant communication and gratification? In a season of economic struggles, what does it mean to be good stewards of the bounty we have received from the Lord? With neighbors in need at home and abroad, how would God have us reach out with compassionate care to a hurting world? We are the church of God called to mission and ministry in this time and place, to bear fruit where God has planted us.

Paul also reminds the church of God in Corinth that they are God's saints. To believe in Jesus, to call on his name, and to embrace him as Lord and Master is to be set apart as those who are "going to perfection", to use John Wesley's term. Those who believe in Jesus embark on the road to sanctification. What that means is that we are not simply saved by Christ's sacrifice on the cross, but we are also raised to new life in him. We who call on Christ's name are engaged in becoming new people, more holy, more Christlike. By God's sanctifying grace in Christ Jesus, we are empowered to become more and more the people God wants us to be. Our Christian walk, individually and as a group, joins us with Christians everywhere who depend on Jesus Christ as their rock. He sustains us on the journey of reconciliation and renewal that allows us to become more like Christ from day to day.

We are the church of God. We are called to serve God in the particular locations where God has planted us. We are people who receive the good news of Jesus Christ gladly but we are also people in transit, people on a journey. We are on the road to becoming more and more like Jesus, more and more the people God wants us to be. May God's grace and peace sustain us on our journey. By God's grace, may we faithfully love and serve the Lord as the church of God in this time and place.

In Christ's Service,

Rev. Peggy Ann Sauerhoff

P.S. Please join us on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 pm or Friday mornings at 10:00 am as we study together Paul's letter to Corinth.