Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some Pastoral Reflections:

And the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

The inscription on the cornerstone of this church reads that the church was established in1896, and that the church was built in 1935. And the name of the established church was Evangelisch Lutherische Friedens Kirche – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peace. Somewhere along the line the word “United” was added so the congregation we lovingly call “Peace Lutheran Church” has a long official name: The United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peace.

I would like to reflect a bit on this name over the next few newsletter articles and I am going to start with the word “Peace.” In our culture this word peace has the strong connotation of the absence of conflict. I suspect that our forebears who built this church in 1935 may have had this definition in mind at least somewhat considering that one great war had just concluded and in 1935 the world was moving quickly towards another. So Peace church was, I am sure, a place to pray for the end of and to look forward to the conclusion of this worldwide conflict; and a place to pray for those who were caught up in the conflict in some manner. This is one of the important places that the church holds in our society. We do need a place to come for support and to pray and to have a respite from the conflict of the world. This was true then, and it is true now. In this way Peace Lutheran church is there to meet this need.

But this also points to something else which includes but also goes beyond the church being a cultural place of respite. And that is the Biblical understanding of peace. The Old Testament word which is translated as “Peace” in English is the Hebrew word Shalom. This Hebrew word means much more than the absence of conflict. Shalom is a promise and a gift of complete well-being. Shalom is being in perfect harmony with God and with one another. And while we can choose to initiate the end of hostility and establish peace, Shalom is not something we can create for ourselves. It is a gift from God through Christ. We experience Shalom in all kinds of unusual circumstances. Sometimes when we least expect it God will give us a moment of grace or a moment when His presence is with us in a profound way – this is an experience of Shalom. We experience Shalom at times in our interactions with others, in times of deepest need, in the midst of joy, in times of loss, in times of laughter and in times of tears.

Most importantly we come to Peace Lutheran Church with the expectation and the confidence that there we will experience a taste of this amazing grace and peace which passes all understanding. As we sprinkle the water, take the bread and wine, pray, sing and reach out to one another in prayer, friendship and fellowship there we find God’s Shalom; there we are given a “Foretaste of the Feast to Come.” Praise be to God for this wonderful gift – which, like all of God’s gifts, is given unconditionally out of love.
Pastor S. Blake Duncan+

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