Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Bound Together in Love

Dear Friends in Christ,

"Bound Together in Love" is the theme of the District Convention oflowa District West that will be
held June 24-26 at Camp Okoboji. The theme is taken from Colossians 3:14, which says, "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." In Colossians 3, Paul tells us to "put on" several things--compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness. But "above all," he says, "put on love."

Love binds us together. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the source of that love. He first loved us and gave
Himself for us, dying on the cross-to rescue us from our sins and rising again to give us victory over death and the grave. His love embraces us in Baptism and brings us into the family of God, where we are bound together with all other believers in one Holy Christian Church.

Christ's love has bound us together with other congregations in our District and Synod. Together
with our fellow believers we are able to accomplish God's work in a way that we could not do by
ourselves. Our support, our offerings of love to District and Synod help plant churches; provide
educational and worship resources for congregations and Lutheran schools; train pastors, deaconesses, directors of Christian education, missionaries and musicians at our colleges and seminaries; and support many other ministries that benefit the whole church.

Christ's love binds us together with fellow believers in St. John congregation. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 describes the church as the body of Christ, and many of His words apply most directly to the local congregation. Jesus has given different gifts to the different "body parts" (congregation members), " ... that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

It is no coincidence that 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter on love, follows the description of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. Love is what binds us together as a congregation, in times of joy and times of sorrow. In the past year St. John members have helped families celebrate baptisms and wedding anniversaries and have also ministered to families at the time of a funeral. Our LWML and LYF have enjoyed the fellowship of being bound together in Christ's love even as they serve the greater mission of the church through mission projects. In love our Sunday School and confirmation teachers and VBS leaders patiently assist parents in bringing their children to know the love of Jesus.

Finally, let us remember that Christ's love binds us together with fellow members of our community.
The love of Christ is meant to be shared. St. John's mission statement, "Offering with open arms the love of Jesus," fits well with our convention theme this year. Because Jesus has opened His arms to us, we open our arms in offering His love to our community. We look for projects and ministries that give us opportunity to share Jesus' love, so that those who are not part of our fellowship may be brought in. Welcoming the children who come to our playground, providing meals for families during the week the school is closed, have been examples of reaching out to our community. RAGBRAI this year is also an opportunity for St. John not only to raise funds for ministry, but also to offer the love of Jesus to the riders that come through Charter Oak.

St. Paul concludes his exhortation to the Colossians in chapter 3 by saying, "Let the Word of Christ
dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Love is the fruit of the Spirit, the result of the Word of Christ dwelling in us. May that Word continue to be central in our mission, that we may be "bound together in love!"

Peace to you in Christ,
Pastor Merrill

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