The oncoming cold brings with it temperatures that are lower than many desire, snowfall that can get in the way of our daily activities, and, apparently in the Mission Valley, times of extended cloud coverage. These undesired changes lead many to take refuge inside, hunkering down while waiting for summer. Others deal with the cold by heading for warmer weather and sunnier skies. In this autumn of our year, I am grateful for the approach of the Advent season in which we celebrate the Son of God being sent into the world to redeem us from the darkest and coldest moments of our lives. God responds to darkness and death in the world by sending Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, to shine in our lives in profound ways.
I have come to realize that the church, particularly Lutheran churches in America, have entered an autumn of our existence. It is not as easy to be the church as it once was. Just like when it turns to fall outside, when one must first try harder to stay warm, the church is in a time when we must work in new ways, with renewed vigor and creativity to reach to a world that has changed. Adults are simply not showing up on Sundays with the regularity that they used to, nor are youth and children attending Sunday school together as they once did.
But, just as I get excited when it starts turning colder outside, I am excited in this autumn of our church life for I know that God sends light into a darkened world. I am renewed at the opportunity given to us in this time and place to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ anew to generations who have not heard the good news of our gracious God who came to save. Many in our world have yet to hear Christians clearly proclaim the love of God that is truly unconditional and never ending. This provides new opportunity for us to tell people that they are wholly and infinitely loved because they have been wonderfully made by a Creator who cares for them.
As for me, I have been renewed in my own faith and mission since joining you all at Faith Lutheran here in Ronan. My family has remarked when I have spoken to them how much more excited I sound on the phone than I have before. This is an outward sign of the deep joy I have because of what God is doing in our lives here together. Sunday school has started out well, confirmation will be kicking up again soon as well as an evening course that I will be leading entitled Martin Luther and his Legacy. We had a wonderful congregational trip riding the Hiawatha Trail and a youth day at the Bison Range in the month of September. Even more importantly, though, I am deeply humbled to worship at Faith Lutheran every Sunday. Our congregation is a strong community of faith with a firm foundation that I have only begun to experience. After my first few months of serving as your pastor, I am even more excited than when I started. It is my sincere hope that you have enjoyed our time together because I cannot wait to see what God has planned for us.