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  • Pastor Jim Gronbeck

“Faithful Witnesses”

We have been through a lot the past 14 months. Sometimes it seems like ages ago—another lifetime—that we were able to gather in large groups for worship and fellowship. During the time of the shutdown and the social distancing rules, the committees and teams here were on hold. Some, more than others, but there weren’t meetings or organizational things going on. We have functioned (quite well I might add) with volunteers who have felt comfortable attending worship with all the precautions we have had in place. These volunteers stepped up and kept the congregation going, and all of you who supported us through your offerings have kept the ministry of Zion going. I am so grateful for all of you—those who have watched from home, those who have boldly stepped out and asked for more—worship, confirmation, Sunday School, Bible Study, and those who have worked so hard to get Zion moving into the next phase of ministry—electronic media. Our congregation council and Covid Team have been thoughtful, faithful, and made informed decisions. Our worship leaders/musicians and cantors have stepped up faithfully and skillfully. They are good and faithful servants who have listened to the Holy Spirit lead us. Thank you all.

As we have begun thinking about our future, imagining what sort of ministry and congregation we will be, we have started our All-Committee night meetings again. As we have done this, it has become apparent that we are going to need more of you—this congregation—to become active in our committees, teams, and council. Hopefully, we have all come to understand how precious it is to have a church, a congregation, in which to worship and share our faith. We have missed one another; we have longed for our fellowship opportunities to take place; we have realized what it would be like if Zion wasn’t here.

There are opportunities for you to get involved, plan for the future and what that will look like, and to be a part of the ministry we need.

In the days following the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, the future of the Christian community was left in the hands of just a small number of believers. They had been through a lot. They now were looking ahead to fulfilling the Great Commission Jesus has given His followers: to go into all the world and tell the story of salvation, life, and forgiveness in Jesus.

It is fascinating to see how the eleven disciples, led by the Holy Spirit, chose someone to fill the spot vacated by Judas Iscariot. They prayed. They asked the Lord for guidance to show them who was to fill the spot of the 12th disciple. Two were proposed: Joseph and Matthias. Then, as our Bible Study group marvelled, they cast lots to decide the next disciple. Imagine rolling dice or drawing straws to fill such a vacancy! It seemed like playing a game of chance at a casino! But with so much more at stake.

But we have to take into consideration the role of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide God’s people. The Holy Spirit guided the disciples choices. The casting of lots was the work of the Holy Spirit. God worked through the prayer and casting of lots to choose the next disciple!

Maybe that’s what we should do here! To fill positions of leadership and to add new folks to the committees and teams we can get a few names and roll the dice! We choose to ask for volunteers and people interested in areas such as worship, stewardship, education, and youth. Many times we wait for someone to ask us to do a certain task or fill a position. During the pandemic people have stepped up and volunteered to help out as they were able. This has been such a good thing for the church. I hope that we can continue to volunteer to fill a need or to offer our help in areas that interest us.

One thing our Bible Study group noted as we studied this lesson was that the two people who were up for the position of the 12th disciple, were never heard from again! We have to assume that Matthias took his role seriously and was faithful in his ministry.

It’s also interesting to note that Joseph, called Barsabbas, was not chosen. What happened to him? Was he angry and stomped away? Or did he accept the decision and realize that there are other ways to serve Jesus and the fledgling church? Did he continue to be a faithful witness? He was highly respected by the others to have nominated him to this position of high honor. We can probably assume that Joseph, called Barsabbas, remained a faithful witness as he had been previously.

There are so many important ways to serve and to witness to the world of our faith in Jesus Christ. To be a faithful follower, using the gifts and interests God has given us, and listening to the Holy Spirit’s call to serve, however that may be, is what we are all called to do.

Those who have kept the church going through this pandemic will need a time of refreshment. We can use the gifts and talents of others to continue to flourish and to come out of this difficult time a strong and healthy congregation. The Holy Spirit has been the guiding force throughout this time, leading us and keeping us safe. We have not been on our own. God has answered our prayers, kept us vital and active, and will always be present with us to lead us through the difficult times and dark days. It’s not over yet, and our country desperately needs to hear the message of love and salvation in Jesus. We face many hurdles and difficulties in the future, but we can be assured that the Holy Spirit will keep us faithful and give us the courage to share the amazing story of Jesus Christ with others.

AMEN

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