A Blog by Bishop Christopher deForest...
April 23, 2022
As we introduce a new synod website, I am taking this opportunity to start A NEW BLOG – a place online where I can regularly post reflections and highlights from our journey together as the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod. We’re calling it “On The Way” as a play on the word “synod,” which comes from two Biblical Greek words, syn and hodos. These can mean “on the road with” and also “walking with” – since most people in Bible times (and around the world still today) got from place to place on foot. My intention is to connect with you in this way every week or two. I will also occasionally include a video version to go with the text.
The Season of Easter is upon us! Alleluia! Christ is risen!
I write this on the Saturday following Easter Sunday. Tomorrow traditionally is the Sunday of least attendance. I’m not sure if that is true anymore, with the pandemic causing such disruption to our regular patterns of life. Many congregations still haven’t seen all the “regulars” coming back. In fact, many of us share a common concern: has the habit of worship attendance been permanently broken for many of our people? Or are they still just “taking a break”?
The word “break” can stir up a lot of negative thoughts and feelings. We worry about the “break-down” of our bodies and minds. The “break-up” of our relationships and congregations. The “break-out” of destructive conflicts and diseases and wars. The “break-in” of bullying words and actions that shut down dialogue and harm community – as well as the literal “break-in” of cybercrime and personal or property invasions and violence done in our church buildings and homes and places of play, work, school, and travel.
In the midst of these “breaking” fears, the temptation can be to under-react (to hide, or ignore, or distract) or to over-react (to panic, to despair, to leave, or to lock ourselves up and inside). Just like Jesus’s disciples did, that first evening after Easter morning. [See John 20:19-31.] Most of them had locked themselves in, with fear. And Thomas wasn’t even there; he had left the room altogether.
Then what happens? Jesus BREAKS IN, despite the locks. He BREAKS DOWN the walls of fear. He BREAKS UP the doubts that separate, that break us up – by revealing his wounds, showing how willing he is to share our wounds, and then to forgive and heal and make us whole. And then, he BREAKS OUT all sorts of good stuff – sharing his peace, his joy, his breath – the Holy Spirit –and his flesh and blood as real presence, real food, real drink, real life. So we can BREAK OUT of our unbelief, our distrust, and be sent out to share a new way of life in Jesus, for the life of the whole world. This is the gospel, the best kind of “breaking news” – I believe, in need today more than ever before.
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
GIVE ‘EM A BREAK
Yes, speaking of “breaks” – I hope we can encourage everyone who took a major role in Lent, Holy Week and Easter – especially our staffs in congregations, our deacons and pastors, and those who lead in worship – to take a significant break. I still hear of pastors who have not had a real vacation for some time, or who don’t feel they can take weekly times of sabbath and rest. If you are a member in a congregation, please check in with your leaders and encourage them to take a break. Better yet, take an active role helping them to rest, by offering to take on tasks, even for a short stretch. Be part of the “back-up” plan so you can help them be healthy and whole, and all of us to be stronger together, as the body of Christ in our synod.
On the Way of Jesus together,
Bishop Christopher deForest