Greetings from the Office of the Bishop, Rocky Mountain Synod, ELCA. I need, first of all, to express appreciation for the partnership we share, not only with the other 164 congregations of the RMS and the 10,400 other congregations of the ELCA, but additionally for the special witness you bring to the unity we share as Episcopalians and Lutherans together. You reveal to the broader community the unity Christ brings which overcomes any differences we can create. Thank you for that very visible reminder.
And thank you for the support you provide to both the Colorado Episcopal Diocese and the RMS. By your generosity others are able to be fed, housed, treated, comforted, educated, and have good news proclaimed. You are a reminder than none of us are in this alone. We share this ministry, led by the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus.
I vowed up until a couple of months ago that if I ever spoke on behalf of the Office of the Bishop I wouldn’t bore a congregation with an introduction like that. But I’m seeing things differently these days. I see the difference you make in the wider church. I watch people’s eyes light up when I share your story—what you’re doing here in Elizabeth, how Christ is proclaimed to an entire community through the Holy Spirit active in this small Episcopal/Lutheran ministry. There’s cooperation with youth, food bank, homes built for veterans, community meals, and more.
All this from a very small congregation. Being sent from a very small building. In a very small town.
There are some in our world that would look at the size of this place and attempt to disregard what you do. Others may see your budget and immediately feel superior because they have a more dollars. Does it ever come up in conversation, when you tell people you’re affiliated with Peace in Christ, that the other person says, “Oh, and how many members do you have?” They’re ready to either apologize for their own smallness or brag about being larger.
In our culture, success is automatically measured in size of bank accounts, number of clients, higher income, more expansive acreage, increased sales, higher bushels per acre, and the like.
Even the size of people matters. Adults’ viewpoints often are taken more seriously than childrens’. We still live a little by the old dictum, “Children Should be Seen and not Heard.” They’re just too small to have a valid opinion. We’re better in our attitudes toward children today, but not fully there yet. We have a high school student that serves on the ELCA churchwide council. Because he is “only” in high school, he has voice, but no vote on that council. Hmmm. Really??
In Jesus’ day, children were almost completely disregarded because they were so small. They were weak, a liability, and had no rights. They had to be fed but couldn’t do enough work to compensate. They were completely vulnerable with no power at all. They were simply too little to matter to most people. Have you ever felt that way? Too insignificant to make a difference, to really matter?
Jesus sees things differently than the rest of the world. In God’s eyes, power isn’t revealed by size, but by the Savior of the World scooping up an impoverished child, holding her close, and telling everyone that when we welcome her, we are exhibiting real importance. When we love her, value her, respect her, walk with her get to know her, that’s power as God defines it. Not in spite of the fact that she doesn’t have a lot to offer, but because what this little one has to offer right now matter—it is important, it is significant, and—perhaps even more than big people—what she has to offer is what God values.
Peace in Christ will get bigger—you’re simply too compelling not to. But please never forget these day of being small. As a congregation will get larger, you will sooner or later need to do things differently as a result. Your budget will increase and an already effective ministry will expand. That won’t make Peace in Christ more important, more powerful, or more loved and respected by Jesus.
As a congregation, you are valuable right now. And in the same way, you reveal to the littlest, the weakest, the most vulnerable in Elizabeth and Elbert County, that they too are valuable, loved, and respected right now. Not is spite of their vulnerability, but because they reveal God’s love and priorities right now. When you help build a home for a veteran, when you stock a food bank for someone who’s hit on hard times, when you have a spaghetti dinner and welcome those outside this congregation, you are Christ, taking a child in his arms. “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
On behalf of the RMS, ELCA (and may I dare to speak for the Colorado Episcopal Diocese of the Episcopal Church), thank you, Peace in Christ. Thank you for your partnership, your witness, and your ministry. It is, in fact, beyond valuable. In Christ’s name. Amen.