Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you – 1 Peter 3.15
Beginning in September I will be preaching through the book of 1st Peter. First Peter is a book that was originally written to Christians in a similar context to ours. The broader culture was not particularly friendly to the Christian communities to which Peter wrote. That said, Peter has expectations that these communities continue a strong missional witness to those around them. Peter’s expectation was that their witness would not come through a fortress mentality, hiding and protecting themselves from the surrounding peoples. Also, he did not believe conquering the culture would work. He does not encourage simply assimilating and conforming with those around them. No, Peter calls for a distinctive witness rooted in love. Much of 1st Peter speaks to “moral behavior”. This moral behavior was not the end purpose. Instead, the behavior was meant to be a witness. Every word of 1st Peter is focused on strengthening our witness to Christ and drawing others into Christ’s love.
Halfway through the book comes the famous quote, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you…” In this season, I have felt a growing sense of hope for First Presbyterian Church. We had another very successful block party in Mid-July. We have had a steady stream of visitors all summer and as I speak with these newcomers they consistently remark at the quality of the worship service and the friendliness of the members. Of course, there is always room for improvement but when we do well, we do really well. Our leadership will have some conversations about how to strengthen our care of visitors but for now, a safe rule of thumb is that is if you see someone you don’t recognize finishing up selecting snacks at coffee and conversation, invite them to join you at your table.
In addition to having several folks stopping in this summer, we have completed some projects that were a long time in the making. We restored and recovered half of our stain glass windows in our building, including all eight of our Tiffany Windows. As I write this, our parking lot is being completely resurfaced. Reading back through Session minutes, this is something that the Session had been discussing every three years or so since the mid-nineties. We are also looking to make some improvements to our kitchen so that we might better host folks using our church building.
So by several metrics things are going well at First Presbyterian. That said, this isn’t the reason for my hope. The reason for my hope comes from the clear movement of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s work through us. Ever more consistently, I see God doing good work through our congregation. We are functioning as an agent of God’s grace in our neighborhood. This is the source of my hope. As we engage with 1st Peter this fall, I hope that we will continue learning how to strengthen our witness and like those communities that Peter engaged, we will win over those surrounding us to the freedom of Christ’s love. May it be so!
In Christ’s Service,
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