This Sunday we heard about Jesus feeding the 5,000 from Matthew 14:13-21. In the sermon (listen), we heard a challenge to spiritually feed the 5,000+ people living within one mile of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Almost 80% of them are not actively involved in corporate worship at any local congregation. Over 49% do not even consider themselves spiritual people. Do we have any compassion or care toward this large crowd who lives around us?
During the sermon, I read a challenging letter to our congregation. Let me give you a little background to help with understanding the significance of the letter.
The vestry and staff of St. Peter’s met in retreat on February 12th, 2011 to consider and pray about where the Lord is leading our congregation. As a way of thinking about our unique strengths and struggles, we used the model of Jesus’ letters to the seven congregations found in the Book of Revelation (chapters 2 & 3). Each letter follows a similar three point. Jesus first commends the congregation, he then has something “against” the congregation, and then he encourages the congregation on how to improve and be more faithful to his call.
So we asked ourselves the following… If Jesus were to write our church a letter:
- What would he commend about St. Peter’s?
- What would he have against us?
- What would he challenge us to do?
The fruit of the exercise was the following letter that was drafted by the vestry and staff during the retreat (I welcome your comments on it):
Jesus’ Letter to St. Peter’s Church in Lake Mary, FL: The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, the Transfiguration
Dear St. Peter’s:
You have trusted in me as your anchor in a turbulent world, by having a love for my Word, by having compassion for the “least of these”, by working together as my Body.
This one thing I have against you. You are ignoring my lost sheep because you are distracted by the busyness of the world and because of your pride rather than humility, and because you are too focused on yourselves rather than others. Therefore, my lost sheep perceive you as uncaring hypocrites.
I encourage you to surrender humbly to my call to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission:
“Love God with all you heart mind soul and strength.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“All authority in heaven and on earth had been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Invite my people in the crowd and community gathered around you and welcome them into your fellowship.
As you think and pray about the 5,000+ people who live one mile around St. Peter’s Church, how can we reach out, invite and welcome them into our fellowship?