Striving for Deeper Holiness: September 12, 2021

PASTOR’S WEEKLY SPIRITUAL MESSAGE

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friends, blessings from Saint Clement, and happy fall. I hope you are all back in Chicago safely and I pray that these fall months will be a great moment of great blessing for each and every one of us as we, one more time, come together as a community to experience the closeness of Christ and enable each other to make a next step in recognizing how God is powerfully alive and at work in your life and in my life.

Friends, "Who do people say that I am? And who do you say that I am?" This is the question that Jesus asks of his disciples and of Peter, and on their behalf, Peter powerfully gives the answer, "You are the Christ. You are the anointed one. You are the promised one. We believe that you have the words of eternal life." Who is Jesus to you?

Just recently somebody on a plane asked me, "Why do I believe in Jesus?" The answer was pretty quick. I believe in Jesus because I recognize in him my Lord, my Messiah. Through baptism, I believe I've entered into a special relationship with him that, God knows, I did not understand for many years. But then, by taking some courses, learning more about Jesus, and studying the Scriptures, I've learned to believe not only that Jesus was powerfully alive in his church and in the community 2,000 years ago, I believe he's present among us right now. I believe that he is at work by his power of the Holy Spirit in my life right now. I believe Jesus is my Savior and I believe that I am called by the virtue of my baptism and my vocation to follow him, and I know that following Jesus is never easy. Therefore we need one another. First, to support us, to pray with us, to accompany us, but also to keep us accountable so we would keep continuing this journey that is not easy and that, in many ways, calls us to be people of boldness.

To choose Christ, to choose Christianity is not a cultural choice. It's a bold choice of a Savior, of knowing that I can give up my petty self-salvation projects because I am being saved by Jesus himself. And it is the unpacking of that saving power of Jesus that transforms my life, that invites me more deeply into relationship with him.

I invite you, my friends, to join us this fall for our Alpha course here at Saint Clement. We'll offer two online courses on Wednesday morning and Thursday evening, as well as an in-person course on Wednesday evening in our school. I invite you to the course because in many ways, that course answers some of the most basic and most fundamental questions to us as Christians. Is there more to life than this? Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus die for us? And if Jesus is powerful and loving, why is there suffering and sin in the world? And how can we accept the gift of Jesus more deeply into our hearts so he will keep transforming us more visibly into following him into being excited about being his disciples?

Alpha is an easy tool. We meet for 30 minutes. If you meet with us in person, we have a meal first. We watch a short video for 25 minutes, and then we have a 30 minute discussion that is open to all and facilitated by a leader. All we would we ask is that you are simply honest, open, and that you are somehow open to the working of the Holy Spirit who will bring us together. Invite your friends to join us. That's the first and best place to invite somebody who has been away from the church or who doesn't know Christianity at all, but it's also a wonderful way to go deeper in our faith and have an experience of an authentic Christian community that cares for and loves one another.

Another step of unpacking how God is at work in your life will be through our wonderful program called Strengths for the Journey. Strengths for the Journey is an invitation to more deeply go and discover how God is at work in your life through God's given gifts and strengths, and so we'll invite you to join us for that course as well. There are many opportunities for you this fall to go more deeply into an experience with Christ in our community here at Saint Clement. I invite you first and foremost to be an active member of the community, to choose a ministry to which God calls you and to help each other to experience the closeness, the love, and the consolation of our powerful God in our midst. God knows we all need it. God bless you all, my friends!