Hopes & Dreams Part 7 – Reaching Out

As part of my process to become an ordained minister in the ELCA, in 2016 I was required to write an essay focusing on my hopes and dreams for the church, where I see God at work in the world, and what I believe about our incredible God. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing excerpts of this essay, as our Learning Lutheran educational series continues and we as a congregation dive into our faith, I invite you to dive into my faith with me.

Based on your responses to the previous two questions, especially your theological constructs above, how has your understanding of yourself as a missional leader been shaped by your personal faith in the Triune God and your key theological building blocks?

Within your response integrate scriptural insights regarding:

  1. God’s mission in the world
  2. Missional leadership

I understand myself to be a participant in God’s work in the world. I understand myself to be a broken sinner, desperate for the Gospel. I understand myself to be someone who has been given the amazing gifts of God’s forgiveness and love, and I understand that I can’t help but want to share those gifts with the world around me. I understand that God has taken my broken self, has taken my anxiety and my fears, and has acted in them and through them.

I understand that God has called me to proclaim the Gospel, to care for God’s children, to share God’s love and forgiveness through Word and through Sacrament. I understand the importance of those words “given for you” each time I say them. I understand because I know how important they are to me when I hear them. I understand myself as a leader called to share the Gospel because of my faith in this amazing God and because of my understanding of God’s dream for me and for the world. In response to the Gospel I cannot help but be called to participate in God’s work in the world, in God’s love for creation, and in the places where God’s people gather.

I understand why we are relying so heavily on the missional language, I know that it is part of this participation in God’s hope for creation. I understand, but my previous experience inhibits me from understanding myself, my calling, or God’s powerful love in a language that does not translate. I deeply believe in a God who keeps God’s promises. I believe in a God who calls us, calls us as broken people, to do God’s work in the world. And I truly believe that each time we say, “Here I am”[i], that this is the God who replies, “I am God, the God of your father”[ii] and that this is the God who tells us, who promises us, “I will be with you”[iii]. This is the God who is with us, who is for us, and who calls us to our neighbor and to our world.

So I believe the promise Jesus made when he told his disciples that he would be with us until the end of the age[iv], and that God’s people, us included, will endure. Without fear I trust Christ, I trust in the resurrection, and I believe we can go out into the world and act. For me as a leader, I only know that I can’t help it. I can’t stop it. I am called to proclaim these promises. I am called to proclaim that this God, the God of our fathers and mothers, this God who will be with us – I am called to proclaim that this is the God who continues to reach out to us, to reconcile us, this is the God whose Kingdom is in our midst[v], whose Kingdom is near[vi].

This trust is part of how I understand myself to be a leader. I cannot do it on my own. I cannot go out into the world and do anything without God. The ELCA motto “God’s work, our hands”[vii] is testimony to the reality that it is not our work that we do. When we care for God’s creation, when we share God’s love through our actions and our words, and when we preach and teach the love and mercy we are given, we are made free. Free from our fears, free from our hesitancies, free from our sin, free from death.

In the freedom that Christ has given us[viii], we have been called to this freedom, not for ourselves, or for our own hopes and dreams, but for the love of one another.[ix] God’s hope for the world is that of reconciliation, of relationship, and we are called to participate in that relationship. We are called to love. And we are only able to love each other because Christ loves us[x]. I am able to love others because Christ loves me. Because the Creator loves me. Because the Holy Spirit loves me. Because this Trinity loves the world so much that God is still trying to save us, still trying to reconcile us.

Jesus tells us to “go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”,[xi] and I believe that we can do this best with our actions, and with our whole selves. The church is not just a building, but it is the people, as Luther said, the holy Christian people. Made holy not by their own work or actions, but by the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit. I believe that we need to empower our churches to grow, not just in numbers, but in understanding. This is the understanding that we are all called by God to faith, to our neighbor, and to the world.

This is the understanding that enables us to go out into the world, filled with the love and faith given to us by God, and ready to share that with whoever we meet. This is the understanding that empowers us to have difficult conversations in and outside the church. This is the kind of understanding that as a leader, I hope to empower others to work for. I believe that as we give the church, give our faith, a voice in our world today, we also empower others to experience their faith as something more than a weekly worship experience. Both the church and faith are so much more than that.  I believe that we are the apostles, the evangelists, and the prophets for our generation. And as one of these people, as one of God’s people, part of understanding myself as a leader is to help others so that they may go out into the world and fulfill their call, fulfill their vocation, and participate in God’s dream.

I understand myself to be the kind of leader that reaches out into the world because God reached out to me. I hope to be able to reach out to others, in the church and outside of it. Not because I want to save the church as we know it today, but because I trust the promises God made to us. I trust that God is working, and I believe that as we become slaves to others in response to the love God has given us[xii], we become part of God’s dream for the world.

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Megan Filer

[i] Exodus 3:4, Genesis 46:2

[ii] Genesis 46:2

[iii] Exodus 3:12

[iv] Matthew 28:20

[v] Luke 17:21

[vi] Matthew 10:6

[vii] (Mission. (2016). Retrieved from Evangelical Lutheran Church of America: https://www.elca.org/About/Mission)

[viii] Galatians 5:1

[ix] Galatians 5:13

[x] 1 John 4:19

[xi] Matthew 28:19

[xii] Galatians 5:13

[xiii] 1 John 4:19