Along with several other Lutheran pastors from our area, I had the pleasure of being present at the funeral of Pastor Weldon Sheets this morning, which was held at Salem Lutheran Church near Mt. Sidney. I did not know Pastor Sheets and neither did many of us who were there. And yet, as we were gathered together there as the Body of Christ, the Church, it did not matter. A brother in Christ was being commended to God and it did not matter where you were from, which congregation you came from, or who you knew – we were the Church together…bound together by the One who said, “I AM the resurrection and the life.”
Bishop Jim Mauney preached a wonderful sermon, as he always does. But this week I also received from him a letter that quotes from, of all places, our church constitution. He reminded us that we believe:
The church exists both as an inclusive fellowship and as local congregations gathered for worship and Christian service. Congregations find their fulfillment in the universal community of the Church, and the universal Church exists in and through congregations.
We are the Church, but we are not the Church alone. Any baptized sister or brother, no matter her language, her nation, or skin color, is bound together with you in the mystical Body of the Son, Jesus Christ. It makes me wonder how we can better witness to our shared identity, for what we believe is that we are who we are only through our sisters and brothers. It is only through our connectedness that we have identity as the Church.
There are so many ways we are the Church together – from sharing conversations and learning events as St. Jacob’s and Trinity do, from sharing our dollars via ELCA Disaster Response and Lutheran World Relief in the Philippines, to partnering as the Virginia Synod to build a new congregation in Bedford. How else are we called to BE the Church….together?