Dear St. Paul’s Family,
Every month, when the Council meets, we begin with devotions. For the last year and a half, I’ve invited each member to take a turn telling a bit of their faith story—how their faith has made them who they are, how God has been and is currently active in their lives, and why participation and leadership in the church is important to them. It has been a great opportunity for me to get to know each of our Council members, but it is also an important practice for us as people of faith to learn to talk about our faith and why it’s important to us.
By learning to talk about our faith and why it’s important, we remind ourselves of why our faith matters, but we also become more equipped to share our faith with others. Too often, we keep our faith so tightly wrapped up within ourselves, that we never talk about it at all – at least that’s how I was raised, and maybe you were, too. Perhaps some of us have taken to heart too seriously the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words,” and we never use words at all.
We don’t like to talk about our faith. But God calls us in the Great Commission at the end of Matthew to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). We are called to share our faith with others, in word and deed. We are called to carry our faith beyond Sunday morning into the rest of the week. We are called to be living signs of God’s presence in the world. And sometimes, this means we need to use words.
It’s important for us to be able to talk about our faith. But it’s also important for us to be able to bear witness to God’s work in the world. So, for the next couple years, the Council will spend their devotions time answering this question: How have you experienced God’s presence in the last month?
So often, we get lost in the details, busy with the day-to-day demands of life. We focus too much on the business, the numbers, and the issues that we’re facing at any given moment. We get so wrapped up in the chaos of daily life that we rarely take time to reflect on how God has been active in our lives and in the world around us.
But, just like it’s important for us to be able to talk about our faith, it’s also important for us to be able to name ways in which God is at work. We might name any number of things, big or small. It could be a hymn we heard in church that opened our eyes to a new understanding, beautiful flowers, time with kids or grandkids, a smile from a neighbor, a kind word from a friend, a moment of peace in the midst of chaos, a glimmer of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation, or the ability to endure through a particularly stressful or difficult time. We can experience God in personal ways, at the congregational level, within the community, or throughout the world.
Noticing God’s presence and activity takes practice, and that’s why the Council will be working on this for quite some time. I encourage you to take up this faith practice as well. In my experience, when we are able to bear witness to God’s presence in our lives and our world, we begin to see things from a new perspective, and we are able to live more deeply into our faith. We begin to see the ways that God has gifted each of us with an abundance of gifts, how God is inviting us to share these gifts with our world. We begin to see how God is reigning in a new kingdom even in our midst, bringing about a new creation right before our eyes.
As for me, one of the ways that I have experienced God’s presence this past month was in the Holy Week worship services. These services are some of my favorite throughout the year. I find that these services invite us to experience worship in ways that are different from what we do each weekend. I am always hopeful as I see God gathering people together for these most holy of days, and inspiring people to share their experiences with others.
So, take a moment, reflect, and ask yourself, how have I experienced God’s presence in the last month? I promise that over time, God will draw you into a deeper, more active faith.
Rev. Jessica Hahn