A church doesn’t just arrive at its 145th anniversary by accident. Such a commendable milestone is not reached without some intentionality. To serve God and neighbor continuously for nearly a century and a half requires at least two things: thankfulness and visioning—qualities that contribute toward faithful service. If ever we forget to practice either of these two critical qualities, we run the risk of making this place and all that happens in and through it about ourselves instead of the One who daily frees us from sin and death, who binds us together as a diverse yet unified body, and who calls us forward into new life and service for others--Jesus, the Crucified and Risen Christ. Hoping to continue in this congregation’s never mastered, constantly growing, ongoing mission and ministry, my prayer for today is that this celebratory time may serve not in lifting us—and all of our “accomplishments”--up, but to remain cognizant of the purpose of this, and every, anniversary.
When you think about it, an anniversary consists of two parts: 1) a remembrance of the past—reflection on the history of this particular congregation and its ministry--in thankfulness for God’s work and guiding Spirit through the years, and 2) a celebration of what is to come—joyful anticipation of what Christ will do in and through us in the future of this church. An anniversary is simultaneously a look backwards into history as to see where we began and have gone, what we have done, and how we got here, and an imaginative dreaming of what lies ahead in the unknown future as to hope with great expectation for where God will lead us, what Christ will do in and through us, and how the Spirit will continue to inspire us for service to neighbors and sharing the gospel with the world around us. If ever we focus on remembering at the expense of visioning, we lose sight of where we are going—and in reality go nowhere at all--exchanging our hope for the good ole days. On the other hand, if ever we focus on visioning at the expense of remembering, we forget our heritage—becoming something different from what God has created and called us to be--exchanging reality for some pie-in-the-sky.
Today, we give thanks to God for the abundant blessings worked in and through this faith community for 145 years. With this, we vision—prayerfully considering the future mission and ministry of this congregation—so that we may continue to gather, worship, and serve for another 145+ years. Thank you all for coming and joining us in remembering the past and celebrating what is to come for Edensburg Evangelical Lutheran Church. I am blessed God and these people have called me to serve this congregation and to be a part of the ongoing thanksgiving and visioning happening here. In our short year and a half together we have been transformed by God’s grace for us in Jesus Christ, we have wrestled with what it means to be the church in this place, and we have experimented with new and exciting ways to share the love of God in Christ Jesus with others. The Spirit is vibrantly at work in this place: calling, gathering, enlightening, and making us holy to go out sharing the good news of Jesus, the Crucified and Risen One. May God continue to work in and through us for the furthering of the kingdom—here in Malmo, and across Saunders County, Nebraska, the U.S., and the whole world.