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Pastor Cheryl Matthews Report

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus:

This is my first Pastoral Greeting in the monthly newsletter to you and as I write I think of my sermon this past Sunday in which I reflected on the Gospel lesson for the day from Luke, chapter 8.

In the reading, Jesus released the Gergesene demoniac from a legion of forces which kept him isolated and excluded from his family, friend and community. The man lived naked in the tombs, his only companions the dead and buried. After he was healed, he went back to his hometown to proclaim the good news of the mighty works God was doing in Jesus Christ.

What are the forces that bind us as communities of God's people? What are some actions and behavior patterns that prevent us from being redemptive communities that are faithful to the mission of the Gospel in the world today?

First, it is easy for the church today to be caught up in nostalgia - an unhealthy longing for the so-called "good old days." We become fearful of the future to which the Spirit calls us. We're simply stuck in a longing for what we per-ceive as what used to be - even though the past is often viewed through rose-colored glasses.

Secondly, we can be chained to grief and loss issues, and avoids the healing process of moving through and beyond what has hurt us and what we have lost. I know of a church that had been stuck for years after losing a long-serving and beloved pastor who died from a sudden heart attack - they had a series of six interim pastors in just five years - they had difficulty moving through the pain and grief that had emerged from this loss. Conflicts can bring a sudden loss of members, broken relationships, loss of financial support and strained budgets. All these need to be addressed openly with compassion and grace.

Third, churches can also get caught up in cynicism and criticism. A "nothing is going right around here" attitude can be like a invading cancer that causes discontent and discord. Back-channeling discussions can further exacerbate the issues. Disagreements must be discussed respectfully and openly.

Fourth and this is one that is so common in our Mid-West culture, we can insist on being "nice" to each other at all costs - and it can be very costly! We are overly polite in our conversations. This means that we don't hold one anoth-er accountable when mistakes are made. We avoid tough conversations that are absolutely necessary if we are to be truthful, honest, forgiving, and ultimately effective in our mission.

Finally, we can insist that we don't have enough and that we are not enough. But the truth is we have absolutely eve-rything we need and we are all beloved children of God.

Jesus comes to challenge and cast out every power that prevents us from living freely and fully as the body of Christ Lutheran Church in Arcadia. We are all created in the image of God and we are set free in Jesus' name. Free to be the church God calls us to be at this time and in this place.

I look forward with joy to sharing the mission with you in the months and years to come!

In Christ's love and service,
Pastor Cheryl L. Matthews

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