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Pastor's Corner: Trust in your and the world's transformation

 


Children gathered each morning this week to learn about God, play games, eat snacks and sing songs at the vacation bible school hosted at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic and First Lutheran churches.

All week long, worship, work and play focused around God’s transformed community as attested by the thematic verse of Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It is a verse we also studied as adults and parents who attended family camp at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp earlier this month in Lakeside. This is not really a coincidence, seeing as the FLBC counselors traveled out along the Hi-Line and led the vacation bible school in Havre as well.

Like the apostle Paul who originally wrote those words, the college-age counselors have traveled far and wide with their message of Jesus’ renewing and redeeming work in a hurting world. They come from all across the United States, but also Finland and South Africa, and have brought the day camp format to every corner of Montana. (It is only about 100 miles longer from Corinth, where Paul wrote his letter, to Rome, as it is from Libby to Sidney.)

They are at an age when often great transformation occurs in life, whether for believers or non-believers or one transitioning from being one to becoming the other. This is just the nature of the human life cycle, regardless of one’s spirituality. Unlike Paul, they have delivered God’s message primarily to younger children rather than adults. Many of the older folks in church volunteer or otherwise support vacation bible school in hopes these young people will encounter God in a way that will make them life-long followers.

The church can be an anxious body, concerned about its own future and survival. There is sometimes an overeagerness to push transformation by our own force of will rather than to simply “be transformed” by God. The way Paul phrases that verse, a passive voice, is frustrating for those who want to see change now, if not yesterday.

Yet the community of believers is also asked to resist the temptation to be conformed to this world. To avoid thinking of church as a business, which must always be attracting new consumers. To open our minds to new possibilities and unseen ways in which God is working behind the scenes to institute God’s perfect will.

After the counselors return to the lakeshore, and even after that, to their schools and homes and families, I wonder how God will continue to transform the minds (and hearts) of the people of Havre and the surrounding area, young and old, and somewhere in-between. I suspect that we all must be increasingly mindful of when we have given in to the comforts and distractions of a busy world and must turn the volume down on these intrusions. I also expect we will need patience to allow ourselves and our community to be transformed, and in due time, boldness to declare what is good and acceptable and perfect for the path ahead. We can only venture guesses, educated or otherwise, about what God has in store, but faith allows us to trust whatever it is, God is with us and for us. Amen.

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The Rev. Sean Janssen is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, Havre, and Christ Lutheran Church, Big Sandy.

 

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