Dear church family and friends,
Do you have a favorite?
Pizza? I think everyone does and this is a photo of a pizza from my absolutely favorite pizzeria in the world, Santora’s. They have been making pizza in Buffalo since the late 1920s and their “pies” taste as good as they did when I first bit into one as a child. I love them so much that I still can recall instantaneously the number we used to dial to order a pick-up or a delivery, 633-7676. When asked if I could choose my last meal on earth, I always say it must include Santora’s pizza. Oh, and it just needs some pepperoni to be complete although I will take it with some “wings.”
As a Christian, I have come to realize the good news about God is that God does not have a favorite … God does not love any human being more than any other human being. In fact, God each day is hoping that every single human being on earth comes to believe and then to live as God expects humanity to live. Jesus taught, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
So if there is joy for one sinner repenting can you imagine the party that goes on every time a church goes on a successful mission trip to help hurting people like we do each year? (Red Bird 2022 starts on July 10.) Can you imagine the joy that the angels of God shared as they looked down at St. Paul’s Vacation Bible School a few weeks ago and saw so many children discovering God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? They were probably singing with the kids as they sang G-L-O-R-Y with smiles on their young faces!
And can you just imagine what impact half-empty churches have on those same angels? Churches with no Bible studies? Churches with rapidly aging and decreasing memberships? Or the ever-decreasing number of individuals who choose to not even pause for an hour on Sunday mornings to worship God? Or parents who intentionally disconnect their children from church and faith?
Friends, as we came out of the summer I preached a sermon series about FRESHNESS in FAITH. Frankly, my intent was to impact all of us with the need to get reacquainted with God and renewed in our faith to ensure that St. Paul’s does not join those churches that are shrinking and not shining the light of Christ brightly in the world. We need to again strive to fill the pews and chairs to worship God! We all know friends, family members, former regulars at St. Paul’s, neighbors, and co-workers who do not go to church anymore. As Christians we need to be doing all we can to reconnect people with God and Christ. We need to be intentional about inviting people to worship God with others, to pray together, and to sing the hymns of the church together.
Cymbala’s book is available in paperback and on kindle if you are interested in reading it. Here are the “homework” suggestions I made if you are interested in having a fresh faith along with me:
FRESH WIND: RENEWAL in the SPIRIT was the first week and my recommendation to each of us is to find a quiet place to go to alone without a cell phone for at least 30 minutes to focus on God, to discover visions in the clouds or trees or nature, and to focus on breathing. I recommended reading PSALM 130 in those moments.
FRESH FIRE: IGNITING the SPIRIT reminded us to pray deliberately and to pray more. That through our prayers we need to share with God our desire to experience God’s works, God’s love, God’s power, and God’s righteousness. We need to pray for God’s Holy to strengthen our inner faith into a fresh effective faith on fire for Christ.
FRESH PATHS: A DISCOVERY JOURNEY taught that worship should be an essential element of our lives and that along with making worship essential we truly need to make Jesus the One our lives are about. I recommended listening to the song The Heart of Worship frequently. Molly led the church in singing it on Sunday August 29.
FRESH IDEAS: SHAKEN up in FAITH emphasized our need to read God’s Word. If we love God and if we hold Jesus as our Savior, then the reading of Scripture should no longer be an occasional or an optional element of our lives. We should be digging into God’s Word daily or at least the Gospels.
FRESH FAITH: COME to the TABLE of the LORD concluded the series with thoughts on the value of our relationship with God and that Communion offers us the opportunity to meet up with Jesus through the sacrament of Communion. Our need to heed the call in Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me WHEN you seek me with ALL of your HEART.” It is through Communion that we confess to God and ask for God’s immediate intervention, and that opens to the door to a fresh faith.
I will be in Buffalo on September 12 and I can guarantee that my brother and will be eating a pizza at Santora’s. Our parents took us to Santora’s. Our parents took us to church. And now Mark and I are in church each week and we still enjoy Santora’s …
I think our parents taught us well.