Wednesday, July 29, 2009
See that good looking fellow over on the right? That's Pastor Stephen Tibbets, a fellow Southern Californian, now serving in Peoria, Illinois. Recently he has been to Vadstena, Sweden to celebrate with other members of the Societas Sanctae Birgittae (Society of St. Birgitta) during the week of her commemoration (July 23).
SSB is a renewal society within the Church of Sweden (Lutheran), which is a church in desperate need of renewal! According to official Church of Sweden statistics: "Somewhat less than 4 percent of the Church of Sweden membership attends public worship during the average week; about 2 percent are regular attenders." The reasons for that are many (the Lutheran Church was the state church for centuries, and required little committment), but there is a lesson to be learned for us as well.
Christianity does not grow "naturally." That is, two Christian parents do not neccessarily produce a Christian child. That child will certainly be exposed to the faith and (if the parents follow their baptismal vows) will know the Creed, Commandments and Holy Scriptures. However, we can turn away from faith and reject the claims of Jesus Christ. The Christian faith is always just a generation away from going extinct. Christianity only grows "supernaturally," through the activity of the Holy Spirit, convicting and converting us to be disciples of the Lord.
We can never rest on our laurels. No matter how much a church grows, it must always be making new disciples, reaching out to others in love, sharing the faith, and helping people find meaning and direction in life. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest," (Matt. 9:37-38).
Like the Society of St. Birgitta, we pray for renewal in our lives and for the renewal of the church:
"Lord God of our salvation, it is your will that all people might come to you through your Son Jesus Christ. Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection. We pray in his name." (Lutheran Book of Worship)