So at some point in the not too distant past St. John’s decided to have its annual congregation meeting on the first Sunday in November, which means, unless the church calendar drastically changes, our annual meeting will always fall on All Saints Sunday. I would like to think that was the reason for the changed meeting date, but of course it was about convenience of people’s seasonal schedules: for those who travel away from the soon enough snow-infested Midwest and the die-hard hunter-gatherers that will leave in full mass in weeks’ time. Nevertheless, here we are, the annual meeting falling on All Saints Sunday.
Now no matter how hard I try, I cannot convince you that the meeting after worship will be edge-of-your-seat entertainment. We won’t be able to sell tickets that will compete with prices of Big Ten football stadiums. I can’t promise you any intense rhetoric that would put Donald Trump to shame and increase television ratings at an outlandish rate. But then again, that is not what any gathering of sisters and brothers in Christ is supposed to be about.
Instead, what will happen after worship this morning is about the saints: those who have gone before us, those living among us now, including all of us here today and those who cannot join us, and also those still yet to come. In addition, the meeting is about a glimpse of what the passage in Revelation describes: a “home of God [that] is among mortals…dwell[ing] with [us],” even in small-town Baroda. That we saints past, present, and future, all those who gather here, all those who take part in the ministry of what we as St. John’s have to offer to this world; all of us are God’s people. God has made a commitment to dwell with us. And what will happen after worship this morning is a commitment we make to God and all the saints.
Earlier in the service we remembered some of our beloved saints who died within the past year, including Bill Fleisher, Eleanor Maier, and Neal Nitz, sisters and brothers in Christ who forever left their mark on St. John’s. To this day I still hear about the hugs from Bill Fleisher, while he served as an usher countless times for worship; when he would go out the doors and help people out of their cars, the very beginning of helping everyone see that this congregation is indeed a “home of God…among [us mere] mortals,” where God’s love flows out through our hugs and laughter. At the same time jealous conversations continue to ensue from empty stomachs over Eleanor Maier’s noodles, and the constant warm embrace she revealed time and time again to us through her smile and even the quilts she tirelessly made. And then there was Neal Nitz, who dedicated many years of service in leadership for St. John’s on our council, some of which during some absolutely pivotal transitions, helping a church persevere through it all, ever moving forward because this family of God had too much to offer to do anything less.
What we do downstairs after worship this morning is a commitment we make to Bill, to Eleanor, to Neal, all of whom selflessly dedicated years of their life to St. John’s, and most importantly to God. What we do as St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, a “home of God [that] is among mortals,” is an obligation we fulfill to each other, a commitment we make to be there for one another through all the sufferings in this life and to cheer each other on with the achievements; but we also owe it to the Bill’s, and the Eleanor’s, and the Neal’s, who have come before us. Some of the names over our eighty-five years of history are not remembered as they used to be, but the impact still remains through the same Holy Spirit that ignited those saints who are now at rest in God’s eternal care.
However, what we are also about to do at this annual meeting is a promise we make to the saints who have still yet to be, those we have never met, those who may come into this place, into this family of Christ, long, long after we’re gone. Today we make a promise to them: that we will pour our hearts into this “home of God.” We will give all that we have to muster to make sure everyone knows that God still dwells in this world. No matter how bleak, no matter how fearful humanity becomes, we know Christ is Risen indeed.
We will not keep that Greatest News of everlasting hope to ourselves. We know that God not only dwells in the family of St. John’s, but God is most certainly alive and well throughout this world, and this church is just the starting point for us to follow our Risen Lord and Savior out into Berrien County and beyond, for the sake of the saints who have come before: for Bill, for Eleanor, for Neal; and for all the saints we have still yet to meet. God has already been hard at work in the generations past, but God is far from finished with St. John’s and the entire Creation. And for that, for God’s continued holy activity through all the saints through all times and places, we give thanks to God indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon