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Connecting the disconnect

by Pastor Paul Andell (Saint James Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, Pa.)

February 7, 2005

Over lunch the other day I had the opportunity to witness to my faith in Jesus Christ. The woman I dialogued with has been attending services with her boyfriend. photo of Pastor Paul AndellShe is not baptized, having been raised a Christian Scientist. Until recently this fact had not been a concern for her but it is for him. Now, at 40-something, she is revisiting her spirituality and trying to reconcile the disconnect with the world of Christian incarnational belief.

Where do you start a conversation with someone whose world has been the self-help books of rationalism and wisdom? As we sat across from each other I silently prayed that I might share something of God’s wisdom in Jesus. I don’t know if I did my best or not. I do know the Holy Spirit is at work in her life through the “synergy,” as she calls it, she experiences in our worship.

Her issue is what to do with the claims of Jesus Christ in her life. She is not interested in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) position on homosexuality or its preoccupation with social injustice and poverty. It is much more basic and profound. What am I to do with Jesus?

A couple I know had an argument over religion. They are engaged to be married. The man, who is a non-practicing Jew, asked her, “Is Jesus going to come between us?” And she, a Christian, turned around and asked him the same question. He answered, “No.”Still, Jesus doesn’t and won’t go away. The ELCA, in its baptized believers—clergy and laity—need the conviction to say with Paul, “I know in whom I have believed,” and then live it.

Still, Jesus doesn’t and won’t go away. The ELCA, in its baptized believers—clergy and laity—need the conviction to say with Paul, “I know in whom I have believed,” and then live it. It is with ever increasing joy that I invite people, including the clearly unbelieving, to “come and see.” That’s the only mission the Christian Church has and the only way the ELCA can authenticate its purpose. Jesus Christ is Lord of this church. He has an ultimate claim on it, not to be compromised, accommodated or rationalized by Chicago’s leadership, individual consciences or prevailing thought.

God’s wisdom may be a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. So be it. But to those of us who are called to live and preach it, it is life and salvation. So may it be.