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Heart for Arcadia

Learning from the bells

I’ll be honest. When the bells kerfuffle first arose I found it a little vexing. It wasn’t long, though, before I recognized the blessing in it and became grateful.

Why? Put it this way. Churches will often ask themselves (or be asked), especially in seasons of transition, “If we weren’t here, what would be the loss to the community? Would our neighbors miss us?” Too often congregations don’t have a good answer to that question. They’ve lost a sense of purpose, a sense of identity.

I came to feel grateful for the bells kerfuffle, though, because members of our community started offering unsolicited input about what Trinity Lutheran means to our little village—in e-mails, phone calls, drop-ins, or conversations at the post office. They were coming to us and saying, “Here’s what we’d miss if you weren’t here.” To be sure, many comments specifically addressed the topic of the bells. But many others expanded to speak of the place of our church in the community generally.

Numerous folks, with no direct connection to our church, said things like, Trinity is the iconic center of town. Or that our presence embodies the spirit of the village. Or indeed that Trinity is “the heart of Arcadia”—not only in a geographical sense (which is true), but in a larger symbolic sense as well.

What if Trinity Lutheran was known not only for being the heart of Arcadia, but also for having a heart for Arcadia?

Leaning into our identity

All this has gotten me thinking. (Uh-oh, watch out…)

It’s one thing to have an identity in the community as a result of your physical presence. That’s a great blessing, and we ought to be grateful for it. But what would it look like for us to lean into that identity, and build upon it? To embrace the place that our neighbors already accord to us in the community, and to strive for it to be not only a passive designation (due to our building) but also an active one (due to God’s work through our people and ministry)?

In other words: what if Trinity Lutheran was known not only for being the heart of Arcadia, but also for having a heart for Arcadia? 

(It also occurs to me that, in a sense, our mission is embedded right there in our name: “TLC Arcadia.” We’re here to grow in the love of Christ through Word and Sacrament and to share that love with our neighbors.)

The thing is, to a large extent this already is the case. We’re a church that cares for its neighbors in need. A church that is welcoming to the community. Don’t get me wrong; we’re imperfect, forgiven people, subsisting solely by God’s grace in Jesus (that’s why we need the church, after all). My point is simply that TLC Arcadia is a church with a long history and tradition of seeking to be a blessing and benefit to its home. 

To give just a recent example, this summer I brought to our church’s attention a family in Arcadia with extraordinary needs. I challenged us to give generously to help, hoping we might raise a few hundred dollars to provide assistance in some tangible ways. 

Y’all raised nearly six thousand dollars in a single weekend. I about fainted when I saw the final number. 

Coincidentally, the mom from that family shared this message to her Facebook page last week, talking about our church:

"Back in July when we had our kitchen fire, our well go out, and electrical issues, I put down my guard and asked for help. It was amazing to see God work through people that I didn’t know that well to come and help.

"Even more so a local church that we had never attended stepped up and became the hands and feet of Jesus for us. They helped in so many tangible ways that humbled me to my core. What’s more, they have continued to check in on my family to see if there are ongoing needs that we have.

"This is how the church should be. Brothers and sisters reaching out to those they don’t even know and being the hands and feet of Jesus. It has built my faith and also made me sad realizing that most churches are not like this."

That’s heart for Arcadia. TLC has it. 

A practical next step

All of this is mostly me thinking out loud, offering some inchoate thoughts, and I welcome your feedback (or pushback). But let 
me wrap it up with a practical next step.

This week the Church Council met and had a great conversation, talking about avenues for outreach and opportunities for mercy here in our neighborhood. As part of that conversation we had a fruitful brainstorming session, imagining new ways in which we could further show God's heart for Arcadia. 

I’ve thrown together a quick survey with some of the ideas that the Council generated, which range from the simple to the ambitious. Don’t worry, this isn’t an actual vote and you're not committing yourself to anything—it's more just taking a temperature. So if you’ve got two minutes, please fill out the survey here. And add your own ideas!

But the point isn't how we show heart for Arcadia, but that we continue to do it. As we pray each week after Holy Communion, we ask God that through that sacred meal He might strengthen us "in faith toward [Him] and fervent love toward one another." In ways great and small, for 138 years, God has been faithfully present in our fair town in the humble ministry of Trinity Lutheran. May we carry forward that great tradition!

Sunday's sermon

In the third and final installment of our mini-series on 2 Timothy, St. Paul encourages Timothy to "preach the word." What should you be listening for in a sermon?

Listen to Sunday's sermon

News & Notes

  • Along these lines, the Church Council drafted an open letter to the community on behalf of the church. It informs our neighbors of how the vote went, but more than that it opens the door for continued conversation. Read it here
  • We're all watching with trepidation the recent storms and their effects in erosion on our beachfront—especially how it has impacted Camp Arcadia and cottages and homes along the water. I thus find it fitting that the Psalm for this coming Sunday (Reformation Day) is Psalm 46, and am making it my prayer: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling" (Psalm 46.1-3).
  • As I just alluded to, this Sunday is Reformation Day. I encourage you to wear red, the liturgical color of the day. It also has something to do with the sermon. :)

From the Church Year

Tomorrow the Church Year commemorates the faithful women Dorcas (Tabitha), Lydia, and Phoebe. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:

"These women were exemplary Christians who demonstrated their faith by their material support of the Church. Dorcas (also known as Tabitha) was well-known and much loved for her acts of charity in the city of Joppa, especially for her making clothes for the poor. When Dorcas died suddenly, the members of her congregation sent to the neighboring city of Lydda for the Apostle Peter, who came and raised her from the dead (Acts 9:3641). Lydia was a woman of Thyatira, who worked at Philippi selling a famous purple dye that was so much in demand in the ancient world. She was also a worshiper of God at the local synagogue. When the Apostle Paul encountered her in prayer among other proselyte women, his preaching of the Word brought Lydia to faith in Christ. She and her friends thus became the nucleus of the Christian community in Philippi (16:1315, 40). Phoebe was another faithful woman associated with the Apostle Paul. She was a deaconess from Cenchrae (the port of Corinth) whom Paul sent to the church in Rome with his Epistle to the Romans. In it he writes of her support for the work of the early Church (Rom 16:1)."

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

- Mother Teresa

Looking ahead to Sunday

Reformation Day
  • Readings
    • First lesson—Revelation 14.6-7
    • Epistle lesson—Romans 3.19-28
    • Gospel—John 8.31-36

+ Grace & Peace +

Pastor Tinetti

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