One of the houses I grew up in as a child was located on a steep hill about twenty feet or so above some train tracks. From that vantage point I enjoyed watching the trains go by on a regular basis. The most memorable of those train-watchings were the times when the freight trains would stop with the caboose directly under my observation point. The conductor would exit the caboose to stretch his legs and munch on some fruit while the train either off-loaded or on-loaded some cargo. If he happened to see me, he’d throw me an orange, which I thought was pretty nice!
Then when it was time for the train to get moving again, he’d hop up on the caboose and holler, “all aboard!” and off they’d go. Ah, those were the days—the simpler ones—when watching trains and even just catching an orange thrown to you was a really good time!
In some ways, the church is like a train during the summer months: lots of starts and stops, with some people getting off for a time while others come on board. We never know just how full our Sunday worship train will be, only that it will come and go on the same regular schedule it does during the rest of the year, sometimes with more passengers, sometimes with fewer.
Now summer is almost over, and fall is just around the corner. What will our church train look like then? Some might look at attendance numbers and say that our train has slowed down and wonder if it will get up to speed again. Others will look at our history and say that the summer slowdown is only temporary and we’ll be back up to speed when fall gets here. Still others may be a bit anxious, knowing not what lies ahead on the tracks and who the new conductor (that would be the pastor) will be, or what he/she will be like.
Whatever position one takes, we all know one thing is for certain: our St. John’s train has not jumped the tracks, and it will continue on into the future. How do we know this? We have the same engineer we’ve always had, Christ Jesus, and he’s promised to be with us and lead us on our entire journey. Our mission and our goal is to let Jesus drive the train, and then faithfully follow where the Holy Spirit lays the tracks! Sometimes it will be clear where those tracks lead; most of the time, though, our vision will be a bit fuzzier. There may even be some obstacles lying on our tracks that need to be removed or pushed aside in order for us to move forward.
I’m convinced that God has something special in mind for this long-standing, thriving Lutheran congregation we call St. John’s Lutheran Church. Remember God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” What those plans are is anybody’s guess, but since God is behind them, they’re bound to be great! With that promise firmly in mind, get ready to jump back on the St. John’s train on September 9th, when you’ll once again here that Rally Sunday call, “All Aboard!”
~ Pastor Jeff Chubb
Kids Against Hunger