Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.”
Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times…”
Our family became part of the LPC community in 1972 because of location, denomination, acquaintance with members, and preferable worship style. We could be there for worship, choir practice, meetings, etc. in 10 minutes. Friends from previous church affiliation in Arlington already found it and invited us. We liked the outstanding music program, nurturing youth program, adult education, and competent, friendly staff. We stayed for the same reasons and many more, weathering a few storms through the years. Regular attendance and active participation were habits from childhood and a meaningful part of family life that we wanted to instill in our daughters.
Commitment, not only to a church but to Jesus Christ, gives the church community its strength and importance compared to civic, school, career, or other communities to which we all belong. The Bible offers guidance and solutions like the one in today’s story in Exodus, where Moses’ father-in-law wisely advised him to appoint others to help resolve the daily overload of questions and concerns. Presbyterians are good at enabling lay leadership to prevent pastor burnout.
In the Matthew story Jesus demonstrates good human relations—so necessary to the harmony and success of any community. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” is not to be recited idly. “Do unto others …” involves listening to and respecting the opinions and thoughts of others, leaving judgment to God. This is a crucial element in maintaining the church community in 2021 as a place to work together to love and serve others.
God of mercy, it is truly a gift to be able to share joys and concerns in the LPC community. You have drawn people from various places, ages, and interests to study, serve, and worship together. Grant us humility and a loving spirit so that any differences diminish as we keep our eyes on the common goals that unite rather than divide. We thank you that, as we sang as kids, “The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is the people.”* Remind each of us daily to do our part to help “Thy kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.” You sent Jesus to teach us how to live, and it is in his name we pray. Amen.