As you study the New Testament Scriptures, you cannot escape the centrality of the local church in the plans of God for His people. Since the beginning God's desire is for His people to be rightly related to Him and to one another in deep, abiding friendships. The early Christians understood this truth; they understood there was a dependency on one other that created a powerful bond of love and unity in the church. They didn't always get it right, no church ever does. But their love for one another was a powerful witness to the reality of the Gospel message. Jesus said: By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
The Scriptures call us to love one anther, to serve one another, to pray for one another and bear one another's burdens. We are called to submit to one another, to be kind to one another and to be hospitable o one another. And while the gathering affords us an opportunity to enter into life together, this call to do life together is so much more than just an hour on Sunday.
One of the rich experiences I've enjoyed in pastoring the church at Valley is to be invited into the lives of our church family--often at times of great fear or uncertainty. We have entered into both the joy and sadness of our friends at Valley, walking together through the highs and lows of our journeys. We have celebrate significant milestones and stood around hospital beds and gravesides. We have laughed together and cried together. Many of you have shared your concerns with us and have invited us to pray with you and for you and your families. We have not only worshipped together and served together, we have entered into a deep and abiding fellowship that further binds us together in Christ. And in all this our faith is strengthened and our hope is renewed--just the way God intended.
So my friends at Valley, I write these words to thank you for doing life together! And I call you again to remain faithful to the community of faith, the church, that we might continue to be that source of strength and courage to one another in the days ahead!
To paraphrase my life verse from 1 Corinthians 15:58, be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the life of the church!