The Abiding Presence of Christ in Christian Community2 min read

The unseasonably warm winter this year was even cozier for a group of sixty northern Michigan Lutherans on the first weekend in March. At Camp Daggett, nestled on Walloon Lake, just south of Petoskey, youth from six different congregations “in the north”—Immanuel, Alpena; Zion, Petoskey; Trinity, Traverse City; Immanuel, Leland; Redeemer, Interlochen, and Trinity, Arcadia—gathered for the annual Winter Whiteout youth retreat (see Psalm 51:7) organized by Brian Horning, Director of Family and Youth Ministries at Zion, Petoskey.

There was the typical retreat stuff—pizza, games, and late nights. One could also tackle an adventure challenge course with high ropes, low ropes, and climbing walls. Or one could choose to ascend the slopes of Nub’s Nob Ski Resort on Saturday evening. In addition, the entire group spent valuable time worshipping together—including Sunday worship at Zion—as well as engaging Pastor Tinetti of Trinity, Arcadia in a series of presentations titled Redeeming Failure. It was a great way for these Michigan Lutherans who straddle both sides of the forty-fifth parallel to fight the typical (or atypical!) bleak midwinter.

While reflecting on the event afterwards, I thought about the Michigan District’s All Professional Church Workers’ Conference coming in November. The theme is “Abide,” based on John 15:4–5 and Jesus’ image of the vine and the branches. It’s a familiar image, though one part of that reading that’s easily overlooked from the original Greek is the “you all” (or “y’all”) of verse four. Jesus says, “Abide in me, also I [abide] in you all” (John 15:4, translation mine).

Another way to look at it is that, in those words, Jesus is emphasizing His abiding presence in Christian community. Just as He and the Father are one and He abides in the Father (John 14:10), so Jesus abides not only in the individual believer (John 15:5), but also in a community of Christians—in the Church—in the body of Christ (Romans 12:3–8; 1 Corinthians 12:12–31).

Where the abiding presence of Christ, the Vine, is intertwined with many branches in Christian community, there His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is working through His Word to bear much fruit. Many branches that are part of many more throughout the Michigan District. All joined to the Vine and resting in the abiding presence of Jesus. It was an encouraging early-March reminder for this pastor.

Oh! And someone tapped the maple trees!

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About the Author

Rev. Dr. Joshua LaFeve serves Immanuel Lutheran Church in Leland, Mich.

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JUDITH IRMA Schultz - March 29, 2023

Hi Brian, Good to see you! Hope it was a special time for memories!

Sounds like it was a weekend that was well Blessed!
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Schultz