I recently heard a colleague speak of a Spanish term, “encuentro,” a term that in its simple translation may merely mean “encounter,” but that I heard described as being like a butterfly’s wings sharing in the work of pollination as they brush against the flowers they visit. The description went on to talk about how, when our lives and stories brush against one another’s, we are changed, and we change the world. It is clear in our stories of scripture that everyone who met Jesus had a holy encuentro: women, lepers, centurions, and surely the disciples. The story of our faith is one that is constantly expanding; we hear about those brushing transformations in Paul’s life and that of the early church. Every time that people became too fixed in their certainties about God they brushed against another witness that expanded their sense of God’s limits. Of course we know the story not merely with regard to our faith, but also in our own lives.
In our family this summer, we have been boldly aware that our exchange student last year made a lasting impression on all of us. Kat became a part of our family and reminded us how those encounters expand our hearts and our understandings of the world. It was a special day when Kat was texting to talk to “pastor daddy” about how she was processing a profound year of experiences that had come to an end, our lives always changed, but the story always still unfolding. Such is every relationship that we have, small and great. And such is our relationship with God’s presence, small and great.
This summer our congregation had the blessing of Eric Ogi sharing in ministry among us. Each time that I was home, I was profoundly aware of how his presence was touching the lives of so many; and I was hearing about how his life was touched. This is the stuff of God! This is church!!
In the last few days we have welcomed another exchange student into our home: Tomine, a bright eyed young woman from Norway. She will be one of four female exchange students in Kewaskum this year who have connections to our congregation. What abundant blessings. I know that for those of us who have a chance to interact with these brave young women who have decided to study abroad for a year of high school, that our lives will be touched and perhaps changed. But there are holy encuentro around us all the time.
As we move into the fall our Church Year once again ramps up. There are lots of wonderful things in which to engage, and each opportunity is an opportunity to know the touch of God. How many of you have had the grace of washing dishes during Coffee Hour across from another member of the church who you didn’t so well, or volunteering to usher and “brushing up against” new friends, or offering to go and visit someone in the hospital or at home – perhaps taking the altar flowers with you and finding that you are the one feeling most richly blessed, or working with our children and youth and encountering the exceptional gifts of the next generation… I know these encounters with God happen all the time, because I hear you tell me about them, and because it is the blessing that I receive every day as your Pastor. Our faith comes alive when we allow ourselves to see it in all that is around us. Let us celebrate God’s holy encuentro in all that we do, and all that we are!