Category Archives: Church

Just Show Up! The Necessity of being Present

 

mother-theresa-quote-just-show-up-and-things-and-things-will-happenBeing present is not an option if we want to truly flourish! Present to God, the Christian community, to the people we touch, to the needs of the world around us. I bare my heart a bit in this sermon. I trust God will use it to encourage as well as challenge us on the implications of “Just showing up.”

Our tendency in today’s church is toward consumerism and expecting God to “show up” when we need God. I survey Luke’s Gospel revealing 4 challenging and practical applications relating to life with God and his church.

If Jesus Came to Church

logoIMG_8474One thing is certain. Jesus’s Vision was crystal clear! It was embedded in the amazing prophecy of Isaiah (chpt 61 and 58) that Jesus read in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. This sermon explores what is behind the vision and its implications for us today. (Due to a technical difficulty, this is a ‘studio’ recording, not the original.)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
   and recovering of sight to the blind,
   to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (from Isa. 58:6)
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

There are 4 aspects of Jesus’ vision that must drive what the church is about!

  1. Jesus’ vision is for the whole person – spiritual AND physical;
  2. Jesus’ vision is for the Jews AND all humanity;
  3. Jesus’ vision is to be both proclaimed AND demonstrated;
  4. Jesus’ vision is for the present AND the future.

And so our vision at Christ Church has been put this way. We pray for the grace to live it out!

Our Vision:
Christ Church will be a diverse community that lives the Good News of Jesus Christ for the flourishing of all people throughout our region and around the world.
 
Our Mission Priorities:

As a movement of people dependent upon God, we will:

 Become and make committed disciples of Christ who glorify God and embody our faith in every area of life.
 Bring compassion, mercy, and justice to our local community and the world in sustainable ways.
 Start new and strengthen existing Christ Church communities.

NOTE: I would recommend looking at the great little book by  A. J. Gordon that inspired the name of our Luke 3-5 series. It’s called How Christ Came to Church. (You can find it on the archive of his works here: under his books.) Gordon has wonderful insight into the presence and power of the Holy Spirit for our life with Christ. Here’s a sampling:

Just in front of the study window where I write is a street, above which it is said that a powerful electric current is constantly moving. I cannot see that current: it does not report itself to hearing, or sight, or taste, or smell, and so far as the testimony of the senses is to be taken, I might reasonably discredit its existence. But I see a slender arm, called the trolley, reaching up and touching it; and immediately the car with its heavy load of passengers moves along the track as though seized in the grasp of some mighty giant. The power had been there before, only now the car lays hold of it or is rather laid hold of by it, since it was a touch, not a grip, through which the motion was communicated. 

And would it be presumptuous for one to say that he had known something of a similar contact with not merely a divine force but a divine person? The change which ensued may be described thus: instead of praying constantly for the descent of a divine influence there was now a surrender, however imperfect, to a divine and ever-present Being: instead of a constant effort to make use of the Holy Spirit for doing my work there arose a clear and abiding conviction that the true secret of service lay in so yielding to the Holy Spirit that he might use me to do his work!

Is Jesus Vision really OUR vision?

logoIMG_8474Beginning at Advent, we are preaching through the Gospel of Luke this year at Christ Church. We are taking the first 3 weeks of the new year to explore the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry recorded in Luke, chapters 3-5. We’re asking the challenging question, “Is Jesus’ vision OUR vision?” Listen to the first sermon, If Jesus Came to Town, here. 

Our statement of vision goes like this:

Christ Church will be a diverse community that lives the
Good News of Jesus Christ for the flourishing of all people
throughout our region and around the world.

In this first teaching, we discover:
/ The vital ministry of John the Baptist as the “hinge” figure between the Old and New Testaments; pointing to Jesus through whom “ALL humanity will see the salvation of God!”

/ The importance and hope that comes from true repentance and asking the Lord, “What shall we do?”

/ Why discipleship is for everyday. “Faith at Work” matters to God! (One of our Mission Priorities is to become and make committed disciples of Christ who glorify God and embody our faith in every area of life.

/ How the baptism of Jesus reveals the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and foreshadows Christ’s death and resurrection.

/ How the genealogy in Luke proclaims Jesus as the New Adam!


Jesus has indeed “moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14) Does He find us turning to God? Eager to follow him as a true disciple? Living the Good News of Jesus’ reign? Working for the flourishing of ALL the people God loves?

Part 2 will come from Luke, ch. 4, “If Jesus Came to Church!”

The Church is outside the walls!

15-08-23 PRAXIS - Church Unleashed.006A necessary practice that will move us beyond theory, is to take time to process how God is speaking to us (and God IS constantly speaking!) With permission, I’m sharing a story, a not unusual day in my life or the life of a pastor, but a day when God “spoke to me.” I was reminded how the church is at work “under the radar” of our usual church-growth metrics. Here is the sermon audio and the written story is below:

[Church Outside the Walls]

I walked into the wake
knowing I couldn’t stay too long
and I didn’t know the family too well.
“Thanks so much for coming, Pastor.”

This new-acquainted sister of mine is a grieving daughter today;
mourning her mother after the heavy weight of caring well;
after the all too short wait for the expected end.
“Pastor, meet my dad.”

Her father looked up with sorrowful eyes.
“Thank you for coming, Pastor,” he said
not knowing me, but so sincere.
I told her, “I can’t stay for the service, but I wanted to stop by.”

I extend hands and hugs to the row of exhausted family.
I’m a welcomed stranger touching the tender nerves of loss.
I turned to leave, 6 radiant smiles of other women from our church.
“Oh, Pastor, so glad to see you!” as though surprised.

____________

I was deeply touched by this moment.
These women have not just “stopped by.”
They’ve been here – for the duration.
They’ve been here – from the start:

Comforting;
weeping;
listening and laughing;
serving and sistering.

They meet each week – or more
Praying and learning
listening and laughing; serving and sistering.
That’s just what they do.

_______________

Now, if the grieving sister were asked later,
“Has your church been there for you?”
I’m guessing she’d say, “Oh yes! My whole band of sisters
has walked beside me every step!”

“And, by the way, a pastor called and prayed and stopped by.”
But I wonder how many scores of people felt Jesus’ touch
through these women, that day and beyond?
Precious-to-God people who may not be entering a church building any time soon?

Come to think of it, only half of these women from our church were able to be “in church” the next Sunday.
I was having a grand Epiphany! A moment of beautiful clarity.
Known well in theory; but again now in Praxis:

The Church is outside the walls – going at full speed – unleashed!
This day’s liturgy is truly “the work of the people.”
A long vigil; a Holy Day of caring.
Spontaneous worship; teaching on the run; prayer without ceasing. 

______________

Ever since the widow gave her tiny, extravagant coins;
and Lydia’s thriving purple business, financed an infant church;
and Priscilla and Aquilla, tent-makers and disciple-makers
taught young triple A Apollos more complete doctrine in their home…

The Ordinary Ministry – has been notoriously underrated;
The Body’s work – often undocumented;
at least by the “experts;”
but NOT unnoticed by Jesus, the Head.

The One who measures true “success.” 


A SUGGESTED PRAYER TO BEGIN EACH DAY:

Lord I want to be available, to be your hands and feet today;
How are you speaking to me
Where are you at work?
How do you want me to join you?

OR in the words of one of our ‘senior saints:’

“Good morning, Lord!
What are you up to today?
How can I be involved?

OR like the child Samuel (and Mary, mother of Jesus)

“Speak, Lord; your servant is listening.”

Your Ordinary – High Calling!

ordinarypeopleThe calling of the first disciples in John 1:35-51 is an intriguing picture of  simple invitation and mysterious Divine plan. The number of disciples first increases through the organic networking of family and friends. It still does! 

“Come and see,” says Jesus to Andrew…who finds his brother Peter and brings him to Jesus…who calls Philip to follow him…who finds cynical Nathanael and invites him to “Come and see!” Ordinary people doing ordinary things, like running to find those you love most to introduce them to the irresistable King. (“The High Calling” is a sermon in our series – found here.)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives us an earthy reminder:

“Thy Kingdom Come” – this is not the prayer of the pious –
of the individual who wants to flee the world,

nor is it the prayer of the utopian fanatic.
Rather, this is the prayer only of the church-community of children of Earth…who persevere together, in the midst of the world, in its depths,
in the daily life and subjugation of the world…

Here, in the midst of the dying, torn, and thirsting world, something becomes evident to those who can believe, believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

         – D. Bonhoeffer, “Thy Kingdom Come!”

Living ‘Under the Influence’

Pentecost Icon. The King figure at the bottom represents the world waiting in darkness for the apostles to bring the power of the Spirit they have received to all the nations of the world.
Pentecost Icon. The King figure at the bottom represents the world waiting in darkness for the apostles to bring the power of the Spirit they have received to all the nations of the world.

Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter. In our Flourish! series we re-visited the essential question of the Power behind a life of flourishing – the Holy Spirit. Jesus four times (in John, ch. 14-16) promises that he will send the Paraclete  (Greek for “Helper,” “Counselor,” “Comforter,” or “Advocate” – literally, “One who comes alongside to help!”) Paul uses the analogy of drunkenness: being under the influence of too much wine is the OPPOSITE of flourishing!
Listen to the sermon here.

There is joy and power when we live conscously under the influence of the Person of the Holy Spirit – depending on the Helper for every area of life and service!

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit… (Ephesians 5:18f. ESV)

Here’s my expanded translation:
Do not form the habit of getting your stimulous from misusing substances. This is wasting your life like pagan revelers letting themselves be contolled by false gods. Rather, be constantly influenced by, and submissive to, the Holy Spirit who is in you, and beside you, to personally fill you, and empower you to flourish for His glory and praise!

 

The Abraham Conspiracy – Grasping God’s Mission in the world

abraham_conspiracy2-01Every generation; every church community; every serious Christ-follower must come to grips with God’s mission. God invites us into the greatest privilege and adventure possible. I’ve dubbed it the Abraham Conspiracy.

In this post I want to share a link to the sermon that lays out the Big Picture of the mission of God that is threaded through the entire Bible. It’s where God wonderfully invites us to join Him!  The sermon is called,  “Jesus, the Nations, and You.”

Here is a quote from Christopher Wright’s who has written two great books on this subject: The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, and The Mission of God’s People.

“God calls the Church (the community of believing Jews and Gentiles)
who are the extension of the Abraham covenant,
to be the AGENT of God’s blessing to the nations –
in the name – and for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ!”

 

 

The Holy Spirit – THE wind beneath our wings

pentecost

Last Sunday marked the coming of the Holy Spirit to the new community of Jesus called the Church! Nothing would remain the same!

Malcolm Guite, poet, Anglican priest, and song-writer has written a whole book of sonnets for the Christian Year. I want to share his beautiful rendering of Pentecost.

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings,
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays,
Today the church draws breath at last and sings,
As every flame becomes a tongue of praise.
This is the feast of Fire, Air, and Water,
Poured out and breathed and kindled into Earth.
The Earth herself awakens to her maker,
Translated out of death and into birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release.
Today the Gospel crosses every border,
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace.
Today the lost are found in his translation,
Whose mother-tongue is love, in every nation.

I love the implications of Pentecost for the world-wide spread of the Gospel. Note the play on words in the last two lines.  We speak of something being “lost in translation.” With the coming of the Spirit and the Church charged with making disciples of all peoples, NO ONE need be “lost in translation.” Every nation knows the language of love that comes from God!

The Spiritual Homelessness of Young Adults

spirtually-homelessMuch has been written about the so called “Nones” – the seemingly growing number of those in America marking “none” as to their religious affiliation.

An article from David Kinnaman is the Barna Research organization’s more detailed take on the spiritual journeys of young adults, or millennials,  and how older Christian leaders can best ‘mentor’ them and learn from them. The study is called: Three Spiritual Journeys of Millennials.  Read it here.

Q – If you are in the 18-30 age – do you see similar trends in yourself and others?

The Church – Bad for Humanity?

toughquestion logoIn our teaching series called “Tough Questions,” we looked at “The Church’s”  image problem among so many in our culture.  The question being raised by those understandably cynical about organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, could, I believe be put like this:

Isn’t the Church really bad for humanity?

I’ll put two quotes in this post from the sermon that need some rumination to fully grasp. For example, I mentioned the recent book, The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and For Humanism, by A.C. Grayling.  Part of the problem is that “humanism” has been hijacked by those with a false understanding both of what it means to be human, and the Biblical underpinnings of true humanity. One reviewer hit the nail on the head as to the weakness of the new atheists’ argument:

Grayling is mistaken. The style of atheism rehearsed in these books has reached a dead end. It’s one thing to catalogue the manifest faults within this or that religious tradition, which the new atheists have ably done… over and over and over again. It’s quite another to claim, as these authors also invariably do, that godlessness is not only true but also (really) good for human beings. It quite obviously is not.

“If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.

“Honest atheists understand this. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God, but he called it an “awe-inspiring catastrophe” for humanity, which now faced the monumental task of avoiding a descent into nihilism. /hopelessness. Camus likewise recognized that when the longing for a satisfying answer to the question of “why?” confronts the “unreasonable silence of the world,” the goodness of human life appears to dissolve and must be reconstructed from the ground up. 

Philip Larkin, the poet: speaks of a life with no solace or reassurance, confronting the horrifying prospect of a lonely plunge into infinite nothingness:

This is what we fear: no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell,
nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anesthetic from which none come round.

-Daman Linker, Where are the Honest Atheist? The World

David Bently Hart rips the new atheism to shreds in his book, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. Here is his point as relates to our question.

“Christendom” was only the outward, sometimes majestic, but always defective form of the interaction between the gospel and (culture)… The more vital and essential victory of Christianity lay in the strange, impractical, altogether unworldly tenderness of the moral intuitions it succeeded in sowing in human consciences. (compared to the common inhumanity of many ancient civilizations.)

“IF, AS I HAVE ARGUED…THE “HUMAN” AS WE NOW UNDERSTAND IT, IS THE POSITIVE INVENTION OF CHRISTIANITY, MIGHT IT NOT BE THE CASE THAT A CULTURE THAT HAS BECOME TRULY POST-CHRISTIAN WILL  ALSO, ULTIMATELY, BECOME POST-HUMAN’ !”

QUESTION: Can you see why the Good News of Christ brings a true Humanism? Fully Human, Fully Alive – restored to the image of THE human: the God-Man Jesus Christ!