What’s our glory?

It’s another day. I’m another john. and this is another note. 

I wrote a worship song that entails several lessons I’ve shared from the book of Ephesians recently. I had fun writing it, and it was a blessing to lead it during worship this weekend. The chorus says:

God has saved us and raised us.
We are one in the Lord.
Now, our glory is only
when we live as one.

There’s one part I struggled with for a bit. What is our glory?

What are we most proud of in our local congregations? Each of the seven churches I’ve served had a glory. For some, the glory was their history and tradition. For another, it was their fundraiser. I can hear committee meetings in one church that boasted of their various ministries.

And so on.

I understand being proud of such things, mostly.

But I’ve never had a church say they were proud of their unity. Now, that could be because it was an assumed quality. Maybe no one thought it was that big a deal. Perhaps they didn’t want to boast. 

Pastoral ministry has taught me much about the church. One glaring lesson is that church unity has eternal implications. That makes it worth pursuing. More than we realize or appreciate. And I don’t mean we-get-along-and-most-people-like-each-other niceness. That’s great, but it can be, and most times is, superficial.

The unity I’m referring to has to do with the will of God and the connection we have as believers. How much does the will of God guide and direct what we do as a local congregation? In other words, how much do we glory in God’s will? And even people who despise each other can be nice. So, what distinguishes our attitudes and relationships with others in our churches?

The opening line of Psalm 125 is powerful: Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. It’s affirming for a child of God to consider themselves to be that mountain. I like to think my faith strengthens me. But what of the whole people of God? What does that say about us?

Following that verse, the psalmist says, “the Lord surrounds his people.” Our unity with God, then, is what strengthens us as God’s church. When we collectively submit to God’s power and grace we become like Mount Zion. Nothing moves our foundation as we trust in God’s provision and promise. We stand tall as God’s own, following God’s way.

When we live into that unity, we show God’s glory. 

But there’s also the unity we share as the body of Christ: one body and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5-6). When we learn to live into the unity God desires for the church, that’s our glory. That’s what we can be proud of. Even then, it’s not that we’re so great at what we do. It’s that God’s grace has finally transformed our hearts and minds. When that happens, our glory is only when we live as one with God and each other.

Stay blessed…john

Masterpiece

This year’s Summer Sermon Series was titled “Masterpiece.” I based it on Ephesians 2:10.

For the record, I love the book of Ephesians. It’s my third favorite book of the Bible to read. How I wish I could convince the church who Ephesians says they are! I think your church should read it at least once a year.

For this year’s sermon series I asked everyone to create a masterpiece. The idea is that part of living into our identity as God’s holy church is employing our creativity. Creativity, of course, put within us by our Creator.

And far be it for me to not join in what I ask the church to do.

My masterpiece is a song of praise. I summarized a lot of what we’ve talked about in the series. Not to be too original, I titled my masterpiece “Masterpiece.”

VERSE ONE

We have our victory in Christ our Lord.

There is no power he can’t overcome.

We share the mystery that we are one

made alive together by the love of God.

VERSE TWO

The church’s redemption is through the cross.

Filled to the measure all the fullness of God.

Now, we are strengthened together we walk

in the glory of God as his masterpiece.

CHORUS

God has saved us and raised us

We are one in the Lord.

Now our glory is only

When we live as one.

VERSE THREE

Marked by the Spirit our lives are transformed.

With every effort to live in God’s peace.

Now, it’s our witness that proves we believe

there is hope in the name of our Jesus.

BRIDGE

Praise be to the God and Father

of our Lord Jesus Christ

who has blessed us in the heavenly realms

with spirituals blessing in Jesus.

My kids will help me record it later. Why don’t you get to creating something!

Stay blessed…john

Let’s get tradition

Someone once said, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. I so much appreciate what that means.

Many times, younger generations want to weed out anything that feels like tradition. They overcorrect and don’t realize the meaningful aspects of corporate faith they’re missing. Tradition has great value and adds life to the church today. On the other hand, older generations often want to hang on to what they know. Under the guise of tradition, they stifle the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.

Neither group is listening to the Spirit. And the church suffers.

Both groups need to reject traditionalism because it isn’t about faith. More often than not, it’s about control. An older saint once politely instructed me to, “not bring drums in my church.”

My church.

Traditionalism is an attitude that centers on the desires of a group of people. Those desires may involve Jesus, but they aren’t grounded in him. I learned that through hymns. Oh, many of the hymns are Christ-centered. And many people have learned that many hymns teach theology and faith. Early on in my pastoral ministry, I asked some people what theology they learned from hymns. Their responses were generic enough to show me they loved the tune more than they paid attention to the theology. Traditionalism.

When most people talk about tradition, they don’t go back far enough.

Tradition, then, is not merely what I used to do that I still like to do. Tradition shapes and forms the church’s faith more than that. It doesn’t merely fill our time. It influences our character and speaks to our reality. We remain in communion and conversation with the church of old through tradition.

Once, I arranged for our church to sing the psalms. The response was not great. Someone muttered the question of where I got that idea from. I gladly showed them the instructions already printed in the back of their hymnal. We also talked about how people of faith have done that for generations. 

That also speaks to those who think we have to find new, innovative ways to be church today. Relevant is the keyword. But we don’t need to try every idea and replace every old form of worship and ministry. In fact, the more in tune we are with our faith tradition, the more new life and creativity will grow from it.

As Solomon completed the temple of the Lord, the writer of 1 Kings 6 made sure to let us know how long it had been since the Israelites came out of Egypt. Those who fled Egypt would have marveled at Solomon’s temple. That’s a direct line for Solomon and anyone reading to the long faith tradition from which they came–480 years!

But God also told Solomon it was his responsibility to keep God’s commandments. If he did, God’s promise made to David would be established. So, for Solomon, the tradition of his father and generations of people that followed after Egpyt informed what his faith was to be now.

That’s a real tradition. And that’s what we can use to deepen our walk with God and strengthen our ministry as the church.

Stay blessed…john