Worth celebrating

2 Peter 1:16-21

Yesterday, my church celebrated it’s 150th anniversary. We marked Kelsey’s sesquicentennial with a week’s worth of special worship gatherings, community outreach efforts and good fellowship. After having had this weekend in my mind for about four years, it was a blessing to finally share such a special time. In all, we laughed, cried, served, ate, played, prayed and we praised God. 

As the church, we look back for a lot of reasons. Remembering people who have loved and raised us is important. If we don’t, we may believe the lie we have built our life with help from no one. People deserve to be remembered, too. So, we share their stories and find new inspiration from them. Also, from time to time, a bit of nostalgia is good. It may help your mood and be a positive influence on your mental health.

An important question comes to mind in all this. More than one, if we keep thinking. As we honor our heritage and look back, as the body of Christ, how do we maintain a healthy sense of tradition and mission? 

At the very least, we must keep two factors before us. The first is our life with God. How have we experienced God’s grace? And what difference has that grace made in who we are? Church has to be more than another social gathering. It’s the community of faith where God reigns and is always reshaping the hearts of those who call it home. How has and how does our tradition help us grow in grace? If it doesn’t, it isn’t healthy.

The second factor is God’s love for the world. As priests, our mission has to align with God’s love for all humanity. If it doesn’t, most times, it’s because we’re too focused on what we think we used to be–a weak sense of tradition. But, if it does, we will know we are being moved by the Holy Spirit. 

The movement from grace to mission is by God’s leading. And where God leads us is worth celebrating. 

Stay blessed…john

The next video

Psalm 37:1-9

I couldn’t stomach watching it all. My heart hurt to witness the recording. Anguish seized me. Anger was right behind.

It was a brief video of violence enacted toward Christians in Nigeria. I couldn’t even tell who was already dead. Muslim extremists had them bound. They were throwing them against walls and hauling them like garbage. My hands shake even now as I recount for you what happened.

I was angry anyone would treat another human being this way. I was angry this was happening because of religion. I was angry this was recorded and I watched as much of it as I did. I used to keep up with stories of the persecuted church. Their suffering filled my daily prayers for quite a while. Then it hit me how much I forget about this happening now until I watch it. That stirred my anger as well.

If that wasn’t enough, I became angry at the church. The church you and I know most. Christians are suffering and being brutalized. Here we are arguing over some of the most foolish and selfish things. No, we’re not merely disagreeing. We’re contending with each other. Judging one another, and, quite frankly, milking our privilege. And that’s if we’ve even made our faith a priority.

I had to take a break.

Anger can morph into other damaging emotions and activities. So, we need to learn to regulate it. As we do, we learn to see what phycologists call restorative anger. This is when the anger doesn’t consume us. It leads us away from what is damaging toward strength and passion. Even healing.

The psalmist said, “Do not fret because of the wicked” (Psalm 37:1). Is that a message for someone who’s angered by a video or the fritter of the church? I suppose so. It’s hard not to fret sometimes. Seems like that word means something more to the suffering people in the video.

Still, we’re left to rethink what is important about ministry, about life and about our mission. In light of such real suffering, what is our response? How na├»ve is it to think there is anything we can do? And how will we allow the suffering others endure impact who we are and what we do as God’s church?

Or do we just watch the next video?

Stay blessed…john

Partners in the blessing

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

I assume most of us consider the gospel to be a blessing.

The good news of Jesus Christ has saved us, set us free and redeemed us. There is rich language we use when we talk about the gospel’s work. It all incorporates how we experience the presence of God. So, considering God’s willingness to offer the gospel to us, of course we are blessed. We have received a most gracious gift.

The blessing, then, is what we receive. That idea is easy for us to consider. For example, we accept a new job as a blessing. A gift from a friend is a blessing. Having the opportunity to do something you love counts as a blessing.

Of course, we do receive more and more blessings. But we also take part in them.

More specifically, considering the gift of the gospel, we share in its blessing. The apostle Paul reminds us of this. His ministry mindset is to be a “slave to all” (1 Corinthians 9:19). That is, to share the gospel, he has become all things to all people. To do so requires to let go of your ego. You have to put behind some of your assumptions about what is proper or even ideal. You might even be uncomfortable at times.

Sometimes Christians carry the notion that we meet people where they are to bring them up where we are. That’s pretty presumptuous. We meet people where they are to share what we have learned about the goodness of God. The blessing is not that they start going to your church or start singing your songs. The blessing is the gospel has shown one more person the great love of God.

Now, there are many Christians, many churches that don’t even meet people. Do they know they’re missing half the blessing of the gospel? Paul says, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23). Other translations draw our attention to the partnership language Paul understood. and used.

That part of the blessing of the gospel is our willingness to join its mission. Not just to receive it for our benefit. Not just to talk about it. But to submit our lives to its purpose. We are partners with God, and that is part of the blessing!

Stay blessed…john