A Community Called Atonement

When are there moments of atonement?  Is the cross the only means of atonement?  Is the atonement simply being forgiven, redeemed, restored from our (individual) sin or is there a macrocosmic scope to the atonement?  Several chapters of McKnight’s book are dedicated to those moments of atonement where God redeems us from the problem of evil and sin.  Below are four moments of atonement and some quotes that I find very thought provoking.

 Atoning Moments: Incarnation As Second Adam

“God identifies with us in the incarnation.  Without identification, without incarnation, there is no atonement.  Which is to say that the atonement is an ontological act – God’s sharing our nature and our sharing God’s – at its core: it is about God identifying with us so that we might participate in God (2 Pet. 1:4)” (pg. 54).

Atoning Moments: Crucifixion

“I suggest that we see the achievement of the cross in three expressions: Jesus dies ‘with us’ – entering into our evil and our sin and our suffering to subvert it and create a new way; Jesus dies ‘instead of us’ – he enters into our sin, our wrath, and our death; and Jesus dies ‘for us’ – his death forgives our sin, ‘declares us right,’ absorbs the wrath of God against us, and creates new life where there was once only death.

Not only is this death saving, this same death becomes the paradigm for an entirely new existence that is shaped, as Luther said of theology and life, by the cross.  A life shaped by the cross is a life bent on dying daily to self in order to love God, self, others, and the world.  And a life shaped by the cross sees in the cross God becoming the victim, identifying with the victim, suffering injustice, and shaping a cruciform pattern of life for all who would follow Jesus.  The cross reshapes all of life” (pg. 69).

 Atoning Moments: Easter

“When, then, is the resurrection all about?  If the death of Christ wipes away sin, the resurrection of Christ makes all things new.  Resurrection is about new creation.  A theory of atonement that does not flow into the resurrection is an atonement that rids one of the sin problem but does not transform life and this world.  Stopping that flow of life from God into God’s people is the abortion of full atonement” (Pg. 70). 

 Atoning Moments: Pentecost

“Pentecost is both justification and judgment.  In this one act at Pentecost (1) the people of God, in God’s act of justifying and making his judgment clear, receive the power of the Holy Spirit to create a community wherein the will of God can be done, and (2) that new community creation is at the same time a judgment on the unjust rulers of this world” (pg. 76).

Published in: on February 4, 2008 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Community Called Atonement

I’m living with Scott McKnight’s book, “A Community Called Atonement.”  Here are some of the things McKnight is saying in the first few chapters.

Where do we begin?  What does the atonement atone us from and what does it make us?  One cannot start with a single theory or in a single location for the atonement.  The atonement must begin somewhere but this somewhere encompasses many areas.  But first the atonement must start with Jesus. 

The atonement creates the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is “what God is doing in this world through the community of faith for the redemptive plans of God – including what God is doing in you and me” (pg. 9).  From here we are introduced to Luke’s gospel and how the kingdom of God is seen and experienced with the poor receiving justice, the blind receiving sight, the lame being able to walk again, etc.  The kingdom of God continues to be seen in the book of Acts when the early church continued to be empowered by the Spirit of God so that there would be equality, justice, and fellowship – the very things Jesus inaugurated and we are left with the idea that the kingdom of God continues to be seen and experienced through his people when they too practice equality, justice and fellowship.  Thus, the atonement creates the kingdom of God. 

Where else do we begin?  McKnight suggests we also start back at Genesis 1-2.  Our image (eikons) was distorted with sin and the atonement restores our image.  With this restoring we are now called to be in union with God, in community with other “eikons” and to be partners with God.  To read Genesis 1-2 through an atonement set of eyes is refreshing yet challenging.

The atonement also creates us into a worshipping community which can be classified as ambassadors of God.  As we become a community we become God’s representatives of what eternity is and will be.  We thus become performers of the gospel. 

To finish this section I quote McKnight,

Atonement is not just something done to us and for us, it is something we participate in – in this world, in the here and now.  It is not just something done, but something that is being done and something we do as we join God in the missio Dei (30-31).

 

Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Community Called Atonement

Over the next several blogs I will highlight and interact with Scot McKnight’s book, A Community Called Atonement.

The atonement of Jesus must change us!  Yet as McKnight says, “The bad news, the anti-gospel as it were, is that the claim Christians make for the atonement is not making enough difference in the real lives of enough Christians.”  Ouch! 

If Jesus has atoned us of our sins what then does this mean?  How does this translate into our daily lives?  How does this translate how we be and do church?  How does this translate as we interact with the stranger on the street?  How does this translate as we interact with our own family (sometimes estranged family)?  Unfortunately, as McKnight points out, it hasn’t translated into much and the most glaring example is how we still have segregated churches. 

God atoned our sins and with this restored our relationship with him, with others, with self, and with the world.  Now that we are atoned we must live different lives and participate with God in redeeming this world.

Published in: on January 16, 2008 at 1:10 am  Leave a Comment  

A Short History of Hospitality

I’ve been reading Christine Pohl’s book on hospitality.  Below are some words and thoughts about hospitality. 

 

To talk about the history of hospitality is to talk about the location of hospitality.  The location of hospitality always includes space where people are welcomed.  In several biblical and non-biblical instances the place where people were welcomed was the home.  As we look at the OT scriptures we see that the home became a place where people were welcomed.[1]  In the NT the household also became a central place where people were welcomed.[2]

During the fourth and fifth centuries hospitality changed and this was due mainly in part to Christianity moving from a persecuted sect to a recognized religion by the Roman government.  It was during this time that hostels provided care for strangers, hospitals were established and monasteries welcomed various travelers.  In A.D. 362 the Emperor Julian, in an attempt to reestablish Hellenic religion, instructed the high priest of the Hellenic faith to imitate Christian concern for the strangers.  Julian wrote, “Why do we not observe that it is their benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism?  [Atheism in this context refers to Christianity].  Julian would continue,

For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg and the impious Galilaeans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.  Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort.[3]

During the fourth century the first hospital was established.  After many years these hospitals became separate institutions to care for the various needs people (orphans, widows, strangers, sick and the poor) would have or encounter.  According to Pohl the first hospital to receive considerable mention in historical writings is the hospital built and founded by Basil, bishop of Caesarea in 370.  During a severe famine and in response to this famine Basil gathered the victims of the famine and what food he was able to collect and supplied the poor and hungry with food to eat and also provided for the physical ailments.  Shortly after this Basil established several institutions to provide care for the sick. 

 As we have looked briefly at the history of hospitality we have seen that hospitality has moved away from the home (as seen in the Biblical writings) to places of institution.  This of course brought with it an unfortunate manner.  Hospitality became not something that we as individuals do but something that the church as a whole should do.  Thus it was easy for churches to offer hospitality and inadvertently allow individuals not to practice or maintain the practice of hospitality.  Recognizing this John Chrysostom began to again remind and teach the church that even though the church as a whole practiced offering hospitality it did not exclude the individual from offering hospitality.  Chrysostom asked, “If another man prays, does it follow that you are not bound to pray?”  Chrysostom urged the people of the church to build a guest chamber in their own home so that they too could practice hospitality.[4]

As I look at this short history of hospitality I wonder what hospitality might look like in our churches.  I wonder how our churches can create places of welcome.  I wonder how our homes can become places of welcome.  Hospitality is not a good habit, it is essential to living the Christian faith.  May God help us become hospitable people.

[1] See Gen 18-19; Josh. 2; 1 Sam. 25; 1 Kings 17:8-24; 2 Kings 4:8-37.

[2] See Acts 2:43-47; 9:42-10:48; 16:14-15; 18:1-11.

[3] Christine Pohl, Making Room, 44.

[4] Ibid., 45.

Published in: on January 8, 2008 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Christmas 2007

If I could figure out how to upload a picture or two I would show you what we as a church have done this year.  We provided over 20 families with a Christmas this year.  These families are our neighbors who live less than 2 miles from our building.  It was a blessing to be able to see the faces of the teachers at the local school when we dropped the gifts off for the families.  In case your wondering we partnered with the school in our neighborhood because they have a better read on different family situations.

Last night we had our annual Christmas party.  Instead of inviting our sister churches I focused heavily on our neighborhood.  We had several neighbors come and join us for an evening of Christmas caroling and refreshments.  One of the comments I heard was that, “You are normal!”  Wow, I really wonder what misconceptions are out there about us. 

My prayer is that God will continue to empower us to serve our neighborhood so that we can be his hands and feet as we invite people to become disciples of Jesus so that they too can enter into the reign of God.

Published in: on December 24, 2007 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Caring For Each Other

Since my time here in Newmarket I have met an individual who has battled alcoholism for many years.  When I first met him he always came and asked for a toonie (that’s $2 if you’re not Canadian).  His nickname became “Toonie Man.”  After a few years our paths crossed at various points, mostly at the homeless shelter, on the street, at the bus stop, etc.  I could tell several stories about this man, stories like breaking into the church building at 4:00 in the morning that would make you laugh and cry at the same time but I will save these stories for a later time.

Recently this man has been coming to church every Sunday.  During the week he has stopped in to my office almost everyday to have a coffee and to talk church, life, alcoholism, future dreams, what life on the street is like, etc.  In my conversations with him I have learned that he has been without a drink for nearly four months.  I should mention that this is about the fourth or fifth time he has been sober for four months and as he says, “This is a dangerous time for me because I haven’t made it passed four months since I became an alcoholic.”

As I have introduced you to this man I must now say what has happened in his life this past week.  (1) His stay at the men’s shelter in town had expired and he had to go back to living on the streets, (2) He found a room to rent for $500 month but could not come up with first & last (3) The church paid last month’s rent and he paid first month’s rent only to find out four days later that the landlord decided not to rent the room anymore.  (4) His court date for breaking into the church is approaching and he is nervous about this.

Well, life on the streets is tough in the Toronto area and he has been able, with the help of our government to stay at a very cheap motel the next city over from us until he can find a place to rent for the winter (as I write this it is -6o outside). 

I haven’t talked with this man since Friday and I was expecting to see him at church on Sunday but he never showed.  I was expecting to see him at my office today but he never showed.  At 4:00pm I received a phone call from one of his friends (Bruce) who is also a recovering alcoholic.  He introduced himself and told me that he has heard a lot about me and our church and what we are doing for our friend.  After a short conversation he said that he hasn’t heard from our friend since Friday, that he never showed up for work, missed his parole hearing and is not answering his phone.  As I was listening to him talk my heart was sinking because I thought the worse; our friend couldn’t handle the pressure of life and went to drink his life away.  Fortunately after several phone calls I was able to track our friend down and talk with him.  I am glad to say that he has remained sober but is constantly thinking about going and buying the drink.

As I have been thinking about this all evening my mind started to reflect on the conversation I had with Bruce.  Bruce and I are probably one of the few friends our friend has and Bruce was scared about our friend’s life.  He was so concerned that he was calling me, was calling the motel, was calling the local bars, was calling anywhere our friend might be because if he was in trouble Bruce was going to go and help him.

I wonder how different church would be if we had more Bruce’s?  I wonder how different church would be if we truly cared for one another like Bruce cares for our friend.  When someone misses church for more than two or three weeks do we care enough to call them and ask them how things are going in their life?  When our fellow Christians/disciples seem to be falling apart do we care enough to go and stand beside them?  I wonder how different church would be if we went and showed the world that we care for them no matter what they have done.  I think, and this is just my opinion, that we would become more like Jesus.

Published in: on December 11, 2007 at 2:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Our Neighbors

Our church is located across the street from a subdivision that is considered to be one of the lowest income neighborhoods in our city.  This neighborhood is often called, “The Dog Patch.”  Unfortunately we have barriers between us.

The first barrier is a four lane road.  The second barrier is no one from our church lives in this neighborhood.  The third barrier is most people in our church are rich (compared to those across the street) and we have no clue how to serve people.  In fact, some people in our church are afraid of the people across the street – sad!

Currently I am reading a book on hospitality by Christine Pohl called “Making Room.”  This book is challenging me to think that hospitality is not a program we extend but rather hospitality must always lead to friendship.  How can the barriers seperating us from the neighborhood across the street be torn down so we can extend hospitality and become friends?

I have been meeting with a public school that is located in the heart of this neighborhood.  This Christmas we have been asked to support 20 families.  One lady in our church said that this was too many; on the contrary, we have a minimal of 20 families in our church and if we all took one family . . . well, let me just say that if we quit being so selfish and quit spending on ourselves this Christmas we would have more than enough gifts for the children.

Here are some of the families we are going to support this Christmas.  A single mom of five children (including a newborn baby – less than a week old).  The father has just been given a long jail sentence.  A mother who can’t afford groceries and a phone, so she use’s the neighbor’s phone.  A single father of two girls (ages 6 & 8 ) – the mother walked away.  A family that can’t provide clothes for their children.  Dare I write more without tears of brokenness?

Paul when writing to one of his church’s he planted wrote that he had all the confidence in them to satisfy various needs and then some.  I have all the confidence in our church to supply these families with a Christmas and even have some left over.

Published in: on November 30, 2007 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Adaptive Change vs. Technical Change

Churches constantly face a changing culture.  As the culture changes so does the church.  The church changes its form of communication, its ways of evangelism, its ways of living out the gospel, and its structures.  Notice what it does not change – teachings, sacraments, beliefs, etc.

The church not only faces a changing culture it also faces a changing environment.  Many churches were once built in a subdivision or a specific part of town and for the most part these churches reflected the location in which it was located.  However, over the years the neighborhood changes and thus the church must learn to change with the neighborhood.

Take for example The Friendship Church of Christ.[1]  The Friendship Church was born and established in a predominately white, middle class section of town.  Over a span of forty years or so the neighborhood changed to a low-income, Spanish speaking neighborhood.  As the neighborhood changed sadly the church remained a white, middle class congregation. 

Two seminary students a part of the congregation decided that they would start a Saturday morning activity and class for the low-income families.  Fliers were distributed, doors were knocked upon and invitations were given for all the children surrounding the existing church to join in an activity and Bible class for two hours every other Saturday.  This ministry flourished and grew to include a Wednesday evening activity and class for the children.

However, this influx of low-income, Spanish speaking children disrupted the ethos of the existing the church.  The existing church was comfortable with its own well-behaved children and with its traditional style of Wednesday evening.  As Wednesday evenings became disrupted several families quit attending on Wednesday nights. 

What this church is facing is the opportunity for an adaptive change.  An adaptive change is possible when the church is in constant interaction with its environment and neighborhood and is able to adapt to changing circumstances.  Thus, the Friendship Church is in a position to adapt to a changing environment, a low-income, Spanish speaking environment.  The adaptation is not easy, does not have quick-fix answers, will disrupt the current structure(s), and will most likely include frustration and conflict.  But, in order for the Friendship church to be a witness, the adaptive change must take place.

There is another method of change that can take place, however; a technical change.  The technical change will mean that the current practices, thoughts and mindsets will continue to be present.  In a technical change the environment or culture will not play into long-term change, nor will it be part of forming and shaping the church.  A technical change will mean that current structures and organization will continue to be present.

The problem with the technical change is that it does not allow for the culture, neighborhood, or environment to form and shape the church’s ministry.  A technical change means that the church will continue to use an outdated structure and thus its ability to reach its environment will be drastically hindered.

For example, if the Friendship Church continues to use a white, middle-class approach to reaching the low-income Spanish speaking neighborhood its ability to proclaim the gospel will be dysfunctional at best.

As I think of our situation here in Newmarket, Ontario we are dangerously on the brink of discovering and wanting to implement technical change.  I am seeing a clearer picture that we will continue to be a middle to high end congregation, remain worshiping with a 1960s mindset, and of course talk about and implement 1970s methods of evangelism.  There is great danger that we will not let our culture, our neighborhood, or the environment form and shape the church’s ministry.

God help us as we fight against the urge to remain the same and expect the neighborhood to come to us and adopt our church culture.  God help us and grant us the ability, desire and courage to let the culture, neighborhood and environment shape our ministry so that we can be live out the gospel of Jesus Christ.


[1] Name has been changed.

Published in: on November 20, 2007 at 12:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Going To War

We have been meeting our neighbors and I will be doing some more writing on this.  However, I just got back from a week of holidays and am trying to get caught up.  Here is my sermon I preached on Remembrance Day (or Veteran’s Day). 

Date: November 11, 2007                             Image: Lest we forget
Text: Ephesians 6:10-20
FOT: Paul tells us to put on the armor of God
FOS: To help the congregation see that we are in the middle of a war 

Today is Remembrance Day.  We wear our poppies because we remember Flander’s field.   We remember the people who died in the Great War; many who believed they died for the sake of freedom.  And so today our country pauses and pays tribute to the men and women who died for our freedom.

In the midst of today we will continue to hear a phrase spoken on the lips of many people: Lest we forget.  There is this danger that people will forget; they will forget the stories of bravery, forget the stories of life and death, forget the stories of liberation, forget the stories of sacrifice and forget the stories of destruction.  There is a real danger that our children will forget and so we hear it on the lips of many people, Lest we forget. 

War is a reality.  As long as there are governments and as long as the governments look out for themselves and for their own country there will be war.  War, they say, is absolutely essential at times in order for peace to become a reality.  For this reason George Bush, Tony Blair, Jean Chretian, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper all believe that war in the Middle East is necessary because without war against terrorism, without war against radical Islamist, peace will be unattainable.  Whether this is true or not time will tell.  What time has told us, unfortunately, is that Christians believe war is necessary for peace.

In the Civil War between the North and the South Christians on both sides of the battle sanctioned the killing of the enemy in the name of God because they believed that without the war peace would be unattainable.  In the religious wars of the Middle Ages Christians killed one another over various doctrines.  Those who were Anabaptists (believing in adult baptism) were drowned, hanged and burned at the stake in the name of God because those who killed did so believing that religious peace was only attainable with the killing of those who believed in the Anabaptist tradition.  The great crusades saw Christians take up the sword against the enemies in the name of God because they believed that peace would rule when Christians won the war.  What was true of history is true of today.  A large number of evangelical Christians sanction the fighting of war: the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, the war against radical Islamist and when the enemy is killed the evangelical Christians who sanction these wars praise God for the killing of the enemy.  Unfortunately what we don’t realize is that the peace of Jesus never comes riding on the tank or with the killing of the enemy.  The peace of Jesus only comes when followers of Jesus die for the sake of the world and for the enemy; just like Jesus died.

 Ephesians 6:10-20: A Call To Bear Arms

Our text this morning is a most peculiar text because it calls us to bear arms and go to war.  If you have your Bible follow along as I read Ephesians 6:10-20.  Read Ephesians 6:10-20.

Historically we have been told this passage in the book of Ephesians is based upon a Roman soldier.  Some people have said that as Paul is sitting in prison writing this letter he is watching a Roman soldier dressed in his combative uniform.  The Roman soldier would be wearing a belt and so Paul says, “Put on the belt of truth.  The Roman soldier wears a breastplate to stop the spears and swords and Paul uses this to tell us to put on the breastplate of righteousness.  Shoes, every soldier needs a set of shoes and so Paul tells us to put on the shoes of peace.  A shield, a sword, a helmet all of these are essential items for a soldier in battle.

Is Paul looking at a Roman soldier as he is writing this?  Maybe he is or maybe he is not.  Is Paul telling us to put on these war like items because this is what a Roman soldier is wearing?  Possibly, but we don’t know for sure.  In fact truth be known this is only speculation upon our part.

As we search the scriptures we do however discover in the Old Testament a very similar passage to Ephesians 6:10-20.  This passage is found in the book of Isaiah, the 59th chapter.  In Isaiah we discover that God puts on the armor and goes to war for his people.  Could we also suggest that maybe Paul, as he is looking at the Roman soldier is reminded of Isaiah 59 and therefore writes what he does, not based on the Roman soldier, but based upon Isaiah 59?

 Isaiah 59:16-19

Listen to what Isaiah 59:15b-17 says.  Read Isaiah 59:15b-17.  In this section of Isaiah we discover that there is no justice.  The oppressed are continued to be knocked down and dragged out.  The naked remain naked.  The hungry continue to go hungry while the fat and the wed fed get fatter and eat more.  The homeless remain homeless while those who have money buy homes and charge extravagant rent.  Lies are spoken on the lips of people in the courtroom and the hopeless have no one to defend them against these lies that are spoken.  Because of this the writer of Isaiah writes these words,

Therefore justice is far from us and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light and lo! There is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.  We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight . . . .  We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully.  We wait for justice but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us (Isaiah 59:9-11). 

Following these words in Isaiah 59 we are told that God sees what it is taking place.  God sees that there is no one to give justice and no one to give liberation to those who need it and this appalled Him.  It appalled God that there was no one willing to give justice and to intervene on behalf of those who needed intervention and so he put on the breastplate of righteousness, he put on the helmet of liberation, he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing and he gave justice and liberation to those who needed justice and liberation.

 Ephesians 6:10-20 (Again)

Paul, writing in his letter called Ephesians says, “Put on the armor of God . . . put on the breastplate of righteousness . . . put on the helmet of liberation.  Paul is asking us, the church to put on the same virtues and actions that have marked God’s saving intervention in the past.  Paul is asking us, the church, to be dressed in the same garments that God dresses himself in.

Paul tells us to put on the breastplate of righteousness and so we say to ourselves that we must be righteous.  We must not lie, we must not steal, we must not commit adultery, we must obey our parents and when we do all this we say to ourselves that we have put on the breastplate of righteousness.  The problem lies, not in acting this way, but in believing that righteousness is simply not stealing, lying, committing adultery or simply obeying parents.  This is not the righteousness Paul is talking about.  Paul is talking about putting on justice.  Righteousness and justice are the same word in the Greek language.  One can easily translate righteousness but one could easily translate it also as justice.  If we read Ephesians 6:10-20 in relationship to Isaiah 59 it seems that we must translate righteousness as justice.  Paul is not simply telling us to be righteous he is telling us to put on the armor of God, which is bringing justice to those who need justice.

Paul then goes on and he tells us to put on a few more things one of them being the helmet of salvation.  We hear these words and so we say that we are wearing this helmet called salvation.  We go around and we say, “We have been saved.  With this we start to sing songs about salvation while wearing these helmets.  Again the problem lies not in saying, “We have been saved,” but in believing that wearing the helmet of salvation is simply knowing we have been saved.  Again the Greek word for salvation can also be translated as liberation.  If we translate Ephesians 6 as wearing the helmet of salvation than we all can sit here in our nice outfits and say we all are wearing the helmet of God.  But if we read Ephesians 6 in the context of Isaiah 59 it is not simply sitting here knowing we are saved it is now putting on the helmet of liberation.

In Isaiah God sees that there is no justice and that there is no liberation for those who need justice and so he puts on the armor and he begins to act to bring about justice and liberation.  Paul, I am convinced is not describing a Roman soldier he is describing for us and telling us to put on God’s armor.  Paul is asking us, the church to put on the same virtues and actions that have marked God’s saving intervention in the past.  Paul is asking us, the church, to be dressed in the same garments that God dresses himself in.  Paul is asking us, the church to act as the hands and feet of God would act.

 WWII – Liberating France & Liberating the Jewish People

Today is Remembrance Day.  We celebrate today because we want to remember what our grandparents, great grandparents, and for some of us, our parents and for guys like Avard, what we did.  We remember the battles taking place in the trenches.  We remember the bombing of various cities and the fierce fighting that people engaged in.  We remember the sacrifices that individuals gave so that the freedoms we have today can be what they are.

Today we remember France and how it was a combined effort by many different countries to liberate them from the oppressive hand of Hitler and his following.  We remember D-Day, June 6th and the fierce fighting that took place knowing that it was because of the hundreds of lives that were sacrificed France could be liberated.  The history channel will most likely play Saving Private Ryan because it tells through images what the war was like and it helps us remember what people went through.

Today we remember the liberation of the Jewish people.  The hundreds of Jewish families: mothers and fathers and children hoarded together and placed on the trains only to be taken to the concentration camps where they were slaughtered without mercy. We remember how many different people fought in the number of ways they did, like the town called Le Chambron, who housed Jewish refugees escaping from the certain death they would have faced if they were apprehended.  Today we remember the Oskar Schindler’s.  Oskar Schindler was not an exceptional man.  He was selfish and greedy, always looking for a chance to gain more in his pursuit of pleasure and the good life.  And yet in every life a moment comes when we have a chance to be more than what we have been.

Oskar Schindler, as depicted in the movie Schindler’s List is standing at a window contemplating a move that could very well cost him his fortune.  Schindler is deciding to buy back his workers from the Nazi concentration camp where they have been taken so they can continue to work in his factory, but mainly so that they can live.  Schindler strikes a deal with Goeth, the Nazi leader to purchase the people.  Today we remember the Oskar Schindler’s who spent all their wealth on purchasing 1100 Jewish people from the certain death of a Nazi concentration camp.

Today we were our poppies, we remember the sacrifices, the battles, the lost lives, the destruction.  Today we remember the freedom purchased by the blood of unknown soldiers, the freedom given by the sweat and tears of the young men.  And we say to one another, “Lest We Forget.  Lest we forget the sacrifice that was given so we can have freedom.

 Lest We Forget What The Church Is About

Today, however, I am asking you church to say the words, “Lest We Forget” in a different context.  Lest we forget that God calls us to bear arms – not to kill the enemy but to give justice and liberation to those who need justice and liberation.  Lest we forget that God calls the church not to build a building and for all of us to sit inside it singing songs of salvation and telling each other that we are saved but rather calls us to be his body to the broken and hurting world outside these doors. 

 Lest we forget that God calls us to give justice to the widow who is being mistreated and abused because they can’t take care of themselves.  Lest we forget that God calls us to give liberation to the spiritually broken, the physically disabled and the mentally challenged.  Lest we forget that we have a neighborhood beside us that needs to be liberated from the snare of the devil.  Lest we forget that we have children who walk past our property everyday that need to be liberated from the drugs that are prevalent in their lives.  Lest we forget that we are to put on the armor of God and to go to war.  Lest we forget we do this because Jesus died for you, for me, and for all the world. 

Published in: on November 13, 2007 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Meeting Our Neighbors

For the past couple of months I have been planning for the congregation to meet the neighbors.  Individuals who I have become friends with over the past 3 ½ years who live in the neighborhood were invited to come and have a cup of coffee with us on Sunday evening.  The purpose was for us to hear their thoughts about the neighborhood.

Located beside our church building are five high rise condominium/apartment buildings.  In one condominium a flyer was posted inviting people to join us.  The night came and when we were to start at 6:30pm the only people in the church basement were members of the church.  No one who I invited was present (and yes, some of them said they would show up).  Finally, a few minutes late a husband and wife from the condos show up and one of my friends.  Three of our neighbors is better than no one!

We gather around a few tables, drink some coffee, share in some homemade apple crisp, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and of course some fruit and vegetables.  Introductions were made and we started a discussion about our neighborhood.  Before I say what we learned I have to say that we started the evening apologizing.  We apologized to our neighbors for not being good neighbors.  We told them we were sorry that we lost touch with the neighborhood, that we lost touch with what was happening in the lives of the people and that we wanted to somehow find a way back into the lives of the people in the neighborhood.  Following our apology we started to learn about the neighborhood.  Here is what we learned.

  1. Many seniors live directly beside us.  From our visitors it seems that a good number of these seniors are widows.
  2. Young families are moving into the condos and apartments.
  3. One of the apartment buildings is co-op housing (government subsidized), which is filled with single parent families (mostly single moms).
  4. Many of the seniors feel threatened to be outdoors after dark.

As we learned about our neighbors we asked our guest a very important question: how can we serve the neighborhood? 

Jesus did not call us to build a building and to sit and wait for the people to come to us!  Jesus calls us to enter into the lives of people.  We have five high rise condos and apartments filled with people; people who are hurting financially, socially, physically and yes, spiritually.  It is our intention to listen to the Spirit of God and discover ways that we can enter into the lives of our neighbors serving them in the name of Jesus. 

 Who knows, maybe we will start a community garden for our neighbors.  Maybe we will start a monthly car repair service for the widows.  Maybe we will start a weekly taxi service for the seniors.  In someway we must now take what we have learned about our neighbors and ask God to open doors for us to serve them and to proclaim his name!

Published in: on October 22, 2007 at 9:21 pm  Comments (1)