Hearing the Music

Heavenly Civics

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This past week Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska took a few minutes to clarify the difference between civics and politics. According to Mr. Sasse, civics are the organizing structures and principles by which we operate our governmental system in America. Civics are the fundamental truths that lie behind our executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Civics is the stuff that we should all agree on regardless of our party affiliation. Politics, on the other hand, are the different approaches and beliefs that we advocate as we operate within the civic structure. Laws and policies are written to be enforced by governmental authorities and judicial systems and come about as a result of political approach. These are the areas in which different parties disagree about how things should be handled. 

In Romans 13:1-7 Paul lays out a heavenly civics lesson for believers. Here, he doesn’t so much delve into politics but gives the church in Rome a framework for understanding the authority structures of the universe, from heaven on down. This was timely for a 1st century church operating within the Pax Romana and it remains timely for a 21st century church operating in a Western Republic. As we seek to navigate things from judicial confirmation hearings to a looming presidential election, it is important for us to place these events in a broader framework and understand how we hold our faith in such a time as this. 

Pastorally I know that politics has many of us in knots right now. Anxiety levels for both the left and the right are high. This Sunday offers a chance for a cup of cool water to refresh weary travelers, as we are reminded that behind all the principalities and powers, both seen and unseen, there is a hierarchy that brings us into the throne room of our true King. Because this is such a front-burner topic, I want to invite you to a special sermon discussion on Wednesday at 6PM followed by a time of prayer for us, for our country, and for the Church from 7PM-8PM. Both of these will be in the sanctuary at church. What better way to engage present political challenges than by looking at the Word and spending time in prayer!

 

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

I Need Jesus

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Why is it that we have such a hard time loving people that we disagree with? These people could be close friends or family, they could be leaders in the company we work for or of the country we live in. However these people come into our lives we often experience them as our enemy, rather than as someone with whom we share a bond. What do I mean by that? What kind of bond do we share with "these people"? This answer is not original to me, but when we experience another as our enemy, part of the problem, perhaps the core of the problem, is that we believe that they need Jesus more than we do. We forget the basic tenet of the Gospel that all are equal at the foot of the cross. This is the bond that we share with all humanity: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When we properly account for this fact, only to find ourselves gloriously rescued, the result can never be a prideful looking down on another, but rather, as Paul puts it in our text for Sunday, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (Romans 12:3). This sober judgment is the heart of Gospel living and will change our churches and our world! Singer songwriter Nathan Partain puts it this way

"Now I say, “Glory! Hallelujah!”, I’m so glad to be redeemed!
To be so desperate for Jesus and so gloriously weak,
I do not ever want to stray from the Community of Need,
O may I never leave dependence or forsake my Food and Drink,
I need Jesus. Oh, I need Jesus. I need Jesus. Oh, I need Jesus."

And so, we belong to the Community of the Redeemed. It is amazing how much God has entrusted to this community and the extent of the gifts that he has given to his Church. We will be looking at these more closely on Sunday (Romans 12:3-8). We will also be experiencing the receipt of one of these gifts as we install Addison as an associate pastor. I know for some this is kind of confusing. Addison is already one of our pastors. Why are we installing him? The answer is that in our ecclesial policy, as we have called him as an associate pastor, his relationship to the church has changed. As an assistant pastor he was basically an employee of the Session and not a member of the Session. Now he is called by the congregation and is a full member of the Session. We mark this with an installation and invite you to be a part of it (at our 6 pm service) and certainly invite you to continue to pray for Addison and Lynnette as they continue their life among us with this new relationship to Christ Church.

Don’t forget to sign up for one of our services this week. Please continue to be in prayer for the many dynamics involved with our moving inside. As you can imagine, folks at Christ Church fall along a spectrum of comfortability with being inside, wearing masks, etc…. Once again we come back to that central truth, we all need Jesus as we navigate the fraught nature of these days.

 

Photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash

Hard Candy

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I remember as a kid getting my church candy, right before the sermon would start. One of my favorites, that we only had occasionally because the wrappers were too loud, was the Anise candy. I loved the Anise candy because I could suck on it slowly and it continued to give good flavor right through the sermon! In many ways this is a picture of what we get as we continue to hold the hard candy of the Word in our hearts and minds soaking in its flavor. As we return to Romans (this week chapter 12:1-2), this call to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, testing and approving the will of God, his good, acceptable and pleasing will, requires that we extract the juices of God’s Word, savoring every bit.

To help us savor God’s Word our sermon study team* is going to be providing 5 days of additional hard candy to be enjoyed following each sermon in our By Mercy series on Romans 12-16. Each devotional will take a small part of the larger text for further reflection and prayer. In many ways these devotional offerings will expand on (and replace) the questions for further thought/discussion that we have been providing recently and will be attached to the Friday letter. If you would like to have the devotional emailed to you daily, Monday- Friday, signup here. In addition to personal growth or reflection, these short reflections could be used in families for growth/reflection, in C-Groups as a basis for discussion/prayer, or you could use them with a co-worker or neighbor for Bible study. However they are used, we want to take the Word, allow it to dwell richly within us, so that by testing we can discern the will of God.

As we continue our life together don’t forget our plans to move inside. This Sunday evening we would love to invite a socially distanced, full-house to experiment with the service we have planned. If you are able to make it, we anticipate the service will be of great value in working out some bugs for the following week. Next week all the offerings will be in place, including: Home Worship Guide, Indoor Worship (please RSVP), and we will continue to transmit to car radios in the parking lot. I want to highlight the parking lot, lest it get overlooked. For those concerned about going in the building but desiring to get out of the house and see some others, pull your car up, tune in to 90.1FM and worship along with the community inside. We will all close with some singing outside, around the island.

It has been a challenging season as we figure out our life together in the midst of present realities. May we all continue to rest in the mercies of God and may we find our hearts and minds renewed!

 

Photo by Customerbox on Unsplash

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