Hearing the Music

The More Things Change

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If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to stay flexible. This week, as I'm sure you are aware, has brought another round of Health Department guidelines and another round of questions of the best way forward for us at Christ Church! 

In light of this ever changing landscape, here are a couple of updates with regards to our life together. First, at our last Session meeting, we instituted a CoronaVirus Task Force (CVTF) to advise church leaders. You can listen to a podcast with Bryan Burke and Janelle Stutzman talking about the work of the CVTF. So far, the CVTF has fielded questions regarding in person worship, small groups, singing, nursery, and others. You can read a report from this team here

As to worship, we asked the CVTF if our worship services remain safe in light of the current surge in COVID-19 cases. The answer they came back with was affirmative. In their words: "The safety measures we have put in place exceed those of any church with which we are familiar. We called the official church advisor of the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) who once again expressed her appreciation for the efforts we have made to worship safely - we called her once before a few weeks ago - and felt we could continue to do so.

Having said that, we realize that many will be practicing caution during the next several weeks. Therefore, in addition to indoor onsite worship the parking lot worship remains an option, and we are beefing up our online offering. This week will be a return to the pre-recorded sermon and an option to attend a ZOOM worship service hosted by one of our pastors or pastoral interns (Sign up here).

In the midst of this all we have Thanksgiving. Writer Ann Voskamp captured the importance of giving thanks well: “We only enter into the full life (of faith) if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our 'Yes!' to His grace.” It is easy to forget to give thanks. It is easy to grumble in the midst of inconveniences, annoyances, and genuine challenges to life. But the grace of thanksgiving will enable us to once again see the world through the Gospel lens and live the full life of faith that God invites us to. 

To help us do this we will be hosting a ZOOM Thanksgiving eve service this Wednesday, November 25 at 6:30pm. Join in from the comfort of your home using a link that will be emailed November 25 to all who receive weekly emails, such as this one. Listen, share, and worship with your Christ Church family. For help preparing technologically for this, email Addison.

This week we will finish our study in these last chapters of Romans by looking at chapter 15:14-33. Here, once again, Paul puts his heart for Gospel expansion on display as he invites Christians everywhere to share in the work.

 

Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

Leaving a Legacy

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It is tough to start with "Happy Friday" on a week in which we have lost two dear members of our congregation, two long-time, pillar-of-the-church, members. Both Norm and Ron have been with Christ Church since near its beginning. Both men have served in a variety of ways over the years; both men have left a legacy as a result of their service.

In the spirit of Psalm 90:12 which reminds us to "number our days that we might get a heart of wisdom” let me offer a couple of observations. Earlier I used the word legacy with respect to Ron and Norm. When loved ones pass we remember the impact they made on their surroundings while they were living. We remember the good times we shared, the things they taught us, the ways we were helped or served by them. We remember how they handled the ups and the downs of life. As we remember, we realize that we have been marked by those things, both for good and for ill. This marking, this transmission, is a legacy. The interesting thing about legacy is that we can only build it while we are in the midst of life. We build it during these days that are filled with the ordinary goings on of life in the 21st century and during the not so ordinary events of 2020 in particular. How we live and the choices we make will contribute to the legacy we transmit to those who come after us.

Secondly, I am mindful of every Friday being a "Happy Friday” despite the circumstances that surround it. It was a Friday, after all, on which Jesus went into the grave. It was a Friday when Jesus took the sting of death, rendering it powerless against the believer. It was a Friday when all this talk about legacy moves from something merely of this world, to something in light of eternity. It was a Friday that merged into a Sunday that changed the story for all who are willing to lay down their lives in order to have them taken up by this Risen Lord.

So, where do these two observations converge? All of life is leaving a legacy, but if we want to see our legacy transcend this world we need to live surrendered to the One who has conquered the grave. Both Norm and Ron, their families, and other pillars of Christ Church have done that, and we are the beneficiaries. May God give us all the grace to gain this heart of wisdom.

One of the main ways we pursue this heart of wisdom is through worship. As we come together, open our hearts before the Lord, and open his Word we receive from him the direction that we need. This Sunday we will continue looking at Romans 15, in particular vs. 8-16. This passage provides a culmination for the book of Romans in many respects. I very much look forward to looking at it with you.

 

Photo by Fabio Sangregorio on Unsplash

Campus Priests

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I hope that this finds you well in the midst of some wild temperature swings accompanied by some hurricane force political happenings. As I was watching election results come in, get tabulated, get challenged, etc. I was reminded of the big job we have as the church of Christ to be priests to the world around us. Peter puts it this way “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9). As priests to this world, we are called to live sacrificially and to continually make intercession before the mercy seat of our God. We are called to live in such a way as to usher others into the kingdom.

One strategic way that we are partnering to execute this priesthood is through the ministry of Campus Outreach. This summer we welcomed Kenny Hayes and his family to West MI as they lay the groundwork for Campus Outreach in West MI. Addison and I had a good time talking to Kenny about this work in a podcast you can find here. Now that they are a couple of months into the strangest fall semester ever I thought it would be good to hear an update from Kenny on how things are going:

When the name of your game is building social networks, starting a new college ministry during times of social isolation has been anything but easy. But!! But, but, but… the Lord has been so faithful. Our prayer has been that God would put us in the right places at the right times. I’ll share an example: One afternoon my team and I decided to move our daily workout to the Intramural field. Guess who we met?? Every fraternity on campus! Unknown to us, there was a campus-wide event moved to this location because of COVID restrictions. This was a direct answer to prayer as one of our chief goals this year is to get our foot in the door among the fraternities and sororities. I befriended one president that day who soon got me involved with their house bible study! 

Got time for another story? Last week we made it a goal to knock on every fraternity door. After getting blown off a couple times, the president of one of the biggest fraternities did give us his cell. Jeff, my co-laborer, took him out for lunch which led to God opening the door to start a bible study at their fraternity house as well! Oh Lord, would the light of the gospel break forth amongst the darkest places of campus.

So, let us continue to intercede for and with Kenny and his team as they seek to usher these young people into closer walks with Jesus. This week Addison will be returning to Romans 14 to finish our look at the weak and the strong and the call to unity and welcome that God has placed on us. 

 

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

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