Hearing the Music

Content, or Not Content?

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 As I sit at my desk looking out my office window watching some yellowish colored leaves fall from the tree to the ground, I realize something: fall is finally here! My first Michigan summer was awesome. Everyone kept telling me last winter and spring were unusual and just wait for summer. It finally arrived and I was delighted to welcome it. I must admit now, however, I’m looking forward to fall, some colder weather, and even some snow. Ouch! The past few weeks I have found myself getting ready for a season change and excited for it. I got everything up off the ground in my garage so the snow can melt from the undercarriage of my cars and fall to the garage floor. I was given a new snow thrower and I’ve been plotting my route from the garage, down the driveway, and to the street and back again. I’ve even planned for my patio furniture and getting it put away for the winter while cutting back some plants. I’m ready for a change…but I know as soon as it comes I’ll be ready for that to change as well.

        With all this recent activity, I have come to realize something after digging into Romans 7:7-25 in preparation for preaching this Sunday. I’m never content. When it is hot, I’m ready for cold. When it is cold, I’m ready for hot. When it rains, I’m ready for sun. There are times when it’s sunny and I am even ready for cloudy days. It seems whatever place I am in currently, I am ready to move out of it and into another one. Does this mean we should always to be ‘content’ and never be ‘not content?’ Me genoito – no, no, 1000 times no. We are going to look at Romans 7:7-25 this Lord’s Day and I would like to ask you to keep this in mind as we do because, perhaps like many of you, here is where I am completely content. I am content in continuing to live in my sin instead of letting God’s law reveal it for the purpose of lavishing me with more of His wonderful grace. I am content in not using God’s law to shine light into the pollution of my heart in order to run to my Savior who constantly gives more and more mercy. I am content just to keep on going the way I am going and doing the same ole things I’ve been doing. All the while, of course, while complaining about how ready I am for a change in something else! So, content, or not content? The answer is yes, and I pray our time in Romans 7 this Sunday will only seal that to our hearts as we open our ears and eyes. I pray we would never be content to remain in our sin, and we would always be content, even take great delight in, God’s holy, righteous, and good law, for there He seals to us we have been delivered from death and into His marvelous light and life.     

 

Photo by Matt on Unsplash

Bearing Our Wounds

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I was reminded in preparing for last week's Lament Service, along with some reading I was doing from Open Hearts Ministries, of the picture of the church as an inn for the wounded.  

As context for this idea, we look at the story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10. Here we meet a traveler on a dangerous road who is beset on by robbers. These robbers beat this vulnerable man and leave him traumatized and wounded. In due time, a Samaritan comes by and lifts the wounded traveler onto his donkey. He carries him to an inn, a safe place where he can receive care and have the time he needs to recover. The Samaritan is generous with his possessions, paying for the man’s care out of his own pocket.

In reading this parable, we are reminded that all of us are wounded travelers who need others to see us, stop for us and give attention to our wounds. Our journey is fraught with dangers, some intentional by those who would do us harm. Some wounds are by-products of living in a fallen world. Sometimes, sadly, we even wound those whom we most love.

So, we need Samaritans and we need an inn. Among other purposes, it is to meet these needs that God has given us a community of people that he has called the church. It is this community that he intends to be an “inn,” a place to rest and a place that cares for people on their journey towards restoration. In community with one another, we learn to give and receive mercy, to love and to find more of the life God is calling us to. We apply God’s grace and truth to the very real wounds we carry, not as those that "have-it-all-together", but like the Samaritan, as those who bear wounds ourselves.


Ultimately, the Good Samaritan points us to Christ. He is the One who heals our wounds perfectly. We will be reminded of this yet again in Romans 7:1-6 as we look at it this Sunday. Where the Law has left us bruised and broken, Jesus steps in and makes us whole again. Praise be to him!

 

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in lament

Eucatastrophe

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If you look up eu·ca·tas·tro·phe - /ˌyo͞okəˈtastrəfē/ in the dictionary you will find that it is a noun synonymous with happy endings and its use is rare. That its use is rare is not hard to believe in a world where people kill one another, young people take their own lives at a remarkable rate, depression and anxiety are at record highs, hatred and vitriol mark the public discourse and there are no easy answers for turning these situations around. We understand the catastrophe embedded in that word, as well as in our world, all too well.

But, we are in a story where eucatastrophe is our promise! It is a story that travels the road of the cross to be sure, but its end is an empty tomb and a divine inheritance. Our task is to inhabit the distance between the cross and the crown, pointing others to the truth and reminding ourselves of the glory.

Believe it or not, lament is one of the ways in which we both point others to the cross and remind ourselves of the glory. Pastor Mark Vroegop, in a book many of our women read this summer entitled Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, puts it this way, “Lament is the language that helps you believe catastrophe can become eucatastrophe. It vocalizes the pain of the moment while believing that help is on the way. Lament gives us hope because it gives us a glimpse of truth.” In other words, by not veiling the pain that sin (both individual and institutional) has caused, we are invited to grasp hold of the truth that God is rescuing his world through his Son.

As we have learned over the years, lament is a specific type of prayer that we encounter throughout the scriptures (Psalm 13 is a clear lament example). It typically has four parts:  

  • Address -  Our cry out to God (Utilize God’s name).
  • Complaint - Honestly and specifically name a situation or circumstance that is painful, wrong, or unjust (why…where are you…how long…we are overwhelmed…I feel helpless).
  • Request - Boldly ask God to do something about the situation (Will you…Please move…Have mercy…Remember…Heal).
  • Trust - An explicit expression of trust (I put my hope in You).

I remind you of this for two reasons. First, in addition to benefitting from the laments of scripture, we also benefit from learning to lament our own experiences of brokenness as we navigate this world. Far from complaining, lament helps us return to the promises and grab hold of Christ. Second, we are again inviting Christ Church (and all whom you will invite along with you) to a service of corporate lament next Sunday evening, September 29th at 6pm. It is our hope that you will give some thought to your laments and come prepared in the catastrophes of our lives to believe that eucatastrophe is our story.

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