Hearing the Music

Longing

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Advent is about longing. The longings of an exiled people for deliverance, for return to home; longings for things to be made right. As a people we connect to these longings in so many different ways. As a church, we seek to bring the Christmas lesson of "Joy to the World" into these longings. 

One significant place we hear the groaning of God's people is in the cries of those victimized by abuse. What follows is an introduction from a newly formed coalition of folks at Christ Church who desire to shine Light into these dark places.

Did you know that 1 out of 3 women, and 1 out of 4 men, have experienced some type or level of abuse? Those are statistics from the CDC, as well as from the recent report of the Baptist Convention on Abuse

This means that a significant number of us here at Christ Church either have experienced, or are experiencing, abuse in some form. God calls us to see the broken-hearted and vulnerable among us, to tend to them and protect them, just as He sent His Son to do. 

After several of your CC brothers and sisters read Rachel denHollander’s book, "What is a Girl Worth?", God laid it on our hearts to work toward the goal of caring for the abused in wholistic and healing ways. We have been prayerfully asking ourselves, “What is God calling Christ Church to do?".

One of the first things we realized is that we all need some education / consciousness-raising to increase understanding of what abuse is, what is its impact, and how to respond to it as God does. The psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual impacts of abuse are frequently unknown to the victims. But they may go through life with many wounds they don’t understand and about which they feel significant shame. How can we journey with victims and be God’s hands and feet in their lives?

As we journey together to shine His light in a broken world we intend to begin writing / speaking in short segments on this topic. Read. Listen. Think. Pray about what God may be saying to you about yourself, a friend, or someone you could journey with.

I am so grateful for this initiative. Abuse flourishes in the dark but loses power when it encounters the light. Be on the lookout for future updates.

This week Pastor Addison will be shining the light of Isaiah 40:6-8. It is a section that reminds us of the transience of humanity, but invites total trust in the Word of God, which stands forever. I look forward to our ministry together this Lord’s Day whether you are in person, online, or in the parking lot! 

May the Light reach into all of your dark places.

 

Photo by David-Olivier Gascon on Unsplash

in Advent

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

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And so begins the Advent season! Just like that we move from Thanksgiving into Advent, the season of preparation for the coming of Christ. During this time, we remember the story of Israel longing for a Messiah to liberate her from sin, exile, and oppression. We sing and remember how Christ came to this earth a first time as a human infant to carry out this mission. Even as we focus on his first coming, Advent helps us remember that, like Israel, we too await the full and final liberation from sin and death that Jesus will accomplish when he returns for the second and final time. 

Perhaps no chapter is more suited to Advent than Isaiah 40. This chapter, that begins the second part of Isaiah’s prophetic work, focuses squarely on the promise of deliverance for an exiled people. It is these words that G.F. Handel famously begins his Messiah with, leading with several minutes of glorious strains carrying the promise of this prophecy that points to the coming of the Jesus, the promised Messiah. It is this chapter that will hold our attention for the next month as we begin with God speaking tenderly to his people and climax with the promise that those who wait on the Lord will mount on wings like eagles, they shall run, even in exile, and not grow weary! (Isaiah 40:31).

I look forward to scaling these heights with you. Once again we will be uniting congregationally online, in the parking lot, or in person at one of our 3 morning services (note we have halted our evening service for the foreseeable future). Also we will once again be continuing our deeper reflection on these verses throughout the week with our prepared devotionals or sign up here to have them delivered to your email Monday through Friday.

Friends, these may be days of hard service, but every valley shall be exalted and every high place shall be brought low, and a highway shall appear in the desert, and we shall see HIM!

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

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