Hearing the Music

Finding God in the Dark

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When Nicholas Wolterstorff heard that his 25 year old son Erik had been killed in a mountain climbing accident he asks the following of God: “Will my eyes adjust to this darkness? Will I find you in the dark – not in the streaks of light which remain, but in the darkness? Has anyone ever found you there? Did they love what they saw? Did they see love? And are there songs for singing when the light has gone dim? Or in the dark, is it best to wait in silence?” (Lament for a Son). These are questions that every Christian has touched on either explicitly or more existentially. As we have seen over the last several years, the God of the scriptures not only can withstand these types of questions but gives them voice in those very same scriptures by means of lament. This Sunday evening we will have our annual lament service, to come before our God and seek Him with this language of lament. We will cry to him in our public and private darknesses, even as with Job we profess our hope in him, “though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). I do hope that you will make plans to join us and invite a friend.

 

Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

Real Life

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I love the real life situations in the scriptures. This coming Sunday we begin a new sermon series on the book of Philippians. Philippians is filled with very real human drama. There is Paul's imprisonment in Rome and his chained-up preaching to the Imperial household. There is his friendship and yearning for the Philippians, who in turn have sacrificially cared for Paul during his imprisonment. There are other external trials and internal conflicts that are besetting the Philippian church. There are specific people named - Epaphroditus, Timothy, Euodia and Syntache. It is all very real.

In the midst of these very real situations, Paul speaks of the irresistible movement of the Lord that has begun the good work in lives of the believers (Phillipians 1:6), a good work that abounds in love, joy, wisdom, patience in suffering, and humility. It is a movement of grace and peace FROM Christ that has located us IN Christ in order that we might be servants OF Christ (Phillipians 1:1,2). There is so much in this little book and I can't wait to dig into it together!

Like the Philippians, we need what Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, had to say. For our lives are just as real as the Philippians. We too know the external pressures and internal disagreements of 21st century America. We too feel the effects of living in a religiously pluralized, secular society. We too have many relationships with real people that are broken or interrupted and we yearn, with the affections of Christ (Phillipians 1:8), for them to be restored. We too are desperate for the grace and peace which comes from Christ, that locates our lives in him and enables us to be his servants.

As a holdover from the gathering of our Presbytery (which we are hosting Friday and Saturday), Jon Medlock and Don Guthrie will be leading us during our Adult Institute hour as we contemplate what healthy church ecosystems look like. These are indeed challenging times for the church, but God gives much grace. Jon and Don have also co-authored a study for the denomination that point us in the direction of that grace.

Are You Ready?

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Now that Labor Day has come and gone, Christ Church stands poised on the threshold of a fall semester ready to reincorporate many of the activities of our prepandemic life. Sunday school begins this week for children and adults, youth ministries have two retreats this month, C-Groups are back, we are sending a van to pick up college students who are meeting regularly, Wednesday nights are in view for October, and we even have mixed in an all-church retreat the first weekend in October. Whew!

The question comes to mind, "Are we ready?" For some the answer is an unequivocal, "Yes!" These things have been missed in the course of life and their return is welcome. Others are not so sure. As Sam Bush writes in a recent article, "Getting a child dressed and out the door felt like an Olympic event long before the pandemic. For young families especially, church used to be simply another thing to be late to, but now it’s too much to ask. The spirit is willing but the flesh isn’t just weak; it’s depressed, it’s irritable, and it couldn’t find a babysitter last night. As Dan Sinker wrote in his essay in The Atlantic, 'Parents aren’t even at a breaking point anymore. We’re broken.'" Do I hear a few "Amens" out there?

Two things by way of observation. First, wherever you happen to be on the readiness spectrum, much grace to you. These last 18 months have done number on us physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually. Not one of us is the same as we were before. But secondly, this is why we need to come together under the banner of the restorative love of Jesus Christ. It is as we study, pray, preach, teach, weep with, rejoice with, serve with, and generally engage in life together, that we experience the healing grace that we need. I like how Paul links interpersonal connection to spiritual growth in his letter to the Philippians, "For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:8–11). 

 

Photo by Shelbey Fordyce on Unsplash 

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