Hearing the Music

A Small Blow Against Blindness

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As we come to the one year anniversary of the pandemic and the subsequent shutdowns, I have been reflecting a fair bit on how life has changed, how we as individuals have changed, how our communities have changed, etc... Some of these changes involve loss to be sure. We lament a loss of a sense of freedom in which we could make plans uninhibited. My life has never had so many uncertainties before, or perhaps I should say I have never had so many uncertainties at the forefront of my life. And yet, there have been some gains. We have exercised new muscles of communication and connection. We have seen people and communities come together in creative ways to serve one another. There has been beauty in the brokenness.  

Another gain has been clarity. It seems there is a sense in which we have come to see the importance of things that we took for granted before. For instance, the writer to the Hebrews reminded his congregation to not neglect "to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another..." He says this in the spirit of considering "how to stir up one another to love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24–25). I have been well acquainted with these words throughout the course of my Christian life. However, the importance of these words has become much clearer as actually gathering together has become more fraught. As the old saying goes, "absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder."

But there is something beyond quaint fondness and even something beyond a simplistic obedience to a scriptural imperative in the call to "gather together"; there is the deep truth that we need each other. We need each other for encouragement along the way. We need to bear one another's burdens during the difficult spots of life. We need others in order to really see and know ourselves. I was struck afresh by this in an article by New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier about the hunched in perspectives we all gravitate towards. He says, "For all our elaborate culture of self-knowledge... we are still, each of us, our own blind spots. We should welcome every person we meet as a small blow against blindness."

If true humanity in general helps us see our own blind spots, how much more is it true for the Gospel community! For it is Christ that gives us the vision to be able to truly see one another. It is in Christ that we can both know and really be known. It is as we live out our lives in Christian community, gather to worship, and share communion at the Lord's Table that we truly strike a blow against blindness. As we watch churches fragment across the country or even in our city, even as we have experienced our own tensions and fragmentation, I can't help but wonder how much of our difficulties would be helped by simply being in the physical presence of one another? I see this more clearly on our pandemic anniversary.

In that vein it is encouraging to see the gains that society is making as many are on the other side of the virus and the vaccine rolls out. As I indicated last week, we are seeing our way clear toward more freedom with programs and offerings at Christ Church. As we approach Holy Week we are hoping to craft these in such a way that those who have been most cautious will feel comfortable striking a blow against blindness as we strive to gather together.

 

Photo by Bud Helisson on Unsplash

Journey Through

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How great it was to hear from our Missions Team over the past month and be reminded of our part in the great mission story that is unfolding from Heaven! Now the digital, Friday pen is back in my hand and I want to draw your attention to our current journey for a moment. Some of my favorite books as a young lad were Anne DeVries' series Journey Through the Night, which followed a Dutch family in Nazi occupied Holland during WW2. Four hard years. Four years of struggle. I have thought of them often as we have navigated our hard year during the pandemic. It is truly a journey.

I want to specifically encourage you today with two things. The first is that the last several months have seen hopeful progress with regards to our life together. We have been able to safely maintain worship together in ways that particularly respected the most vulnerable. Recently we have reopened nurseries and added indoor singing. Bible studies are being offered via Zoom and in person. Youth activities have resumed. As immunizations rise and Covid cases fall we are looking at increasing service sizes and returning to more and more pre-pandemic programming. I say especially to those who feel fatigued, perhaps feeling that you have been stretched to your breaking point and NEED some fellowship, NEED some help with kids, etc... Take heart. We believe that our journey is heading in a healthy direction. I would also encourage us as a community to hold the line here at the last. Don't give out. We do have obstacles to overcome yet. We do want to do our very best to care for the most vulnerable. We also have our building project to navigate, which regardless of the pandemic would hamper some programming. We are journeying.

The second thing to encourage you with is in regard to our own personal journeys the Lord has us on. Jim Weaver is a team leader with Mission to the World and he created and shared this image. What I love about this image is the way it charts our personal journeys from fear to growth. He of course is zeroing in on our responses to the pandemic, but we could put any challenging aspect of life in the bulls-eye and chart what the journey looks like from fear to growth. Can you find yourself in your journey?

Of course we will never grow in our journeys unless we cling to Jesus. Our text this week reminds us from Jesus' own lips that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He is the Path on which we journey. He invites us to believe him and to trust him as he prepares our way to the Father.

So let's hold fast together to Jesus. Let's navigate these months ahead with patience that only he can provide.

 

 

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

Flickering Torches

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For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. . . So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. . . All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”   - excerpts from 2 Corinthians 4:6-5:20

Christ has shone in our hearts! In my heart; that is the light I am called to share with the world. It is in that joy, that hope, that I am to follow my Shepherd's endurance. And when I doubt, when my jar of clay looms large, God graciously gives me the Hall of Faith - Hebrews 11, life accounts of Christians through the ages, each of your lives, and, most intimately, my family: all jars of clay through whom I have more clearly and intimately been given the knowledge of the glory of God.  

I thank God for this nuanced, beautiful view of his glory. I pray for each of us as we seek and obey his specific callings in our lives; as his light goes to our families and neighbors, our city and to the world. How has he called me to yield my flickering torch?  

Let us join Jon and Jo Ellis in prayer as they go to teach English in refuge camps in the Middle East; 
Let us join Greg and Ingrid Orr in prayer and finances as they go to Berlin with Pioneer; 
Let us join with Gracehill as we pray for our city;
Let us join Grace’s Table and Safe Haven as, in Jesus' name, they minister to Grand Rapids;
Let us join our children as they learn and grow in faith; 
And let us not lose heart as we are renewed daily by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus!

O Light that follow'st all my way, 
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.

O Cross that lilftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red 
life that shall endless be.


- stanzas 2 & 4 of O Love, That Wilt Not Let Me Go

 

Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash

Posted by Emily Lorenz

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