Hearing the Music

To Believe and Belong

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“It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them. Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of color already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.”

The above quote comes from Kelly Marie Tran, an actress best known for her work as Rose Tico in The Last Jedi (New York Times, August 21, 2018.) I highlight it here because it captures so well the twin two cores that mark us as humans, namely our need for a story to believe and a place to belong. What we believe at our core provides meaning for our life; it tells us who we are and what our purpose is. One of the key markers of our present cultural moment is the lack of purpose in the lives of so many. In contrast, the invitation to be a Jesus follower, through an ongoing belief in his finished work, provides ultimate meaning and purpose for those that choose to walk that path. 

Corresponding with the invitation to believe is the invitation to belong to the community of Jesus’ followers. Again, this cultural moment is characterized by intense loneliness and isolation. We are separated and grouped as people only to be discarded. But Jesus says you are mine and extends the invitation to belong to the body of Christ, in real, authentic ways.

Interestingly, the story of God’s people in the Exodus is also a story of belief and belonging. The Exodus is a journey of redemption from slavery to freedom. But it is a journey that is fraught with questions. Will we believe the God of our fathers over the power of our overlords and their gods which seem all to real? Will we believe enough to follow into unseen places, even if it means losing the only home we have? The story of the Exodus is a story of all God’s people as we see first hand how he turns turns our belief, often emanating weakly from the dark places of life, into glorious belonging as he reminds us that we are His own! 

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ Exodus 19:4–6a

I am excited to start this journey together.


A Never Ending Supply

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What if you had a never ending supply of money, energy, entertainment, friends, or whatever you might need! What kind of confidence would you have as you engage life? What kind of perseverance would you be able to employ?   

Isaiah 58:11 promises just this sort of never ending supply for God’s people: And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Did you hear those claims? Continually; a spring of water, whose waters do not fail! These bold, audacious claims are promises that our living God makes to his people. What is even more striking is the placement of these promises in the broader context of Isaiah 58. These promises are given in response to the call to "pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted (v.10)”,  which itself is part of the broader call to" loose the bonds of wickedness (v. 6)”. The picture that is painted for us is that of a vessel being upended and poured out, but the waters don’t end, they keep flowing!

I need to sink my roots deep into these promises! Family, work, health, world events, my own sin patterns, etc…  all these conspire to leave me empty. Only by resting in the finished work of Christ do I realize that He has created in me a spring whose waters will never fail. On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37–38)

This week we welcome Karl and Debbie Dortzbach to Christ Church as  part of our Missions focus. Karl and Debbie have a deep love for the Lord and have served faithfully in service of the Kingdom for many years now.   It is a privilege to host them and to glean from the unique perspective that God has afforded them.


Photo by Samara Doole on Unsplash

A Whole New World

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What do you think when you think missions? Mark Noll, writing in The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (IVP Academic, 2009),* comments that, "A few short decades ago, Christian believers were concentrated in the global north and west, but now a rapidly swelling majority lives in the global south and east.” He goes on to posit that if you were a Christian Rip Van Winkle and you were to wipe "a half-century of sleep from your eyes [after awaking this past week] and tried to locate your fellow Christian believers, you would find them in surprising places, expressing their faith in surprising ways, under surprising conditions, with surprising relationships to culture and politics, and raising surprising theological questions that would not have seemed possible when you fell asleep.”

And this my friends is good news! As our hearts sang with Psalm 72 last week and with the prayer that the whole earth would be filled with His glory, we find that the Lord is indeed building his Kingdom. Noll goes on to cite encouraging facts including this one: “More than half of all Christian adherents in the whole history of the church have been alive in the last one hundred years." Imagine that. In the last 100 years the entire, throughout-history, Christian population has doubled!  

I punctuate with an exclamation point because we need to recite this stupendous encouragement in our conversations and shout this loudly in our living rooms. So often it seems that we are morose and downtrodden watching our nation’s news cycle. I sometimes feel like I am presiding over the funeral of Christendom with some of the conversations I have with believers. But, our God is on the MOVE! We just fail to see it because we are not looking in the right places. Again to quote Noll, "This past Sunday it is possible that more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called 'Christian Europe'. Yet in 1970 there were no legally functioning churches in all of China…”

So, this Sunday let us expand our hearts and minds as we come to worship this God of the cosmos. Let us pray and sing and join our voices in longing for our God to be known. May we be encouraged to see ways that God is on the move and may we be freshly energized to join the throng exulting Him before the nations. As part of our missions focus we welcome this Sunday Serge missionaries to London, Chris and Josephine Hatch, who will be joining us in the adult institute hour to talk about world religions. From the pulpit, we will be looking at Psalm 63 and the soul’s longing for God; a longing that invites mission.  


Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash