May 15th, 2014
As we began unpacking our church’s vision for Faithful Presence last Fall, a member spoke candidly during one of our Q&A’s (I paraphrase):
I live far away from here. I’m ‘here” somewhat artificially in that I only see any of you on Sundays. There’s a limit to how present I can be to CtK given how my physical presence with any of you is limited to once a week. Perhaps this can be overcome if we find other ways to work with and be with one another beyond Sunday.
This member spoke as one of the more far-flung family units of our young church. But we believe the comment represents a situation true for many of our people, irrespective of their proximity to other members of CtK.
In that first sermon last fall we listened to Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Central to that prayer was His desire for unity within the church characteristic of that which existed between God the Father and God the Son. That unity is such a central feature of His prayer confirms both how critical it is and also how elusive. Unity is just another way of speaking of faithful presence: a mutual, vital awareness and engagement with one another.
As we said repeatedly throughout the series, faithful presence is constituted by three interdependent dimensions–to God, to one another, and to our world(s). Presence in any of one the three dimensions both leads to and draws from presence to the other dimensions. Practicing the presence of God naturally and necessarily propels me toward being present to one another; while choosing to be present to one another at times both reigns me in and reassures me of the Presence of God. On the other hand, what I gain from the love and support of one another prepares me for being present to my world(s); while the challenges of being present to my world reminds me of the need for a community’s presence. (Phew. Still with me?)
So we’re slowly seeding new possibilities for our vision to take root and bear fruit. One way we’d like to see the kind of multi-dimensional blossom among us is to form smaller, substantive communities of one another–community groups, that is. Intimate subsets of our congregation that enter into a kind of covenant with one another to seek the unity Jesus prayed for.
These groups will create a space for people to know and be known by one another; provide a forum for ongoing “growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:16); act as a catalyst for outward-looking service; and also offer a less-threatening atmosphere for those who don’t yet identify with Jesus to consider both His teaching and the kind of kingdom-focused community He seeks to form. While there’s latitude in how a group might seek to nurture faithful presence within its members, we envision these groups to aspire to these goals.
We’re so desirous for groups like these to form that if you’re parents of children for whom the cost of a babysitter would break your bank in order to participate, that we’ll pay for babysitting. (But not for any medical bills incurred by the sitter on account of your children’s shenanigans) As a parent of small children, I know there might be other reasons why participation might be difficult, but if what to do with the kids is the only thing keeping you from joining a group, then congratulations: we’ve got it covered.
So later this year, around the beginning of the upcoming school year (I thought we weren’t done with this one yet!), we’d like to see groups form which, as an initial experiment, use some pre-written curriculum to follow along with our sermon series on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. We’re not mandating that people join groups; many of you are already part of something similar, while others are in particular station of life that this kind of commitment is prohibitive. We’re really just trying to provide a context for the kind of faithful presence that occurred in Acts 2.
Groups with these aspirations don’t form automatically and don’t persevere easily. They require the blessing of God working through the wise shepherding of humble, compassionate, and courageous people. So in the next several days we’d ask you to be on the lookout for a survey that we’d ask all of you to participate in. The survey will ask only a few questions:
- whether you’d like to participate in one of these new groups (many of you may already be part of groups of this nature–groups we wouldn’t want you to leave!)
- whether you’d have any interest in–or just curiosity about–facilitating one of these groups using the curriculum we’ve mentioned
- and whether you’d like to serve as a host for one of these groups, which doesn’t mean facilitating (though it can) but mostly providing a welcoming space in which to meet
We do this because of our belief in how critical this kind of unity is to the vitality of our church. We do this without illusions of just how elusive this kind of unity forms.
We as a session have prayed for both the right time and the wisdom we’ll need to see this happen. We ask both your prayers and your patience as we make our first halting steps toward more of our community discovering faithful presence up close. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask any of the elders. Now keep an eye out for the survey!
Therefore, in a word, I interpret repentance as regeneration, whose sole end is to restore in us the image of God that had been disfigured and all but obliterated through Adam’s transgression….And indeed, this restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year; but through continual and sometimes even slow advances God wipes out in his elect the corruptions of the flesh, cleanses them of guilt, consecrates them to himself as temples renewing all their minds to true purity that they may practice repentance throughout their lives and know that this warfare will end only at death. –John Calvin, Institutes
For the last two weeks in our Storyline approach to the Westminster Confession we’ve tried to summarize how the “Hero’ of Chapter 8 (Christ the Mediator) came to begin a resolution to the plot of redemptive history in two senses: rebirth and renewal. We’ll conclude this segment of the series by identifying one more dimension to His plot resolution: re-commissioning. As has been said before, salvation seen only through the lens of what we’re rescued from misapprehends the overriding point of salvation. Salvation is unto a life, one now lived for Him who died and was raised (2 Cor 5:15). So we’ll look at two chapters that speak to the kind of life we’re saved for: a life of repentance and good works, (Chapters 15 & 16).
Our subject(s) are not without controversy within the various constituencies of Protestantism. The ground, the motive–the very possibility–of a sanctified life characterized by repentance and good works provoke not a few competing visions among Christians. Let’s see what the Assembly concluded and then let that be grist for our own discussion.
We’re going to try something completely different at our Sunday Night Fellowship later this month: a little film criticism but with a theological purpose. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon these several years ago, but there just happens to be a series of ten short films by the famed Polish director, Krzysztof Kieslowski (10 points for correct pronunciation), each of which has one of the Ten Commandments as its underlying (but not necessarily most prominent) theme. The series is unostentatiously entitled “The Decalogue,” and according to its list of the top 100 “Arts & Faith” films, Image Journal, puts Decalogue at #4.
Since all the films clock in at no longer than 75 minutes we’ll have plenty of time to view one and then try to do both good film criticism (no simple task) and also to unearth its theological import. Think of it as a different kind of sermon–and given our attraction to film perhaps even more influential. Caveat emptor: it’s in Polish, so unless one of you can translate in the slavic tongue in real-time and with idiomatic fullness, we’ll need to go with subtitles.
So I hope you’ll join us on Sunday night, May 25th, at our regularly scheduled time of 6-8pm. Have dinner before you come, but we’ll pop the popcorn.
And if this sorta thing floats your boat, just wait until June.
While more of the world turned to the observances surrounding the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination last November, some may have remembered that C.S. Lewis shares that in common with the late president. Sadly there are a precious few audio recordings of the Belfastian turned Oxford Don. Here’s one exception which records him discussing prayer and how it changes us. It eventually became part of his famous Mere Christianity. Have a listen, and then would you apply his sonorous insights into prayers, including the following:
- for our recent visitor, Diann Videan, whose husband Tom died Monday after a lengthy illness; a memorial service was held for him Thursday at 1pm in our sanctuary at FBC
- the release of the nearly 200 young girls abducted in Nigeria
- Wanda Williams in the loss of her father
- Davis and Kacy DeBoer (Elias and Gabriel) who (correction:) are soon to relocate to the Pacific Northwest
- our gracious hosts, Fairmeadows Baptist Church, and other churches in our city
See you Sunday at 9:30,
You may remember how we prayed for Jim and Sue Akovenko as they traveled to Birmingham to mourn the passing of Tom Cheely, missions pastor for Briarwood Presbyterian Church whose investment spanned decades and continents. Initially drafted as a catcher for the Chicago White Sox, Cheely instead elected to attend Wheaton College and then seminary. You can watch a replay of his memorial service here.