THE FAMILY OF JESUS – REACHES UP

Recently we’ve been considering the most significant biblical image for the Church –
remember??

– the FAMILY.

(you can find previous reflections on this topic at pastorkensnotes.wordpress.com under the “consider with me” TAB)

We in the Church are the Family of Jesus.
You could say, actually, that here at Calvin Church we are one household within the Global Family of God in Christ.
And we have certain characteristics that we think help us understand who we are as part of that family.
They’re on the front of our weekly bulletin.
As a family we BOW DOWN.
And, as a family we REACH UP.

If you wonder what that is all about head down to the Day Care area after a worship service and watch a child’s reaction to their parent’s arrival.  A smile comes across their face and hands eagerly reach up to embrace mommy or daddy.  They want to be held.  They want to be close.  Together.
I can’t help but think of Psalm 131 – a child snuggling close and safe with their parent.  “That’s how I feel with you, Lord” says the Psalmist.
That’s our sacred privilege – a gift to us through the Elder Brother.

We get to REACH UP and be held.
We get to REACH UP and receive divine help.

And

We get to REACH UP, along with century after century of believers who have gathered in churches and homes, and stood before altars, and knelt in prayer chambers to
WORSHIP.
Reach up to declare “glory and power and blessing and honor” be to you Lord.
In that way we reach up our hearts along with the saints and angels who worship 24/7 in heaven.  We’re part of the great, timeless chain of worship of believers from all times and places.
What an amazing, amazing opportunity and privilege.
Let’s not take the call to worship lightly.
Let’s not overlook it.
Let’s treasure it.
Let’s make the most of it.

See you Sunday!!!!!!!!!

THE FAMILY OF JESUS – BOWS DOWN

Last week we began to consider about the most significant biblical image for the Church.
Which is, by the way, the FAMILY.
Yes, there are lots of others.  Very good ones.
Like Bride, Vineyard, Flock, Kingdom, Temple, Body, the New Israel, etc.

However, the biggest New Testament image of the Church, however, is……
Family
>
God is our Father through faith in Jesus, and through receiving the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:26; 4:6, 7).
> Jesus is our elder brother (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:10-18).
> “Brother and sister” is the most common word for Christians in the letters of the New Testament.
> Baptism is the symbol of our adoption into the family of the triune God (Matthew 28:19).
> Jesus himself said that those who live their lives in the will of the Father in Heaven are his brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:50).

We in the Church are the Family of Jesus.
You could say, actually, that here at Calvin Church
we are one household within the Global Family of God in Christ.

And we have certain characteristics that we think help us understand who we are as part of that family.
They’re on the front of our weekly bulletin.
As a family we BOW DOWN.
That’s the first characteristic.  (The others will come in future weeks).

We bow down – that is, as individuals and as a collective family, we submit our lives to One who is the Head, the authority, of our family.
His word is final.
His desire is our action.
When he commands we obey.
Period.

And we’re OK with that.
Yes, it’s true that often when a family member  here on earth dominates the family and becomes the final and decisive authority figure, there is abuse of that power.  Other family members get hurt.  And their lives are crimped in unhealthy ways.

However, that’s not so with Jesus as HEAD of God’s family.
For He, whom we happily serve, has first stooped low for us.
Go check in Bethlehem’s manger to see the evidence.
His lowly sacrifice and service for us paved the way for us to fully surrender every part of our Church Family’s life to him.

And we’d better get used to that.
And understand that clearly.
Christ’s family is about serving, not being served.
It is about giving, not getting or grabbing.
It is about obedience, not independence.

If we don’t understand that very fundamental posture –
– lived out to Jesus, and then also reflected in how we interact with others in the family –
then everything else in Family Life won’t make sense.
It’ll just seem like strange, pie-in-the-sky spiritual nonsense.

We Bow Down as a Church Family
together with the shepherds and the wise men.
before the Infant King of Bethlehem.

As as we bow, we take our wallets, our sexuality, our political views, our jobs and present them as gifts to him.  He owns them.  And tells us what to do with them.
And
we
obey.

Period.

Which, is, quite frankly, the hard part.
Most of us in Christ’s Family have a pretty good idea about what the Head Of The Family wants in these various areas.  The problem is not there, in our understanding.
The challenge is in our obedience.
In the doing of what he says.

(as a reminder, though, if you wonder about some of what He may be asking, click on this link……)
http://www.domestic-church.com/CONTENT.DCC/19990301/ESSAY/jesus_poem.htm

So, when you drive round the city and see – somewhere – a nativity scene, or view one on a card that you get in the mail,
take special note of the shepherds who left their sheep, and the wise men who risked all to cross many miles in order to bow before the infant king.
then pause
wherever you are
and ….

Bow down
Before Jesus.
Our Saviour and Brother.
And prepare to enter 2010 with renewed surrender and devotion to Him.

THE CHURCH – CHRIST’S FAMILY

The Church – what is it?
What is that entity for which Jesus came?

The bible has a variety of different images that it uses to describe the Church:
Bride
Vineyard
Flock
Kingdom
Temple
Body
New Israel

The most pervasive NT image of the Church, however, is……
Family

God is our Father through faith in Jesus, and through receiving the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:26; 4:6, 7).
Jesus is our elder brother (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:10-18).
“Brother and sister” is the most common word for Christians in the letters of the New Testament.
Baptism is the symbol of our adoption into the family of the triune God (Matthew 28:19).
Jesus himself said that those who live their lives in the will of the Father in Heaven are his brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:50).

We in the Church are the Family of Jesus.
We are NOT, first of all, an institution or organization or agency.
We are NOT first of all about programs or structure or product or goal
We are a FAMILY.

And so we live together as a family – all the stuff of life from birth to life, the joys, the disappointments, the marking of time from singing “happy birthday” to sharing New Year’s Eve.

As a family we celebrate our diversity:  that God has created no two members of this family alike.
We can experience a stimulating variation in personalities, stages of life, gifts, interests…..

As a family we care about relationships, relationships, relationships.
With our Heavenly Father and Elder Brother, through the Spirit
With our brothers and sisters.
Relationships come first.
Programs?  Ya, ya.  They’re there.  But only to enable & serve life and ministry.

As family we are committed to each other in a covenant bond.
It’s a bond that is hard to walk away from.
And safe to come home to.

As a family we head off in different directions throughout the week, serving and learning and living in various corners of the National Capital Region.  But even through the week we make sure to keep in touch as best we can.
And we make sure to schedule time to be together for support, for  comfort, for nourishment, for hanging out with each other, for play, for rest, for training, for mentoring, for celebration of major life moments.

We are the family of  our Elder Brother and Lord, Jesus Christ.
You could say, actually, that we are one household within the Global Family of God in Christ.

And just like the Gehrels clan is made up of a variety of households that all share certain similarities, but also have unique elements, so with the Global Family of God in Christ.
Different households share certain similarities, but also have unique elements.
So, at the householf of faith called “Calvin Church” we have a few things in particular that help to shape who we are.  Things that happen to be rather important to us.
But to go down that road is too much for one posting.
Stay tuned to future PKNotes.
But, in the meantime, ask yourself:
– what might you list as some defining characteristics of the Calvin family?
– some that we share with other church families?
– some that are peculiar to us?

Whose Story Is It, Anyway?

The Christian faith – what is it?
What are we celebrating at Christmas, anyway?

One concern I have with talk about “Jesus as MY Saviour” (like what we’ll do Sunday AM) is that I can easily begin to have the whole faith thing begin to revolve around ME — my life, my hopes and dreams and disappointments, my thoughts and feelings, etc.

I’m concerned about that because, at the core of it all, the Christian faith is not about that.
It’s not really about me.
Not really.
Not first of all, anyway.

It’s about God.
It  is the mysterious and wonderful True Story of
– God creating a universe, and this world within it, and humanity as stewards of that world.
– God not allowing humanity and Evil’s rebellion to have the last and destructive word over Creation after the tragedy of the Fall
– God entering the human scene through His Son whose birth, life, death, and resurrection ushered in the beginning of a New Order…. a salvation order
– God moving history towards the day when Christ will return and  Creation will be made completely NEW (us included!!!!) and it will fully and finally take on the shape that He had so divinely and perfectly dreamed and planned and made it to be in the first place.
(ie…. Creation / Fall / Redemption / Consumation)

It is God’s story – and, wonder of wonders, we’re invited into it!
More than that, we are drawn into it.
And, as followers of the Saviour, we discover that God’s Story affects every area of our lives –
– individually and corporately.

We begin to live as God designed us to be.
Living,
in the Spirit’s power,
already now
as New Creation beings.  (check out 2 Corinthians 5.17)
even though that is not yet there in fullness.

So we seek to work as God perfectly designed us to work.
We love as God would have perfectly and divinely designed us to love.
We play in holy ways.
We rest in divinely planned and blessed fashion.

We, apprentices of the Jesus who is at the centre of God’s Story,
work and love and play and rest and do all the other stuff of life
seeking to make creation a little more of a theatre
that declares the glory and praise of God,
and that enjoys fellowship with him.

Go into that living – to serve and love the Lord of the STORY!
And remember – He goes with you.
Until the end of time.

On Relationships

Recently, while trying to practice the stuff we considered last week, namely taking time to stop and reflect and pray in God’s presence, I got to meditating on God as the Divine Lover for whom relationships were, are, and will be extremely important.

In summary, the deal is this:
God takes relationships very seriously.
He values them.
He lives in them.
And calls us to value them, and live in them, too.

Consider, if you will:
– within the mystery of the Trinity what do we see?  The three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit living with perfect unity of love, of purpose, of work, of power, of care, of communion.  It is the ideal and most holy of relationships, in a mysterious and wonderful way.
– In Genesis 1:26 we read of God creating our first parents, and inviting them into the wonder of creation stewardship.  There it is – amazing!! God and humanity in living, working relationship.  Dare we say it?  Partners in the task of Creation stewarding.
– Then there is the gracious act of the incarnation (John 1:14 where, as Peterson paraphrases it, “God became human and moved into the neighborhood”).  Into a work marred by sin and the curse, God takes the initiative to restore the broken God-human relationship by crossing the great divide himself.  He comes to us!!
– Still more…… going to John 17, and the great High Priestly prayer that Jesus uttered to the Father just before going to the cross.  What do you think is on his holy heart as he prepares to suffer and die for the world?  Well, we read about:
– gratitude for the unity between Father and Son (relationship)
– intercession for unity among believers (more relationship)
– After the resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples and….. calls them to go into the world and build relationships with people everywhere (check out Matthew 28:16-20)
– Finally, going right to the very end of Scripture, relationship renewed is at the very heart of the grand vision of Revelation 21:  the New Heaven and New Earth, where God will dwell with us, and we – together – with Him!

Do you see?
God takes relationships very seriously.
He values them.
He lives in them.
And calls us to value them, and live in them, too.

So……
there’s the challenge for us in our uber-busy urban lives.
‘Cause relationships take time and lots of effort.
And they are risky – no guarantees provided on how they’ll turn out.

But
they
are
oh
so
very
important
to
God.

So, maybe,
just maybe,
they need to be high up on our “TO-DO” lists, also, eh?

With family.
With our next door neighbour.
And with that new person that you noticed at church last week, but didn’t quite get around to talking to……. yet.

More on noticing

So – I was all set to write something brand new for this week.
But – then a little voice prompted me to stop, and review what I wrote last week.
Which I did.
And….
….well….
I hope you won’t throw rotten fruit or toss dead cows at me off the castle wall, but I’d like to remind you of it.

Why?
Because, because you see, I needed to hear it again.
Not because I actually forgot what I wrote.
….. ok, well, yes – that too, a little bit, anyway.
But more because it is really hard to put into practice in our compressed busy urban pace of life.

Could it be that if I struggle with it, you do, too?
Please, somebody say “Yes!”

Say that “yes,” you also find it a challenge to STOP in the midst of the busyness of servant-living.
It’s a challenge to STOP regularly.
To take Sabbath time to STOP and just “hang out” with Jesus and his people in weekly worship and fellowship, and to find refreshment for your body and soul.
And, in taking time to STOP, also making sure to notice.

Notice where God is at work in your life.
I remember the first time that someone asked me about that.  No one had ever done so in such direct terms before.  She tilted her head to one side and said, “So, what’s the Lord been doing in your life lately?”
I didn’t really have an answer for her.
Why?  Was it because God wasn’t present, or at work within and around me?
No.
It was more because I hadn’t taken the time to notice.
I had never really thought about that question or looked around to try and figure out an answer to it.

Noticing – it’s a spiritual discipline.
That is, taking regular time to slow down and ask,
Lord, where are you working in my life?
How are you shaping my soul?
What do you want me to learn?
Whom and how would you have me serve?

Noticing – it is the stuff of Psalm 46, where God speaks into the roaring, foaming chaos that is the present reality of the writer.  Amid all the pressures and threats, God calls his people to stop and notice that He is the ultimate authority, keeping the final Word for himself, and exercising his divine sovereignty over their lives.
Perhaps we don’t have enemies breathing threats at the doorstep of our city in literal ways.  But the pressures are many.  And challenges never go away.
And they could easily dominate our lives and attention and energy – consuming it all.
So, perhaps we need to hear what the Spirit was speaking through the sons of Korah
Be still and know that I am God….

If we are intentional about trying to notice, I promise you that the Spirit of Christ will not let us down.
For if we seek him, we will find him – when we search for him with all our heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
When we ask, it will be given to us.  When we seek, we will find. (Matthew 7:7)

If you’d like to chase this idea a bit, to explore a new spiritual discipline, may I suggest reading some of the work of Richard Foster or Henry Blackabee or Henri Nouwen or Don Postema or Dallas Willard (forgot to mention him last week) on the theme of contemplation or noticing.
Call or write, if you’d like, and I’d be delighted to sit down and share conversation around this theme.

It’s something Sister Betty reminded me of this week.
Without being aware of it, reminding the preacher of his own message of a week ago. 😉
Thought that maybe you’d like to hear Sister Betty’s reminder, too.

Slowing down and noticing

I was meeting with a believer from another denomination earlier this week.  She shared, “I’m impressed by how active the people of Calvin Church are in serving the Lord.  I run into them all over the place.”

She’s right.
Earlier this year Council did a quick inventory of the various ways that brothers and sisters from Calvin CRC are involved in Kingdom Service.
It was a long list – so long that it surprised many on Council.
We stopped to say “Thanks” to the Lord.

Allow me now to say “THANKS” to you.
Thank you for giving your time, your energy, your love, your passion to the service of Christ in all sorts of ways and places across the city and beyond!

I’d also like to encourage you, in the midst of your busyness of servant-living, to STOP.
Yes – STOP.
Not all the time.
But regularly.
Take Sabbath time to STOP and just “hang out” with Jesus and his people in weekly worship and fellowship, and to find refreshment for your body and soul.
And, take time to STOP and notice.

Notice where God is at work in your life.
I remember the first time that someone asked me about that.  No one had ever done so in such direct terms before.  She tilted her head to one side and said, “So, what’s the Lord been doing in your life lately?”
I didn’t really have an answer for her.
Why?  Was it because God wasn’t present, or at work within and around me?
No.
It was more because I hadn’t taken the time to notice.
I had never really thought about that question or looked around to try and figure out an answer to it.

Noticing – it’s a spiritual discipline.
That is, taking regular time to slow down and ask,
Lord, where are you working in my life?
How are you shaping my soul?
What do you want me to learn?
Whom and how would you have me serve?

Noticing – it is the stuff of Psalm 46, where God speaks into the roaring, foaming chaos that is the present reality of the writer.  Amid all the pressures and threats, God calls his people to stop and notice that He is the ultimate authority, keeping the final Word for himself, and exercising his divine sovereignty over their lives.
Perhaps we don’t have enemies breathing threats at the doorstep of our city in literal ways.  But the pressures are many.  And challenges never go away.
And they could easily dominate our lives and attention and energy – consuming it all.
So, perhaps we need to hear what the Spirit was speaking through the sons of Korah
Be still and know that I am God….

If we are intentional about trying to notice, I promise you that the Spirit of Christ will not let us down.
For if we seek him, we will find him – when we search for him with all our heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
When we ask, it will be given to us.  When we seek, we will find. (Matthew 7:7)

If you’d like to chase this idea a bit, to explore a new spiritual discipline, may I suggest reading some of the work of Richard Foster or Henry Blackabee or Henri Nouwen or Don Postema on the theme of contemplation or noticing.
Call or write, if you’d like, and I’d be delighted to sit down and share conversation around this theme.