VP Al Gore and Osama bin Laden blame America for global warming.
That's gotta mean something.
While I'm all for global warming because I don't like winter except for Christmas and the Super Bowl and figure Jesus will come back before it's a real more than imaginary problem anyway, most of my friends around this time of the year think it means they're both nuts.
Speaking of blame, that's the main game today.
Everybody seems to be blaming somebody else for what's wrong in church and society.
It reminds me of going into Trenton State Prison to meet with Rubin "Hurricane" Carter on behalf of the New Jersey Council of Churches when I was their seminary intern; and hearing everybody behind those bars was innocent.
Frankly, I don't care who's to blame anymore for anything.
That's not gonna get us anywhere anytime soon.
Yeah, we seem to be into lex talionis; which, I think, accounts for all the emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually blind trying to lead the...
I think Jesus has a better, even, uh, divine, plan: "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
Anyway, I've been thinking/praying about that for a long time.
It went into high gear just before kick-off at a Belvidere High School football game last year as an elder pointed and said, "She was a member at First but left about 20 years ago." Then he pointed again and again and again, "He was a member 30 years ago...25 years ago...20 years ago...15 years ago...10 years ago...I think he left after you came!"
That conversation has stuck with me.
People leave churches for many reasons; usually burning bridges to many relationships and remaining unreconciled which is an insult to our Lord who bled for the unity of Christendom.
Anyone familiar with discipleship patterned by Jesus and prescribed by Holy Scripture knows loving like Jesus proves love for Jesus and hears His echo about disunity: "This should not be so."
Again, that conversation has stuck with me; and I have been asking our Lord ever since for some way to plant His seeds of agape among folks who have been disaffected so the world will see how Jesus bridges and overcomes the separations, segregations, and other sins that enable divorce, distance, and continuing dysfunctions among people who should know disunity betrays infidelity to Him.
Or as I learned about myself and too many others in an apocalyptic moment many years ago: "I realize I don't love Jesus because I don't love you because I've got to love you to prove I love Jesus."
During prayer on 1/27/10, our Lord compelled me to call people to worship who have "left" our family of faith at First over the past 30 years (more or less) on 2/15/10 at 4:00 p.m. in our chapel for a Blessings and Sacrament Service.
The service will not be for continuing members of First; and while no one should/could/would restrict anyone who feels obliged to attend such a worship service by His command and our constitution, I am hoping continuing members respect the sensitivities of non-continuing members who will attend this gentle pastoral moment of invitation, welcome, inclusion, and agape.
Just as some services are designed for leadership, youth, judicatories, and so on, this service is for those who have "left" First over the past 30 years (more or less).
The service will be for those who have "left" our family of faith with no interrogatives or interest in why or when; not to welcome them back into active membership, for some have become active in other wonderful Christocentric and Bible-based sister congregations, but to invoke His blessings and go to the table of holy communion together to acknowledge mutual forgiveness along with confessing, "There is one body and one Spirit...one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all; who is above all, and through all, and in all."
It will be an opportunity to experience the blessings of Matthew 5:21-26; 6:14-15 and 1 John 4:7-11.
I anticipate other blessings with Jesus as the focus and filter.
Word has spread very quickly about this service in our neck of the words and around the country.
I urge anyone who feels His nudging to use it: duplicate, forward, snail mail, e-mail, tweet, text, or whatever!
I don't know many blessings that our Lord doesn't want us to share; no matter what the young tart said before singing her song during a "Christian" concert: "The Lord gave this song to me to share with you; and if you sing it without my permission, I will sue you."
As word has spread about this service, I have received many questions from our family of faith and around the country.
1. "Do you expect me to forward this to people I know who left us for whatever
Absolutely! If He brings 'em to mind, it means you are being nudged to
invite 'em! And, indulge this salting to sting to spiritual sobriety, if
you don't, you will feel the guilt of being guilty of missing this
2. "I would like to see who comes. I guess I'm just curious. Do you
mind if I watch from the back or sit in the back?"
I don't know if 2 or 200 will show up. That's not the issue. The
issue is obedience not success. No, I do not believe it is
appropriate to satiate your curiosity on this one. No, I will not
report names to anyone. No, this is not a game, trick, scheme,
ploy, or anything else pejorative to get folks back into our family's
flock. This is about providing an opportunity to be reconciled
to Him by reconciling to others through Him at His consistent
3. "Should I send this to people who left other churches and aren't
a member of any church because they were hurt by another
church or got mad at another church or just strayed away
from another church for whatever reason?"
Absolutely! The Church consists of everyone who loves Jesus
and is trying to love Jesus by loving like Jesus. I think of those
times when we baptize a baby who does not live near us. We
represent the Church during the sacrament. So, yes, invite
anyone who has been disaffected from any part of the Church
to this service of reconciliation.
4. "What if someone can't make it on February 15? Will the
service be repeated for those who can't make it?"
Our Lord has special times - kairos moments - and I believe
this is one of 'em. God opens a window and then closes it.
We either seize the moment or lose it. Grudge-holders are
gravediggers and the only graves being dug are their own; so
I would run to this service if I needed to be reconciled to His
Body! However, knowing the Lord prompted this service in
prayer on 1/27, I have no idea if/when/what He will prompt
5. "What if someone is offended by me inviting them to this
service? What if they say I'm making them feel guilty?"
Well, friend, people are always offended by the truth of
Jesus. Jesus wants everyone to be reconciled to Him
and His. Read the beatitudes! It will happen. You will
upset people with this truth. But, remember, salt stings
on an open wound while saving from gangrene. Here's
a tough question for you. Are you more concerned about
being liked or loving Jesus as your Lord and Savior by
loving the hell out of people? I mean that literally!
BTW, people who feel guilty usually are; unless, of course,
they're really sick. Normal folks only feel what's real.
6. How do you define someone who has "left" the church?
First, I don't believe in the silly/artificial/worldly use of
"inactive" and "active" membership rolls. How bogus!
You're either active or not. Certainly, real shut-ins -
and you know what I mean - military personnel, folks
working in foreign lands, and students away at school
are active by mitigation and worship with other parts
of His Body.
Furthermore, "inactive" designations are as unbiblical
as the old RC campaign before the new one (?) of
hawking passes out of purgatory through that old
pyramid scheme to build St. Peter's.
Second, the primary responsibility of all Christians is
to worship God to honor Him and align hearts with Him
7. I work until 5 like many people. What about people
who don't get off work until 5 or later?
Go back up to Q&A #4. Christianity is not about
convenience. When I look at the cross... Besides,
if folks can get off work to go to other stuff, why not
an appointment with God to enable reconciliation with
Him and His?
8. Exactly, how will the service go?
I will show up in the chapel at 4:00 p.m. sharp; knowing
some folks will arrive early to prepare themselves in
personal prayer while others will arrive later because they
think it's rude to be on time. We will start with a few gentle
worship songs, hear from the Word, go to the table via
intinction with appropriate prayers, close with a song,
and then have a benediction. While I will greet folks
after the benediction at the chapel's entrance/exit,
I will not stay around to chat. This is between Him
and... I'll probably go to my favorite HD dealership
after the service to break the 10th commandment.
9. I bet nobody comes! How about you?
Well, friend, I urge you to read the call, explanation, and
so on about this service. It's about obedience to Him.
Nothing more. Nothing less. Psst. Here's another
revelation about the service. He is going to reveal to
an undershepherd who is reconcilable and obedient to
Jesus and who is...
A story from the Kirk (Church) of Scotland comes to mind.
A fellow left his church a few years before the new pastor arrived on the scene. He left because of strained relationships with a few other members.
The new pastor went to see the disaffected member and sat before the fireplace with him in total silence.
After what seemed like a very long time, the pastor took the tongs, picked out a bright and burning coal from the fire, and placed it on the hearth.
Both watched as the coal grew cold, dimmed, and died.
The pastor turned to the fellow and said, "We miss you at the kirk."
The Psalmist said/promised, "God inhabits the praises of His people."
Worship can be defined as aligning hearts with God; using liturgy to enable that intimacy.
Effective worship, requiring personal investment even more than professional preparation, is evidenced by the fruit/proof/signs of intimacy with Jesus as listed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23.
Again, I don't care who's to blame anymore for anything.
Church and society are just too fragile for that obsession these days.
So I've/we've gotta try, uh, Him.
One more revelation/discernment.
People who come/go to the table together want to love Him by loving like Him because they are His.
People who don't come/go to the table together, uh, have different and much darker loyalties.
Blessings and Love!
Fascinating, humbling idea. What texts are you thinking of using?
Thanks, Dave, for asking.
I've been thinking about texts like Psalm 133, John 13:34-35, Romans 12:3-5, 1 Corinthians 12:4ff., 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 2:11ff., 4:1ff., Philippians 1:3-11, Hebrews 10:23ff., and the like.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
Blessings and Love!
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