Devotional Thought for our days:
14 When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)
Younger evangelical Craig Gilbert writes, “If we are to make disciples, then we are called to long-term care, feeding and education of the soul that we evangelize. To not integrate them into the body of Christ, the church, is to not fulfill the great commission. To fail to faithfully live the example in fellowship and study, prayer and worship, and thereby give the convert a tangible model to emulate, is to fail in our calling.” (Webber notes that this was from a private email conversation)
During the lifetime of Saint Francis of Assisi people experienced a deep yearning for a Church of the Spirit; they longed for a better, purer, more meaningful Christianity and anticipated that this new Church would bring about a change in the course of history as well. To many of those who suffered from the inadequacies of institutional Christianity, Saint Francis seemed to be a God-sent answer to their expectations, and, in fact, Christianity of the Spirit has seldom been so genuinely exemplified as it was in him.
Back in the day, the Irish Band U2 gave us a song that told us, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for”. According to many who forgot the angst they went through in the 80’s and 90’s, this could be the anthem for the millennial generation. (We all too soon forget the problems we had with the generation that went before us!)
The quote from Pope Benedict shows us another generation that went through this – some 800 years ago, during the time of St Francis of Assisi. One could say the same for Luther, or Wesley or Escriva, where they wanted a church that was more than a machine, more than a system, more than a programmed system.
They needed a church that would be there, that would provide a care that would last a lifetime, that would nourish them spiritually, that would continually remind them of the presence of God, just as Webber’s young friend notes we need today ( that was 15 years ago)
Those who complain about this generation being “snowflakes” forget their own tears, their own fragility, their own brokenness. They forget the need for Christ’s cleansing and healing of their lives, of the hope given by the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, of the true fellowship where we cried with those who cried and rejoiced with those who rejoice.
What St Paul tells the church is still true, we need to explore the incredible dimensions of God’s love for us, revealed in Christ. It is a love beyond comprehension, of love that we experience, a love that is without bounds.
A love that embraces millennials and baby-boomer, and even those lost folk in the middle, the GenX’ers like me. As it did the generations before us.
It is a reformation, like Luther’s, like that of St Francis, like even the Charismatic renewal of the 60’s, that will well up from desperate need.
The church has the option – to shepherd it, or to mock it. To provide the nurture and care we all truly need, or to ridicule those as weak, who simply are honest about it.
I pray we hear God’s voice and call on those who follow to imitate us, as we imitate Christ!
May we all learn, in our brokenness, to cry out,“Lord, have mercy!” As we cry it out, together, I pray we all here His answer… “I am with you always, even until the end of time.” Amen!
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Called to Belong: Called to Be His Own
† In Jesus Name †
What People Need?
There are a ton of articles circulating across pastor’s desks, as they have for the prior three generations. When I was in college, they asked why my generation was leaving the church and provided great statistics on why people like me, the children of baby boomers, weren’t attending church.
I wondered about it a lot, as I had gone to a large youth group in high school, in fact, it was significantly bigger than any church I’ve belonged to, and really, was bigger than all the churches I’ve pastored since.
In the nineties and up to about 2004 or 2005, pastors, church planters, it seemed everything churches did were questioning why people of my age group weren’t in church, and trying to make churches attractive to them.
As if we are all the same. As if our needs, our anxieties, our challenges, our doubts and fears were the same.
It has changed now, as churches seem to have lost focus on those in my age group – those once labeled genX. GenX is history, the church “experts” no longer mention us. Now the concern is with the millennials, Marissa, Melissa’s, Kelcie’s age group. A group that is two or even three generations removed from the days when youth filled every church, when complete families, three and four generations worth of family found themselves sitting together on Sunday morning.
And for the most part, the experts still treat whichever generation they mourn the absence of as if they are all alike. They want to find the “one” thing that will draw them all, the one key element that will draw them to church,
And perhaps, there is the problem in the first place.
If all we deal with is generalizations, how can we assure the individual whether 25, 50, 78 or 91 that they matter, that they belong?
To be honest, that’s been a challenge, even for pastors I’ve know in my life. Can the individual know that they are important, that God has called them to belong, that He has called them to be His own?
Yet, God calls us, individually here, to be part of this family, and maybe we can learn from that
Why is this good news?
When scripture talks about good news, we need to understand why it was good. As Paul is writing to Gentiles, we need to understand that this was one of the largest generalizations ever created.
It was everyone who wasn’t Jewish by birth, who couldn’t trace their ancestral tree back to Abraham, Issac and Jacob. A lot of folk. Good folk, bad folk. Tall, short, skinny, fat, smart, wise, silly. Older, younger, men and women, Some who wanted to find God to each out for help, others that simply wanted to mock God. And few that would want to make money off of people, but saying only they knew the way to God.
The only thing they have in common, is that they didn’t belong. Even someone adopted into a Jewish family didn’t quite make it, and those who were hyphens, those who were half Jewish and half something else, they were treated with less of a welcome.
We were all outsiders, stuck in the darkness, not worth the time for a Jewish Rabbi to share his wisdom, not allowed to hear the sweet words that God had accepted our sacrifice for our sin. For that is why we became outsiders, our inability to love God with all we are, and our struggles to love others, including our enemies, as God has designed for us to live. Because of that sin, we were outsiders, out in the cold and dark, possessed by our sin, oppressed by sin’s guilt and shame.
That is why the gospel is good news, For it smashes the demographic divisions, it grinds up generalizations, for what defines us is that we are wanted.
That God calls us to belong.
Look at verse 6. Let’s read it together
And you are called among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Though, he wrote this letter to an entire congregation, as you sin in the next verse, that “you” is singular.
You are called to belong to Jesus.
You are called to be a saint, one of God’s Holy People, whom He loves.
You are. Singular. Not because you are this age or that, because you have this heritage or that, no because except for this one.
God loves you.
And therefore you belong to Jesus.
He bought you at the cross, freeing you from the sin and hell which had power over you.
This is what Advent leads to, what Christmas and Easter, the manger and the cross.
That’s what has made the difference in every church I’ve been blessed to be a part of, we knew we belonged together, for we now we belonged to Christ.
I want you to hear those words one more time, what we need to hear, each of us in this room , and every person on this planet,
Matter of fact, maybe it will sink in deeper if we say it together,…
6 And I am included among those who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 Paul wrote this to me and all who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.