Thursday, July 30, 2015

Meaningful Relationships

IMG_3890We ask for your forgiveness for making the church into an expensive ad for something cheap. We have focused so much on buildings, land, and wealth, that we have forgotten the simplicity of meaningful relationships with each other and with God.

During the summer of 2008 my wife and I visited London. If anyone visits London, they will notice that they end up visiting many churches. The interesting thing is that you do not go to these churches for worship. Instead, the churches we visited have become more and more like museums—ornaments of the past. Just a small handful of people attend worship on Sundays—but they pay their staff and their bills because they are treated as a museum. They charge strangers [they like to call them tourists] money to go into their doors. People want to go there to see where a certain person was murdered in the 11th century. These large church buildings have handfuls of people that still gather together—and they point to a time when they were packed with people. In many ways these buildings have become museums—and now they are just struggling to keep the building maintained. 

Here in North America we are following suit with our European brothers & sisters. We have turned many of our churches into expensive ads for something cheap. The hollow shell of what we used to do still remains in our church buildings. Much can be said for having a nice building—but when our church budgets are overwhelmed by the cost of upkeep—I wonder if we have missed something in our care for buildings?

The simplicity of a meaningful relationship with another person has oftentimes been neglected because of our care and concern over buildings, land, and wealth. We have forgotten that God has called us to be in community with one another—not walled off from the world that God so loves. Our calling is to be a people that love the way that God loves—and our God loves so much that he sent Jesus to be one of us. This was not an expensive ad for something cheap—instead this is the ultimate sacrifice.

That doesn’t mean that churches do not do good things. There are countless examples of the good that is being done in the name of Christ. But, have we focused too much on land? and buildings? and money?

As we consider who we have become as the church in North America, may we never lose sight of the fact that simple relationships with one another is what we are called to be about. That we are called to be authentic with one another and love one another. For in this love we can know Christ and make him known.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Conversation

This Sunday, March 22nd at 9.45am we are covering this question for WikiWorship: "Why do some Christian faiths vilify homosexuality?" This is about as divisive of an issue we can have now-a-days. We see this in the news, and what we find are talking heads yelling at each other about opinions. What I long for is a respectful conversation that allows us to be authentic and real. In this we can embody hope ----- where we can create a place where it can be safe to talk about some of the most difficult questions of life ----- rather than a dangerous place to talk about little to nothing. In the book of Ephesians the Apostle Paul writes: "He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it." [Ephesians 2.15-16] Here we learn that in Christ he makes a new humanity ----- even though there was hostility ----- and this new humanity is reconciled at the cross. I would urge us all to approach this question from the foot of the cross. For at the foot of the cross we find who we are ------ sinners in need of a savior [1 Timothy 1.15].

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Religion & Politics

This last Sunday we focused on this question: "Why do Christians hate Obama? Why are churches not a place where Conservatives and Liberals love Jesus together?" This was a question that we gathered over the last couple weeks. There is one part of the question that I would like to say more about ------ and then see what you all think.

There are times when we do not want to hear from people that have different opinions or points of view. As a result of this we will perceive what someone is going to say about a subject, and then shut them out from a meaningful conversation. We might perceive them as "Conservative" and therefore not want to hear from them because we think of them as narrow minded and cold. Or we might perceive someone as "Liberal" and therefore not want to hear from them because we think of them as idealistic or morally relativistic. But, what Christ offers us is a new humanity that is found at the cross. Where we are all gathered on level ground, and can only stand pointing at the one who reigns and rules from the cross shaped throne. At the feet of Jesus, he makes all things new ------ even this new reality of breaking down the walls that have divided us [Ephesians 2.13-16].

In order to live into this new reality it takes work on our part. The best way I have learned to live into this new reality is through the habit of listening by way of relationships. I have to continuously put the person that is in front of me ahead of my own desires or wants. I have to lift them up and encourage them to share their story with me. And in that sharing there is trust and mutual love.

Every morning my family and I gather for morning prayer. We decided to start praying the "Apostles' Creed" along with our prayers. We took a version that includes "he descended into hell". I was not used to praying that part of the Apostles' Creed. Before I would just pray: "he suffered under Pontius Pilate. Was crucified, dead, and buried. On the third day he rose from the dead." It took about a year for me to change the way I prayed the Apostles' Creed. It was hard work ------ and I continuously struggled through it with my family. They sometimes had to stop me and say ------ no, pray it this way. And after a year it became a habit. And now I know it in my heart and mind.

This is what I mean by the hard work of sharing mutual love and trust. It is hard work to listen to others. It is hard work to be friends with people that we disagree with. It is hard work to love people that share a different point of view. But this is part of the hard work of living into this new reality that Jesus has made and is making. The new reality of a new humanity that is found in him. Where there are not the dividing walls ------ but instead where we can acknowledge that we are sons and daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

When it comes to loving Jesus alongside folks that differ from you, how have you learned to live in mutual love and trust?

Friday, February 20, 2015

WikiWorship - February 22nd @ 9.45am


On Sunday, February 22nd at 9:45am we are gathering at Hell's Kitchen (118 Princess Street - Wilmington) for WikiWorship.  We will be looking at this question: "Why does a God of love and forgiveness and compassion use such negative and horrific things in life to teach?  ie: Monkey Junction murder."

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Annually

My family and I have been back in Wilmington for a year and a-half.  Since the time we have landed on the ground we have lived into a new reality ---- the reality of being on mission.  Our mission has been to embody hope in real and tangible ways.  While doing this we have been stretched in ways we have found exhilarating and scary ----- but during that whole time God has overwhelmed us with grace and love.  We are so thankful for the terrific people that we have had the opportunity to journey beside, for we know that relationships are the key to living out this missionary journey.  We just want to say a sincere thank you to all of you for your generosity and support.  Because of you all we have been able to take steps with assurance ------ knowing that we are there to help carry heavy burdens together ------ while at the same time there to celebrate what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing through our efforts. 

Very few things at The Anchor have happened for a second time annually.  Two of those things we did in the last couple weeks.  We gathered together with candles in hand and worshiped the God who came in the flesh on Christmas-Eve.  And we also went on Christmas day to a nursing home to celebrate Jesus' birth with those who he cares so much for ------ those who are lonely and sick.  As I looked around and saw the faces of people, that were strangers to me a year ago, I saw family.  People that have poured their life into the journey of following after Jesus, and I have had the opportunity to pour my life into the journey as well.  And we have done it together!

We have dedicated our lives to following after the one who is worthy of our time, energy, and attention ---- but we haven't done this as Lone Ranger Christians ------ instead we have done it in community, as family.  We didn't have to have a committee that told us to do this, or an air-conditioned building, or ample parking spots, or fog machines, or a light show, or an advertising budget, or marketing consultants, or fancy torn jeans, or rent a building, or flashy evangelistic gimmicks, or the "We Love Our City" t-shirts, or the "mission-day" push (whatever that means?) ------ instead we have just decided to live out the love of Jesus by embodying hope where God has placed us.

This is humbling, and in many ways it feels like we are approaching the manger scene like the shepherds that first happened upon that poor, ostracized family 2000 years ago.  We are approaching this scene with awe and wonder as we hear Jesus say to us "See, I am making all things new."  

Let's pray: Make us new O God ------ so that we might be servants to all those you love ------ as we are moved with compassion to embody hope in the situations and circumstances you have placed us.  Let us continue to do this in simple and sustainable ways ------ and in that, may we continue to participate with Holy Spirit in your Kingdom coming to earth, as it is in heaven.  AMEN!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saint Nicholas

Yesterday was the Feast of Saint Nicholas.  This is a time to remember a great bishop that lived in modern day Turkey.  [For all of my friends that don't believe in Bishops ------- just remember they are in the Bible]  He served in his city with the love of Jesus.  DeAnne brought this up to us on Friday and said we should read his story.  We have a great set of books about the saints of old called: Early Saints of God by Bob Hartman.  In this book we are told that Nicholas found out that there were three children that were going to be sold into slavery because their parents had found themselves in debt ------ and in order to pay the debt they would sell their children into slavery.  Nicholas made a plan to give the money to the family without them knowing that it came from him.  He did this out of his love of God and his love of the people God had entrusted to him.  The small bags of gold miraculously showed up on the day that the children were to be sold.  Thus, they were set free from slavery and bondage. 
I wonder what that would look like in our own lives?  To not go around proclaiming how generous we have been.  To not go with trumpets and fanfare [in modern day terms that is social media] sharing what great generosity we have accomplished.  Instead to be a humble servant of God ----- who did  not come to be served, but to serve.
Nicholas lived a life of sacrifice for the common good of all.  Let us go and do likewise, as we participate with what the Holy Spirit is already doing.  Forget all the pomp and circumstance ------ forget the fanfare and horse & pony shows ------- forget the trumpets and bugles ------- forget the Christmas parties and charity events -------- forget the shoe boxes and endless gift giving -------- forget the red sweaters and $80 Christmas trees ------- and instead take on the form of a servant and love your neighbor.   

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Luke 21.25-36

In Luke 21.34 it says: "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap." We believe that Jesus will come again and that we will see him coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Therefore, the entirety of our lives are to be lived for him — we are to live holy lives — loving the Lord our God with all of heart, soul, and might — and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. But instead, we allow the cares of this world to weigh us down and cause our hearts to grow cold to the ways of the Lord.

We give into competing with our neighbors about who has the fanciest car — we compete with our co-workers for raises and promotions, not caring if we leave them in the carnage of our own self-absorption. We let someone driving too slow or too fast allow us to lose our focus on loving our neighbors. We allow gossip and back-biting to steer our angry and vengeful thoughts towards family and friends. We settle into lifestyles that promote bad health — justifying all of that by saying that we will live differently starting January 1st. We settle into the warm and inviting hell — where we could make ourselves the center of the universe — and constantly turn in upon ourselves and gaze at our own insignificance. We comb the aisles of clothing and toys — hoping against hope that something will bring us happiness. We worship the gods of commercialism — bowing before their plastic altar — as we sign our lives away to Visa, Master Card, Discover, and American Express. We search for the cheapest goods and services — the whole time riding on the backs of modern day slaves that work in sweat shops that span our globe — in places like Thailand, Indonesia, and Mexico — names that are emblazoned on the backs of plastic angels that announce a phony “Joy to the World!”

And Jesus says to us, in the midst of our depravity — guard your hearts against the cares of this world — the cares that take your focus off of the ways of Christ — and instead flee from the wrath to come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Advent - Give us Rest!

December - a month that oftentimes causes our blood pressure to go up. During this Advent we pray that "God will give you rest." We would like to invite you to come and worship with us and learn more about the rest that is found in Jesus Christ. We will be focusing on the Gospel of Luke during this time --- below you will find a schedule of our services. We have a warm and passionate atmosphere where God will meet you as you are. Sunday morning worship is at 9am at Chandler's Wharf in their Atrium (225 S. Water Street - at the corner of Ann Street & Water Street in downtown Wilmington) We have a place for you!

Sunday, November 30th @ 9am: "Oh Great God, Give Us Rest" - Luke 21.25-36
Sunday, December 7th @ 9am: "Have You Seen This Place, It's All a Mess" - Luke 3.1-6
Sunday, December 14th @ 9am: "Take This Song, From a Crooked Heart" - Luke 3.7-18
Sunday, December 21st @ 9am: "Open Up Heaven's Glory Light" - Luke 1.39-55
Wednesday, December 24th @ 9pm (gathering at Hell's Kitchen - 118 Princess Street): Communion & Candlelight Service - Luke 2.1-20
Thursday, December 25th @ 10am (gathering at Azalea Nursing Home - 3800 Independence Blvd.): Visiting & Singing at the Nursing Home

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"The Barge"

This last Sunday we celebrated our time on "The Barge".  It was so cold ------ which I think was a good reminder of why we need to go inside.  When you don't have walls up at a church ------ both metaphorically & physically ------- there is some extreme discomfort that comes with that.  But, we have also experienced what worship can be like.  It can be in open spaces, it can be in the public square, it can be easy & simple, it doesn't have to cost a lot of money, it can be open to people from all walks of life, and it can be a time to live into God's Kingdom in imaginative and creative ways. 

As I have reflected back on our time of being on "The Barge" I am overwhelmed with the generosity of Carl Marshburn, who owns the Henrietta III and "The Barge".  He has been so kind to us and so generous with his resources.  I can't say thank you enough. 

Also, I am in awe of the many people that have made The Anchor their home through our time on "The Barge".  You all have truly been a blessing to me and words cannot express how grateful I have been to journey with you all through this time.  You all are passionate in your love for the Lord and in your love for one another.  I have beautiful images in my mind of standing and singing ------- and people are walking along the River Walk getting a glimpse at what "church" can be.  I have images of eating donuts and drinking coffee ------ and in that simple moment walls of division come tumbling down through that grace-filled act.  I have images of dogs coming to worship -------- and in that simple act God smiles as all creation tells of God's glory.  I have images of strangers holding hands and praying ------ I have images of people sharing their experiences with tear-filled eyes ------- I have images of reading scripture -------- I have images of black people & white people & asian people singing with one voice ------- I have images of children running -------- and in that moment, I hear Jesus say: "I make all things new". 

Thank you for a great summer of worshiping together with all of you saints of God.  I am humbled by the fact that I can call all of you my friends.  Let's live lives that are radical ------ and let's do it together.  Let's cast aside all the religious baggage, and the dividing walls of hostility.  And instead let us live lives for the common good ------- for in that grace-filled act we are proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hebrews 11.1-19

This coming Sunday we will be focusing on Hebrews 11.1-19.  This has one of the most famous passages from Hebrews in it.  It is verse 1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  This sets up the rest of the 18 verses.  Over and over again we hear the words "by faith".  We see "by faith" in vv 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 17.  And in the midst of this pericope we then hear of a longing for a heavenly city.  In v16 it says: "But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one."  The question that comes to me from this verse is whether we desire that better country? that heavenly one?

In Burlap to Cashmere's song titled "The Other Country" they sing:
Draw near the lamb's awaiting
Where the river runs thru the sky's align
From that painting of a ship
We have all been chosen
To the painter's creation
In his dream design
I can feel it over the line
I see the other country
I see the other side
Do not be afraid of this earthly city
Do not be afraid when the pharaoh's nigh 


In the midst of the stressful and divisive political season let us remember that we do not need to be afraid of the pharaohs that are trying to divide us and strike fear into us.  Our hope is in something greater than the republican party or the democratic party.  Our hope is found in something that is bigger than the political juggernaut that is trying to destroy everything in its path.  Instead, we as the church see something different.  We see with eyes of faith another city ----- a heavenly city ------ a better country.  For the slain lamb of God has called us to his side.  And uses people like us to make things new.   

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hebrews 1:3

Hebrews 1.3: "He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.  When he had made purification for sins, e sat down at teh right hand of the majesty on high."

In Jesus we truly see who God is ----- and in Jesus we see the imprint of the divine that has come in the flesh.  He has impacted us with the good news of God's grace.  That impact truly changes us and has caused humanity and the very cosmos to change. 

Christ's word has power ----- the power to sustain all things.  That sustaining word holds together the very fabric of the universe.  And the telos is found in Christ becoming the all in all.  For this great God YHWH has made a purification for sins.  Before, this bend that humanity caused in the creation had great influence upon the very cosmos.  But now, Christ has made a purification which affected that bend and is making straight the path before us. 

This imprint that God has placed upon the universe is found in a person.  In the person of Jesus we see the powerful word revealed.  In the person of Jesus we see humanity being created again.  In the person of Jesus we see God's glory.  In the person of Jesus we see YHWH ----- the great I AM. 

This changes everything.  For Christ sat down ----- so that we can know how to stand.  Christ died ----- so that we can know how to live.  Christ was born ----- so that we might know how to die.  Christ spoke ----- so that we might know how to listen.  Christ healed ----- so that we might know how to trust.  Christ fed ----- so that we might know how to eat.  Christ purified ----- so that we might know how to be.  Christ rose from the dead ----- so that we might speak from the ashes. 

A long time ago I wrote in a poem: "I am heaven and you are my answer."  There is a question ----- I am not sure what it is ----- and I am not sure where it comes from ----- but, I do know the answer to it.  It is us. 

The question is found in the homeless guy on the platform in the NYC Subway saying: "The angels have dirty faces."  The question is found in the loneliness and isolation of the man who sits at home by himself listening to televangelists and memorizing his Bible ----- but can't bring himself to be in fellowship with other believers.  The question is found in the business owner asking: "What's in it for me?" ----- knowing the whole time that wasn't the real question.  The question is found in the jailer who falls as Paul & Silas's feet saying "What must I do to be saved?"  The question is a heart beat, a smile, a step, a drop of water, a blade of grass ----- and the answer is us! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hebrews 2:9

I was writing in my journal about Hebrews 2:9 and I thought I would share a portion with you.

"but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."

I don't feel crazy for seeing you ----- but I do feel a great deal of love for you.  I do see Jesus.  I see you in DeAnne and our kids.  I see you in my friends.  I see you in baptism.  I see Jesus while mowing the grass.  I see Jesus in sunsets and dirty walls.  I see Jesus in the homeless guys waiting on a ride Sunday mornings to go and eat breakfast.  I see Jesus in marriage vows and confession.  I see Jesus in forgiveness and scripture.  I see Jesus in communion.  I see Jesus in the river.  I see Jesus in love and repentance.  I see Jesus in his disciples as they laugh together.  I see Jesus in my parents.  I see Jesus in my grandmother telling stories of God making us all different ----- like snow flakes.  I see Jesus in our inabilities and lack.  But I do see Jesus.

Jesus' glory is based on his suffering ----- and it is through his suffering ----- God tastes death.  I love you Lord ----- and I am thankful that you tasted death for all of us.  It is because grace that you tasted death.  It is God's grace that allows us to see you.  It is God's grace that made you a little lower than the angels.  It is God's grace that makes us part of the everyone.