Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Birthday Walk

Yesterday was my 44th birthday.

As I headed toward the track for my scheduled run, I found myself moved to take a detour. I turned toward Les Prairies du Roy, a nice big field with  a walking path through it. I didn't have a plan or an agenda, yet; I felt inclined to slow down, breath deeply, and listen.

The sun was shining, a rare sight in Loches in February. A gift.

Lifting my eyes up to the deep blue sky, I asked the Lord to join me on my walk. I knew, of course, that he was already there. What I really sought was a greater awareness of his presence--remembering how he used to take walks through Eden with Adam and Eve.

There was no glowing aura, no thundering voice, no rustling leaves. But somehow I knew he was near. And we walked.

I went automatically towards a known path, but quickly discovered that it was flooded. The impasse meant either the end of my walk, or a need to find another way. My eyes moved to different path. One I had often noticed but never taken.

A new year, a new path.

The road less taken was uneven and rocky. It meandered seemingly meaninglessly, turning when straight seemed possible. I was forced to slow my pace again to avoid tripping or twisting an ankle. I felt like a pioneer, urged on by the thrill of discovery. But safe because I knew my travel companion had not abandoned me.

Just when I began to think that the path I was on was no path at all, I saw a carefully placed bench. A place for rest and reflexion there on the rocky road. I didn't sit, I was on a quest. Yet I was somehow reassured by the bench. As if its presence validated my route.

While God didn't speak words to me on our walk, he spoke gently through the walk. As David and I seek his plan for our future, we somtimes come up against impasses. The way is blocked. The door is closed. But the journey is not over.

As way opens in another direction, it may not be smooth sailing. The path may be uneven and rocky, but that doesn't mean it isn't the right path. And so I'm learning to rest in the meandering rhythms of grace. Delighting in the journey rather than obsessing about the destination.

Trusting the silent guide who never leaves my side.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Apostolic Church

At the beginning of each year we do a sermon series on the characteristics of the church. This year we based our series on the four marks of the church that are found in the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed was written and adapted in the 4th century, and stands still today as a statement of faith that is affirmed by most Christian denominations. Towards the end of the creed are the words that describe what have become known as the marks of the church. It reads, "We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church."

Having just written a paper on the four marks of the church for my class on Ecclesiology, I was excited to turn my newly gained intellectual knowledge into a sermon that would be accessible for the members of our church, aged 5 to 75. I was given the task of preaching on the apostolic church.

Do most people know that the church is called to be apostolic? Do you know what it means?  And perhaps most importantly, would you say that your church IS apostolic?

Of course there is a great deal of discussion around what it means for a church to be apostolic. For Roman Catholics, the idea of apostolicity pertains to the direct passing of authority over the church from Jesus to Peter right down to the current Pope Fran├žois. The apostolic succession is of upmost important.

Not surprisingly, we Protestants have a different take. Rather than linking the idea of apostolic directly to the apostles, we link the idea to the function of the apostles. Apostle literally means "one who was sent." Jesus was the first apostle, sent by the Father. Then, after his resurrection, Jesus said to his apostles, "As the Father sent me, so I am sending you." So with this understanding, if the church is to be apostolic, then the church is to be sent.

But it doesn't seem to play out that way. Even the vocabulary that we use around a church renders it rather stationary. We PLANT a church, or BUILD a church. We identify a church by its address. We think of church in terms of a location, rather than in terms of a movement. But we, the people of Jesus Christ, are not called to simply invite others into our midst, we are called to go out into the world with the Good News. This is not just the work of a few missionaries. This is the work to which the whole body of Christ is called. We are the sent ones. We--the whole church!

How is your church doing at being "sent?" Do you spend your time trying to figure out how to get people to come through your doors? Or are you more interested in figuring out how to move your members out of your doors? Is your Sunday morning worship service the hub around which the life of the church turns, or is it just one small slice of pie? Do you expect your members to spend their free time inside the walls of the church attending programs for the benefit of those who already know the Good News? Or do you expect your members to spend their free time out in the world, sharing the Good News in word and deed? Do you know people in your community who still need to hear the Good News? Are you investing in your neighborhood in ways that speak of that Good News? Are you content to just go to church on Sunday, or are you intentional about being the church Monday through Saturday?

People! Jesus was sent to earth with the best news that the world has ever heard! There is hope for the broken hearted, freedom for those who are captive to their sin, and release for those who live under the oppression of the king of this world. SIGHT! Though born into the blindness of a fallen world, we can now see things as they really are, without the clouds of confusion and despair. Jesus came to set things right. He has entrusted the church with these profound truths, we must, we MUST take them to the world.

Church, are you stationary or are you sent?

As the Father sent me, I also send you (plural). John 20:21

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

  1. We watched the Super Bowl live on Sunday. Well, actually it was Monday here in France. It started at 12:30 am and ended at 4:30 am. And while we were sad by the outcome, truly, it was a game well played. Yes, I'll admit it. American Football is one thing that I still miss from the States. Katie Perry I could do without..., but those dancing beach balls were pretty cute.
  2. Chandler had his first major exam for his French Bac today. The subject? It was his oral comprehension exam for English. Before you roll your eyes and say, "Well THAT couldn't have been too difficult!" let me tell you how the test goes down. The students have to listen to something like a news broadcast in English, and then they have to write a summary about it IN FRENCH. So while it was testing the English comprehension skills of most of Chandler's classmates, it was actually a written FRENCH test as far as Chandler was concerned. Still, I'm betting he did just fine!
  3.  Our plans for next year are still up the air. We are looking at a couple of different options, but nothing has been decided for sure. Will you please pray for us as we try to discern where the Lord is leading us to go? We will be in France for sure, we just don't know which city!
  4. We are still having weekly adventures in cheese. This week we tried a creamy little delight that was covered in bright orange mold. It was DE-Lish! 
  5. Speaking of cheese, the cheese lady at market has an unabashed crush on my dear husband. She calls him by name and always engages him in conversation, while batting her eyelashes. When I go to market she barely acknowledges my existence. This week, we went to market together. After overtly flirting with David, she said to me, "Hi to you, David's wife. I don't know your name." And then she turned away, making it clear that she didn't need to know me by any name other than "David's wife." To which I would reply, "Yeah! And don't you forget it!"
  6. David has an unabashed crush on me.
  7.  I am struck anew by the unabashed love of a savior who was crushed for my iniquities. I have recently become aware of a core sin in my life, one that has skewed many of my motivations and authored many of my desires. When I see how such a sin can permeate so many aspects of my life, wounding me and causing wounds on those around me, I am overwhelmed by my need for redemption. In the wake of this realization I had the pleasure of singing the age old hymn, It Is Well. The third verse brought grateful tears of joy to my eyes. I weep even as I type the words here:  My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  8. Self-awareness is hard. 
  9. After carrying the same purse every day of the past 5 years, I have asked David for a new purse for my birthday. I'm going from basic black to hot pink. As if my life weren't exciting enough already!
  10. I am reading some amazing books in my seminary classes! My favorites so far are The Social World of Ancient Israel, A General Theory of Love, and A Guidebook to Prayer.