Wednesday, March 23, 2016

God loves Medfield 2016

“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper," God told the exiles in Babylon through the prophet Jeremiah (29:7). One of the core values of the church, is that we exist for the building up of the community, and the good of world around. We don’t exist for ourselves, or to seek our own ends, but the good of the world around, remembering that the one that sent us, didn’t look out for his ends, and his wants desires and needs, but ours. One of the ways that we do this, is through God Loves Medfield.

So, What is God Loves Medfield? That’s the first question that comes up when we talk about God Loves Medfield is, what is it? God Loves Medfield is an initiative that we take part in with Church of the Advent, and other partner groups, to bless and serve the community. In essence, there’s two parts to it.

First, we clean up the community. I am hoping, ambitiously, to see at least a 100 people out all across Medfield, cleaning up parks, the Charles River where it crosses into Millis, and more. We are partnering with Medfield Green, the regulars from the Charles River Cleanup, the Boy and Cub Scouts, and others in this. After, we will be having a community celebration. Food will be from “RockNRoll RibJoint”, and there will be bounce houses, games, and fun. It’s going to be a great day of service and celebration.

With this come another question. What are we trying to accomplish? The first part of that answer, is that we are not out, to just make First Baptist great. We exist for the good of the world, and this is not about us, but the good of the community. But the rest of the answer is that there are four primary aims in my mind.

  • First, I’d like members of the community of all age and lengths of tenure to rub shoulders, work together, and build relationships. One of the best parts of God Loves Medfield last year was introducing myself to people while pulling debris with them, and putting up bounce houses with them. We had a great time working, and getting to know each other, and that has led to some neat relationships. I know others had the same experience.
  • Second, I hope to see us get real work done. As I write this, I hear the beeping of the snow removal vehicles dealing with what I pray is the last storm of the winter. We’ve had a mild winter, but there is still debris, be it lawn debris, branches, leaves, or trash of various kinds all around. It’s the nature of winter. And I’d like to be getting real work done as we act as stewards of the environment that God has given us, starting here at home.
  • Third, I want us to bless the community by highlighting areas of need. At the community celebration last year, we had Medfield Green, and the Lowell Mason House do presentations on what they are doing, and highlighted the needs that they have. This year, I hope to have Medfield Green back, but I’d also like to shine the spotlight on other groups, as a way of serving the overall community.
  • Finally, I want us to share God’s love. We are doing this, in God’s name, and under the auspices of God Loves Medfield, because we want this to be more than just a community cleanup day, it’s a way of communicate the love of Christ for the world, through actions, through relationship  (both  existing and newly formed), and, through the sharing of the gospel. Last year, we gave a light touch time of sharing the gospel, that’s part of it.

The last question is this is, How can you help?
  • First of all, save the date and plan on helping out that day. Clear April 30 from 9-3.
  • Second, spread the word. Share Like, and then give shares from God Loves Medfield’s Facebook page. Invite friends. In addition to newspaper and web communication, we’re also going to have invitation cards to hand out. Take some and invite people to come.
  • Third, volunteer. Volunteer to help in the planning, and the working. We’re going to need to have a dedicated team taking the lead in all kinds of areas, from being site coordinators, to helping setup the bounce houses and community celebration, to serving food, and serving in countless ways.
  • Fourth, wrap your head around the motivation for this. If you are a Christian, or someone that see's yourself as a church person, don’t see this as a way to recruit people to come and be part of the church, but make it about loving and serving the community and as the Lord gives you opportunity, sharing the love of Jesus. If people see us coming out, and just making this about us, it’s going to be off-putting, and make us less effective, not more. Really work to understand the biblical motivations, and serve in a winsome selfless way that is not about saying, hey look at us, but hey look at Jesus and his call.
  •  Finally, pray, pray, pray. Pray that relationships are built. Pray that the community is blessed, that those in need are served, that the gospel may be communicated as a result of this work, and that in all, God will be glorified.

Living as Resurrected People in a Challenging age

Sometimes you think the headline is a joke. The headline read “Christians banned simply for being Christian”. The article from Australia, went on to talk about how the University of Sydney Union for students had given the Evangelical Union two weeks to change its constitution to allow non-Christians to be members, or face deregistration. Basically, this is saying that the equivalent of Intervarsity or Navigators must stop asking that the members or officers to be Christians (could you imagine how that would go down if a school asked the local atheist club to stop asking that its members- not those coming to the meetings- the members and officers, don't have to be atheists?).

The whole request, and many more like it that we see here in the United States, are somewhat absurd, but they are just one part of a larger story, the story of the increasing marginalization of Christianity in the modern western. Christianity one lived at the center of the Western culture. It founded Modern Western Civilization as it exists today. The beliefs and ideas of Christianity provided the intellectual framework that undergird Modern Western civilization, and because of that, its institutions and leaders were looked at and revered. And yet, for a variety of reasons, Christianity, and Christians with it, find ourselves not at the center of the culture, but on the outside looking in, feeling like exiles in our own homeland. And the question is, “how we will then live?” As people called by the gospel for the glory of God, as people called to live as “Aliens and strangers”, people whose citizenship is “kept in heaven for you”, people who are equipped and sent out by the fact that Christ rose, how will we then live? How will we live when we are not the majority living in the promised land, but the exiles in Babylon and the diaspora, spread out in a land not our own (or our own any longer)? How do we live, when we’re not the majority, but the minority, and worse yet, part of a hated minority?

The Scriptures are rife with resources to answer this question. They tell of Esther, a young women in a foreign land, being called to be the queen of Persia. They tell us of Daniel, the righteous young man who is called to serve the empire who has conquered his homeland. They tell us of God’s word to the exiles through the pen of Jeremiah, and more than that, they show us how the early church, pressed by Jewish religious leaders on the one hand, and the Rome on the other hand, pushed out into the world, and loved and served and blessed the world, even as they lived as exiles.

Over the next few months, we’re going to explore what it means to live as the minority for glory of God as we continue to think about what it means to be aligned by orthodoxy, as a church and the people of God. We’re going to do this, by looking specifically at the Jeremiah 29, the first half of Daniel, and by ranging through the Bible from there as we think about the call of God to us.

And what we will see, is not the approach of hiding in the shadows, as people who felt like they had drained the cup of bitterness to the dregs and now just wanted to curl up and protect themselves, but a people who were out, living and engaging the world around with gusto for the glory of God.

We live in tumultuous times. There may have never been a more challenging time in this country’s history to be a Christian, but we have been called, like Esther, for “such a time as this” I’m looking forward to this series, and to exploring with you the question of how do we live not as the majority but the minority, for the glory of God.