On the evening of the first Easter Sunday, Jesus invaded the locked room of his fearful disciples and issued a world-changing proclamation: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And with a few simple words, Jesus commissioned his disciples to a new way of life – a life where the extraordinary and the ordinary collide. Every follower of Jesus is supernaturally invited to join the Missio Dei (the mission of God) whereby everything in heaven and earth is joined together under Jesus as Head. But, as followers of Jesus, they are called to do it in the way of Jesus. Most people gravitate toward the extraordinary out of a desire to be great. And few embrace anything ordinary. Yet when Jesus called His disciples to a sent life as the Father had sent Him, this includes a lot of normal, everyday activity. This fall we are going to explore the extraordinary/ordinary ways of Jesus. How did the Father send the Son? As a newborn baby. With 30 years of obscurity. With love for the stranger. With lots of meals with unexpected guests. With hospitality. With celebration. In an empire. With racial reconciliation. By the power of the Holy Spirit. Our sending as the people of God is no different.
As the people of God who are sent like the Son, we are called into a life of extraordinary/ordinary hospitality. Over the years, there are few Christian concepts that have been tamed and tossed aside like this has. Rather than tea parties, bland conversation and pleasantries among friends, hospitality at its root is the radical notion of "loving the stranger." This week, we will explore Jesus' controversial words from Luke 14, calling His people to a life that welcomes the strangers among us. True hospitality is not only effective in a world languishing in loneliness. It tells the true story of God's great welcome to the world and stands as ground zero for the Christian life.
Our exploration of the first Easter evening from John 20 will set the stage for our series this fall: The Extraordinary/Ordinary. How did the Father send the Son? And what implications does that have for us who are called to follow in His ways.
In his letter written to Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire, James, the half-brother of Jesus, issues the call for a life of following Jesus that is “wholly holy.” In other words, our aim is a life with integrity that allows God to close the gap on the holes, blind spots and inconsistencies that we often ignore. Trials and temptations. Hearing and not doing. Taming our tongues. Riches and Poverty. Favoritism. Worldliness. The work of Jesus is so rich and profound that it addresses all of life, not merely getting our souls to heaven when we die. Drawing upon the Sermon on the Mount and the ancient wisdom tradition, James fires off short thematic teachings that reveal the way that God intends to put our whole lives back together again: from “holey” to “wholly, holy.”
As the final chapter of the book opens, James addresses two shortsighted ways to live that undercut God's kingdom from above: financial arrogance and everyday impatience. With two distinct thoughts, James both condemns the rich for their selfish mistreatment of wealth and critiques the people of God regarding their grumbling impatience amidst suffering. Both actions miss the mark. And both actions fail to live in light of the imminent return of Jesus. A clear and compelling vision of the coming Judge changes the way we live today until His return.
The next theme that James tackles in terms of wisdom and everyday transformation is our tongue. Following the wisdom of Proverbs, James underscores just how much our words bring life and death. Borrowing from a variety of metaphors (a bit, a rudder, a fire), James points out just how central our tongue is to the life of one following Jesus. By His grace, God intends to make our words wholly holy too.
Moving into chapter 2, James focuses on the theme of favoritism in the Christian community. Literally, the word favoritism means to "receive the face" or to judge people based on what you see. And without a doubt, James is emphatic that faith and favoritism cannot be held in the same hand. As a trusted voice of leadership and care, James exposes the way that favoritism violates several key components of the way of Jesus and exhorts us all to be a mercy loving people in practical ways.
This week we continue in James’ letter to the early church and consider what it means follow Jesus in a broken world. Where does the brokenness come from? What does it mean for us to not only hear the truth but live the truth? What should our religion, our faith, our worship be marked by? How does the life and teachings of Jesus inform all of this?
Within the opening lines of his letter, James introduces the reader to the three main themes that get addressed on loop in the chapters to come. As a loving and trusted voice, James powerfully reminds us that we don't always see clearly and that so much of our spiritual journey is marked with false assumptions and unhelpful instincts. One by one, James reshapes our vision around trials, wisdom and wealth and invites us to walk in line with Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
Our summer in the book of James kicks off this week with an introduction to the man behind the letter. As the half-brother of Jesus, James falls in the category of one of the least likely people to ever come to faith. However, after his initial unbelief and skepticism, James became a pillar of the early church in Jerusalem and names himself as a "servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1). Such a radical change is rooted in resurrection faith and explains the force and vigor underneath this punchy epistle. Faith in the resurrected Jesus is so potent that we should expect transformational change and be willing to boldly challenge one another. Anything less doesn't resemble real faith.
Busy. Frantic. Frenzied. Non-stop connectivity. Without margin.
And so it goes for so many in normal, 21st century American life. Those who are following Jesus and those who are not surprisingly look and sound the same. We work hard, play hard, and do our best to squeeze all of life out of every hour, every day, and every week. And the end result of our break-neck pace is exhaustion. So many people are physically tired and soul weary.
Ironically, Christians passionately seek to uphold nine of the ten commandments. And while there is definitely not perfection around those nine, most if not all would agree that we should at least seek to obey them. Prohibitions around idolatry, theft, murder, adultery, and the like have lasted the test of time. And yet, one commandment, the one about the sabbath is left behind. While we at Reality Church are definitely not advocating for a return to legalistic rigidity, we are stopping to wonder if we have missed a precious gift that God has built into His world- a divine rhythm of work and rest.
On Saturday, June 2nd, we enjoyed a day of dialogue, teaching and practical discussion around the idea of sabbath. We were joined by A.J. Swaboda, who is a pastor, author and professor from the Portland area who has recently written a book titled Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World.
Our hope and prayer is to continue to press into a life-giving, Jesus-focused practice of sabbath that will result in a culture of rest for our lives and church family.
Author AW Tozer captured it well when he said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.” Theology is not just for dry, boring banter among stuffy scholars in ivory towers. Rather, every human being is a theologian with distinct beliefs about God that drive our everyday decisions of life. Regardless of religion or creed, everyone is a theologian and everyone worships. Everyone has doctrine that feeds personal devotion- and so does a local church.
At the beginning of each new year, we typically go back to the basics and re-center ourselves on the root of life and faith. This year, the elders are excited to commit the bulk of our 2018 preaching schedule to clarifying how what we believe shapes the way we live our everyday lives. We stand convinced that what has been handed down to us (2 Timothy 1:13-14) is worth preserving, prizing, and passing on to the next generation. This includes discussion on Scripture, the nature of God, the Gospel, Gender, Sexuality, the Church, and more. Our aim is to think more deeply so that we may worship more fully.
As the last sermon in this series, we are going to bring the topic of human flourishing to a clear conclusion. Having analyzed the various components of gender, sexuality and gender roles in the church, we are seeking to ground it all in a clear biblical vision. What is the good life? What does it actually mean for humanity to flourish with a sense of peace, wholeness, and shalom? As the opening psalms in the Psalter, Psalm 1 and 2 provide a lens for all humanity to see how it can and should all fit together. The psalmist uses powerful imagery to paint a clear and distinct picture of both the source and goal of our flourishing.