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Archive for the ‘The Church’ Category

Last week at Classis (the regional gathering of RCA elders and ministers) we discussed the topic of what it means to be both missional and Reformed.  The delegates were split into small groups to discuss different aspects of this topic.  One question for discussion was on how the delegates see a distinctly Reformed approach active in their churches.  The other delegates, who were all elders, mentioned how they love the welcoming atmosphere of the congregations.  Upon hearing this, I asked myself, “How does this have anything to do with being Reformed?”  “Did these people totally miss the question?”  “Do they even know what Reformed means?”  But then I began to think and reflect on what they were saying and a light went on.  Of course!  Reformed churches should be the most welcoming churches because at the very foundation of our understanding of God is that it is only by His grace that we are invited into His community.  God’s very nature is one of welcoming undeserving guests into participating in His Kingdom and subsequently His benefits.  Thus, to be Reformed is to be a welcoming community.  

(At this point I am close to delving into the hospitality of God at the Table and all sorts of other tangents so it is best to stop here)

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Simon Chan makes the following provocative point:

“The Word proclaimed is truly the Word of God.  As the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) puts it, ‘The preaching of the word of God is the word of God.’ This is the closest that Protestants get to a doctrine of transubstantiation.  Human words do ‘become’ God’s Word in the event of preaching…If this is so, why is it so difficult to believe that created things like bread and wine could ‘become’ the body and blood of Christ in the event of the eucharistic celebration…?  Preaching and eucharistic celebration share the same logical function.  Could not the traditional doctrine of transubstantiation be understood in a similar way?”  

And as one of my seminary professors and well known radio personality ends his sermons and talks, “Now you think about that.”

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I realize that this post is a couple of weeks late, but the more I work through our lenten journey at our church the more importance Transfiguration Day takes.  I have come to appreciate the placement of the story of the Transfiguration in the Gospels in a completely different way since becoming a pastor.  A few days prior Jesus instructed the disciples concerning his death and resurrection.  Also, he instructed them about the life that they are called to live – a life of cross-bearing.  Surely, there was confusion and discouragement among the disciples.  This was not what they signed up for.  They left their employment to follow the triumphant son of David who was going to rid Israel of the yoke of Rome.  They didn’t follow Jesus that he might be killed.  So in some respects the Transfiguration before James, John, and Peter was an event of encouragement.  Coming down the mount meant the way of to Jerusalem, the way of the cross.  Thus, they needed to see that the one who was going to die, and who was instructing them to carry their cross as well, was the glorious One, the Son of God.  Only with witnessing this would their feeble hearts be able to continue the way to Jerusalem with Jesus.  And it was only in seeing this that they could have some idea of or confidence in Jesus’ words of resurrection.

 We too are as feeble as the disciples, constantly needing encouragement as we follow the way of the cross this Lent and everyday.  And the primary place that we receive our encouragement is to join with the saints in liturgy on Sundays (Resurrection Day).  Here the veil is slightly removed as we join in the praises of heaven, hear God’s Word, pray together and dine at the Table.  Maybe this is one reason Sunday’s are not counted in the days of Lent.  Sunday’s almost become little Transfiguration Days along the pilgrim way to the cross.

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David writes:

“Yet you brought me out of the womb; 

you made me feel secure on my mother’s breast.

From birth I was cast on you;

from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (Psalm 22:9-10, TNIV, emphasis mine)

Surely, David is here resting in the fact that God is faithful to the covenant He has made with His people.  That is, He has promised to be God of us and our children.  How else could David had made such a confession of faith in the LORD prior to his birth?  These words of David are great words of comfort for all those born and baptized into covenant with our God.  And they speak to those who want to keep children at the margins of the church until they make a profession of faith (as if that is any more of an assurance of true faith).  We are the LORD’s even in our mother’s womb, may the church recognize those the LORD already has.

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Yes, the Church is to be the primary means of caring for the poor.  Members are to cheerfully give to this cause.  In fact, a portion of the tithe was meant for this purpose.  Yet, things are complicated in a society where such a large portion of our income is taken from us by the government to fill their pockets, fight wars, and attempt to fulfill the task that the Church is called to do.  What complicates this more is that the Church in this environment can easily slip into an attitude of indifference toward the poor.  One could respond, “That is why I pay my taxes; let the government programs take care of them.”  Yet, as we look around it is clear that the almighty State is not living up to calling they have placed upon themselves (or that we might expect of them).  Maybe Malachi’s words should strike us at this point, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house (not the State treasury)…and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (3:10).

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The Church of course.  Yet, we live in a time when the church has come to the point of relying on the government to take care of those that we have been entrusted with to care for.  The Scriptures make it clear that God’s people were always to care for the poor, orphaned, widowed, etc, even to the point of saying, “However, there should be not poor among you…” (Deut. 15:4).  The care came through the tithes, gleaning laws, land other means.  This is seen in the New Testament through the early Christians selling their possessions for the relief of the poor and widowed in their midst (Acts 2:45, 4:32-37, the Pauline collection).  No where does Scripture tell us to trust government with the business that the people of God are supposed to do.  (Of course, there is much more that needs to be said on this topic, but this will do for now)

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As a Call to Worship I have used selections from the book of Revelation and Hebrews 12:22-24 which link the worshipping community to the heavenly worship.  I often say something to the extent of, “As we gather here today, we are joining with the vast hosts in heaven and the saints that have gone before us in the worship that is constantly happening around the throne of God.”  Is that what the church does when it gathers together on the Day of Resurrection (Sunday)?  In a special way, is Heaven that much more real due to the Spiritual bond between God and His people on these particular occasions?  It seems to me that the Bible give great evidence to the point. (more…)

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