As a part of my church planting residency with the Evangelical Covenant Church, I've been serving on staff at CCFC (the Cambridge ECC church). And in this role, I've been given the opportunity to lead a Friday night service at the church during the summer. This service has been a laboratory for a new format I'm taking for a test spin. In this format, there is a musical worship set followed by a short time of teaching (20-25 minutes). But the bulk of the time is spent in dialogue groups. This has been a wonderful learning experience.
In this Friday night service, I've been teaching through one of my favorite passages of Scripture (Hebrews 11.9-18) in a six-part series. I've titled the series: "Family of Faith: The New City God is Building." This past Friday, we were up to verses 13-16, and the topic of the message was "Transforming Hope." Below is the audio from the message along with the slides I showed during the talk.
No, the title of this post isn't the beginning of a religio-hip-hop joke (although that might be fun too.) Instead, this time, I'm reflecting on a verse from a track by Nas—an emcee who is unquestionably one of the greatest of all time. Like many forms of media, clues lay buried in it, which point to much deeper truths about the Kingdom.
This week, our family spent six days camping at Pilgrim Pines in Swanzey, NH, the campgrounds for the East Coast Conference of the ECC. The kids, Osheta, and I had a fantastic time. We grilled, we rode bikes, we roasted marshmallows, we lounged on the beach, we ate smores, we swam in the lake, we played basketball, we made tie dyed t-shirts, we ate ice cream, and we made friends with a great family: the Martins. Our children became fast friends with the Martin's children, and we found that we enjoyed their company just as much as our children did their children's. Stephen and Charisa were so warm and hospitable it made us never want to leave.
All week, pastor Lyle Mook taught the adults about the Psalms and his teaching was excellent. I especially enjoyed his take on suffering and the Psalms. He challenged us to write our own psalm. So I wrote one from the perspective of a church planter.
A Church Planter's Psalm
My Father, my Family
You have rescued me from going down to the pit
You have formed me like clay
Fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers you've given me
They stand like islands in a sea of clouds
Rising like mountain peaks in the distance
You have set before me a new city
Shining like the sun through a rainbow
But this journey you've called me on is treacherous
This path I now walk is filled with sharp stones
I am swept up in your movement
I am led along by your Spirit
But I am not worthy to reap where I have not sown
What if I fail?
What if I am not equal to the task?
Your calling weighs heavy on me, but you said your yoke was easy
When my days are dark, when all I see is pain
You are my delight, and you delight in me
Success is dwelling in your presence
I will remember your works and words
You have promised to go with me
You alone make things grow
And you have planted me in family
Greg Boyd has written an important chapter in the new book (unfortunately) titled A Faith Not Worth Fighting For1. Boyd's chapter is titled, "Does God expect Nations to Turn the Other Cheek?"
In this brief essay, Boyd manages to make a very concise and compelling argument in such a brief amount of space. He does so by making his arguments very direct. For example, he tackles Romans 13 head-on, summarizing much of Yoder's exegesis from The Politics of Jesus. He also summarizes much of his arguments from The Myth of a Christian Nation regarding the distinctiveness of God's Kingdom reflected in its unique "power under" in contrast to the kingdom of the world's commonplace use of "power over".
The piece that makes this essay stand apart and what makes it essential to the dialogue between Christian pacifists and Christian Just War theorists is the refinement of Boyd's distinction between what he calls "Kingdom Pacifism" and "Political Pacificsm" and greater detail on the expectations of "Kingdom Pacifism" for the violence of nations.
"By faith [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."
- Hebrews 11.9-10
"How could Abraham endure? He looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. To what city did he look forward? There is no evidence that the hope of the resurrection was held in Abraham's day. Nor could he foresee any visible city, such as the Jerusalem of Solomon's time. His imagination ay have peopled this strange land with his descendants. He did look to the future. But his faith was in the God who would build the city with strong foundations. Faith in God confers no right to draw any blueprints of the coming city. We have our plans and hopes. But they are at best only partially fulfilled. History has an offspring in her womb that we cannot even fancy. But faith in the future rests on faith in God, by whose grace and wisdom the foundations of the coming city will be laid. What more could Abraham, or we ourselves, ask?"
Far too few US theologians are willing to draw the connection between the special chosen-ness theology of Western colonialism and Calvinism. Native theology is the missing link. It was the myth of "Manifest Destiny" that fueled Native genocide at the hands of European colonists. And "Manifest Destiny" is Calvinism concentrate.
T. J.'s bike chain routinely ejects itself from its toothy home on the crank of his bike and leaves him sad. Last month alone I probably reattached his chain a half-dozen times. This last time, as I was removing the chain guard with a screwdriver, a strange feeling washed over me. I thought, "I'm a dad. This is what dads do."
To be a "city within a city"* (an alternative Boston) that passionately loves JESUS, thoughtfully seeks JUSTICE for the oppressed, and intentionally forms a diverse FAMILY that serves and reflects our community.
*The imagery of a "city within a city" comes from the words of Jesus in the Gospel according to Matthew (5.14-16). Jesus tells his followers that they are a "city on a hill" whose relationships, character, and way of life show the world what God is like.
To be the "city on a hill" Jesus spoke of, the church must be a countercultural, alternative society of people who model the way life works in the kingdom of God. While, in the kingdoms of the world, race, gender, economic class divide people, in this new city, those divisions are destroyed. Instead, Jesus himself unites us in peace.
Being an alternate city means that we model alternate ways of doing life. We ask questions like, “How do we use our money, sexuality, and power? How do we treat the poor? How do we think of art, commerce, and education?”
Theological Graffiti is the offical blog of T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, urban church planter @NewCityCovenant, designer @NewCityPro, teacher, student, and friend. Discussion is welcome, so long as it is conducted in a spirit of charity. First and foremost, this blog is for self-expression—then community. More About.Me