Learning from Brunch

brunch.jpg

One of the challenges with being the smallest church in Wooster is deciding what to do when you know that six families won't be around for your Sunday gathering - and the College is still on fall break.  The writer of Hebrews exhorts Believers to "not give up meeting together" and we want to live in obedience to God's Word, but six couples minus college students minus a handful of adults to serve with our kids...  You get it: not many of us left.

We called an audible last week and had Sycamore over for brunch on Sunday morning.  Now I'm not claiming that brunch is worship.  But I know that we came together in Jesus' name and that he was with us by the Spirit.   And I know that there was something undeniably good about our time together.

What was it that made it so good?  I think it was a taste of unity (pun intended).

Unity can be hard to pin down.  We know it when we see it, but even then we're really seeing something that has resulted from other things taking place.  Part of our unity was simply that we all made the decision to show up.  Another part was that everyone brought something to share at the food table.  But most importantly, we had the unspoken agreement that everyone could come as they were and be known. 

As I talked and laughed with people, I didn't feel the need to posture or pretend.  And I was eager to hear what was going on in others' lives without an agenda.  Knowing and being known - free from judgement, fear and condemnation - was what unified us.

A couple at Sycamore recently hosted a block party and I heard a number of encouraging stories from it.  One that stands out is of an older gentlemen who just kept hanging out after dinner, during cleanup and into the night.  Why would a stranger do that?  I think it's because people are desperate for relationships that mean something, for relationships in which we can come as we are and be known.

Wouldn't it be amazing if Sycamore became a community that lived for that?  What if we became a place for people to belong no matter where they've been or what they've done?  How many lives would change if we did what we did during Sunday brunch for our family, friends, neighbors and coworkers - regardless of who they are, where they've been or what they've done?

I invite you to reflect on two things this week and consider how the Lord might lead you to respond:

  • Is the Gospel of Jesus impacting my relationships with people?
  • Do you live life with people who know the real you?  If not, why not?

The Unity of the Cross

20170210_213448-edit.jpg

On Sunday, we continued our conversation of Paul's letter to the Church in Philippi (check it out if you weren't able to be with us).  The passage centered on unity, with Paul exhorting his audience to "make [his] joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind"  (vv.2).

It seems fair to say that unity is prized by social groups.  For any family, organization, business or sports team that I can think of, unity is fundamental to fulfilling its purpose.  Conversely, disunity becomes a cancer that compromises and, ultimately, destroys a group from the inside-out.

I think that Paul understood how essential unity was to the early Church.  Their survival depended on it.  He also knew that the most compelling and tangible way for God to reveal his great love and redemptive work to the world was through his people.  It had always been that way - from Abraham's family to Moses' nation to David's kingdom.  It had always been about a chosen people showing him to the world by living in his love and living out his love.  For Paul, living unified in God's love was how the Church would show the world that he was real.

Paul called the Philippian church to unity, but not for unity's sake.  Unity was to be the manifestation of their authentic love for one another lived out in response to the love they experienced in Christ Jesus.  It was a love that was undeserved yet given freely, a love that meant Jesus becoming nothing so that they could become everything, a love in which he submitted himself to death so that they could come alive.

Their unity in Christ would reveal him to the world - and it would only be possible if they remained focused on him.

"You all are so different.  How do you get along?" 

"We've never seen people sacrifice for one another like you do."

"You give so much even though you have so little.  Why?"

As we move forward together this week, I encourage you to reflect on the questions below and consider how the Lord is leading you to respond.

  • Are we who are Sycamore unified in Christ?  Would the world see evidence of God's presence in us and among us by observing our relationships with one another?
  • Spend time in Philippians 2:5-11 every day this week.  What about Jesus stands out to you in these verses?  How will you allow his life to inform your life moving forward?

Win-Win

twins-yankees-baseball-23645.jpg

The Major League Baseball playoffs began last night with the New York Yankees facing off against the Minnesota Twins in the first wild card game.  In case you missed the highlights, the Yankees won and - you guessed it - the Twins lost.

I've head the it said: "It doesn't matter if you win or lose.  It's how you play the game."  I doubt that the Twins agree.

Winning and losing is fundamental to sports.  Not everyone gets a trophy.  Competition builds drama, which is why sports capture the attention of so many.

As a guy whose current outlook for drama-filled competition is pick-up basketball with other 30-somethings and Monopoly Junior with my kids, I wonder: What does it look like to win or lose in everyday life?

On Sunday, Sean kicked off our study of Philippians by walking us through the first 26 verses.  He explained that this book of the Bible is actually a letter of joy written by the Apostle Paul to some of his dearest friends.  What's crazy, though, is that he wrote this joy letter while chained to a Roman guard while on house arrest - for 2 years.

Insert record scratch.

How was this possible?  Prison is a difficult place to live regardless of the time and place in human history, but Paul's prison was a far cry from our modern prisons complete with three meals a day and cable television.  How could he write with joy when his circumstances were so bad?

Paul had found a win-win life.  He wrote in verse 21, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain."  Living - no matter the circumstances - was great for Paul because he got to represent Jesus to the world.  Dying, he claimed, was even greater because he would be reunited with the risen Christ forever.  Nothing could touch who he had become at the core of his being.  He couldn't lose.

How about us?  Are we living win-win lives?  Have we taken on the identity of Jesus so that we can be free from the fluctuating, unpredictable circumstances of our lives?

I invite you to reflect on following and listen for how God might lead you forward:

  • To what degree is my outlook on life dictated by my job, possessions, relationships, etc.?
  • What would it look like for me to live out Philippians 1:21?

Here We Go!

pinnacles road-tiltshift.jpg

We've said from Day 1 that we are a church who desires to fulfill Jesus' command to make disciples"Disciple" comes from a Greek word that can be translated "learner" - more specifically, learner in the sense of pupil to a teacher or apprentice to a master craftsman.  Therefore, our desire is to help people learn from Jesus how to build a life worth living.

In order to help others, we must first be learners ourselves.  Part of learning means taking in information, which is why we listen to trusted Bible teachers and study the Bible as individuals.  Real learning, however, must also be lived out - information must transform our actions if we are to claim that we've truly learned something.

"What I Meant To Say" is one of the ways in which we who are Sycamore strive to help one another live out the words of Jesus.  Sometimes I say too much and sometimes too little; sometimes my thoughts don't come out of my mouth as clearly as they're formed in my head.  These posts intend to bridge that gap and highlight the primary takeaways for living more fully in the identity and activity of Jesus.