Wednesday, July 11, 2012

4 Years and Incarnation

This past week marks the four year mark of my family's move to Olympia to become the pastor at Reality Church. In some ways our life in Vancouver feels like a lifetime ago, while in other ways the past four years seem to have passed like the blink of an eye.

Recently I came across some thoughts I had penned within the first two months of our move.

I’ve lived most of my life in the NW, growing up in the Portland/Vancouver metro area. But there’s just something… how do I put it… special… about this city.
 I love the water- Capitol Lake, Budd Inlet, Percival Landing, the bubbling fountain.  I love it all.  Especially on those spectacular summer days when the sun sparkles and the sky beams blue, everything is just so bright.  Can you tell that I haven’t lived here during the dreary drip called fall-winter-spring?
 I love the bumperstickers.  Pro-choice, pro-life, republi-demo-indie-crat?  Some weird ones, some funny ones, and some that are down-right bizarre.  But, you know what?  I am never bored sitting at a red light anymore.
 I love the environmental spirit.  Whether it is the undercurrent to support local businesses, the local Co-op, or the plethora of walkers, bikers, hikers that I see, something deep within me resonates with a heart to care for our world. 
 I think the list could go on and on- great sandwich shops, a top notch Farmer’s Market, and who can beat the view of the Capitol building lit up at night overlooking the city?  She’s definitely a knockout.  While I’ve only had an Olympia address for two months, I hope that my family and I will put down roots here for a long time.  Each passing year will bring more new discoveries and short cuts to find the fastest way to the Westside, but there’s nothing like the first few weeks and the fresh eyes it brings to see a city for the first time.  And, from where I’m standing, I like what I see.  I like it a lot.
As I read those thoughts this past week, something struck me about the nature of my initial impression and my expressed affection for the city. Amidst all my words and the things that I loved, I found one glaring omission: people. Sure, I still love the buildings, the spirit, and landscape of Olympia. But now, after four years, it's amazing how many names and faces have been woven into my story. The greatest part about Olympia is not a destination but a growing circle of personal relationships both inside my church community and out. I've now lived here long enough to become friends with my neighbors and get to know the amazing staff at my children's school. I have been here long enough to know trials, to get hurt, to face problems, to laugh at dozens of weddings, to dedicate numerous babies, and even weep through a handful of funerals. And now, like never before, the gospel drives me to love my city.

Like many pastors before me, my words four years ago were, "I love my city" and "I have a heart for Olympia." But now, the more I understand the gospel, the object of my love actually has a last name. After all, I have come to discover that this is the nature of the incarnation. Jesus didn't just love the temple, the Jordan River, or the Sea of Galilee. Jesus came loving people. Or as Eugene Peterson so beautifully puts it in the Message, "The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14).

After four years, I'm glad I moved in too.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Response to Westboro Coming to Olympia

The following quote is a joint statement from several Thurston County pastors in response to the upcoming arrival of Westboro "Baptist Church" to our area this week. I'm saddened that we as pastors even have to make declarations like this, but I am thrilled with the unity that has developed among our local church community that allows us to speak with a common voice.

June 4, 2012
We the undersigned pastors from Thurston County are saddened to learn of the intentions of a group from Westboro “Baptist Church” to visit Olympia this month. People from Westboro, representing themselves as Christians, have carried out a misguided mission all across the nation picketing public venues and disrupting the funerals of servicemen with messages such as “God hates fags,” “thank God for IEDs,” and other equally deplorable statements. We the undersigned regret that Westboro has selected Olympia as its next target. Wherever the Westboro group goes, confusion and hurt seem to follow. Our desire as followers of Jesus Christ is to bring clarity and healing.
The fact is that the people of Westboro are wrong in their characterization of God. They do not reflect the heart and mind of Christ as revealed in the Bible; nor are they an accurate reflection of how the Bible describes a follower of Christ. While the Westboro group claims to have a Biblical basis for their rhetoric, their message is clearly adverse to many passages from the Bible like the following:
John 3:16–17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
1 Tim. 2:3–6: “God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…”
2 Peter 3:9: “He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
The message of the Westboro church is a distorted view of the Scripture. Jesus instructs His followers to “love our neighbors” and even to “love our enemies”. He goes so far as to say that it would be our love that would demonstrate that we are His disciples. (John 13:34-35) Thus, we reaffirm the clear calling given us by God to be a part of His loving and redemptive plan for the world. Jesus did not come to condemn the world (John 3:17), nor did He send His followers to condemn the world. We call on all Christians to follow the example of Jesus who demonstrated both grace and truth in everything He did, and to respond to the commissioning of God to love and serve all the people of our community.
We recognize that the church has not always used her voice in the appropriate way in times like these. It is partly because of this that we choose not to be silent in this instance. To all who may be hurt as the result of the unbiblical words and actions of these few from Westboro; we extend a hand of mercy to you. We are sorry if you have been subjected to this hurtful rhetoric. They do not speak for us. We want you to know that God loves you so much that He came to die for you. We are here if you want to learn more about this God — the true God of the Bible.
Signed… (Updated list of names can be found on the Living Water website)

Crowded House - A Peak at the Church Gathered and Scatted

Sometimes a video helps bring clarity to the terms we discuss and banter about... gospel communities, missional living, etc. If you have ever read Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, this is a short look into the life of their church family in England. I absolutely love the clarity that is paired with simplicity.

Life in The Crowded House from TCH Sheffield on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bonhoeffer: On Life and Death

Here are some more thoughts along the theme of "Life and Death" that struck me during my Bonhoeffer reading of the past week.
Understanding Christ means taking Christ seriously. Understanding this claim means taking seriously his absolute claim on our commitment. And it is now of importance for us to clarify the seriousness of this matter and to extricate Christ from the secularization process in which he has been incorporated since the Enlightenment (83).
There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God's commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross (241).
In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be seduced only by success.... The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for it standard (361).
Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that is stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death.... Only in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God's power, and it must now serve God's own aims (384).
Time belongs to death, or, still more so, to the devil. We must buy it from him and return it to God, to whom it must really belong (411).
And then, after a lifetime of intense devotion and focused faith, it is no wonder that Bonhoeffer's life ended with these words. When informed that it was his time to go to the scaffold, he replied, "This is the end. For me, the beginning of life."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bonhoeffer: On Scripture

A few days of vacation in the Palm Springs sun has afforded me the luxury of powering through a book I have wanted to read for a while- Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. While it is a pretty thick read, this book has really hit me at several different levels all at the same time: as a follower of Christ, as a lover of history, as a pastor, and as a husband.

Over the next few days, I want to share some of the quotes that captured me the most. Here are a few thoughts on the Bible that rekindled a passion to pursue Christ through His Word with deeper devotion.

First of all I will confess quite simply- I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we need only to ask repeatedly and a little humbly, in order to receive this answer. One cannot simply read the Bible, like other books. One must be prepared really to enquire of it. Only thus will it reveal itself. ... Only if we will venture to enter into the words of the Bible, as though in them this God were speaking to us who loves us and does to will to leave us with our questions, only so shall we learn to rejoice in the Bible (136).
The Psalter filled the life of early Christianity. But more important than all of this is that Jesus died on the cross with words from the Psalms on his lips. Whenever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure is lost to the Christian church. With its recovery will come unexpected power (368-369).
It always seems to me that we are trying anxiously in this way to reserve some space for God; I should like to speak of God not on the boundaries but at the centre, not in weakness but in strength, and therefore not in death and guilt but in man's life and goodness.... The church stands not at the boundaries where human powers give out, but in the middle of the village. That is how it is in the Old Testament, and in this sense we still read the New Testament far too little in the light of the Old (467-468).
All throughout his life, Bonhoeffer daily saturated himself in the Word of God and it produced in him a heart that was submissive to the will of God. I admire his devotion to Scripture as the actual Word of God. I admire his discipline to find room for the Bible in his daily schedule. And I admire his obedience to live it out with fierce determination in the midst of a chaotic world of evil. May we all come to know God's Word in this way.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spring Artswalk at REALITY

This past week we finalized our church's plans for spring Artswalk happening Friday, April 27th. For those who don't know what Artswalk is, it is a 2 day celebration of art where the businesses of downtown Olympia open up their spaces to host art and artists of various kind- music, photography, painting, crafters, etc.

In addition to having some local art on display in our building, we are excited to host another Latte Art Throwdown before enjoying the music of Amanda Sue Winterhalter and Beth Whitney. If you are local, I hope you can come join us as we hang out with our downtown neighbors.

You can check out some of Amanda's work here.

And here's a video of Beth Whitney and her husband rocking the upright bass.

EP.2 Beth Whitney - LIVE at Columbia City Theater from Voortex Productions on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Snapshot of Missional Community

Among all the popular discussions about being "missional," it is easy to get lost in the formulas and strategies and lose sight of the big picture. Mission is about real people joining God in real life to make disciples of Jesus. I love how this video captures this heartbeat among our friends up north in Tacoma.

Soma Communities - Missional Community Profile - Tacoma, WA from Soma Communities on Vimeo.