Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Hope of the Church

   We live in a big world, and the news of the world is often heavy and disappointing. A school shooting that steals young lives or continued violence in Syria by the government on its own people with a death toll of 7500+ are both in the headlines this week. Allowing such news to dominate our spirits and breed in us a negative view of the world is an easy trap in which to fall. We are to mourn with those who mourn and we will indeed suffer. But "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3
   It is that sense of hope and joy that explains why I am walking around with a spring in my step this week. Sunday and Monday were the first two nights of our eight sessions of Confirmation and a really super group of students has joined us so far, including Alex, Austin, Ben, Cheyenne, Dylan, Elizabeth, Kyle, Natalie, Payton, Reese, Richmond, Skylar, and Trevor. In just the first two sessions we've touched upon Creation, Sin, Redemption, the Holy Spirit, and the nature of the Church. In talking about the nature of the Church, we looked at how the United Methodist Church defines what it means to be Church:
The church is a community of all true believers under the Lordship of Christ. It is the redeemed and redeeming fellowship in which the Word of God is preached by persons divinely called, and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ’s own appointment. Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit the church seeks to provide for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the redemption of the world. - Preamble to the UMC's Constitution
Of course, words are only symbols and signs pointing us to something else, but these words are lofty enough and large enough to prompt us to look upward for what being the Church might mean. We spent a few minutes talking through the overwhelming idea that we are called to help 'redeem the world'. Considering all of the conflict and pain and terror and suffering, how can we be expecting to make a dent, or to have an impact?
   The scriptures, anticipating such a question, tell the story of how the Church was started. Just before Jesus ascends into heaven in Acts 1, leaving the disciples on earth to be the hands and feet of his movement, he instructs us to wait on the Holy Spirit. It is only with the power of the Holy Spirit that they will exist. It is only with the power of the Holy Spirit that we exist. It is only with the power of the Holy Spirit that our mission to redeem the world could possibly be achieved. But, looking out into the faces and futures of the students who have gathered with us so far and knowing it is Jesus who goes with them, I like our chances. Grace and Peace to you, Scott

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