From the desk of Will Spokes, Senior Pastor
Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball, To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all. To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all. All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name
Welcome to the Red Mountain Sunday Recap!
The past four Sundays we've been looking at our vision and values summarized in four words (Worship, Grace, Community & Place) that describe who we are, why we are here, and what we are doing. We finished this week by looking at the word "place". In a transient, global, technologically connected world, it is easy to rush right on past our place. But as Eugene Peterson said, "places gather stories, relationships, and memories." Obviously any "place" will have good and bad versions of all these things. So when it comes to the city of Birmingham, which stories, relationships, and memories do you know? Which stories, relationships, and memories do we need to embrace...the good and the bad?
Confession of Faith: The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I belive in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Food For Thought:
The whole Bible renders to us the story of God's mission through God's people in their engagement with God's world for the sake of the whole of God's creation. -- Christ Wright
"Resident aliens" were citizens of one country and yet full-time residents of another. Their primary allegiance was to another country, and that country's culture was formative for their beliefs and practices. Yet they lived in their country of residence as full participants in its life. In other words, "resident aliens" lived neither as natives nor as tourists. Though they were not permanently rooted, neither were they merely travelers who were passing through. -- Tim Keller
Sermon Recap: See Jeremiah 29:1-14
While last week we looked at the word community, this week we looked at the word place. What's the connection between the two? Each local community of God's people must work out how to relate to the people, stories, institutions, culture, and geography of their place. However, there is an inescapable tension that requires biblical balance and wisdom. In the 6th century B.C. God's people had been captured and carried off to Babylon. As exiles living in a new place, they had to figure out how to relate to their new place of residence. The Babylonians wanted the Israelites to move into the city and be assimilated by it and lose their distinct spiritual identity. The Israelite false prophets encouraged the people not to enter into the life of the city and so keep their distinct spiritual identity. In contrast to either perspective, God, through the prophet Jeremiah, proposes a way to enter into the life of the city and keep your spiritual identity. He calls his people "to seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (vs. 7) And so God tells his people to settle down, build houses, get married, and grow in number. (v. 5-6) Here we have God telling his people to seek the shalom, the peace and prosperity, of a pagan city, with radically different values, beliefs, and practices. Not only that, God identifies the welfare of his people with the welfare of their new place. They are bound together in God's plans for his people. [God's people] will find their own peace and prosperity not in seeking their own prosperity, but in seeking the prosperity of the city." (Tim Keller) "For I know the plans I have for you,..., plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.... For in its welfare you will find your welfare." (v. 11, 7)
In the New Testament we discover the church exists in an analogous situation to the exiles of the Old Testament. Peter begins his first letter, "to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." (1:1) Another name for "exiles" is "resident alien." It describes a person as a permanent resident in a place that is not their true home. Holding these two elements of an exilic life is key to seeking biblical shalom for our city. It keeps us rooted and committed without looking to our place to become our "forever home." "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." (Heb. 13:14)
But then why should we seek the welfare of our city? It is very hard to seek after the common good of others especially when it's costly. But that is precisely what Jesus did and in that sense Jesus became a "resident alien," an "exile" for us. Jesus Christ "emptied himself...taking the form of a servant...being born a man." (Phil 2:7) "He did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mk. 10:45) The fulfillment of God's plans for our welfare...to give us a future and a hope is found in the exile of Jesus. He took up residence on this earth to seek the shalom of rebellious souls and a broken world even at the cost of his own life. He came to set the world to rights and to make all things new.
So where do we begin? Pray to the Lord on behalf of our city...for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (v. 7)
1. The character of our task (v. 5-9; 28:1-4; Daniel 1:3-5)
2. The place of our task (v. 4)
3. The motivation for our task (v. 10-14; 1 Pet. 1, 17, 3-5, 13; Phil 2:7)
1. What stood out to you from this passage? What was new or compelling to you?
2. What questions does this passage raise for you?
3. Was there anything that bothered you?
4. What is the relationship between the "welfare" of verse 11 and the "welfare of the city" of verse 7?
5. How do you view the place in which you live? What emotions come to mind? What do you value about it?
6. In what specific ways can you, can we, seek to serve and love our place of residence, rather than resemble it, or remove ourselves from it?
Over the past few weeks I've had several conversations about starting a bible study for a small group of people. If you are interested in starting a bible study please feel free to talk to me. I would love to talk to you about it.
I used to mountain bike a lot after I graduated from college. But I have always been too scared to road bike for fear of getting hit by a car. I recently came across this article in which a cyclist reflects on riding his bike in a city as a metaphor for better understanding issues of privilege and race. After reading this article, I still don't plan on road biking any time soon. But I am thankful for this writer's effort to give us a window in on the "under side" of racial privilege. I would love to hear your thoughts especially as it relates to our value of "place."
Songs For Sunday
Until next week,
Bring near thy great salvation, Thou Lamb for sinners slain; Fill up the roll of thine elect, Then take thy power, and reign: Appear, desire of nations, Thine exiles long for home; Show in the heaven thy promised sign, Thou Prince and Savior, come. Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand, verse 4