“The Church in Exile”

I just read an article in the latest Faith Today magazine that was very interesting.  (See the January/February issue, pp. 32-35.) It talked about the Canadian church being in exile.  At one time, the church of Canada held a prominent place in Canadian culture.  Many people belonged to a local church, and the church extended considerable influence in the community.  But according to Lee Beach, those days are largely over.  Now we are a minority in Canada.  So, how should we respond?  Some have chosen to isolate themselves from the larger culture.  They have decided that it would be best to protect themselves and their children from the “evils” of the world.  I suppose their intent is to be a city on a hill like Jesus talked about in Matthew 5. And there is some validity to this view. But others have chosen to try and engage the culture in meaningful ways, all the while seeking to remain holy and set apart, which I believe is a more fruitful approach.  Actually, when you think about it, we are sort of going back to the early church era in terms of being a minority group in a large pagan (secular) world.  So, we would do well to remember how the early church responded in this time and place.  What did they do?  They gathered regularly for prayer and worship.  They carefully studied God’s Word and received the Sacraments.  They gave generously to those in need.  (See Acts 2.)  And the church grew and extended considerable influence in the world.  Yes, the Canadian church may be in exile, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference in this world as we love God and our neighbors with all of our hearts.  So, let us not hide in fear in these challenging times.  Instead, let us consider ways that we can extend hospitality to our community and world, so they will receive the love of Christ that they so desperately need.

How the Early Church Celebrated Easter

I’m currently reading The Story of Christianity (Revised and Updated Edition), by Justo L. Gonzalez (HarperOne, 2010). I forgot how much I enjoy church history! As I read about the Early Church, I’m reminded of the importance they placed on Easter. The Jews gathered for worship on the Sabbath Day (Saturday), in honor of the day God rested after creation. But after Jesus’ resurrection, the Christians gathered for worship on the first day of the week (Sunday), in honor of Christ’s resurrection. And the tradition has continued for most Followers of Christ. Gonzalez observes the main purpose of this Sunday gathering was to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. And the primary way they did that was through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. And because these early Communion services focused on the resurrection of Jesus, they were joyful occasions, not the somber Lord’s Supper services that many have grown up with. Actually, it was only after the Protestant Reformation of the Sixteenth Century that many churches began to focus their worship service on the preaching of the Word over Communion. I wanted to share this with you as we begin our Easter celebration. Easter is the moment we’ve been waiting for, the climax of the Christian year. So, how can we make it the grand celebration it’s supposed to be? N. T. Wright, in his book, Surprised by Hope (HarperOne, 2008), suggests that during the season of Easter, we pull out all the stops. Really celebrate. Also add new things to our lives as we celebrate new life in Christ. Practice the spiritual discipline of celebration. Jesus has risen! New life has begun. For this reason, I rejoice that we are conducting Alpha this Easter season. A great way to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord as we break bread together and become more devoted students of Christ. He has risen! . . .