There are so many things to be excited about at the Legacy Church of Christ. There are so many programs and ministries here that our God is using for the Kingdom — the new Worship Center construction, our new focus on small groups, the upcoming Giveaway Day, all that our young people are doing, the camps and mission trips, VBS. But adopting Walker Creek, claiming that campus for Christ, is exactly the kind of thing this body of disciples is called to do by every paragraph of our Scriptures. If we really believe we are the body of Christ then we must be Jesus Christ to our community. And we can’t fulfill even a fraction of what it means to be the body of Christ inside our church building. If we are to be Jesus, we do that outside, face to face, person to person, in relationship, showing love and compassion in our actions to the people with whom we live in community.
Just like Jesus, we bear the burdens of our world. We bear the infirmities and the iniquities of our community. We turn sorrow into joy in the name of our Savior.
Our community is sick. Its families are fractured. Its neighborhoods are diseased. We live in a broken world. And Christ says we are the light.
In his lectures delivered to the University of Berlin in 1933 Dietrich Bonhoeffer presented the church of Jesus as “a sociological category unique unto itself.”
“Unlike other human organizations, the Church is not a vehicle for some other goal but is, in fact, an end in itself, containing within its own proclamation and witness and work the very gifts it promises. Thus, within the Church’s proclamation and sacramental life, that grace which is eschatologically promised in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes present to the community and to the individual.”
In other words — although I like his so much better — the Church is Jesus to the community. The love and the grace, the compassion and the benevolence we show to others is actually the love and grace, compassion and benevolence of the risen Lord. The Church reaches out with the mercy of God to the community and becomes the healing touch of God to those persons and circumstances.
We’ve been given an opportunity, a good work prepared in advance by God for us to do, to adopt Walker Creek Elementary School. Our plan is to buy backpacks and school supplies for the nearly 200 economically-disadvantaged, mostly Hispanic students there and volunteer to read to them in their ESL classes and eat lunch with them occasionally. By being committed to doing these little things in the lives of these children, we can positively impact them and their families with the love of God and claim that part of our community for Christ.
Jason tells me a bunch of our teenagers went out and purchased several backpacks last night. At the dinner for the Dodds last night several of us began planning how our classes and small groups could expand the extent of the relationship with Walker Creek even further. The idea has already caught fire. Praise God for the opportunities he gives us to serve his people in the Kingdom!
It was exactly one year ago today, July 30, 2006, that I preached my first sermon at Legacy. I was officially hired a couple of weeks later — the culmination of an amazing process, so strange and so wonderful it could have only been of God. But because of my commitments to school at Austin Grad we couldn’t start here until June. I was able to drive up here and preach at Legacy once a month during that ten month interim. So in a lot of ways, we’ve been a part of the Legacy family for a year now. But in so many other ways, I still feel brand new.
And those same feelings of humility and complete inadequacy in the pulpit and in my work as the preacher at this place won’t go away.
I believe with all my heart that it’s our God who is using me. He inspires me through the week in my study and my prayer and then speaks through me on Sundays. He takes his message and places it right into the hearts of the people here, in exactly the place where and when and how they need it. I’m totally baffled by the way it works. None of it is me. All of it is Him. And a week doesn’t go by that several people talk to me about how the message reached them and touched them, the exactly perfect words were said at exactly the perfect time. The word of grace they needed at just that moment was delivered, perfectly tailored to specifically comfort and encourage them. None of it is me. All of it is Him. And it blows me away.
People I don’t know that well, people I’ve barely met, will talk to me about their innermost fears and anxieties, their sins and their struggles with faith and hope. And we’ll cry together and we’ll pray together. And I don’t even know these people yet. As they’re talking to me, I can’t help thinking, “Why are they telling me these things? What am I supposed to do? They’re telling me things and confiding in me things they wouldn’t tell their dearest friend. Why?”
It’s because I’m the preacher. I represent God and the Word of God to these people. I represent a deeper relationship to our God to the church. I’m expected to give them spiritual direction and comfort and hope straight from the Lord.
And when I’m finished with those conversations, I feel so small and insignificant. I feel like I haven’t helped at all. I feel like I haven’t said a thing they couldn’t have heard from almost anyone else. I feel so humble. Everytime it happens, I look at my own life. I look at my own sin and selfishness and inclinations to evil. I look at all the things I don’t understand about God and his ways and his will. And he still uses me. And that completely blows me away.
I find myself every day praying the prayer of Terry Rush up in Tulsa: “God, please keep doing that thing you do.”
31 days until football season and two more running backs in the countdown. #31 is the great Jim Taylor of those Titletown Packers in the ’60s. As Green Bay’s top pick out of LSU in 1958, Taylor ran for over a thousand yards in five straight seasons, he led the NFL in rushing in 1962 and was the league’s player of the year that season. He was a ferocious runner and a powerful blocker and a member of that original “run to daylight” backfield with the Packers.
Yesterday’s #32 is not O. J. Simpson, Franco Harris, or Marcus Allen, although they all three deserve honorable mention for their college and pro careers. Walt Garrison’s a personal favorite at #32 but probably doesn’t fit in the same category as the greatest ever. The best ever #32 is Jim Brown. As an All-America out of Syracuse, he was built like a lineman and punshished defenders when he ran over them. He was the Browns’ top draft pick in 1957 and led the NFL in rushing eight times, winning the league’s MVP award twice. His career lasted only nine seasons. But he racked up 58 100-yard games and a combined 15,459 yards from scrimmage. He still holds 20 NFL records. His career rushing average is 5.2 yards per carry. His career receiving average is 9.5 yards per catch. And he’s appeared in 39 movies.
I don’t care much for his politics or his demeanor. But Jim Brown was the best to ever wear #32.
Happy Birthday, Rhonda! I love you. Thank you for not letting go.