If this is what it means to have a daughter in high school, I’m not ready. This is the scene that greeted us when we woke up this morning. I have my suspicions as to the culprits. And even though I can’t write on this blog what they say about paybacks, it doesn’t make it any less true.
“…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” ~Ephesians 4:1
“…conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” ~Philippians 1:27
As a response to God’s grace and in imitation of Jesus, we deny our own selfish ambitions and place the interests of others ahead of our own. Jesus emptied himself for our sakes and he became the obedient servant for the Father’s glory. That’s the gospel. And that’s how we live the gospel. The glory of God and the priority of others. Love God and love your neighbor. Jesus says that’s the whole deal. Paul says in Ephesians 4 this is what leads to maturity. This is what leads to “unity in the faith.” Without this mindset, without this focus, we’re still babies.
I’ve tried applying these gospel principles to our Christian assemblies over the past three weeks as we’ve moved together into our new worship center here at Legacy. What this mature mindset means is that, in our assemblies, there’s very little, if anything, that could ever happen that could ever divide us. Our diversity and our differences wouldn’t just be tolerated, they’d be embraced and appreciated, even celebrated.
Whether a person kneels or stands or prostrates himself on the ground in prayer, or adopts the one prayer posture not authorized in Scripture: sitting on one’s rear end…
Whether a person claps his hands or raises his hands or does with his hands the one thing not authorized in Scripture: sits on them…
Whether a person talks and/or sings during the Lord’s Supper or meditates quietly to himself…
Whether a person sings classic hymns that were written 300 years ago or contemporary praise songs that were written three months ago…
Whether a person wears a suit and a tie or shorts and flip-flops…
We are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord and in his death, burial, and resurrection that saves us. We share a common Savior and a common destination. And when we finally and fully grasp that, we will imitate our Lord by making ourselves the least important person in the room.
Planning and conducting and participating in our assemblies is not about finding and conforming to specific regulations found in the New Testament. It’s all about doing what we do in ways that are worthy of the gospel, in ways that proclaim and embody the good news of our Lord and his Kingdom.
John Mark Hicks has written another excellent book about the Christian sacraments. This one, A Gathered People: Revisioning the Assembly as Transforming Encounter, is about our time together in our assemblies. This excerpt is from the final chapter, “Contemporary Gatherings: Assembling Worthy of the Gospel.”
“As long as we are regulated by the gospel, we should value diversity as it reaches people beyond the limits of our own settings. But this demands maturity. The gospel calls us to put the interests of others ahead of our own. But this demands mature discipleship. Can we tolerate different tastes and styles even when we do not like them? Can we vary our styles out of respect for what touches the heart of another even if it does not touch ours? Can we appreciate what a particular style does for one even though it is not as meaningful to us? Can we practice what is uncomfortable for us for the sake of the other?
The gospel demands that we do because Jesus himself endured great discomfort—to put it mildly—for our sakes. As disciples of Jesus, we must follow him into that kind of discomfort, even suffering. To say that we must ‘suffer through’ a particular song for the sake of another trivializes the cross of Christ but to deny that song to others simply on the basis of our own comfort and tradition is to reject the cross of Christ for narcissism.”
Wow. The Father certainly poured a whole lot into our laps with these assemblies. It’s almost like he wants us to practice getting along together.
God’s gift of unity means we belong to each other. We are part of each other. Living worthy of the calling, making every effort requires an eagerness to think about one another, to serve one another, to love one another, to build up one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to submit to one another, and encourage one another.
Even in our assemblies.
Especially in our assemblies.
School Bells! School Bells! I got to sing the Stanglin’s traditional first day of school song to wake up not three but four girls this morning. Four girls at four different campuses (help me, is it campi?) now. Huge backpacks. Sack lunches. Combination lockers. P.E. New friends. New teachers. And now Carrie-Anne’s right in the middle of it, too. I’m pulling taxi duty two days a week now. I’ve always been the one to haul the kids to school in the mornings. But Carrie-Anne’s always picked them up. Until now. On Mondays and Wednesdays it’s me. This afternoon it took me 65-minutes to leave the church building and make it home with all three. I’m hoping that’s just first day traffic. C-A has her first math, history, and art appreciation classes today. It’s going to be an interesting year. We’ve begun yet another little leg of our journey together.