Partnership

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

  • Philippians 1:3-6

I have been thinking of this passage lately in terms of our collective calling to be a church called Fleming Road UCC!  When I think of the work of God’s Spirit being done in and through the lives of our congregation and community, I am simply blessed…and very grateful.  

Every week it seems like we are growing closer together as a church.  It seems like we are in a season of personal and corporate transformation.

Every Sunday, and throughout the week, I am simply amazed at what I am learning as I’m around folks from our church!  You are changing me, and we are being changed together!

Our conversation around what it means to be a part of the “new parish” is also producing much fruit in terms of friendship and dialogue.  Our church, our denomination, and the church universal are attempting to ask the tougher questions of faith and what it means to be a church in our current context.  When asked honestly, those questions can sometimes lead to some answers, sometimes more mystery, but always deeper, more authentic community.  We are seeing that in the church, with our denomination of the UCC, and with others like Oasis and the Parish Collective! 

Together, we have a great partnership.  There is amazing unity growing in our church.  Ego and divisiveness melts away in the flow of God’s loves.  There is a growing sense of loving accountability that is beautiful to see emerge, even when there are tough issues to face.  

This unity and partnership is key.  As I continue to grow and understand more my role as the pastor at Fleming Road UCC, I am amazed at how God provides and teaches me through this community.  I’ve been in ministry now for close to 30 years (wow, I’m feeling old), yet I feel more invigorated now than ever before because of God’s work in this church a as we attempt to reach and build community with each other and with friends in this neighborhood.

I am also confident that God will complete the work that he has begun here at Fleming Road UCC.  We have a great history as a church.  It is simply a privilege to be a partner in this congregation as we share the good news of God’s Presence and new creation to a world that so desperately needs to hear it! 

PS – I hope you can join us in the conversations at the Conspire Gathering this October!  Check it out at Conspire Gathering!

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Live.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20 (TNIV)

Live (verb) [ζῶ (Gal 2:20 BGT)]

  1. of natural life, of the conduct of life, be well, recover, as surely as I live, life—
  2. of the life of the child of God.

What does it mean to “live”?  It seems to me that our lives so often get filled with busyness, getting things done, achieving, performance, and so much more that we often do not have time to simply live, or we forget what it means to live.  We may be breathing and blood may be pumping through our bodies, but when we pause for a moment, we ask ourselves, are we truly living?

It seems to me that we have become enslaved to the notions that have been presented to us through media, many relationships, and even institutions.  We can resonate with the words of Jesus found in the first part of John 10:10:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

What is the thief stealing, killing, and destroying?  Our lives.

Yet, Jesus goes on to say this in the second part of that verse:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

How do we have this life to the full?  By simply recognizing that our identities are wrapped up into a new Reality.  The writer of the verse in Galatians, Paul, sums it up best when he states that we have been crucified with Christ.  Jesus represents all of us in our humanity and was crucified, killed, buried, and resurrected.  On that cross and throughout the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, our old, enslaved, dead-end lives have been crucified and absorbed by Jesus.  In its place, Jesus has given us himself and our identities are wrapped up in him and we are given the opportunity  to be “re-invented”, to find meaning and purpose, and to live resurrection lives.

We are called to live out this new Reality.  We are called to have freedom from the things that enslave us and to boldly occupy our identity as the true human beings God created us to be.  As a Jewish friend of mine reminds, we can have “agency”.  A few years ago, I used a poker analogy with a group of students, asking them if they’d be willing to go “all in” in pursuing this God who pursues us and binds us together.  They did and the student ministry at Northminster, where I was associate pastor to students and families, grew in some beautiful and wild ways.

All of us need to see this new Reality that we see in Jesus.  It is my hope that we can be “all in” as a church, being the “body of Christ”, living in our own agency, loving our neighbors well (and not for some transaction or pay-off), but to effectively change the world around us and around the world by simply “being” the people we were created to be!  Loving neighbors!!  Together, all of us, with Christ living in and through us, let’s reach out to others sharing with them this abundant life that Jesus showed us and gave us through his life.