Church as Family

belonging ducklings1 Peter 2:16-17a (NRSV)
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers…

A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week— we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

At our Spanish-speaking immigrant church, people don’t have the luxury to think too hard about what it costs to raise their kids. Most have children (it probably never occurred to them not to) and keep busy making ends meet. The kids in my church don’t have Baby Mozart albums, parents who attend every school function, or a neighborhood in a top school district. Yet, they seem to be doing just as well as kids who have it all. Why? Because their moms and dads love them exorbitantly, and everyone in the church parents them as well. My church, though not perfect, does better job than most of living up to the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” An older empty-nest couple, for example, used to take care of a younger couple’s two daughters. The pastor’s wife goes out of her way to pick up children for Sunday school when their parents can’t come. We treat each other like family, and we treat all the children in the church as our own. – Liuan Huska, It Takes a Church to Raise a Child

Like the strongest biological families, God’s family at its best shelters, teaches, and supports its members — because loving other people is often tough whether we’re talking about biological or spiritual kin. Communities of faith have the opportunity to offer each other and to model for those beyond their walls a place where people can learn to love and fail to love — and yet be accepted either way.
Mary Lou Redding, The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide

An essential part of wholeness is the sense of belonging. Belonging within nature. Belonging to one another. Belonging in your own skin. At first, Jesus rejects the Syrophoenician woman’s entreaty to cure her daughter, because she does not belong to his people. The woman cleverly dismantles his sense of limitation however, and now the Gospel belongs to all of us. (Mark 7:24-30)
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

An extended quote from Prodigal Brothers by Steve Garnaas-Holmes (Luke 15:11-32)
The failure of our love—distancing ourselves from God and one another— is at the heart of our sin. In our self-centeredness, we break our family bond with God and with others, as if we’re not related. It is not just of our disobedience that we repent, but of our distance, our refusing to get close to God and to others, including those whom we judge.

The good news is that in the end, we are unable to break that bond. Despite our attempt to disown God and each other, God stays related to us and keeps us related to each other. The father puts a ring on the younger brother’s finger—a symbol of family. And he corrects the older brother and calls the younger one “this brother of yours.” Despite their failures, he invites them both into the party. The righteousness that we need is not obedience. It’s a loving relationship—and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. In repentance, we pray toward both God and neighbor, “I am not on my own. I am yours.”

Acts 2:41-47 (NRSV)
So those who welcomed [Peter’s message concerning Jesus Christ] were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body … For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
– John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity

Prayer: Make us your children
Heavenly One,
Your reach extends to every person, every nation
Offering grace, forgiveness, wholeness, and hope
A saving embrace
Drawing us to you and each other

Make us your children
Grateful for a place in your family
Humble before your love and generosity
Faithful in honoring and welcoming all
Joyful in sharing what we have found in you
Amen.

************
Click Here for Steve Harper’s discussion as to “why ‘churchless Christianity’ will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.”

For a post entitled Trinity, Community and Love, click here
For a post entitled One with God, One With Each Other, click here
For a post entitled Quotes: Community, click here

Prayer: Make us your children © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Church as Family

belonging ducklings1 Peter 2:16-17a (NRSV)
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers…

A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week— we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

At our Spanish-speaking immigrant church, people don’t have the luxury to think too hard about what it costs to raise their kids. Most have children (it probably never occurred to them not to) and keep busy making ends meet. The kids in my church don’t have Baby Mozart albums, parents who attend every school function, or a neighborhood in a top school district. Yet, they seem to be doing just as well as kids who have it all. Why? Because their moms and dads love them exorbitantly, and everyone in the church parents them as well. My church, though not perfect, does better job than most of living up to the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” An older empty-nest couple, for example, used to take care of a younger couple’s two daughters. The pastor’s wife goes out of her way to pick up children for Sunday school when their parents can’t come. We treat each other like family, and we treat all the children in the church as our own. – Liuan Huska, It Takes a Church to Raise a Child

Like the strongest biological families, God’s family at its best shelters, teaches, and supports its members — because loving other people is often tough whether we’re talking about biological or spiritual kin. Communities of faith have the opportunity to offer each other and to model for those beyond their walls a place where people can learn to love and fail to love — and yet be accepted either way.
Mary Lou Redding, The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide

An essential part of wholeness is the sense of belonging. Belonging within nature. Belonging to one another. Belonging in your own skin. At first, Jesus rejects the Syrophoenician woman’s entreaty to cure her daughter, because she does not belong to his people. The woman cleverly dismantles his sense of limitation however, and now the Gospel belongs to all of us. (Mark 7:24-30)
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

An extended quote from Prodigal Brothers by Steve Garnaas-Holmes (Luke 15:11-32)
The failure of our love—distancing ourselves from God and one another— is at the heart of our sin. In our self-centeredness, we break our family bond with God and with others, as if we’re not related. It is not just of our disobedience that we repent, but of our distance, our refusing to get close to God and to others, including those whom we judge.

The good news is that in the end, we are unable to break that bond. Despite our attempt to disown God and each other, God stays related to us and keeps us related to each other. The father puts a ring on the younger brother’s finger—a symbol of family. And he corrects the older brother and calls the younger one “this brother of yours.” Despite their failures, he invites them both into the party. The righteousness that we need is not obedience. It’s a loving relationship—and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. In repentance, we pray toward both God and neighbor, “I am not on my own. I am yours.”

Acts 2:41-47 (NRSV)
So those who welcomed [Peter’s message concerning Jesus Christ] were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body … For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
– John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity

Prayer: Make us your children
Heavenly One,
Your reach extends to every person, every nation
Offering grace, forgiveness, wholeness, and hope
A saving embrace
Drawing us to you and each other

Make us your children
Grateful for a place in your family
Humble before your love and generosity
Faithful in honoring and welcoming all
Joyful in sharing what we have found in you
Amen.

************
Click Here for Steve Harper’s discussion as to “why ‘churchless Christianity’ will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.”

For a post entitled Trinity, Community and Love, click here
For a post entitled One with God, One With Each Other, click here
For a post entitled Quotes: Community, click here

Prayer: Make us your children © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Church as House of Prayer

Praying Boy Stained Glass by Bansky

Mark 11:15-18 (NRSV)
Then they came to Jerusalem. And Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.

We are called to pray not because we feel like praying or because it gives us good insights, but simply because we want to be obedient, to listen to the voice that calls us the beloved.
Henri Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living

The feature that is supposed to distinguish Christian churches, Christian people, and Christian gatherings is the aroma of prayer. It doesn’t matter what your tradition or my tradition is. The house is not ours anyway; it is the Father’s.
– Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

Only a recovery of the greatness, supremacy, sovereignty, brilliance, and “allness” of Christ will lead us to restoration and even revival. The wonder of Jesus as “all in all” is the only hope for igniting the flame of a new reformation and resuscitating a church that’s presently on life support. – Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, Jesus Manifesto

Revival is a matter of arrival, the arrival of God in a greater measure. Services that are soaked in prayer—whether traditional or contemporary—are alive with God’s presence. And it is his presence that changes lives, heals brokenness, and brings people to the saving knowledge of Jesus. If anything the worship in a church needs to be “user friendly” to welcoming “The Presence.” In worship, we should be more concerned about pleasing him, and not them. Meeting early to pray, anointing the chairs, and praying behind the scenes are all components of vital worship.
– Terry Teykl, Prayer and Presence

The sad truth is, in the city where I live – as in Chicago and Philadelphia and Houston and right across to L.A. – more people are turning to crack than to Christ. More people are dipping into drugs than are getting baptized in water. What is going to reverse this tide? Preaching alone will not do it; classes aren’t going to do it; more money for more programs won’t do it. Only turning God’s house into a house of fervent prayer will reverse the power of evil so evident in the world today.
– Jim Cymbala, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

God Builds a House
based on 1 Peter 2:4-5, Ephesians 2:11-22
Meter 88.88 (LM)
Suggested tunes: DUKE STREET (UMH #101) or TRURO (UMH #213)

God builds a house with living stone, with mortar made of sweat and prayer.
It’s beams of faith are nailed to Love and sealed with blood that will not wear.

Come bless the building of Your house around Your hearth of living bread;
through sacred meal and Word proclaimed so hearts and souls and minds are fed.

Come gift the building of Your house with healing ways for life and land;
through water bath and oil outpoured for prayer and laying on of hands

Come free the building of Your house from all that binds Your holy work.
Lay waste our walls that now divide so all may live their sacred worth

All praise the Master Carpenter. Creation’s God now glorify,
who makes a house from old, dry bones; from us once dead, but now alive!

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God Builds a House © 01/2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form. Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to original music.

For more information on the use of the quotes, scripture translation,and this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Your Body is a Temple

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NRSV)
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

And this is the question I just can’t get around: If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not?
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

Jesus didn’t die just to take you out of hell and into heaven.
He died to take Himself out of heaven and deposit Himself into you.
– Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, Jesus Manifesto

I am not worthy, Master and Lord, that you should come beneath the roof of my soul: yet, since in your love toward all, you wish to dwell in me, in boldness I come. You command, Open the gates – which you alone have forged; and you will come in with love toward all, as is your nature; you will come in and enlighten my darkened reasoning. I believe that you will do this: for you did not send away the harlot who came to you with tears; nor cast out the repenting publican; nor reject the thief who acknowledged kingdom; nor forsake the repentant persecutor, a yet great act; but all of those who came to you in repentance, you counted in the band of your friends, who alone abides blessed forever, now, and unto the endless ages. -John Chrysostom

Today we seem to have lost a sense of the role and place of our bodies. Many of us are not aware of the sacred space within us, the place where we can reflect and contemplate, the space from which wonderment can flow as we look at the mountains, the sky, the flowers, the fruits and all that is beautiful in our universe, the space where we can contemplate works of art. This place, which is the deepest in us all, is the place of our very personhood, the place of inner peace where God dwells and where we receive the light of life and the murmurings of the Spirit of God. It is the place in which we make life choices and from which flows our love for others.
-Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John

In caring for others we use up a great deal of physical and mental energy. If we do not replenish these limited resources, we run the risk of compassion fatigue. We cannot fulfill our God-given callings to be compassionate human beings in bodies that are constantly neglected and overextended. How we feed, exercise, relax, listen to, and nourish our boides are matters relevant to faithful discipleship. As Francis of Assisi lay dying, someone asked if he would have changed anything in his ministry. Significantly he responded, “I would have been more kind to my body.”
– Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes: Cultivating Compassion

Our lives are a holy adventure in which each moment provides new possibilities for Spirit-filled living. Take a moment to relax, breathing in God’s calm presence. In this quiet moment, remember the moments when your life most reflected God’s creativity. Experience the joy of being fully alive. Rejoice in those memories. Take some time to journal about these spiritual high points if you wish. Give thanks for God’s creative presence in your life. – Bruce G. Epperly, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living

And I promise you, yes I promise you, my God, that I shall try to find a “home” and a roof for you in as many houses as possible. There are so many empty houses, where I will bring you in as guest of honor. -Etty Hillesum

1 Peter 2:4-5 (NRSV)
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The one foundation, the unshakable support of the universe is Christ, who upholds all things, and preserves in well-being all that has been firmly founded. We are all built upon him: we are a spiritual house bonded together by the Spirit to form a holy temple which is his own dwelling place, for he dwells in our hearts through faith.
~ St. Cyril of Alexandria

Truth teaches daily in the temple when it carefully instructs the mind of the faithful.
-Gregory the Great

God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple: all you who believe in Christ and whose belief makes you love him. Real belief in Christ means love of Christ: it is not the belief of the demons who believed without loving and therefore despite their belief said: What do you want with us, Son of God? No; let our belief be full of love for him we believe in, so that instead of saying: What do you want with us, we may rather say: We belong to you, you have redeemed us. All who believe in this way are like the living stones which go to build God’s temple, and like the rot-proof timber used in the framework of the ark which the flood waters could not submerge. It is in this temple, that is, in ourselves, that prayer is addressed to God and heard by him. –Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms

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For more information on use of the art, scripture translations and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.