After we take the Holy Communion, we pray:
“Good and loving, we rejoice in the birth of Jesus, who came among the poor to bring the riches of your grace. As you have blessed us with your gifts, let them be a blessing for others. With the trees of the field, with all earth and heave, we shout for joy at the coming of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
As we are welcoming and celebrating His coming, we are to bring joy and blessing to others. In this Advent, how are we going to invite and bless others to feel and shout for joy at His coming with us?
Before the priest breaks the bread, the congregants follow the BCP praying:
“We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, Whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, So to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, And to drink his Blood, That our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, And our souls washed through his most precious Blood, And that we may evermore dwell in him, And he in us. Amen.”
This prayer puts the Good News in our mouth. It reminds us to be humble and be grateful for what God has done to save us in Christ. Praying this prayer daily helps us to have a heart connect with God.
I have finished reading this book lately, although it was published in 2006. Although I may not agree with everything she said in this book, I have learned a lot from her about holding friendships in a Christian way, and now I like to share some of them with you:
- “Stay committed to each other. Love each other unconditionally. Be with each other through the rough (even very rough) times and see it through. Christ-centered relationships are supposed to last. Don’t turn your back on those who need you the most. You don’t have to understand homosexuality in order to love someone.”
- “Then this is still the person you’ve always known. You’re just learning a new dimension of who that person is.”
- “Just being the same sex as your gay friend does not mean that he or she will come on to you. Because a guy is gay, it doesn’t mean that every male turns him on.”
- “When a friend tells you he or she is gay, you’re at a ‘turning point’ in your relationship. Will you abandon ship or will you stay around?”
- “Gays need friends just as you and I need friends. They need people who’ll support them, pray for them, and help them sort through the tangle of their thoughts.”
- “Who were the people tossed aside by society when Jensu walked on earth? The tax collectors, the lame, the prostitutes, the lepers, the orphans, the widows. All were pushed to the margins of the social register. How did Jesus respond to these people? He reached out to them and drew them in.”
- “…when two people work through their differences, the final bond becomes stronger than ever. Those friends can be gay or straight.”
- “It hurts when people make assumptions about you without getting to know you.”
- “The more people who pass along a rumor, the more that rumor is likely to be believed…The simplest way to stop a rumor is to shut your mouth. Don’t pass it on. Let it die….”
- “A key warning sign of an unhealthy friendship is a ‘just us’ mentality…When a relationship becomes possessive, and your friend demands that you separate from other people, something is wrong…Another warning sign appears when one person becomes consumed with making the other feel happy…”
- “…In our world, society allows women greater degrees of physical intimacy than it allows men. Such allowances, though, instead of making life simpler for women, make it harder. A woman can slide into a lesbian relationship more easily than a man can slip unintentionally into a gay one…”
- “God’s first concern is not whether a person is attracted to males or females but whether that person is attracted to HIM! Physical purity is important, but spiritual purity is essential.”
- “Another thing you can do is allow your friend to talk. Don’t jump in with answers. Listen. When you do talk, remember that even if you don’t have same-sex desires, you have areas where you’re weak.”
- “If your friend has rejected his or her gender role for years, it probably will take years to rethink that identity. In the meantime, hand in there.”
- “I ache for the love of Christ and his gospel to be taken to the gay community. I want them to know, to truly feel and believe that no matter what, God loves them and died for them. They don’t have to change their orientation before God will love them and save them. They don’t have to change anything about themselves to earn love, or perform to get his approval. But before this message can be carried to the gay community and be in any way convincing, Christians must learn it themselves.”
- “…whether your friend is interested in change or not. You can offer friendship, foster a safe environment for communication, be trustworthy, learn about gay issues, and pray on your own – all without any effort at all on your friend’s part.”
- “Same-sex attraction is not contagious like the flu. You can’t catch it just by being around someone who’s gay.”
- “If it’s wrong to impose our culture’s interpretations on evens in Bible times, it’s equally wrong to assume that cultural behaviors in the period the Bible automatically remain the same in our times.”
- “Instead, point your friends toward Christ. Teach them to depend on God. Too many people speak only of God’s condemnation of sin. You can be the one to introduce them to Christ’s love, his forgiveness, and his power to help. Then, when a friend asks you a question and you don’t know what to say, your friend can turn to Someone bigger than you, to Someone who has a lot more experience than you. That Someone is God.”
- “Human friendships are always a gift from God, but never forget that your best friend is God himself”.
Even if you may not affirm their interpretations about sexuality, orientation, gender, and identity, you may relate and reach out to the LGBTQ+ community in the ways Emily has offered here. I also found that her insights can applied to other areas of our Christian living.
I am a church planter who started a Christian community a few months ago. The book, “Fresh Expressions: A New Kind of Methodist Church for People Not in Church” by Kenneth H. Carter Jr. and Audrey Warren, has given me inspiration for my discerning and planning about the ways to continue our journey.
First, I am going to share a few pieces of his insight from this book. Then, I will share my reflections and learnings in the next post:
- “A Fresh Expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church. It will come into being through the practices of listening, service, contextual mission, and making disciples. It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and fort its cultural context.”
- “…Fresh Expressions invites the church to continue to mature. The maturing takes place not by settling back into our normal routines of being church and working at doing those better but stepping out in faith and following the Holy Spirit to new people, in new places and in new ways and in the midst of its finding a renewal and rebirth.”
- “The truth is that while we have been working as the church to ‘change the world’, the world has changed around us.”
- “An important distinction in recent reflection about the church is centered around the words attractional and missional. An attraction church sees itself as the center toward which people and resources flow. A missional church sees itself as a gathering from which people and resources flow toward the world. Attractional absorbs people into community. Missional sends them out. And, of course, the most healthy and vital congregations are both attractional and missional.”
- “The strategic intent of Fresh Expression lies in its willingness to reclaim the content of faith, to re-center on the movement of the Holy Spirit, and to reimagine church outside the walls of our buildings and beyond the hours of our scheduled services.”
- “We no longer live in a church culture. And yet we as a church have not always been motivated to adapt to a culture whose rhythms of life are shifting. People live and gather in increasingly varied and nontraditional ways.”
- “Networks are increasingly displacing neighborhoods as our sole sources of community. This is the result of the flow of communication through technology and an increased personal mobility, especially among the young. A network might center around a hobby (running, hiking…), around work…, or around social justice…Members of networks may or may not live in proximity to each other. Their relationships will often be a combination of online communication…., and face-to-face meetings…There is much work to do in the formation of community among networks.”
- “Where is community discovered in our time? The sociological concepts of ‘third place’ is helpful in our exploration of neighborhoods and networks. The theory assumes that the two fundamental places where we spend a great deal of our time are home..and work. That leads into the next question: Where does one spend time when not sleeping and working?”
- “…new third places are emerging in our culture: coffee shops, sporting leagues, digital media, entertainment and resort cultures, and pub….”
- “…the church is called to plant expressions of Christianity in third places that are increasingly ‘homes away from home’ for mobile and networked society.”
- “In an earlier generation of new church development, church plants estimated that they would gather a particular number of participants within a specific time frame; and standard methods, such as launch activities and mass mailings, were often employed. This often occurred with little regard for cultural or geographic differentiation…”
A few weeks ago, my barber and I had a meaningful question on the question of “where God is when it hurts”. Since he’s too skillful, we did not have enough time for a deep discussion. Therefore, I recommended Philip Yancey’s book, “The Question That Neven Goes Away”, for him to read.
What I have learned the most from this book is Yancey’s reminder about the way God’s presence and redemption in the midst of our suffering:
“From Jesus I learn that God is on the side of the sufferer. God entered the drama of human history as one of its characters, not with a display of omnipotence but in a most intimate and vulnerable way. On a small scale, person-to-person, Jesus encountered the kinds of suffering common to all of us…We go through suffering not alone, but with God at our side…Jesus did not eliminate evil; he revealed a God willing, at immense cost, to forgive it and to heal its damage.”
In addition, Yancey reminded and challenged Christian that:
“…And because God shared our suffering in the person of Jesus, we his followers have a model for redeeming it, a way to wrest Good out of what at first seems irredeemably bad…Where is God when it hurts? God is now in the church, God’s delegated presence on earth. The question might even be rephrased, ‘Where is the church when it hurts?’…Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it, and eventually to convert it.”
Yancey’s reminders have led me to reflect on what I have been being/doing in the midst of suffering, mine and my neighbor’s.