Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jesus Wept in Newtown

It's difficult to think of anything more horrific that what occured last week in Newtown, Connecticut. People responded in different ways to the news of the trajedy there. Some saw an opportunity for political discussion and reform, others questioned why, and many grieved and were in prayer for those lost and hurt.

What do you do when confronted with such a tragic situation? How are we called, as followers of Jesus, when we encounter people with unimaginable grief? Jesus, himself, gives us a model for how to approach such situations. In the Gospel of John, chapter 11, we read about the death of Lazarus. Jesus allows Lazarus to die and then raises him from the dead. He tells his disciples plainly "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe." In other words, Jesus didn't prevent Lazarus from dying and in this case, at least partly, Jesus was glad because his death would actually be used by God to bring the disciples, and so many others, to understand who Jesus really is, what he is capable of, and how he truly is the Messiah. We would never say God delights in the fact that this world is broken, yet God can use even the most horrific events for good. Of course, when in the midst of such tragedy it's difficult, to say the least, to see how this could be possible. It's important to note, however, that when Jesus makes his final approach to the tomb of Lazarus he does not give a theological explanation to those grieving. When Jesus arrives he witnesses the grief:
"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 'Where have you laid him? he asked. 'Come and see, Lord,' they replied. Jesus wept."

Jesus wept. When we encounter people in grief, the best thing that we can do is join them in their grief. Even Jesus, who knew that he would soon resurrect Lazaus, didn't offer an explanation or rush to make the people feel better, but entered into their situation with tears and a troubled spirit. We live in a fallen world with so many broken systems and people. Many times the way we are the body of Christ, Jesus in the world, is when we pray, hold close, and cry with others about how this is not the way it's supposed to be.

We can do this without giving in to the despair because of the hope we have in Jesus. Jesus said to Lazarus' sister Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who belives in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Martha said "Yes, Lord...I believe that you are the Chirst, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." We have hope, even in the most desperate of situations, because of the One, the Messiah, who came and entered into our grief, into our pain, and forged a new path to restore us to our God and the eternal abundant life that comes from knowing Him. As students in Newtown go back to school this week, I pray that they know God is there for them, even through times such as these, and that we, as followers of the Suffering Servant Jesus Christ, are here in prayer and grief with them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Oasis Cafe and Worship Update

When we began this blog back in August, the very first post was about our plans for a new young adult service on Monday nights called Oasis. I'm excited to announce that the area reshaped for that service has been a wonderful gathering spot for fellowship both before and after worship. The chapel as well has been making its transformation every week for the last month into "Oasis Worship."

We've been gathering an average of about 30 young adults each Monday, some of whom have never been on our campus before and each Monday we've had new faces! We started with a series about who Oasis would strive to be as a worshipping community and are now paralleling the sermons being shared on Sunday mornings though in a different style. The short teaching moments are all available online as full video so that anyone who might miss the service can catch up. We currently have the video during the service play on the new television in the Oasis as well as are making plans to eventually stream the services live!

This new expression of worship has a website and a facebook page to help facilitate communication and interaction. Probably most exciting is an expression close to the concept of missional community, called an Oikos, forming from those attending this service who are committed and excited about being the church out in the world through loving one another, service, and discipleship. It's so exciting to see God at work in new ways through Trinity as an Oasis, a wellspring of spiritual refreshment.