Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fostering Neighborhood Community

Over Memorial Day weekend we had some visitors from Australia at Kaleidoscope Church who spoke to us about how they missionally live their lives out for the gospel in a context where more and more people won't come on Church campuses but rather we must go or be sent out to them! Pastor Michael shared in that sermon (click here to listen to it) a text from Jeremiah about how Israel was called to seek the welfare of the city that they had been taken off to in exile (Jeremiah 29:4-7):

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." 

Of course during our whole Tangible Kingdom Study we learned together about being missional and recently I shared a blog post about the importance of investing in our neighborhoods. Well, I wanted to share with you an online tool that seems to be effective at helping build community in neighborhoods called NextDoor.

NextDoor is a private social network for your neighborhood. In other words, its an online version of your local neighborhood community. It helps facilitate conversations between neighbors that might never have happened before and unlike Facebook it's simpler, just for your neighborhood and meant to help foster real interactions between neighbors. I recently tried using it in the neighborhood I'm living in right now and so far I've been impressed to see the community already becoming closer. Just the other day I was able to loan a box fan to a mom who was having a crisis as she couldn't keep her carpets dry from a leak! A couple who have attended Trinity occasionally has been leading neighborhood beautification days and connecting with not only other Trinity attenders but the entire community. We had a neighborhood garage sale day and there are even neighbors who are helping Pastor Benita out with our move down the street while I'm in Haiti on July 17th!!! This is all within the first couple of months of experimenting with NextDoor. I hope in the future to host some neighborhood parties or even a neighborhood bible study through NextDoor and the relationships it has helped create. At this point there are over 80 neighbors in my neighborhood who are communicating more, working together, and getting to know each other!

As we seek to be missional, to connect to others, and create authentic relationships within our communities I commend this tool to you! Try it out and let me know if you have similar successes! Click this link to get started. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ezra's Baptism

We're having trouble accepting that it has already been just about four months since our son Ezra was born. Time truly goes by so fast!!! We're looking forward to celebrating Ezra's baptism at the end of this month. On June 30th we'll welcome Ezra into the covenantal family of God during the 10:30 am service.

This is a great time to remember our own baptisms as we celebrate this sacrament and also to reflect on what baptism signifies. Baptism is one of the two sacraments or mysteries that Jesus commanded his followers to do, the other of course is the Lord's Supper. He said "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:18). Baptism has many meanings that can be tied to this mystery like the faithfulness of God, the washing away of sin, rebirth, putting on the fresh garment of Christ, being sealed by God's Spirit, or the resurrection and illumination in Christ. While all these elements are in operation, the primary function of baptism is the adoption of an individual into the covenant family of the Church. It is a sign and seal of incorporation into Christ - being made a part of his body, the Church. Paul writes "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body -whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free -- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." Just as the Lord's Supper celebrates our continued oneness or communion with each other and Christ through the Spirit, baptism is the initial joining to this body.

Some churches choose to do a baby dedication, rather than a baptism. A dedication means that the family has decided to dedicate this child to God. They are dedicated to raising them in the Lord with the hope that one day they will choose for themselves to enter into the family of God. Until that day however, they aren't really a part of their Church family or the body of Christ. They are outsiders to the family!

Those who practice infant baptism, on the other hand, believe that our children are a part of God's covenant family. We welcome children into the covenant family without any undue delay following the example of Jesus as he said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Mark 10:14). Jesus, and the Jewish people, had a very familial understanding of being God's people. Paul compares the Exodus to baptism in 1 Corinthians 10 when he says "I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." The Israelites didn't leave their children behind and cross through the Red Sea without them. No! The call to be in relationship with God, to be part of God's family was for entire families, all of Israel, not just individuals. God's covenantal family continues in the New Testament as well as the call to entire families and peoples, especially in Acts where there are multiple examples of whole households and families being baptized. Peter says in Acts 2:39 "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call."

We're so excited that Ezra, as a part of our family, is called by God to be a part of our Church family, the body of Christ. As our denomination, ECO, expresses in the Essential Tenets of our faith: "We confess our confidence in God's gracious initiative, that a baby who cannot turn to God is nonetheless claimed as a member of the covenant community, a child of God, cleansed by grace and sealed in the Spirit." We truly believe that he is fully included in God's covenant promises and that he is completely a part of our church family, the family of God. We thank you so much for being our brothers and sisters in Christ and for being fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers in Christ to our son as he joins this wonderful and loving covenant family through baptism.