Read this article recently published in the Boston Globe about the various ways that Boston’s churches are creatively sharing the good news of Christ in this season:
Kelsey is a second year intern with Cru campus ministry in Boston. She’s also serving as a UniteBoston Rep on the MIT campus. This year she will be trailblazing a new internship in the northeast called Freedom58, a partnership between Cru and International Justice Mission, to bring Biblical Justice into Christian conversation at universities.
One of my co-workers has pointed out that I’ve caught the “unity bug”. I caught it as a senior at Cornell University, sitting beside my Jewish friend along with 600 Christians and non-Christians in the arts quad for an inter-fellowship Easter service. Two years later, it is Holy week again and I find myself in a small crisis of faith, wondering if this bug I’ve caught is from the Lord. So I asked Him to show me what unity is supposed to look like, and He responded with Romans 12.
“A LIVING SACRIFICE” – OBEDIENCE
The chapter begins, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” When I look back into the Old Testament, asking what a “holy and acceptable” sacrifice looks like, it is clear that God’s desire is for obedience.
It feels, though, like obedience is a bad word in the church today. We obey to an extent, but we are so afraid of legalism that we easily justify disobedience in the name of freedom.
But dream with me for a moment. What if we were all to be true, living sacrifices? David says “the sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite heart.” The Hebrew word shachah, translated to “worship”, means to lie prostrate. I imagine the best physical description of a broken and contrite heart would be shachah. What if we were all to live our lives prostrate before God, obedient to such an extreme that we let go of our pride, our fear, our personal convictions, our own dreams and aspirations? What if, like Abel, we really were to withhold nothing from God? I see a church, prostrate at the throne of God, with one voice singing “holy, holy, holy is the Lamb.”
“MANY MEMBERS, ONE BODY” – HUMILITY
Next, Paul warns everyone “not to think of himself more highly than he ought, but to think with sober judgment.” The next verse describes a body of many members, paralleling the one Church body comprised of many gifts.
The day before Easter this year, we hosted an Easter Arts and Music Festival at MIT. It was the dream of one visionary student. We didn’t assign it to a particular group or fellowship, but simply said, “we want to worship Jesus and see people saved”. I have never seen anything like what resulted.
In the days leading up to the event, five different universities, three local churches, three campus ministries, and four national ministries gathered on MIT’s campus to pray for souls to enter the Kingdom of God. It didn’t matter that some were speaking in tongues while others were praying “hail Mary’s”. The prayer team, prophet team, food team, worship team, hospitality team, and tree-climbing set-up team all came with no agenda but to humbly serve the vision of one student who wanted to glorify the Resurrected King. One man’s words to me were “I’ve been here from set up to take-down, and I have never seen this before. Every single person’s heart is united. Everyone wants to praise Jesus.”
At the end of the night, the student who organized the Easter festival was so overcome with gratitude, she commented, “I wonder if they all realize how much I love them.”
Having communicated with all the separate teams, I had to laugh at her and ask, “Do you realize how much they all love you?!”
That night I learned that unity doesn’t happen for unity’s sake. Our goal wasn’t to unite people. It was so incredibly simple- to love Jesus. Because the motivation was clear, genuine, and right, the love that was directed upward at Jesus seemed to rain down on us all, warming our hearts with a true and genuine love for one another.
Romans 12 starts with God’s loving mercy and ends with our brotherly love. There’s the key to unity- it starts and ends with love.
Sunday brought us an official record-breaking winter at a whopping 108.6 inches of snow. While I admittedly have been discouraged and frustrated by the snow this winter, I have to say that it has brought a few good things: I found new friends at busstops as we bonded over the knee-deep snow and always-late MBTA busses. I also saw previously-silent neighbors shovel each another’s driveways.
Remember the big snowstorm on February 15th, that caused many churches to close down? The Boston Globe wrote an article about it.
As the flakes kept flying late into the spring, I have tried to channel my frustration at the cold into prayers for Boston – that God would have His way in us and teach us what He desires, as His people in Boston.
I believe that this winter has given me a needed perspective-shift – a reminder that we’re all in this together. It’s too easy just to walk head-down, eyes forward on commute to work, ignoring any passerby that gets in my way. But this winter has taught me to see those around me as people, as fellow brothers and sisters, and as ones whom Jesus loves.
Here in two months, the winter of 2015 will be a memory of old, but I pray that what God has taught us this winter will remain in our hearts and spirits.
And I know that I’m not the only one excited that there are only four days till spring!
Celebrate Boston breaking its previous record for snowiest winter with this video featuring the Mass Council of Churches alongside the Mayor, the Red Cross, the Red Sox and the Celtics!
I’ve been humbled to read about the recent heightened persecution of Christians around the world; how in Egypt, 21 Christians were kidnapped in Libya and beheaded for their faith in Christ.
In fact, since Jesus laid down His life, 43 million Christians have become martyrs.
While in America I have experienced a bit of emotional and verbal chastising due to my faith, it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the pain and mental agony for those who are imprisoned or even killed for their faith. The degree to the persecution that I have experienced in America is not even comparable, causing me to question how I would respond in that same situation. Another part of me wants to disconnect and run away because the pain is too hard to think about. But when I take this is to prayer, I weep, tears streaming down my face… their identification with Christ’s suffering on the cross and the depth of a faith that is tried and true inspires me to live more fully.
In his homily to conclude the week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis writes that this is an “Ecumenism of Blood.”
As the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters around the world are part of us – and through prayer we can fulfill the command that “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” (2 Cor 12:26)
Whenever a persecuted Christian is asked how we can help, the answer is always, “Pray for us." Let us unite in prayer for the persecuted church, in the spirit of oneness that Christ asks of us.
This week, Elizabeth Grady-Harper from the Boston Faith and Justice Network shares with us about the recent shift in her perspective of Lent.
Growing up the daughter of a born again evangelical and a disenchanted former Catholic I didn’t really get a clear picture of what Lent was meant to be until I was an
adult. From my evangelical side I got nothing on Lent. Not even a mention. I knew the Catholic side of my
family did things like give up meat on Fridays and went to church a few extra times
during the lead up to Easter. There was
also this ash on the foreheads thing at the beginning that I did not get at
all. Then at some point I was introduced
to the idea that people gave up something. Things like chocolate or coffee or for
the hardcore maybe TV. This resonated
with me as a believer even though I most definitely fell in the evangelical
camp. I decided to jump on board usually
trying to give up soda (not always succeeding).
Sometimes I’d try for sweets or Facebook (this was usually even less
successful than soda even with the Sunday pass). I always felt a little better about myself at
the end of the forty days (you know for trying and all) and I always gorged on
whatever I had fasted when Easter rolled around.
Pretty sure I was
missing the point.
I did not have the
full story of Lent, its meaning, its history and its purpose.
Lent is not mandated
by scripture. You can’t find it in the Bible.
Its inception dates back to around 325 AD. It was established as a preparation for holy
week and Easter itself. The forty days
are meant to mirror Jesus’ period of fasting as told to us in the gospel of
Matthew. (see this interesting CT article
with some history or this Huffington
Article) The practice today varies
widely through denominations and individuals but often involves some of the following:
No meat on Fridays
Fasting on Ash
Wednesday and Good Friday
something throughout the Lenten period (with some people making an exception on
How did our spiritual
forefathers and mothers intend this forty day period to prepare us to celebrate
both the death and gloriously world changing resurrection of our Lord and Savior? Because I have this thing about tradition. If
continues for its own sake I hate it. However;
if it was created and continues to exist for a purpose, like drawing us closer
to Jesus, and it can do that then I don’t care if it’s almost two thousand
years old – I’m in. And I think if we do
Lent the right way it can lead us in to Holy week prepared to truly celebrate
the beauty, love and power that is Easter Sunday.
In my research
I found this quote from sister Joan Chittister that explains what Lent can be,
what it is meant to be better than I can:
Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to
change but have not…Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is
that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now… Lent is a summons to
live anew…Lent is the time to let life in again, to rebuild the worlds we’ve
allowed to go sterile, to “fast and weep and mourn” for the goods
we’ve foregone. If our own lives are not to die from lack of nourishment, we
must sacrifice the pride or the sloth or the listlessness that blocks us from
beginning again. Then, as Joel (2:12-18) promises, God will have pity on us and
pour into our hearts the life we know down deep that we are lacking.
One idea a friend
introduced me to several years ago that I have incorporated into my Lenten
discipline was not to simply (or maybe at all) take something away from my
routine (like soda or social media) but to add something positive. Because fasting certainly has value but so
too can working toward a good. So my Lenten commitment could be – saying something
kind every day, studying a new topic or learning about an injustice.
But whether it is
the giving up or the taking on I don’t think it really matters. It is the mind and heart with which we do it that
matters. Can we take these forty days
(or really forty six because somehow Sundays aren’t counted) and give over some
part of ourselves to the Lord that we have held back that we might “begin anew”
and when Easter Sunday dawns can we be ready like never before to celebrate the
fact that we are truly saved and truly called to new life filled with hope,
purpose and meaning?
I want that.