In last Sunday’s sermon I shared that I spent most of the previous week doing jury duty. It was an unexpected assignment and a powerful learning experience. Have you ever sat on a jury? If you ever get the opportunity, I strongly encourage you to say “yes.” Here’s are two reasons why I would encourage jury duty and any other similar calls to civic service.
1. It is a way of serving your province and nation. Many people, upon learning that I had been selected for a jury, responded by saying, “Too bad for you. Couldn’t you have gotten out of that?” The truth is, I didn’t want to get out of it. I was curious about the process and thought it would be a good learning experience, but more importantly I believe it is every Christian’s civic duty, if at all possible, to say “yes” to such requests by our governing authorities (see Romans 13:1-7).
We live in an amazing country that has made it possible for citizens to receive a fair hearing when they have been wronged or have been accused of doing wrong. Judeo-Christian principles played no small part in shaping our society’s approach to justice. Where would we be if people routinely declined to accept their role when asked to serve in the court system? Or, to put it more personally, what if you were the victim of a serious crime and were seeking justice—or what if you were wrongly accused of something? Wouldn’t you hope that fair-minded people would step forward to sit on your jury?
Someone has said that being part of a democracy is like breathing out of two lungs. The one lung represents our rights. The other represents our responsibilities. Along with our privileges we need to accept our corresponding duties if our society is to remain strong. Some people will have legitimate reasons to decline a call to service like this, but all of us should be willing to embrace a level of discomfort to make our Canadian system work.
2. Who better than you? As I deliberated with my fellow jurors, I was impressed with just how fragile the legal process is. Being human, jury members were motivated by both good reasons for their conclusions and not-so-good reasons. I saw how important it is that people be judicious, fair, and self-aware about the biases and prejudices that might be at work in their decision making. What better place than a jury for a Jesus-follower to act as salt and light in the world as they (very prayerfully) seek to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before their God” (Micah 6:8)?
Of course, really, I am talking about something bigger than saying “yes” or “no” to jury duty. I am talking about how we as Christ-followers should look at our role in Canadian society. We all have an important part to play.--Pastor Tom
Growing As Worshipers
[This week’s “Pastor’s Corner” is written by our Worship Director, Kevin Rietema.]
I was in a meeting recently where a question was posed that nearly silenced the room. The question was, “Are we growing as worshipers?” This is a profound question and worth reflecting on given how often we engage in worship, not just corporately, but hopefully personally too.
Can we grow as worshipers? If so, how do we even measure this? Is it measured by how frequently we
attend corporate worship gatherings? By how often we raise or clap our hands while singing? By how
much money we give to the budget? I’m not suggesting these things aren’t important. Weekly church
attendance is more vital than we think it is. Physical expression in worship is a worthwhile conversationand private worship during the week is just as important as corporate worship on Sundays. In the end though, these things aren’t the main thing. How then, do we ultimately measure growth and ensure that it happens?
A helpful starting point may be to realize how great our need for Christian worship actually is. Though we often say that worship is “all for you Jesus,” worship is actually for us. I’m not talking in the consumeristic sense where we simply come for an emotional boost after a rough week. Rather, worship is about the misaligned affections of our hearts being realigned as we remember the story of God and find our place in that larger story. Be assured. Worship is still very much about God, but it is largely for us. Though God delights in our worship of Him, we are the ones who benefit! In a lot of ways, the practice of worship is a discipline in the same way that working out or eating healthy is. You can only get out of it what you put into it.
So, is it possible to grow as a worshiper? Yes. Engaging in worship is a learned skill that takes practice.
How can we grow as worshipers? We must start by seeing it as an investment. Are we coming only
hoping to consume, or are we willing to engage in the discipline of this beautiful, formational practice?
Bethel, I’m grateful to be on this journey of growing as a worshiper with you!
SEEKING GOD’S FACE
I spent Wednesday through Friday of last week alone in a cabin that was graciously lent to me by members of our congregation. I try to seclude myself like this twice a year, when it is time to plan for upcoming sermons. Doing this gets me away from ringing phones, unexpected interruptions, and even (to the extent possible) the distractions of electronic media.
During these times I will often fast; otherwise, I will eat simply. I will take long prayer-walks to pray for things affecting the church, for our staff and leaders, for any specific needs I am aware of, and for wisdom to know what God wants me to say to the congregation. When I am not praying, I will usually be jotting down ideas on pads of paper or typing on my laptop. I always hope to emerge from these times with a clear idea of what passages I will preach on in the next six months.
Why do I do this? I do it because I don’t have the wisdom on my own to know how to lead or what to preach at Bethel. I do it because Bethel really is God’s church, and it is only as His Spirit is guiding us and actively moving in our lives and ministries that we will thrive as a Christian community. I am inspired by the apostle Peter who entrusted other important ministry to capable people so that he and the other apostles could give their attention to “prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4).
I have my specific role to play at Bethel. You have yours. Let’s always do what we do in conscious dependence on the Lord, seeking His guidance and relying on the power of His Spirit for our success. Thanks for all you do as part of this special body of believers. --Pastor Tom
1,000 Families Thriving
A movement aimed at lifting 1,000 families out of poverty, and targeted at the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Bethel Church, was launched several months ago. Led by Anna Buble of the United Way, it has gathered faith groups, business representatives, financial backers, and a variety of other interested parties in support of the cause.
The driving idea behind the project is that families need more than money to escape poverty. They need a complete support network if they hope to rise out of poverty and stay out. This means those assisted will need skills training, well-paying jobs, and access to social resources, language training, a supportive community network, and much more.
At times the 1,000 Families Thriving effort has seemed to move at a snail’s pace, and the program’s unfolding has not been without flaws. Our church has sent representatives to three meetings so far to give input. Some who have attended these meetings did not received promised follow-up and have been left wondering if their contribution made any difference.
But progress IS being made. The most recent meeting was much smaller than the previous two and was aimed at finding the people who will make up the movement’s steering committee. All of us who attended left with assignments to bring certain people to the table when we meet later this month. At that time, the movement’s organizers hope to name the steering committee members. Hopefully this will set the stage for the real action to begin.
It is not certain at this time exactly what part Bethel will play in this ongoing effort. It is quite possible we will have a place on the steering committee. If not, we will play another supportive role. Anna Buble wrote the following to me in an email: “Clearly Bethel is both an anchor and a leader in Bannerman and would be a great representative of the faith community.”
Social change goes not come easily, but the 1,000 Families Thriving initiative impresses me as both promising and an answer to our prayers; so, let’s not lose heart. Let’s keep praying that God will use us to show his mercy to many who desperately need the help this effort promises. –Pastor Tom
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