Endurance

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.


There seems to be a lot going on these days. What I mean by that is, there seems to be headline worthy news every week (if not every day). And this can get tiresome. The idea for this blog was sparked from this article written by NBA player, Kyle Korver. You should read that article first. It’s good. And, it’s important.  


Did you read it? I hope so. In it, Kyle writes this:


“As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so.


But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.


And I guess I’ve come to realize that when we talk about solutions to systemic racism — police reform, workplace diversity, affirmative action, better access to healthcare, even reparations? It’s not about guilt. It’s not about pointing fingers, or passing blame.


It’s about responsibility. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “equality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is equality for a certain group of people. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “inequality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is slavery, and its aftermath — which is still being felt to this day. It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history…not some random divide.”


James (you’ve maybe read some of his blogs here, too) sent this article to Anna and me. After we all read it we were mentioning how it can feel like we keep rehashing some of the same things.  And, for Anna and myself, we can ignore these issues. I can ignore issues of inequality for women, too. And, one thing James said really struck me. He said he feels, “like we’ve just begun to have real conversations about it,” in regards to racism and how the talks can feel tiresome at times because it seems like we aren’t anywhere.


As a white man in America, I have it the easiest. Now, hear me out if, for whatever reason that sentence made you mad. First off, relax. No one attacked you. What I mean is, yes, it is true that white men can have it hard still in America. Very hard. We just don’t get discriminated against for the color of our skin or our sex. That’s all. We get two free steps ahead of everyone else from the start. That doesn’t mean life won’t be hard for us. We just get two free steps ahead.  


And, that’s when it struck me. If you know me, or come to City Chapel, at some point you’re going to learn that I’m a “Paul guy.” What I mean by that is, I read Paul’s letters in the Bible more than most parts. Maybe it’s because I was a math major and went to seminary. Who knows. I just love his letters. It’s my own “canon within the canon” (As my Professor Dennis Voskuil used to say) if you will. But, one part Paul repeatedly wrote about I never fully understood. I knew what he meant, I just never experienced anything that required me to know it. Until James said how it’s tiresome but it feels like we’ve just begun to have real conversations for the first time. We need Endurance. Patience. Long-suffering. Whatever you want to call it. Paul writes in Romans 5 that “. . . endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame…” We need endurance.

“Racism was fixed with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War” Ha.

“Racism was finally solved with the Civil Rights Movement.” Nah.

“Racism ended in America when we had a black president.” Still nope.


The green bar is SO short. So short. And, I’ve only been alive for a fraction of that green bar myself. And, it only feels like we’ve just now begun to finally have conversations about it.  


We’re just starting. And to those of us who have lived with privilege our whole lives--whether because of our skin color or sex or anything else--equality will feel like oppression to us. Because we’re used to privilege. To cops assuming we’re alright, as opposed to a threat. That, we’re able to do any job, not just the “easy” ones. That we belong, and not hear, “where are you from?” everyday.


This will take endurance. Paul says in Colossians 1:11, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” And the writer of Hebrews says that we, “have need of endurance.” We do. But, this isn’t an inactive patience but an active endurance. It’s not an endurance of waiting by sitting down. It’s an endurance like a marathon runner.


As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote while locked up in a Birmingham jail, just as Paul was locked up when he wrote most of his letters:

For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights…

… There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”  --MLK Jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail  


And, as Kyle Korver wrote in his article, “I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.”


And, as Kyle writes, those of us in a privileged place need to shut up and listen more to those who are--and have been for hundreds of years--telling us things aren’t right.


Or as James, the brother of Jesus writes, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to get angry.” I pray that we are quick to listen. Eager to pray. And full of endurance.  


“Time for me to shut up and listen.”




Written by Pastor Ron Radcliffe

My Why for City Chapel

I've been asked many times by friends and co-workers about City Chapel. The questions come in all the usual shapes and sizes. What denomination is your church? Where do you guys meet? How many people come on Sundays? Typically generic and perfectly fine questions to ask. They're icebreaker questions, good enough to have general information, but not deep enough to feel like we're prying. I've found that it's also a status thing, as in, "You tell me where you go to church, and I'll decide if my church measures up" type of thing. It's West Michigan, so it's basically expected that you attend church somewhere on Sundays, if even you really aren't all that into it.

The question I don't get asked very often is, why? Why City Chapel? Why, of all the churches in West Michigan, would your family choose to be involved there? Why is your church different?

Honestly, I'm not sure how different it is. It's not a competition. City Chapel isn't better than other churches. I've been part of a church culture that measured itself by putting other churches down. It's quite bizarre. That's not what this church is about. I'm curious though, as to why I'm not asked, “Why City Chapel?” more often. I wonder why I don't ask others why they chose their church. Maybe we don't always know why we go to church, or maybe we don't want to give an answer in response.

I'll be honest here, I don't really consider myself a "church" person. Not really anymore, at least. I grew up going to every church function possible. If the church doors were open, you can bet that my parents would be there and I undoubtedly would be tagging along. Surprisingly even to myself, I worked at a church for five years. Shoot, I lived on church grounds for multiple years, because the church I worked at owned the apartments next door. Trust me, I know what it's like to be fully absorbed in a church bubble.

To be real, it makes me want to gag when I look back on all of that. Why? Because I did it all for the wrong reasons. I did it because we've bred a culture where if you say you're a Christian, the more doing church you do, the better treasure you'll find in heaven. The more you indoctrinate yourself with worship and preaching, the better off you'll be. We've told ourselves that more church can't hurt. And if done right, church shouldn't hurt.

So, why City Chapel? You know what it is? It's people, it's our community we've built. It's the trust we're developing with each other about who we are and what we're all about. Sunday mornings are great for hearing a good sermon and singing meaningful songs. They're also a great time to recharge and reflect with people you've grown to love and really rely on. We don't do church for simply the highs. We do it because we know there will be lows, sometimes deep lows. We are a young church, less than a year old officially, but we've seen some things already. We've already been hit with job loss, cancer, and death, just to name a few painful life situations. Through all of these, we've walked together, cried together, and in some instances, simply sat together.

Why City Chapel? Because it's a safe space, and it's a dangerous space. Safe because it's a space where we can ask questions and admit our shortcomings and acknowledge that we all need Jesus. Dangerous because we might have to listen to a call God places upon us. Dangerous because it isn't enough simply to come to church on Sunday and check it off the list as a task completed. City Chapel is a community of people who strive to live like Jesus and truly care about each other and the community of Grand Rapids. And, if I’m going to come close to calling myself a “church guy,” it wouldn’t be with any other people than our City Chapel family.

Written by James Gilmore

Strength, Dignity, and Laughter

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I’m surrounded by amazing women. I’ve been raised by them. I’ve been raised with them. I’ve become friends with them. And I’m continually inspired by the strength of the women, not only in our culture, our country, and our city but also by the strength of those in my immediate circle.


The women who are building their careers from the ground up, when the systems in place are against equal pay and equal representation.


The women who are leading churches and slaying it. Or who hold positions of authority and are knocking it out of the park.


The women athletes who are pushing past gender bias to prove we are just as strong.


The friend who is a solo foster parent because her heart breaks at the brokenness of our system and she sees no other option than to follow her call to love God’s children.


The many mothers and grandmothers and aunts who raise children day in and day out. And also the many mothers and motherly figures who have experienced extreme loss through the death of children of all ages.


I see you. Our City Chapel community sees you. But, most importantly, God sees you.


So as we celebrate the last week of Women’s History Month, reflect on these amazing verses about who we, as women, are in God’s eyes. May we remember the women who went before us, and be an example for those following in our footsteps.

Written by Kelli Gilmore

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The Women Who Kept Watch

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The night before my first day as a freshman in high school, my older sister wrote a quote on my bedroom mirror.

“Don’t be afraid ... for the heroes of all time have gone before us.”


This quote was from a book by Joseph Campbell that both of us had read as part of our summer reading requirement prior to our freshman year Honors English class. That dry-erase quote stayed on my mirror for a large majority of high school. In fact, I would literally clean around the quote when I would wipe down my mirror because having it there meant so much to me.


This memory has been so wildly meaningful for me. I even referenced it when I asked her to be my Maid of Honor last year. In so many ways I have loved being a younger sister to Megan. I have looked to her example and watched her in order to imitate her. I often joke that I am the ultimate little sister. I have waited for her approval on an idea and an outfit and her opinion carries nearly the greatest of weights in my life. I was far less scared about high school because I knew she had gone ahead of me.


Like Megan, there are countless women in my life who have gone ahead of me. They have shaped me and prayed for me. They have corrected me and raised me. They are the heroes who have gone ahead of me. And they have taught me, whether they realize it or not, who to look for when I look for Jesus.


They have taught me how to keep watch.


I think about the heroines in my story and my mind can’t help but wander to the heroines throughout scripture — the women who have gone before all of us. The women who are often glossed over in a list. The women whose entire lives can be reduced to a brief summation of facts and genealogies we are tempted to skip over.


I think about Rahab, Esther and Naomi, Mary and Martha, the bleeding woman and countless others.


These women who went before us. These women knew who to look for. They teach us who to look for. These women kept watch for the coming Promise.

Rahab, whose name is often tied to her profession (more than likely a profession due to circumstance and survival rather than by her choosing), was the absolute bottom of the social hierarchy in her city. She wasn’t anyone worth noting. For those in Jericho, she was nothing more than the body that she had to offer for a time.


Something that has always puzzled me about her story in Joshua chapter 2, was how quickly and certainly she knew who the Israelite spies were when they arrived. Not only that, she knew who they were coming in the name of.


“I know that the LORD has given you the land…,” she said to them.


She goes on to explain how she heard about how the Lord delivered them out of Egypt and continued to deliver them throughout the land. I wonder, did she sit in her house, the house built into the side of the city wall, waiting for evidence of this delivering God? Perhaps this God who delivers would deliver her, too?


She knew who she was looking for. She knew who this God was. She kept watch for her Deliverer.


Like her, the woman who suffered from chronic bleeding, whose story was documented throughout the Gospels, would have also been seen as a social and religious outcast — deemed unclean and unworthy. Her condition causing her to be jailed to a state of isolation.


And yet, when Jesus passed by in a crowd, she grabbed the hem of his robe. I can imagine the sheer franticness of this unfolding in her as she saw him. Reaching, perhaps even pushing through the crowd just to touch him. Knowing that he had healing in his wings, she just needed to touch the hem of his robe.


She knew who she was looking for. She knew who this man was. She kept watch for her Healer.


These women have kept watch for the One they have waited for. They knew who to look for and could recognize him when he was with them, even in the most unlikely of places.


They have taught me who it is I should look for. And because they have gone ahead of me, I know who to wait for. I recognize him when I see him, even in the most unlikely of places, like dry erase mirror quotes and genealogies we are tempted to skip over.

Written by Lindsey Bandy Blodgett

A Celebration of the Women Who Made Me

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The tattooed garden on my arm is a celebration of the women who made me—a growing collection of flowers to honor the ones who have tended my heart’s soil in its many seasons.

The Queen Anne’s lace for the woman who gave me life and reminds me daily that it is worth living. Who taught me love in its purest form. She taught me the importance of having roots, about dependence and independence, and navigating the precarious balance between them. She taught me to notice need and work to meet it. To grow wings but also to have a place to land. To appreciate a quiet evening at home. I have her smile, her natural tendency to question and wonder, her loyalty, her elbows, and her love for knick knacks, dogs, and garage sales.

The ladybug nearby for the sister who I love more than anyone in this world. She teaches me about joy, about caring for others above yourself. She teaches me that the bond between sisters is likely among the most complicated and beautiful this world has ever known. She reminds me not to take myself too seriously, that not everyone wants hugs as long as I do, and of the power of a good sense of humor.

The violet for the matriarch that raised my strong and steady father. She taught me about consistency, about patience, about showing up. She taught me the importance of giving back and giving much—of yourself, your time, your treasure. She taught me to appreciate the gift of knowing where you come from, and of spending time with your people. To follow your heart. To appreciate tradition. To trust.

The gardenia for the grandmother I never got to meet, but who’s taught me that the love of a mother, of a grandmother, can transcend the line between life and death. That a legacy is made by kind and true words coupled with kind and true actions, and that loving others to the point of exhaustion is the most beautiful way to live.

The forget-me-nots for the aunts and grandmother who have worked to keep my family sane and safe. They taught me the power of a home-cooked meal and a well-wrapped present. They teach me that faith grows and changes, and that tradition can be deep and beautiful, not just routine.

The gerbera daisy for the mentor and leader turned friend, who took a confused and emotional crew of middle-school girls and formed a tribe that still feels like home. She taught me to apologize when I am wrong, but never for who I am. She taught me that a woman who loves Jesus does not have to be a church mouse— she can be a proud and fierce warrior for the Kingdom. She gave me permission to be myself before I knew who that was.

The wild prairie rose for the girls who grew up alongside me, who taught me about family. Not the kind you’re born into, but the kind you build. The kind that knows you when you’re a chunky middle schooler and loves you anyway. The kind that knows you when you’re in the middle of your seven-year crush and loves you anyway. The kind that holds your hand when you walk away from bad relationships and toxic friendships. The kind that will always be home.

The fireweed, often the first flower to bloom after a wildfire, for the most resilient woman I know. A mother of two who has held more sorrow than life should bring for any one person. She teaches me to turn to Jesus even when life makes no sense, and to use everything life brings to bring God glory. She teaches me that no length of distance or time can lessen a friendship formed at summer camp while singing Silent Night to our campers. That hospitality, when it’s done well, is welcoming the stranger into your home and convincing them they’re family. I am better for every hour spent with her.

And all of the ink flowers yet to bloom—for the awkward middle-schooler turned grown-up friend who inspires me to chase after my dreams and Jesus always. For the coworkers who became best friends and make Wednesday afternoons safe and sacred. For the friends who made Grand Rapids home before I was sure I even wanted it to be and who have consistently joined me in dark places until I was ready to reach for light.

To the women who made me—the permanent ink on my arm and a million thank yous will never be enough compared to the gifts you have given me. You teach me about Jesus even when you don’t mean to. You show me love when I cannot find the strength to love myself. You bring me truth when I feel surrounded by lies. You have built up this soul and this heart so that I can reap the joys of this life more fully than I could have imagined without you. I love you.

Written by Caroline Sterr

The Women Who Have Made Us

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re using this space to reflect on, remember, and celebrate the women who have come before us—church leaders, role models, mothers and mother-figures, and every other superwomen who have influenced and impacted us. Who are you celebrating this month?