Embrace (Pt 2)


I'm naturally introverted. Let's say an outgoing introvert - and deep down I prefer time spent by myself over time spent with people. I guess it's just easier that way for me. I don't have to answer to anyone and I can pretend that I don't need anyone either. That's also the beauty of being able to use our imaginations. We can pretend that no one else matters and we can do it all by ourselves.

It's just that it's not true. I will always need other people in my life. We all need community. Even as I've pretended that I was good on my own, the opposite has always been proven true. We are never as good apart as we are together as a community, it's how we survive through the rollercoasters of life.

Just like most of us, I watched the coverage of the aftermath of the violent deaths of seventeen students and teachers in Parkland, Florida. Though it seemed to be an unnecessary tragedy, I was struck by the instant unification of the community. The region rallied around each other, with some natives flying in from all over the country just to be there with family and friends.  Sadly this isn't the first time I've witnessed this, but what is always truly mesmerizing for me is how instantaneous it is for people to embrace each other. I was struck by how easy, almost second nature, it can be to bring good to a community. We just shouldn't wait for tragedy to strike to urge us to move toward each other. This is not always an easy task, but it should be in our nature. Simply being there for someone else and having someone be there when we need it is what makes us who we are.

At City Chapel, that's what I'm hoping for, that's what I'm dreaming about. While I pray we never experience the type of tragedies that can crush our spirits, I have that hope and expectation that we will build ourselves around our communities. I hope we truly embrace Grand Rapids and show the city that we are not just in the city but deeply for the city. The church simply is not a building. This church is all of us, as a community surrounding our community.  Jesus doesn't just go in on Sunday morning and set up coffee and leave after the last bagel is eaten. He doesn't disappear until the following Sunday and hide while we work and do life during the week. Jesus is in the details of our everyday activity. The success of this church won't be in the size of the congregation or the amount of money in the offering plate. I love the term, "bring heaven to earth", because I feel that is mostly what Jesus wants us to do here.

Hopefully we never experience the catastrophic incidents like we see on the news almost daily. However, the reality is that those around us may be experiencing their own versions of hell every day and could use a little dose of heaven from each one of us. When we can provide that to those who need it, when we can come together to provide a glimpse of who Jesus wants us to be, then we are being a church for the city. In our own ways, with our individual gifts and talents, we can truly embrace this city. 


read more by James here: 
- James Gilmore

Embrace (Pt 1)

Three weeks ago, another horrific school shooting took place in Parkland, Florida, at  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Fourteen kids and three adults were killed in this shooting.  Many others were physically wounded.  All are hurting mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  This is our take at putting down some of our thoughts in the wake of yet another mass shooting in the United States.  This will be a multi-post blog, so sit tight.  But, with this first post, we start with some scripture to help you know where we’re coming from.

The apostle Paul on revenge and responding to your enemy:
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
(Romans 12:14-21)

James, the brother of Jesus, on “thoughts and prayers” without action:
“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.  What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save them?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, it it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:13-17)

Jesus, the one Christians call Lord and Saviour, on responding to violence, persecution, and seeking vengeance:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let them have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.”  
(Matthew 5:38-45a)
And again:  
“Put your sword back in its place.  For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”  
(Matthew 26:52 and similarly in John 18:11)
And again, this time about money:
“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
(Luke 16:13 & Matthew 6:24)

The prophets Micah and Isaiah, on what God’s kingdom looks like:
“‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.’
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
 He will judge between many peoples
    and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.”
(Micah 4:2-3 & Isaiah 2:3-4)

(Other passages for further reading that shed light on this:  1 Peter 2, Micah 6:8, Romans 2:6-8, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, Philippians 2, Matthew 5-7)