Thursday, September 09, 2010

The God of the Long Haul

I took two classes in modules these past two weeks at NTS.  The morning module was Genesis and the evening module was Congregational Discipleship.

One of the assignments for Genesis was to read through it in one sitting.  That took a LONG time and it was well worth it.  Then we got to do it three times, each time we took more notes on the stories and characters.  Through this process I was reminded time and time again of the beauty, power, awesomeness and gracefulness of our God who created the universe with care and precision, gave humanity free will and when the first humans sinned in the Garden he did not leave them alone but graciously provided covering.  I was also struck by the brokenness of humanity, even those who had been chosen by God to be his people set apart.  I had forgotten that Abraham lied twice about who his wife was!  But even in the brokenness God pursued his people wherever they were.  One of the commentators called God the "mobile God" because there was no place that He could not be found (recalling the Psalmist's words "where can I go to flee from Your Spirit?" from Psalm 139).  God showed up time and time again on behalf of his people, giving direction, correction, safety, promises, interpretations and provisions.

It's always interesting to see how the content of my various classes interact with each other.  My other class was Congregational Discipleship, which focuses on how the church sees and structures itself so that it will effectively disciple all members of the congregation in the way of Jesus.  There was much in this class on spiritual development, teaching techniques and educational theory, and all of these combined pointed to one thing: EVERYTHING we do as the community of God plays a part in the formation of the people.  Everything says something about and reinforces what we believe.  Yet, because the structure of church is made up of people and relationships, there will always be an incompleteness and room for growth in God's grace.  

This is where Genesis swoops in.  God is the God of the Long-Haul.  As God bore with the people in Genesis and gave direction, correction, safety, promises, interpretations and provisions, so God bears with the church today.  Like Abraham we are called to be his people and sometimes failure happens.  Broken relationships, missed opportunities, gross misunderstandings, overlooked needs, etc...But God remains faithful.  Time and time again He proves himself and takes over where we mess up.

A friend just shared with me a story about her dad accepting Christ into his life just six weeks before he passed forward.  He had thumbed his nose at God throughout his life.  And it was largely in part because of hurt received from the church.  But in the end, God worked his way in, softening his heart so that he did open his heart to Jesus.  The God of the Long Haul.  Awesome!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Song From Chapel

One of my fav
orite parts of coming out to seminary ( is that twice a week all the students come together for chapel. And during the module sessions (which last four hours!), that means that we stop our classes and join together for worship. It's a way of saying that while we're here to grow in our understanding of God, Scripture and the Church, true education is incomplete without worship. We could certainly learn an abundance of facts and preaching methods, but these fall flat without an adoration of God, without a love of God.

Well, today we had a singing and prayer service centered on God's call for the church. The prayer time was beautiful as we offered prayers of gratitude, prayers for God's people and prayers for the persecuted church.

After the prayers we sang a song that I am unfamiliar with, but the words were so powerful to me that I thought I'd share them with the intranet world. Thanks to the Oremus Hymnal for having this.

The Church's One Foundation
Samuel John Stone, 1868

The Church's one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
she is his new creation,
by water and the word:
from heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

Elect from every nation,
yet one o'er all the earth,
her charter of salvation,
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy Name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with every grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder
men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed;
yet saints their watch are keeping,
their cry goes up, "How long?"
and soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war
she waits the consummation
of peace for evermore;
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blessed,
and the great Church victorious
shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
with God, the Three in one,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with thee.