Chapel Reflections: A Grateful Response

As we’re getting back into the swing of things at North Park, the word “shift” seems more and more applicable. We’re shifting from summer to a whole new school year., shifting from home to campus, shifting from vacation to a long list of assignments. Our testimonies and stories can also contain radical shifts, filled with phrases like “I once was _______ but now am ________.” Whether our stories are radical or seemingly ordinary, I believe something unique happens when we encounter Jesus. We become a before-and-after people; a people of cause and effect, a people who have lives filled with therefores.

 

As followers of Jesus Christ, therefore is a word that should take root in our hearts. We realize that Christ already sees the very sin we are trying to hide; therefore we are able to take a look at it with Him and turn toward a new life. We are covered by His amazing grace; therefore we begin to live our lives as a grateful response. 

 

As we heard in chapel today, therefores and transformations should never be forced or coerced, nor do therefores  stem from encountering doctrine or church people.  Complete transformation only comes when we encounter Jesus and are compelled to shift our lives so that we are living in a way that glorifies Him.

 

Therefores  are also not overnight sensations and you will never be done shifting and growing and changing. Therefores will keep coming as long as you hang out with Jesus because you will continue to find new ways to respond to His love and grace. Are you ready to live out your Therefores? Are you ready to live your life as a grateful response? Are you ready to ask Him, “Therefore, what am I there for?”

 

-Reflection written by Haley Scheaff

Take This Bread

cross almost all cultures, sharing a meal is a method used to establish or declare a relationship. It wasn’t much different during Jesus’s life on earth. Breaking bread together was an act of hospitality, an invitation to community, or a declaration of unity. Breaking bread implied relationship or the desire to establish one.

This is why if you read through the Gospels and simply read all the passages about food you can get a pretty good idea about whom Jesus wanted to establish relationships with; the religious people and those never thought to enter church, men and women, rich and the poor, the educated and those who were day laborers (fishermen). In fact, Jesus seems to want to establish a relationship with everyone.

Remember the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1–15)? A great crowd of people had followed Jesus to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and seeing that they had followed him he decides to feed them. Because, you see, Jesus doesn’t want people who just follow his teaching, he wanted people to be in real relationship with him and he knew there was always a better chance that would happen over food.

But just a few verses later, Jesus says that breaking bread is going to be even more intimate when we come to the table with him. “I am the bread of life,” and whoever consumes me—whoever takes me into their life as their very food and the sustaining element of their life—will never be hungry and will live forever (John 6:25-59). Now Jesus was not inviting his people to become cannibals when he proclaimed his body to be the bread of life to be consumed by his people, but he was inviting them to an intimacy far greater than anything they have ever known.

I want you to need me like food and I want to give myself to you like bread.

As we continue to follow after Jesus Christ I want to encourage us not just to be consumed by following the things Jesus did, but to consume him. This may seem crazy to consume Christ, but you and I know how to do this, for we are consumers of many things. We take in countless other things and consider them a sustaining part of our lives. In fact, this is what the world calls us, we are “consumers.” And Jesus says, “You don’t have to quit being a consumer, just feed on me instead of the things of feeding on the things of this world.”

I want you to need me like food and I want to give myself to you like bread.

Jesus wants us to consume him and not just be consumed by the work that he has called us towards. And so my prayer as we finish up this year is that we would not just learn to break bread with Jesus sitting in close proximity, but that we would all learn to take Jesus's very presence into our very lives. For Jesus is not just inviting us to work for him but is inviting us into an intimacy far greater than anything we have ever known.

May we as a community need him like food and may we find that Jesus so generously gives himself to us like bread.

-Pastor Judy

Grace and Apostleship

He is Risen!

Many years ago I set out to memorize the book of Romans. I was a new follower of Christ at the time and not knowing where to begin I chose the book that had been most often quoted to me as others had sought to bring me into a relationship with Jesus. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” “And the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life inChrist Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).” “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).”

Indeed the passages were convincing. I was not unaware that I had fallen short of anything god-like and it was good news to know that God loved me enough, even in my mess, to lay down his life so that I could be saved from mine. And so I confessed and declared and called it finished. But, when I began to memorize the book of Romans I realized that I was far from finished and that there was far more to the story. I was not just saved from something, I was saved for something.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly lifewas a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.(Romans 1:1-5)

Grace and apostleship. Grace is the unmerited favor that God gives to people. Without exception, we all love to receive God’s grace—it is truly amazing. But the passage says we have not only received grace but also apostleship, which means we have been sent out with a message to proclaim. According to the Apostle Paul, at the same time God’s grace was received, a commissioning to share this good news to all the Gentiles was also given. And, I wonder why, with few exceptions, we don’t receive this gift from God?

Those of us who have received God’s grace are commissioned to be messengers of the good news that we follow a Savior who put on flesh to come and walk with his people. Our Savior was a descendent of David, a God who lived in skin and therefore understands the trouble of our days and that is news worth sharing (Heb. 2:14-18). But unlike us, he was not trapped by sin nor defeated by death but triumphed over both of them so that all people could be set free. It is such good news to share.

We follow a God who loves people and a God who liberates those he loves. This is the message that you and I are meant to proclaim to the whole world. Yes, God gave us grace and that is good news. But it is even better news when we consider that we do not have an exclusive claim on the grace of God, but that God intends to extend this grace to the ends of the earth and he intends to do this by sending us out as his apostles.

As we continue in this Easter season, celebrating the good news of a good God who conquers sin, death, and the devil, I pray that God will use us at North Park University, as together we seek to proclaim the good news that the grace of God and the salvation that comes along with it, is not just for us but for the liberation of all people.

-Pastor Judy

Re-member

We are in the middle of Holy Week and the re-membering of Jesus’s final journey toward Jerusalem, into the upper room, through Gethsemane, up to Calvary, into the tomb and up from the dead. We place this story back into our membership every year because its movements hold the core of our faith and explain the core of our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. And so we pause to incorporate the story once again. 

Know who God says you are. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey his followers shouted, “Hosanna in the highest!” And often we find ourselves uttering this same prayer, “Jesus, save us in the highest way possible.” But not everyone in the crowd was comfortable with the idea that Jesus was the one who could save them and some tried to silence the disciples. But Jesus replied, “If they keep quiet the stones will cry out (Luke 19:28-40).” And we’re reminded through Jesus’ words that stones were legal witness in his culture and that even if the crowds failed to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ, there will still be truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Jesus is the Savior of the world even if no one testifies. And we are reminded that the identities God gives to his children are true with or without the affirmation of the crowds

Let God wash away what you are not. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus joins his closest friends for a final meal in an upper room. Away from the busy streets and the hectic pace of life, Jesus takes a loaf of bread and raises a cup of wine and says, “This is my life broken and poured out for you (Matthew 26:17-30).” He then removes his outer garment and kneels before his followers and taking the dirtiest part of their lives into his hands, he tenderly washes them clean (Matthew 26:17-30, John 13:1-17). We are a people who are loved by a Savior who shows “the full extent of his love” by serving those who often feel undeserving. And we are reminded that even Jesus’ disciples have dirt. We are reminded that there isn’t one among us that doesn’t need washing and there isn’t one among us that Jesus won’t lovingly wash.

Surrender your will and let your body follow. After the meal Jesus goes to the olive grove called Gethsemane where Jesus faces a crushing decision (Mark 14:32-42). Will he let God use him, even if it means suffering and death? Will he truly lay down his life, not only for his friends, but also for his enemies and for those who have and will betray him? And we see so clearly that it is in the garden where our confident proclamations of faith must wrestle with the realities of our flesh. Will our bold words of laying down our lives become actual lives laid down? It is in the garden that we are reminded that the words “Thy will be done” are practical and not philosophical.

Know that there is no-one righteous, not even one. Betrayed by one of the disciples, whose feet he has just washed, Jesus is then tried, tortured and condemned to die. Bearing the weight of the cross all the way up to Calvary, the man who was hailed as king as he rode into Jerusalem is now crucified with two criminals (Luke 23:32-43). As he hangs there dying he turns first to those who live by the letter of the law and says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. With such grace Jesus re-members the religious who have failed to extend grace to him. And then Jesus’s heart turns to one of the criminals who hangs beside him dying. The criminal has nothing to offer to Jesus, nothing but a simple recognition that Jesus is the Christ, the One who the holds the power to save him in the highest way possible.  With such grace Jesus now re-members the one who has broken the law saying, “today you will be with me in paradise.” And we are reminded that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, so that the law-keepers and the law-breakers would both find their righteousness in him (Romans 3:10).

Let God’s hands hold you. Before Jesus breathed his last, Jesus uttered these final words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:44-49) These are the words of the Psalms, the songs that have sustained God’s people through their most difficult times, and as Jesus is dying he sings them over himself. “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.” And then the last stanza of the psalm, sung with the last breath of life, Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God (Psalm 31:1-5).” These are the songs we sing as we come into Holy Saturday, the day between death and resurrection. As we too wait for the fulfillment of what God has promised to his people, as we lay in tombs or sit outside of them, we are reminded that God’s hands can hold the weight of our waiting spirits.  

Re-member the resurrection. Early in the morning the women who had been closest to Jesus, come to the tomb expecting to tend to the difficult tasks of death. They find the gravestone rolled away find no body in the tomb. As they wonder about what had happened, messengers from God appear and they are reminded about the promise of the resurrection (Luke 24:1-12). For some people in the world, for some people among us, Holy Saturday has lasted a lot longer than one day and the waiting can cause us to wonder what has happened, it can cause us to wonder just exactly where Jesus might be. And my prayer for all of us this Easter Sunday is that we too would be reminded about the promise of the resurrection. And my commission for all of you is to become one of those messengers from God that reminds those who are waiting, that there will be a day when everything will be made new (Revelation 21:1-5).

-Pastor Judy