Finding Hope in the midst of Despair

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November 26, 2017 – Nathan Dickerson

Jeremiah 52.1-11, 31-34 : Psalm 95.1-7a : Matthew 22.1-14

Listen to the songs here.

Sunday Music – November 26, 2017

Playlist:

Songs of Praise:

Before the Throne of God Above (slight swing)
King of My Heart (slight swing)
Eternal Weight of Glory

Response:

Jesus I Come

Offertory:

Hermoso Nombre

Sanctus:

Holy Holy Holy Lord (use C to D)

Eucharist:

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
You are my King
Crown Him With Many Crowns

Jeremiah

Fences

This past Sunday, I got the opportunity to preach my last sermon in our fall series out of the book of Jeremiah.  Nathan will finish things up on Sunday as we transition into thinking about Advent and the coming of our Rescuer.

At each service, as I approached the end of my message, I got pretty choked up as I realized where Jeremiah ended his years of faithful service.

He was taken by a disobedient remnant of people to Egypt.  Jeremiah didn’t want to go.  God didn’t want them to go.  But, as they had done over and over, they didn’t listen to God’s instruction or God’s words of hope.  The remnant did what they thought would make them feel secure and comfortable.  Entering into the rigor and protection of Egypt seemed so much better than staying in the rubble and chaos of devastated Jerusalem.

Even though God had promised:

If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up…

Jeremiah 42.10

From our human vantage, Jeremiah was the ‘least successful prophet of all time’.  He pleaded with his people, his friends and neighbors, to change their mind and to amend their life.

They didn’t.

The worst happened.

God’s words through Jeremiah didn’t change the trajectory of His people.  It’s hard to see.  It’s harder to read.

Yet, he was able to say…

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Compare that to a prophet like Jonah–  probably ‘the most wildly successful prophet of all time.’  He gets sent to a foreign land, to Nineveh.  He is not happy to go.  He is not happy when he gets there.  He preaches the worst sermon ever.  Over a hundred thousand people change their mind and repent.  He is not happy about that.  And the book ends with him in a funk– grumpy and ticked.  Not happy.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.  And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah 4.1-3

Jeremiah, in his ‘failure’ seems to have gotten something about God that Jonah did not get in his ‘success’.  That realization makes me sober and careful and inspires my prayers for humility.

So why I was so emotional as we came to the end of this series?  Here are some thoughts:

  1. I have loved the hard work that our congregation has done on this book.  Generally, it is an unfamiliar story, really long, and sometimes hard to understand.  Many of you took on the task of reading through the whole book and then studying it faithfully in small groups for 11 weeks.  I am proud of you.  May the Lord increase your love for the Scriptures as you seek Him in new places of the Bible.
  2. I have loved the relevance of this book for the temptations that afflict us all.  We know the problems of idolatry, religious pretense, and superficial experience.  We see the shortcomings and limitations of the society in which we live.  We resist the triumphalism of ‘it will all just get better’ and we resist the despair that might lead us to cocoon ourselves from the wider world.

    No.  Instead, let us lament what is broken and busted.  Let us acknowledge what is not easy to fix and seems slow in coming.  Let us wait in sincere hope for God’s timing and the sure future arrival of the One who will make all things right.  Jeremiah has given us words and images (that linen loincloth!) for what ‘living by faith’ means.

  3. Most personally, we live in a cultural moment that is increasingly dismissive of Jesus and His people–  thinking they have no relevance for the longings and despair that is all around us.  Jeremiah faithfully said what is true–  the very words of God–  yet there was no change.  It is my hope and expectation that myself and our church will be faithful day in and day out to say what is true.  And it is my sincere desire that many people will be transformed, changed, and find the courage to amend their life.

    Maybe.  And maybe not.

    It is a great honor to invite people to stay home and to not run to Egypt.  It might be my highest privilege as a pastor–  to be in the midst of junk and crud and wrong thinking and to get to shine a light and spray a hose and beg people to stay home.  It is a privilege to say over and over, Egypt will disappoint you.  It always has and it will again.  I am grateful for the chance to say it many times in many different ways each week.  I am grateful for all of you who join me in the task of saying the same.  You are good partners in this project of renewal and amendment of life.

But that doesn’t make it easy.  And it definitely carries a truckload of emotion as you watch people make spiritual decisions that affect them and everyone around them.  I am grateful that we are in it together.  This is a beautiful church and we serve a gracious and beautiful God.

Happy Thanksgiving.

-David

You have been our dwelling place

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November 19, 2017 – David Hanke

Jeremiah 42.7-17 : Psalm 90.1-12 : Matthew 25.1-13

Listen to the songs here.

RILA: snapshot of a clinic

AsylumPrimer

As we approach the end of 2017, Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (RILA) looks back with thanksgiving for Restoration’s support: 

  • You helped us achieve a matching grant of $25,000 from the Matthew 25 Initiative. 
  • You turned out in large numbers (and brought friends and coworkers) to staff monthly legal aid clinics. 
  • You provided meals and hospitality for clients and their families. 
  • You prayed and opened your heart to care for those fleeing violence and abuse in their home country. 

We continue to be amazed and surprised by a good and limitless God whose mercies never end and who calls us forth to love our neighbors.  Know that your support has enabled RILA’s more than 75 volunteers to be the hands and feet of Christ to 74 clients since RILA’s start in March 2016.  We hope the following “Snapshot of a Clinic” will bring you closer to the work that you have helped make possible.

Snapshot of a Clinic

Restoration Anglican Church, 5:30 pm:  At a time when church staff are departing and others throughout the DC area are making their way home from work, the first floor on 1815 Quincy Street in Arlington, VA begins to come to life, first with volunteers, then with clients of Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (RILA).

The Volunteers:  tables, chairs, legal expertise, food, prayer 

Two Restoration moms and their combined seven children set up tables and chairs in the fellowship hall, where a meal for clients and volunteers will be served.  More tables and chairs are carried to six colorful Sunday school rooms, where clients will meet with their volunteer legal team.  In a quieter space, RILA’s director of legal services performs a final review of the evening’s cases in which he is involved.  Two DOJ-accredited representatives join him to prepare.  Ten clients will be served this night.

Donated food begins to roll in, as do more volunteers and clients, bringing children and other family members along.  Toys and books (donated – and free for the taking) are laid out, as are welcoming placemats crafted by Restoration children.

New volunteers are welcomed, including two private attorneys, one of whom providentially learned about RILA through a first-time visitor to Restoration who happened to hear about RILA from the pulpit.  This lawyer with expertise in immigration, in turn, brings another lawyer, to assist.

In total, 26 volunteers arrive that evening, bringing an array of talents and passions.  In unity of purpose and with dependence on God, volunteers form a circle in the fellowship hall and, along with clients, pray.  Volunteers disperse to their assigned areas:  lead interviewer, interpreter, note taker, hospitality/child care, photocopier.

The Clients

Most clients are fleeing fearful situations in their home country and are seeking asylum in the US.  They have few resources with which to hire a private attorney and face uncertainty about their family’s welfare in this new country.

One client, as a soccer coach, worked to keep young people in his home country from joining gangs.  He then became a target of gangs and had his and his child’s life threatened.

Another client was a reporter for a community radio station that advocates for human rights and non-violence.  She used the platform to persuade youth not to join the infamous MS-13 gang.  She, in turn, was targeted with violence and fled with her 13-year-old son, leaving her four-year-old behind in the care of others.

Yet another client is in need of health care for a chronically ill child, as well as food support.  A RILA volunteer who is a nurse practitioner provides her with a clinic referral near her home.

The hallways and rooms of Restoration’s first floor stir with activity, as clients come and go, volunteers confer with one another, photocopiers run nonstop, and clients’ children play and laugh with children and adults from Restoration.

Restoration Anglican Church, 9:30 pm:  Furniture is put away; bulging client files have grown even thicker; a meal, prayers, and trustworthy legal advice have been shared.  Clients have departed with the assurance of RILA’s commitment to pursue cases to their conclusion and an understanding that God’s people care and, by extension, God does, too.

Sunday Music – November 19, 2017

Playlist:

Songs of Praise:

Come Thou Almighty King with Chorus
We Need You
Good to Me

Response:

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Offertory:

O Tu Fidelidad (words) Great is Thy Faithfulness (chords)

Sanctus:

Holy Holy Holy Lord (use C to D)

Eucharist:

Come and Move
One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)

Timeless Truth in an Instant Age

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November 12, 2017 – Jesse Blaine

Summary of Jeremiah 36.1-26 : Psalm 19.1-8 : Matthew 13.31-33

Listen to the songs here.

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