Uzzah’s not the only one

“And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.”

Lego depictions aside, the story of Uzzah isn’t a particularly funny one. If you just drop in on the story in 2 Samuel 6, Uzzah’s death seems pretty radically unfair. Here he is helping escort the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem, he reaches out to steady the ark when the ox pulling it trips, and — BAM! — God strikes him dead. Sure, you’re not supposed to touch holy things like the ark… But isn’t death a rather harsh punishment for trying to keep the thing from falling into the dirt?

As David so clearly pointed out in his sermon yesterday, Uzzah’s error was greater than this short passage immediately makes clear. No matter how split-second a decision it may have been, Uzzah did choose to set his hand the ark rather than let it fall to the ground. And at some fundamental level, that choice reveals that Uzzah thought he knew better than God did what the best thing for the ark would be. Pretty big error.

More significantly, that ark should never have been on that cart in the first place. As God makes abundantly clear in Exodus 25, the ark was supposed to be carried by priests using the two gold-covered poles that fit through the gold rings on each of the four corners of the ark. We don’t know for sure why the Israelites decided to transport the ark up to Jerusalem using a cart — but evidently they didn’t care much for following the rules that God had set.

So this has me thinking… While the error of touching the ark was clearly Uzzah’s own, he wasn’t the only one who’d had a hand in the whose situation. There were any number of other people involved in deciding to use the cart to transport the ark. Sure, Uzzah could have — and perhaps should have — objected… but so could — or should — have all the others. Whether they knew the instructions for how the ark was to be carried and simply ignored them, or whether they’d never been taught them in the first place, the community around Uzzah bore some responsibility for the situation which ultimately resulted in Uzzah’s death.

The implications for us are a little uncomfortable. As a church, we are a community. And while each of us bears the responsibility for and the results of our own sin, we seldom commit those sins in total isolation from our community. Whether by failing to share with others in the community the instructions that God has given us for faithful and righteous living, or by participating in creating situations or decisions that set others up for temptation or bad choices, we often bear some responsibility for each others’ errors.

I say this not to suggest that we should take on more responsibility for others’ sins than is really ours. After all, Uzzah was the one who died for his error — not the whole crowd of 30,000 merry-makers. Nor should we go indiscriminately prying into each others’ lives for the sake of uncovering some sin-in-the-making. But I do think this passage should raise some questions for us, questions about how well we do understand the ways in which our actions and our choices are bound up in others’ actions and choices, how well our lives reflect the fact that faithful, righteous living is a community matter as much as it is an individual one.

This is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for Restoration’s small groups. These little communities are places where we learn from and teach each other the truths that God has given us about the kind of disciples he wants us to be. They’re the places where we can offer support where others are weak, humble challenge where others might be in error, and heartfelt celebration where others experience the joy of God’s healing work in their lives. These little communities are some of the best examples I know of the way that our relationships with God are deeply personal but never private.

If Uzzah had been a part of that kind of community, I wonder how his story might have been different. Could a small group have saved Uzzah’s life?

– Erin

Small Groups are Filling and Starting!!

 

We all have those stretches of days that we really look forward to–  the first 4 days of March Madness, the Oscars, Opening Day of baseball season, the last day of school, July 4th…

We make plans to be with people, we prepare special food, we buy a new tv.

Well, you guessed it, my favorite days are those that occur between the opening of small group registration and the first small group gatherings.  We are in ’em!  These are the salad days, my friend.  Gravy.

It’s been 5 days since Tri2 Small Group registration opened and we’ve had over 100 registration forms turned in.  In Restoration small group lore, that’s viral.  Never have so many signed up so fast.  Way to go.

Wondering what the buzz is about?

We’ve got 23 of ’em firing up in Arlington County and beyond.  They start on Sunday, April 15.  Here’s a little tour:

‘sermon’:  Most of the groups [in fact 15 of them] will gather for an in-depth study of the Bible passage that was preached the previous Sunday.  There is a life-giving mix of getting to know other people in the church, praying for them, and wrestling with the implications of what the Bible teaches and how it affects our life.  This is the bread and butter of what our small groups do–  connecting people to each other and to the truth of the Bible.  I am sure there is one that meets close to you and at a time that works for you.  If not, let me know, we are always adding more.

We also offer small groups on more specialty topics:

Andrew and Christine Jones are facilitating The Marriage Course.  This is an opportunity to take stock of your marriage, to learn new tools for staying married, to rejoice in your marriage, to get help for your marriage.  It is applicable if you’ve been married 2 months or 20 years.

A few weeks ago, I talked about Jesus and our stuff.  Kelly and Tom Ingebritson are facilitating the Financial Peace University.  Wondering how to make a budget?  Wondering where your money goes each month?  Want to be a better steward of your resources?  Want to get out of debt?  This is the small group for you.  Absolutely critical for those who want to go deeper in their relationship with Jesus.

What if you are new to all this stuff?  What if you have questions about Jesus, the church, the Bible?  What if you have never done a small group before?  Laurel and I are hosting one in our home just for you.  We will get to know Jesus in the first chapters of Mark.  We will talk about practices that grow our relationship with God.  We will engage hard questions about Christians and Christ.  We’d love to get to know you.

Did you know that we have small groups for kids in middle school?  We call it APEX.  On Sunday nights at 6:30, they get dinner, a Bible study that is geared for them, and more creative games than I can describe.  Sean and Catherine Burke lead this crew.  It’s a great way to close Sunday–  come to the 5, leave your middle-schoolers for small group while you grab dinner–  go back and get your middle schooler [please!!].

We are even offering a small group for those who have been doing small groups for a while.  If you have been a Restoration small group regular, then check out the one lead by Wray and Elizabeth Fitch and Barb and Devin Hagarty.  They are looking at Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics and leaning deeper into their own spiritual formation.

And what if you are a woman who is hoping to be mentored or interested in mentoring?  Have you seen what’s happening on Tuesday nights?  Julianna Hutchins, Anne Cregger, Kerry Brown, and Colleen Dyble are facilitating a group that is hoping to foster these mentoring relationships.  I know this is a hope and desire for many of you.

This is Life Together.  This is the space that God often uses to catalyze growth, change, and friendship.  It is my prayer that all of us who worship together on Sundays will be together in small groups during the week.  Sign up today.  The salad days are upon us.

-David

 

From Darkness to Light

Daylight Savings Time always throws me for a loop.  I remember long ago when I was an elementary school teacher.  I was one of those teachers who got to school really early and stayed really late.  During the winter, I often drove to school in the dark and drove home in the dark.  When Daylight Savings Time would arrive, I’d find myself driving home in the light.  And, silly as it sounds, I would often miss my turn and get lost.  The same route I had driven every day for months suddenly became confusing in the light.  Eventually, I would learn, of course, but it was only after re-orienting myself that I’d get on track again.

 

I think about that a lot, especially in this season of sermons about discipleship.  I think about my patterns of living life in darkness – driving the same way out of habit.  I think about the sinful things I do – my tone of voice when speaking to others, my limited grace toward others, my “short fuse” when buttons are pushed – and how easily I do them simply out of habit.  And, then, I am reminded by the Holy Spirit, by reading the Bible and being convicted, or by the words of someone I know and love, and my sin is brought into the light.  It’s disorienting, though, when the things I ought not to do, I do and I need to learn new patterns of speech, forgiveness, and patience – new patterns that bring the One who is Light the glory He deserves.  Yet, I need not do it alone.  I can ride along with someone who has “been there, done that” and learn from them.  But, here’s the thing, too:  I have to be willing.  And, I have to reach out.  And, I have to be vulnerable.  We all do.

 

I think about how coming in to the light, we need to drive differently; we need to re-orient ourselves.  How good it is for us as Christians to have One to follow and to surround ourselves with others with whom we can “carpool.”

 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  (1 John 1:7)

Therefore encourage one another . . . (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

 

-Louise-

parking, clocks, seeing the Kingdom come with power…

DST

Here’s a little public service announcement:  Day Light Savings Time begins on Sunday.  So move those clocks forward an hour as you crawl into bed on Saturday night.  We don’t want you to miss the 9am!

And great news if you come to the 5pm…  after church snacks and refreshment are BACK!!  Woo Hoo!  A little lingering daylight, a nice pastry aperitif, sunset…  Anyhoo–  move your clock.

 

Park at Washington-Lee and get clicked

So we did 2 things this week:

  1. We shifted the shuttle hours earlier and later.  You can now catch the shuttle at 8:15am [DST] from the W-L lot and you can stay after the 11am [enjoying the snacks] until 1pm.  That’s right, we aim to meet your needs.  So, please park at W-L early and stay late.
  2. We bought a clicker.  Yep, as you jump on that shuttle and say ‘hi’ to James the driver, he will say hi with a rousing ‘click’.  We want to see how many people we can get on that shuttle every week. So say hi to your friends, enjoy the plush seats, and know that you’ve been counted…

Mark 9.1

Mark 9:1   And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not  taste death  until they see the kingdom of God after it has come  with power.”

I got several questions this week from various small groups about this tasty verse.  Boiled down, the gist of it was–  huh?  What does this mean?

As you can imagine, it is enigmatic enough that there have been many theories over the years.  The answer hinges on what you understand Jesus to mean when He says ‘see the Kingdom of God after it has come with power’.  This could be:

  • the transfiguration.  It is actually the very next event in Mark.  We’ll talk about it on Sunday.  In the transfiguration, Jesus’ glory, his divinity, the stuff that makes Him fully God gets revealed in His fully human body.  In favor of this is the fact that the ‘some standing here’ in verse 9.1 DO actually see the transfiguration in 9.3.  The weakness of this is that they see Jesus’ glory, not necessarily the entire KoG coming with power.
  • the resurrection.  This is definitely a great manifestation of the power of God over death.  And most of the people standing there in 9.1 [save Judas] get to see His resurrected body.  The weakness of this is yes, it is power, but it seems to lack the broadness of the KoG coming in power.
  • the ascension.  This occurs at the end of Luke and at the beginning of Acts.  Watching Jesus ‘lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight’ [Acts 1.9] must have been awesome, unique, an unusual display of power.  But it lacks the transformative punch of THE KINGDOM coming on earth.
  • the pentecost.  The story is found in Acts 2.  The disciples, the nascent church, is waiting in an upper room.  God shows up with wind, fire, and new language.  An empowering presence comes upon those who are gathered.  Some from every tongue, tribe, and nation hear the disciples speaking in their language.  Over the next few years the disciples are scattered to the ends of the known world and they are planting churches.  Within 300 years, the entire Roman Empire considers itself ‘Christian’.  Over the next 1700 years, no movement is more transformative of philosophy, government, or science than Christianity.  The world is changed.  The Kingdom has come, is coming, and will come in its fullness.

All 4 theories have had their adherents over the centuries.  But, [you can tell], I think Jesus is referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit.  That is the event that ushered in this age we live in of the already and the not yet–  the Kingdom we can taste and see from time to time while we seek first the Kingdom that will come in all its fullness.

Restoration, indeed.

-David

Kickin’ Off Kids’ Small Groups

You smell that?

Ahhhhh . . . It’s the scent of new pencils and new crayons and new curriculum notebooks!  Yup.  Kids’ Small Groups are starting up again.  Gone are the worship bags.  Gone are the fruit snacks.  It’s time for our kids (and adults, too!) to get reengaged with one another, building relationships, becoming known, reading God’s word, becoming more like Him.

Children’s Ministry kicks off a new season on September 11 with joy and anticipation.  We are excited to have wonderful kids’ small group leaders who are committed to our vision of growing our children closer to God by building relationships and modeling what it is to be a follower of Christ.  Much of what our leaders do downstairs is get to know our kids.  Talk to them.  Pray for them.  Teach them.  Cheer for them.  Have fun with them.  We are still in need of a few leaders. I’d love to talk with you about that to see if leading a kids’ small group is the right fit for you at Restoration.  Leave a comment below or find me at church on Sunday!

Here’s what our kids will be learning this year:
•    Nursery and preschool – God is love and because He loves us, we can show His love to others.
•    Kindergarten – 2nd Grade – As we look at the attributes of God, we will be challenged to consider our response to Him; a God who is worthy of our praise.
•    3rd-5th Grade – What is salvation by faith alone and what does it mean that we are transformed to look more like Jesus when we respond to His call to follow Him?

So, a new season also means new registration information, too.  Every child – nursery through elementary school – needs to register for this school year.  If your child is of nursery age (newborn to not yet 3), click here to register. If your child will be three by September 30, 2011, click here to register for preschool- and elementary-aged kids’ small groups .
We have the most fabulous team of leaders for the year – Ashley and Gaston Mooney, Tim and Carey Fenton, Rachel Hoppe, Nan Swift, Brent Jones, Susie Wallin, Patty Downie, Lawrie Gibson, Simon Gray, Lauren Breeden, Kelly Schumann, Kat Goetz, and maybe even YOU!  Please pray for each of them by name as they prepare to commit their time and talent to growing our children.

Despite a new season, we have the same God who is merciful, gracious, and compassionate.  His desire is for us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Mark 12:30-31) THAT is what we are teaching our children at Restoration.

Children’s Small Groups @ Restoration

Did you know that roughly 20% of our congregation is made up of kids ranging in age from nursery to 5th grade?  20%! (No wonder there is so much more room in the pews when they leave . . .)   Ever wonder what they are up to downstairs while you enjoy a bit more elbow room?

Our Children’s Small Groups meet throughout the school year in clumps of nursery (newborn to not-yet-three), preschool, Kindergarten-2nd grade, and 3rd-5th grade.  We use every inch of downstairs to share prayer requests, study the Bible, play games, and build relationships – just like the grownup small groups.  As you look around the rooms downstairs, you can catch glimpses of what they are studying:

  • The blue quilt and Cheerios scattered about the nursery floor demonstrate that even our youngest come together to worship and hear God’s Word.  The blue quilt is their cue that the Bible story is about to be read and Cheerios served, and, boy, do they come a crawlin’ and a toddlin’!
  • “Shadow play” in the preschool room reminds us that like our shadows, the Holy Spirit is with us wherever we go, even when we don’t see Him.
  • A flutter of  paper butterflies with one word written on each come together to remind us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  All those K-2nd graders tucked into that back room are learning truth about who they are in Christ!
  • The timeline in the kitchen helps you see that our 3rd-5th graders are putting together all the clues – from Genesis to Revelation – as to why Jesus died on the cross and how God’s plan for His great rescue of you and me is simply perfect.

And, then there are our leaders!  We have 25 loving, committed, creative folks leading these small groups.  They are the ones who get to know our kids, pray for them, find out what makes them tick, encourage and grow them, and come alongside parents in showing our kids what it means to be a follower of Christ.  It’s a beautiful thing to witness each week and I am so very, very proud of them!

Want to support our children, their families, and our Children’s Small Group leaders? Please pray for them.  Ask them what they are learning.  Encourage them.  It can make all the difference!

how much is enough?

I have been talking with different friends recently about goals.  What are things they are aiming for in life?  A position at work?  To see a part of the world?  To own a certain car, house, bike?  Part of this interest was inspired by this article I read in Outside Magazine.  As I looked at their 51 ideas, I realized that I would probably not ever do 49 of them.  And part of that was because even if I wanted to do them, I’m not sure it’s ok for me to pursue them.

That got me thinking…  how do I decide what’s ok? For each of us and for every decision, there is a continuum between ‘enough to satisfy a need’ and ‘too much, should be ashamed that I bought/did/pursued that’.

For example, I need to provide a house for my family.  But I know there is a break point (measured in square footage or price of accutrements or ??) that a house is too much house.  How do I determine that point?

Or, I know I need a car to get my posse of 6 around.  I’ve got no problem with a van, but what about something more luxurious?  What’s the break point (measured in price and features) of too much car?

Or, I know it is good for me to take a vacation.  I gladly head to a beach here on the East Coast, but what about something more exotic?  What’s the break point for too much vacation?

How do you decide? For most of us that question has been answered by looking at our resources.  Very simply, we don’t have a luxury car, we don’t go on a $10k vaca because we don’t have the money.  But many of us at Restoration are getting to the point where we do have the resources to do some of those things.  That Outside Life List is aimed at folks in their late 30s/early 40s who are making critical (if, unfortunately, not conscious) decisions about career, and how they will spend discretionary time, and new disposable income.  In this area of DC in particular, we have the luxury and privilege of asking this break point question–  when does enough become too much? I think the answer is very subjective and contextualized.  It is an answer of wisdom, not of morality.  It would be too easy and a mistake to say one answer is right for everyone.

It is very personal and vulnerable.  But I propose that none of us should make the decision alone or even as family units.  How many of you invite others into your ‘life list’ conversations? Would you ever sit down with your small group, some trusted friends, or an elder in the church and say: “We’re aiming for a vacation that looks like this.  We can afford it.  Do you think this is a good idea?  Does this push us beyond a break point that is good for our soul?”  What if we all were humble enough AND had the privilege of a group of people who would be ‘discernment partners’ for us?  Would you do it?

And yes, that bike is the thing that makes this post real for me.  Pretty, ain’t it?

Small Groups Started This Week

Small Groups started this week.  Have you signed up?

Here is a post from Cindy Darnell telling us why she can’t get enough of small groups.

I joined my first small group in 2001.  At that time I was “convinced” (to use David’s terminology) that God was real and that Jesus was Lord but I was fairly new to this whole Christian thing and knew virtually nothing about the Bible.  Joining a group was a leap of faith for me and I was a little scared that I would be embarrassed at my lack of knowledge but thankfully the girls in the group were gracious and I always felt comfortable.  About 5 months after joining that group I was baptized as I felt the Lord telling me it was time.

Looking back I don’t think there’s been a period of more than three months when I was not in a small group.  My small groups have been with me through ups and downs, prayed with me through health scares, relational issues, work situations, mission trips and continually encouraged me and pointed me back to Jesus.  When I bought my house they were a steady stream of workers helping with painting, cleaning, removing carpet staples, you name it.

Above all this, I love that I have come to know and love the Bible by studying it with others.  It constantly amazes me to see how God can reveal completely different things to different people in the same passage of Scripture.  He has used others to open my eyes to things I never would have noticed on my own.  Additionally, I often joke that “accountability is my love language” so knowing I need to be prepared to discuss something and contribute to a group helps me to be more motivated throughout the week to read on my own and have consistent quiet times.

So, I encourage you to take the plunge and join a small group if you haven’t already and see what God may have in store for you by studying His Word with others.  When this trimester finishes, you will likely find that you made some new friends, that you got to know the book of Philippians a little better, and that you feel a lot more connected to Restoration overall.

What’s your story? Have you jumped in to life with a few others?

small groups start the week of Sept 19

Life together at Restoration is shaped by this core value:

The Gospel is catalyzed by community.

Community is the means God uses to shape, refine, and press us into the image of Christ.  You can listen to lots of sermons and know lots of stuff but not be changed.
When we get together and wrestle with Scripture.
When we share what’s going on at work and in our home.
When we transparently ask tough questions.
When we celebrate the gifts, redemption, and mercy that others have received.
When we sin against each other and then forgive each other.

That’s when the Gospel becomes real.  That’s when our character gets refined.

Community is an agent for grace.

That’s why we invite people to get into small groups 3 times a year.  We call them trimesters.  They last for 10-12 weeks.  Every small group starts fresh and every small group is open for the 4 week registration period.  Then every small group closes so that people can get to know each other, be committed to each other, and build friendships.  Being in a Restoration small group is a short-term investment in your life-long companionship with Jesus.

They are starting again.

Registration is open.  People are looking for groups in their neighborhood or topics that scratch what God is doing in them.  The trimester runs from Sept 19 to Nov 22.

Take 9 weeks and go a bit deeper.

a safe place to grunt… if that’s what works for you

Yo. Small groups started this week. You only have 10 days left to sign up. The trimester runs until the end of June and if you miss this one, you don’t get another shot until September. And you’ll miss getting to know great leaders like Dade Dowdle. This guy rocks. Here’s his story…

Prologue:

Early in our marriage, my wife Joy and I were involved in a small group “back home” that had a big impact on our marriage and our individual walks with Jesus. I was not enthusiastic about joining a small group. I only agreed to participate because the strain of some big decisions we needed to make – a potential move to the DC area among them – had begun to show in our relationship with one another, and we were desperate for some help. I doubted whether a community to help pray us through things would make much of a difference. It did, in ways that I could not adequately express in the space available to me in this post. Suffice to say that since that time, we have moved three times (to the MD side of DC, to London, and then back to northern VA), and each time even I, the former skeptic, have prayed for God to bless us with a community of people with whom we could walk and pray through things.

The Post:

Joy and I started visiting Restoration around small-group registration time in the fall of ’09. Even though neither of us is from an Anglican, or even liturgical, background, we were pretty sure we liked Restoration, and so thought we would sign up for a small group. We decided we would stay at Restoration, and figure out the Anglican and liturgical thing. We absolutely loved our small group.
We were in Graham and Laurel Henshaw’s group. The first meeting we had some really great brownies, a good study, and a quick time for sharing and praying that set the stage for the duration of our group’s time together. In the following meetings we had more great brownies, more good studies, and times of prayer for each other that were as open and honest as we wanted them to be. We ended up feeling as invested in Restoration, and as invested in by Restoration, as promised, and developed some deep and meaningful friendships.

For this trimester, Joy and I decided to host a small group of our own. We decided to direct our study towards marriage due to (1) the benefit small groups have been to our relationship, (2) the fact that it seems every married couple we know wrestles with the same problems of balancing work and life and still investing in their marriages the way they would like to. We don’t hold ourselves out to be marriage counselors or to have any answers. Our claim is simply that for the next 10 weeks, we are going to invest some time every week to think about how we can invest in our relationships in the hope that doing so will help us to experience the fullness and richness that we believe God intends for our marriages to be. We will be using materials primarily from the Alpha Marriage Course as a guide, although we reserve the right to use it or not use it, or add other resources to it, as the group sees fit. We will not have homework, because in our experience no one ever does it anyway, and we don’t want something else to have to do. Also, we plan on having lots of good food. We would love to have you join us!

A Note for (Skeptical) Dudes:

After reading all of this from another dude, you may be thinking, “What a bunch of emotionally-driven crap. I’m not joining a group with a dude who, having started off like this, is bound to end up trying to sell me insurance or Amway products.” I know you may be thinking that, because that’s what I thought the first time I signed up for a small group. For what it’s worth, I do not sell insurance, or Amway products. Don’t let such fears keep you from joining us. This will be a safe place for guys to drink a beer and grunt if that’s what works for them.

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