Pictured above: Last weekend, I joyfully participated in the preaching at the consecration of Brian Wallace, the new suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO). These men have been my friends for over 30 years– since I was on staff with InterVarsity in Texas. We have been meeting twice a year for prayer and accountability since 2007. I am grateful for deep streams of friendship and being known.
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
Psalm 32:1-2 (NLT)
This was our psalm this morning. It articulates one of our great, Gospel comforts: what we have done and left undone is not the end of the story. God’s mercies are new every morning and through His Son we receive grace upon grace. I love starting my day in the Scriptures and being reminded of God’s invitation to live in His Story, which is Good News indeed.
This psalm is also referenced by the apostle Paul in Romans 4:7-8, which many of you studied in small group this week. Paul is making his case for how righteousness is a gift of faith and not a result of something we have done. He references the Abraham story that we studied this summer- Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. He references King David’s experience: “David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it.” (Romans 4:6)
Grace is so different from what we expect.
Grace is so different from how the world works.
No matter how long we have been following Jesus, one of the hardest struggles we endure is believing that God loves me no matter what, that I am forgiven because of what Jesus did and not what I did, and that righteousness is a gift that I learn to wear. We are given righteousness like a jacket and then we spend a lifetime learning how to make it fit.
It is extraordinary news to share.
Hopefully, you found the front page of our website and registered for a small group. Rev. Beth Tipps, who directs our adult small groups, shared with me that over 340 people have signed up to be in a small group this fall. That is astounding! AND… we still have a bunch (like over 50) spots that are open. So if you have not chosen a small group yet, please do! Registration will close this Sunday, the 17th. The next time you can get in a small group will be January 2024.
As many of you heard, I had some air travel trouble last Saturday. I was trying to get home from the consecration of Brian Wallace in Atlanta. Just as I was about to board my flight, it (and a bunch of other flights) got canceled. I made it to Arlington about half way through the 9am on Sunday! Nathan graciously agreed to preach in my place and we decided to hold off on Romans 4 until this Sunday.
I will give a brief overview of Romans 4 this Sunday and lead us into baptisms by focusing on Paul’s statement that ‘the promise is received by faith’ and that ‘in hope, Abraham believed against hope…’ We worship a mighty God, who is always at work, and who has made a place for us in His story of redemption hope. I hope you can join us on Sunday.
An update on RestoWest and Rev. Nathan Dickerson
For almost a year, Restoration has been exploring the possibility of planting a second campus that would become a new church about 5 miles west of Quincy Street. Nathan Dickerson has been leading this effort and building a community on Sunday evenings.
Nathan has also been doing some deep work of discernment about if this opportunity is the right fit for him. When I returned from sabbatical, Nathan shared with me that he did not feel called to lead our RestoWest initiative.
This is what he wrote to his servant team and the community that was gathering to launch RestoWest:
Over the last few months, I have been doing a lot of soul searching and undergoing a significant season of discernment with different friends and advisors (i.e. meeting with a spiritual director, a leadership coach, and our canon for church planting). I have also been meeting regularly with a personal prayer team.
Through these various conversations and times of prayer, I have come to discern that I am NOT being called to serve as a church planter, or to lead the effort to launch a new campus of Restoration, that we have been calling “Restoration West”.
What I have learned about myself over this summer is that the work of church planting is distinctly different than the work of pastoring people. It requires a certain amount of entrepreneurial initiative and a high degree of comfortability with ambiguity that is neither a good fit for my own personality, nor my strengths in ministry. I have felt continually like I am trying to pound a square peg in a round hole. My advisors and close friends have confirmed this sense in me.
I am grateful for the Lord’s clarity to Nathan. He and I have had several fruitful conversations about his process and how he arrived at this conclusion.
This news also creates a number of questions for Restoration, our staff, and our vestry. Our vestry will meet in a couple weeks to talk about the options that our church might pursue. Would you pray for us? We will give more information in October, after the vestry and staff have had time to listen to the Lord and each other.
Some of you might be wondering what this means for Nathan’s future. Again, let me share what he wrote:
I am still going to be working at Restoration. After talking with David Hanke, we have agreed that my role on the staff team will now include leadership of ministries such as RestoMen, Marriage Ministry, and Connections. I also want to clarify that right now, I am not sensing that God is leading me anywhere else.
I am grateful to Jesus that He is in charge of the universe and not me. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) God is not surprised and God is at work. We can trust Him and we do. I look with great anticipation to the ways He will guide us, in the plans He has for us, in the weeks to come.
I am looking forward to worshiping with you on Sunday!