This Saturday – Convoy of Hope

Haiyan-borders-B

Even though the situation in the Philippines has begun to fade from the headlines, the needs of folks on the ground are still very much a reality.  This weekend Restoration has an opportunity to serve in this area.  We’re going to be teaming up with Cherrydale Baptist and an organization called Convoy of Hope to package meals that will be sent to the Philippines.  We’ll all get into an assembly line and find the fastest way to package as many meals as we can – with the goal of 60,000 meals.

It’s a lot of fun: it’s fast paced, the room is full of good people, and you even get to wear a hairnet.  Several months ago a bunch of us participated in a similar event and we had a great time.   By the middle of our time there, I didn’t think we’d make our goal of 50,000 meals.  But by the end, we had actually packed 60,000.  So, I know it can be done!

To meet this goal, we need as many of us as can make it.  And, while it might not seem like the typical contemplative Advent activity, I think it will be a great way for us to reflect on the needs of this broken world that we talked about in our last sermon series and the ways God is using his Kingdom to bring restoration.

Here are the details:

Where: Cherrydale Baptist Church, 3919 Lorcom Lane, Arlington

When: December 14th, 9am-12pm

What to bring: Any drinks and snacks you might need to keep you moving!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions: clay@restorationarlington.org.  Hope to see you there!

Clay

Welcoming the Stranger Followup

 

Entertaining Angels Unawares by David Avisar

Over the last couple of weeks, we invited anyone who was interested to come to two open events hosted by the Welcoming the Stranger small group. Both events were a great combination of being challenging and a lot of fun.

On October 30th, Dawnielle Miller shared how she and others founded Casa Chirilagua. It was so helpful to hear her perspective on the practical ways that she responded to God’s call to welcome the stranger and the ways that God has led and provided for them over the last several years. If you feel led to reach out to internationals but aren’t sure where to begin, the folks at Casa Chirilagua have done a lot of hard work to provide venues and opportunities to do so. Check out what’s going on at www.casachirilagua.

On November 6th, James and Faith Cha, of the Crescent Project, came to tell their story of being welcomed to the U.S. as kids, particularly the simple yet life-changing ways that members of local churches reached out to them. They also shared the ways they’ve found of sharing the Gospel with the people they come into contact with, especially people from different cultural backgrounds. Two things stood out to me:

1) One way they challenged us was to be more spontaneous. We can miss opportunities to love the people around us (in all sorts of ways, not just limited to evangelism!) because we’re so intent on getting to the next thing on our list. Having even just a little flexibility in our schedules can go a long way towards being open to respond to the people that God brings across our path.

2) A second challenge that I found convicting was to simply be bold. It’s just not that big of a deal to tell someone you’re a Christian. It’s not that big of a deal to invite someone to church. It’s not even that big of a deal to offer to pray for someone on the spot who isn’t a Christian. It is remarkable how much more open people are to us expressing our Christianity than we might expect, especially those who come from highly religious cultures.

Thanks to those of you who were able to join us. Our small group will be spending the next couple of weeks thinking and praying about how to build on the conversations we’ve been having this trimester, and particularly what the next trimester will look like. If you’re interested in being part of this aspect of our church’s life, we’d love to have you.   Feel free to contact me at clay@restorationarlington.org.

Clay

Everything is Broken

Peasant Burning Weeds by Vincent Van Gogh

November 10, 2013 – Clay Morrison

John 3:1-3 / Psalm 130 / Genesis 3:12-24

Welcoming the Stranger – You’re invited!

This trimester, one of the small groups at Restoration is trying something new.  Our small group is called Welcoming the Stranger, and we’re focusing on making connections with immigrants – those we already know and some we have yet to come into contact with.

Welcome the Stranger Pic

One of the themes that we’ve been discussing is God’s passionate concern for those who are far from home (Deut. 10:18-19; Jer. 7:5-7; Ps. 68:6).  It’s a beautiful thing to discover that the God of the universe truly cares about people who are potentially lonely, marginalized, stigmatized, or at an economic disadvantage.  In fact, he actually gets pretty upset when his people are apathetic about these situations (Matt. 25:43).

A second theme we’ve been discussing is the way God’s passion is expressed – in the form of a relatively simple call to us to extend a welcome to the stranger (Matt. 25:35; Hebrews 13:2).  When we were far from God, he welcomed us into his family, and welcoming the stranger is one way that we can extend that same type of love to others.  Our small group has been thinking and praying about what this might look like in our lives.

Each of us has thought of simple but creative ways to put this into practice: signing up for ESOL and conversation partner programs; allowing time in our schedules to stop and have conversations with people that we come into contact with at stores or at work; or becoming a presence in places where immigrant communities tend to spend their time, such as parks and coffee shops.  These open up possibilities for meaningful conversations throughout the day and even opportunities for the kind of deeper relationship where you might welcome someone into your home for a meal.

Our discussions have been informative about the different facets of immigration and the demographics of Arlington and the DC area.  They’ve also been convicting at a heart level as we’ve wrestled with making lifestyle changes for God’s kingdom.  But most of all, we’ve gotten a deeper sense of excitement for the possibility that the church could be known as a welcoming place for immigrants who move to our neighborhoods.

We’d love to share this vision with the church, and we have two events coming up that might be of interest to you. 

  • On October 30th, at 7:30pm, Dawnielle Miller (who is well-known to many of us!) is going to share about how Casa Chirilagua has worked to build relationships with, provide resources for, and share Christ with immigrants from Latin America. 
  • On November 6th, James and Faith Cha, who work with the Crescent Project, will be sharing their story of how churches welcomed them as immigrants to the U.S.  They have, in turn, responded to God’s call to welcome the stranger here and found very creative, practical ways of doing so.

We’d love it if you joined us for these events.  We’re excited about what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives, and it would be great if you joined the conversation.  If you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact me at clay@restorationarlington.org.

-Clay

Bridging the Youth Gap

Youth Outreach Pic
There is a lot of great stuff going on with the youth ministry at Restoration. Working with APEX (our middle and high school ministry) is the main part of my job, and it is such a gift to be involved. We have some awesome kids with great personalities and a team of really talented, dedicated leaders that disciple our youth.

You may have heard it said that the church is called to a two-fold mission: to disciple members within the church and to impact the broader community. As Christians, we invest heavily in strengthening the faith of our church family, but we also care deeply about what happens in our neighborhoods and cities and want to see them thrive. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking and praying about what this second aspect of our mission might look like, specifically regarding Restoration’s youth ministry. I’m thrilled with the discipleship that’s going on within our church, and I think the time is right to start dreaming about ways to impact the youth of our broader community.

I’d love to see Restoration be a resource to the middle and high school students in our area, both for the individual students and the schools as a whole. There are any number of ways that we can approach this: from volunteering with sports teams, to tutoring, to mentoring kids.

A team is coming together to think about the best ways to reach the youth in our community.  We’ll start with brainstorming and won’t waste any time in implementing our ideas.  Our first meeting will be this Thursday, 10/24, from 7:30-9pm at my house in Arlington.

Is this something you feel called to? It will involve a combination of loving teenagers and a lot of creativity and thinking outside the box. If you ask me, that sounds like a pretty cool combination. If this sounds appealing, we need people like you to be part of this team!

There are many reasons God has called us to build a church in North Arlington. One of those reasons is to have an impact on the teenagers around us. I’d love it if you joined me in that effort. You can reach me at clay@restorationarlington.org if you’re interested or have any questions.

-Clay

Realism and Hope

This past Monday, on July 15th, adherents of Judaism marked Tisha B’Av, which is the day to remember the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem in c. 586 B.C. and 70 A.D., respectively. One tradition on this day is to read and meditate on the book of Lamentations. This caught my attention, and I decided to read through the whole book aloud (it’s not that impressive – it’s only a few chapters!), which was a moving experience.

One thing that I found refreshing is the realism of Lamentations. The Bible never asks us to buy into a religion that papers over the problems of this world. Instead, it calls us to respond to them at a deeply emotional level, and in the case of Lamentations, the emotional response is grief. The writer (most likely Jeremiah) grieves over unspeakable atrocities in the world over which he has no control, and he grieves over the sins of his own people.  But, at the same time, this realism is mixed with an irrepressible sense of hope. Hope for forgiveness. Hope for justice. Hope for a brighter day. And all of this hope is rooted in the character of a God who is merciful, just and good.

Realism, mixed with hope. This is the message of all of Scripture. This is the message of the Gospel, that there are very real problems in the world and in our hearts, but that there is a good God who understands those problems and who promises to make all things new.

I want to invite you to continue to embrace a lifestyle of realism and hope: 

There are cases in which hope has at least begun to be realized. Every week at church we grieve over our sin through confession, but we embrace the hope that every one of our sins was taken away at the cross. And, while Christians should certainly grieve the destruction of the two temples, we believe that God’s dwelling place on earth has now reached a fuller realization in the coming of Christ and through the filling of the Church with God’s own Spirit.

But there are other cases in which hope has yet to be realized. Young men like Trayvon Martin are still gunned down because of fear and misunderstanding. Dozens of helpless kids are poisoned in Dharmasati Gandawa, India because of negligence. Maybe there’s dysfunctionality and brokenness in your home that drags on and on. Maybe you’re gripped by a particular sin and you just can’t seem to gain victory over it.

Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about the gravity of sin and suffering. Don’t be afraid to grieve. But in the midst of your grief, try stepping into that irrepressible hope that Lamentations offers us, and pray this prayer:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
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.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
(Lam. 3:21-25)

Acknowledging our King

A recent theme at Restoration has been the topic of sharing Christ with others. A few of our sermon texts in Luke have pointed us in this direction, not least Erin’s sermon on Sunday. We’ve been talking about it in APEX, our youth group. And several of us just returned from the Asia Minor trip, which was thought provoking, to say the least. Of course, whenever we bring up this topic, questions arise: how am I supposed to pull this off in the midst of everything else I’m doing? Not only do I not have a lot of extra time, but sharing my faith could jeopardize my career and relationships. Does this even apply to me? What if I don’t feel called to share my faith?

To address this question, I want to return to a reference I made in a sermon a few weeks back. Some of us may have grown up with the idea that kingdom work only involves getting people saved, so if you’re not clergy, the only chance you’ll get to build the Kingdom is to support missionaries or to work in the odd evangelistic conversation with your neighbor. However, recently there’s been a recovery of a broader view of Kingdom work, such that our various vocations contribute to God’s desires for the Kingdom in the here and now.1 This is good news, since it means you can wake up in the morning and throw yourself into whatever it is you do, not hoping to squeeze in some Kingdom work at the end of the day, but building the Kingdom throughout the entire day.

So where does this leave evangelism? Does this mean that evangelism becomes a particular calling for just a few? I would disagree, because of the nature of the Kingdom in which we serve. One of the potential pitfalls of the Kingdom mindset referenced above is to view the Kingdom as being about universal, abstract concepts like justice and mercy. But God’s way is never abstract. It is always personal. All of his precepts are inherently tied to his character, his actions, and our relationship to him. With this in mind, service in the Kingdom becomes virtually meaningless without an acknowledgement of the King.

This understanding of the Kingdom poses a challenge to us, that each of us is called to acknowledge Christ, no matter our individual vocations. But at the same time,  it gives us a natural way to go about doing this. If faith informs the things you do, then there any number of obvious ways to bring up Christ in the context of school, work or family. And pursuing your calling with excellence lends all the more credibility to your claims about Christ. Viewing evangelism this way means that your vocation isn’t a means to the end of sharing your faith, but rather the two go hand in hand.

So, pursue your vocation with everything you’ve got, without feeling like you have to choose between the Kingdom and your career, school or family. But all the while, look for those natural ways that your calling can point you and the people around you to the one who called you.

-Clay

1.  If you’re interested in exploring this idea further, Next Christians, by Gabe Lyons might be helpful.

My Ordination this Sunday

 

Hey Restoration,

On Sunday I’m going to be ordained as a priest (10am on N. Quincy St.).  My ordination will be a culmination of a roughly six-year process that I’ve been going through involving probably hundreds of conversations, a seminary degree, multiple internships and an extensive examination process by the church.  It will also be the final service in the building on N. Quincy St., which I think is pretty special.  In the days leading up to it, I’ve felt a range of emotions, from excitement and gratitude to an awareness of the gravity of the vows I’ll be taking.

So what does all this mean?  Well, ordination can be described in different ways, depending on your perspective, but at its most basic level, it’s the church commissioning someone to lead: in worship, teaching, discipleship and the direction of the church or a given ministry.

This is both a great honor and a great responsibility.  Not surprisingly, as I’ve grown into this role over the last several months, I’ve become acutely aware of some of areas where I need to grow.   At the same time, though, I’ve been surprised to discover some gifts that I didn’t realize I had.  All along, it’s been amazing to be part of a community where I’ve found both grace and affirmation, and I’ve seen growth in my relationship with and reliance upon God in ways that I had never experienced before.

One thing that has particularly struck me in preparing for ordination is that Christian leadership always takes the form of service.  It’s no accident that priests in our tradition are first ordained as deacons (the Greek word for servant), and  I won’t cease to be a deacon on Sunday.  I’ll be given greater authority, especially with regard to the sacraments, but service will continue to be the heart of my ministry as a priest.

  • This means that my job will be to serve you, which is a huge privilege.
  • It also means that, as I’m commissioned to lead, I will be leading you and partnering with you to do the same, to serve each other and the world around us.  I get really excited when I dream about what our story will look like as Christ’s sacrificial love continues to take shape in our lives!

So, as I get ready to take on this role, I want to take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone at Restoration.  Thank you for both your encouragement and challenging words as I continue to grow as a leader.  Thank you for the privilege of serving alongside of you.  And thank you for the way that you have welcomed Rachel and me into this community.  We truly feel that Restoration has become our home over the last nine months.  I ask you to keep us in your prayers, and I look forward to this next chapter of our lives together.

-Clay

learning to listen to the God who prays

I love and greatly value praying for others. I believe that prayer makes a difference in people’s lives, and I’ve seen how God teaches me to love others through praying for them. But I’ve also found that it can be a huge challenge. I often feel like I’m just rattling off thoughts about a given person or a laundry list I’ve written down. Or worse, I don’t really know what to pray for and I feel this pressure to make my prayers interesting and profound, but they all kind of end up sounding the same after a while.

I was struggling with this recently, when David shared a quote with our church staff from Ruth Haley Barton regarding intercessory prayer:

“[I]ntercessory prayer is not primarily about thinking that I know what someone else needs and trying to wrestle it from God. Rather, it is being present to God on another’s behalf, listening for the prayer of the Holy Spirit that is already being prayed for that person before the throne of grace, and being willing to join God in that prayer.”1

Talk about a refreshing perspective on what it means to pray for someone. It is so liberating not to have to come up with all these great things to say. But perhaps more importantly for me, personally, I realized what the missing piece was in my prayer life. I had slipped into the trap of my prayer life becoming an exercise, rather than fundamentally being a time of communion with God. I was talking about people and things I cared about, but not really thinking a whole lot about the one I was talking to. I wanted to listen for that prayer without learning how to listen to the one who was doing the praying.

It’s funny how such a basic concept can fade to the background of our hearts and minds. I was so focused on “praying right” that I was kind of missing the point of prayer (it makes me thankful that the one I was pretty much tuning out is the God who sits on the throne of grace). But what a difference it makes to structure my prayer by first spending time meditating on and praising God for an aspect of who he is. Having been refreshed with the beauty of God, I can intercede for someone so much more effectively since I’ve caught a glimpse of what this kind of God would desire for that person’s life.

With all the change that’s going on in our church, there’s never been a better time to intercede for our brothers and sisters at Restoration. Let me to encourage you to sit before God and listen to the prayer that the Holy Spirit is praying for them. But first, allow yourself to be captivated by the character of this God who cares more deeply for you and for those you wish to pray for than you’ll ever know.

– Clay

1. Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, p. 146.

Sign up for the West Virginia Mission Trip – July 3-7

Summer love…what does that remind you of? Perhaps of long, hot, lazy days by the pool or on a beach (complete with meeting a cute guy or gal ala Grease). Or maybe a song by One Direction or JT (as in Justin Timberlake). For me, last summer created a new summer love—going to West Virginia with my Restoration family. Although a team from Restoration has gone to Philippi, WV for several years, last year was the first time I went and I am so looking forward to going back again this summer (well, minus the downed trees and loss of electricity from the derecho). So many things to look forward to—getting to know people from Restoration better (like did you know that Pastor Erin is an accomplished vinyl-siding installer?), serving the incredibly wonderful people in Philippi (ask the Kenyons who have been to WV on every trip), wicked fun game nights (watch out for the seemingly mild mannered Julie and Grace!), offering helping hands and hearts to the hurting in Philippi (it’s amazing to see Louise and Steve Brooks in action), and putting away cell phones, emails and busyness to listen to the still, small voice of the Lord. What’s not to love?

So what are you doing this summer? Find a new summer love…join us for the WV trip July 3-7. Sure it’s manual labor but it is a refreshing change from sitting at a desk all day. Oh, and construction experience is not necessary, mosquito repellant recommended, and we will work on fund raising as a team. Registration is already open and the WV Team 2013 is forming. The trip is open to anyone as young as 8 years old, as long as they are accompanied by an adult, and there is a separate application process for unaccompanied middle and high schoolers.

Have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact me or Clay.

Samantha Burg
919.619.5106
sburg2010@comcast.net

Clay Morrison
(202) 459-7203
clay@restorationarlington.org

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