Monday morning for a pastor

Sunday Morning postmortem at Restoration

I usually run or swim on Monday morning.  I usually listen to music really loudly to try and drown out the commentators and arm chair quarterbacks that are talking about Sunday morning in my head.  Sometimes I win.  Sometimes the voices win.

Give this morning to the voices…  Three things I want to say about my sermon yesterday:

1.  As someone astutely pointed out, I really preached 3 sermons, yesterday.  That’s like the cardinal sin for preachers.  I wanted to talk about all three means by which we imitate God:  walk in love, walk in the light, walk in wisdom.  I could have spent a week on each of them and then followed it up with a fourth sermon (or sermons) on ‘be filled with the Spirit.’  But that would have kicked us to Dec 20th without having talked about marriage, parenting, or the armor of God.  So, instead I plowed through it.  Maybe after I’ve been doing this for 10 years, I’ll have the capacity to decide, ‘lets linger here for a bit’.  Maybe even put off the end of the series until February…  just thinking out loud here.  So thanks for hanging on tight while i talked about lots of stuff yesterday.

2.  I really wish I had nailed the illustration I gave about Laurel’s eye and walking on rocks in a stream bed.  The point of those 2 stories was to agree with v. 15–  ‘look carefully how you walk.’  But to also emphasize the end of v. 16–  ‘because the days are evil.’  We need to walk in wisdom, with careful steps, because there are branches and slippery rocks all over our work sites, our neighborhood, the culture, our day to day life…  We never want to run into a branch or slip in the water (hey let me try and scratch my cornea…), we just step wrongly.  So be very careful how you step–  walk in love, walk in the light, understand what the will of the Lord is.  Honestly, I think I was mushy on those illustrations and not as crisp as I would like.  I also missed a chance to give a big shout out to Dr. George Patterson who totally rescued Laurel–  picked her up after a sleepless night, took her to his opthamology office and helped her eye speed towards recovery–  it was the beginning of a great Restoration friendship!

3.  I totally forgot to talk about coarse joking at the 10am.  We’ll post the recording from the 8:30 on our podcast.  But I can’t believe I missed the third counterfeit to walking in love.  Paul gives three counterfeits:  sexual immorality, covetousness, and coarse joking (filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking).  Why does Paul include coarse joking as a counterfeit to real love? By definition crude joking is a joke that because of its language or its subject matter is not appropriate.  (totally fine to tell jokes, this is a specifically forbidden category).  When two people laugh about something that they would not want to broadcast to everyone around them, there is a secretiveness that could feel like intimacy.  It is the intimacy that develops between 2 people when they know they are doing something wrong.  However, it is false.  It isn’t REAL vulnerability.  Paul is encouraging this church to walk in love, to live in true intimacy.  So the contrast he makes is between love and sex outside of the marriage covenant; between intimate conversation and coarse joking.  In the heat of the moment sex outside of marriage can feel like love.  In the shared laughter of a coarse joke, it can feel like friendship. But they are not.

A lot of my friends were particularly disappointed that I forgot this part of my sermon–  because we all struggle with it to one degree or another.  We long for authentic friendship and we want to be careful with our words.

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!  Psalm 141:3

So thanks for letting me do a public post-mortem on the message from yesterday.
I love our church.  My commitment to you is, by the grace and mercy of God, to discharge my calling to lead and teach as best I can.  You all are so encouraging to me.

I love this job and living this life with you.

How in the world??? Ephesians 5

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There are over 19 commands in verses 1-21 of Ephesians 5. Paul is just getting all up in that little church’s grill.

What do you think I’m going to say about this on Sunday?

List of Commands/ Imperatives in Chapter 5: 1-21

  • Be imitators of God
  • Walk in love
  • Do not even name sexual immorality, all impurity, covetousness
  • No filthiness, nor foolish talk, nor crude joking
  • Let there be thanksgiving
  • Let no one deceive you with empty words
  • Do not become partners with the sons of disobedience
  • Walk as children of light
  • Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord
  • Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness
  • Expose the unfruitful works of darkness
  • Look carefully how you walk
  • Do not be foolish
  • Understand what the will of the Lord is
  • Do not get drunk with wine
  • Be filled with the Spirit
  • Address one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs
  • Give thanks always and for everything to God…
  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

should be fun…

Say no to ignorance

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Ignorance is overcome by information.  Information comes from the community of people and ideas whom we give access to our brains.  Your mind is being shaped by the community you let in.  In our worship yesterday, I noticed that Paul exhorts his little church to ‘no longer walk as the Gentiles do.’  Because of ignorance and hardness of heart they are futile, darkened, and alienated.

Ignorance is overcome by information.  I submit that we need to have a community of authors who regularly stretch our worldview.  How many minutes a week/month do you give to thinking deeply about who God is and your relationship to Him?  Here are 10 suggestions to deepen your thinking:

not the way its supposed to be Cornelius Plantinga
The mission of God Chris Wright
Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God Gordon Fee
The Unity of the Bible Daniel Fuller
The Gospel of the Kingdom by George Ladd
The Incomparable Christ by John Stott
Creation Regained by Albert Wolters
Liturgical Theology by Simon Chan
Renewal as a way of life by Richard Lovelace
In My Place Condemned He Stood by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever

Put one on your Christmas list.  Find a friend and read it together.  Gather a group of people to talk about it for 4 weeks.  Take a deeper step into your Christian worldview and redeemed mind.  ‘so that you may no longer walk as the Gentiles do.”

I’d love to hear about what you like.

Baptisms at Restoration on Sunday

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We will celebrate the sacrament of Holy Baptism on Sunday. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace.

Jesus commanded baptism with water as the outward sign of our Lord’s gracious promises of new birth, forgiveness, and adoption into the family of God. It also marks a person’s decision to become a follower of Christ and a vital member of His church.

At Restoration, we baptize both adults and children. And this Sunday we will get to do both!! When we baptize adults, as in many New Testament accounts, we are celebrating their choice to follow Jesus. When we baptize infants (also alluded to in New Testament accounts such as Acts 16:30-33 and seen regularly in the early church) we are celebrating in anticipation of their future commitment to Christ.

We only baptize the children of Christian parents because those parents are taking vows on behalf of the children.  They are promising to raise their kids in the church and to teach them to trust in Jesus as their forgiver and leader so that when they are old enough, the child can confirm the vows that were taken on his/her behalf.

My dear mentor, John Yates put it well,

The baptism of infants signifies the first step on the path towards their turning to God in faith and repentance, which we pray will come later.  Our prayer is that as children grow, they will come to embrace Jesus Christ, who first embraces them. They are marked with the sign of the cross as belonging to Christ from the beginning.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will draw these little ones to the Lord in an ever more dynamic relationship in the years to come.  For those children who receive baptism rightly, there may come either a moment of dramatic conversion or a quiet series of small steps that lead eventually to mature faith and discipleship…

So join us on Sunday as we welcome Cadence, Madelyne, Aileen, Charlie, and Abby into the household of God and call them to confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim His resurrection, and share with us in His eternal priesthood.

Thanks be to God.

Kids and Communion

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This week (Oct 25) we will begin a special 4-week communion class for children 3rd grade and older.  We are doing this for several reasons:

  1. Those who take communion need to be baptized believers who want to follow Jesus.  Many of our kids are in a place where they have decided to make Jesus their forgiver and their leader and they need to know what is happening during the Eucharist.
  2. We want all our kids to see communion as a tangible reminder of the Gospel.  Jesus died for our sins:   The body of Christ was broken for us.  The blood of Christ was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.  This is GREAT news and we want our kids to know the Gospel and to understand why we celebrate this special meal of remembrance every week.
  3. We want to come along-side parents who are discipling their children to love God, love people, and participate in the worship life of our church.  This class is a chance for kids to get age-appropriate teaching about communion.  Ultimately it is the parent’s decision for when it is time for a child to begin taking communion.

One of my favorite moments during our worship service is during the distribution of communion.  If a child is not taking communion, they put their arms over their chest and I (or another server) say a prayer over them.  I love those prayer moments. Sometimes I offer a simple blessing, sometimes I will pray that they know how much God loves them– that they are drawn to trust in Jesus, that they grow in courage, that they love Christ with all their heart, soul, and mind.  It is a brief moment of intimacy that I cherish.  I say this because your child might be clamoring to take communion, but you are not sure he/she is ready.  In some ways, this little prayer might be more effective–  more of a remembrance, more of a reminder that God cares–  than the bread and wine at this time.  I love that our children are so tangibly included in our worship.

So parents, let us know how we can serve you as you build up your kids to be life-long worshipers.  We look forward to sharing this class with them over the next 4 weeks.  See ya on Sunday.

No Services on Quincy Street this Week!!

Thanks for checking out Restoration. Those are crickets you hear on Quincy Street. Most of the church is away on our Fall Retreat.  Consequently we are not having services on Quincy Street on Oct 18.  We kindly invite you to check out one of the many other great churches in Arlington and DC.  We’ll be back on Oct 25 with donuts, Chris Joyner, and Ephesians 4.  See you then!

Liturgical Servants Training

Dorky church trivia fact of the day: our word ‘liturgy’ comes from the Greek work ‘leitourgia,’ which means ‘the work of the people.’  And our Sunday morning worship is indeed the work of many people.  Sure, there’s David up front and the musicians and all of us in the pews… But there are a lot of others whom you might not really think about:

  • The greeters who meet you at the door…
  • The ushers who help you find a seat…
  • The scripture readers who help us hear God’s word…
  • The foks who lead us in the prayers of the people
  • The ones who serve communion

…and then there are the ones you may not even see, but whose work is still critical to making our worship happen.  The people who set the Lord’s table and stock the pews with nametags and welcome cards.  The folks who run the sound board and the powerpoint.  And everyone who pitches in to help clean up at the end.  It takes a lot of people to do this work!

But the thing is … all of this isn’t just work.  It’s also fun.  It helps you feel connected to the life of Restoration.  It lets you get to know people whose paths you might not otherwise cross. It deepens your experience of worship.  It is a blessing.  I wish I could come up with a fancy word for those people who receive the blessing of the people by serving on Sunday mornings — but I don’t know enough Greek for that.  So instead we just call them “liturgical servants.”

We’re having a training session on Tuesday, September 22 at 7:30 pm at the church for anyone who would like to get involved in Restoration’s worship life in this way.  There are lots of opportunities!  It’s fun, it’s easy, and there’s something for everyone.  So come on out tomorrow night and join us — the more, the merrier!

(The small print: The training is required of all new liturgical servants. If you’ve already been trained at Restoration, you’re welcome to attend but it’s not required. The training is offered about 4 times a year, so if you can’t make it this time, we’ll do it again in a few months!)

The Attraction of Idols

Restoration Anglican Church sermon on Exodus 32-34; IdolatryOver the next two weeks, we will be digging in to Exodus 32-34.  Here is some helpful background on why Israel (and we) love idols.  The information is from one of my favorite professors at Gordon-Conwell, Dr. Doug Stuart.

Idolatry is attractive because it is:

1.  Guaranteed: Presence of a god was guaranteed by presence of idol.  The idol image was like an ancient cell phone.  People believed that the offerings they brought before an idol of a god and the prayers they said the idol’s presence were fully and unfailingly perceived by the god.

2.  Selfish: Idolatry was an entire materialistic system of thinking.  The one ‘hold’ or advantage that humans had over the gods was the ability to feed them.  If you fed the god, it was obligated to use its power on behalf of the worshiper.

3.  Easy: Frequency and generosity of sacrifices were the sole significant requirements of faithful idolatrous religion.  Idolatry minimized the importance of ethical behavior.  As long as you kept the food coming, you could do whatever you want.

4.  Convenient: In contrast to the Lord’s command to come up to Jerusalem three times a year, idol shrines were erected on every hilltop and street corner.  You could drop by to offer a sacrifice at your convenience–  virtually any time of day, any day of the week, at a location of your choosing.

5.  Normal: everyone did it.  If an Israelite asked his Canaanite neighbor how to farm in these parts, the Canaanite would begin with an explanation for how to worship the local idol.  If you want to fit in, worship the idol.

6.  Logical: idolatry was polytheistic, syncretistic, and pantheistic.  It made sense to have a multiplicity of gods, each one covering a different facet of life.  It was enormously attractive to think one could gain assured access to those gods who had power over your greatest need simply by being in the presence of an idol.

7.  Pleasing to the senses, indulgent, erotic: The images of divinity were ‘beautiful’.  The worship ‘services’ were huge feasts.  The more frequently one ate meat and the more meat one ate, the more likely one could curry favor with the gods.  Heavy eating and drinking were encouraged.  Temple prostitution was common because it was believed that if you had sex in the presence of the idol, it would encourage the gods to have sex and provide what you need–  fertility, more crops, more cattle.  Ritual sex would stimulate things to be born on earth.

It is important to remember that Israel never struggled with belief in the Lord or even worshiping the Lord.  Their struggle was always to worship ONLY the Lord.  Even today, many of us would say that Jesus is Lord, but find it challenging to say no to the idols that compete for His worship.

Nicholas Lubelfeld and Larry Martin at Restoration

This Sunday, August 23rd, we have the privilege of welcoming two gifted ministers to lead our worship.

The Rev. Nicholas Lubelfeld, Pastoral Ministry Associate at The Falls Church, will be leading the service and celebrating communion.  Many of you know Nicholas already; if not, you are in for a treat.  Nicholas is known for his warm heart and good humor, and he will bring great energy to our worship together!

The Rev. Larry Martin — one of Restoration’s very own members — will be preaching to us from the Word.  Larry is the Senior Vice President for Education at International Justice Mission, where he also serves as Dean of the IJM Institute.  Larry travels throughout the country and the world helping churches get connected to the amazing work that IJM is doing to fight human trafficking and to care for some of the world’s most vulnerable.  We are privileged to have Larry preach to us and know that his rich ministry experience will open new perspectives on God’s Word.

Come worship God with us on Sunday!

Exodus 19 on Aug 9

August 9 at Restoration Anglican ChurchThis week we are reading Exodus 19 and thinking about how we approach the Lord in worship.  Are we casual, reverent, cavalier, respectful?

I have appreciated reflecting on this familiar quote from Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk. She worries that we have have forgotten how dangerous it is to come into the presence of the Living God:

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions.  Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke?  Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?  The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.  It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets.  Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.

See you on Sunday.  I’ll be wearing the kevlar.

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