following your hunger to dangerous places

We have begun our series on Luke 15, about our Prodigal God.  In response to the grumbling and muttering of the religious leaders, Jesus tells a story about a sheep that gets lost.  The reason sheep get lost is because they are hungry.  They wander off looking for food and can’t find their way home.  Their drive to satisfy their hunger leads them away from their shepherd, away from the flock, and often into pretty dangerous places.

I told a story about how sheep can get stuck on precipitous ledges eating grass and then fall to their death. (I also called my sister’s tibia a ‘tibula’.  This gaff apparently shut down the more medically-savvy congregants.  Apologies)  There is actual video footage of this phenomenon on youtube.  Check it out:

So, we had this video all cued up to play in the middle of the sermon yesterday.  I would have cropped it to just the 30 seconds before and after fall.  At the last minute, I decided to pass and we didn’t play it.  Primarily because it would have been a break to the flow of the sermon and in the interest of time, I could ‘tell’ the video much more efficiently.  I didn’t think I would gain more by showing the video than the risk of ‘media transition’ and ‘media malfunction’ merited.

What do you think?  Would you have like to have seen this video during the sermon?  Do you think I should incorporate more vid clips into sermons?  (no guarantee that I will, but we CAN, and I’m curious if you would like it).  Throw a comment up here and let me know.

Curious about why Jesus tells a story about hungry sheep in response to grumbling religious leaders?  Wondering how your hunger and appetites lead you to dangerous places?

You can hear the rest of the sermon here.  You can jump into the conversation in a Restoration small group here. You can finish out the series with us each Sunday until the end of May…

Get your book, Get your group, Get your seat…

Get your book, Get your group, Get your seat…

We’re starting a new series!!

On Easter we gave everyone who came to our services a copy of Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God.  We wanted to be generous, thankful for the last 3 months, and invitational to the next 50 days at Restoration.  Between now and May 31 (Pentecost), we will be talking about the themes of sin, community, repentance, forgiveness, sonship, and homecoming that run through these parables in Luke 15.

One of the features that I love about our small groups is that they are short-term commitments.  You are committing to a group of people for about 12 weeks (until the end of June).  It allows you time to get to know people at Restoration, to go as deep as you want, to talk about interesting topics, and to have a regular rhythm to your week for a few months.  A small group pairs well with Sunday worship.

Here is one more teaser about the Sunday series.  Can’t wait to see you around Restoration as we connect to God and connect to others.

A Father had 2 sons.  One of them requested an early withdrawal on his inheritance.  He wasted it on whatever need was most immediate and ended up bankrupt.  The other son worked diligently and obeyed every rule.  He ended up angry and bitter.  Both of them lived far away from their Father.

Are you mired in the consequences of your own bad choices?  Are you angry that you’re doing all the right things and nobody seems to care?

“The word ‘prodigal’ does not mean ‘wayward’ but, ‘recklessly spendthrift.’  It means to spend until you have nothing left.”  Over the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, we will consider how our Heavenly Father showed His prodigal love for those who would come after Jesus.

Our sermon series and small group discussions will draw from Tim Keller’s reflections on the parable from Luke 15.  “Within that parable Jesus reveals God’s prodigal grace toward both the irreligious and the moralistic.”  We hope that those who are curious and those who are convinced will see Christianity in a whole new way.

Getting Involved at Restoration: part 1

On Easter, Restoration tried its hand at multiple services: 9 &11.  Over 30 people were involved in leading that effort, from readers, to nursery workers, to greeters, to ushers, to worship leaders, to communion servers, to parking lot attendants.  Our Sunday worship is a true community event and uses many hands and feet.  We have so many opportunities for people to learn new things, to use tried and true gifts, and to stretch their hearts of service.

If you are new to Restoration, this next blog series (bleries?) is for you.  I will be posting different ways that people lead and serve our community.  You might read something and say, Eureka!  I want to do that too!  Look for a form at the bottom of the post and you will be well on your way to ‘gettin’ involved at Restoration.’

During the week, there are over 80 Restoration folks meeting in small groups around Arlington and Falls Church.  This is THE place to get to know folks and to be known.  The small group lasts 90 minutes–  that’s it, we promise!

10 minutes in tasty snacks and chit chat, 45 minutes wrestling through the Scripture I preached from on Sunday, 25 minutes sharing needs, concerns, and praying.  10 minutes to spare…

If you want to Get Involved, this is the place to do it.   Register here

You’ll also notice that we have started a new sermon series, The Prodigal God.  We gave everyone who came for Easter a copy of Tim Keller’s (pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC) book by the same name.  For the next 50 days (Easter to Pente (50) cost, May 31) we will be digging in to this story of a Dad and 2 sons.  You will not want to miss any of it.  Worship with us on Sunday, read the book, wrestle with the story in small groups during the week, and recognize the Father who waits with His arms open wide…

Practice is almost over…

Practice is almost over…

‘because there are still people in Arlington who are curious…”

As we prayed and gathered our launch team at the end of 2008, there was a united, concerted vision that we were being sent out from The Falls Church to be a missional community in Arlington.  We had asked each other 2 questions…

  1. Do you have relational space to have new friends and welcome people into a new community?
  2. Do you know people in Arlington who might be far from God?  People whom you might invite to experience a new community that is following Christ?

2008 was about praying, talking, and coming to a place where we had a team who said ‘Yes’ to these questions.

On Jan 18, 28 households were commissioned and sent out to practice for a couple months. We needed to get to know our building, get to know each other, build systems for children’s ministry, figure out how to serve communion, see if we had a worship team, try out small groups…

We have been practicing…  and it’s gone very well.   We have grown to about 75 households who are worshipping with us.

Now we are at one of our first crossroads. The ‘practice season’ is about to end:  People are trained to serve, Sunday worship is becoming more ‘normal’ to us, small groups have thrived, there’s money in the bank, and we have teams of people ready to respond to needs as they arise.

God has been very good.  Many people have worked very hard.

At this crossroads, I want to remind us of why we endeavored to start this new church.

Wherever you are reading this–  look around.  Look down your street, look out from your cubicle, glance up from your ‘wireless device’ on the metro, stare at the people on your grocery aisle.  See ’em?

We did this because we felt called by God to be a part of His Restoration project.  We did this because we felt called by God to create a community that would connect people to Him, to others, and to the needs around us.  We did this because there are still people in Arlington who have not met Christ in a life-changing way.

I don’t want us to lose sight of that.  We definitely have a church.  I want us to be a missional community.  We know we can do this.  Now it’s time to open our doors to those around us.

As in all things that are ultimately worth it, this will require change and sacrifice.

  • We need more physical space to invite our friends.  The most efficient way to create this space is to multiply our services.  The cost of service multiplication is ‘the loss of having everyone in the same room.’
  • We will have many more opportunities to serve–  more readers, more nursery volunteers, more small group leaders, earlier arrival times, more parking lot greeters, more coffee…

This Sunday we will finish our Lent series on ‘The Life Jesus Saves.’  We will have an important ‘family meeting’ after our worship service.  If this is your family, please be there. This is the time for us to intentionally close the first season of Restoration Arlington and to intentionally turn our face to what is next.

Practice is over.

‘because there are still people in Arlington who are curious…’

New Small Groups Video

Laughter, relaxation, balance, empathy, community, day-to-day, deep, challenging, fun, refreshing, necessary…those are a few of the adjectives I would use when describing my small group experience at Restoration. With second small group semester just around the corner, we thought we’d ask you to share a few adjectives of your own. Check out our newest video!

Enjoy, and spread the word. You can the video by going to the video’s homepage and easily send it to your friends, post it to Facebook…whatever you’d like. It’s on the homepage and it is designed to give someone who is checking out our church an inside view into our community.

I’ll be updating the “small groups” page soon, and we’ll write a blog post when registration is open. In the meantime, tell all your friends.

Thanks to all the participants, and my apologies to all those who didn’t make the cut. Apparently quite a few times when I hit “record” I was actually hitting “stop” so I have some riveting footage of my pocket, the palm of my hand, and the ground.

Sign up for a small group!

Q&A with David

Since we are new, lots of people have lots of questions.  What happens during kids church?  What should we wear?  Why do you celebrate communion each week?  What exactly is confirmation?  What’s a bishop?  Does that collar itch?  How do I get involved in a small group?  I play a mean harmonica, can I play it on the worship team?  What are your hopes for the future?  What did you mean when you said ‘this’ in your sermon.

Lots of questions.

On Sunday, March 8, right after the service, I’d love to answer all your questions and give you a brief history of how Restoration got here.  We will be doing this a couple times a month as we get to know one another.  Please stick around and engage with the conversation.  Kids are welcome, too.

If you have a question, post it here! That will give me a few hours to think about it before I’m being grilled under the chandeliers.  See ya Sunday.

A Penitential… what?

Erin Coleman is on staff at Restoration.  She oversees all of our Sunday morning worship life.  Here are some of her thoughts on how things will ‘feel’ different during Lent:

We’re coming up on six weeks in to the worship life of Restoration, and I feel like we’re starting to hit our stride.  There’s a flow to our worship service.  We know who is supposed to do what and when (at least most of the time). Things seem to just move along.  We’re finally getting comfortable.

Must be time to change a few things!

Starting this Sunday, you’ll notice some changes to our liturgy, the pattern of our worship service.  We’re making these changes because it’s Lent, the season of prayer, fasting, self-examination, and penitence that leads up to Easter.  Our service will reflect those emphases.  We’ll begin by saying together the ten commandments, and then we’ll move right into the prayer of confession. (There’s nothing like the ten commandments to make me aware of my sin and the need to confess!)  And we don’t get to say “alleluia” again until Easter.

There will be other changes, too.  We’ll say the Apostles Creed instead of the Nicene Creed.  We’ll use a different version of the Eucharistic prayer in the Great Thanksgiving.  We do these things mostly as a reminder that Lent is a unique season in the church year.  We’re used to our lives being shaped by the differences in the physical seasons.  The changes to our liturgy can serve as a reminder of how our lives can also be shaped by the different seasons of the church year.

It will probably feel a little bit weird at first.  Inevitably, we’ll mess up.  Someone will forget which version of the prayer of confession we’re supposed to say.  Someone will start off the Nicene Creed.  Undoubtedly, I’ll add an “alleluia” after the service’s final “Thanks be to God!”  It will all be a little discombobulating.

But I think this is a good thing.  Feeling a little off-balance in our worship can be a powerful reminder of our dependence on God, and of how our worship is about God and not about us and how well we do it.  It’s also a reminder of how big God is—of how no worship container that we make can ever encompass His glory.  Above all, I hope it will lead us all back to God’s grace, to the renewed knowledge that all that we have and all that we are—even our worship—comes from Him.

I’m looking forward to journeying through this season of Lent with you.

We Need Your Vote! More Musical Worship?

Friends, strangers, people of the world. We need your vote!

Before voting below, a bit of background:

When leading worship, connecting to God is just really, really hard.

It’s hard enough being in the congregation to truly feel like I’m worshiping the Lord; but it’s even harder when playing. However, in both those settings (leading and not leading) I find it often takes at least two songs before my brain calms down enough to feel a connection with the Lord. To ignore the distractions, to calm my spirit, to stop thinking about work, to stop wondering about what’s for lunch,to really get into my instrument…it just takes some time for me.

So, I’m proposing more worship music. Now, before you gasp thinking “Church is going to be longer?” hear me out.

Right now, our service is about 75 minutes. Making the service longer isn’t really an option, and yet we don’t want to remove any parts of the service as each part is carefully planned and very meaningful. So, what about this:

Start an optional musical worship time around 9:15 or 9:20. We’ll sing 2-3 songs before church officially begins in which those people who desire more worship will have the opportunity to come early and worship. It will be no pressure, nothing required, just space for those of us who need more than two songs in a row to engage, to do just that.

There are a few possible down sides (and my rebuttals):

  1. Newcomers might feel late: If we tell the greeters to reassure people it’s just optional worship and they’re not late, that would help. Also, if on the projector screen 2/3 of the screen has the lyrics while 1/3 of the screen has a countdown to 9:30 (or a clock) with the words “Welcome to Restoration!” that could be another way to reassure people they’re not late.
  2. Pre-service time is designed for meditation, music will be distracting: Right now, most of us are hanging out and talking right up until service anyway (which is probably a good thing for the newcomers), so I wonder if playing and singing worship together might actually be less distracting for those who want to meditate. And, it might allow those who desire fellowship to do so more freely without feeling that they’re distracting those who are silent.

I’ve been to churches that do this (I think I have anyway) and I always liked it.

So, here are the next steps:

Vote! Tell us what you think by voting. And, if you’ve seen this work well, or fail miserably, let us know by commenting.

Should we begin optional worship around 9:15?
( surveys)

Week 2: Rack it.

Couldn’t resist.  I’ll try to keep the ‘rack’ references to a minimum.  Sometimes it just works.

So, I forgot to hit record on our flash recorder again.  Week #2.  Lovely.  So, this is our second week without a sermon podcast.  I promise…  I’m preaching ’em.  I just can’t remember to record ’em.  Now many of you might say, how hard is it to ask someone to hit record for you?  I’ll simply refer you to Mark 8:33b.

We’ll take another shot next week.

Quickly becoming one of my favorite moments each Sunday is our 8:30 prayer gathering.  About 20 of us huddle in the kitchen at various levels of nervousness, excitement, and sleepiness.  We make sure everybody knows who is doing what.  Our prayers give thanks for all God is doing, the way He has gone before us, the opportunities He gives us to be a team and to work together.  We pray for the kids, our worship team, the readers, ushers, and preacher.  This time, as soon as we were done, everybody grabbed 10 unfolded worship guides and folded them.  Total time to fold 125 12-page worship guides–  43 seconds. This we will keep.

My message focused on the familiar scene of Isaiah 61–  the description of a people who are broken-hearted, held captive by bad choices, and mourning the consequences of badness.  From teh beginning of time, when face with this scene, humanity has asked:  what do we do to make things right?  When we get into a predicament and get stuck–  our first question is how do we save ourselves?  All of the options boil down to 2 categories–  I’ll blog more about those tomorrow.

The Christian story has at its core the belief that we cannot save ourselves.  The story of Jesus is at its humbling center, a story about humanity being rescued.  There are four options for how we might engage with this story:

1.    Closed rejection–  no way that story can be true.  In fact it is the existence of these stories that make the world such a bad place.  See for example, Christopher Hitchens and his book God is not great
2.    We have questions about the story:  What does it mean?  How does it interact with other stories?  What does this story demand of my life?  How do I wrestle with the implications of this story?
3.    We accept the story, but we isolate it.  We shield our life from it.  God and his restoration project are a drawer in our dresser.  This story is something we do on the weekends, usually sunday mornings.  We are not sure we want to let the story be much more than nice religion.
4.    We are open to the idea that this rescue, restoration story might be the news for which you have been waiting.  You are wondering, how can I be a part of God’s great restoration project?

My fervent hope is that we would be a church made up of people coming at this story from ALL of these postures.  What better place to engage these questions than in a community together.

Yesterday, we took one more step together.  May the questions of the curious and the convinced fill our conversations and enliven our friendships.

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