Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Supper Reservations (John 6)

[Here's another older piece that you may find enjoyable. It's based upon a collection of notes from a sermon on John 6, which my pastor preached in the Fall of 2009. In this passage of scripture, Jesus has just miraculously fed over 5000 people, yet is faced with mass rejection because of the claims he makes about himself. The aim of these words is to contrast the worldviews of the Crowds, the Christ, the Disciples and the Reader. I hope you are blessed by them and are given a renewed appreciation for the glorious (to the point of offensive), Word of God.]

Am I here for bread?
It's kind of what you said,
Back by the lake if you recall, mister.
I must have missed your mastery of mystery pastry and scales!
(My pleasure!) On these scales, we'll measure your frail claims.

I really am hungry by the way...
Perhaps as we discourse,
a snack, pre-main course?
Just enough to keep me going!
(Heaven forbid your ministry slowing,
Over something so minor)
You want me as a loyal diner, right?
With devotion finer than even you could deserve!

Your awkward silence tells me you aren't going to serve...

Guess you weren't worth my time
I had my reservations,
Not in your revelation
You can keep your heavenly nation,
I was only here for salvation from my starvation

Everlasting bread!
He said I've been fasting when I should be feasting. 
Like the yeast, his kingdom's increasing, 
So fast I'm just not seeing!

He talks about his flesh and blood,
He talks of how he's meshed with God,
He looks to me as blessed and sought!
But my life's a mess, in case you forgot.

Conviction strikes like the cavalry's coming!
His summoning to Calvary is something he's already knowing!

They will mix him with bitter herbs,
Though this teacher spoke with the better words 

Throw the unleavened in the oven, after it's been flattened!
After three days this Christ is risen! 

Not like your stuffed-crust piety!
It's just 'cause you want a pie to eat, you're even talking to me!
While you are sitting, sniveling, 
You're forgetting you need delivering!

It's not just a one time delivery to save you from the Egyptians!
Are my words encrypted?
Or are your hearts decrepit?

Will you desert me too?
Before dessert is even served,
Will you choke on what you think you deserve?
This was never a joke,
Not these words I spoke!
This is my crescendo!
It's truth because I said so!

Master, to whom else could we go?
Fast or no fast, you have the words of life!
Though their offense cuts like a serrated knife!
Slice by slice, sometimes you aren't nice,
But we confess that you are right!

You water down nothing,
When my understanding's crumbling!
And I haven't yet seen you lifted on high!
It's hard to confess when my throat is dry...

My God save me from my treacherous cravings!
I need an extension on Grace Amazing
Even as my lips are talking,
My feet are pulled to begin walking

I am unknowing, my flesh unwilling!
I sometimes can't think past my stomach's filling
Yours was the blood, that is yours for the spilling

Christ, my flesh is unready for the walk and the fight
I rarely hunger for righteousness, like a true child of light
Have mercy and save me from my own apatite!


Jake Rivers

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bride of Christ

One of the great advantages to living in another country is the ability to gain a comparative look at how the church functions in a different culture. It's one of the reasons why cross cultural missions is so essential to the life and growth of the Church Universal. Sometimes an outsider is able to identify dangers that the home culture may be blind to. In a similar way, being part of a church here in Brasil has opened our eyes to areas that our own culture is weaker in (i.e. hospitality). As a major purpose of our mission to Brasil is evaluating our future ministry endeavors, it made sense to compile a short, comparative description of ministry strengths and weaknesses in here in Brasil and our home country of Canada. While in no way scholarly, the accounts are the sum of our first-hand observations, as well as the input given from those who have spent most of their lives in Brasil. (If you are of the more academic inclination, I will happily look into finding some accurate sources on the subject at your request.)

[Note: Jesus loves his Church and his followers are expected to do likewise. My reflections are written to be diagnostic, not demeaning. The implication throughout should be, "how can I best serve the church to meet this need?"] 

What is the future of the Brazilian Church?
Brasil is a country with an exceptionally high percentage of Christians. Churches are everywhere and seem to maintain a lot of reverence, even among non-Christians. One missionary told us that the Evangelical representation is around 20% of the population! However, it is a relatively shallow faith. While growth is common, the Brazilian church is very inward focused, with little concern for seeing the gospel reach other nations. (Brazilian in general has been described as mono-cultural) Brazilians don't mind signing up to be missionaries, provided they are able to do so within their own country. This is especially tragic considering how many professing Christians there are and how financially wealthy many of the churches are. Nevertheless, their passion is incredibly strong! Like any living organism, if the Brazilian church does not learn how to reproduce by planting churches globally, it may eventually grow cold, self-obsessed, and fade into history.

Summary: Brazilian church is passionate, extensive, and powerful, but the drive to use that influence to bring the Gospel to unreached nations is frail. The Church needs to be discipled to use the means given them to serve beyond themselves. The potential to see the nations reached through the faithfulness of the Brazilian church is great.

In contrast, ministry in Canada is a completely different world. Like Europe, Christianity is almost a thing of the past. In many circles, professing to be a Christian can be tantamount to admitting mental deficiency, (if not outright ideological terrorism). In many ways, Christianity has been dying in Canada and the church is abandoning it's mission. On a cultural note, the societal changes in our home country have expanded the demographic to include people groups and subcultures from around the whole world. This means there is a breakdown of cultural barriers already embedded into the Canadian conscious, a strategic advantage for ministry done in Canada. Although, the percentage of Christians seems far less in Canada then Brasil, the churches in Canada that do exist, are much more engaged in the practice of planting churches and sending missionaries to other nations.

Summary: Canada is riding the wave of change and the Church must remain firm in her theology and flexible in her methodology. Faithful preaching can (and is) seeing a ripple effect of influence across the globe. To be a faithful Christian in Canada demands an active love for people, locally and globally, but with a deep knowledge of scripture, lest the message be dismissed as irrelevant jargon.

If you have any further comments about how to pray for and strengthen the church in either of these countries, I'd love to hear them! Also, if you are from (or have spent considerable time within) another country, I'd love to hear your description of what God is doing there as well.

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,"
- Ephesians 5:25 (ESV)

How can we best love and serve God's people?


Jake Rivers