Day of Pentecost

This post is the sixth in a series of articles on the Seasons, Sundays, and Feast Days that make up the Church’s liturgical calendar.  Feast Days are those days set aside by the Church to celebrate and commemorate martyrs, Christians of the past, events from the life of Christ, and other Biblical stories. Join us as we journey through the celebrations of the ancient Church.

At Redemption City Church, we plan our liturgy, preaching, and church life around the traditional Church calendar (also known as the Liturgical Calendar). We believe this is useful and healthy for a Christ-centered church and followers of Christ. In highlighting the traditional Feast Days as well, we do so in order to boast in Christ, and in Christ alone. These stories are centered on Him and we rejoice in celebrating His mighty wonders and deeds. 

You can find out more about the church calendar and why we follow it as a church in our previous article

Scripture Reading

  • Acts 2: 1-21

  • 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

  • John 20:19-23

What is the Day of Pentecost?

Pentecost, which comes from the Greek word for “fiftieth day” – Pentekoste, is a feast day observed by the Church on fiftieth and last day of the Easter season.  On Pentecost, the Church remembers the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s disciples while they were gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks (Acts 2) and reflects on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the global church.   

Liturgical Readings

God will pour out the Spirit on all flesh,
and our daughters and sons shall prophesy.
Our old ones shall dream dreams,
and our young ones shall see visions;
and all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered.
Come, let us call upon the name of the Lord.
— Worship Source Book, 2013, pg. 694
The love of God has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us;
we dwell in him and he in us.
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him,
and speak of all his marvelous works.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come
— Worship Source Book, 2013, pg. 694

Voices from the Early Church

Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all “fullness of blessing,” both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment.
— On the Holy Spirit” – St. Basil the Great (330-379 AD)

 

Prayers

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— RCL (Year A)
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— RCL (Year A)

Ascension Day

This post is the fifth in a series of articles on the Seasons, Sundays, and Feast Days that make up the Church’s liturgical calendar.  Feast Days are those days set aside by the Church to celebrate and commemorate martyrs, Christians of the past, events from the life of Christ, and other Biblical stories. Join us as we journey through the celebrations of the ancient Church.

At Redemption City Church, we plan our liturgy, preaching, and church life around the traditional Church calendar (also known as the Liturgical Calendar). We believe this is useful and healthy for a Christ-centered church and followers of Christ. In highlighting the traditional Feast Days as well, we do so in order to boast in Christ, and in Christ alone. These stories are centered on Him and we rejoice in celebrating His mighty wonders and deeds. 

You can find out more about the church calendar and why we follow it as a church in our previous article

Scripture Reading

  • Acts 1:1-11
  • Ephesians 1:15-23
  • Philippians 2:6-11
  • Luke 24:44-53
  • Psalm 47

What is Ascension Day?

Ascension Day is a feast day observed by the Church on the fortieth day of the Easter season.  On Ascension, the church celebrates Christ’s miraculous ascension from earth into heaven, his installment as the world’s judge, and the promise that he will return to earth.  As the Nicene Creed attests, the Ascension is a disclosure of Christ’s divine power and authority as sovereign ruler, “He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; from there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”  

The Gospel Narrative

Luke recounts the Ascension in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.  On the Mount of Olives, Jesus gathers his disciples for one last conversation.  Below them, to the west, lies Jerusalem and the Golden Gate which leads to the Temple.  This scene appears peaceful now, but Jesus knows that in two generations the city below will be obscured by smoke as Roman legions plunder the city and destroy the temple at the end of the Jewish Revolt of AD 70.

The bewildered disciples, still expecting that Jesus will free Israel from the yoke of Roman oppression ask if he will now, at last, establish his kingdom.  Jesus replies that his timetable is not for them to know; instead, He tells them that he will send the Holy Spirit to give them power for the difficult days that lie ahead and commissions the disciples to be his witnesses in the surrounding regions.  Jesus then disappears from their presence.  

All the miraculous events surrounding the life of Christ are either preceded or proceeded by angelic messengers.  This event is no different.  Two heavenly beings appear to the disciples and inform them that Jesus will one day return to earth.  Overwhelmed by the miraculous event that they had just witnessed, the disciples return to Jerusalem and join the rest of the Jesus-followers in prayer

Voices from the Early Church

In his sermon on the Ascension, St. Augustine (Bishop of Hippo – modern day Annaba, Algeria, AD 354-430) ties Luke’s account of the Ascension to the words of Paul in Colossians 3:1-4, 

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”  

Augustine writes,

“Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace…For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.” 

For Augustine, Christ’s Ascension depicts our union with Christ - the way we are joined to God by Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.  This unity with Christ means that while we are alive on earth, at the same time, we participate through Christ in the eternal life of God (Acts 17:28; Ephesians 2:4-7).  According to Augustine, the Ascension offers hope that one day we will fully realize and experience Christ’s promise of redemption and renewal. Though Christ is “absent” from his us in bodily form, we take comfort from the presence of the third person of the trinity – the Holy Spirit – who abides with us and intercedes on our behalf (Rom. 8:26-27).  Thus, the Ascension does not depict God’s exit from the world; rather, it speaks to his dominion over the world and his continued presence and working in it and in us.

Sources

  • Augustine, Sermo de Ascensione Domini, Mai 98, 1-2, PLS 2, 494-495
  • Johnson, Marcus Peter, One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation, Crossway: 2013, pg. 80.

Prayers

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ
to have ascended into the heavens,
so we in heart and mind may also ascend
and with him continually dwell;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
Amen
— RCL (Year A)
Risen Christ,
you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven:
help us to seek and serve you,
that we may join you at the Father’s side,
where you reign with the Spirit in glory,
now and forever.
Amen
— RCL (Year A)

Good Friday

Good Friday

We call this “Good Friday,” and so it is: bitter and good. How desperate were our circumstances that he could make atonement for us only in this manner? We have sinned, failed at every standard of righteousness, and railed against our 25 Maker. Yet, he took on flesh and yielded himself to redeem us. By his stripes we are healed.

Why Do We Use Liturgy? (Part 1)

At Redemption City, we use liturgy during our worship gatherings. What is a liturgy you ask?  A liturgy is simply a form according to which public worship is ordered. Liturgies are meant to shape what we love and desire and value, and every church has one. But our goal at RCC is to adorn the ordinary ministries of Word and sacrament by rightly positioning them within the full drama of God’s redeeming action. In other words, our liturgy is meant to tell a 16 story, and as we are immersed in that story, as we rehearse the gospel drama week after week, the story begins to shape what we love and desire and value. The liturgy we use at RCC is carefully written, examined, and placed within the flow of our gathering to mirror the story of God's relationship with His creation. It is divided into four chapters:

Liturgy Logos.png

This post is the first in a number of articles on why we use liturgy in our corporate gatherings every Sunday. But let's start first with the question, "what is liturgy?"

What is Our Liturgy?

The word liturgy means "the work of the people". It can be used to describe the way we respond to God in a corporate setting. The elements that make up the chapters of our liturgy are:

Chapter 1: Gathering

  • THE CALL TO WORSHIP: We begin the first chapter of our liturgy with the Call to Worship. As we are called to worship, it reminds us that, just as we were called into existence by our Creator, and called into new life in Christ, God is the gracious initiator here tonight. We have received a word of welcoming from the God who is active in worship and who wants us here.
  • PASSING OF THE PEACE: Having been welcomed by God, we now turn and welcome one another. Jesus Christ is our peace; in his flesh, he has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. Christ is the sure source of our peace. 
  • CONFESSION OF SINS: Having been called into God’s holy presence and greeted by his grace, we become aware of his holiness and our sinfulness and thus, will now be led into a time of confession. Confession is our communal practice whereby we come face-to-face with our sins of both commission and omission, with our disordered desires and our complicity in unjust systems. This call to confession week after week is a reminder of a crucial chapter of the gospel story, which heightens the sweetness of God’s grace toward us in Christ.
  • ASSURANCE OF PARDON: The Christian practice of confession is not a groveling pit or “worm theology,” a kind of spiritual punishment because there is never a moment of confession that isn’t immediately met with the announcement of the good news of forgiveness and absolution in Christ. The good news of forgiveness in Christ pushes back on the hopelessness and despair of a consumer gospel that can offer only goods and services, not true peace. 
  • THE PEOPLE'S PRAYER: The final step in the Gathering chapter of our liturgy is the People’s Prayer. Having confessed our sins, and having met that confession with the announcement of the good news of forgiveness and absolution in Christ, we hear our Savior’s words in the gospel of Matthew: “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” With grateful hearts, let us go to the Father, Son and Spirit to intercede on behalf of our church, neighbors, town and world.

Chapter 2: Listening

  • SCRIPTURE READING: We now enter into the Listening chapter of our liturgy, because we have been graciously called into the presence of a holy but forgiving God. This includes hearing God’s Words to us through scripture read. The importance of this element is summed up in our response. 
    • Leader: "This is the Word of the Lord" - a declaration as to what the Bible IS. 
    • People: "Praise be to God" - our joyful response to hearing God speak. 
  • PREACHING: The scripture reading is followed by the announcement of God's teaching and will for our lives, which is not a burdensome yoke we try to “keep” in order to earn our salvation— we’ve already been reminded that we are forgiven in Christ. Rather, the teaching is now received as that gift whereby God graciously invites us into ways of life that are for our good, that lead to flourishing. 

Chapter 3: Communing

  • PROFESSION OF FAITH & COMMUNIONThe story of our liturgy now culminates in our communing with God and with one another. We are invited to sit down for supper with the Creator of the universe, to dine with the King. But we are all invited to do so, which means we need to be reconciled to one another as well. Our communion with Christ spills over into communion as his body. There is a social, even political, reality enacted here: there are no box seats at this table, no reservations for VIPs, no filet mignon for those who can afford it while the rest eat crumbs from their table. The Lord’s Table is a leveling reality in a world of increasing inequalities, an enacted vision of Isaiah 25:6: “a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine”. This strange feast is the civic rite of another city, the city to whom, if we are in Christ our citizenship now resides— the Heavenly City of God— which is why it includes our pledge of allegiance, the Creed. In this communion our hearts are drawn into the very heart of God’s Triune life. Thus, in some ways the support beam of our liturgy is an ancient latin phrase, sursum corda: “Lift up your hearts.” In worship “we lift them up to the Lord.” The Lord’s Supper isn’t just a way to remember something that was accomplished in the past; it is a feast that nourishes our hearts. Here is an deeply personal meal that retains our deepest, most human hungers.

Chapter 4: Sending

  • BENEDICTIONHaving been invited into the very life of the Triune God— having been re-created in Christ, counseled by his Word, and nourished by the bread of life— we are then sent into the world to tend and till God’s good creation and to make disciples of every nation. The sending at the end of our worship gathering is a replay of the original commissioning of humanity as God’s image bearers because in Christ. And because of what God has done in our worship gathering, we can finally be the humans we were made to be. So we are sent out to inhabit the sanctuary of God’s creation as living, breathing “images” of God. We bear his image by carrying out our mission to cultivate creation and invite others to find their humanity in this Story as we join with him in the renewal of all things. As we conclude with this benediction , remember that is both a blessing and a charge to go, but to go in and with the presence of the Son, who will never leave us or forsake us— to go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

 

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week (the Church’s commemoration of Christ’s trials, crucifixion, and resurrection), is a feast day observed by the Church on the Sunday before Good Friday.  On Palm Sunday, we celebrate Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  This event from the life of Christ is featured in all four gospels (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19).  

According to the gospel accounts, the way in which Christ enters Jerusalem is intentional and also quite unexpected.  The Jewish people had hoped for deliverance from Rome, but Jesus, Israel’s messiah, doesn’t arrive in a chariot like a victorious military commander; he rides into the city on the back of a donkey.  Through this intentional act of humility, Jesus reveals that his kingdom is unlike the government that the Jewish people yearned for (John 18:36).  He is a king, to be sure, but as the people, who shout, “Hosanna!”, will learn in a few days, he is a suffering and dying king, a king who is victorious through his own death, a king who liberates his people by way of crucifixion, “Palm Sunday summons us to behold our king - the Suffering Servant, the vanquisher of death and the giver of life. We cannot understand Jesus' kingship apart from the Passion.” 

People's Prayer for February 5th, 2017

by Micah Downs

A regular part of the liturgy in our weekly worship gathering is the People's Prayer. Having confessed our sins, and having met that confession with the announcement of the good news of forgiveness and absolution in Christ, we hear our Savior’s words in the gospel of Matthew:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

It is with grateful hearts, that we go every week to the Father, Son and Spirit to intercede on behalf of our church, neighbors, town and world. These are those prayers, written by men and women who are Covenant Partners at RCC. 


Father,

We come to you tonight expectant. Expectant that you’d show us your glory through Christ. As we hear tonight from your word about our oneness with Christ, or our union with Jesus, we rely on you for faith that all things really are ours in Christ Jesus. We are therefore united to our brothers and sisters in Christ that we are sitting beside and worshipping with. We worship with singing because of the life of Christ in us, who brings us real satisfaction. So we pray that Christ in us would produce peace, hope and love. And that Christ in us would initiate repentance and the hatred of our sin.

By faith make us bold and confident to know that not only is Christ in us, but we are also in Christ, and so the sin we repent of is forgiven. Completely absorbed by your Son on the cross, and defeated when he was raised. And so the love that you have for Christ we share in as well. 

Lord we will need such faith, and Christ in us for the boldness and passion that’s required to be on mission in our lives. We pray also for the gospel to be taken by those here tonight to the neighborhoods we live in, as well as to the nations where so many millions of people do not know or even have access to hearing the gospel of Jesus.

May Christ in us help disciple, train, send and support someone or a family in this room to take the gospel to a country or place where You, their creator, has never been claimed and there is no church. Give us discontentment for Christ’s glory not being known and loved throughout the world, and take away our apathy that leads to a cross-less life. 

We pray the same for the Well Community Church in Silver Spring as Matt Klinger and their other leaders shepherd your flock there. Protect them from sin from both within the church and from the outside. Lead them into deeper truth of your word and into deeper love with you and each other. Give them a passion for Christ being known and shared in Silver Spring, as well as the desire and funds for them to support and send missionaries to plant churches in nations where Christ is not worshiped or proclaimed. 

We pray for our covenant partners Kevin and Rachel Gammell. Thank you for their partnership and commitment to you and our church. Lord, guide them both as they seek a plan for Rachel’s career goals and future. Thank you for her creativity and talents, and we ask that she’d be able to serve you and others with them. We also pray that Kevin would reflect Christ to his students as an image bearer. Give him the power that comes from the Holy Spirit in him to not be discouraged or cynical. We pray for their family members health. We ask that sickness wouldn’t be without the hope of You and the power of Christ’s resurrection. We join the Gammels in thanking you for our church here that will lead them to holiness and the worship of Jesus.

And we pray for ourselves here as Paul did for the Philippians, that our love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that we may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

In Christ’s name, Amen

For Women

Sisters,

Do you know we've been praying for you for months now?  

We’ve been praying for you and the role you serve in our church and community. We’ve been praying about how our church can best serve you and how you can serve it. We’ve been praying about you using your gifts and how you will love Christ more in doing so. 

The more we prayed about it, the clearer it became.

At RCC we want our women to be marked by a love and devotion to God in Christ, scripture, prayer, one another, and good works. 

  • We want you to know God more through the study of His word.
  • We want you to know God more through prayer.
  • We want you to be equipped in word and prayer to join God in the renewal of all things. 
  • We want to equip you to equip others.

So today, we proudly announce “For Women” our means by which we hope to further teach, encourage, serve and equip the women of RCC. 

What Is "For Women"?

“For Women” is the gathering of women whether doubters, seekers or followers who are working together to devote themselves to Christ and to living the way of Jesus. 

For this beginning season it will include 2 types of gatherings:

  1. For Women: Prayer – We gather to pray together for one another, our families, church and community. Gatherings take place the 2nd and 4th Thursday evening of each month.
  2. For Women: Word – We gather to pray and study scripture. 

In case you are wondering…What about IF:?

For this time RCC intends to back away from “IF:”.  We are grateful for “IF:” and we know the Lord has worked greatly though it and will continue to do so. In its place we will turn our focus to “For Women” where we will be praying and studying God’s word together. 

We know there are women right here in our church who are worthy of being heard.  We know because we’ve been listening to you talk about Jesus for months and some of you for years now. Not only have we heard you talk about your faith, we have watched as many of you have faithfully walked it out. We have prayed with and for you. We’ve sat in packed out living rooms with you studying God’s word. We’ve rejoiced with you and mourned with you. And sisters, we know Jesus more because of you. 

We don’t need to wait once a year to hear the word of God taught by famous women. We want to open our bibles together and hear His word taught right here with you and the women we're surrounded by. We want to hear of your love for our King as we walk this path together. We don’t want to be part of a bigger movement; we want to faithfully dive right into this one. 

So to that we say… What If? 

What if we as the women of RCC were dedicated to Word and Prayer? 

What if we equipped the women of our church to study and teach scripture together? 

What if we loved each other, our church, and Frederick because we loved our savior more deeply because we have spent time with Him in His word and prayer? 

Sisters, would you join us as we learn to Love our savior through word and prayer?

We love you all and look forward to this journey together. 

In Christ, Shelby Spillar, Brooke Miller, and Sarah Downs


Upcoming “For Women” Events

More details (as always) on the City.

People's Prayer for January 29th, 2017

by Megan Forsee

A regular part of the liturgy in our weekly worship gathering is the People's Prayer. Having confessed our sins, and having met that confession with the announcement of the good news of forgiveness and absolution in Christ, we hear our Savior’s words in the gospel of Matthew:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

It is with grateful hearts, that we go every week to the Father, Son and Spirit to intercede on behalf of our church, neighbors, town and world. These are those prayers, written by men and women who are Covenant Partners at RCC. 


Gracious God,

    We thank you that because of the blood of Christ and the power of your Spirit, our words and the cries of our heart are not pointless and empty, but everything we say is heard by the creator of the heavens and the earth, founder and perfector of our faith. So, to you O Lord we lift our soul. O God in you we trust. 

    Almighty God, we come to you tonight on behalf of our sister church, The Church at Martinsburg. Spirit, empower them as they labor to fulfill the great commission given to them by Jesus, to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The harvest is plentiful in Martinsburg and throughout our DC region, so we ask with our brothers and sisters that you would send workers into the filed. Lord we ask that you would prosper their work and that through their efforts we would see you save many. That we would witness men, women and children put their hope in you alone. That many would be baptized, disciples made, and churches planted within this region. For your kingdom come O Lord.

    Father, we thank you for our brother Tim Fritz. Thank you for who you have created him to be, for the gifts talents and abilities you have given him, and for seeing fit to weave him into the fabric of Redemption City Church. 

    Spirit, we ask that you would continue to lead, guide, and protect him. That you would give him faith to walk in the steps you have ordained for him. Give Tim favor in his work as a professor at Mount St. Mary’s University. 

    Father we thank you for Kara and the good gift that she is to Tim. We are so looking forward to celebration their marriage in just a few short months. 

    Father bless this time of engagement. By your grace strengthen their relationships with you, their savior, and with one another. 

    In all the wedding planning and preparations and big life decisions may they seek first the kingdom of God and your righteousness. 

    Father may your leading, guiding and protecting hand be clearly seen upon them and in their lives as they prepare to be united in life and come together as one. May their story be a testimony, to all why know and love them, of your goodness and your loving kindness to your people.

    Eternal Faithful God, you have knit us together as one body in Christ. Keep us and sustain us until that day when all you saints will dwell together in the joy of your eternal kingdom. 

    Prepare us now to sit under the teaching and authority of you word. May it go forth with power and may we be changed by it.

    Jesus to you alone be glory now and forever. 

Amen

10 Great Reasons to Join a Community Group

Community Groups are the heartbeat of all we do at Redemption City. They are groups of men, women, and children that gather throughout the County to eat, serve, and grow together. We've been asked before, "why should I join a Community Group?", and while there are a lot of great reasons why you should, here are ten!

  1. God Created you to be in Community (Gen. 1 & 2). 
  2. To encourage one another in love and good works (Heb. 10:24-25).
  3. Easier to fight our flesh,  the world, and the Devil (Heb. 12:2-15). 
  4. To become disciples who make disciples (Matt. 28).
  5. To experience close encounters with God through prayer, study, fellowship, conversation, and serving others. 
  6. To gain a deeper and practical understanding of God's Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). 
  7. To have a neutral platform to engage your neighbors, co-workers, and family with the Gospel (Phil. 1:12-26). 
  8. To identify gifts and talents God has given you to leverage for the benefit of another (1 Pet. 4:!0). 
  9. So you don't have to Celebrate your victories, cry during tragedy, and worship God ALONE!
  10. To honor Jesus in love, oneness, and submission through Biblical community (John 17:22-23).

To get more information on Community Groups at RCC or to find one that works for you, you can visit our Community Group page

What To Do With Santa?

by Bliss Spillar

With Christmas only a few days away, the question of what are we to do with Santa as devoted followers of Christ comes up from time to time. It is a good question that should be wrestled with before choosing to incorporate it or keep it out of our homes. Even at Redemption City Church, there are homes that incorporate Santa as part of their Christmas tradition and there are homes that have chosen to not incorporate him as part of their tradition. 

This blog post is not about which position should necessarily be taken, but rather to give some practical wisdom and a few resources to consider. 

Perspectives on the Dangers

Perspectives on Wisley Navigating the Dangers

For Parents Who Disagree

The Historical Santa

 

    5 Reasons We Use the Liturgical Calendar

    At Redemption City Church, we plan our liturgy, preaching, and church life around the traditional Church calendar (also known as the Liturgical Calendar). As we begin the first season of the year, Advent this Sunday, we thought it would be helpful to lay out a few reasons why we believe this is useful and healthy for a Christ-centered church and followers of Christ. 

    What is the Liturgical Calendar?

    The traditional liturgical calendar reflects the storyline of the gospel. Beginning in Advent, the flow of the Church Year tells the story of Jesus. The seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany take us through the experience of longing for Jesus, his arrival, and the revelation of his glory to us. Lent and Easter help us experience the reality of our own sin, our need for a suffering Savior who dies and rises from the dead to secure our salvation. The Day of Pentecost and the season of Ordinary Time help us embrace our commission by the Risen Christ who has ascended to the Father and who has poured out his Holy Spirit on the Church, sending us with the gospel to our neighbors and to the nations as we await his return. 

    This time-tested annual pattern for the life of individual believers and the Church together that is focused on Christ, organized around the Gospel, and grounded in God’s grace, is sheer genius. It is simple enough for a child. It offers enough opportunities for creativity and flexibility that it need never grow old. Each year provides a beautiful template for learning to walk with Christ more deeply in the Gospel which brings us faith, hope, and love.

    Why Should We Use the Calendar?

    Michael Spencer offers 5 helpful reasons why we should use the Calendar. 

    1.  It enables us to live in God’s Story. The practice of the liturgical calendar year forms Christian people around the story of redemption in Christ. It does not focus on “principles” or “steps” or “programs” for spiritual growth. It is thoroughly Jesus-shaped and uses the biblical story to conform our lives to his. As Israel was shaped by their story of slavery, redemption, covenant, and Promised Land, so the New Covenant Community is formed by the story of Christ.
    2. It keeps the main thing the main thing. Church Year spirituality is Christ-centered. It is shaped around the events of his incarnation, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of his Spirit. At every turn we see Jesus, we hear Jesus, we follow Jesus.
    3. It recognizes that one’s calendar forms one’s life. Church Year spirituality is down-to-earth, utterly realistic about the day to day, season to season patterns of life that shape our behavior. All our lives we have developed habits by the way we mark and use our time. A spirituality formed around the Church Year is designed to form our habits around following Jesus. We take the place of disciples and walk through the same experiences they had as they lived with Jesus day in and day out, season after season, over the course of three years.
    4. It links personal spirituality with worship, family, and community. Church Year spirituality recognizes both the individual journey and the corporate pilgrimage. What happens on Sundays is of a piece with what happens during the week as our corporate worship and our daily lives as individuals and families are shaped around the story of Jesus.
    5. It provides a basis of unity and common experience for Christians everywhere. Our unity with other Christians is in the Gospel story. This is summarized in the Apostles’ Creed and the other creeds of the church. Propositional doctrinal statements have their place as ways to express more detailed understandings of the meaning and significance of God’s saving acts, but our unity with other believers is in Christ. We celebrate this throughout the year when churches of various traditions and denominations celebrate the Church Year and conform their worship and congregational lives to it.

    RCC Bible Reading Plan

    Our new RCC Reading Plan seek to align with these high points during the Church Year, even reflecting the colors of the Church calendar. Therefore, the books of the bible are not read in order, but in light of their doctrinal focus and alignment with the rhythm of the Church year. You can learn more or download a copy HERE

    Learn More

    Check out a few of our favorite resources on liturgy, and the liturgical calendar. 

    An Everyday Dance of Grace

    by Sarah Downs.

    Sarah is a Covenant Partner at RCC. Sarah and her husband lead a Community Group in the Whittier Neighborhood. She blogs regularly at Dancing Through Life with the Downs.

    “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

    Deuteronomy 6:4-9 pretty much sums up the mantra that replays in my head all day long as I mother my littles.

    All my life I have wanted to be a mama and while I consider it a huge blessing and a dream come true - it is also a heavy responsibility. It means I am a teacher, every moment of every day.

    If you are a mom, or if you are going to be a mom, God is trusting you to steward human souls. Souls that He made (Genesis 1:26-27; Jeremiah 1:5) and loves and has a purpose for, the purpose is for His glory.

    He doesn’t give them to complete us. He doesn’t give them to make us happy. He doesn’t give them just to sanctify us. He doesn’t give them to us to idolize them. Sure those things feel like they happen but human beings are His and not ours. He made them and loves them more than we do.

    We are stewards of their souls for a certain amount of time, and it is a responsibility and privilege I take so seriously. If I believe scripture, then I believe when it says in Romans, that by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for all have sinned (Romans 5). 

    He gave us Christ, whom by His obedience we are considered righteous (Romans 5). I am considered righteous because of Christ, and that is a truth I will never fully grasp, and so I learn alongside my children when we read God’s word and let it soak in. 

    This reality, this good news now affects everything about the way I parent. It keeps my eyes focused on the treasure of who Christ is and what He has done. As a mama with a messy past, I know this truth so well. What He did for me and the fact that I get to be with Him... It is the breath that fills my lungs. It heals my deepest hurts and shame. It pushes me forward in love. It leaves me longing for eternity. I’m not a mom that walks around calling my kids sinners all day. I do, however, teach them what sin is and what virtue is. I help them recognize the conscience that God created in them. 

    They don’t understand sin yet; they are four and two, but I hope they never remember a day that if their sin was revealed or confronted, it wasn’t met with immediate grace, forgiveness, and love. I lavish them in that because that’s what He does for me. I want to give them a taste of that. But, I get distracted easily. I’m prone to wander. (Lord, do I feel that on a daily basis.) Prone to leave the God I love… for unimportant worldly mindsets and things, even with regards to parenting. 

    Because I am cursed with being a Type A perfectionist (just kidding about the cursed part… I am fearfully and wonderfully made) the way I try and care for my children often is tiring to me, and it’s my fault. I want them to keep sleep schedules, eat the healthiest food, and have toys and books to develop their brains and bodies correctly according to all the recommendations. I want their birthday parties to be themed and their outfits to match. I want their rooms to look like they could be featured in a Pottery Barn magazine. The list goes on. 

    It’s hard to remember the greatest purpose of child rearing when you are trying to tackle the mundane day-to-day living. However, I am thankful that He has given me the wisdom to see how fleeting time is. 

    I only have a certain amount of time with these little souls, and I have no idea how long that time will be. The reality is that it could be five more hours, five more days, 5 more weeks, 5 more months, five more years or God-willing, my children will outlive me. For however long I get to mother these people I want to be able to say I gave it my all. That I tried to be like Him, show Him, teach Him - in every moment of every day that I was with them.

    Because someday He is coming back and they will hear Him because they know His voice. His word has been there since they were babies. The Spirit of Christ has used me to write it there. When I rose, when I sat, when I walked by the way, when we laid down. I don’t believe motherhood is the highest calling on earth and I don’t like to hear Christians say it. It’s just not true. It IS an incredible responsibility, though, and I desire for both faithfulness and fruitfulness as I run this race of motherhood that Christ has laid in front of me. Do I think that if I do it “perfectly” they will be saved? You know my mind wanders there sometimes! But I know it isn’t true. I’ll be diligent to do my part of proclaiming the gospel, and teaching them faithfully and trust God to faithfully do what He does, the redeeming and the renewing.   

    So if we are teachers, every moment of every day, what is it that we are teaching? His word MUST be in our hearts if we are to impress it on theirs. Saturate your mind with it – whatever that looks like for you. You will grow weary in many ways as a parent and let things go at the time; that’s fine. Don’t grow wearing in teaching the word, mamas. Don't grow weary in proclaiming the good news of the gospel to these little souls. Because in teaching them the story of scripture, whether Genesis, Ruth, Psalms or John, we are teaching them Christ (Luke 24:27).

    I do want my children to rise and call me blessed someday, but more than that though I want to worship our Creator together for eternity and that can only happen through what Paul calls the "power of God to save" in Romans 1, the gospel. I want to see Haddon and Verity, beautiful creations of His, surrounded by His glory, and overcome with His Majesty. Eternity. That is what keeps my eyes focused on Christ as a mama. 

    2 Timothy 3:14-15 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

    A Few Recommended Resources

    Ignatian Examen for the Election

    Part of the rich tradition of the Church is recognizing the need to reflect on the day's activities—to remember God's initiation and invitation and our response or lack of response (which is immediately met with grace.) An early church father, Ignatius of Loyola developed a simple method by which you can review each day in a way that will help you grow in self-understanding, relish God’s grace towards you and free you to follow God's will. This practice is often called the Daily Examen. Many people choose to practice this prayerful review of their day before going to bed at night by following the five steps below.

    1. Stillness: Recalling God's Presence
    2. Gratitude: Expressing Thankfulness
    3. Reflection: Looking Back on Your Day
    4. Sorrow: Asking for Forgiveness
    5. Hopefulness: Assured of Forgiveness and Resolving to Grow

    As we approach Election Day this week, it’s always helpful to remember that our hope is ultimately in God, not politics. Behind all the complexity and troubling realities of our present day, He is very much alive and on the throne. 

    We invite you to use this prayer of Examen as a way to connect with God and allow him to shape your life in this season. 

    The Examen for the Election is an adapted form of the Daily Examen, but follows much of the same pattern. (Thanks to Rich Villodas and New Life NYC for the idea.)

     

     

     

     

    Biblical Theology or Systematic Theology?

    Today we began a new three-week series titled "Ethnos" A Biblical Theology of Race". We realize that for a number of both doubters, seekers, and followers, the term "Biblical Theology" is either new, forgotten, or not understood.

    Simply put, Biblical Theology sets out "to discover to discover what the biblical writers, under divine guidance, believed, described, and taught in the context of their own times." (Robert W. Yarbrough, "Biblical Theology" in Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Walter E. Elwell (Baker, 1996), p. 61.) For instance, this series is a journey from Genesis to Revelation to study and understand what the Bible says about race, and racism. 

    This also brings up the question, "what relation does Biblical Theology have with Systematic Theology". There are a number of men and women who have already answered this question and we would like to highlight one. From an interview with Vern Poythress, he speaks to the relation between these two theologies. 

    Different people have had different conceptions of both biblical theology and systematic theology, so it is wise to ask what people mean in both areas, as well as to look at the relation between the two areas.

    I would myself describe systematic theology as study of the Bible’s teaching in which we try to synthesize and then summarize what the Bible as a whole teaches about all kinds of topics—God, man, Christ, sin, salvation, and so on.

    In some contexts the expression “biblical theology” simply means theology built on the Bible; that is, it is systematic theology done in the right way. But there is also another possible meaning. Biblical theology, as described by Geerhardus Vos, studies the Bible with a focus on its history, the history of revelation and of redemption. Whereas systematic theology is topically organized, biblical theology is historically organized. It looks at the progress of God’s work and his revelation through time. In addition, biblical theology more broadly conceived can study the themes that are distinctive to a particular book of the Bible, or to books written by a single human author (for example, Paul’s letters).

    At their best, biblical theology and systematic theology interact and help to deepen one another.

    Systematic theology provides doctrines of God’s sovereignty, of revelation, of God’s purposes, and of the meaning of history that supply a sound framework of assumptions for the work of biblical theology.

    Biblical theology at its best deepens the appreciation that systematic theology should have for the way in which, in interpreting individual texts and in uncovering their relation to a whole topic, the context of texts within the history of redemption colors the interpretation. Biblical theology may also bring to light new themes that can be the starting point for systematic-theological explorations into new topics that can receive fuller attention. For instance, the theme of life and death as it develops in the course of the history of revelation can become the starting point for discussing ethical questions about modern medicine and the issue of euthanasia.

    For more on this, see Poythress’s essay, “Kinds of Biblical Theology.” 

    New Sermon Series: Eth-nos

    This coming Sunday we are going to start a short, three week series on a biblical theology of race. This is an essential foundation to the series on race, the gospel and the church in early 2017. 

    Here is the big idea behind the series:

    “After this, I looked and there before I was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language . . .” (Revelation 7:9). The visions in the book of Revelation give a glimpse of the people of God at the consummation of history―a multiethnic congregation gathered together in worship around God’s throne. Its racial diversity is expressed in a fourfold formula that first appears in Genesis 10. The theme of race runs throughout Scripture, continually pointing to the global and multiethnic dimensions inherent in the overarching plan of God. This provides a firm theological foundation for life in contemporary multiracial cultures and challenges churches to pursue racial unity in Christ.

    Join us as we begin this short, but important journey together on Sunday.