Posted by Hanover Missionary Church on Sunday, July 5, 2020
Let me tell you another road trip story where I am sure “are we there yet” was on the minds of everyone!
Our story starts in March of 2020 (hindsight suggests it may not have been the ideal time for a vacation). We have friends who live in Washington state, who we had not seen for years. We were able to book the time off work, scored an amazing deal for flights, and we were finally ready for our first big family vacation. We are the type of parents who enjoy surprising (or tormenting) our children, so the only thing they knew was we were going somewhere and they would miss a few days of school. As the date drew near, we were becoming more aware of Covid-19, and the US outbreak near our destination. We monitored travel advisories, discussed it with our friends in Washington, and made the decision to proceed with our trip, but wash our hands often, and buy toilet paper before leaving.
We left on a Wednesday morning and made it inside the London airport before the girls realized they were actually getting on an airplane for the first time in their lives!
Because they had never left the province before, their first view of mountains was from the air, which is an incredible view! Wednesday afternoon we land in Abbottsford BC and drive the 2 hours to our friends’s house, and the kids finally believed us that we really weren’t going to Disney.
But then Covid-19 started rapidly evolving. Wednesday we arrived. Thursday, schools in Washington state closed for 6 weeks. Friday, Ontario schools closed for 2 weeks following March break. Saturday, Trudeau starts suggesting Canadians return home, and there is concern that Washington state will have mandatory stay at home days, which could make it hard for us to get home. Sunday, we decide to cut our trip short, and bunker down in an Abbottsford hotel and wait for our flight on Tuesday.
Sunday night saw whispered conversations in a hotel room hallway while the kids slept. Based on information we had, and consulting with a lovely doctor in our church family, we determined cancelling our flight, extending our vehicle rental and driving home was the most responsible choice for us.
Monday morning’s conversation: “So kids, you know how you’ve always complained about never leaving Ontario before? Now you’re going to get to say you’ve seen BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and northern Ontario!!!”
Strangely this was met with a resounding “NOOOOOOO!”
We ignored their protests and started the cross country trek.
We took shifts driving (my husband doing most of the driving using a combo of red bull and sunflower seeds to stay awake). My first shift started at dusk, in the mountains. Having never driven in mountains before, and doing so in a rental I was unfamiliar with, I was slightly nervous. It did not help passing a tractor trailer on it’s side. Or driving through an emergency scene involving two more tractor trailers. When the GPS alerted me to falling rocks ahead, my nerves were shot. I white-knuckled it until there was somewhere safe to switch out with my husband, who had not slept at all because I was so nervous he needed to stay awake.
We switched back and forth as we sped for home. The kids slept, and played on their tablets, and were suprisingly well behaved. We made it past Winnipeg before the first tears happened (it wasn’t me, but I felt close). After much discussion (and perhaps some disagreeing, and concern about our marriage lasting the remainder of the trip) we checked into a hotel in Thunder Bay, around 2 am on Wednesday morning. Never have we been so thankful for beds and showers! 6 am, we were back on the road, and 11pm Wednesday night we crawled into our own beds, and began our quarantine.
The biggest advantage of the trip is, when the kids now complain about being stuck at home, we simply ask if they want to go for a road trip again, and they stop complaining immediately!
I am sure that for that family, everyone just wanted the trip to end; they wanted to arrive. And if they could have screamed it, they probably would have said “are we there yet?”
We are on a strange journey as a church. Everything has been closed or cancelled (so it seems) due to COVID. Our churches are no exception. Until recently, no one was allowed to meet. And even as restrictions lift a bit, the ability to properly meet is still in question. And now even as we hear that we can maybe meet again, but also wrestle with if it is the wisest option, we are left asking “Are we there yet”? We all just want this wild ride to stop, and we long for some sense of normalcy. Yet, we also know that we are not quite sure where we are actually going; the final destination is unknown. What is normalcy? Everywhere we turn, we hear “life will never be the same” or “there will be a new normal”. What does that mean? And how does that impact our life as the church? Truthfully, I don’t really know (prayers for myself and all our leadership team would be great!)
Regardless of what church life ends up looking like, how we worship, how we carry out the mission, certain values drive us, and will always be the same. We are: Generations Following Jesus Together. That is our vision statement, who we want to become. We believe this happens as we Gather, Grow, Give, and Go. These are mission statements, or how we practically live out and achieve our vision.
So far, we have focused on the first three:
i. Gather: We believe that we are a connected family and community. We find ways to gather together because when we are together, life happens, relational and spiritual growth happens, and we reach our full, God given potential.
ii. Grow: Spiritual maturity is a continual process, and as followers of Jesus, we know that we are to grow deeper in our relationship with Him, and grow to become more like Him in our words, attitudes, and actions.
iii. Give: As we grow more mature, we understand that we are to give of ourselves from the gifts and abilities God gives us to serve others. We have looked at two central ideas so far:
God gives so you can give it away.
The very reason you have gifts and abilities is so that you can invest it in the lives of others for the purpose of building up the Kingdom of God here on Earth and for eternity.
Faith and humble service go hand in hand.
Serving others humbly is an evidence of who you are following. Following Jesus (doing as He did, following His example and His teachings) means humble service.
Everyone can serve someone: we are all able!
As we talk about being the family and a community, and we together make it our goal to follow Jesus more, we embrace the idea that we are all able to serve someone; that God has given us all abilities so that no one is with excuse. Everyone can serve someone.
As we talk about everyone serving someone, what are some helpful tips from the Bible? What are some things we need to remember so that we can serve others the way God intends? I Invite you to turn to Romans 12:3-8.
The book of Romans written to the church in Rome, later on in Paul’s ministry It was written to the context of a divided church. The church in Rome was made up of Jewish and non Jewish believers. And as certain things happened in the life of the church, fractures became more apparent.
a) The Jews exiled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius during his reign (anywhere from 41AD – 54 AD) (See Acts 18:1-2)
b) When they were allowed to return, they returned to see a church that was not what they left. It was not Jewish in flavour as for all this time, the Jewish contingency was gone. As a result, there were tensions regarding practice and traditions.
c) Tensions arose over what it looked like and meant to follow Jesus.
Romans was written to address that tension. The first 11 chapters give thorough theology of the gospel. Then from chapter 12 and on, we are given the practical application to the theology, or how it works in every day life. The discussion around everyone being able to serve is a part of that practical application that is handled. So, based on what is written in Romans, what is important to understand as we serve?
1) Keep yourself grounded. Don’t be crowded by egos.
Paul starts with the phrase “By the grace given to me” Here Paul is addressing his role given to him by God, by His grace. Paul’s role as an apostle and teacher was a gift of grace given to him by God. I will unpack this more in a bit, but out of this grace that was shown in how Paul was called, he has the authority to issue a warning. To the church he says:
Stop having inflated view of yourself:
a) This was written to a church with cultural tensions. Remember that up to very recently, those who were considered Gentiles were considered unclean. And now these same people who were once unclean were now equals in the church. There had to be a learning curve.
b) This was written to a church struggling with traditions.
c) There could have been tension based on giftings. There may have been some gifts that they viewed as being superior.
Instead of having an inflated view, Paul says: be honest with who you really are, using the measure of faith given. This is a fancy way to talk about what would be the standard for faith and of faith. What is this standard?
a) Jesus is the standard. So, measure yourself by how He lived.
b) Also, measure yourself by what He did for you. Jesus is the great equalizer / level ground for all people. There is nothing in the gospel that would encourage anyone to have a superiority complex. SEE GAL 2:20.
APPLICATION: How do you view yourself? Do you have a healthy view of who you are? (In this context, are you conceited? Prideful? Do you think that no one can live without you and what you contribute)? We need to think right about ourselves before we can think right of others, and start to serve them. This is a scriptural principle. See PHIL 2:3-5.
2) We are a part of something bigger than ourselves, something that requires our active participation
Verse 5 starts out by talking about there being one body in Christ / Christ’s body. Followers of Jesus are a part of this body:
a) Jesus was incarnate (God made present in human form) as He physically lived on Earth, making Himself known in personal form.
b) We are now the incarnation of Christ to world. The church is the physical vehicle by which Christ makes Himself known to the world.
c) In this body, every part has a special function. Every part has a role. The
health of the body is dependant on the parts working. Even the smallest part being out of order can affect the whole body.
d) In this body, all parts belong together.
This was in direct opposition to the mindset of Roman church that those who were of a different background or held different traditions did not have a place in the body. It was in opposition to those who claimed superiority based on giftings.
APPLICATION: Is there anyone who you see as being less than you in the church? Or any role within the church that you see as less? Or any church that you think is less? Or maybe you see others as being way better than you? Do you think that they (and not you) are able to make a difference or are more important? Is there a church that you think is superior? Jesus is the great equalizer. He levels the playing field. There is no room for an ego trip while following Christ. Anyone who calls on His name will be saved. And anyone who is His follower is a part of His body. Yes, our level of ‘responsibility’ within the role may seem different, and some roles will attract more attention, but in terms of the Body working, we need all parts working together. 1 COR 12:14-21.
3) Whatever the ability, use it!
Paul starts off this section with the phrase “According to the grace given” Some translations say “In His grace…”. Does it sound familiar? It should. It is very similar to the language used in the start of verse 3. Paul once again equates how people are gifted and called to serve as an act of grace.
Paul makes the statement in verse three that each person is differently equipped and has different gifts because of God’s grace for us.
a) God designing us different is an act of love and grace to us. Imagine if we were all the same? How messed up life would be? How impossible it would be to function together? Community would fall apart and life would not happen.
b) The early church needed to understand that it was God’s grace, not inconvenience that brought them all together, all be it all different from each other. Their differences were a part of God’s loving design for the Body of Christ.
What Paul then tells the church is “what ever your different gift(s) are, use them how ever you are able!” We have an obligation to serve as we are able. Paul then lists some of the spiritual gifts that people in the Body may have. He does not give an exhaustive list here, but is simply making a point.
a) He mentions Prophesy: These are direct messages from God about the present or future. And it is to be exercised as per the standard of faith that has been taught and given.
b) Serving, Teaching, encouragement, generosity, leading, and mercy / kindness are all mentioned.
-Paul follows the mention of each gift with an exhortation to use the gift, what ever it may be, in the way it was intended. The gifts are not meant to be hidden or hoarded.
APPLICATION: Everyone has gifts to be used. Everyone has a place to serve and function, no matter the gift. Regardless of how you view your gift, it is needed and important. So, use it! Obviously, serving and using the abilities that God has given each one of us will be a core value of our church when we do re-open, just like it has been before we closed. But even now, it is a core value, though the church building may be closed. Why? Because the church is bigger than the building. The church is the people. And anywhere the people of God gather together to do the things of the people of God, there the church is. Even as you are in your living room today gathering with others in your family, there the church is. And as His church, you are sent out to serve, regardless of where you meet, and with how many you meet. Serving isn’t reserved for just in the church building. It is meant to be shared in the community at large where ever and to whomever there is a need. And as you serve in the way you are gifted, to those around you, the body of Christ still functions.
Everyone can serve someone: we are all able!
FAMILY CHALLENGE: Who can you serve, in the ways that God has gifted you this week as a family? Find someone to serve. Be courageous and step out. And as you serve, I want to hear your stories.