Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"In and For" Part I

With Annual Conference for the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church coming next week, I remember the first Annual Conference I attended in 2001. It was held in an arena in Augusta, Ga. In this large arena that was evidently used for sporting events and the like, were back light message boards for beer bottling companies and sports bars that did not convey the most "holy" of images especially during times of worship. Yet the Bishop reminded us that it is in such a world the Church exists. In fact the Book of Discipline for the United Methodist Church reminds us, "The church of Jesus Christ exists in and for the world."
The Church of Christ is in the world as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). As the called out people of God and bride of Christ, the Church's values and virtues are shaped and empowered by the Triune God. God the Father sent the Son in to the world. Jesus was God in flesh. The incarnation of Jesus Christ shows that God is not "this world" denying, but exist within it. In other words, God isn't aloof from the pain,  alienation, disappointment and hurt that exist in the world. In fact, God through Jesus knows (has experienced) them intimately. So too the church is to exists not aloof from the pain and hurt of this world but right in the middle of it giving witness to God's reality in the world and active power for healing and holiness. Thus, the Church exists in the world in such a way that it serves the least, lowest, and the lost and those addicted to stuff and power. Paradoxically, it is in those acts of serving in the world the church finds it has been serving Christ (Matthew 25:35-40). 
Scripture: John 3:16-17
Why did God send His "one and only" or unique Son into the world? What is unique about Christ?
How does v. 17 expand v. 16?
What does this passage say about God's relationship with the world? Against it? For it? Transform it? How will this world's salvation come about?
What comfort can you take from knowing that God is not aloof from our pain and hurts, but the God we worship and serve knows the feelings of pain and alienation?
How have you seen the Church serve in the world such that it gives witness to God's healing presence that is active in this world?
How does being part of a church and serving Christ in the world free us from our tendency toward self-serving attitudes and narcissism?
How do you maintain the tension between being "in" the world but not "of" it? Why is that so hard? How is this also true for the church?

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