What does a gospel-centered church look like?
We're finding out by the day. The pastor of a small country parish in Switzerland, Karl Barth, once said: "No one can claim to have heard the gospel already." He meant that grace, real grace, takes our breath away. Knocks us off our feet. Catches us off guard. Captivates us. Each time the Spirit opens our eyes to see a little more the beauty of Christ in the gospel, and we fall through him a little farther into the loving embrace of our Father, we're undone like Isaiah and forgiven like David and restored like Peter, all at once, and all over again, for the very first time. And the amazing thing is, the best is always yet to come.
The three words in our logo sum up pretty well who Christ is making us and where he's calling us to go.
Gospel. The gospel is the good news that the One who made the seas and the stars saves sinners through his Son, Jesus Christ. As a gift. Not because we've earned it - we haven't - but because he chose to love us, refused our refusal, forgave everything at the cross, and gave us life in the risen Jesus. One beautiful word captures it all: grace. As he walked the dusty roads of Palestine, the Redeemer proclaimed: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." St Paul, who helped murder the first Christian martyr, knew well: "You must stake your life on this fact: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; and I should know, because I'm the biggest one of all." Then there's Peter. On the eve of the crucifixion, he first boasted of his strength, then denied he even knew Jesus because he was afraid of a pre-teen girl. Later he wrote: "Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds, we are healed." Our aim as a parish family is to see every bit of our church permeated by this amazing grace. Every service. Every sermon. Every ministry. Every family. Every marriage. Every heart. Because grace changes everything.
Community. We live in a lonely age: a time, as Robert Putnam put it, of "bowling alone." Our nation, our cities, our neighborhoods, homes, children, schools, and souls, are suffering for it. Through the gospel spoken all sorts of ways - by preaching, sacrament, and song, by repentance, joy, sacrifice, hospitality, hope, by love - the Holy Spirit gathers us out of our iEverything isolation and leads us by the hand deep into the family of the Father. Because when Father adopts us as his kids as a gift of his love, he gives us the love of his whole family too. He gives us a home. In this community of grace (or "church"), unloved people find the place where they belong ... the safe place where, bit by bit, they come back to life.
Mission. The grace of Jesus Christ and the love of his people is too big, too good, too beautiful to keep to ourselves. When God saves sinners and creates his Church through the gospel, he sends his beloved right back out into the world rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our mission hasn't changed since Genesis 1. Made new in Jesus Christ, we're called to go to the ends of the earth and turn the whole world into a garden lush in grace, truth, goodness, and love.
Might God be calling you to join us?