December 08, 2015
Two and a half years ago, I walked into the doors of Resurrection for the first time for Good Friday. Little did I know that the college friend I was meeting to sit with during service would end up being the woman I'd be marrying at the end of this year.
Besides the college we met at, Resurrection has been the most important context for our relationship. We've served here, met friends here; cried and danced many times here. But as our relationship entered a new season of preparing for marriage, we began thinking and dreaming of what would be next for our lives together. What did we, as a couple, have to offer our friends and family, the Church, and our world?
The answer came when we first learned about the new vision for Resurrection to equip everyone for transformation. I remember Grace turning to me midway through a service, excitement in her eyes as she whispered what this vision could mean for us. I agreed; there were loved family members, friends, and causes that we longed to see be transformed. This calling, to enter more deeply into the life of Jesus while simultaneously being made ready for the work of God in our lives, rang true in both of our hearts.
We are entering into a new season of life, together: a new marriage, new jobs, new roles, a new home. It's fitting that our life in Christ is entering a new season as well at Church of the Resurrection. So when the time came to commit to this new initiative, the questions wasn't "if" but "how"? I graduated from college just over a year ago, and Grace was still finishing classes and student teaching. We weren't sure what it looked like to give with such big transitions right on the horizon.
Of course, the Lord made it clear. Through discussions together and prayer with family and friends, God showed us how to live generously with our resources in this season of our lives. We are being stretched, yes, but have already seen a softening of our hearts to others and the work of God in our lives.
I still remember the feeling of walking hand in hand with Grace up to the altar on Commitment Sunday. While it felt great to have committed to something new, together, it felt even better to have committed together with hundreds of families, couples, singles, and friends to this work of transformation. We are so thankful to have been moved by Jesus into this new season together.
December 02, 2015
Our Union Street sign has been paving the way for First Fruits Sunday (December 6) for eight months. Ben Johnson and I have been watching in wonder the miracle in process, but it wasn't until the first hard frost in November that it became clear God was teaching us a lesson from the soil of our sign.
All good gardeners know that you plant the tallest and sturdiest perennials in the back and work forward to the short, squatty pansies in front. Many bulbs were planted for Easter 2015 and on the morning of the Easter Vigil, we added to the bed a cache of blooming Easter lilies. As the months ticked by we spoke over RezCafe coffee, "Can you believe it? It's July and the Easter lilies are still blooming!" Easter lilies don't keep blooming through the summer due to the intense heat and sun, but Resurrection lilies are different.
Lilies are exceedingly fruitful. One root puts forth as many as fifty bulbs or scallions. They are tall, yet humble in the way they hang their pure white heads. The scent of the lily speaks Resurrection life to us from the altar. "Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." (Matthew 6:29). So apt a description spoken by Jesus himself who is our "Lily of the Valley."
"But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that sleep." (1 Corinthians 15:20). Out of gratitude, we have the privilege of giving our first fruits back to our first fruit. When we do we join with the ancient Israelites who celebrated this feast of first fruits by offering their first harvest to God. "And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God." (Deuteronomy 26:10). This December our offering has even greater significance as it signals the completion of three years in our new building. The same passage in Deuteronomy describes "the third year, which is the year of tithing" as the right time to extend our generosity to "the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow that they may eat within thy gates and be filled." As we give our First Fruit tithes and offerings, we are opening the gate of our beautiful building and giving to them, those the Lord desires us to equip for transformation.
As the first hard frost of November transformed our New Guinea Impatiens from preppy pink and green to dull charcoal brown, the lilies endured. Their eternal white faces radiant amidst the contrast of withered annuals. Even into December their stalks stand tall and green. Never seen before in my lifetime of gardening, this could only happen beneath a sign that calls out
First fruits are mentioned in all of the three main Jewish feasts. The first fruits referenced in Passover was called the omer, and no one was allowed to eat from their crop until the omer was offered. Let us all bring our omer into the Resurrection house of God and partake of his Eucharistic feast together. Our eternal lily is waiting to bless his harvest.