April 13, 2016
On October 18, we launched weekly services at City of Light, but 22 weeks later during our first Holy Week it felt like we experienced another launching. It is on the Cross and in the Resurrection that we truly see who God is. For us, it was also in our celebration of the Cross and Resurrection that we saw more of who we are as a church and who God wants us to be.
Several folks said to Bonnie and me, "I was wondering why you kept talking about Easter and what the big deal is. Now I get it." In a culture that tries so hard to manufacture one experience better than the last, tasting the real joy of Resurrection as we do simple things like ring bells, sing, and dance is an extraordinary thing. People who were new to this tradition and who have celebrated this way for years have all said, "This is true joy and this church is our home." Our first journey through Holy Week brought us closer to the Lord and to one another as a new church family.
Thank you for your constant prayers and generous giving that makes this work of the kingdom possible. You are such an important part of our City of Light ministry team each and every week, but a week like this reminds us afresh of the incredible partnership we have with you. Here are just a few ways we saw the fruit of your prayers:
A Holy Week Craft—We held an event at Hill Elementary that brought 60 children, 16 parents, and 8 City of Light team members together on Maundy Thursday. Three families came back on Easter Sunday to worship with us.
Invitation—We had visitors at every service of Holy Week, several of whom were unchurched or had been away from the church. 49 people joined us for an outdoor Stations of the Cross service and over one hundred people worshipped with us on Easter Sunday.
Teams—46 people served on Holy Week teams, 9 of them serving for the first time. Several new musicians and visual artists joined the team for Holy Week, creating beauty that brought us into the presence of the Lord.
Healing—We had a beautiful time of prayer at the cross at our evening service on Good Friday and a Prayer Team of 6 people praying with others for healing.
Baptism—We had our second baptism as a church on the Second Sunday of Easter and we are preparing for several more at the feast of Pentecost.
McMaken Family—We were able to enter into worship together this Holy Week more than ever before, processing on Palm Sunday, washing each other's feet on Maundy Thursday, praying at the cross together on Friday, and dancing together on Easter. Thank you for continuing to hold us and Nora and Finn up in prayer!
September 11, 2015
We are so honored to join the team of churches in Aurora who are shining the light of Jesus in the City of Lights. We feel the Lord calling us as a local church on the near west side of the city to be a City of Light: A place where people can experience the love of Jesus, find a safe place in his church, and be sent out to love their neighbors and neighborhoods.
We are so grateful for our partnership with the Aurora-based communications team Bureau Gravity who created this logo that captures our heart for the city of Aurora and for this new church. Here's a bit more about what being a city of light means to us.
In Isaiah 60 the prophet describes a city where the light of the Lord overcomes darkness:
Centuries later, when the apostle John sees a vision of heaven, he describes a city. He says, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God.'" (Rev. 21:2, ESV) Then to describe the city of heaven, John quotes Isaiah 60, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light," (Rev. 22:5, ESV).
When Jesus came to earth to, he taught that the heavenly city is breaking into earth now. Jesus says, “The Kingdom of heaven has come near" (Mt. 10:7, NIV). He teaches his followers to pray, “Our Father in heaven … Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
One day at the end, the city of heaven will descend to earth and things will be finally and fully put right. Jesus's coming from heaven to dwell among us (Jn. 1:14) announced that the coming of the city of heaven into the city of earth had begun.
Jesus said to his followers several times, “I am the light of the world." (Jn 8:12, ESV) But in Matthew 5 he unexpectedly tells his followers, “You are the light of the world." (v. 14a, ESV) Jesus's plan for shining his light in the world is his church. He goes on to say that, “a city on a hill cannot be hidden." (v. 14b, ESV) Jesus brings the city of heaven now through his church—a city on a hill.
The church should be and is a place where there's no more violence heard within our walls, the gates are always open, and the nations are welcomed. It is a place where people find salvation from sin and the fear of death. It is a place full of windows of worship into heaven where praise is eternally being sung around the throne. It is the place where we experience the Lord's transforming presence that changes us more and more into the image of Jesus, reflecting his glorious light and shining it in our lives. When we become a church like this, we can love our neighbors and our neighborhoods and see Jesus bringing the city of heaven to earth through his church. Darkness is real, but Jesus's light can scatter and destroy that darkness.
Right before Jesus entered into his city, Jerusalem, one last time before he was crucified, he stopped outside the gates and wept for the city he loved. “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace." (Luke 19:42, NIV) On another occasion Jesus says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing." (Mt. 23:37, NIV)
Jesus longs to gather the city into his arms and show its dwellers the way of peace. He sees the difference between what is and what should be—the contrast between the city of earth and its darkness and the city of heaven and its light. And we find ourselves living today in the difference between what should be and what is. And when Jesus sees that difference, he weeps for the city he loves. And so did Isaiah. And so should we.
In the chapter before Isaiah describes this heavenly city, Isaiah 59, he outlines the evil and the oppression going on in his own city. He says, your sin “has made a separation between you and your God … Your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness." (59:2a, 3, ESV) Later on, your “feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood … The way of peace they do not know." (59:7a, 8a, ESV)
But at the end of this chapter, right before Isaiah 60 begins, he says these hopeful words: “and a Redeemer will come to Zion." (59:20a, ESV) And seven centuries later a redeemer did come to the city of Zion and stood outside the gates of Jerusalem and wept and said, “Oh, if only you knew the way of peace." And then he walked into that city where they were quick to speak lies and falsely accuse him, feet were quick to shed innocent blood, and hands were defiled by blood as they beat him and crucified him.
And we were all there because we have all left the way of peace and walked the way of violence. We all have blood on our hands and lies on our lips. But by the power of his light; Jesus turned the way of violence into the way of peace. He entered into our darkness and death and he defeated it.
On the third day when the women who followed Jesus came to the empty tomb, the words of Isaiah the prophet came true:
Arise, shine, for your light has come, *
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land; *
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise, *
and his glory will appear upon you.
They shall call you, The City of the Lord. (Isaiah 60:1-3, 14c BCP)
The light of Jesus's resurrection brings heaven to earth. It teaches us the way of peace so that we can lay down our lives to love our city like Jesus does. Darkness is real, but Jesus's light can scatter and destroy that darkness. He longs to gather all peoples into his city, the church, so that it can be the resurrection intersection of the city of heaven come to earth.
Click here to listen to the full sermon on this text from August 30, 2015.