A Word of Thanks

Hello WCC fam,

I want to say thanks. I have many friends in ministry, men and women who seek to faithfully serve and pastor God’s people. Some are well cared for and have the joy of walking with a faithful expression of the Church. Some are in difficult situations.

It made me reflect on our church family and the common life God’s Spirit is cultivating between and among us. It compels me to give thanks, to God and to you. I know we are a mess of a bunch, imperfect in so many ways. I know we are always learning about what it takes to love more faithfully. I know we can work harder at being more welcoming, loving, and thoughtful in how we care for one another and our city and neighborhoods in which we live. I know that we can work to be more open to not only giving but also receiving, in reaching out to one another when we find ourselves in need or see others among us in need. But I am grateful that we are seeking to be faithful nonetheless.

Please, take some time to read this and celebrate with me. Give thanks and pray that we grow in faithfulness. Here are some of the reasons that I am thankful for what God is doing in WCC, and for each one of you:

  • I am thankful for how you desire to proclaim and embody the gospel of God’s kingdom faithfully and love all people, especially the last, least, left-out and lonely.
  • I am thankful for how you’re willing to humbly receive and learn the Scriptures. For example, I am thankful for how you’re working through our Sunday conversations on the minor prophets (this week we will begin a two week conversation on Hosea and listen to our God who refuses to let us go.)
  • I am thankful for how our missional communities are gathering weekly to discover what God is up through the Scriptures and communal discernment in order to faithfully remain present in their neighborhoods and network of relationships.
  • I am thankful for our family ministry (families with babies to kids in elementary, middle school and high school) and all who lead and serve not only on Sundays, but throughout the week in relational ways.
  • I am thankful for the ‘prayer and care’ life within our congregation, and how we fight for others in prayer and care for those who are hurting, sick, alone and in need, like our Sunshine Ministry; how we connect our families to pray for seniors; our Monday and Friday rhythms of prayer; our Firstfruits prayer warriors; our seniors wednesday bible study group who send cards and faithfully pray for the sick…I could go on.
  • I am thankful for how you are committed to work for the good of our city, from the town square to the neighborhoods.
  • I am thankful for how you’re willing to honestly and candidly work through difficult and often culturally controversial conversations with humble civility and love.
  • I am thankful for our 3e Restoration ministry and how we walk with friends transitioning from homelessness to holistic sufficiency through gracious hospitality.
  • I am thankful for Celebrate Recovery and how our leaders who, by the Spirit, work to help people find recovery and victory over hurts, habits and hang-ups.
  • I am thankful for how you love our beloved Lwanga men and women who live every day of their beautiful and important lives with a particular set of circumstances. I am thankful for how you love and receive the Little Sisters of St. Francis who serve them.
  • I am thankful for your commitment to global mission and for the way you respond to the AIDS orphans in need of sponsorship through CRF, or to Tarakwa Village and Williamsburg Christian Academy in Tarakwa Kenya.
  • I am thankful for your generosity to give to causes, needs, organizations and worthy efforts for the good of others and to the praise of God’s glory.
  • I am thankful for our faithful shepherds and their families, our gifted ministers and their families, and all other ministry leaders (there are so many–nothing happens automatic in our church). They lead and love us well.
  • I am thankful for our praise team and technical team who give unknown hours to serve us when we gather on Sundays. Their talents and commitment is used by God’s Spirit to form us.
  • I am thankful for the people who serve the Church in quiet unseen ways, from cleaning the church building to cutting the church lawn, from watering the plants to organizing the kitchen when it’s out of sorts, from changing light bulbs to repairing our computer network and posting our podcasts…I could go on.
  • I am thankful for our WCC Connections ministry that works to connect college students to families, and all the others who make themselves available and purposefully welcome the college students into their lives. I am thankful for the college students who participate in God’s mission with us!
  • I am thankful for how you all support the many ministries and efforts God’s Spirit calls us to tend to as a church family (from the ones already mentioned to our Relay for Life Sassy Sisters for a Cure).
  • Finally, I am thankful for how we meet around the Eucharistic Table each week in mutual submission as we submit all ideologies to the presence of Christ among us and proclaim our commitment to His Lordship and one another. I am thankful for how each one of you are determined to stay put and work toward reconciliation despite living in our polarizing and ideologically divided society.

I really could go and I will in my prayers of thanksgiving. I just wanted to mention it here so you could see, celebrate, give thanks and dig in as you remain faithfully joined in God’s pursuit of restoring lives in and through our church family.

See you Sunday.

~ Fred

A Community of Prophets & Priests: Hospitality as Central to Our Story, Conclusion

If you’re new to the series you can read the first post here and the second here.

In the Roman Empire, the world regime in which Jesus lived, many babies did not grow up at all. In the ancient world unwanted babies were left to die through a legal practice called exposure. The head of the household had the legal right to decide the life or death of other family members, including children. This decision was most often made within the first 8 days of life.¹

The most common reason for exposure would be if a family lived in poverty, or if a wealthy family did not want the estate divided up, if a child was born deformed or disabled, or if the child was the wrong gender. By the Law of Romulus in Rome, the father was required to raise all healthy male children, but only the first born female. Any other babies were disposable, especially the ones born as females.

Please don’t misunderstand me, though these are historically documented facts (dare I use the word) it is also true to say that ancient parents were as compassionate and loving as any of us. But children’s worth and value was ultimately determined by how well they would serve the State’s purpose. Christians believed that human beings served a purpose far higher than any ruling empire this side of heaven.

The 4th century Greek poet named Posidippus once wrote,

“Everyone raises a son even if he is poor but exposes a daughter even if he is rich.”²

The Jews were opposed to this practice and the practice of exposure. Their law led taught them a higher view of humanity, one that demanded they care for even the poor, widow orphan and immigrant. But due to the influence of non-Jewish cultures and their stubbornness toward God, if a child was born out of a forbidden relationship or unwanted they were just abandoned. These abandoned babies were often left on a dump or a dung hill. They most often died, though sometimes they were rescued. If rescued they were orphaned and most often became slaves. This happened so much that hundreds of ancient names written in the pages of history are variations of the word KROPOS, which was Greek for “dung.”

Abandoned & Left To Die No More

The babies that did grow up to be women in the Greco-Roman world of Jesus were generally shut off from education and public life. Some grew up to be slaves, who were needed for their labor but regarded as inferior to those who were free.

Though some of these views of children and women still happens today in some parts of our world, it does not happen so much in the Western world. Why? The answer is more simple than you think.

Jesus’ love for children rewrote the story of their future. As the ancient world become filled with orphans, a community of Jesus followers stepped forward and began collecting money for these “least of these,” all because their Teacher demonstrated this in His life. It created another one of those Christian movements.

By the late 4th century, a the Roman Emperor outlawed the practice of exposure for the entire empire. His decision shaped the entire Western world. Over time, instead of leaving babies on dung hills people began to leave them outside of monasteries and church buildings. This would be the beginning of what we now call orphanages, which were usually associated directly with a monastery or church. No more were children legally confined to exposure and infanticide, including females. All thanks to Jesus and the followers He empowered and inspired.

Whether or not I, a christian, should welcome and care for others is not a question I have to ask. It is only a question of “how.” As a christian my social orientation should be toward hospitality, not away from it. If someone comes to me from underneath a bridge in my city or from the other side of the Atlantic, I must extend God’s welcome to them and do for them and their loved ones what I would want done for me and mine (see Matt. 7:12 and Matt 22:37-40).

Without question my “holy book” teaches me that it is important to the Lord that I give my self over to hospitality—a love of strangers—rather than fear. Without question the two world-changing stories from the past told in this series of blog posts teach me that following Jesus includes welcoming those he welcomed. After all, it is to King Jesus as Lord of all that I have pledged my allegiance and it is in His eternal in-breaking kingdom that I have my primary citizenship.

¹ Much of the historical sketch I offer is owed to John Ortberg’s good book Who Is this Man: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 46-58.

² Posidippus, 11E, cited by Stobaeus, Flor. 77.7.