Ski to Sea Blessing

The Table and Mosaic had a great time this past Sunday helping out in the Road Bike-Canoe transition of the Ski to Sea Race. It was great to see Thane race in the road bike leg. The rest of us helped pedestrians avoid collisions with racers, directed racers on the course, and our very own Chris was “tapped” to be the public announcer in the transition area. It was a great, sunny day. Thanks to all who came out!

MC PA

None Shall Pass

Ski to Sea Blessing – Sunday, May 29, 2011

This Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the Ski to Sea race. Ski to Sea is a 7 stage relay race starting a top Mount Baker and ending at Marine Park in Bellingham. In the spirit of our rhythm of blessing, The Table (along with Mosaic) is helping volunteer for the race. We are scheduled to work the canoe leg at Riverside Park in Everson, WA. It should be a fun day of service! If you want to help out, email The Table and we’ll hook you up with more details.  Hope to see you out there!

“Send us now”

The Table is one church of many in the family of Christ, one church of many in Bellingham. When we say “we believe in one holy, catholic church” this means we acknowledge that we are bound together with all who put their hope in Jesus. It was encouraging to find that Father Jonathan, pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bellingham, mentioned The Table in his message last week. His message, taken from his blog “Send us now,” is below. Thank you Father Jonathan for encouraging us with what other faith communities are doing for His glory.

Abundant Life

“I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.

Friday night some of us joined 15,000 plus youth in the Tacoma Dome for a stewardship conference.

Well, it wasn’t called that, but that’s what it was. It was called “Be the Spark.” We enjoyed two hours of performance and inspirational speech, highlighted by the appearance of a small man dressed in a dark suit, a purple shirt and a clerical collar. This man spoke with humor and great warmth, and that Dome grew silent as a church as Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave a stewardship talk. Well, it wasn’t billed as a stewardship talk, but that’s what it was.

Bishop Tutu lovingly gave us a picture of our God, who without our help brought all things into being; but who now waits on us to join in partnership to bring about the kind of world God had in mind. Bishop Tutu described himself to the press in Tacoma as a “prisoner of hope”. And he is clear with all who hear him the source of his hope. His hope lies in his trust in the revelation of God in the face of Jesus Christ. When you’re with a leader like Desmond Tutu you find yourself in the presence of someone who gives flesh and bone to the idea of the abundant life spoken of by Jesus in today’s Gospel. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” The crowd of mostly youth responded warmly to him. Well, that’s putting it way too mildly. They greeted him like a rockstar!

Desmond Tutu walks a life of faith that God is good, and that God calls each of us to live for the good of one another. This faith sustained him as he supported his countrymen in the long resistance that overcame the evil of apartheid. Faith in this God sustained him as he led his nation to reject violence and vengeance in favor of truth-telling and costly reconciliation. Tutu is one of those people who make a good apology for God, and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The point of his stewardship talk was that God is waiting for us to be like that, too. We are called to that same abundant life of stewardship. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly”, says Jesus. We read from Acts today about a community experiencing a new work of the Holy Spirit. In the fresh experience of the resurrection a new vision of the common good comes quickly into focus. The community begins pooling resources, taking care of those in any need. Meals eaten together now have a sacramental quality. Everyone seems to take responsibility for stewardship of God’s abundance. A quality of rejoicing imbues the community of faith, because in the midst of the proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead they’ve seized hold of the truth that God is endlessly good and forgiving and is always providing all we need, provided we open our hands and share.

It’s true that such radical experiments in stewardship didn’t last permanently. But the church is continuously renewed in a sense of abundance by the Holy Spirit. And the picture painted in the book of Acts gets us to thinking. To what can we aspire to in our time? How is God calling us to a stewardship of the goodness of God in our time and place? Is God any less giving and forgiving and reconciling now than back then? Of course not!

When a congregation of God’s people starts wanting refreshment and blessing, we start asking God for it. When we wait for it and long for it and look for it, we start seeing it around us. In the time I’ve been in Bellingham I’ve learned from other communities of Christians in town who are also looking for and finding signs that God is good, and calls us to be stewards of goodness for each other.

I met a young man at a coffeeshop in Fairhaven who pastors a community of young Christians who meet in rented spaces and in homes. They call themselves The Table. On their website they write of their approach to stewardship:

“In a culture that markets primarily to the desires of individuals, ‘Community’ stands in contrast. Despite our differences, The Table is becoming a family, where we laugh and share challenges together. We are sharing a life defined by the alternative values of Christ.”

“The rhythms of The Table (hospitality, discipleship, and blessing) are our mission, our values, and the vision of how we see Christ calling us to live.”

Before my first Sunday at St. Paul’s back in 2008 I attended worship with Roosevelt Community Church on Alabama Street. I was struck by their motto, which is a stewardship statement:

“Roosevelt Community Church exists to be In, With, and For the Community.”

They write on their website:

“We are not interested in merely being a Church that sits on Sunday and listens to music and a sermon. We are a Church that is committed to loving God above all else and seeking to love our neighbors with all that we are; both Christians and non-Christians alike.”

Very close by here is Lettered Streets Covenant Church. Some of us heard from their pastor a week ago Wednesday. Here’s part of their stewardship message on their website:

“Imagine a community where Gods love is the tie that binds us, where young and old, rich and poor, women and men, people of all cultures and ethnicities partner together to love the people in our neighborhood, city and state, country and world….”

“…We at Lettered Streets Covenant Church believe that God is actively working to make lives whole and restore creation. We believe that Jesus is in the process of making all things new and that he has called all of humanity to participate with him in http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifthis incredibly challenging and satisfying adventure.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

“Do you hear him calling?”

A Presbyterian pastor friend of mine who works with a unique ministry in Skagit County passed on to me from Mark Scandrette of San Francisco the stewardship practice of walking prayerfully through his neighborhood with this as the focus of his prayer:

1. “God, help me to see where Your glory and beauty are being displayed.”

2. “God, help me to think Your thoughts and feel Your feelings for this place and people. We want to see Your kingdom come and will be done on earth as in heaven. I cry out for Your dream for this place and people to be realized; and I am part of Your answer.”

3. “What is the deeper risk You have for me/us here? How does this neighborhood teach me what Good News is? How do we take practical steps of action to do the way of Jesus in our neighborhood?”

Jesus said: “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”

This is some good theology, some good spirituality. We have it all in our Book of Common Prayer. Here’s an example. There is a prayer on page 832 that is a stewardship prayer. Well, it isn’t labeled a stewardship prayer, but that’s what it is. Let us pray it for us, the people of St. Paul’s:

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hopes for Summer

Summer is coming. For many it’s a chance to take a breath, get out, and rest with friends and family. What are your hopes for summer? Who do you hope to connect with? What do you hope to accomplish? And, where do you hope to be at the end of the season?

As summer approaches let’s meditate now on what we hope for. And as we enter into the season let’s move with intentionality, working with the season and all its fun to build relationships with those around us, looking for ways to live our rhythms of hospitality, discipleship and blessing out in the sun with others, for His name sake. Let’s enter into the season knowing Jesus goes outside with us, loving those we will spend time with.

Over the summer, The Table is changing its Sunday worship times from 5:30pm to 9:30am, with more parties/outings/BBQ’s. Our hope is that during such a relational season we can expedite relationships, with both formal and informal outings. The first weekend in June will be our first outing of the summer. Stay tuned for details. This summer let’s get out and have fun together. Hope to see you outside with us!

The Table Worship – Sunday, May 22, 2011

This week The Table is gathering for worship. We’ll start with a potluck at 5:30pm at the Fairhaven Library (1117 12th St.). Feel free to bring something to share, and don’t forget dessert. We’ll be looking at Mark 11:1-11 this week, if you want to read ahead. Feel free to bring a friend; we’d love to see them!

Prior to our worship gathering, some of us are meeting to pray for our town, our church, and each other. We’ll be there at 4:30pm; we’d love to see you there before our worship time. We hope to have these prayer times more often over the summer. So stay tuned.

Next Sun., May 29 is our Blessing weekend. We’ll be helping volunteer with Ski to Sea. If you want to volunteer let us know, and watch the website for details about the day. We will not be meeting for worship next weekend.

South Side Community Meal

Thanks for all who came out this weekend for The Table’s blessing event. We partnered with Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church and the Happy Valley Neighborhood Association in serving/cooking for the Southside Community Meal. The chili we made was delicious and appreciated. Many neighbors came up to me expressing their thanks for our service and an appreciation for the conversations with folks from The Table. This is what our rhythm of blessing is all about. Getting to know neighbors while serving them in ways they appreciate.  I believe God was glorified and neighbors were honored this weekend. I am glad to be living life with friends who have such a heart of service and faith.

Blessings, Aaron

The Table Blessing – Sunday, May 15, 2011

It’s time to get our Blessing on! This Sunday night The Table is cooking and serving for the Southside Community Meal. This monthly meal is hosted by the Happy Valley Neighborhood Association and Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, for the purpose of providing a time and space for neighbors to get to know neighbors. Because we are helping with the meal, The Table will not be meeting for a worship gathering this week. The meal goes from 5pm – 6:30pm at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church (1720 Harris Ave.). If you would like to help cook/serve/set up/clean up/etc., send us an email. If you can’t help out but want to hang and eat, we’d love to have you there, too. Hope to see you Sunday!

Our Rhythm of Hospitality

I usually don’t do this, but I thought yesterday’s message from our worship gathering was important to share. The message is on our rhythm of hospitality and our imperative to look beyond ourselves, for His glory. ~Aaron

 

Trouble Today

This week the leadership of The Table got together. At our gathering, we discussed the importance of making our rhythm of hospitality a central piece of our individual lifestyles.  A church planting friend of mind told me that unless a person is surrounded my caring believing friends, that person statistically will not identify themselves as a Christ follower or get involved w/ faith community.  This is not to say that the Holy Spirit will and does work outside of statistics, but I think this is very true to our human nature.  For example, I may go to a concert if I see a flyer on a bulletin board, but I’m more likely to go if a friend invites me.  Even if we have a strong desire to see Jesus saturate our friends and become a part of our community, unless we intentionally invite folks into what we are already doing, those folks may never come around.  So, think for a moment about those around you who you would like to see JC move in, or bring to The Table?

Hospitality is what Jesus displayed in His earthly ministry, and it is what He calls us to do.  Matthew 28 contains what has been called the Great Commission, which in many of our Bibles Jesus is translated as saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” w/ these translations, the primary imperative is to “Go.” But a more accurate translation would be something like, “While you are going, make disciples…” Do you see the difference?  I believe what Jesus is saying is that while we are doing the things we normally and naturally do; we are invited to be bearers of the good news of Christ.  This is why The Table has the rhythm of hospitality has a core value, and core mission.  Making hospitality a lifestyle is the most authentic way we can put in a good word for Jesus.  If we want to see His kingdom come around us, we need to allow the hospitality of Jesus to flow through us.

So, think for a moment about those around you who you would like to see Jesus move in, or bring to The Table? As you think about who these folks might be, I’m curious about your relationship to them, and how you feel about that relationship.  Do you feel like God is using you to draw them closer to the cross, or do you feel like you’ve let God down?

Maybe we can relate to the guy in our text tonight.  In Mark 10:46-52, we see an imperfect bringer of good news.  When we think about hospitality or outreach, we often feel like we are imperfect bringers of the good news of Christ.  The man in our text was seen as a nuisance, and an unlikely bringer of good news.

 

Text

Mark 10:46-52: “46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.    51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

 

Bartimaeus could be seen as an imperfect bearer of good news.  His blindness would have been seen as evidence of God’s punishment upon him or his family. So the only thing he could do was beg.  The day in our text would have been a normal day for him, until he heard a large crowd approaching (v. 46). Bartimaeus would have asked what was going on, and been told that Jesus was about to walk by.  Knowing that Jesus was the one guy who could actually change his situation, Bartimaeus started to scream out to Jesus for mercy.  As a result he was sternly rebuked.  The son of Timaeus proclaiming the son of David was an imperfect bringer of good news, and they let him know.

Let’s take a step back for a moment and look at our text in the context of the passages around it.  In 10:32-34, JC predicts His death.  10:35-45 is an inappropriate request for honor.  Our text sees an appropriate request for mercy, calling Jesus the “Son of David.”  When Bartimaeus was calling for help, he was also calling Jesus the messiah.  The title, “Son of David,” designated the Messiah as David’s descendant (inferred from 2 Samuel 7) and became a recognized title of the Messiah-King.[1] Then in 11:1-11 sees the Son of David arriving in the City of David.
In light of the context, Bartimaeus is a perfect bringer of good news.  This scene is different than what we’ve seen so far.  In Mark 1, Jesus heals a leper, then immediately says, “See that you don’t tell this to anyone.” In Mark 8, when Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus commands them not to tell anyone.  In Mark 9, when Jesus reveals His divinity at the transfiguration, He again commands them not to tell anyone.  But in our text, Jesus (the one who usually quiets people’s confessions of His messiah-ship) intentionally stops and has Bartimaeus brought to Him.  He doesn’t tell him to be quiet, but blesses the “messiah caller” w/ sight.

But before Jesus restores the man’s sight, He says in v. 52, “Go, your faith has healed you.” Jesus’ words, “your faith has healed you” are addressing two things. I agree w/ John Calvin, when he asserts that Jesus is affirming the man’s faith in two ways.  Jesus affirms the man’s faith that Jesus can heal his blindness.  But on another level Jesus was also affirming the man’s belief that Jesus was the Son of David, the anointed one, and the messiah that the world had been waiting for. [2] Because of this faith, the man was the perfect flag-bearer of the triumphal entry.  Bartimaeus was the 1st among many who in Mark 11 cheered the Son of David entering the City of David, saying, “Hosanna! [meaning save or savior] Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

Bartimaeus was perfectly suited to be the perfect bearer of good news in this moment.  Early on in His ministry, John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting. Jesus reported back that “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor” (Luke 7:21-22). So think about it, right before the Triumphal Entry of Jesus, He heals a blind man. The restored blind man then follows Jesus into Jerusalem, as a sign of freedom affirming the prophecy of Isaiah 61, that captives would be released, that the blind would see, that the oppressed would be freed, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.  The unlikely Bartimaeus was the perfect bringer of good news for this instance.

Good News Today

So return to the folks you thought of earlier.  These are the folks around you who you would like to see Jesus move in, or bring to The Table.  How are you feeling about your relationship w/ them?  Do you feel like God is using you to draw them closer to the cross, or do you feel like you’ve let God down?  We may feel inadequate at times to bring good news or live out our desires of hospitality, but I see Bartimaeus in each of us.  We are imperfect, but changed b/c of Christ.  And I believe that b/c of our imperfections we are uniquely perfect for where we are.  You are the perfect bringer of good news to those people on your mind.  You are perfectly equipped to be hospitable to them in Jesus’ name.  And as a community, we are perfectly positioned to be obedient to the call of the Great Commission, that while we go about doing what we normally do, we can be used by Him for His glory.

Our hospitality doesn’t need to be anything grand or complicated, but it needs to be authentic and relational.  So I’m going to invite you to be risky this week.  Step out and be hospitable in a new way.  And while you do what you normally do, I want to encourage you to lift up the name of Jesus, as you invite folks into your lives, which includes your life at The Table.  The time of the Lord’s favor has come.  Be blessed, and be a blessing.


[1]John F. Walvoord. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985).

[2] Calvin, John. Commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels, vol. 1. Baker books, p. 432

The Table Worship – Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Table is gathering for worship this Sunday at 5:30pm, at the Fairhaven Library. We’ll start with a Turkey Taco Fiesta. Feel free to bring a veggie main/side/salad/dessert/nothing to share. We’ll be looking at Mark 10:46-52 if you want to read ahead. As a point of meditation before Sunday, I invite you to pray for and consider those around you who you would like to see Jesus move in, and/or who you would like to see come regularly to The Table.

Next Sunday, May 15th, The Table will not be gathering for worship, because we will be cooking/serving at the Southside Community meal, hosted by Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church and the Happy Valley Neighborhood Association. Stay tuned for details.

See you Sunday!

Bin Laden

On Sunday evening, I heard the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. With the news I experienced a strange dichotomy of feelings within me, as I know many others did. As I scanned online news sources to learn more of the situation, my feelings deepened, and I began to wonder, “What is a balanced, Jesus-inspired response to such an event?” For me there is no easy answer.

On Sunday night I saw photos/clips of many in our country rejoicing and cheering, with flags waving and chants of “USA, USA…”  Part of me resonates with these emotions. I am reminded of Biblical references like Proverbs 11:10 (“A city is happy when honest people have good fortune, and there are joyful shouts when the wicked die”).  We can rejoice when initiators of violence are stopped.  Bin Laden’s death has been an occasion for many to celebrate the demise of a man who brought so much pain and fear.

Another element present on Sunday night was several truly hate-filled voices, rejoicing at the eternal fate of Bin Laden and implying violence to like-minded enemies. Now if there is a reason to hate, Bin Laden’s plans and actions are an understandable target. But in hearing from these voices, I was curious how the words of Christ are received.

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, 9 Blessed are the peacemakers; God will call them his children!” And in Matthew 5:43-47, He says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” This directly gets at the issue for me. What shall we do with the words of Christ that call us to be active in making peace by loving our enemies? Jesus’ words are challenging, especially when such an enemy of our nation falls. How can we actively work toward peace as Christ followers in this scenario?

Martin Luther King, Jr. has been misquoted this week across the web. While looking into this apparent quote I discovered his thoughts on the matter.  In one of his sermons he said, “Let us move now from the practical ‘how’ to the theoretical ‘why’: Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate; violence multiplies violence and toughness multiples toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

There is no easy response to the raw emotions seen this week. But whatever our natural reaction is to the news of Bin Laden’s death, may I make a suggestion, while honoring those who are personally close to the war on terror and the effects of 9/11? I want to invite us to do two things: 1) pray for God’s peace to invade our own hearts and to invade the hearts of those bent on self-gain at the expense of others, and 2) dialogue with one another on the matter of how we can be bearers of good news in the face of hatred, whatever its origin. What do you say?

What are your thoughts on this dialogue?

~Aaron