Sundays at 10:00 a.m. at the Jefferson Center in downtown Roanoke
Grace. Grow! Groups. Go!

B.L.E.S.S.

     Sherry and I spent several days exploring new sites in our nation’s capitol last weekend. We drove out to Great Falls on the Potomac. It’s a national park with wooded trails and rocky outcroppings overlooking the mighty Falls with really spectacular views.
       But even more spectacular was the view of tremendous diversity of the crowd that was walking the trails with us. It was International, inter-faith, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic,  with overt displays of sexual orientation different than our own and young women at the water’s edge some with burkas and some with ‘barely-bikinis’. Pluralism in the Park! Such a cataract of diversity is probably five years ahead of us in Roanoke …but it’s coming!

      B.L.E.S.S.  is the current series of studies (sermons) from the first letter of Peter and it’s intentionally meant to be a phone call in the middle of the night. We need to wake up from our drowsy sleep in Christendom to the alarming realities of living faithfully for Christ in post-Christian America. Much of the Church in America is still looking backwards instead of forwards – and losing numbers quickly! The ground has radically shifted under our feet in just the last few years. Like the Israelites living in Babylon in the OT and like the Christians of NW Asia (modern-day Turkey) that Peter was writing to, we are EXILES here: “exiles, scattered among the provinces” (1:1) and “sojourners and aliens” (2:11). It doesn’t feel the same any more – and it’s more profound than people just not using their turn signals any more!
 
      To be in Exile does NOT mean that everything or everyone in our culture is set against the church, nor does it mean that what traditional Christianity stood for was infallibly correct and should be endorsed by the larger culture. It means that formerly, this culture was significantly shaped by and friendly towards the Church; now it’s not.
 
     How should we then live when it seems like the gods of consumerism, sexualism, radical individualism and agnosticism have won? How can we sing the Lord’s songs in a foreign land where the wicked freely strut about? How can we train up our children in the way they should go and protect them from the evils that wage war against their souls?  How can we creatively do gospel ministry in the 21st C. of the good ol’ USA? These questions are what we’re going to explore in this series.
           It’s going to get very difficult in the days ahead.
           But It’s also going to get very exciting in the days ahead! 
As we live increasingly countercultural lives, we are going to “shine like stars in the darkness as we hold forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:15). The missional opportunities that this new situation affords us are remarkable! Really! We are going to: “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive (Titus 2:10). Make good men wish it were true. And then show them that it is!”

      But the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing:  Who are we in Christ? Identity questions. To be marginalized in our society is really God’s gift to us. It forces us to remember our identity. The Church is going to be sifted, just like Peter himself (Lk. 22:31). But God forbid that any falling out should be caused by our own stupidity, condemning spirits, judgmentalism, hypocrisy or withdrawal from our culture. That is not the way. The way is to follow Jesus, into the world, to seek and to save the lost.

 
       So. What are we to do?
Short answer: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good“.     (Rom. 12:21). 
Longer answerB.L.E.S.S. our neighbors “bless and curse not, for to this you were called” (I Pet. 3:9).  B holy; Love others more and more; Eat – sit across a table, share meals and listen and love our neighbors; Speak up and be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us;  Suffer for the gospel. The same world that crucified Jesus still finds the gospel ‘foolish and weak’.
          
      Our beliefs are going to collide with others’ beliefs and practices. Our neighbors will say and do things that are offensive to our beliefs. But we must learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. And our posture about the Truth needs to remain humble, gentle and respectful. We don’t have all the answers, the myth of certainty is just that. We live by faith right in the midst of all this pluralism that our magnificent Constitution enshrines and protects. If we want freedom for ourselves, we have to protect it for others.

      Which is why God has given us each other for this journey. We can’t walk it alone – nor would we want to.  Come and join us on this journey. And like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, our challenge will be to recognize the One who is walking right alongside of us every step of the way!

 

“live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you
 of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God”
(2:12)BB