Posts Tagged holiness

The Autumn of Our Discontent – Rev. Matt Sapp* – Heritage Fellowship Baptist Church

Now is the autumn of our discontent. On this second day of fall, Colin Kaepernick and countless other athletes are kneeling during the national anthem. More African-Americans have inexplicably been killed by police bullets. Bombs are going off in New York City. And protests are disrupting life in Charlotte and have at times turned violent.

As bombs go off in New York we’re forced again to grapple with challenging conversations surrounding Muslims and immigrants. And, sadly, much of the political and religious rhetoric surrounding all of the events of the last week betrays an unsettling level of prejudice and seems specifically calculated to prey upon our fears.

US Rep. Robert Pittenger, who represents a portion of the Charlotte community, said that the protesters there are angry not over the hard to explain death of another black man, but because they “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”

This week of unrest follows a bit of a lull that may have allowed us to forget police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis, and the tragic targeting of police officers in Dallas just a few months ago. But now we are reminded.

And, this week happens in a context where it’s somehow become controversial to acknowledge that African-Americans continue to face daily obstacles and challenges that the rest of us don’t—controversial to acknowledge that prejudice is real and that the legacy of racism persists in every corner of our nation. But unfolding events seem to be removing any doubt.

So what are we to do? How do we act in this climate? Do we kneel or stand? Do we march in protest or stay home? Do we wade into political waters or stay silent? Those aren’t “one size fits all” questions. Those are decisions we each need to make for ourselves.

But there is one thing that’s true for all of us. Whether we kneel or stand before the American flag pales in importance to whether we’re willing to kneel before the throne of God—and not just to ask for guidance in challenging times, but to beg for forgiveness for the roles we have played in getting us to this point in our national history.

Forgiveness for our own prejudices. Forgiveness for giving in to our own fears. Forgiveness for feeding divisiveness. Forgiveness as white American Christians for our indifference to the needs of our more vulnerable brothers and sisters of differing races, religions and ethnicities.

I’m reminded this week of how important it is to model holiness, health and wholeness in our communities. So I hope that some of the things we’re doing at HERITAGE right now will help us as we seek to be faithful Christians in this unusual American climate.

I hope REST on Wednesday nights is helping us to be holy. I hope it’s helping us to listen for and recognize the real voice of God, so that when someone tells you that the voice of God is heard in terrorizing bomb blasts or the hateful rhetoric that inevitably follows, you can say, “No, you’re wrong. I spent some time with God last Wednesday, and that’s not what God sounds like.”

I hope that our HERITAGE Home Groups are helping us to form healthy relationships that encourage us to stand together to reject division, hatred and fear—relationships that encourage us to see that in our common humanity there is far more that unites us than divides us.

And, I hope that in our HERITAGE Home Groups we are forming healthy relationships with the larger purpose of building whole communities together.

We are a divided nation. Our communities are fractured across so many lines it’s hard to see a productive way forward. As we watch that fracturedness play itself out in hateful political rhetoric and kneeling football players, in bomb blasts and the religious divisiveness that follows, in the misfired guns of police officers and the misguided actions of protesters, we have a responsibility to represent something different–to model and embody some sense of wholeness.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to speak across the fracturedness to remind our neighbors that we need each other and to point through all the clutter to the true nature of God.

Holy. Healthy. Whole. Is that seared into your memory yet? At HERITAGE we seek to be HOLY individuals who are forming HEALTHY relationships to build WHOLE communities together. Our community needs us to model holiness, health and wholeness now more than ever.

Thank you for your partnership in that journey.

“Rev. Matt Sapp is pastor of Heritage Fellowship Baptist Church, Canton, GA.


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Looking Forward with Faith by Barrett Owen – BaptistNewsGlobal

Fri, September 11, 2015

Faith is awe in the face of mystery.

We gazed silently alongside an uncountable amount of people.  The oddity was not in the differences of those of us present but in the symmetry of what we all felt. We were moved by something awe-some. The Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring, and it moved us by its mystery.

God is the same way — always more than we can comprehend, “holy other” to our imaginations.

Rudolf Otto once said people intersecting with mystery respond in one of two ways: with fear or awe. What he means is that when we bump into what we do not understand, it is both terrifying and awe-inspiring, and we either push it away or lean into it.

The same is true for church.

We all know people who have run away from the institutional church. They believe the church’s packaged answers no longer satisfy their complex context. They want mystery, but the church gave them fear. This fear manifests itself by ensuring a theology of certainty and, sadly, misses out on encountering the “holy other” nature of God.

Churches that want to connect and grow have to do what Otto describes: stare into the mysteries of the universe (God, theology, hope) with awe and, then, see what happens. They must figure out how not to package, name, or control that moment. It has to remain a mystery.

Faith is not a set of beliefs. It is not a system of theories, conservative or liberal worldviews, nor is it doctrinal creeds. Faith is willingness to stand on the precipice and stare out with a sense of hope that God is there. It’s as Otto says, “. . . awe in the face of mystery.”

And this is where the church must invite people into each Sunday morning. We need more mystery. We need opportunities to stretch our faith, to look out onto the horizon and believe that God has gone ahead of us. We need church to be the place that instills hope and not fear into our hearts.

I stand on this precipice every time the organ hits the opening hymn during Sunday morning worship. I look out at the congregation and am moved by the holiness of the moment. I see how the mysteries of God manifest themselves through corporate worship, and I think, “Surely God is in this place.”

Also at our church, we have a discipline of silence that follows the sermon. We sit for minutes in silence and let the spirit of the living God move. For us, this moment is a primary place where we can experience awe and be reminded of God’s mystery.

Worship is the best barometer for how much faith churches allow others to experience, but it is not the only way. Sunday School curriculum, small group topics, Wednesday night Bible studies, and children’s sermons all reflect how much faith or how much fear we have.

A church that leaves room for mystery, that teaches the “holy other” nature of God, is a church willing to look forward with faith. They can let go of the fear that says all of life’s questions are answerable. They can let go of the lie that says everything we need to know is only written in the pages of scripture. It can, rather, open its worship, its theology, its doors to a world that is hungry for mystery and transcendence.

If we do this, our future and the church’s future will be awe-some. Here’s to looking forward with faith!

Barrett Owen is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Waynesboro, Virginia.

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