Summer is Here!

Believe it or not, summer is here! Your kids or grandkids (or friend’s kids) are out of school, running rampant all over the neighborhood, and our relaxed rhythm at St. Bartholomew’s is in full swing.

 

Sundays will be, as always, devoted to worshiping the living God. But we’ll also be following the establishment of Israel’s monarchy in 1 and 2 Samuel. In these coming weeks we’ll see how Israel became a people and gain insight for our own lives and to see our own process of becoming St. Bartholomew’s.

 

By now hopefully you’ve signed up for a Dinners for 9 group. If you’re a recent newcomer, since March or so, we have a great Newcomer’s Night coming up on June 18. And Wednesday June 20, we’ll have our first Summer Worship Night where we’ll worship, hear some teaching, and pray, as God makes us ready to become St. Bartholomew’s.

 

See you Sunday!

- Jay+

Becoming A People

This Sunday is our first in Ordinary Time. Don’t cringe. Really, Ordinary Time is a great season with the beautiful, lush color GREEN as its theme color. 

 

Green is so good. It means go (so I remind drivers every day). It’s the color of life. As I look out my office window, my soul is eased by the verdant view despite the untimely yet sweltering heat of late May. Green will go with us this season, and we’ll experience that slow, subtle growth that green reminds us of.

 

And this Ordinary Time is not ordinary at all for us at St. Bartholomew’s. We’re in the final days of becoming. We’re becoming a people and learning what it means to be our own church. We'll have increased responsibility and increased joy as we continue to expand in mission and ministry. We’ll continue to welcome the stranger, the newcomer, the seeker and the friend to enter into life with us at St. Bartholomew’s.

 

And the lectionary will have us in a saga of becoming. For the next 10 weeks we’ll be in 1 and 2 Samuel. Seeing Israel’s monarchy established, watching Saul be anointed and ultimately fall because of jealous, rebellion, and disobedience, we’ll move through David’s reign the victory of his triumph, God’s unfailing, covenant love promised to him and his descendants, and the chaos that falls upon his kingdom and his family after his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah. 

 

We’re becoming a people, and God is presiding over the entire process: the good, the beautiful, and the messy. He’s trustworthy and has a beautiful plan for St. Bartholomew’s that is beyond ordinary. I can’t wait to embark on it with you.

- Jay+

Meditation for Trinity Sunday

God is love. God is Trinity. The first of these two statements is one most of us are quite comfortable with. In fact, many people who would never count themselves as Christians have no problem saying ,“God is love”. The second statement, God is Trinity, doesn’t fare as well, especially with those who aren’t Christians, and even with Christians themselves. One God in Three Persons. It seems needlessly perplexing, a paradox that we would simply rather spend little time thinking about. Yes, we might say it as part of the creed every Sunday—I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—but it’s hard to think that it matters that much. What difference does it make, really?

 

It turns out that it makes all the difference in the world. It is actually impossible to say God is love without also affirming that God is Trinity. We cannot have one without the the other. That God is love is a result of him being Triune because love requires relationship. Notice that what we affirm in saying “God is love” is not simply that God is loving, or does loving things, but that he is in and of himself Love. This is a key distinction. For love to exist, there must be the one who loves, the one who is loved, and the love that is created between them. Or to put it another way, there is the Father who loves the Son and the bond of love between them is the Holy Spirit.

 

Now I know I haven’t solved the deep mysteries of the Trinity in two puny paragraphs. Nor do I pretend to know exactly how it all works, but there is something deeply profound here, and I want to encourage you that the Trinity deserves our deepest contemplation. I also want to affirm that when our hearts warm at hearing that God is love, we are instinctually connecting with the reality of the Trinity and affirming the nature of reality itself. C.S. Lewis says something to this effect in The Problem of Pain: “In self-giving, if anywhere, we touch a rhythm not only of all creation but of all being…[it is] self giving which is absolute reality." Self-giving describes the very nature of God’s love. God so loved that he gave. And Lewis affirms that self-giving tells us something about the nature of the world we live in and about the nature of Being, of God and existence, itself.

- Chris+

Fulfilled Time

In my house there is a note of hope, a promise of freedom and fulfillment. Yes, we’re excited about Pentecost coming this Sunday, but we’re also excited about school letting out. The fruits of our labors - school lunches, homework, extra activities, patiently enduring the fights and tears (at least the school related ones) - can now be harvested in the restorative space of summer. We’re ready to live in fulfilled time.

 

Liturgically and spiritually we’re living in fulfilled time as well especially as Pentecost approaches this Sunday. We began the Church year with Advent anticipating the coming of our Lord Jesus in his glorious second coming and his birth at Bethlehem at Christmas. We saw him revealed to the Gentiles on Epiphany. We remembered our own mortality and death as Ash Wednesday led us into Lent a time of fasting, pain, and suffering with our Lord. We meditated upon the cruel beauty of the Cross. We witnessed the empty tomb and remembered that all around us are signs of resurrection, the potential for life, renewal, and glory. We experienced the transformation of place, power, and prayer in the Ascension this past Sunday. 

 

The marking of our liturgical time will be complete this Sunday with Pentecost. On this feast we celebrate with expectation the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ followers thus giving birth to the Church, God’s heavenly people living on earth. We also cry out for his Spirit to fill us afresh and anew.

 

But not only will our liturgical time be fulfilled, by the power of the Spirit, we live now in that same space of fulfillment, of God’s kingdom come in the person of the Holy Spirit who fills us, gives us power, makes us witnesses to our adoption as his sons and daughters to every tribe, language, tongue and nation. He does this to us collectively, the Church. He does this for us individually as members of his body. 

 

So we live in fulfilled time now. The summer is almost here. We can rest in God’s provision for us. We can be restored by the Spirit who empowers us and makes us witnesses. We can be filled with power to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Thanks be to God!


- Jay+

Ascension Day

Today Thursday, May 10, is Ascension Day, and this Sunday we’ll be celebrating the ascension.
 

Without the ascension our faith would not be what it is because the ascension of Jesus is his going back to the Father to prepare a place for us. It is his being enthroned as King of kings at the Father’s right hand. The ascension is Jesus’ exaltation above every name that is named. The ascension is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as our eternal High Priest and mediator. The ascension is Jesus’ mandatory leaving so he can send a comforter, the Holy Spirit. The ascension is Jesus’ real absence so that he can be with us to the end of the age. It is paradoxical, it is mind-blowing, it is huge.
 

Similarly, the ascension fuels our mission as a church. We can be fully human precisely because Jesus stands in the presence of the Father elevating our flesh to divine realms, seating us in the heavenly places now. The ascension epitomizes the already-but-not-yet nature of our life in Christ. Join us Sunday as we celebrate the ascension.

- Jay+

Becoming a People

As a guy who preaches and teaches God’s word for a living, it is nice - and necessary for my soul - to be learning things that are just for me, stuff I never share with anyone not because I don’t want to, but because it’s from God to me. I’m going to let you in on a little journey with Moses and Israel, and how it speaks into our process of “becoming St. Bartholomew’s.”

 

As Lent and Holy Week gave way to Easter, I followed the lectionary through the book of Exodus and have now moved into Numbers. It is fascinating to see the intentional and archetypal correspondences with the Hebrew’s Exodus from Egypt and our Exodus from sin and death by way of Jesus, the passover lamb.

 

Not only have I been enriched by this resonance, but I’ve noticed some similarities between our church and the people of Israel, especially in our process of becoming St. Bartholomew’s. No, we’re not being delivered from slavery in our transition from parish of All Saints to planted church - far from it. But, like the nation of Israel, we are becoming a people. God is taking  us through different growth experiences and challenges that will form us as the people he’s calling us to be for East Dallas and beyond.

 

More than these examples, though, I identify with Moses. Put simply, Moses was the spiritual leader of God’s people. And, God has put me in a place of spiritual leadership to serve you all - the people who are becoming St. Bartholomew’s. 

 

We are being called to take ownership of our budget, our day-to-day and month-to-month expenses, and accounts receivable and payable. Until now, All Saints Dallas has graciously provided these services for us at a high level of competency and with great generosity. And though our contributions in our fiscal year to date have been well ahead of budget, when our new fiscal year begins on July 1 we will have even more financial responsibility.  All Saints Dallas will continue to provide a subsidy for the first half of the new fiscal year as we continue to grow and are able to fully own our monthly expenses. And God will use us to provide the rest. 

 

We are being called to take ownership of our own governance and leadership. That means a group of St. Bartholomew’s people will oversee our budget, bylaws, financial controls, and other administrative functions of the church. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but it means so much to have local people leading our local church. I’m thrilled to see God bring this to pass.

 

You and I both know how Israel’s wandering in the desert ended - the whole generation that left Egypt did not get enter the promised land because “God was not pleased with them.” They tested him, demanded their cravings be satisfied, and ran after false gods at the worst moments. Even Moses, their venerable, prophetic and godly leader would not be allowed to enter the promised land but only see it from atop Mt. Nebo. 

 

But along the way, any time they had a need and Moses cried out, God answered. He is so good. Here is another moment from my prayers today, Psalm 9:10: “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee; for thou, Lord, hast never failed them that seek thee.” 

 

St. Bartholomew’s is God’s church, it is his vision, and he will provide for it. He is calling us to walk together in this new season as we become St. Bartholomew’s, to love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. 


- Jay+

Leading Out of the Quiet and Calm

Tuesday night I spoke with about 40 men on the topic of being spiritual leaders of their families. Gathered in the taproom at Oak Highlands Brewery, we shared introductions, our own stories, and a pint or two. And I shared with them a lesson I’ve been learning for years that applies to leadership of any kind. More importantly, it applies to our relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that lesson is cultivating quiet.

 

I told them, “cultivate quiet because so much of what you do right now - really good stuff - is not quiet. Our culture has us constantly wired, constantly connected, and we desperately need to create space. Quiet and stillness is the birthplace of prayer. And prayer is the vehicle of your relationship to God."

 

Lately I’ve noticed my own need for space. Yes, we all need our personal space and can feel hemmed-in if it’s transgressed in some way. But we also need mental space, to be alone with our thoughts, to clear our heads. And it’s in these moments, when we calm and quiet ourselves "like a weaned child with its mother,” that a blank canvas is unveiled in our heart and mind and we can hear God speak perhaps more clearly than before. 

 

The words of Scripture suddenly reverberate without the constrictions of our own expectations. The prayers we utter seem to have laser precision and divine focus. The songs we sang on Sunday suddenly echo in our ears, and we find ourselves singing along. This doesn’t always happen, but abiding in stillness and quiet conditions our souls for the next time and the next time. 

 

In this season of Easter, don’t forget this discipline of quiet. And may the resurrected Christ, the Good Shepherd whose voice we know, speak powerfully and resurrect those dead places in us.


- Jay+

Fighting Words

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.” (Acts 4:11)  Peter proclaims these words to the rulers and elders who have put him on trial for healing a crippled man. These words are audacious. They are brazen. They point the finger straight at the rulers and elders and say you have made a grave mistake. It is not simply that you have killed an innocent man, which would have been egregious enough. No, he says, you have crucified Israel’s Messiah, and God has raised him from the dead. And then Peter really gets going because he says that it is in the name of this crucified Lord and by the power of this risen Christ that the crippled man was healed. Moreover, it is by this Jesus that all are saved. 

 

Brazen and audacious indeed, but these words are more than that. The phrase, “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone”, was straight from the Psalms. These are words that these rulers and elders would have been intimately familiar with, and yet they are spoken back to them in way that they never could have imagined on their own. They never could have imagined in all their study and reflection that these words were actually about Jesus. But God has acted definitely in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and everything is changed. Everything must be reinterpreted in light of this world shaping event. And this is what makes Peter’s preaching so revolutionary—he takes something so familiar and makes it unfamiliar; he takes something old and makes it new. And in so doing he lifts up the name of Jesus as the “name given under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). 

 

In quoting these words, Peter is doing exactly what he learned from Jesus in the days after the resurrection. He is returning to the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, and rereading them all in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus. And though this is how we as Christians ought to approach the scriptures ourselves, there is something more here too. It is not just the Scriptures that have to be reread, re-narrated in light of Christ. Everything must be reread, reimagined in light of the resurrection of Jesus. This is what the Easter season about. It is a time for us to ask ourselves what difference the resurrection makes right now. What difference does the hope of new creation make right now? 

 

These are especially important questions for us as we continue the process of becoming St. Bartholomew's. God has raised up our community in East Dallas in order to proclaim that the Lord is Risen. There are so many around us who need to hear those words anew or perhaps to hear them for the first time. And as we seek to proclaim those words with the same brazenness and confidence of Peter, we also have to humbly pray and to ask the Lord to show us how he wants to bring resurrection life to the people of East Dallas. 


- Chris+