60th Anniversary Meditation & Prayer

I was requested to publish this from our 60th Anniversary Celebration. SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, honourable guests, neighbours, friends,

I was asked to focus on the last decade of Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church, the better part of which I’ve been privileged to serve here. It’s impossible to cover everything, so I will just highlight a few of the great things God has done for us that make us so happy.

Psalm 126 talks about how God’s people at that time “were like those who dreamed.” God has done great things for us in Christ, and when that happens, all sorts of other things happen that only seem possible in a dream. That has been true for us, by God’s grace, over the past decade. I won’t get into all the delightful exegetical details of this beautiful Bible passage. That’s for another time. For the purposes of tonight’s celebration, I just want to highlight a few of our own dreams as a church.

One of our biggest dreams as a church, a dream that is coming true every day for us, is the mission work God has allowed us to do over the past decade. In 2004, setting up theological training in our overseas mission field was just a dream. Today it is a reality. Many church leaders are being trained and churches planted, and through them thousands of others are being reached with the gospel and provided with rich and sound biblical teaching. Many souls are coming to Christ; many others are coming to greater maturity in Christ.

The dream of being a light and witness of Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, has always been alive and well in this church. Ever since the first decade of our existence. I’ll share with you just one way I know that is a fact: the red-roofed church donation box in the foyer. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you take a look at it later. It’s on a table in the foyer, right by the front entrance.

'The red-roofed church,' one of the first donation boxes, prominently displaying in Dutch and English:  "Preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). God's call to mission and evangelism remains a high priority 60 years later.

‘The red-roofed church,’ one of the first donation boxes, prominently displaying in Dutch and English: “Preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). God’s call to mission and evangelism remains a high priority 60 years later.

So what’s so special about this red-roofed church? Well, displayed prominently with white letters on the red roof, both in Dutch and in English is this text from Mark 16:15:  “Preach the gospel to every creature!” More about that on Sunday afternoon.

This model-scale church building is where members placed their tithes in the early years of this church. I would imagine that a big part of the dream at that time was to gather enough money to build a church.

It’s obvious that even as they were saving up for their own house of worship, though, those early church members and their leaders—some of whom are represented here tonight, either in person or by their offspring—they saw the importance of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ into the world. Their dream was to be a light for Christ in the world. And that dream hasn’t died. It is still alive and well, and we desire to continue carrying the torch that ignited that dream.

We desire to be used by God to make that dream a reality. God has his ways of making seemingly impossible dreams come true, and we plan to hold on to that dream by God’s grace and in obedience to his call.

Just think about this: The church of Jesus Christ is the most ethnically diverse body of people anywhere in the world. I have it on reliable authority that the city of Surrey, which had Cloverdale as its first town centre, is one of the most ethnically and socially diverse cities in Canada. This is also reflected, to a degree, among us.

Back in the first decade, the church membership list consisted mostly of Dutch-European names, most of them either beginning with Van or Vander, or ending with Veld or Hof or Horst—names and families that are still well-known and deeply cherished among us.

Six decades later, however, our church family mosaic has become even richer and more diverse. Family names like Li and Wu, Chang and Zhang and Dong, Jubenvill and Diack, Lazzara and Hansen, Shei and Burongo and Kalombo have become just as familiar and dear to us. Our church family now has a beautiful blend of many different nationalities.

Our hope and prayer is that our ethnic diversity will continue to grow richer as the years pass, and as God continues to bring all the nations of the earth to Jesus. We were like those who dreamed. Let’s stay that way. Let’s continue to hold God’s Word high, and be obedient to his call, as a church in the world, as a church that belongs to the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

PRAYER

Gracious Father, for the joy of being your people,for a gracious sense of your favour in the past, your goodness in the present, and your promises for the future, we give thanks to you, through the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you, O Father, that so often in this building, and whenever and wherever this your congregation has gathered over the past 60 years, you have been present with us, and spoken your word to us through the reading and the preaching of the gospel.

That among us the waters of baptism have continued to flow—for the forgiveness of our sins in the blood of Jesus, and for a rich welcome into your eternal kingdom.

That among us the bread of life, which is Jesus Christ, has continued to nourish our bodies and souls for eternal life.

We pray, as you are the God who knows our past, and who sees us now, and has planned our future, that as you lead us into another decade of church life, we may have a sense that our past is bathed in your pardoning grace, that our present is held by your strong hand, and that our glorious future in Jesus Christ and his eternal kingdom has been once and for all secured.

For the many gifts that you have distributed among us, many of which have been on beautiful display this evening, we give you thanks.

For the fellowship and love of Jesus Christ and his Spirit that binds us together,as brothers and sisters, as families,as a variety of people brought together as one in Christ, we give you thanks.

For the friendship and love of those who have joined and greeted us tonight,
as neighbours, as friends, as past members and leaders among us, as charter members, we give you thanks.

Give us, both as people and as a church, wills that bow happily to you, affections that rise in love towards you, and lives that more and more please you.

Bless this church. And through us be pleased to bless this city, this province, this land, this world.

All for Jesus, for the sake his kingdom, for your glory, through your mighty Spirit.

To you, O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be all glory, as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, world without end.

AMEN.

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“…baptizing them into the name…”

Unfortunately, most modern Bible translations use the English preposition “in” rather than “into” for the ‘Great Commission’ saying of Jesus that has always been used as the formula for Christian baptism (Mt 28:19). The NIV84 and ESV at least mention “into” as an alternative in the footnote, while the NIV2011 leaves it out completely. Too bad. “Into” (Greek eis) is certainly preferable, since it better reflects the baptismal theology of the ecumenical creeds and reformed confessions.

Your sex life is whose business?

A story which Lauren Winter shares in Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity (Brazos, 2005) illustrates the right answer well:

Carrie was two years out of college, living in Minneapolis in a funky, rambling Victorian with six other Christian women. Her boyfriend, Thad, lived down the block. Carrie and Thad were not having sex, but they were doing everything but having sex, including spending the night with each other regularly. And of course none of Carrie’s roommates knew for sure that they weren’t having sex–all they knew was that Carrie and Thad spent a lot of nighttime hours together in his apartment. But not one of Carrie’s roomies ever asked her a single question about what was going on behind closed doors. No one ever posed a loving inquiry, or a gentle rebuke, or even an oblique offer of an ear. Probably Carrie and Thad’s friends were simply made uncomfortable by the prospect of raising the tough issues of sex and chastity. They probably did not want to intrude, or seem nosy.

Winter then mentions two things that make this scenario all wrong, the Bible and baptism:

But the Bible tells us to intrude–or rather, the Bible tells us that talking to one another about what is really going on in our lives is in fact not an intrusion at all, because what’s going on in my life is already your concern; by dint of the baptism that made me your sister, my joys are your joys and my crises are your crises. We are called to speak to one another lovingly, to be sure, and with edifying, rather than gossipy or hurtful, goals. But we are called nonetheless to transform seemingly private matters into communal matters. Of course, premarital sexual behaviour is just one of many instances of this larger point.

This comes from a gal who became a Christian as an adult, but already as a teenager had treated casual sex as the norm and discovered how empty and wrong it was.