Come As You Are

By Laurel Droz (and Pastor Matt with scriptural support)

Have you ever had nothing to wear? Not literally nothing, but not the right thing; not the thing you are expected to wear for the circumstance.

This happens often: with an unexpected invitation to a wedding or a job interview or a night out someplace fancier than than your normal jeans and t-shirt combo would work.

One of the weirdest times to experience this feeling though is a funeral. The very first clothes were created by God as a covering for sin. “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of [animal] skins and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21 (ESV) Death enters the world because of Adam and Eve’s first sin. Death is complicated in all sorts of ways, and an unexpected death even more so (though really, is death ever actually expected, even when we think it is?) It throws everything into chaos and among all the many things you are left sorting through you are also suddenly in need of a somber, semi-formal outfit to wear to the funeral. And it’s such a weird thing to worry about something so superficial in a situation that is literally life and death. 

But it matters.

Try walking into a funeral in sweat pants and a stained shirt. Or a low cut sequined dress. Or a bathing suit. Or pajamas. Or even just jeans and a t-shirt. Sure, not everyone would care or notice, but probably at least one person would register your appearance as being disrespectful.

We judge others by the clothes they wrap themselves in, even if we don’t mean to and even if we wouldn’t appreciate being similarly judged ourselves. We even do this in church.

Think of the term “Sunday Best.” It stems from the idea that we put on our very nicest clothes to head to church. And while that idea is evolving and certainly isn’t a universal standard today, it’s still a topic of discussion. It can be difficult deciding what is appropriate to wear to church, especially if you are new here.

Some people will be confident enough they can figure out something Sunday appropriate that it won’t cause much strife, but surely others have lost hours in search of something that will make them appear acceptable. And if they can’t find that thing that makes them feel like they look like a person should look in church, they might just skip attending all together, because it feels awful to be someplace and feel that you don’t belong.

Now, if what we look like on the outside can cause so much strife, think about what it must feel like to be someone who feels that same way about who they are inside.

Whether or not it should, the idea of the sort of person who goes to church regularly often conjures certain stereotypes. And if you don’t see yourself as fitting into that mold (even if it doesn’t actually exist) it can make walking into a church feel like going to a funeral in a bathing suit. But Jesus does something amazing for us. Jesus washes us in our baptism by the water and the Word, “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:27 (ESV)

Since this is often a question of what the person is feeling inside rather than anything perceptible outside, it can get tricky for a congregation to get past this hurdle and reaching those uncomfortable filling the pews. But there’s one common message we can send in our actions and our words that would echo Jesus’ work for us: come as you are.

Do you swear or rage or drink a little too much? Come as you are. Do you have questions or hesitations or bad previous experiences with a church? Come as you are. Do you feel unworthy or unlovable or unable to live up to whatever expectations you think come with walking in those doors? Come anyway. Just as you are. Because you have a savior in Jesus Christ who makes you his own you can proclaim with the prophet Isaiah: “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10 (NLT)

None of us, not one of us, is perfect. We are all, in our own way, wearing a bathing suit at a funeral. And it’s okay. We’re okay. We are loved anyhow. He takes our sin and rags, and gives us His perfect righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

Come on in, just as as you are, and know you are loved.

God is Love

By Laurel Droz (and Pastor Matt with scriptural support)

A lot has been said of love—maybe all there is to say about it has already been written in one form or another. But it still seems to be in short supply in our world so I will add my words on it as well.

The Beatles once famously sang “all you need is love, love, love is all you need,” but people have singing, writing, and pontificating about love since long before that, not only in song but in prayer.

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” That’s a line from the Prayer of Saint Francis, known to people of all faiths because of the sentiments it expresses. And it says a lot that’s worth considering, but this bit in particular, “let me sow love” is powerful when you think about it.

We live in a time and place in which love is regarded as a thing that should be effortless. It pours fourth unbidden in love songs on the radio, it swells between main characters on television, it drives the plot of popular novels. It is a powerful force and it is instantaneous,  requiring nothing more than our mere presence to unfurl itself.

But that’s not how most love is. Romantic love certainly isn’t without its challenges, but when we think about love in the broader sense—love for the people around us in general—it gets much, much more difficult. Jesus tells us that people will know we are his disciples “if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) He tells us to love our neighbor, but that isn’t always easy. Living close to someone who acts in ways we find unlovable is a deeply unpleasant experience. Moreover, when we think of God and the vastness of the universe, that commandment almost begs the assumption all of us on this tiny blue marble in space are, in the grand scheme of things, neighbors. With all of our conflicts and differences, simple tolerance for one another can seem impossible, let alone love.

That’s why the notion of sowing love, planting little pieces of it all over, is such a wonderful metaphor. When we sow—when we plant—that is an act of faith. We put this tiny little speck of potential into the world and we care for it, we work for it, we keep it safe, and we trust that it might become something nourishing or beautiful or both.

And there is no talk of reaping love. In this case, what we plant is not ours to harvest. It’s there for someone else. It’s a gift given at our own, personal expense, with no expectation that we will ever get any bit of that back. It isn’t easy, it’s far from effortless, but it’s what we are here to do. We are here to put in the hard work of sowing love.

When you are out in this world filled with frustrating strangers, remember they are also our neighbors. Those sad faces on the news living in places we can barely pronounce? They’re our neighbors too. Your most annoying co-worker? Neighbor. Your in-laws? Neighbors. The people who drive you crazy on facebook, the guy who has the worst political opinions, the woman texting in the movie theater, the driver who is going 10 mph below the speed limit—neighbors.

It’s easy to feel lost here on earth, but we are given instructions. By the Beatles, by the Prayer of Saint Francis, by the Bible. Love. They all tell us to love. Where do we get the power to love? It comes from God himself. The Apostle John tells us in his first letter, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) and our ability and our motivation to love others comes from His love for us. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Love thy neighbor, and watch as piece by piece this blue space marble becomes a better place to be. It won’t be easy, but it’s what needs to be done. We are all love farmers here, and Jesus tells us the harvest is plentiful.

 

StartNew Table Talks: June 2017

Hey Holy Cross,

We've set the next round of dates for our StartNew Table Talks.

Click here to sign up for Tuesday, June 13 at 7pm.

Click here to sign up for Sunday, June 18 at 12pm. (This one is after coffee hour and our Sunday service.)

Click here to sign up for Wednesday, June 28 at 12pm.

Have you not been able to attend a scheduled Table Talk at the days and times that have been made available? Click here to email Pastor Matt and recommend a few days and times that you'd be able to make a meeting.

These discussions will have a strict 1.5 hour time limit. RSVPs are required, so please click a date and time that works well for you. A Table Talk will not be held without 6 people signed up.

Childcare is available but must be requested before the meeting.

They will be focused on some specific questions but will also have the opportunity to share and reflect on life at Holy Cross. This is your opportunity to share your voice about our direction. 

If you're coming to a "StartNew Table Talk" there will be some homework to do beforehand to make sure you're prepared. You will be emailed a workbook and we'd also like you to think about five things before you come:
1) an action-oriented favorite Bible verse (something that we do or which God does)
2) a description of what defines us as a church (with a local focus at Holy Cross)
3) an idea of who we want to be at Holy Cross
4) an idea of who we are best equipped to pursue at Holy Cross
5) a short-term, medium-term, or long-term goal for Holy Cross

Through these discussions we're going to be looking for interconnected ideas and thoughts that are related to some questions we think are important to discuss:
1) How do you see Holy Cross moving through our community a year from now, 3 years, 5 years, 20 years?
2) How will we be interacting with the community?
3) What are we doing to relate with people?
4) What are we doing to share the message beyond our walls?
5) What are we doing to meet new people?
6) What are we doing to strengthen relationships?

Crafted By Truth: Daily Bible Reading Plan

We've been doing daily bookmark Bible readings at Holy Cross, with short selections attached to an image that's posted on social media. We want to expand these readings. Starting Monday, May 15, we're going to be using the "Crafted By Truth" reading plan that the Michigan District put together in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation to read the whole bible in one year. 

There is a reading plan available in the YouVersion Bible app which can give you a daily reminder to keep up with the readings. Download the YouVersion Bible app from your phone's app store and then search for the "Reformation Reading Plan." You can also click here to go to the reading plan. The reading plan is organized according to the books of the Bible that the Reformers found most helpful. There is an OT and a NT reading for each day, each week including a "day of grace" to take a reading break and a day for reading the Psalms and Proverbs each week. If you don't have a smartphone, we've printed copies of the daily readings you can pick up after church, or click here to download a copy you can print on your own. 

We hope you'll join us as we continue to read the Bible together.

Click here or on the image below to watch a video introduction for the Bible reading plan, "Crafted By Truth".

StartNew Table Talks: May 2017

 

Hey Holy Cross,

We've set the first dates for our StartNew Table Talks.

Click here to sign up for Tuesday, May 16 at 7pm.

Click here to sign up for Thursday, May 18 at 9am.

Click here to sign up for Thursday, May 25 at 7pm.

Click here to sign up for Tuesday, May 31 at 12pm.

These discussions will have a strict 1.5 hour time limit. RSVPs are required, so please click a date and time that works well for you. A Table Talk will not be held without 6 people signed up.

Childcare is available but must be requested before the meeting.

They will be focused on some specific questions but will also have the opportunity to share and reflect on life at Holy Cross. This is your opportunity to share your voice about our direction. 

If you're coming to a "StartNew Table Talk" there will be some homework to do beforehand to make sure you're prepared. You will be emailed a workbook and we'd also like you to think about five things before you come:
1) an action-oriented favorite Bible verse (something that we do or which God does)
2) a description of what defines us as a church (with a local focus at Holy Cross)
3) an idea of who we want to be at Holy Cross
4) an idea of who we are best equipped to pursue at Holy Cross
5) a short-term, medium-term, or long-term goal for Holy Cross

Through these discussions we're going to be looking for interconnected ideas and thoughts that are related to some questions we think are important to discuss:
1) How do you see Holy Cross moving through our community a year from now, 3 years, 5 years, 20 years?
2) How will we be interacting with the community?
3) What are we doing to relate with people?
4) What are we doing to share the message beyond our walls?
5) What are we doing to meet new people?
6) What are we doing to strengthen relationships?

Holy Cross Oxford Blog

Hey Everyone,

We're launching a blog on our website to make sure information about what's going on at Holy Cross Oxford is as accessible as possible.

Before today, I'd include a weekly message in our email announcements that would go out on Friday. But the problem is that after the email gets sent out and shared on social media, it's not as  accessible for finding information after the fact. 

Our blog's intention is to be a collecting place of useful things that you need to know, whether they're posts about events at Holy Cross, or set lists for our New Song Worship songs, or anything other information from the church or preschool worth keeping around for more than a week.

Thanks for reading!
-Pastor Matt