I Loved Missions Week: How Stories of Changed Lives Change Us

Esuga’s story from Sunday, March 10

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When I was 7 years old I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. It was a warm July day during missions week at Westgate Chapel Christian and Missionary Alliance church in Toledo, OH. In the foyer of our church was a bulletin board with a map of the world. And on that map were push pins with lines of red string reaching out from Toledo, OH to places like Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, India, Honduras and the Philippines. These were all the places in the world where our church supported missionaries.

For one week every summer, these missionaries would all return to tell us stories of what God was doing through his global Church. I loved missions week. Every night of that week we would hear stories, and see picture slides and most importantly our missionaries would tell us that our prayers and financial support were being used by God to further his kingdom in the world. And at the end of that particular mission week, a missionary stood up at the front of the church and said that if anyone wanted to follow Jesus, to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior and to serve him, they should wait after the service and someone would pray with them. The Holy Spirit opened my heart and that night I became a follower of Jesus. And my life has never been the same. 

So the story of my Christian faith has always been inextricably linked to the story of what God is doing through his global church. That’s why when I was asked to join the diaconate at City Church, I chose to join the Global Team. I wanted to help our congregation think about ways to connect our practice of faith to the work God is doing through his church all over the world. One way the Global Team has tried to do this is through story-telling. During the January term earlier this year, for four Sundays during our Sunday school hour City Church hosted missionaries or told the stories of missionaries who have been called to serve in places like Japan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

For those who did not have the opportunity to hear those stories, we will be having a new storytelling session on March 31 when we will be hosting Jean-Luc Krieg and hearing about his work in Mexico City with Urban Mosaic. I had the opportunity to meet Jean-Luc for the first time almost three years ago, and he is an amazing person; born in West Africa, raised in Switzerland, trained here in Philadelphia and now living and working in Mexico City with some of the poorest neighborhoods in the world. My wife and I had the privilege to travel to Mexico City and visit the neighborhoods where Urban Mosaic is working and it was clear to us that God is using this ministry to transform lives.

One example was particularly powerful to me: we saw a park and playgrounds where there used to be a literal trash heap. Jean-Luc told us that when he first moved to that community he asked local leaders what they needed, and they all responded unanimously that they wanted to clean up the trash heap. Because it was in the middle of the community, people had to walk through it every morning to catch the buses that took them to work in the city. And at night they had to cross it on their way home. So Urban Mosaic mobilized a few volunteers to start cleaning the trash. And little by little, they cleared a small area. Then, as people saw what they were doing they added more volunteers and cleared a larger area. Pretty soon they had cleared the whole field of trash. Then they decided to pave a portion of the field and put up basketball courts so the neighborhood children would have a place to play. Pretty soon the local municipality took notice, and although they had previously ignored the trash heap they now contributed money to build a community center and municipal building. Now people get married there. This is one example of the practical implication of the gospel at work in transforming people’s lives, and in turn transforming their communities.

On Sunday, March 31 at 9 am, you can come and hear stories like this for yourself. I know that you will be blessed and encouraged and inspired by what you hear.  For a bit of a preview, you can watch a video about Urban Mosaic here.

Creating More Than We Consume: This Year, We're All in the Choir

By Bethany Brooks

In the spirit of Andy Crouch's call to "create more than we consume,” I want to ask you all to take part in preparing special musical moments in the Good Friday and Easter services.

On Good Friday, there will be times when the congregation hums sustained notes while a soloist sings; a little advance instruction (see video on this page) will help you to know what's happening and enter into the experience.

On Easter Sunday, we'll all sing a new song with simple 4-part harmony. You could just show up and follow the music in the bulletin on Easter Sunday...but getting familiar with it in advance will help this song to ring out with joy. And maybe you can pick a verse to memorize so that the words can be working their way into your heart and mind. As you learn it by heart you can, as George Steiner says, "(perceive) the elemental pulse of love implicit in that idiom." Audio/video recordings, sheet music, and instructions are available below, and I’ll have short rehearsals around the piano every Sunday during Lent from 12:10-12:25 in UCity and 4:00-4:15 in Fairmount for anyone who would like to practice together.

Thank you in advance for singing in the choir!

Download sheet music for “Glory to God for Christ”

Bethany Brooks shares some instructions about how the congregational choir can help with the Good Friday music.

Introducing Lent Sermon Series: The Seven Deadly Sins

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Here’s a lingering question to consider this Lent: What’s the deal with sin?

Some Christians talk about sin all the time, while others avoid the topic like the plague. Some speak of “sin” in general terms with very little to say about specific “sins,” while others do just the opposite. Some understand sin primarily in terms of guilt and rule-breaking, while others see it more in terms of brokenness or corruption.

So what’s the deal? What is sin? What does it mean that God saves sinners? And how should we as Christians understand, talk about, and relate to our sinfulness and to our sins?

This Lent, we will take up these questions in our sermon series on “The Seven Deadly Sins” - a traditional list that Christians have used for more than fifteen centuries as a tool to help them discern their sins, discover God’s mercy, and develop soul-nourishing habits of repentance and faith. The Seven - pride, envy, wrath, greed, lust, gluttony, and sloth - affect us all in powerful and particular ways, some of which are obvious and some to which we are oblivious. And just as our healing from physical illness often begins with a diagnosis and a treatment plan, the same is true for our souls.

The theologian John Calvin famously said, “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God.” Our hope at City Church this Lent is that, as we come to a deeper knowledge of ourselves as sinners, we would also come to know God more personally as the lover of our souls, the savior of sinners, and the one who leads us in the way of life everlasting.

If you’re interested in diving into some extra reading on the topic, here are two of the books we’ll be consulting along the way:

  • Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies, by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung

  • Sinning Like a Christian: A New Look at the 7 Deadly Sins, by William H. Willimon