Trinitarian Congregational Church

Pastor Tom’s Note: Citizens of Heaven

Rev. Dr. Tom Petter is the Senior Pastor.  12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for…

Dear Church,

During this election season, it just so happens that our study of partnership in the Gospel takes us right to the passage that talks about the idea of citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20). As one Greek New Testament dictionary defines it this way: “our home is in heaven and here on earth, we are a colony of heavenly citizens.”  Does it mean, the ‘commonwealth’ of heaven just checks out and takes on a passive-aggressive posture on earth until we actually get there? Paul answers that quite clearly. Anyone who puts their faith in Jesus belongs to heaven and has already received this inheritance (“Christ has made me his own”), but we also “press on to make it our own.” In fact the image is one of an athlete overextending themselves to obtain the prize: “forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”  In fact it’s more like we are slugging through 18 innings of Game 3 of the World Series to win 2-1 (to eventually win the entire thing). The only difference to the reality of the 2018 World Series, in Paul’s idea of ‘Game 3’, we already know that we’ve won the World Series. But the slugging through still needs to take place. This is the paradox of this heavenly citizenship. Earlier in the epistle (Philippians 2:15) Paul addresses that too. He says to us as “citizens of heaven” that we “shine like lights in the world” and strongly reminds us of the words of Jesus: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:15). We reflect the radiance of heaven on earth because we are citizens of heaven.

What does it mean to radiate this light of heaven on earth?  We lead lives on earth as people of the Cross (I’m tempted to say the ‘party of the Cross’): emptying ourselves, humbling ourselves so that we might serve others (following in the footsteps of Jesus, Phil. 2:5-8 and of Paul, Phil 3:17) blameless, innocent, and without blemish  (Phil 2:15).  It means that before any political affiliation we might have, we remind ourselves that God always is on the side of holiness (see Joshua 5:13-15). We remind ourselves the Gospel is always about God reconciling sinners (aka opponents or enemies) to himself, rather than scoring political points.

Reflections for the week:

This year we as a leadership team are reading this little book, Evangelism by Mack Stiles (available at the TCC office) which plainly says that evangelism cannot be reduced to programs but is something that happens in the context of personal relationships. Maybe it’s time to invite your neighbor to church! Or if church is a step too far for them, have an initial conversation about the Gospel over a cup of coffee, invite them to your LIFE group, Mom-to-Mom or into your home for a meal. Let’s be the party of the cross in our neighborhoods. Let’s also take the side of holiness in our personal lives and in the way we conduct our professional and personal lives, knowing that God himself who is “at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).

Attention Kids! Christmas Eve Actors Needed

Christmas Actors Needed!

Children PreK-5th grade are invited to play a role in our 5 pm Family Christmas Eve Drama. Signup at the Children’s Ministry desk on any Sunday between now and December 2nd! (PK kids may participate but will need a parent with them.)

Rehearsal times are as follows:

Sunday 12/16 from 11am-12:30pm

Sunday 12/23 from 2-3:30pm

Please signup at the children’s ministry checkin desk or email Gail to sign up by Sunday December 2nd!

 

Children’s Artwork Needed for Christmas Eve!

Artwork needed for Christmas Eve!

Help us tell the Christmas story with your child’s artwork! We use the Jesus Storybook Bible (JSB) during the Christmas drama and need the following scenes illustrated:
of the following scenes:

Luke 1:26 – Luke 2:7 – The Birth of Jesus
• Angel Visiting Mary (JSB p. 178)
• Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem (JSB p 180)
• Jesus is Born (JSB p. 182)

Luke 2:8-20 – The Shepherds and the Angels
• A Bright Star Appears in the Night Sky (JSB p. 184)
• Shepherds with their sheep (JSB p. 186)
• A bright angel appears (JSB p.188)
• Shepherds visit Jesus in the manger (JSB p. 190)

Matthew 2 – The Story of the Wise Men
• Picture of three wise men (JSB p. 192)
• Wise men going on a long journey (JSB p. 194)
• Wise men arriving in the town of Bethlehem (JSB p. 196)
• Wise men bowing before Jesus (JSB p. 198)

This can be a great project for your kids to have a hands-on experience of the Christmas Story. It is also a great opportunity to read the Bible together as your child thinks about how to illustrate it. We need LOTS of artwork of many different images, so pick one and make it your own!

Directions:

Submit full color drawings on letter sized paper.

Write your child’s name and grade NEATLY ON THE BACK.
Write your child’s name and grade NEATLY ON THE BACK.
Write your child’s name and grade NEATLY ON THE BACK.

(this one is important so I say it 3 times!)

Turn artwork into the CM desk by Sunday December 16th, 2018.

 

Thanks so much!

Gail and Adam

Pastor Tom’s Note: Waste Management

In our fall series in Philippians, the idea of partnership keeps coming up every week.  In chapter one, it’s about partnership in the gospel (1:5) and in the grace of God (1:7) In chapter 2 we are partners together in the Spirit (2:1). The operative word is koinonia and its variations (participation, partnership, fellowship, sharing, partaking). Toward the end of chapter 2 Paul brings up exhibit A and B of what it means to share in this grace of the Gospel together. Of Exhibit A, Timothy, Paul says: “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare” (2:20). Paul calls Epaphroditus, Exhibit B, “my brother.”  With a name like that (from the greek goddess Aphrodite), Paul as a Jew obviously doesn’t mean that Epaphroditus is a blood brother. But he is true brother in Christ, “a fellow worker and fellow soldier” (2:25) who “has been longing for you all” (2:26).

So when we come to chapter 3, Paul turns the spotlight on himself and explains partnership from his own life journey. He itemizes his CV which reflects an impeccable pedigree along with superlative credentials. But these are a mere house of cards when they are considered in contrast to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord  [emphasis added]” (3:8).  In fact Paul uses a crude term (skubalon, ‘crap’ would be our equivalent) to describe what these credentials represent in comparison to gaining Jesus (3:7 see 1:21):  “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share [from koinonia] in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (3:11).  Here Paul takes the partnership to its ultimate and logical end as a follower of Christ: He too will empty himself, humbled unto death, in order to “attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  The death-ordeal that Jesus went through, forsaking the credentials of Heaven to become a servant unto death, is now Paul’s experience. As he imitates Christ in this descent into self-denial, he too will rise up from the dead, as Jesus did.

Sanctification ≠ Recycling

We are used to recycling in our households and at the grocery store.  Some of us may be slow in our ability to sort out what is trash and what is compost and what is recyclable, but in the way Paul views this process, he’s saying: my credentials, as valuable and worthy as they are (see Romans 9:4-5 for a positive assessment of his heritage) are nothing but trash in comparison.  No recycling possible here.

Another powerful image is the high priest in Zechariah 3:1-5 whose gorgeous garments are now filthy, soiled by his own iniquities (= whatever is contrary to God’s will in our lives).  But then something extraordinary happens.  A command comes from the “angel of the Lord” about the High Priest: “Remove the filthy garments from him.  Look, I have taken your iniquity from you and I will clothe you with festal garments.”  Instead of soiled clothed, he is given a brand new outfit ready for the biggest party in town.

With these images of no recycling allowed and a divine bespoke outfit, we are articulating the essence of the Gospel: We were sinners, soiled and derelict, but by putting our faith in Jesus, we’ve been given a brand new identity with the most precious and expensive set of clothes one can get: garments of righteousness.  Even the splendor of the high priestly garments cannot compare with the righteousness we have been given in Christ.

Reflections for the Week:

This trip to the ‘dump’ is not a one-time event but needs to occur regularly since the temptation is always going to be to trust in our credentials before God and before others.  In the end, as valuable and beneficial our credentials can be, in comparison to our identity in Christ, they are of no value at all, un-recyclable garbage.

Paul is teaching us a hard lesson of identification with Jesus (sharing/koininia in his sufferings).  Jesus said it too: “take up your cross and follow me.”  Are we willing to follow him all the way as His disciples? Do we model true discipleship with the same zeal we have to do well in our job and to be model citizens?  What about our children? Are we projecting the proper image of what it means to have success in life?  The measure of our lives cannot be how successful we are professionally (even as that happens as a gift from God). No, the true measure is: how well do we know Jesus, in His righteousness, in His suffering and His glory.

Take a moment this week to pray and reflect on your own CV.  Maybe it’s time to ‘shred it’ as pastor Kyle said two weeks ago.  This could actually lead to the biggest promotion you’ll ever receive with the highest ranking title one can hope for on earth: “servant of the Lord.”

Operation Christmas Child – Reasons to Give

Every year we partner with “Operation Christmas Child” to send good news and great joy to children all around the world. Through the power of simple shoebox gifts, children experience God’s love and the Good News of the Gospel. To participate see the OCC display in the Lobby. Once assembled, please drop off your shoebox gifts to the children’s ministry check-in desk by Sunday, November 18th. This is a wonderful project to do as a family this Christmas Season!

In October at our First Sundays Together worship service, a family from TCC shared their experience participating in Operation Christmas Child. They shared with honesty and humility that giving things away is hard. The human heart needs re-direction, and giving away things is an exercise in conviction, and ultimately, worship. After all, as our LTA memory verse for December says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)”.

If you missed it (or even if you saw it, you might want to watch it again), check out this short video from a TCC family about their Operation Christmas Child experience.

Shoeboxes are due Sunday November 18th! Pick one up in the display in the lobby today!