The Return: Remembering our First Love

 

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10)

~Isaiah, ca. 2700 years ago

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

~John, ca. 1900 years ago

 

This year our ministry theme is captured in the language of Return. First, we hope to return to worship together in body and spirit.  We began the process of return early this summer and continue this fall by taking our worship service outdoors.  From Ezra speaking forth the word on His platform in Nehemiah 8:1-18, to George Whitfield bellowing to 23,000 on the Commons in Boston, open air services hold a special place in the proclamation and expansion of God’s Kingdom. We are thrilled we can gather on our property on September 13th.

Second, we embark on a spiritual journey of returning to the Lord in our own hearts. As the other letter to the Ephesians cautions: let’s not lose our first love for the Lord (Revelation 2:1-7). If we have lost our way, we commit to retrace our steps to find it again. We commit to put ourselves under the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Through His Word and by His Spirit, we humbly allow God to shape our thinking and practices toward a worldview aligned with the Word of God.

Third, we fix our eyes of the Returning King. Jesus Christ (= “anointed king and savior”) one day will come in Glory to restore justice, righteousness justice and peace forever.  He will wipe away every tear and remove the sting of illness and death.  This was the early Church’s hope, the ground of their resilient faith. Whether empires and cities failed or succeeded, whether political situations changed or stayed the same, Christians learned to thrive regardless of the social, economic and political context.  Their hope was found on nothing else, but Jesus and His righteousness.

When Isaiah casts his vision of the restoration of God’s people (Isaiah 35:1-10), he sees a highway that returns to the worship of the Living God in Jerusalem.  God will restore joy and singing in worship.  John, himself in exile, sees the heavenly city of Jerusalem as the restored Presence of God with humankind forever (Revelation 21:1-4). Here too, sadness and mourning have been canceled out. So John completes the picture started by Isaiah for us:  one day, we will worship together, from all four corners of the world, from every race, ethnicity, culture and language (our choir sang about this last month). So we too wait for that day to come.  But the waiting doesn’t mean idling.  Instead, we work toward its fulfillment by engaging in the proclamation of the Gospel in word and deed.  We commit afresh to the task of bringing the message of the Gospel to our neighbors across the street and across the world.  We remind ourselves that we are called to be faithful witness here where God has placed us. We also keep the big picture in mind.  Our mission is apostolic (= “sent out”). Our work will not be completed until every tribe nation, tongue and people has had the right to hear the Gospel in a way they can understand. TCC is a sending church, whether we relocate regionally, nationally or internationally.  So this year, we pray the Lord of the harvest will continue to raise up and send out workers into the harvest. Jesus Himself says:  “And this Gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Here are some of the ways we are praying for the Return at TCC:

Commitment to the study of the Word of God and fellowship through Life Group. If you have not yet made the step to join a LIFE group, please reach out to us.

Commitment to teach the Gospel within our families through devotions, Bible meditation and praying together.  This fall marks the launch of a new curriculum for children, the Gospel Project, to instill into our children the reality of God’s love for them through Jesus.  Pastor (and father) Kyle is all ready to take the students onto the road to discipleship and preparation to nurture their faith as they navigate the challenges of a cultural world-view often in competition with a Scriptural world-view.

Commitment to local outreach.  Several initiatives have already begun during Covid but we continue to rely on the creativity and innovation of God’s people. As we pray together and seek His face, He will put ideas in our hearts to serve the community and to bring the light of the Gospel to our neighbors.  This fall during Covid, we are thrilled to be able to serve the Wayland schools by providing much needed classroom space during the week.

Stay tuned in the days to come for more announcements on the theme of the Return.  God is doing new things at TCC and we can’t wait to see what He has in store for us this year!  Jesus remains our Vision in a season which will continue to be filled with storms and challenges.  But He is faithful through them all and He says, “Surely I am coming soon.” To be which we respond: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)