“And this is my prayer, that your love would overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight…” –The Apostle Paul
This past weekend, we looked at the introduction to Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. These verses in the opening of his letter lay out Paul’s joyful observations and greatest desires for his beloved partners in the way of Jesus. Simply put, he affirms the “good work” God has begun in the church and encourages them to continue in that work up until Jesus’ return. The good work, it turns out, is God’s purposeful and ongoing salvation and the redemptive love it produces in the lives of Christians and ultimately, the community of Christ.
In preparing for this series, I’ve been reflecting on our CTK family and all the ways I have seen the good work taking shape in our church over the last several years. Here are a few examples that illustrate ways I have experienced that love and how I have seen that love reflected in small circles of us as well as our entire church.
One of the biggest challenges for me as the newly appointed pastor of CTK was getting a handle on the church finances. Not only were we in a significant financial bind, the church ended up being audited by the state–twice. Without going into the gory details, I can say we made some startling discoveries that had some potentially severe implications. I was faced with some painful realities and deeply difficult decisions.
I can remember one night, standing in the Albertson’s parking lot when I experienced my first ever anxiety attack. My body literally felt like it was having a heart attack or a stroke that night–that continued for several more days. I eventually had the presence of mind to call Brian Knight. We met at the cigar shop and he listened to me, encouraged me, hugged me–and didn’t try to fix anything. There were others as well. Dave Moore and my Advisory Council to name a couple. Sadly, that wasn’t the end of my anxiety, or the difficult realities I was being faced with. Even so, it was the first of many experiences of God’s ongoing salvation over the months that followed.
Moving out of the building on Caldwell Blvd was another difficult decision. It was also logistically difficult given the fact that we were in the middle of the chaos of COVID. Since we weren’t able to have a big meeting to talk about the decision, I had to schedule 39 meetings in one week to let people know what was happening and give them a chance to ask questions and voice concerns. It still amazes me that not one person in 39 meetings felt like it was the wrong move. There was a lot of sadness, to be sure, but we unanimously agreed that it was the wisest and most responsible course of action. Over the months that followed, about a dozen CTKers got together for several weeks to sort, pack, move and clean. We put in a ton of hours and it was not a ton of fun. Still, there was a marked attitude of joy and unified commitment to finishing–and then starting–the task well. The dedicated work of that faithful crew is a beautiful example of the kind of our love we share for each other and our church family, regardless of where we meet on Sunday morning.
A third snapshot of the overflowing kind of love in our Christian community is Percy the llama. Christmas Eve 2021 was, without question, the best Christmas Eve service I have ever been a part of. I’ve been to some pretty elaborate and well-orchestrated celebrations of Christ’s birth in my time. None of them can compete with the joy, playfulness and originality of our time together that night.
Right in the middle of it all, Percy the llama was standing there–no one holding his leash–proudly portraying the agrarian atmosphere and humble character of the Nativity. Yes, I know there were no llamas in Jerusalem when Jesus was born, but I really don’t think any goat or sheep or donkey could have made a better contribution to the greatest Nativity reenactment of all time.
As our church family comes together in embracing God’s work of transforming us to fulfill our created purpose, these are the kinds of moments and experiences that will continue to shape us and produce a righteous harvest–a pure and blameless love–that is the truest witness to Jesus’ love. I am delighted and humbled to stand with you all as we learn and grow in love–right up to the day Jesus returns.