Class Email from our Koinonia class President, Michael Gray, on September 18, 2013.
Greetings in the Name of the Lord,
I was afraid the sharing and community building would be collectively downgraded to “if we have any extra time at the end” status. I was afraid our hunger and thirst after great teaching/preaching might mean we wouldn’t hear from one another about what God is doing in our midst. It was very clear: shuffling the order did not mean we had compromised the unscripted testimonies that I believe God uses. All the things that I have come to love about our class merely happened in a different sequence.
For instance, I loved how Dr. Parrott flipped the discussion of freedom from and to. While Pastor Ulmet urged us not to let anything enslave us, no hurt, habit, or hang-up, Dr. Parrott brought us face to face with the understanding of salvation Paul so vehemently opposed–the”anathema”–the mixing of saved by grace with saved by works. Dr. Parrott suggested we consider the frustration of “living up to grace.” He went on to describe this predicament as “when my piety leads to anxiety over sin” and later translated it as worrying that “Grace saves us but just barely.” He also spoke about being haunted by our past. Here, he incorporated Jacques Ellul’s idea that “The past lives not in the hell of my unconscious, but in the holiness of God.” Consequently, proclaimed Dr. Parrott, “It [my past] need not torment me.” He also reminded that when Paul says, “Grace and peace to you,” in Galatians 1:3, the thought comes not from Paul but from God. Amen.
Denying God’s plan of salvation puts us on the throne; wavering about salvation, as Pastor Ulmet reminded, means Christ’s death was a waste.
For the record, I also loved hearing Carol speak of her heart’s desire to serve the Lord with an “utmost for His highest” mentality; Danny reduce it all to “Go to sleep in love and wake up in love. God is love.”; Pastor Jon say, “It is not our doing but our being.”; Carla, Tommy, and others caution that our service to God should not replace our relationship with God; and Audrey testify to the reality of having a drained body but a tireless spirit.
Addressing these comments, Dr. Parrott closed with a thought about service: “I don’t think in terms of what I should do for God, but what He is doing and where I should plug in.”
So we ask ourselves, when does freedom become just doing what you want? That is to say, when does freedom in Christ become a spiritual plateau? We readily point to the dangers, the slippery slope, of liberality, but, like the circumcised believers of Paul’s day, we should also test the religiosity we have come to cherish.
I mention this because we are growing as a class. The six round tables of the old room are about to become ten round tables in the gym. Ask Dr. Parrott and he will tell you the round tables are important to our group dynamic. So is hearing from our active, praying classroom community, and that was evidenced last Sunday. On homecoming Sunday, at the outset of his sermon, Dr. Henecke said, “Here we are, enjoying our religion.” His comment was more than a preface to a sermon about Paul’s sacrificial words to us from a Roman jail; his comments also addressed the desire for nostalgia so prevalent in our First Church gatherings.
A case in point is the recent shake-up in the order of our class which, I confess, brought me to a crisis moment. This may sound silly, but I was fearful of this change. I am unwilling to give up the Spirit-driven intimacy and accountability of our time together. Would the shake-up mean streamlining for the sake of finishing on time or would it mean a chance for a closer walk with Christ because there was more time for Dr. Parrott to illuminate scripture? Had I misjudged my role as facilitator? Was I now in the way of what God wanted to do? A couple of years ago I would have agreed that Sunday school is about “exposition of the word.” Now, I believe it is about strengthening the body through more than just great teaching. Thus, I prayed for a reality check–one I believe He answered through your faithfulness to both listen and share.
One more thing, I met a homeless man named John last Saturday morning. When, in our rambling conversation, I told him about the NFCN’s Emmaus meal/service, he told me that he had attended a recovery/discipleship program at the main church over near “Tur-vecka.” When he said that about TCC, calling it the “main church,” I thought “No, First Church is the main church.” Then, I realized anew what Jesus meant when he said “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). The main church is the one where God’s kingdom moves forward. Period. Receive-yes. Share-of course. Extend-got to happen. Being the main church may mean changing the order now and again or risking something untried, God will tell.
All that being said, please join me in praying for our dear Cheryl and Eddie, continue to lift up Karen Carlson’s husband following back surgery, our sister church in Nogales, the future of the ministry to singles, ELL, Emmaus, the upcoming Marriage 101, Rachel’s brother and his church, High Road Runners, Lisa Smith’s new ministry opportunity, Pastor Ulmet’s new sermon series, the marriage of Steve Oliver (my wife’s younger brother).
Checking my spirit and trying to leave my agenda at the door,
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