God as Mystery, as Trinity

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-by Rev. Kristen Yates, excerpted from Masters Paper, “Creation Care:  A Spiritual Journey of Reconciliation”

Some thoughts for Trinity Sunday ….

Even though our God reveals Himself to us, He is also a God of mystery. There is an inexhaustible richness to God that keeps us in awe. We are able to grow in understanding of God and to deepen our relationship with Him, however, we are never able to completely grasp everything about God. If we think we have, then we are not talking about God but are talking about an idol we have created in the place of God.[i]

Part of God’s mystery is that He is Triune: one God in three Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. While throughout the centuries, many have treated the Trinity as a mathematical riddle[ii] or a philosophical theory, Eastern Orthodox theologian Kallistos Ware reminds us that “the Trinity is not a philosophical theory but the living God whom we worship; and so there comes a point in our approach to the Trinity when argumentation and analysis must give place to wordless prayer.”[iii]

During this time of wordless prayer, we come to appreciate God’s majesty and mystery on a deeper level, and we also come to understand God, ourselves, and the rest of creation in new ways. For if God is one God in three Persons, he is “communion to His very heart.”[iv] When we say that God is love, it is not just that God loves us – as has been revealed to us in His covenant of grace through Israel and Jesus, but that at the very center of His being is a community of self-giving Persons who love each other and whose work represents “a collaboration, a co-instrumentality” between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[v]

We come to realize that because God is a communion, He is self-sufficient and does not need anything else in His life. Thus, the creation, sustenance, and redemption of all things are the result of God’s overflowing love, not of necessity.[vi] We also come to understand that if God is a community, we are called to relate to God and others through community. As image-bearers of God, we cannot be true human beings unless we live in community – a community that consists of the three Persons of the Trinity, other humans, other living creatures, and the non-living world.

[i] Ware, Fr. Kallistos. The Orthodox Way. Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1979. 13.

[ii] Moltmann, Jurgen. The Crucified God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1993) 236.

[iii] Ware. 39.

[iv]Gunton. “Trinity and Creation.”

[v] Moltmann, Jurgen. The Way of Jesus Christ. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1993. 74.

[vi]Gunton, “Trinity and Creation.”

Holy Week FAQs

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Are you desiring community and an opportunity to worship Christ during this upcoming Holy Week?  If so,  do join us!  Details are below.  And if you are new to Holy Week, check out the FAQs below to find out more.

Holy Week Schedule

Palm Sunday – 10:30 am in the Chapel Room of Sequoia Church (233 Topaz Street)  We’ll meet outside the school by the parking lot for an initial palm procession.

Maundy Thursday Foot Washing Service – 7:15 pm in the Chapel Room

Good Fridayour pastor will be available for individual times of prayer and confession throughout the day, email pastor@communityoftheway to set-up a meeting time.

Easter Service with Eucharist Church, 10:00 am, 1504 Bryant Street

Holy Week FAQs

What is Holy Week?

Holy Week is the last week of Lent leading to Easter.  To find out more about Lent, check out this previous post.

What is Palm Sunday?

On Palm Sunday, we remember Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem when folks cried out their hosannas as they greeted their king with great joy.   We also remember that this joyous welcome soon turned to rejection, setting Jesus on the path to crucifixion, which would happen just a few days afterwards.

What is the Triduum?

The service we have on Thursday night is best thought of as a single worship event that is completed by the announcement of the resurrection and the celebration of Easter.

What is Maundy Thursday? –Maundy Thursday is the night when we recall Jesus’ institution of the the Communion Meal at the Last Supper with his disciples, as well as his humble act of service to his disciples by washing their feet.  It is often typical to share a Passover or “Seder meal on this evening.  It is often very typical to do a footwashing service this night.  The service on Thursday night is  generally a solemn service, drawing our attention to the fact that Good Friday is almost upon us. At the end of the service, the altar is stripped , which conveys the humiliation that Jesus experienced as his clothes were taken from Him, He was beaten, and He was forced to carry His cross to Golgotha.

What is Good Friday?

Good Friday is the day we remember the denial, desertion, and crucifixion of Jesus. Why then is this most solenm day called “good”?  It is good because we know that Easter is around the corner.   We know that God was in control on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. As Lawrence Stookey says, “The crucifixion of Jesus was not some bad deal that God had to try to make the best of; it was a working out of divine intention with a view to the salvation of an otherwise doomed creation.”

 What is Easter?

Easter is the day when we celebrate with great joy the resurrection of Jesus.  Easter opens us up to a great 50-day celebration known as Eastertide.  Easter is the most important day in the church calendar because Jesus’ resurrection changed everthing.  In the resurrection, God defeated the powers of evil and death,  freed us from our sins by his blood,  made us into a kingdom of priests, and as the firstborn of the dead, pointed to the day when the bodies of believers will one day too be raised into new life.   The resurrection was the greatest victory of all time showing us that death has no grip upon us.

What is the Church Calendar?

If you are new to the church calendar, you may want to check out this short video to help you understand how Holy Week fits into the entire Church Year?

 

 

What does it mean to be a citizen of heaven?

In this more informal talk on Philippians 3:17-4:1, the Rev. Kristen Yates asks what Paul means when he says the Philippians (and us by extension) are citizens of heaven? Rather than meaning that we should be people who disengage from culture because we belong to some other-worldly reality, it means that we are called to bring the Kingdom of God’s values to bear on our cultures.  (There is no manuscript for this talk).

Ash Wednesday Sermon

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On this Ash Wednesday, Rev. Kristen talked about both the beauty that exists in humanity (because humans are made in the image of God) and the sin that exists – sin that will result in death. Rev. Kristen explained the meaning of the ashes, which have both a solemn and hopeful meaning, and she called people to a time of self-reflection during this season of Lent. For a full manuscript of the sermon, click here.

Ash Wednesday and Lent FAQs

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So the Season of Lent is upon us early this year, with Ash Wednesday falling on February 10th. We wanted to extend an invitation to you to join our community as we journey through Lent this year, beginning with Ash Wednesday, ending with Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, and then opening us up to the wonderful fifty-day Season of Easter.

Please do consider joining us on February 10th at 7:00pm at Sequoia Christian Church’s main sanctuary (233 Topaz Street, Redwood City) for our Ash Wednesday service. We would love to have you.  We will be partnering with Sequoia Church and Via Vetera to host this service and will be following a traditional Anglican liturgy.  It will be a time of self-reflection, prayer, worship in song, the imposition of ashes, and the partaking of the Lord’s Supper. If you have any questions, please email us at pastor@communityoftheway.org.

In the meantime, you can find some FAQs about this service and about the season of Lent in general.

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What is the Church Year and how does Lent fit into it?

First off, if you are new the idea of a Church Year or Christian Calendar, you may first want to check out this helpful short video about this ancient Christian practice.

What is Lent?

Lent is the 40 day-period prior to Easter. Lent is a time when we seriously consider our human condition.   It is a time of examination of life, confession, and repentance.

At the same time, Lent is a time when we reflect on our hope in Christ and proclaim with joy that Christ has reconciled himself to us through his crucifixion and resurrection. In Lent, we are always looking forward to the triumph of Easter Day, so even as we spend time in self-reflection and repentance, we also continually hold fast to God’s profound and costly love for us.

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. It is also probably the most solemn day of the season. We are confronted with our unregenerate nature and with death. We are confronted with the reality that we will all die and that we are in fact, powerless to prevent it. Our reflection on death is meant to set into motion a reconsideration of the meaning of life and death apart from Christ but also in Christ.   In Christ, our deaths are absolutely transformed, for with Christ, sin and death do not have the last word. Believers in Christ will instead see themselves at the end of days seated at the great resurrection feast of the Lamb of God. Therefore, this most solemn day is also a very hopeful one.

What is the meaning of the ashes?

Ashes are the sign of death, sorrow, and mourning; they are placed on our foreheads on this day. Yet, these ashes are placed on us in the sign of the cross, which alters the starkness of the message and gives us hope. Yes, we will all die, but we Christians will die in Christ, which again absolutely transforms the nature of our deaths.

Must I receive the ashes?

No. If you would like to attend our service, but are unsure of receiving the ashes, you are most welcome to just reflect upon the symbolic nature of the ashes without having them placed on your forehead. On the other hand, receiving them can be a powerful experience where God can work deeply in our hearts. It is also a sign to others of our faith in Christ.

Why is Lent 40 days?

First off, if you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, you will actually count 46 days. Six of those days are Sundays, and because Sundays are always feast days, they are not actually considered to be part of the penitential days of Lent.   There are 40 days in Lent for both theological and practical reasons. The theological reason is as follows: in Biblical terms, it is a round number that symbolizes fullness – it is a time sufficient to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. There are many examples in the Bible of 40-day periods. It rained for 40 days in the time of Noah, Moses and Elijah dwelt at Horeb for 40 days, Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days prior to His baptism, and there are other examples too. The practical reason is as follows: 40 days was a sufficient amount of time for converts to make their final, intensive preparation for baptism in the early days of Christianity (since at least the 4th century onward).

What are the origins of Lent?

In the early centuries of Christianity, believers would generally be baptized on Easter, and wanting to be like Jesus who fasted before he began his ministry, Christians also wanted a period of disciplined devotion, concentrated study and prayer, and fasting before their baptism. So they did just that.   Soon, the whole church would view this time before Easter as a time of disciplined devotion, and this time would turn into the season of Lent as we know it.

Do Christians in the Anglican Tradition fast or give up things for Lent?

Since Lent is a self-reflective season, many followers choose to have times of fasting, to give up various things, or to take on new Christian practices during the season of Lent (extra times of prayer, etc.) However, these things are not prescribed in the Anglican Way as they are in other traditions. So individual Christians can choose what will be the most helpful for them as they seek to draw closer to Christ. A conversation with a pastor or close friend before the season starts may be helpful in discerning how to approach Lent this year.

What are other important days in Lent?

During the last week of Lent, we walk through Holy Week, which consists of Palm/Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Saturday night.   Check back later in the season to find out more about these special days in the Christian Calendar.

Love & Spiritual Gifts

It is love that lasts

A sermon by the Rev. Kristen Yates

This sermon focuses on the “Love Passage” (1 Corinthians 13) written by Paul to the Corinthians. It asks us to read this passage in the entire context of the book of 1 Corinthians. Paul is not arguing that spiritual gifts, faith, etc. are unimportant, but they become problematic when we treat them as end goals when they are meant to be the means to our end goal, which is loving God and loving our neighbors with our whole hearts.  For a manuscript of the sermon, click here.

What’s in a Logo? Capturing Rhythms, Relationships, and Renewal

So, we recently just finished up our logo – it was a collaborative effort of two of our community members.  And just like we chose our name intentionally, we chose our logo intentionally. So in case you are curious, this is what is behind our logo.

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Defined by Communion

First off, Community of the Way is a community of Christ-followers that shares the Holy Eucharist or Holy Communion together each week. It is a defining aspect of our worship together. So in choosing a logo, we wanted something to symbolize that, and we decided upon a circle with a cross in the center because it looks like the communion bread that we partake of each week.

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Defined by Rhythms, Relationships, and Renewal

Secondly, we wanted a symbol that would communicate something about our values: Rhythms, Relationships, and Renewal. Earlier in our process of choosing a logo, we had talked about using a Celtic cross. In a Celtic Cross, the circle around the cross represents redemption and renewal not just of individuals but of all creation (Romans 8:19-22).

Even though, we ultimately decided not to go with a Celtic cross, we still wanted to include a circle in our logo to point to this renewal that Christ has brought, is bringing, and will complete. We also knew that circles often represent interconnected relationships, and building strong relationships among ourselves and with our families, neighbors, co-workers, and city is a key value of ours.

What about the interconnected circles? Well later on in the process, we also decided to add interconnecting circles because this again points to the idea of interconnected relationships.

It also has a feel of movement and of  the interweaving of cyclical rhythms.   As a liturgical church, we do life together according to the Church year, walking together through the Seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time. As Christians in the Anglican tradition, we also develop daily and weekly rhythms of prayer, study, outreach, and Sabbath that are meant to deepen our relationship with Jesus and with each other as we journey along with Christ.

If you would like to find out more about our Rhythms, go here. To find out more about the churh calendar, check out this short, helpful video.

Desiring Growth

Finally, we chose green as our logo’s color. Why?   Because it is a color that evokes the idea of growth, and again renewal and personal growth is a key value of ours.  All of us desire to be formed more and more into Jesus’ likeness. Green also happens to be the color of Ordinary Time, which is the season of the Church Year we walk through for the longest period of time each year.

(By the way, just for fun’s sake, we’ll soon have our Logo in each of the colors of the Church Seasons: Black, Red, Green, Purple, and Gold).

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  If you have never read Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”,  I sincerely encourage you to do so today.  (The text is attached here.)  Peace and order where there is no understanding, dignity, or justice for all is a “false peace”. Sometimes speaking out and action is required – I greatly respect Dr. King for advocating a non-violent, loving means to reveal the false peace present in the segregated south (and elsewhere) and to advocate for the dignity and justice that all human beings made in the image of God deserve.

In particular, you will find in this letter a call to the “moderate” Christian to awake from his/her slumber. Let us pay attention and pray.

Friends, let us remain discontent with a status quo that does not treat all human beings with equal dignity. Let us love one another (despite our differences) and work for justice in the spheres of our influence, whether large or small.

And if you haven’t seen “Selma” yet, celebrate this Martin Luther King Jr. day by watching it.

The Feast of the Epiphany

Join us in celebrating Christ in the Anglican tradition.

Today is the Feast of Epiphany, the climax of the Advent/Christmas season when we remember the time when the Magi came to visit and bring gifts to the child Jesus. For this reason, in some cultures, this day is also known as Three Kings Day.   The Magi’s visit was significant because these men from the East were the first Gentiles to have an epiphany (an unveiling or revealing) of who Jesus was. As Simeon had prophesied over Jesus at the Temple, this special child would become a “light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32) and the magi were the first among countless others who would acknowledge Jesus’ kingship.

But as we believers know, Jesus was not just any king, He was the Son of God, God made flesh, and in fact Savior of the world. Yet the truths of Jesus’s eternal, salvific identity were not made clear to everyone right way. Instead, these truths were slowly unveiled or revealed to the world over Jesus’ lifetime and especially after His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. As the Gospels make clear, his followers were continually having epiphanies of who Jesus was over the course of their lifetimes, and these epiphanies in fact were life-changing.

In the next few weeks of the Church Year, we get to observe some of these life-changing epiphanies in the lives of Jesus’ disciples and observers. While we now technically move back into the Season of Ordinary Time until the Season of Lent begins, in many ways, we can consider all these weeks leading up to Lent as an Epiphany season – a time when Jesus is revealed to us in various ways.

We’ll see people like Simeon and Anna prophesying about Jesus’s destiny as He is presented at the Temple as a child.  We’ll see Jesus baptized and the Father revealing His identity in that signficant moment. We’ll also see Jesus radiant and transfigured, with the Father again once speaking over Him about His identity. And we’ll see much more.

For many of us, we may feel a bit disappointed as we leave the joys of the Christmas Season behind and move into a new season, but truthfully speaking, so many exciting things are now ahead of us as Christ is revealed to us more and more. So let’s get excited and pray to God that in this upcoming season, we would have our own epiphanies about who Jesus is and who He is calling us to be.

Jesus, in this New Year,  may we know you more deeply and more richly than ever before.

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Renewing Our Hope in the New Year

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The New Year is a time of renewed hope when many of us look into ourselves and make resolutions about how we can be healthier, how we can improve our relationships, how we can be more productive at work, etc.

For those of us on the journey of faith, it is also often a time when we ask ourselves questions such as,

  • How can I draw closer to Jesus in this new year?,
  • How can I become more of the person God created me to be?,  and
  • How can I reflect the Kingdom of God in my life more this year?

These are questions that our community is currently asking.

In this new year, we desire to figure out what it means to take on the unforced rhythms of God’s grace in our lives, finding balance and wholeness in our relationships and in our days, weeks, months, and year.

We also  pray that we may deepen all our relationships – loving God and loving others more deeply than we have before.

We also hope that whether it is in big or small ways, we may find new ways in this year to join in with God’s renewal of our world, and be bearers of peace, hope, light, forgiveness, health, life, love, truth, and beauty.

Perhaps you find yourself asking the same questions and having the same desires for 2016. If so, consider joining our community in this New Year.

Community of the Way is a new Christian community in the Anglican Tradition  that is planting a church in Redwood City, CA.    We are a Trinitarian and Three-streams community (Scriptural, Sacramental, and Spirit-Led).

Together as a community, we are pursuing rhythms, relationships, and renewal in this upcoming year, and we would love you to join us on this journey.

If you would like to find out more about us,  explore our Website.  Here, you will find lots of information about who we are, what our affiliations are, how we got started, what we care about, and where we are headed.  Also check out our photos to see  the many things we have done together thus far.

And do also feel free to contact us at pastor@communityoftheway.org  We would love to meet you for coffee/tea to learn about you and to introduce you to our community.

An Anglican community in Redwood City