In Colossians 1:15 we read that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God...” The season of Advent celebrates God's unmatched pursuit of reconciliation with man by becoming man. Theologians refer to this event as “the incarnation.” While this may not be a word we use often, the process by which the incarnation occurred included both the miraculous and the mundane, the appearance of angels and the shepherding of sheep. In light of this, the doctrine of the incarnation must be understood on both a spiritual and practical level. The Christmas story reveals both that God became flesh in real time and space as well as how God became flesh in real time and space. This Christmas season as we study both of these aspects of the incarnation, we hope to embrace the full implications of believing in and serving the God who first moved toward us as a baby in Bethlehem.
We often use the phrase, my church, to refer to the place we go on Sunday mornings. It’s common to discuss what I like about my church, what I don’t like about my church, how my church is changing, and what my church is doing or saying about a particular issue. Although this kind of language and commentary is pervasive enough to become background noise in most church foyers or fellowship halls, there is only one person who can truly say, “my church.”
In Matthew 16:18b Jesus says, “…I will build my church…” The church, forever and always, belongs to Jesus. It is his possession, not ours. In addition, Jesus is the one who makes and fashions the church according to his will, not ours. So what is the church according to Jesus?
This series focuses on the Church’s Mission.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus declares, "...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." What is the nature and character of the church Jesus founded? The New Testament offers three pictures of the church in order to grasp the depth of what Jesus intended to build: the bride, the household, and the body. Seeking clarity on these pictures will help us better understand what the church is, what the church does, and how a church functions as the primary vehicle for the movement of God's people. In addition, these images will teach us about our Discipleship Program Priorities: connecting to Jesus' bride through membership, growing in Jesus' household through small groups, and serving the church and the world as an expression of Jesus' body. If we gain clarity on the nature of the church, we will gain clarity about how Jesus is using the church as the vehicle for His movement in the world today.
In the fall of 1976, God moved in the lives of two couples from the local college community to launch Williamsburg Community Fellowship. The church met in a small home, the children’s ministry in a neighboring house. Each Sunday morning, folding chairs replaced furniture. Each Sunday afternoon, as the furniture replaced the folding chairs, it was clear that all who attended were to bring the shape of the Gospel wherever they found themselves in the coming week. They sought to focus on the essentials of the historic Christian faith irrespective of denominational differences. Williamsburg Community Fellowship was renamed Williamsburg Community Chapel when the church was formally organized. All who call the Chapel home today are part of this living room legacy and now face a decision: will we institutionalize our heritage and ministry methods, or will we refresh our embrace of the movement Jesus began in a living room 40 years ago?
This fall, in honor of the Chapel’s 40th anniversary, we will study the 40 day or 40 year journeys we find in Scripture. These stories will help us see how God moves His people and how God’s people can participate in His movement.
In the middle of the first century there was a man named Saul who lived out a radically transformed life. He was the chief persecutor of the church who became the chief architect for the proliferation of the church. He sought righteousness through his own good works, yet began to teach that righteousness comes through faith alone. He moved from abhorring Gentiles to advocating for their place among God’s people. He pursued status and power but came to embrace weakness, persecution, hunger, thirst, homelessness, and imprisonment.
What happened that this man would experience such changes? He encountered the resurrected Jesus. We learn about this encounter and gain access to his transformation in the book of Acts. The transformation he underwent was so thorough and complete that he even began to go by the name Paul. He went on to write 13 letters that appear in the New Testament. It is in these 13 letters that we hear Paul’s call for all people to place their faith in Jesus Christ and experience ultimate transformation, the transition from death to life.
We began our annual focus on the Gospel in the fall with a study of Romans, examining Paul’s clear presentation of the Gospel, that Jesus died so we might live (Romans 3:21-24). In this series, we will return to Romans to see the practical applications of the Gospel for daily living. The Chapel’s late Pastor Emeritus, Dick Woodward, called this the “Gospel in Reverse.” If the Gospel teaches, “Jesus died that we might live,” the Gospel in Reverse teaches, “We die that Jesus might live in us.” Paul writes, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…” (Romans 12:1). This is the Gospel in Reverse: we die, Jesus lives. As we study Romans 12-16, we will grow in our understanding of what it means to offer ourselves to the One who offered Himself for us, that we might experience and share “the Gospel in Life.”
Luke 9:51-19:27 shows Jesus’ journey with His disciples from His ministry in Galilee to the focal point of His mission, His death and resurrection in Jerusalem. In this section of Luke, known as the Travel Narrative, we see Jesus slow down and prepare His followers for what is to come by telling many stories. Throughout Lent we will join Jesus on His journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, and we will listen to His stories. We will encounter memorable characters and images that illustrate the Gospel; and most importantly, we will ponder the meaning of these parables and imagine our place in Jesus’ stories, using Luke’s Travel Narrative as our roadmap to better understanding the Gospel.
We have been studying the Gospel which leads to a right relationship with God, but there’s more to the story. The Gospel leads to a right relationship with God AND right relationships with people. Yet we know there are speed bumps and road blocks on the path to right relationships with others, and often issues surrounding forgiveness are lurking beneath relational breakdowns. We will spend five weeks looking at forgiveness through the lens of biblical relationships that required forgiveness. Each relationship will help us understand a different aspect of forgiveness and help us gain insight into how we are to forgive, when we are to forgive and why we are to forgive. We hope the whole story of the Gospel, right relationship with God and others, will be embraced and applied in our community, as we study The Gospel in Relationships.
In the first two chapters of Luke, we find four reactions to the news of the Gospel. These reactions are not if/then statements of logic, but rather poetic expressions in song. Sung by Mary, Zechariah, a host of angels, and Simeon, these songs witness to the birth of Jesus, representing the original Christmas carols. Our study in Romans asked us to open our minds to the Gospel; our time in Luke 1-2 will ask us to open our hearts as well. As we study the good news this Advent, we will celebrate, with ancient carols, the news that a Savior has come, and pray that both our hearts and minds might be captured by the Gospel in Song.
“‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’” (Mark 1:15) When Jesus spoke these words, He made it clear they were rooted in redemptive history (“The time …”), He made it clear something was about to happen (“… is near …”), He made it clear something was currently happening (“… has come.”). He made it clear His announcement would demand a change in how we lived (“Repent …”), and in how we thought (“…believe…”). Jesus’ words were a declaration that something which God had been planning for ages was both about to happen, and had already begun happening. It would entirely change everything. Yet before this type of drastic change could send us into fear or panic, Jesus also made it clear His announcement was “…good news.” Over time, the church began to call this good news “the Gospel.”
Genesis means “beginnings.” This title is derived from the opening line of the book, which is the opening statement of the whole Bible: “In the beginning…”
The Chapel’s late Pastor Emeritus, Dick Woodward, used to describe the significance of starting at the beginning like this: “God tells us like it was, so we can know how it is.” To understand the way God works now, we must understand the way God worked then. In order to understand our nature now, we must understand what happened to our nature then. To understand our future hope, we must understand God’s ancient plan.
In Genesis 1-11, God tells us “like it was.” By returning to our beginnings, we will better understand our relationship with Him, our relationships with others, our sexuality, our propensity to overwork, overeat, overindulge, and our ability to deceive ourselves. God tells us “like it was” concerning our brokenness, but He also tells it “like it was” concerning His love for His creation, His plan for salvation, and the lengths He would go one day to reconcile all things to Himself.
Join us as we study Genesis 1-11, contemplating our beginnings and listening to God telling us “like it was,” so we can all know “how it is” and how it will be for eternity.
The mission statement of our church comes directly from Matthew 28:18, where Jesus calls us to “make disciples.” In the context that Jesus first uttered this command, it was a radical statement. No one made disciples. Different teachers had disciples, but they were training them to graduate from the discipleship process and become rabbis. No one made disciples; they made rabbis. When Jesus calls us to make disciples, He is calling us to a radical new task. He is calling us to engage in a perpetual process. We must learn how to be disciples, that is how to follow Jesus, for the long haul.
Tucked away in the book of Psalms, we find a group of passages known as the “Songs of Ascents.” Psalms 120-134 were sung as pilgrims journeyed to Jerusalem to “ascend” the steps of the Temple. They were written to keep people on track mentally, emotionally and spiritually as they journeyed toward placing God’s presence at the center of their lives. Centuries upon centuries have passed and the content of these songs still has the wisdom to nudge us back on track as we journey toward having God’s presence, Jesus Himself, at the center of our lives. The themes they touch on are timeless. The practices they advise are enduring. The wisdom they provide is durable enough for even the longest journey. We will read them, pray them, and maybe even sing some of them as we seek to make sure our discipleship process stays the course for the long haul.
In this series we will look at the Gospel of John through the framework John offers his readers in John 20:30-31: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Here, just before the epilogue to the Fourth Gospel, John gives us a clue as to how he has organized his gospel. He declares that he wrote down specific signs. He calls us to pay attention to these signs, for they will lead us to faith and life. Faith in Jesus is another way to describe following Jesus. Life, then, is the result of following Jesus. Where will following lead? Following Jesus will lead to an experience of true life, or as John puts it in 10:10, “Life to the full.” We should not be surprised when we get to this statement about “life in his name” at the end of the gospel, for John told us right up front in the fourth verse of his presentation, “In him was life….” Taking John’s advice seriously that the signs will point us to faith and life, we will examine the seven signs around which he organizes the first half of his gospel and discuss the characteristics of life in Christ to which they point. As we ponder each sign, we will be learning more clearly where following Jesus will lead.