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.
Spring (2 weeks): We will fix our eyes on Jesus’ gentle care for those who are struggling to place their faith in Him.
“‘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.
We start our new year with an old question: “Why?” Why follow Jesus? With so many options to choose from concerning what we may follow in life, why choose to follow Jesus? The book of Ephesians lays out a compelling case for why following Jesus is the only appropriate response to God’s decisive action in the world. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus can be divided into two parts. First, Paul makes sure his readers are certain of what God has done for them in Christ. Second, he moves to help his readers understand how their lives must be reordered to reflect the new foundation Christ offers. The two parts of Paul’s letters can be summed up like this: “You have been made alive in Christ; now live!” Why follow Jesus? Because God has made you alive through Jesus and you now have the opportunity to truly live.
In Scripture we see that part of God’s nature is that He is self-disclosing or self-revealing. God longs not only to know His creation but for His creation to know Him. Advent anticipates and celebrates God’s full self-revelation in Jesus. Throughout Scripture, God reveals glimpses of His character in order to prepare people for the full revelation in Jesus. Biblical scholars use the word “theophany” to describe times when God appears and reveals a piece of His character. When broken down, this Greek word simply means “God appearance” (theos=God, phaino=appear). In each appearance we should pay special attention to what we can learn about God’s presence with us. By walking chronologically through occasions of God appearing prior to that first Christmas, our hope is to experience the same anticipation the Israelites experienced waiting for their Messiah. They had caught glimpses of God but were waiting for God to finally reveal ALL of Himself in the Messiah. We know the Messiah did come, and God was fully revealed at Christmas.
As we learned in Mark 10:52, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus. The Gospel of Mark helped us answer the question, "Who am I following?" We will now ask and answer the second question of discipleship, “How do I follow?” The Bible’s blueprint for how a disciple is made can be summarized in three words: connect, grow, and serve. These three words connect to the mission Jesus gave His Church. They can help make that mission memorable and allow us to carry that mission with us on our spiritual journey. In John 15, Jesus illustrates how we are to connect, grow, and serve in Him and for Him, saying, “I am the vine; you are the branches….This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” With a better understanding of who Jesus is, we must now have an understanding of how to follow Him. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) will be our guide as we seek clarity on how disciples are to follow Jesus.
The mission of the Williamsburg Community Chapel is to make disciples. Simply put, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus. Natural questions that arise from such a declaration are, "Who is this person that I am following? What is He like? Is He worthy of my life?" This series will answer these questions by focusing on the nature of God, His character, and how He works in the world. Each sermon will take an episode from the Gospel of Mark and examine what that passage reveals about God, who revealed Himself in Jesus.
This year we have studied what the church could and should look like when it is built upon Christ. We looked through the lens of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18, “...upon this rock, I will build My Church” as we studied First and Second Corinthians, Matthew, and Galatians. As we move toward the summer, we will continue studying this theme from the book of Judges. Judges gives us the picture of a community that attempts to lay its own foundation apart from Jesus: foundations of control, comfort, greed, self-reliance and subjective morality.
Our simplified worship services will help focus our Summer Bible Study as we learn what community looks like when we “do that which is right in our own eyes” (Judges 19:25 KJV), and together we will gain a deeper understand of why it is exceedingly important to hear Jesus’ call to build “My Church.”
Over the next seven weeks we will study the book of Galatians. Galatians is famous for its beautifully crafted statements on the message and meaning of the Gospel, and from it we can also learn about the life of its author, Paul. Galatians helps us track the transformative process God used to move Paul from persecutor of the church to co-laborer with Jesus in the building of the church. As we look at how God transformed Paul’s life, it should become clear that God’s intention is to transform us and call us into the work of building the church alongside Him. The early church used the word apostle to describe the people who were sent out to build His church. Apostle literally means "sent one." As we study Galatians and look at the life of the Apostle Paul, we will be instructed to hear Jesus’ call sending us to participate with Him to accomplish what He declared in Matthew 16:18, "...upon this rock, I will build My Church."
During this season of Lent, we will prepare for Easter by studying the Gospel of Matthew. In the first Gospel, Jesus teaches extensively on five specific occasions. His words challenge us to ponder the values of God’s Kingdom, and learn about true discipleship. Our hope is that by studying the five major sections of Jesus’ Teaching in the Gospel of Matthew, we will better understand the clear call Jesus makes on His disciples and learn how to put these important Words into Practice. As we continue to focus on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18 that the church is His and not ours, Jesus’ teachings will provide a proper blueprint to know what He wants His church to look like. Our prayer is that His words also ready our hearts in anticipation of celebrating His resurrection. Our series will be aided by several resources including N.T. Wright’s devotional, "Lent for Everyone – Matthew". As a body, we will study God’s Word through congregational blogs, worship services, community events and shared resources in an attempt to grow closer to God and each other during this 40 day journey.