Friday, January 23, 2015

The Tie That Binds



This article was written by Dennis Christiansen and found in the American Baptist Churches of New York State Region Notes...
 
Your congregation, like mine and others, may have adopted the practice of circling the sanctuary after the service of the Lord's Supper and concluding worship by singing Blest Be the Tie that Binds. The hymn was written by John Fawcett, a dissenting Baptist clergyman (and aren't most of them) of the late 17 and early 1800s, who served an extremely impoverished community church in northern England, enduring meager compensation and habitual privation. Hymnologist Albert Bailey recounts that Fawcett wrote the hymn upon accepting the call to a more affluent church. However, when the distraught and weeping parishioners gathered to say goodbye, Bailey says Fawcett and his wife could not bear to leave their beloved congregants and, unable to undo the tie that bound them, decided to stay.
 
For John Fawcett 200 years ago and for us today, "the fellowship of kindred minds" is a rope that has been tied to bind us together. Today, however that rope is being strained and stretched. Once, the strands of geography, denomination, and tradition braided us together but that rope has unraveled in modern times. Families are dispersed, denominational distinctions are blurred by individualized worship styles and theologies, tradition has given way to a quest for novelty and innovation. In earlier times, "kindred minds" meant uniformity of beliefs, but today a lack of same repels some churches while unconformity attracts others. We appeal to the kindred-ness of our Baptist principles, but many in our congregations are not knowledgeable of them. As a Region and as Associations, we are struggling to keep tied the fellowship of kindred minds that binds us together.
 
Fawcett's "kindred mind" is not the tie that binds; that tie is Jesus Christ. Our "kindred mind" is not the "tie" of denomination or uniformity or tolerance or principles. The "kindred mind" is a concern for one another built on the love of Christ. Our kindred mind is concern for brothers and sisters in struggling churches. Our kindred mind is joy for growing churches. Our kindred mind is not about celebrating diversity, as important as our diversity may be. Our kindred mind is about celebrating churches that are serving diverse people in diverse communities; in cities and villages, in impoverished and affluent communities, in farming areas and among migrant workers, among African Americans, Chin, and Karen congregations. Our kindred mind comes from our love of God and one another. We thank God that we can be Associations and Regions of churches connected in ministry in Jesus Christ.
 
In our church, we only sing the well-known first verse of Fawcett's hymn. It continues, "Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, Our comforts, and our cares. We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear." The ropes of our kindred minds are tied together by Jesus Christ.

In closing, I say, Lift High the Cross!
 
Dennis Christiansen
Vice President, ABC/NYS


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Something Good Can Come Nazareth


This last week we looked at Jesus calling His first disciples as reported in the Gospel of John.  First were two brothers, Andrew and Simon (later Jesus renamed him to Peter).  The first morning, as they were getting ready to leave the area, Philip comes up to them, and Jesus invites him to follow, as well.

Before they actually get underway, Philip tells his friend, Nathanael, about Jesus.  Nathanael wasn't as easily impressed, and his comment to Phillip betrays his prejudice: "Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?"  

Soon, he meets Jesus, and learns that Something Good Can Come From Nazareth.  What can we learn from his prejudice against that place, or a prejudice against people?  We'll look at what scripture has to say about our prejudice, and why we need to seek God's help in ending this behavior.

If you would like to read the message in full, click here.

Thanks for reading...