Sometimes, I’ve had people ask me “What do you do all day? Don’t pastors just work one day a week?”
My work as the pastor of New City Church is involves a variety of activities which vary day to day. Private prayer & study, preaching & teaching, meetings & talking to people one-on-one, as well as administration & various other tasks (Who’s going to change that lightbulb?)
Yesterday was a good long day which provides a snapshot of my work. Although my days are not normally this long, it was a day which touched many of my responsibilities.
7am – Drove a Korean-American university student, who had been staying at our flat, to Hammersmith in order for her to catch the tube to Heathrow 8am – Read (Confessing the Faith by Chad Van Dixhoorn, Brothers we are Not Professionals by John Piper, and The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller) 9:15am – Attended the New City staff prayer meeting 10:15am – Met with two men (Marcus and Oong) who are growing in leadership at New City. We discussed Marcus’ upcoming sermon from Genesis 16 and verbally worked through a few theological questions 12pm – Lunch with a young Iraqi from New City who’s preparing to fly to Sweden to visit his family 1:30pm – Nap for 20 min (Got to squeeze in my nap!!) 2:30pm – Josephine and I met with someone who’s struggling 3:30pm – Joined “Open Church” during which I had extended conversations with an Irish man who’s nephew had recently died, a young teen I hadn’t seen in a year, and a homeless man who writes poetry. During this time, I stepped aside for a 20 minute phone call with a former New City apprentice who’s now in seminary 5pm – Closed “Open Church” in prayer, had a short conversation about a toilet without a working light and walked home in the rain 6pm – Hoovered the flat, took out rubbish and helped with a few other items as Josephine was cooking 7pm – A young couple arrived for dinner. She’s from New City, while he’s from another London church. They’ve recently started dating and this was the first time Josephine and I were able to have long conversations with the two of them together 12:30am – Couple left
I’m tired just reading that. But thankfully the day before was a quiet day with no meetings!
I played a little trick on the good folks at New City Church yesterday. Here was the start of my sermon:
Most of you know probably know the story of Noah. Remember that God told him to build a big ark and after many years it started raining. A violent storm suddenly came up and the boat was tossed and turned on the waves.
Finally, the people threw Noah off the boat and the storm died down. Noah was swallowed by a giant whale. After three days he was spit out on the beach and he went on to preach like he should have done in the first place.
Don’t remember that one? Good! Because I mixed Noah and Jonah – two men who’s lives involved a large boat but not much else. The details of these bible stories are important!
You may have vague ideas about them, but honestly you need to know the details. God teaches us through the stories – they were written down for a purpose. Read them over and over. Know their stories!
Thankfully people caught on pretty quickly and started to question, laugh and even shout at me as I spoke. They’re a tough bunch – couldn’t even slip a little “fish story” past them!
I’m coming to appreciate Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, in a new way. You might know him by his nickname: “Doubting Thomas.”
In John 20 we read that he wasn’t there with the other ten disciples when Jesus shows up the first time. When Thomas returns, they tell him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”
Thomas was still depressed about wasting 3 years of his life and responded with “Yea, yea! What have you guys been smoking? I want to put my fingers in those nail holes. I want PROOF!!”
Another week goes by and Jesus shows up again. Jesus again blesses them with peace because the disciples are still locked in their room hidden away. They are acting on their doubts even though we don’t read those doubts verbally expressed.
Then Jesus turns his attention to “Doubting Thomas.” But he does not make Thomas feel embarrassed for his earlier comments. He goes specifically asks if Thomas would actually like to touch the holes. In verse 28 we read: “Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!””
Do you realize how extraordinary this is? This is the first time in the gospel of John someone has come to Jesus and directly stated: “You are God!”
John records this because the skeptic has flipped. The doubter has become the one who is the first to understand. John and his fellow disciples just internalized their doubts while hiding in their room. In some ways, Thomas was the only honest one of the bunch.
Do you have doubts about the resurrection? Good. Because God is in the business of turning honest doubters into believers. Express those doubts. Have honest conversations with a pastor and Christians friends.
And watch God show up. Just like he did for “Doubting Thomas.”
This last week at New City Church, we started a new sermon series entitled “Scandalous Grace in Genesis”. Over the coming 11 weeks, we’ll look at the characters we find in the first book of the bible.
The temptation, when we read the bible, is to hold the biblical “heroes” up as examples for us to aim for. But as we look closer at the men and women featured in Genesis, we’ll see deep flaws in each person’s life.
How can we recommend as an example Adam, who stood by, watched his wife fall and then joined her in rebellion against God?
Or Noah who passed out naked and drunk?
Or Abraham who lied about his wife twice, giving her away to another man to save his own skin?
Or Sarah who laughed at the promises of God?
Or Jacob who tricked his brother out of the birthright?
Or Joseph who was an arrogant little brat of a brother?
Hopefully, you will not hear at New City that any of the characters we feature are the hero of the story. Because there is only one hero in the bible: Jesus, the promised Messiah.
After the resurrection, we read in Luke 24 that Jesus met with two of the disciples. Verse 27 states, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”All the bible is about Jesus – Old and New Testament.
In Genesis, we discover that God uses flawed people for His purposes. In various ways, we see characters pointing to a future redeemer who is not flawed. Each life making up a small part of the story of redemption which we see God orchestrating over the course of the bible.
My prayer is that as we look at these scandalous characters in Genesis in the coming weeks, God’s people will see God’s grace at work in their lives as well. For God continues to use flawed people for His purposes right here in London.
The scandalous grace we see in Genesis continues on today. And for that, I give God the glory!