Good evening! It is good to be with you as we worship together in our new worship space at First Baptist Church on our first official public gathering of our new church plant Crossroads Church Anglican.
So as most of you know, this is my first time in a while preaching in a formal setting, so I admit that it is a little scary. I grew fond of speaking to you in the comfort of the Drummond’s home from the profound safety of a chair.
So anyway, I feel just a tad bit uncomfortable standing up in front of you!
And while friends, I might be being a tad bit silly about all this, in all seriousness, I think that it is safe to say there is some truth to this - that this part and every aspect of this whole church planting endeavor from beginning to now has been a bit scary.
All of us who have been involved with Crossroads in the last year have faced a degree of risk, uncertainty, transition, and sacrifice as we have followed God’s leading here in Salem, MA. And each time we have moved into a new phase, it has been both exciting and a little un-nerving.
But this is the good news friends – I look around at this beautiful house of worship that we have the privilege of now sharing with FBC and I see it as a clear example of God’s provision. God has been showing us from the beginning of this adventure that if we trust Him, He will provide, and Nate+, Jennifer, and I can attest to you of the numerous ways that God has provided for us over the last year.
The question you might ask now, whether you are new or have been with us for awhile is: who exactly is us? Who is Crossroads and who are we becoming?
So as we begin this new phase of life together, I thought it would be good in this first homily to briefly revisit where we have been, where we are going, and what we value. And I think this is apropos. The Israelites, God’s people, were always retelling their story, remembering the good things that God had done for them and the ways He had provided for them. So we are going to do the same thing.
While we cannot get into all the details now, it is important to know that the vision for Crossroads has been around for a couple of years now. Nate+ sensed God was calling him to plant a church and was considering all kinds of places, but as he drove weekly through Salem to take his daughter to dance class a couple years back, God kept on placing it on his heart to plant here. As he talked with others, this vision was confirmed.
In the meantime as Nate+ was discerning a call to plant in Salem, I was pursuing a call to plant in the Seattle Washington area – and I do say that it was a call. Even though I only ended up staying there for a year, I think it was clearly part of God’s plan and His way of preparing me as a new priest and church planter.
So Nate+ was here on the North Shore and I was out west, but through what I can only say is providential circumstances, Nate+ and I met a year and ¾ ago at a church planting conference in Texas. And though I had at that point only fairly recently moved to Seattle, it became almost instantaneously clear that Nate’s and my individual visions for church planting were surprisingly similar.
It also became clear in the subsequent months that God was closing doors for me out West and opening up an opportunity for me to here, back on the East Coast. So Nate+ asked me to join his team, and I eventually said yes. And Nate+ also asked the Drummonds, old friends from Christ the Redeemer, to join his team, and they said yes too.
Thus, the Drummonds moved from New Hampshire to Salem close to a year and ½ ago, and I moved from the Seattle WA area to the North Shore last November. Also, thankfully, in March, I was able to move into the 2nd floor of the 3- family home in Salem where the Drummonds live – and there, we have had the making of a proto-type ministry house for the last half-year and where we do morning prayer regularly together.
For the past year, since the Drummonds moved to Salem, a small group of us has been meeting in our home at Shore Avenue to study Scripture, pray, share meals, participate in Holy Eucharist, and refine our vision. We have also been building relationships with Intervarsity, Cru, and Pastor Renee of First Baptist.
Its been a wonderful year but also a hard year. Early on, we lost one of our core members, David, to a sudden heart-attack, and that and a number of other things going on at that time which caused us to lose our footing for some weeks. Thankfully, we found new energy and purpose starting in Holy Week as new people joined us and we started to find our own unique liturgical rhythm, both for the adults and the children. And now we are here at FBC, opening our doors to who would ever come to seek out Christ, and we are so totally blessed, by being here and our journey thus far.
So that in the most briefest form is where we have been, so now let’s explore where we are going and what we value. We’ll explore these two things together because of course what we value will determine our direction from here.
So last November, when I first came here, Nate+ and I keyed in on three terms that we wanted to define our community – Devotion, Transformation, and Compassion. First, devotion to God and devotion to the Crossroads family; second, transformation of each one of us into increasing Christ-likeness; and third, compassion towards those who live in our city, our region, and our world.
Let’s take each one of these values one at a time:
First, devotion. It’s no surprise that devotion is the first word we want to define us. We want to be a people who place God in our lives first - who learn to love Him with our whole hearts, minds, souls, and bodies and who learn to place all other aspects of our lives – family, career, friends, hobbies, finances, etc. in line with that defining priority.
We want to be a people who see God’s presence in every moment of our lives – whether that is during our drive to work, a meal with a neighbor, or caring for our kids. This means that while our Saturday worship time together is essential, it is not the end all be-all of our devotion to God. This is something to play out in our lives all week long.
In addition to our devotion to God, we also want to be a people who are devoted to each other in this church community. Our lives pull us in so many different directions so it is easy to just come to a church service on the weekends, see our church family then, and not to see them again until the following weekend. However imperfect our attempts may be – and they will be imperfect because we are imperfect people, and also we each will have seasons that require a lot of our attention elsewhere – nevertheless, we want to be a community who does life together with each other at various times throughout the week.
Like folks in the early church who devoted themselves to God and each other, meeting together daily in the temple and breaking break in their homes, we want to be a people who gather during the week, whether that is in morning prayer, our women’s group, shared meals, service opportunities, times of recreation, etc.
We want to share the good times together as well as the hard times. We want to experience the gifts and blessings of community as well the messiness that goes with all relationships. And this something we can only experience throughout the week.
This is why we at Crossroads would like to see several ministry houses, missional communities, a coffee shop, and an arts outreach grow up in Salem in the future years because we want to have places and groups of people where folks can plug into community at various times during the week in ways that fit them. We want places where people who would not show up at a weekend worship gathering can meet Christ and find community. So for example, our ministry houses could look quite diverse to reflect the diversity in our city and community. One could be a house full of international students. Another could be interested in communion with God and each other through cooking, growing food, and sharing meals together.
Especially in a time and place where there is a genuine breakdown in community and family, we really want to provide community for people; we want to be a family. Jennifer wrote a really good blog post some months ago entitled “Church in My Slippers” which gets at this idea a bit.
Talking about Crossroads weekly worship gatherings in her home, she said this about her children’s experience of these gatherings:
“Having a regular gathering like this in some ways is the equivalent of the gone-by-the -wayside Sunday dinner at grandma’s house. Since we don’t live close to many extended family members, this becomes that ritual for all the kids who come. The adults (ranging from college age to those with their own grandkids) become surrogate aunts, uncles and grandparents. Eating dinner together each week produces a kind of bond that a generation ago was forged via extended family. It may seem odd to those who currently don’t have such a community – those who live away from family or who function independently in much of their life. But it is a blessing. It’s a gift to be a part of a group where commitment to one another is the norm, and care for one another routine, where we all serve and are served.”
If you have not read it Jennifer’s blog post, I recommend it. It is on our blog on our Website.
So that gets at the heart of our devotion.
So let’s look at our second value – transformation. At Crossroads, we want to be
people who pursue transformation into Christ-likeness and intimacy with our Lord.
Our Scripture readings today make it clear that even those who have at one time pursued God are apt to go after other idols and to pursue sinful ways – sinful ways that drive a wedge between us and God and between us and others. And friends, I can truly say that for us church folks, this movement in the direction of sin and idolatry can often play out in the most subtle of ways. Truly like the old hymn says, we are “prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love.”
Thus, the Christian life really is a constant journey towards becoming more fully human, of becoming like the perfect human being Jesus Christ.
Like the Psalmist we heard from, we must pray for God to continually purge us, wash us, blot out our iniquities, create clean hearts within us, and to renew right spirits with us. From the day we become Christians to the day we die, this is the process we are called to. And we at Crossroads want to come alongside each other and encourage one another to do so, with all the joys that it entails, as well as the pain, for just as we can feel some discomfort when we grow physically, we will also at times feel some discomfort when we grow spiritually.
And that leads us to our final value – compassion. Compassion literally means to suffer with – it is something that our Lord did for us as he took on human flesh, experienced all our human frailties, and took on the entire weight of sin on the cross.
Jesus did not remain distant from us but took on human flesh and died so that our sins would be forgiven and our relationship with God could be restored. In a similar manner, we want to have compassion for our neighbors.
We do not want to remain distant from the people in our city, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our world. We want to be willing to go with people to their places of pain as well as their places of joy. We want to walk with people at the crossroads of life, those places of transition that can often be uncomfortable, disconcerting, confusing – hence our name Crossroads Church. We want to be people who walk with people in the dark places and shine Jesus’ light in the heavy shadows.
We also of course want to be people who share the good news of God’s grace, his unmerited and extravagant mercy and love for each person in the world he created - the sort of extravagant love that a shepherd leaving his entire flock for one lost sheep would show. We want to be people who tell this good news.
And we want to be people to tell this good news to the people of Salem particularly. Its not that we won’t tell it to others – of course we will! – but we are planted in South Salem for South Salem. It is the whole reason for our existence. There are plenty of churches that we could have joined in the greater Boston area to experience good liturgy and good community. We didn’t need to start another church for those reasons. We planted so we could partner with other churches in this area and be a blessing to this city. We planted so we could be blessed by the people in this city.
So this friends is in short what we value at Crossroads Church Anglican – devotion, transformation, and compassion, and these three values will determine what we will do and who we will become in the future.
There is so much more to say about each one of these. There is so much room for growth in us individually and corporately to become a people who live out these values.
We’ll continue to talk about them, to wrestle with them, to become them, and in the meantime, as we journey together as Crossroads Church, may we ask that the God of all creation draw us close to him and each other; strengthen us and shower us with His extravagant love; and send us out into this city and world to share His love with others.