Do you ever feel that you’re close to something but you can’t quite get to it? That’s how I’ve been feeling these past couple of years at Richview. It feels like we’ve been so close to what God wants us to be doing, but never quite there. It’s been frustrating to say the least!
This summer a lot of us spent time praying and hoping that we could finally break through to what God wanted us to do. I think God has answered. I don’t come this morning with a message from the mountaintop, but I do come with some excitement and hope because I think that some things have been clear, and that God has called us to something specific, and that we will be able to translate good intentions into reality.
Let me introduce you to something called “Richview Blesses”. I’m going to ask a few questions: what is it, why, who, and how?
First, what? What is “Richview Blesses”? It has a logo and it sounds like a program, which makes some of us suspicious. It really isn’t a program and it isn’t something new. It’s shorthand for the purpose which God has called us. What is the goal of “Richview Blesses”? Simply this: to bless our community. Let me tell you why.
For thousands of years, God has been on a mission. His mission has been to get back what was rightfully his in the first place, to clean up and restore what he created perfect, but which was damaged by sin. God could have done this in a number of ways, but he’s chosen to do it through people, and to use us to bless the world.
In Genesis 12:2-3, God said to Abram:
I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
I’d like us to memorize this verse. This is really the Gospel given in advance. God called a people – first Abram, then his descedents, the nation of Israel, and then people of every nation within the church – to be a blessing to the entire world. God is on a mission to bless this world, and he has called us to participate in it.
“Bless” is a bit of a strange word these days, but it’s a good one. It’s exactly what God has called us to do, and it’s why he has put us here in this part of Toronto. Bless means that God looks favorably on a person, and that something good from God be endowed on someone. In blessing our community, we’re bringing the presence and benefits of God to people in every imaginable way.
You’ve probably heard the idea that we should stop asking God to bless what we’re doing, and starting joining God in what he is already doing. We know what God is already doing: he is on a mission in this world. Every time I go somewhere, thinking I will take God with me, I find that God was already there way ahead of me. God is on a mission, in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools, and he’s calling us to join him in blessing those all around us.
That’s the what. Now the second question: why? The answer is: this is the Gospel. When Jesus came to the world, he said this was his mission:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
If you look at Jesus’ ministry, he did all of that. We focus on his death and resurrection, which brings us forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God, as we should. This is the centerpiece of what God has done through Jesus Christ. But sometimes we miss the cosmic implications of that. Jesus didn’t just come so we could be made right with God; he came so that we could become his people who would join him on his mission to the world. Like Abram, we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others – to the poor, to prisoners, to the blind and oppressed. Everywhere we go, we go with a desire to bless because of the Gospel, so that others can experience what we’ve experienced.
We don’t want to just bless our community. We want to do it because of the Gospel. Our service to the community comes from the overflow of what God has done in our lives. We are so changed that we can’t help but care for the whole needs of all people – not just spiritual needs, but every type of need.
The next question is, who? To answer this, we’re going to start looking at the New Testament book of 1 Peter next week. 1 Peter was written to a group of churches filled with ordinary people who were not at all privileged, in a society that was hostile to the Gospel. It’s a book that tells Christians how to live life faithfully in a culture that doesn’t think too highly of Christians. I want to look at this book, because that’s exactly where we live today. 1 Peter tells us that all of us, no matter where we work and what we do, or how hostile people are around us, can show the presence of God through our lives.
There’s a tension here. The who is both “individually” and “with the support of the entire church.” We’re going to spend a lot of time this year telling stories of what God is doing, praying for each other, and supporting what God is doing through us. I think we’re going to hear a lot of God-stories.
The last question is, how? You’re going to have to wait to find out all the details, but here’s an overview:
We’re about to enter into the preparation phases starting next week.
Putting it all together: Richview Blesses is about blessing our community because of the Gospel, individually and with the support of the entire church.
I’ve sensed a desire here to do this, to use our lives to bless the community around us. I’ve also sensed that we really don’t know where to begin. We’re going to deliberately move through some stages this year that will prepare us to turn our intentions and prayers into reality, so that our lives will have the impact that God desires us to have.
What I want to do now is to pray. I’m not going to pray that God will bless this initiative. Instead, I want you to join me in praying that we will join God in what he is already doing in this community, so that we can be a blessing to the community because of the Gospel, both individually and with the support of the church.
Father, we worship you today for who you are, and because of your saving acts. You created this world, you saved those who don’t deserve it, and you are on a mission to recreate and redeem all things. Thank you for saving us, and for allowing us to be part of your mission.
Thank you that you are already at work in our community. We want to go where you are already at work, and join you in what you are already doing.
Prepare us, Lord. I pray that you would use this coming year so that we can participate in what you are already doing. We ask that through this church, this community would be transformed, and that people would be blessed. We look forward to supporting each other, telling stories of how you’re at work, and of celebrating what you will do.
Prepare us now, in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, Amen.