REUNITED with God
Deep down, we long for the deeper reality of life. We cover it over with ambitions and distractions, striving and running… but it’s in our bones.
We connect with this longing when we are struck by the beauty of a sunset. We are moved by the creativity of an artwork or the grandeur of music that touches something in our souls… but then the sun sets, the art seems to fade, the song ends. And so we continue to long for something deeper.
We connect with this longing in our desire for closely connected relationships. Deep down, we want to know we’re known and loved and accepted. But eventually even our closest relationships let us down. Ironically, the people closest to us have the ability to hurt us the most. We’re afraid that if people truly “knew who we are,” they’d run or laugh or dismiss us. And so we hide. We posture and project an image. We isolate ourselves in a city full of people. And so we continue to long for close connection and love.
We connect with our deeper longings when we pursue justice. Most everyone agrees the world is “not the way it’s supposed to be,” but we can’t agree on exactly what is wrong, or how to solve it. We see global wars and genocide and feel powerless to do much about it. Closer to home, we see people left out and left behind and are overwhelmed at the vast amount of need. We see others discriminated against because of the color of their skin or the accent of their voice and long to see all people included, with access to resources and community. But it seems so far off, and so the longing continues.
We connect with this longing for a deeper life in our quest to connect with something bigger than ourselves. More of us than ever describe ourselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Still, we long to connect with a reality that transcends our own existential moment through the immense beauty and power of nature, by dabbling in new spiritual experiences or pursuing a relentless program of self-improvement to somehow transcend our ordinary existence. Deep down, the longing is in our bones.
Our quest for beauty, connected relationships, justice and spiritual connection are signposts pointing us to the God who satisfies all these longings. God desires for us to be reunited with himself: the one who created us, loves us, and makes us new… and through Jesus we are invited into union with God.
For many of us, this is a connection with God for the first time, as we consider that the call to follow Jesus is an invitation to trust that “God became one of us, so that we might become one with God.” Renew Church is a community where you are respected and safe to ask all your questions, examine your doubts and explore who Jesus is and what it means to follow him. We support one other as we wrestle with the compatibility of a rational, scientific worldview with the claims of the Bible (spoiler alert: science and faith are not enemies!). We take time to consider the trustworthiness of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life (and all of scripture) and what this means for us, today. We encourage one another to live out the way of Jesus in real-time in our particular homes, neighborhoods and workplaces. As we do, we come more alive together.
For others, this feels like a reunion with God as we reawaken to a connection with God we once knew but have lost. Some of us haven’t forsaken Christian faith but have distanced ourselves from organized religion because of abuses we’ve experienced or witnessed. Some remember a time when we believed in Jesus, but now God seems far away and that time seems long ago. We wonder what happened, and if we can actually believe and trust again.
As we are reunited with God, we come more alive and experience what scripture calls the fruit of God’s spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5). There is a new freedom and sense of identity as we receive what God says to us in baptism, “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” Throughout life, we are reminded and invited to trust Jesus’ promise, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
This reunion is an invitation to experience God’s grace and forgiveness, as scripture invites us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34). We begin to realize that Jesus is the only one that when we give all to follow him, we don’t lose ourselves… rather, we begin to find out who we truly are. And when we fail him, he forgives us.
We are invited into lives marked by radical grace and forgiveness, and are compelled to live in both humility and boldness as we serve all our neighbors.
RECONNECTED with one another (and our truest selves)
As we are reunited with God who made us, loves us, and is renewing all things… we grow in connection with one another in community. In this process, we discover who we truly are. Christian faith is inherently communal, intended to be cultivated together. It is personal, but never merely private.
This isn’t something we invented at Renew… When asked what is most important in life, Jesus taught:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.
And a second is like it:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving and knowing one another are directly connected to our sense of being known and loved by God. At Renew, we intentionally reconnect with one another in community. In a city that can be beautiful but superficial, we are authentic and real. In a political landscape that becomes tribal and divisive, we are inclusive and gracious with one another; especially with those who think, live, or act differently. In a social media culture where image is everything and real relationships are fleeting, we connect intentionally to know and love one another.
And as we do this, we discover our truest selves.
In addition to cultivating prayer and meditation, we also use and recommend ancient tools such as the Enneagram and modern instruments such as Strengthsfinder and Myers-Briggs, as well as resources such as psychological counseling and therapy for emotional and psychological health.
As the church leader and reformer John Calvin observed:
To know God, you must know thyself… and to know thyself, you must know God.
REDIRECTED in mission to serve our neighbors, city and world
This is not a new idea, it flows from the earliest calling of God in Genesis 12 in which God declares to the people of God,
“I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing… (and)… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Later, in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he repeatedly went into towns and welcomed all who came to him. He would forgive sinners, heal the sick, feed the hungry, make outsiders into insiders, speak God’s truth in love… and God’s renewal sprang up everywhere he went! Jesus proclaimed the coming Kingdom of God. His actions reveal he is the true king that brings about this kingdom of flourishing.
But Jesus didn’t stop there. As Jesus taught, forgave, healed and welcomed people of every background; he called these diverse people together as a community. He blessed them and sent them out to be his very presence, blessing and agents of his renewal wherever they went: to their families, their towns and the surrounding communities.
At Renew San Diego, it is our responsibility and our joy to live into Jesus’ great calling: to receive God’s blessing, to be renewed in mind, body and spirit; and to reflect that renewal wherever we go! This is why we are a church that exists not just for ourselves, but for the good of all our neighbors.