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Church on the Couch

EVELYN ROBERTSON TC ’15

Photo credit to Evelyn Robertson '15
Elm Street, New Haven after Nemo 2013- photo credit Evelyn Robertson ’15

The ‘snowpocalypse’ brought on by winter storm Nemo this weekend left churches in New Haven unable to hold services on Sunday morning. I’ve been attending City Church, a church plant barely 18 months old, since the start of the academic year. They meet in the auditorium of the Co-op High School on College Street and, on special occasions (like Christmas), in Toad’s Place.

The church has been a blessing to my faith this year, even when I’m less than consistent about attending. They approach serving the Lord with an infectious energy and fervor, and they have demonstrated an inspiring trust in God’s providence in overcoming the struggles faced by new churches (how to hold baptisms in a high school cafeteria, for instance).

There is a youthfulness and urgency to this church that I haven’t seen in a church environment before. Their emphasis on worship and community within the church is more serious than similar efforts I’ve seen in other churches. So even when the recent blizzard dropped three feet on us this weekend, the City Church team still pushed to bring the church together.

Lead paster Justin recorded a video sermon from his home office on Saturday night, on a selection in Romans 12. He opened by encouraging us to ‘have church on the couch,’ and to take the opportunity to bond spiritually with the people closest to us, the people we live with. In the previous week’s message he had emphasized building relationships with other Christians, and how getting involved in the church community is a great first step. He also talked about the phenomenon of picking and choosing from church podcasts to find a sermon that suits you each week, and how listening to a podcast each week isn’t the same as attending church. Check out the podcast of that sermon, it’s great.

Clearly, theological education is one purpose of sermons. But another purpose is the building up of the church community in fellowship. A sermon gives the community a shared spiritual experience that offers opportunities for discussion and learning in a group setting. Listening to a podcast alone, or studying the bible by yourself, while both are valuable (even necessary) spiritual practices, neither affords the kind of community growth that sermons do.

The obstacle that the blizzard posed to the church community’s fellowship couldn’t be solved with a podcast. Justin and the City Church team did an admirable job sharing their message with the congregation. Just because the doors of the church (well, high school) were closed this week, doesn’t mean that we’re off the hook for meeting together in fellowship. Even if there are just a few of us on the common room couch.

A church isn’t a building, a church is a people. And each of the relationships we build within the body of believers, in our fellowship groups at Yale, and in the churches we attend in New Haven, builds the church for the glory of God. That is what organized churches should be doing – building the relationships between believers.

Justin’s video sermon is linked below.

City Church Snow Day Sermon from City Church on Vimeo.

A Letter to Yale

EVELYN ROBERTSON

TC ’15

Blog Administrator

On November 1st, the Come Together event saw many different Christian fellowships on Yale’s campus come together for a large group meeting for the first time. Chris Matthews, one of the ministry fellows from Yale Faith and Action, shared the following imaginary letter from Jesus to the Christian students at Yale:

“To the Church at Yale

Chris Matthews

Inspired by Revelation 2-3: An Imaginary Letter from Christ to His Beloved Servants at Yale

These are the words of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to my beloved ones at Yale, I know you perfectly (Jer. 1:5), every detail, every thought, every action (Ps. 139:2), for you were made through me (Col. 1:16), and still I also love you perfectly (Rom. 8:38-39), for you were made for me (Col 1:16). The Father has given you to me as a treasured possession (John 6:37) and I have pursued you with an unwavering love (Matt. 18:12-14) and through unimaginable sacrifice (John 10:11) to free you from sin and death. I am Yours, and You are Mine (Isa. 43:1-7).

I want you to know that it was I myself, who brought you to Yale (Prov. 19:21). Though faithful Christians may have warned you truthfully and compassionately about spiritual challenges you will likely face here, I have a definite plan and purpose for you at Yale, a plan to prosper your faith and your future (Jer. 29:11). Some of you know that you decided to come to Yale for self-seeking, prideful reasons with little thought of my plans, but even so, my perfect love and purpose for you was still at work in placing you here.

I remind you of this because many of you are constantly busy establishing plans and pursuing purposes at Yale without regard to the one who has placed you there. You labor hard, but your labor is in vain when I am not laboring with you (Ps. 127:1; Jn. 15:5). The transitory demands of human institutions, selfish ambitions, and worldly comforts often take precedence in your labor to the eternal demands of Almighty God. Your vision for yourself only extends to the next few years, instead of the next 100 trillion (2 Cor. 4:18). Remember me (2 Tim. 2:8), draw near to me (James 4:8), give me your anxieties (1 Peter. 5:7), ask me for wisdom, I will give generously (Jam. 1:5), I will establish your steps (Ps. 37:23).

Do you want to know my plan for you, why I brought you to Yale? I will tell you. I want you to be the sweet
aroma of my grace, my love, my righteousness, in this place where most people do not remember or have never known that fragrance (2 Cor. 2:14-16). Fill the halls of these old buildings with the perfume of my perfections; my love, my forgiveness, my righteousness, my salvation, my joy, my glory. If you devote yourself to me, I will give them all to you to be displayed and offered to all who surround you (2 Cor. 3:18). I want to transform you into lights in this dark place, but you have to be willing to be different, to be devoted to me, and to be obedient (Matt. 5:16).

This will almost certainly mean that you will suffer in some ways, but be confident that your suffering for my sake will be rewarded Matt. 5:10-12). Also, know that I have designed your suffering to prosper you and grow you in ways that will not happen any other way (Rom 5:3-5). I know suffering is difficult, I have experienced it (Heb. 5:8), but you can rejoice, even in suffering, since you know I am working through it for your good (Rom. 8:28).

My beloved, I also want you to know that you are not alone. You are surrounded by many others who I have also placed purposefully at Yale to suffer and serve alongside you as my sweet fragrance and lights. I have gifted each of them with gifts to compliment the whole, and none of you can accomplish my purposes without the others. So, encourage each other, do not let anything come between you, forgive, love, serve, pray, rejoice, and weep with each other (Eph. 2:11-16). Your lights are so much brighter when they come together, and there is great darkness to be overcome (Matt 5:14-16).

Finally, be confident in Me, I can bring life where there is death, light where there is darkness. You carry with you the power of God for salvation in my good news (Rom. 1:16) and all that you need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). I want to bring new life and joy in you that you cannot even imagine (Eph. 3:20), and I want to create new life in many who are all around you, in your college, in your classes, in your clubs (2 Cor. 5:20). You are my sole plan to bless Yale (Rom. 10:14-15), it is why you are here. So be different (Rom. 12:2), turn away from sin (Acts 3:19), remember my words (Jn. 15:20), seek me daily with in prayer and fasting and tears (Matt. 9:23-24), be a bold and loving witness to the hope I give (1 Pet. 3:15), and I will show my glory all over Yale, within You (Jn. 15:8). As the Father sent me for three years to serve Israel, so I have sent you for four years to serve at Yale(Jn. 20:21). I am with you always (Matt. 28:20).”