Our 70 year-faith-journey as a church community marks another big milestone in our church history in relation to responding to God’s calling and in pursuing His lead for the kingdom of God.
God had a dream for River Park church, formally First Christian Reformed church, and led us to take the first step in Calgary in 1952. The Lord has faithfully been leading us and blessing us for 70 years. The Lord also has blessed countless people who were in spiritual and physical need and the local communities around here, through us. We have continued our journey throughout various stages of our church’s life and have reached this point.
Now, we live in the 21st century and are facing a very different world in many ways than when we started 70 years ago. This world has been dramatically diversified and is struggling with broader and more complicated political, economic, and social issues. The Lord continues to bring diverse people into our neighborhood from all over the world.
God wants us to be more receptive to the changes He is making in our city and has invited us to join Him for His next dream for our church, which is our new adventure to transform into a new mosaic community.
We know that we are not creating our own community for ourselves. If we do that, it would be like another human-centered community in the world. God is creating His kingdom community through His people, and our church is a part of it. So, as we are celebrating our 70th anniversary, it would be helpful for us to remember the meaning of God’s kingdom community. It will guide us to the right path as we continue our adventure journey together
In the Bible, God reveals himself in a community of trinity: one in being and three in person: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They perfectly love and serve one another. Our triune God is the perfect holy, loving community.
We are all created in the image of the triune God, which means we are also wired up for the community and always long to belong. God created the first human community of Adam and Eve, which was rooted in that nature of God. They enjoyed a perfect loving relationship with each other and with God. But the first human community fell apart after they committed sin, and all human communities in the world became self-centered and began to suffer.
But God never gave up on us. God has been on a mission to continue to rebuild His kingdom community. Jesus is fully God, yet, set aside His rights as God to come down to us in human flesh, to connect and live with us, and to open a new door to rebuild His community by dying in our place.
New Command to Lay the Foundation of His Kingdom Community
It was the night before Jesus was crucified when He gave this new command to His disciples.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus had taught them all they needed for three years and now was giving them this command. It was a significant moment. He didn’t have much time with them and was laying the foundation to form His new kingdom community identified by His love, which is church.
Jesus referred to it as a new command, but it was not new because there was already the same command about loving God and others. But when Jesus says, ‘as I have loved you, so you must love one another’, that is a new one filled with new meaning because of the way that Jesus has loved us.
Jesus loved fishers, tax collectors, kids, gentiles, the sick, the poor, prostitutes, and even His enemies. He loves everyone including you and me who don’t deserve His love.
His New Kingdom Community, Church
When Jesus said, ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’, He was talking about His new community that people had never seen before. Christ’s love is unconditional, sacrificial, forgiving, and gracious. It doesn’t matter who they are regardless of gender, social class, ability, or skin color. There is no favoritism or discrimination in His heart.
That is how Jesus has loved us, and He is inviting us to live out that love. Then people will know we are His people and would be drawn to Christ’s love. His new community would continue to grow in that love. That is the church community that God wants to build through us.
Without that love, People will harm others who are different from themselves and are torn apart into division. We actually see broken relationships or growing tensions between different nations, groups or people every day. This breaks down the human community.
In this world, there is no group of people identified by that love except church, because the love is only from God, not from anyone else in the world. This new community, church is unique and recognized by His love when we love one another as Christ has loved us.
The Arrival of the Holy Spirit upon His Church
So, in Acts chapter one, the risen Lord, Jesus, is telling His disciples four important things to take actions to start His kingdom community: in a few days the Holy Spirit will come upon you, you will be baptized with the Spirit, you will receive power, and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.
Jesus made it clear what Pentecost would be about: God started His church and began expanding His kingdom community to the ends of the earth.
When the day of Pentecost came, God’s Spirit was poured out upon a community of believers. They were filled with the Spirit and expressed the wonders of God in different languages. The first worship service of the first church was a multilingual one. The Holy Spirit’s enabling of the disciples to speak in different languages shows us where God’s heart is and what kind of community He wants to build up.
God’s building His kingdom community started with the arrival of the Holy Spirit on that day.
I’m here—as we all are—because God has given us the Holy Spirit and invited us to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth! Witnesses just do one thing: they show and tell the good news they know. There have been many chapters in the story and mission of the Church (God’s people), which pastor Harrison touched on this morning; but in today’s world, we do not need to travel anywhere to connect with the ends of the earth. In fact, the ends of the earth have come here! God is drawing people from all over the world to Canada and to Calgary. God has given us tools like the internet to be able to connect with almost anyone around the globe.
The good news of Jesus Christ is bearing fruit more and more every day. Every year! What is the fruit of the gospel? It is lives changed by the Holy Spirit. Refugees who find new life and a new home. Lost people who find connection with God and others in community online. In just a few minutes we will literally taste food from all around the world. These are all small examples of God’s good news (gospel) bearing frult in our world! And yet it’s nothing new. Paul says in Colossians 1:6-8:
The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
The Colossians learned about God’s love from Epaphras, Paul says. RPC (we) learned about God’s love from others. I could list names (but I won’t). Do you remember a previous pastor? Some names bring back happy memories. Other leaders’ time remind us of pain. Some of us are new here—we are entering into the story of River Park Church and maybe even the story of God’s kingdom for the first time!
Our best leaders have always reminded us that River Park Church isn’t about itself. God’s focus for his people (his church) is something bigger than ourselves: If we are not about ourselves, then we are about someone else and something else: we are about God’s business. And God is building God’s Kingdom. This is the story passed down to us. This is the example we see in Jesus, who always serves his Father’s will. Likewise, the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to God so that we see how good life is in God’s kingdom and in God’s family! So this is Paul’s prayer for the Colossians—and our prayer for you as a church—in the coming years!
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
God has rescued us from darkness and brought us into a kingdom characterized by God’s love for his son Jesus Christ. And God has qualified us to share in the inheritance Jesus and of his people! If you have children, or if you’d like to have children some day—I wonder what you hope to give them? Probably you want to give them even more than you have right now. Likewise, if you ever hope to receive a parent’s inheritance, what do you hope for? Doubtlessly, you hope that mom or dad has secret wealth hidden away that they will pass on to you!
The “good news” that we have at River Park Church is that God’s greatest gifts are for all people and they are for the present. God’s gift for us is not a church building: It is not programs or institutions or events. These things are only tools that serve a purpose; vehicles that drive us toward our goal. Our goal is God’s goal.
God is Building his Kingdom Community to Fullness
Many people over 70 years have heard about God’s love through River Park Church. They have heard about YOUR love for one another and your love for your friends, neighbours, and for the community around us. But as more and more people come, you will have a choice:
- We can focus on ourselves. Focusing on ourselves means looking at a person, a program, or a point in history and saying, “this is what it’s supposed to be!” Our temptation is always to look to some specific instance and say, “If only we did thatagain, we would grow.”
- Alternatively, we can receive our inheritance of the kingdom of light! In other words, we can see that God’s inheritance blessings are so big and so great that we cannot contain them all ourselves! God continues to reveal just how big his purpose, his plans, his glory and his blessings are!
One person, one program, one point in history cannot contain all of God’s good gifts! So we want to pursue the joy of the fullness of God’s kingdom community. Not just one way, around one table, but in many places, around many tables, at many times. We get to be a part of a church that is bigger than our preferences and perspectives, because God is bigger! And our church gets to be a part of a kingdom that is so much bigger than that! So we are receptive to God’s leading because God has even more blessings for us! He is not content with a partial church. He is not content with the beginnings (Acts 2). God is doing even greater things in his kingdom! We cannot even imagine what all God is doing; and we certainly cannot control it. Instead, we celebrate it! We are one small part of God’s kingdom community. One small part of the people from every tribe and nation and language gathered around the throne of the Lamb (Rev 7). We are one small part of the greatest story ever told. What a joy!
One of the main ways we remain receptive to what God is doing in building his kingdom community is by loving others! When we love others, we notice things about them. We are interested in them. We care for them. We get to know them more. And so, we are going to end with prayer from Ephesians 3:14-21.
I encourage you to say these words out loud along with me. Make these words your own. Consider praying them for someone in particular. Return to them again and again.
Let’s pray this prayer together:
For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth
derives its name.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you
with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you,
being rooted and established in love,
may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep
is the love of Christ,
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
Leave a Reply