Worshiping Together: Recapping Our February Chapel GatheringsBy Susan Burner on March 14, 2018
Our semester chapel theme is "The Path: Walking in Humility and Integrity," grounded in the theme verses of Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9. Through Scripture, we are studying how to cultivate humility and integrity in our lives. Through spoken and sung prayers, we have asked God through the power of the Spirit to do this work in us as individuals and as a community.
Talking About Race, Diversity and Inclusion from a Posture of Humility and Integrity
The past few weeks of chapel messages have largely focused on the proper posture of humility and integrity in response to issues of race, diversity and inclusion. This has resulted in increased campus conversations on these topics.
Reflection on this topic in chapel began with a panel discussion led by Kenneth Russell, director of diversity and multicultural affairs for Cornerstone. The panel was made up of local Grand Rapids pastors including Pastor Troy Evans from The Edge and Pastors Adam and Christy Lipscomb from City Life Church.
Two main themes emerged from this panel. First, as believers, we should listen to those who are not like us and seek to understand their experience with a posture of humility. Pastor Troy challenged our community specifically in this area by saying, "You'll never understand a person's experience unless you are them, so talk to them!"
Second, believers must be highly intentional in pursuing multiethnic relationships. Pastor Adam and Pastor Christy both shared their personal experience of breaking into what they termed a "multiethnic life." They noted relationships with those who are different from yourself must be intentionally pursued. Identifying the issues of race between Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament, Pastor Christy claimed living a multiethnic life is not a calling only for specific people who are passionate about issues of diversity and inclusion. Instead, she challenged that to live a multiethnic life is to truly live a gospel-centered life.
After this panel, we had the opportunity to hear from multiple speakers who engaged with the topic further.
- Marvin Williams from Trinity Church in Lansing, Mich., shared with us a biblical theology of race. He explained how racism is irrational and illogical in light of all of humanity being created in God's image and as descendants of one man, Adam. He additionally noted that we cannot love God but hate our brothers and sisters.
- Christina Edmondson from Calvin College presented a compelling call to repentance and restorative justice from the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. She also challenged us to truly reflect on how we may personally benefit from the mistreatment of our neighbor.
- Author and speaker Trillia Newbell helped us think through how walking the path of humility must lead us to love. She explained how the love we have for God and our neighbor should lead us to think, act and live differently.
Becoming an intentionally diverse and inclusive community also involves acknowledging the different life circumstances we bring with us into corporate worship. When we gather with God's people there is certainly much to celebrate. There is, however, also much to grieve and bring before the Lord as we see modeled in Scripture.
Our Evensong services on Sunday nights have walked through the book of Lamentations, leading our community to practice the discipline of lament, passionately expressing grief or sorrow. This biblical practice is clearly beneficial for those who are hurting and grieving but also for those who are not for two main reasons. First, it causes us to better love our neighbors by weeping and mourning with those who weep and mourn (Romans 12:15). Second, it gives us language through songs and Scripture that we will be able to call to mind later when we are in a season of suffering and grief.
Anticipating the Redemption and Restoration of All Things
Overall, the past month of chapel has allowed us to hold in tension mourning the ways we see sin and brokenness in our world while also eagerly hoping for the day when Christ will return to redeem and restore all things fully and finally.
Pastor Marvin pointed us to Revelation 7:9-12, which gives a vision of those from every nation, tribe, people and language worshiping before the throne of the Lamb. He challenged our community to get a jumpstart on this reality now in how we worship. This requires us to fight against the temptation to consider only ourselves, both our personal preferences and our personal circumstances, when we gather to worship. Instead, we must be aware of those around us.
Each person has different musical preferences, different languages they grew up speaking and different situations they have been through and currently face. When we gather to worship God, we become aware of our differences, we celebrate that they provide a deeper and more beautiful expression of the gospel and together we declare what unites us as believers: "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." (Revelation 7:10, 12).