+ The Gospel
Once you were not a people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10).
The Gospel is our identity. It is our hope and it is the good news that sin, brokenness, injustice and death are not the final words in our lives.
The Gospel is the proclamation of the good news that God did not leave us in our isolation and separation but took on flesh in the person of Jesus in order to make us his people. He walked among, received, and welcomed the sick and sinners as he proclaimed new life in him. He called all, even the arrogant self-righteous and the desperate sinner, to a new way of being fully human. Jesus lived a perfect life but instead of considering equality with God something to be grasped he emptied himself – he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on the cross. Jesus entered into the darkness and chaos of our sin, brokenness and death in order to bring us forgiveness and new life. On the third day he rose from the dead ushering in the New Creation. It is the resurrection that is the final word, and it is the basis for the promise that Jesus is making all things new.
The Gospel proclaims that our salvation is a free gift graciously given by God because of his great love for us. This Gospel is proclaimed, and we receive it by faith with empty hands. The good news of Jesus is that if we repent of our sin and believe in him (trust that his work on the cross reconciles us to God) we are forgiven, adopted into God’s family, and receive the Holy Spirit. We are not alone and our identity does not simply consist of our sin and brokenness. God is with us, and we are his children lovingly received as forgiven, righteous, and restored. The new creation has been planted in us to grow, by the Holy Spirit, a new and full way of being human. This is the good news the Church is to proclaim, and it is this good news that everyone needs to hear. It is not only the starting point of God’s people but also it is the daily truth that forms our identity, our hope, and directs our purpose as individuals and as a community.
The Gospel is our most cherished belief; it is our identity.
The Gospel is the centerpiece of the life and ministry of the church.
+ The Glory of God
One writer says, “It is the oldest mistake: refusing to countenance any real difference between God and us, imagining God to be a vague extrapolation of our own desires.”
We tend to think of life merely in terms of our story – how events influence our experience, how people contribute to our personal stories. Our faith calls for us to see ourselves, others, and all of life in terms of God and God’s story. The call of the Gospel – the place to begin to consider the glory of God – is a call to become part of God’s story of redemption. It is not until we set down a focus on our own stories and humbly seek to become part of God’s story that we find what it means to be truly human.
The glory of God is most chiefly displayed in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. The righteous one, the strong one, the rich one becomes the weak, despised, and rejected one (taking his place among the mocked, accused criminals) because of his great love for his people. As Paul writes, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). He is humbled and crushed but by the power of God is raised from the dead. Human brokenness, isolation, sin and death are not the final words. Rather, it is God’s great love and rich mercy. The glory of God is chiefly revealed in the cross and ressurection of Jesus because it is here that he sets forth the Kingdom of God – a new creation breaking forth in this fallen world. Jesus is the center of this new creation and he proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
When we consider the glory of God we can conclude at least a few things:
Recognition of God’s glory leads to worship. The Scriptures present a consistent reaction to one catching a glimpse of God’s glory: a deep sense of awe, a new awareness of our sin and powerlessness, and movement to worship (to see my life and resources as means to show God honor and gratitude.)
The story of redemption does not start with me. While it is true we are personally called to believe and follow Christ, the work of God in this fallen world started with our first parents as He spoke hope to them while they fearfully hid in the garden. The Scriptures are the unfolding of this great story.
The story of redemption is greater than me. The wonder of the glory of God is reflected is the greatness of the vision of redemption. All creation longs for and groans to be made new. Also, the redeeemed community of Christ not only stretches through time but also is made up of men and women from all tribes and peoples and languages united in worship of the one who has made them new.
The hope of this story being told in my life, in my community, and in all creation rests not with my faithfulness but with God’s faithfulness. Liberty for the captive, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and life for the dead speak of one acting on the behalf of those in need. The captive cannot loose his own chains, the blind cannot restore their own sight, and the dead can do nothing to restore life – these images provided by the Scripture – remind us that at the heart of the Gospel is an acknowledgement of our powerlessness and need. A rest in the faithful love and work of God on our behalf to restore us goes hand in hand with the confession of our desparate need.
The value of the glory of God is central to the Westminster Confession of Faith. This historic statement of faith defines the theological convictions of Lincoln Square Presbyterian Church. The Westminster Confession of Faith (along with the Shorter and Longer Catechisms) is the doctrinal standard for all churches within the Presbyterian Church in America.QUESTION 3**
To be American is to move on, to outrun change. To attach oneself to place is to surrender to it (Kathleen Norris).
Although we live in a highly mobile society, the Gospel calls us to consider the value of place – the importance of location. There is something about the gospel of Jesus that directs us to value our neighborhood. The doctrine of the goodness of creation, the nature of the incarnation (taking on of flesh) in Jesus, and the gospel message compel us to identify with a place. The depth of our identification reflects the Spirit working in our lives. It compels us, individually and collectively, to not live unto ourselves but to sacrificially and generously love our neighbor and neighborhood.
The kingdom of God always starts with the reign over one’s heart and mind, but it naturally seeks to be expressed; to take on flesh in a location. This is a long gradual process – the change of an individual and the transformation of a place. As one looks at his or her life there may be little evidence of patience and long-suffering practice. We can grow frustrated and even angry at times with the regular demands of caring for something (yard, house, neighborhood, family, vocation, marriage…). We tend to think of spirituality merely in abstract and individual terms. The Gospel invites us to a view of humanity in which to be fully human includes reconciled relationships with others and with a place.
God works out our renewal in the context of relationship. In a culture that devalues connections to particular people or place, we seek to say and express that to follow Christ leads to seeing ourselves in relationship to others and in relationship to our neighborhood. We seek, through the work of the gospel and the leading of the Spirit, to be a community marked by repentance and reconciliation that seeks the peace and welfare of our neighbors and neighborhood.
The state of shalom is the state of flourishing in all dimensions of one’s existence: in one’s relation to God, in one’s relation to one’s fellow human beings, in one’s relation to nature, and in one’s relation to oneself. . . An ever-beckoning temptation for the American evangelical is to assume that all God really cares about for human beings here on earth is that they be born again and thus destined for salvation. . . . However, what God desires for human beings is that comprehensive mode of flourishing which the Bible calls shalom. . . . God’s love of justice is grounded in God’s longing for shalom of God’s creatures and in God’s sorrow over its absence (Nicholas Wolterstorff).
+ Strong Relationships
Little children, yet a little while I am with you…A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:33-35).
It is possible that our expectations for the redemptive work of Jesus are too small. The promise of God to faithfully rescue his people runs deep and long. Sin is a breaking of relationship, and these breaks are present not only in our relationship to God but in our connection to one another. Therefore, the work of Jesus on the cross moves into all areas of brokenness and separation to work new life and reconciliation.
The Church, the followers of Jesus, is to reflect this new life and reconciliation. The restoration of our relationship to God changes everything. With great joy we can say that Jesus has reconciled us to God and he has reconciled us to one another – tearing down the walls of hostility and separation in the cross. The Scripture speaks of this good news through the language of family, “to all who did receive Jesus, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” We are the children of God, united to our Father and to one another as brothers and sisters. This new family is not based upon us but upon the work of God. For the children of God “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” It is God’s family. Therefore, God sets the way in which the family lives.
What is this new way? What is our guide in knowing what it means to be in new relationship with one another? “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” says Jesus. “As I have loved you” – Jesus gives himself (the quality and quantity of his love) as the way of new life.
Strong relationships, expressed as a church and at an individual level, flow from our experience of the love of Jesus – his willingness to pursue, sacrifice, serve us even in our sin. Paul, in his letter to the Roman church, writes, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” There are many ways in which this gracious and loving welcome can be reflected. We are to engage in practical, seeable love (it is to be viewed/observable to others because Christ tells us that it will be the evidence that we are followers of Christ). Some of these seeable, practical ways include how we use our tongues – do not engage in judgment, criticism, or gossip; how we use our ears – listen to one another with empathy (be slow to speak and quick to listen). Finally, to share the love of Christ with another means to be willing to humbly repent and confess our sins. Instead of defending ourselves or shifting the blame, we ask for forgiveness and listen to how we have hurt another. In turn this means a humility and willingness to forgive when we have been hurt.
+ Ministry Partnerships
Our vision as a church is, “A church, a neighborhood, and a city continually made new by the grace of Christ.” This vision directs us to join the work that God is doing in our neighborhood and city. Therefore, instead of considering only our efforts to work renewal we open our eyes to see how God is working through other individuals, churches, and organizations. We hope to build partnerships not only because it is most effective in terms of accomplishing renewal but also as a way of recognizing that we are joining in something bigger than ourselves.
There are three aspects of ministry partnerships to highlight –
Lincoln Square Presbyterian is part of the Chicago Metro Presbytery
This means we are in relationship and partnership with other Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) congregations in the Chicagoland area. We are thankful for the support, encouragement, and accountability that comes from not being on our own. We are formally connected to a larger body of believers seeking to faithfully proclaim and embody the Gospel in Chicago.
Lincoln Square Presbyterian partners with local organizations
LSPC seeks to build relationships with organizations in and around our neighborhood.
We want to continually ask, “What does it look like for us to love and serve our neighborhood? How can we join with God as he makes his kingdom come in this place?” These question do many things, one of which is to humble us and make us realize the work of the Kingdom of God is bigger than our resources and our vision. We seek to see where God is at work and how we can add the good gifts that he has given to us.
Lincoln Square Presbyterian is committed to church planting
If we continually seek God’s leading in how we can be part of what he is doing in our neighborhood, our city, and the world, we will be part of starting new churches. We pray that we can share our gifts and resources with other places and neighborhoods as new gospel communities are started. We especially hope to partner with other churches in Chicago Metro Presbytery to do this work.
Often “generosity” simply brings to mind the topic of money and giving. We want to think about this value in a broader sense – we seek to be generous with our lives. This giving of our lives is most often expressed through sharing our talents, our time, our possessions, and our financial resources.
Why value generosity? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news of shocking generosity. The Scriptures reads, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
This verse is pictured in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Jesus speaks of a father – of God – as one who is shockingly generous. One may say the father was prodigal or wastefully generous. In the face of his youngest son’s rejection and rebellion (he makes a request for his inheritance that basically communicates to the father “I wish you were dead”) the father grants the request. Even more, when the son returns home penniless and desparately hoping to be received simply as a hired hand, the father, who has been watching for him, felt compassion and runs to him. The father embraces and kisses his rebellious son. He doesn’t stop with these expressions of love but calls his servants to bring to his son the best robe, a ring for his hand, and shoes for his feet. He continues by calling for a great feast in which the fattened calf is to be killed for a celebration. The father lavishes gifts upon his son showing his great love and receiving the son back into the family.
A natural fruit of encountering the riches and generosity of Jesus, displayed in the loving father – is to increasingly become generous women and men. The question of how we view our resources must run deeper than how much or how often we give. The question runs to the deepest parts of who we are as people – how do we view our lives, our time, our gifts, our finances? Are they mine? For what purpose do these exist? Why were they given to me? Our only hope for being people of deep generosity is to be people who have experienced the generosity of God in Christ. It is the shocking generosity of Jesus that changes and re-orders the way we see such things as our time, gifts, and money.
Often the consideration of resources casts people into two categories – those who feel pride due to wealth and their help of those with less resources than them, and those who feel inferior due to their lack of wealth or who are consistently relegated to the position of recipient.
The Gospel deconstructs these two categories as it calls all people to humility and thankfulness. All good gifts are from God, and we are free to stop viewing resources as means to gain or confer status and security. The Gospel call us to be humble and confident – we have much to give and we humbly offer it. We are thankful and open handed with what has been given to us. “What do we have that is not a gift?” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians. These gifts are given not to gain a sense of self-recommendation, control, or security. They are freely given that we may not only care for ourselves and our families but also love our neighbors.
Beauty cannot be caught in a net of words. One of its qualities is to be indescribable, though not imperceptible.
One way to speak of beauty is through form and splendor. Form is such that beauty can be materially grasped. Splendor says that form is a sign that points to a depth and fullness beyond.
We can speak of this beauty in God’s creation and in human craft. In spite of the disobedience of the human caretaker, creation still proclaims the glory of God. Creation is the dramatic stage for God’s glory. Also, our faith is to be shaped in some part by embracing the light and truth that is to be found in the surrounding culture – its objects, stories and works of beauty that connect with our deepest longings and the hope of fullness.
As a church that values beauty there are at least a couple things to say:
The artist is to be highly valued and encouraged in his or her unique role. The artist is one who is aware of his or her surroundings. Out of this awareness the artists works to bring forth an expression of himself or herself in the form of a new creation. The Church values the artist and the struggle of creation in that it reflects the Divine Creation – it is a significant aspect of what it means to be created in the image of God. In addition, the Church humbly thanks the artists because we need their work, their words, their images, and their stories. It is through these works that the artist helps us learn to see. The craft of the artist (flowing from their consciousness and awareness) allows us to better see ourselves, our neighbor, and our world. This awareness and vision is a gift to all people.
The work of beauty does not only belong to the artist. As followers of Christ we affirm that there are men and women specially gifted and called to the creation of art. Yet, we also affirm that all people are called to engage in acts of beauty. A couple scriptures are helpful reminders in thinking about acts of beauty:
*How beautiful upon the mountain the feet of him who brings good news,who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion,” Your God reigns (Isaiah 52:7)
And while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that?…And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me (Mark 14:3-6)*
These acts – the proclaiming of the good news of God and a sacrificial gift to honor Jesus – are called beautiful. They are actions that are sacrificial, directed outward to others, and humble. They are actions not only concerning God but reflecting the character of the cross of Christ.
It is a reminder that each one of us is called to take what has been given and bring it into the life of grace. Our faith is interested in all sides of life (no isolation of “religious elements”). In all areas of life we are called to be part of the story of God’s gracious work in this world – when we use our gifts to proclaim or reflect this story it is beautiful. To value beauty is to be reminded that new creations of grace, love, and humility are possible in the everyday work of forgiving sinners, helping the hurt, generously sharing our good things, and taking up personal responsibilities. It is in everyday acts such as these that we hear and see the Kingdom of God. One writer references this hearing and seeing in this way “the streets and fields, the homes and markets of the world are an art gallery displaying not culture, but new creation in Christ.”