Learn About/Subscribe:
Christian Union

One of my perennial resolutions in every new year is to read more deeply and profoundly about both faith and the world around me. However, given my suggestion in an earlier letter, I am moving from resolutions to building habits - they tend to be much more permanent.

Psalm 2 is a majestic description of Christ’s coming and rule. God gives the Psalmist the ability to look beyond earthly constraints and context to see a place of transcendent and righteous rule - whose kingdom reaches to the very ends of the earth. This vision of a righteous kingdom runs through the narratives of both old and new testaments, and motivates the events and initiatives we do in New York.

We’ve been encouraged with a full month of events, small group meetings and an array of initiatives both large and small. All of these reflect the on-going work of God in New York - a city not widely viewed as a hotbed of spiritual vibrancy, yet vibrant nonetheless with the Spirit working in individual’s lives, in and through churches, and with an increasing hunger for spiritual perspective and truth.

This summer the CU New York and CU DC teams were able to connect with, and grow alongside recent graduates and young professionals, many of whom are transitioning into the workplace or graduate programs. These young professionals represent a number of esteemed universities and are eager to mature and step out boldly in faith - in cities which are enormously influential in shaping our culture and norms.

In the past six weeks more than 630 students graduated from our university ministries to pursue graduate school or enter the workplace. From our first ministry at Princeton to our most recent at Stanford, and including our graduate ministry at Harvard Law school these young men and women are in the midst of exciting transitions - most of them into the workplace.

We recently concluded our annual Christian Union Cities Conference. Held here in New York, June 21-22, the conference theme was taken from 2 Chronicles 17:6, Courageous in the Ways of the Lord. The church in America lives as “exiles in a strange land” as the apostle Peter describes in his first letter to the church in Asia Minor. Therefore, how we engage our city, community, vocation, and relationships becomes a matter of understanding both the culture and our faith, and our courage in stepping forward in engagement.

My wife and I recently hosted a dinner party around a discussion of the book, The Wind in the Willows. Like many enduring children’s books, this one from Kenneth Grahame operates on several levels - engaging for children with talking animals, humorous mishaps, and obvious good guys and bad guys; and stimulating for adults with its themes of deep community, perseverance, and morality. As we discussed these aspects, our conversation slowly wound toward our own community of faith - do we see these same issues extant in our relationships and church? It was a rich time of reflection on the praxis of our faith - are we swimming in the stream, or just dipping our toes in the water? It’s awfully easy to just do the latter.

In a world fixated on the immediate and material we don’t often find ourselves part of conversations about transcendence.  “Transcendent” is not a theological term, yet it certainly has theological relevance in its meaning of “supernatural”, “surpassing”, and “overarching”.  In the just concluded Easter season the idea of transcendence is highlighted as we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.  The resurrection in particular highlights God’s redemption of both our souls and, indeed, all things to the hope of glory and completeness in the new heavens and new earth. 

At a recent event on the church in today’s cultural context, the speaker mentioned culture having “surface” structures and “deep” structures. Passing trends and changes in laws happen at the surface level while shifts in values and ways of understanding identity take place in the deep structures of culture. These latter changes happen over decades and are of a type that truly changeculture.

In a study of Judges that I’m involved in, there are a few lessons that jump out each week - lessons that have stood the test of time from before there were kings in Israel to 21st century New York. These insights make me regularly question my operating assumptions about faith and the world around me.