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Church news, Tim Tseng update

Place, space, spirit, and truth

Weekend Planner
Tonight! Young Adults Fellowship meeting at Jonathan Weng’s home (7:30 PM).
Friday, Oct 8: Everglow Youth Fellowship – Review and Group Prayer  (7:30 PM Youth Room 160).
Sunday, Oct 10:
– Youth Sunday School (10 AM Youth Room 160): Philippians study
– English Worship (11 AM Second Floor) “The Rare Virtue” (Luke 17:11-19)
– Agape Family Group (4 PM Fellowship Hall) Study of The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg, Chapter 3.

October 7, 2010

Dear Canaan EM brothers and sisters,

This Sunday, a new Target mega-store will open up near our church building – right across highway 237! I’m really excited about this because it means that those of us who spend a significant amount of time at Canaan will have yet another shopping option! It’s true that the Great Mall is pretty close to our church building. Also, for a great selection of other dining and shopping experiences, McCarthy Ranch and Milpitas Square are just a minutes away. But having a Target even closer to Canaan is pure (almost) joy! Ah yes, location matters!

We evangelical Christians have been inoculated against relating our faith to location and space. That’s why our church buildings are so architecturally bland and our worship space is so bare and minimal. Perhaps Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, NRSV) , discourages us from thinking that our faith has anything to do with space and place.

Indeed, Jesus’ conversation with that woman at the well is a good reminder of the dangers of entangling faith with politics.  When the woman said to Jesus, “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem” (v. 20), she was highlighting a sharp political dispute between the Samaritans and the Jews. The Jews who returned from Babylonian Captivity rebuilt the Temple and the Walls around Jerusalem (see Ezra and Nehemiah). They insisted that all real Jews should worship at the Temple in Jerusalem. But the Samaritans (people with Hebrew ancestry who intermarried with non-Jewish people) also claimed God’s promises when they talk about worshipping “on this mountain.” In fact, the Samaritan woman was referring to the God who said to Moses, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:12).

That is why Jesus then said to her “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him” (v. 21-23).

This all makes sense. Our faith should not be trapped by political partisanship. But does this mean that we should avoid engaging place and space? Can we worship in spirit and truth without a building and space? Should we denigrate our material surroundings or pretend that they don’t matter for our faith?

Over the past few months, I’ve been walking with you through Luke’s gospel each Sunday. As I read Luke again, it’s clear to me that Jesus does not denigrate place and space (or matter and the body). He does not say we should refrain from or reject the God’s provisions in Creation. In fact, he has a lot to say about the proper use of wealth and material resources. We can enjoy God’s provisions so long as we understand that we are stewards. Wealth and resources are for advancing God’s kingdom values, not for selfish hoarding.

So it is with the place and space God allows us to inhabit. I didn’t always think this way. Not until I got married and had children did I realize how important it was to consecrate my place and space for the Lord’s use. As I learned how to be a responsible adult, I discovered that the importance of hospitality for not only welcoming people into God’s kingdom, but also for my own spiritual growth.

Throughout Scripture, place and space are important symbols (or reminders) of God’s activity in His world. The people of Israel would mark places with altars and give these places special names. But it is not only within our “private” homes where we can point people to God. Our church building and its location can be the most important signposts of hope for the surrounding community.

Many of the immigrant founders of the church have invested much blood, sweat, and tears in Canaan. To them, caring the physical plant and the local community is a given. Their greatest challenge is to remember that they are stewards, not owners, of Canaan’s resources. To us second generation English ministry folk, it’s harder to identify with Canaan’s space and place because of what we were taught about true worship. Many of us are in transition and unsure of where God may lead us. It is difficult for us to feel any strong affinity to the space and place that Canaan occupies.

So I offer this challenge to my fellow EMers: occupy and inhabit Canaan’s space and place! God’s message to the Hebrew exiles through Jeremiah illustrates how importance place and space are:

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:4-7, NRSV)

You are also stewards of Canaan’s building! You, too, can be part of Canaan’s mission to North San Jose. You can enjoy the new Target, McCarthy Ranch, Milpitas Plaza, and the Great Hall! You can also get involved with the concerns of local residents and beyond. During our 30th Anniversary celebration, let’s cling to a vision of Canaan’s space and place as signposts of hope for our community and our world!

Pastor Tim

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About Tim Tseng, Ph.D.

I am Pacific Area Director of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship's Graduate and Faculty Ministries. I'm also a historian, theological educator, and pastor.

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English Service 10 AM (Worship Hall 3)

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Enter through door 1 from rear parking lot.

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