This weekend our church will celebrate its anniversary. In January of 1875 a handful of immigrants gathered together to begin a ministry known as the First Swedish Baptist Church of Boston. Over the past 138 years the church has faithfully carried out the mission of its founders and served the Lord by proclaiming the gospel to the people of Boston. There have been many years of abundance and many years of scarcity but God has been faithful to our community of faith.
As I think about this celebration, it occurs to me that the church begun by little more than a dozen domestics ten years after the end of the Civil War bears only a subtle resemblance to the church that will gather this weekend. The styles have changed, in musical tastes and the propriety of dress. The culture has changed from the church being the center of activity to an added enrichment to our busy lives. The structure has changed through the welcome inclusion of male and female leaders of a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
However, what has bound us together are not the dramatic changes that the advent of technology had brought (electricity, radio, telephone, automobiles, television, aircraft, computers, internet and cellular services), nor the dramatic changes in the culture of the church (the rise of evangelicalism, televangelists, praise bands and global ministries), but the eternal truths that built the church in the first place:
- God loves us with an unending love;
- We have sinned and severed the relationship with God that He desires and created us to enjoy and fall under His judgment due to our disobedience;
- God took upon himself human nature, in Jesus, and dwelled among us – teaching us the truth of God, providing an example of godliness for us, suffering for us, dying for us, and rising from the dead for us, so that all who believe in Him will be reunited with God in unending love;
- We as individuals are required to make a choice to believe in the sacrificing death of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sin and escape the deserved wrath of God or not to believe and face the deserved wrath of God unaccompanied and unprotected.
There are many metaphors and word picture found in the Bible and in the culture that are used to describe the church. As I think of this anniversary, the picture what comes to my mind is that we are the family of God. We are a family that was established by our spiritual great-grandparents and we get together for a family gathering every week. We go back to the ‘old house’ and catch up on the family news. We remember fondly the old practices that were part of our childhoods or heard about by an uncle a number of years back. The teenagers are texting at the table and we recall the mischief we caused in our youth. But the highlight of our meeting is two-fold: to feast together on the meal prepared for our benefit and to bask in the love cultivated through the generations and modeled most sweetly by those with silver hair and golden smiles.
While many days I might envy the church-planter for their lack of “it’s always been done that way” conversations, this weekend I will enjoy getting together in the drafty house of God we’ve been gathering in for the past 6 generations and praise the Lord He’s still with us.