Boston’s Christian Community Comes Together to Commemorate Christian Martyrs

Last Saturday, more than 500 people of various cultures and denominations gathered to remember and honor those who have gone before us and died for their faith in Jesus Christ. 

Dr. Vito Nicastro, associate director of the archdiocese’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs noted that it was the largest gathering of its kind in his 23 years with the office.

It was incredible to see how this event brought together the body of Christ in the city. I identify with what the Coptic Orthodox priests wrote, that “It is the blood of the martyrs that we honor; because of their blood shed, we glorify God. It is because of their blood that was shed, that we gather together in prayer. It is because of their blood that was shed, that we are able to build relationships between the different churches. It is because of their blood shed, that Christians are encouraged and strengthened in their faith.”

Learn more
Read the article published in the Boston Pilot here:http://thebostonpilot.com/article.asp?ID=16917

Watch the video interview:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DrS8aC_U1k

Watch the prayer-length of the service here:
http://www.catholictv.com/shows/americas-catholic-television-network/ecumenical-prayer-all-christian-martyrs

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The Hug Experiment

New England is known for a few key things:

  • The Red Sox.
  • Clam Chowder.
  • And people who tend to be, well, stand-offish and aloof.

I am home-grown from the West Coast, where it’s common, even expected, to speak with strangers in the grocery store, or to engage in friendly banter in the coffee shop. But here, people tend to look at you like you have spinach growing out of your ears if you happen to strike up a conversation. It takes time, lots of time, to really get to know someone at heart-level, which is painstakingly aggravating for my not-so-patient disposition. Don’t get me wrong here – I love Boston – but sometimes I’m frustrated by the general detachment that seems to exist between people.

Last Sunday, my friend Sung Yun and I didn’t go on a quest to change any of these things, nor did it even cross our minds until after the fact. Rather, she just showed up to our Sunday afternoon outreach with an extra sign bearing the good news of “Free Hugs.” I instantly became her partner-in-crime for this spontaneous social experiment.

We set up camp beside the subway entrance. As we clutched our signs, for a few moments no one even acknowledged us, defaulting to the typical New England tactic of ignorance. I shouted, “FREE HUGS!” and in that moment a woman entered the scene, saying, “I love hugs!” and enveloping me in a giant bear hug. People around her smiled. One man, uninterested a moment ago, took a detour to join us in our love parade in the corner. I was sold.

Click here to watch the video: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=998538548863&l=998012886798046199

There’s something about hugging that puts a smile on your face. I think it’s because as much as we try to hide it, all of us are longing for physical affection, for someone to enter our “bubble.” In fact, hugs are scientifically proven to boost happiness levels by getting oxytocin (the “love drug”) flowing through your body, which can lower the risk of heart disease, combat stress, and boost the immune system.

So that’s why a sign with “FREE HUGS” is a remarkable tool. It’s not forcing anything on anyone; rather it simply conveys, “Here we are! The invitation is open. Come on over.” I said a silent prayer for each person that I hugged and left them with the blessing of “Have a great day.” How many other things in life are quick, simple, and totally free, yet can transform someone’s countenance so deeply?

I’m now convinced that we can change the world, one hug at a time. So this afternoon, why don’t you grab a friend and some markers, and boldly proclaim to the world the opportunity for an embrace?

Kendall Ramseur: Bringing Unity Through Music

Kendall Ramseur is a budding new artist in the Greater Boston area, and was recently awarded the Gospel/Inspirational Arts of the Year at the Boston Music Awards. This week, I interviewed him to hear more about his journey, and how God is using his music to bring together Christians in Greater Boston.

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Kendall Ramseur describes one goal of his music: to inspire. And this is just the beginning of what he does.

When I first saw Kendall Ramseur play, I was struck by its unique sound: Classical instruments coupled with a strong rhythmic vibe and fresh lyrics. Somehow the instruments were able to pull in the older generation, yet the younger generation was head-bopping to the beat. The music had Christian undertones and values, and yet it wasn’t so explicitly Christian to turn off those who might not share the faith. As an artist, this tension is difficult to manage, and thus regardless of who you are or where you come from, Kendall Ramseur has something for you.

This was made evident at Kendall’s performance at First Night Boston, where a kaleidoscope of people were in the audience – Asians, African Americans, and Caucasians. Temi, manager of Kendall Ramseur Music Enterprise, states that “Kendall’s music is universal. It crosses gender, race and nationality. Everyone can listen to it and relate to it. In this way, it’s boundless.”

But Kendall hopes for so much more than just bringing people together. When asked about his dream for the Christian community, Kendall said that he hopes “We can all be in one accord, that we can be united and able to move past the whole denomination thing.” So how does he think this could happen? “It would be great if everyone could sit down together at the same table, making it clear that we’re all children of God and need to work together.” It sounds like God is already making this happen through the kaleidoscope of people that connect with his music.

For Kendall, it’s not just about playing music; he also sees the band as his greatest ministry. “When I played at the Dana Farber Cancer Center, someone came up to me and said that it brought him so much comfort. People sense things in my performance, and tell me that they have perfect peace.” He has also seen people physically healed by the power of God, simply through listening to the music.

It’s been quite a journey for Kendall this past year, and the one thing he would like to tell Christians in Greater Boston is that “God is faithful. I started out with no job, no income, and no clue of what I wanted to do. Within 8 or 9 months, I was playing fifty shows, and nominated for the Boston Music Awards. These are two opposite extremes – from nothing to great favor & blessings within a few months. This just shows that God is capable, God is faithful, and He is real. Once you find out what God is calling you to, give your all to that and trust it all to Him.”

What an incredible piece of advice. As you can see, God is using Kendall Ramseur to bring hope, inspiration, and unity to a world that is so desperate for it.

-Kelly Steinhaus
Team Leader, UniteBoston


Learn more:

Sermon: Seeking God as Giver

Last week, I preached a sermon on “Seek” – thought I’d share it with you all!
You can read my sermon notes below, or listen to the sermon on the link here:

http://jcboston.org/seek-god-giver/

hide_and_seek_by_artsammich-d5z6iyy

My idea of “seek”

When you think of “seeking,” what do you think of? Personally, I think of someone finding his way through the jungle, like this dude (right)

I did a google image search for the word “seek,” and it might surprise you that the majority of images that came up looked more like this (below)

hide_and_seek11

 

I think this is significant because it points to the relational aspect of seeking – seeking is more about a relationship than just getting things.

The first time I really prayed to God, I was in high school involved in a program called Odyssey of the Mind. Yes, I was, and still am, a nerd. My job on our team was to build small eight-inch structures of balsa wood and glue that held massive amounts of weight. If you were to walk into my bedroom in high school, you wouldn’t see cute actors on my wall, rather you’d see broken balsa wood structures lined up in my room. My biggest dream in high school was to make it to the Odyssey of the Mind World Championships, and the first time I ever remembering seeking God was to ask Him for this. The amazing thing was – we did make it – it was a dream come true! :)

But it wasn’t until college when my understanding of God changed – I was invited to church by some friends, and during worship I was filled with this peace, this love, and warmth. This led me on a journey of seeking God not just for his gifts but as the giver.

Luke 11:10-13 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The word “seek” takes asking to another level – the dictionary definition is to endeavor to obtain, to try to locate or discover, to go in search or quest of. So seeking is asking plus acting – rearranging priorities in your life to search for what you desire.

The word “seek” in the Greek, in the original language of the New Testament, is zeteo. I looked into all the different ways the word is used in the New Testament. It is used 70 times for humans seeking things, 35 times for humans seeking God, and the interesting thing is that it is used 3 times for God seeking us. (Luke 19:10, Matthew 18:23, John 4:23). It’s cool to think that God isn’t just up there asking us to come to him but as much as we are seeking Him, He is also seeking us out – this points to the relational aspect of the Father.

What is your relationship with God like? Today I want to share three big ideas as to how we can seek God as giver:

1. Seeking God as giver comes down to our understanding of God
We are all on this process of discovering God as
A. Out there – up in sky
B. Gift Giver – Sometimes you call out to him, like a spiritual slot machine
C. Father – God is a great father that takes care of his children
D. Lover – God is so good he died for me so I can be in relationship with Him and I give my whole self to Him in response

Where are you in this process? I want to encourage you to press in to gain the deepest parts of the heart of God.

If you only talked to your God to ask him for things, would this be a strong relationship?

No, what is between a father and a son is so much more than that. It’s about love, and when you love your dad, you go to him just to hang out and to spend time together.

I really like this quote by Henri Nouwin: “The spiritual life is a long and often arduous search for what you have already found. You can only seek God when you have already found God. The desire for God’s unconditional love is the fruit of having been touched by that love.”

2. Seeking God as giver is more about seeking than finding
Last Thursday night, I was with a friend on the North Shore, and we heard that the Aurora Borealis might be visible. It’s always been a dream of mine to see the Northern Lights, so we plopped into her car and drove to the ocean to see what we could see. We were seeking to see brilliant lights in the sky like this:

interesting-aurora-borealis-backgrounds

But what we found was quote different. Although the Northern Lights weren’t visible, we found the most brilliant shimmering moonlight on the ocean and pinpricks of constellations of stars; we found friendship and laughter. Although we sought the northern lights, what we found was so much more.

Really, there are two ways of reading this passage –
         1. Seek and you will FIND
OR… 2. SEEK and you will find
It depends where you put the emphasis

Note that it doesn’t say “Ask & you will receive the very thing you ask for in the way you want it” or “seek and you will find exactly what you were expecting.” What this passage implies is that when we ask, seek, knock and pray, looking away from our own resources to our trustworthy heavenly Father, he will hear and give us good things. Sometimes we will get just what we asked, but other times he will give us something better, or at a time he knows is better, or in a way he knows is better.

Another thing to notice here is that the verb tense is in the present imperative, which implies that we should “ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, and knock and keep on knocking.” It isn’t that God is reluctant and needs to be persuaded; rather God teaches you something in the seeking, in the knocking, in the waiting. Many times I’ve found that I’m not ready for the answer to my prayer.

I really like what Soren Kierkegaard says – “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” Really, the greatest blessing of prayer is not in receiving the answer, but in being the kind of person God can trust with the answer. So our job is to pray, seek God, wait, and trust that He will do the rest.

3. Seeking God as giver means He will give you abundantly more than you ask for

There is a progression here – first, the story is of a man and his friend. The second story is a father and son. And culminates in the last line: “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

God is saying here that friends help each other out, human parents give good things to kids but I am more lovely than any of these gifts. I can give you the Holy Spirit, the greatest gift ever. Everything I am is through my Spirit – the spirit is the very life of me. What is crazy is that we can be filled by that, just by asking!

God’s promise here is that as much as fathers want to give good gifts to kids, God is abundantly more willing to give the Holy Spirit to us – isn’t that an incredible promise?

The point of seeking is the seeking. Because as you seek you get more than you ask for – you get Jesus. You get the Holy Spirit. And this is something greater than any worldly gift.

So how do we apply this to our lives? If you look to the beginning of this chapter in Luke 11, you see that this passage – is an answer to the disciples’ question “Lord, teach us how to pray.”

If we want to seek God as giver, not just for His gifts, I want to challenge you in your prayer time this week to spend time in ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication)

(A) Adoration – This is where all prayers should begin, telling the Lord that you love Him and appreciate all He has done and created. You can do this by reading a psalm, by worshipping Him in song, or whatever it looks like for you to adore Him.

(C) Confession – Since we still fall short of God’s perfection, we can come to him and be cleansed of every sin we have committed. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Psalm 139:23-24 is one my favorite prayers for confession – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

(T) Thanksgiving –During this part of your prayer, thank God specifically for all that He has done for you. It’s great if you can write these down in a journal as well; they can become a great source of encouragement.

(S) Supplication – This is just a big word for asking for what you need. We can come to God with boldness & confidence according to the blood of Christ. (Hebrews 4:16)

This week, will you commit to a daily time of seeking God with Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication? Will you take the next step to seek God as giver, not just for His gifts?