I’ve been studying for a message I’m giving this Saturday morning on “Christ our Coming King” for Eastbrook‘s monthly men’s breakfast. I came across this quotation from N. T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope, that captures so much in such a small space that I couldn’t help but share it.
What we have here, with minor variations, is a remarkably unanimous view spread throughout the early Christianity known to us. There will come a time, which might indeed come at any time, when, in the great renewal of the world that Easter itself foreshadowed, Jesus himself will be personally present and will be the agent and model of the transformation that will happen both to the whole world and also to believers. This expectation and hope, expressed so clearly in the New Testament, continues undiminished in the second and subsequent centuries. Mainstream Christians throughout the early period were not worried by the fact that the event had not happened within a generation. The idea that the problem of ‘delay’ set out in 2 Peter 3 was widespread in second-generation Christianity is a modern scholar’s myth rather than a historical reality. Nor was the idea of Jesus’s ‘appearing’ or ‘coming’ simply part of a tradition that was passed on uncritically without later generations really tuning in to what it was saying. As with the ascension, so with Jesus’s appearing: it was seen as a vital part of a full presentation of the Jesus who was and is and is to come. Without it all the church’s proclamation makes no sense. Take it away, and all sorts of things start to unravel. The early Christians saw this as clearly as anyone since, and we would do well to learn from them.
(N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, page 136)
Many of you may already know that I am beginning a ministry sabbatical next week. That means I will take a break from my online presence, including my social media accounts and blog. So, don’t be surprised if things go quiet from me over the next couple of months. I am doing well and looking forward to the chance to be still before God, to do some study, to have times of refreshment with my family and friends as I gear up for a new season of ministry in the Fall. You can read the entirety of a letter we sent out to the family of Eastbrook Church a couple of weeks ago below.
About three years ago, I was meeting with an older, seasoned pastor and talking about life and ministry. He asked me a number of questions, one being something I had never considered: “have you ever thought about taking a sabbatical?” He pointed out that Eastbrook had, by God’s grace, successfully walked through a major leadership transition that many churches and ministry leaders do not survive. He encouraged me to thoughtfully be aware of that reality and not to wear myself out, but instead to aim for being in ministry for the long haul.
Out of that conversation came a discussion at the Council level related to how we care for our staff, including the idea of a pastoral sabbatical. It was with thoughtful consideration of the topic, that the Council granted me a sabbatical for this coming summer. I am thankful for this gift from the Council that we worked on together, and I believe it will be a good thing for me, my family, my ministry, our staff, and the church.
Let me assure you that there is nothing wrong with me, my marriage, my character, or my relationship with the church. We are doing great and I feel like I am in a strong season of ministry. I also believe that as Eastbrook we are at a key moment to launch into some new ministry endeavors in the Fall, and I think this time of sabbatical will recharge me for that next season of ministry for us together as a church family.
Thank you for your support, for your commitment to Christ, and for your commitment to this special, local body of Christ called Eastbrook. I look forward to sharing stories of how I heard from the Lord when I return after July.
With deep love and prayer,
Pastor Matt Erickson
You can also read a Q & A on my sabbatical here.
Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “The Cost of Discipleship,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series “The Kingdom Life.” The two texts for this week are Luke 13:22-30 and Luke 14:25-35.
- When have you done something that really cost you something or had to sacrifice one pursuit for another?
- This weekend we continue “The Kingdom Life” series by looking at two passages Luke 13:22-30 and 14:25-35. Begin your study in prayer, asking God to speak to you, and then read those passages aloud.
- Jesus makes a statement and then tells a parable that illumines that statement in 13:22-27. How would you summarize what Jesus is saying here?
- There are several implications of Jesus’ teaching, which He outlines in 13:28-30. Which of these stands out most strongly to you?
- In Luke 14, Jesus delvers further into the costs of following Him. In verses 26-27, how does Jesus describe the cost of discipleship?
- Jesus offers two examples of rightly assessing the cost in 14:28-32. What do those tell you about following Him?
- When has following Jesus cost you something relationally, materially, or in terms of suffering?
- Jesus’ description of salt not losing its saltiness conveys something not losing its value by ceasing to be what it is. What might this mean in terms of discipleship?
- What is one way that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, discuss this together.
Daily Reading Plan
To encourage us together in our growth with God, we arranged a daily reading plan through this series. You can also join in with the daily devotional here. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.
Monday, May 1 Luke 13:22-30
Tuesday, May 2 Matthew 7:13-14
Wednesday, May 3 Matthew 19:16-30
Thursday, May 4 Luke 14:25-35
Friday, May 5 Matthew 10:37-39
I continued our series, “The Kingdom Life,” this past weekend at Eastbrook Church by looking at two challenging teachings of Jesus on the cost of discipleship. As with the rest of this series, we are exploring key teachings of Jesus in light of the resurrection. This third message in the series, “The Cost of Discipleship,” faces both the cost of not following Jesus from Luke 13:22-30 and the cost of following Jesus from Luke 14:25-35. It was also an African Global Gateway weekend at Eastbrook, which gave us the chance to sing, dance, and reflect some of the unique cultures that are a part of our church within our worship service.
You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.
Also, you are welcome to join in with the daily reading plan for this series.
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You are our God, and we praise You;
no other is worthy of praise like You.
May our gathering together bring You delight
as we worship You in the splendor of Your holiness.
There is no other Name –
no hero, no leader, no friend, no preacher –
who deserves praise like You;
receive all our praise, oh God.
Then let our daily lives overflow from this gathering
as a living sacrifice of worship offered upon
the altar of our praise to You.
Take each thought, word, and deed
and receive them as worship,
even as You refine them in holiness more and more.
As we walk this earth day by day,
may the sweet aroma of Christ emanate from our lives
in the incense of prayer.
May that sweet smell overwhelm and counteract
the stench of death in this world,
drawing people to the good news
of Jesus the Messiah and Risen King.
Receive our praises, oh God,
and take our lives, oh God,
for Your highest praise.
[This is part of a series of prayers for Sunday worship preparation that begins here.]