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Empire State

June 17, 2011

A week in New York City…that doesn’t sound too bad.  I mean, in all honesty, that sounds like a decent way to spend a few days…sight-seeing, celebrity spotting, maybe even catch a few shows…we could make that work.  Oh wait…it was a mission trip…I’m not sure I’m following you on that.  It is entirely possible that when telling someone about a journey to the greatest city in the world, that is purposed around sharing the love of Christ…the Gospel, that the response we receive is, “But, why New York?”

 If you will…and seriously, I pray you will, take a few moments and read through 1 Peter 4:1-13.

 It’s an honest question, “Why New York?”  In fact, I think that “why” is critically important to any discussion of missions, both short and long term.  Now, If you look at the list in verse 3, it is undeniable that we find ourselves in a culture that is eerily similar to that of the elect exiles that Peter was writing to in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.  Despite our typical arrogance in thinking that we are somehow culturally superior to those that have gone before, just a skimming of verse 3 reveals that we are anything but removed from the trials and temptations that engulfed that generation as well.  We saw this list on every street in New York.  And, if we will open our eyes, we see it in our home cities as well.  Sensuality sells…preying on the worldly passions of the heart.  Just a stroll through Time Square, or SoHo, or the Village makes this clear.  Drunkenness is a way of life for many, and drinking parties are common, even acceptable behavior in our culture.  You don’t even have to get out of the airport to see that.  The number of bars and the litter on the streets attest to our cultures obsession with drinking.

 Idolatry rules our day.  We are being sold a bill of goods that is guaranteed to bring beauty, friends, and happiness…all competitively priced.  We rarely pick up a piece of wood and a knife to carve our idols, we tend to pick up our wallet and pull out a piece of plastic in our attempts to find peace.  According to verse 4, we shouldn’t be surprised when the people hear the reason for the trip was for the sake of the Gospel…not self indulgence…and they don’t get it.

 Verses 5-6 are a reminder as to why we go on mission…a warning about what is coming and why the Gospel must be preached.  It’s a reminder that a day is coming, an appointed time to stand before the Father and give account.  That’s why we preach the Gospel…that on that day, after we have confessed Christ, Christ will confess us to the Father.

 Verse 10 was the key text for our week in New York.  “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”  This was the aim of our time in the city…and it takes various forms.  We spent two mornings working with Queens Presbyterian Church doing community surveys in the neighborhood of Sunnyside…the most diverse neighborhood on the planet, where upwards of 110 different ethnicities make their homes.  We spent a morning in the Bronx with Infinity Church, a church that meets each week in the Bronx River Housing Project, helping some of their older members with some cleaning and home improvement tasks.  We also sent a group of guys to the park…that’s right…just to the park to see if they could engage and interact with some of the local residents…and they did.  They played basketball, soccer, and kickball…and had the opportunity to pray with some young men and tell them why we were there. 

 Each afternoon was spent with the folks from Operation Exodus, Inner City, in Washington Heights.  Through tutoring, time in the park, a time of praise music (including some dance moves courtesy of Papa Deuce) and Bible lessons, we were able to develop friendships with our family of faith in the city, and help them as they pour their lives into the development of these school aged children.  These are all ways that we steward God’s varied grace and serve one another.  I have heard on several occasions, “Why New York?”  I think the better question is probably, “Why not New York?”

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