River City Church - Smyrna, GA
Church Everywhere - Shepherding Us Into Abundant Life

Church Everywhere - Shepherding Us Into Abundant Life

May 3, 2020

Josh shares a message from John 10 where we see Jesus trying to explain how He operates. He is a shepherd -- a shepherd who draws us in to bring us into abundant life. The presence of the shepherd makes the difference in life. We need to learn the shepherd's voice. We need to recognize the shepherd's character when He speaks to us. Jesus is still shepherding us into the unforced rhythms of grace. John 10:1-10; Acts 2:42-47; Matthew 11:28-30. 

Josh shared two quotes in service and referenced the third one below that he did not share specifically: 

1) "But in fact, this passage, at its heart, is not about scarcity at all. It's not about the stinginess of God, and it's not about the self-protective walls we like to build and hide behind. (Remember, Jesus is the gate. We're not. Gate-keeping is not our job.) It's about life. Life that pushes across formidable boundaries. Life that flourishes in precarious places. Life that never denies the real threat of thieves, bandits, and strangers -- and yet holds out the possibility of pasture, nourishment, protection, and rest. Life that perseveres and maybe even thrives in the valley of the shadow of death. Life that reaches through any opening it can find, however small, however fragile, however tenuous, and insists on generous self-giving: 'This is my body, given for you. Take and eat.' " -- Debie Thomas

2) "When christological awareness ebbs in congregational life, that is, when the story of Jesus is neglected, the church becomes unmoored and rudderless. Christology teaches us that God is not willing to remain at a distance from us; rather, in God's humility the Trinitarian history of God includes creation. The Word becomes flesh as God is made 'after our likeness,' as the prologue of John narrates. The church would be helped if it could recover the theological meaning of the shepherding imagery. In the iconography of the church, by the fourth century Jesus as shepherd was gradually replaced by Jesus as Pantocrator, the elevated ruler over all, as Constantine united the church with the secular state. As the church became an expression of imperial power, the shepherd's staff was replaced with a gilded crozier; a crown of thorns was displaced by the triple tiara of the pope. Recovering shepherding imagery could call the church to simplicity, sacrifice, and solidarity -- needed in a time when many have lost their way." -- Molly T. Marshall

3) The concept of "zoe" -- "fundamental to John's gospel. This life is the very essence of God brought to the world through His word. The bestowal of life is to be the very purpose of Jesus' mission. Jesus himself embodies God's life for the world. Life in Johannine terms is to be understood not only as the vital force that animates the human person but also as 'eternal life' -- a share in the very being of God through faith in Jesus." -- Donald Senior

Church Everywhere - Emmaus Road

Church Everywhere - Emmaus Road

April 26, 2020

Josh looks at the story of the two disciples on the Emmaus Road from Luke 24. We see in this story how Jesus interacts with us. He asks us what we're thinking or feeling. He listens and is present with us. We often don't recognize Him. He explains things that our heart knows to be true, and when we invite Him in, our eyes are opened. And we continue the journey towards the fullness of the gospel with Jesus. Luke 24:13-35; Acts 2:42-44; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19. 

Josh shared three quotes in the message: 

1. "And Jesus listens. He hears them out, allowing them the balm of articulation. And then — when they’re done — He tells the story back to them, and as He does so, the story changes. In His retelling, it becomes what it really always was — something far bigger, deeper, older, wiser, and richer than the travelers on the Emmaus road understood. 'Here’s what you’re leaving out,' Jesus seems to say. 'Here’s what you’re missing.' When Jesus tells the story, He restores both its context and its glory. He grounds the story in memory, in tradition, in history, in Scripture. He helps the travelers comprehend their place in a narrative that long precedes them, a narrative big enough to hold their disappointment without being defeated by it. When Jesus tells the story, the death of the Messiah finds its place in a sweeping, cosmic arc of redemption, hope, and divine love that spans the centuries. When Jesus tells the story, the hearts of his listeners burn."

- Debie Thomas

2. "Then, as the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, another character falls into step with them and asks what were they discussing with each other while they walked along. This question stops them in their tracks. They 'stood still' Luke says suggesting that when God enters a conversation we think we are having with one another - when our horizontal perspective on the human condition is assumed from above and crossed by the vertical perspective of God's word, we cannot but find our lost self standing still. We have surely come to a crossroad. At issue are not the miles before us but the moment at hand and the eternity that has just invaded time.... God's word interrupted the church's idle conversations and effectively called a halt to our frantic forward momentum? Where were we going when the question of a stranger prompted us to confess that we had lost our way? What was it about the one who had listened that turned the details of despair into beseeching?"

- Cynthia A. Jarvis

3. "It has been suggested that hospitality is the key to evangelism in our day, so this text offers a window to spiritual practice and post-modernity. Actions more than words, welcome more than self promotion and protection provides the space where others might fearlessly enter in and find themselves at home. Sharing the common meal transgresses boundaries and allows communion with Christ, who meets us whenever we gather at the Lord's table - or at the tables that provide self-giving welcome."

- Molly T. Marshall

Church Everywhere — Peace Be With You

Church Everywhere — Peace Be With You

April 19, 2020

Josh walks us through the second half of John 20 where Jesus appears to the disciples and Thomas. In both scenes, we see Jesus entering rooms where people are hiding out of fear. Jesus doesn't berate them for hiding; He displaces their fear by simply saying, "Peace be with you." Jesus wants to enter the rooms where we are hiding to draw us deeper into belief. Jesus confronts us by meeting us where we're less formed -- where we wrongly believe a piece of our brokenness defines who we are. Jesus wants to bring us to consecration where we have the ability to sense and hear Jesus knocking, and we invite Him in. There, the Word can dwell within us. John 20:19-31; Colossians 3:12-17; John 14:27; John 14:1-6. 

Church Everywhere — Easter Sunday

Church Everywhere — Easter Sunday

April 12, 2020

Josh walks us through the Easter story from John 20, and we are again faced with the question: "Is this story true?" We see Mary who was certain that Jesus was dead and weeping that this journey was over. Then, Jesus calls her by name, and she understands what is happening and goes to share this gospel with the disciples. John had run to the tomb and paused outside before entering, but when he stepped in and looked around, he believed. We see John embrace the reality that Jesus is risen. We see Mary embody the gospel when she runs to tell the disciples that she has seen the Lord. We partake in the gift of faith with them. John 20:1-18. 

Church Everywhere — Palm Sunday

Church Everywhere — Palm Sunday

April 5, 2020

On Palm Sunday, Josh walks us through the familiar passage in Matthew of Jesus sending two disciples to retrieve a donkey and a colt for His procession into Jerusalem where the crowd shouts "Hosanna" as Jesus enters the city. We see that Jesus comes not as the king the people in the crowd expect or desire. In this time of social distancing, maybe you identify with the two disciples who are sent to do something with no clue how it will work out. Maybe the kingdoms -- the things in which you've placed your trust and security -- are weakened. Take heart. Jesus' incarnation is the perfect embodiment of love, and in this time, He is walking with you through this and whatever may be dying ushers in the birth of new possibilities. The worship journey this week: "The culture of the Kingdom of God -- the culture of Jesus." Matthew 21:1-11; Philippians 2:5-11; Psalm 139:7-12; Psalm 19:14.

Church Everywhere — These Bones Can Live

Church Everywhere — These Bones Can Live

March 29, 2020

We continue our Church Everywhere season with Josh's message centered on Ezekiel 37. The current situation may beg the question, "when will things return to normal?" This week's passage from Ezekiel reminds us of the Israelites who shortly after escaping Egypt cried out for their old lives. Ezekiel later faces these dry bones which are a metaphor for where the Israelites were as a community and with God -- lifeless, doubtful and fearful. And God reminds Ezekiel -- and us -- that He desires to breathe new life into us by the power and creativity of His Spirit. Ephesians 3:14-21; Ezekiel 37:1-14

Church Everywhere — Psalm 23

Church Everywhere — Psalm 23

March 22, 2020

As we face the challenges of not being able to meet in person on Sunday morning, we continue in the spirit of "Church Everywhere" with Josh's message centering around Psalm 23 this week. Psalm 23 offers a number of helpful reminders for us as we try to establish a new normal in this season. We see a Shepherd who is leading us in the midst of trouble. He leads us in it and through it when we might prefer to simply avoid it or run in the other direction. We see a Host who invites us in and sets a table for our enemies. In moments like these, we can experience the overflowing love of God whose goodness and mercy chases and pursues us in this moment and all the days of our lives. Psalm 23; Psalm 139:11-12.

If you have a prayer request, please email prayer@rivercitysmyrna.com. If you have a need, please let us know by emailing needs@rivercitysmyrna.com

Josh shared a prayer from Robby Waddell that he prays before teaching his Greek class: 

"Creator of language and first speaker, though you are infinite, we are finite. You have granted us the capacity to interpret and to misinterpret. You have given us the ability to create and to destroy with words. Help us to use this gift of language faithfully to know and love you and each other. With humility, we seek to understand your loving and holy words recorded in our scriptures. As we study Greek, may you fill us with gratitude, love, curiosity, and awe." 

Josh also shared a poem from Brother Richard Hendrick inspired by the current moment: 

LOCKDOWN - Brother Richard Hendrick

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.
March 13th 2020

Church Everywhere

Church Everywhere

March 15, 2020

This week, to love others well, RCC streamed service from Josh's home instead of meeting as a congregation in light of the CDC guidance on social distance to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. In this moment, we have an opportunity to stand as a non-anxious presence in the world. Josh shared about the idea of "Church Everywhere" which is more than simply viewing a streaming service but also provides opportunities to serve those most vulnerable to the virus, to find ways to connect wisely with others, and to sabbath from many of the things that hinder us. In this time, we are faced with two questions: (1) How can we step into the unforced rhythms of grace? and (2) How can we be good neighbors? Look for updates from RCC this week as we gather more information and make plans for proceeding amidst the challenges we are facing. If you have a prayer request, please email prayer@rivercitysmyrna.com, and if you have a need, please email needs@rivercitysmyrna.com. We would love to partner with you during this time. Psalm 95; Matthew 11:25-30; Luke 10:25-37. 

Town Hall Sunday, P.O.T.S., and Nicodemus

Town Hall Sunday, P.O.T.S., and Nicodemus

March 8, 2020

In today's service, Josh provides several updates on staff transitions and shares the new prayers of the season (P.O.T.S.) with which we are partnering. Additionally, Josh preaches about the story of Nicodemus who is confronted with the impossible thought of being born again, and we see that, in many ways, Nicodemus represents many of us as we walk our apprenticeship with Jesus. He invites us into things that seem impossible. And the good news is that Jesus is eager to walk with us every step of the way as we mature in our faith. The worship journey this week: "What is the invitation of Jesus today?" John 3:1-17; Philippians 3:10-21. 

Josh shared this quote from Deborah J. Kapp: "God works hard for us and our faith. God conceives us as Christians and nurtures us in the wombs of our faith, safe and warm and secret. At some point, like any pregnant woman who is close to full term, God gets impatient with gestation and wants to get on with it; God wants to push that baby through the birth canal into greater maturity, into fullness of life, into a faith lived wholly in the world. That is what Jesus talks about in this text. Jesus thinks it is time Nicodemus came through that spiritual birth canal. Perhaps he thinks it is time for many others to be reborn too. God is ready to give us birth by water and Spirit. How many of our church members (or preachers) might be Nicodemuses in twenty-first-century garb? How many of our congregations might be organizational versions of him -- people and institutions with compartmentalized faiths that flourish behind the scenes, out of sight, away from the fray, essentially in private? How many of us are gestating Christians? Who among us has room to grow in our faith? The good news of this text is that God is prepared -- even eager -- to do the hard, messy, sweating labor that will bring us to maturity and new life."

Temptation and Trust

Temptation and Trust

March 1, 2020

Looking at the story in Matthew 4 about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Josh walks us through the three tests that Jesus faced and how He responded. We see that Jesus is faced with temptations that continue to challenge us: self-sufficiency; how to walk in our identity; seeking notoriety; compromising a little; obtaining power to dominate; and the mindset that the ends justify the means. The apprenticeship of Jesus invites us into handling those tests the way Jesus did -- by trusting the Father -- instead of yielding to the empty promises attached to those temptations. The worship journey for this week: "Temptation and Trust." Matthew 4:1-11; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Kings 6:15-17.