Someone recently sent me some photos of Redeemer services at 111 E. 87th Street during 1989-90, the first years of our church’s life in New York. It put me in mind of the hundreds of people who during those first years poured their hearts and resources into the ministry. A surprising number of people in those photos are still here, having faithfully planted, watered, and nurtured Redeemer from a tiny sapling into a great, spreading tree.
I am equally amazed and grateful for the Redeemer-of-the-present. In the past several months the leadership and congregation have enthusiastically embraced a bold new plan for ‘re-planting’ Redeemer as a movement. Also, in the middle of the worst economic environment in half a century, you have joyfully committed millions of dollars to see that vision accomplished. When my family moved here twenty years ago to begin the ministry, we had dreams. Some were more optimistic than others, but the reality has outstripped our wildest imaginations a hundred-fold. At this Christmas season, I want to thank all those brothers and sisters who made the Redeemer of the past a success, and now those who are carrying out the vision so remarkably in the present.
Having given credit where it is due, we must not end on a note of self-congratulation. In Amos 3:2, God says to his people: “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth— therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” A startling sentence! God had given Israel unique benefits—he had visited and loved and empowered them as he had no one else. But because of that, he held them more accountable for their behavior. J.A. Motyer explains the verse this way: “Special privileges, special obligations; special grace, special holiness; special revelation, special scrutiny; special love, special responsiveness…the church of God cannot ever escape the perils of its uniqueness.” (J. Motyer, The Day of the Lion: The Message of Amos, IVP, p.68.)
Has Redeemer been protected from problems, well supplied with talents and resources, and empowered with God’s spirit, even when we didn’t seek it as passionately as we should have? Have we been unusually blessed as a church? I think so. Then we should be unusually holy! Are we? The richer God’s blessing, the more we should receive it with fear and trembling and self-examination.