I have decided I do not like grade three math. I cannot remember if I did like it when I was in grade three, but I know I do not like it now. I did not think that math could change, and it probably has not, but something has changed. And it is not that I can not find the answers, my problem these days is figuring out the questions. Most nights I help my three boys with their homework. Some nights I am not much help to them, especially not in Grade three math!
Whether we like math or not, we recognize that it is one of the three R’s of school. And whether we think courses in all manner of topics are worthy of a school curricula or not, we tend to all agree that the three R’s should be there. This got me to thinking, might there be three R’s that are central for the Christian faith? I’ve come up with a number of R’s that you might find if you look at Christian churches in Canada. It would be an interesting exercise to pick out those that we would consider central to the Christian faith. So here’s the list to consider:
Relevance: Some Christians ask “how can we make churches relevant to our culture today?” while others chime in with “how can we make Christianity itself, and the gospel relevant to our culture today?”
Religion: Some experience Christianity as a very religious thing. They might say “Keep the rules and traditions and no one gets hurt.”
wRetched: (ok, I know it does not begin with an ‘r’, but neither does ‘writing’ or ‘arithmetic’!) “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 KJV
Righteousness: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” NIV Matthew 5:20
Rest: “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you.” Deuteronomy 5:12 NIV. And there is another kind of rest: It sometimes happens that having poured hours of research and work into a sermon, it has been of great benefit to someone by helping them get much needed shut-eye. Always wanting to be helpful!
Rescue: In light of recent newspaper articles on today’s youth abandoning the institutional church, (of course I’d like to chime in with a comment on the institutional church abandoning today’s youth), some are already asking “how can we rescue our churches from obscurity and closure?”
Rebellion: For some, Christianity exists to ensure conformity, keeping people from rebellion. Some of us would contend that Jesus calls us to rebellion, in fact that any youth in today’s society that is following Jesus is the true rebel of our day.
Rust: Some might say that this thing we call the Christian church is past its due date Others say otherwise! “ And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18 NIV
Regular: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT Of course I am also reminded about the day we got mixed up and served prune juice instead of grape juice for communion!
Wrath: “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.” Psalm 7:11 NIV
Reconciliation: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:10-11 NIV
Remembrance: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23b-24 NIV
The Real Jesus: Some contend that the ‘real’ Jesus was not the divine/human Jesus we read about in the New Testament, but a man and teacher whom the church later deified. Some of us contend that the ‘real’ Jesus is the Jesus we find in the New Testament. Furthermore, what we find in the New Testament is not the creation of a Jesus myth, but a real response to the Jesus who was, is, and is to come.
Resurrection: “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.” Matthew 28:6 NLT
Response: “Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:28-29 NIV
The Rest of the Story: There is much more yet to come, for past generations who have died, for future generations who have yet to live!
Royalty: “On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” Revelation 19:16 NLT
Relationship: Jesus says “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20 NIV
I’m not sure if we can settle on three R’s, but looking at the list, one thing I know for certain; Easter points the way to the most important R’s ever!