Tag Archives: Christian community building

We can’t leave the ministry of reconciliation

reconciliation

It is so tempting to close ourselves off after deep wounding, after failed attempts to come together as people of faith.  We might ask ourselves, “Why isn’t this working out?”  Still, we must believe that God is at work, that while we want to throw our hands up in despair, God’s hands are still in.  All in.

God has not pulled away.  God still believes that we can be reconciled, that we can pull off this fellowship.  Two feet in.  When we walk by faith, we don’t take any steps back.

Because our faith is not in us but in Christ and his bloody hands are still extended.  We don’t have the option of withdrawing as his cross is an open invitation and an ongoing reception.  It’s not over until Jesus gets a hold of the one that left all ninety- nine of us (Matthew 18.12).  Jesus is the gate so we must remain open… like the Lord’s Table (John 10.7, 9).

This is why the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion is so important.  Every month or each week, we are called to come back to the table– but not back to the drawing board.  All is not lost.  Still, “It is written…”

No matter what the newspapers print and despite all of our reporting on separations, splits, divisions and disagreements, there is still a report from the Lord.  Lean forward and listen out for it.  It won’t get as much attention.  God’s voice is still and small.  Still, we are called to “be still and know that God is God” (Psalm 46.10).

So we must keep our ears open, our eyes open, our hands open, our hearts open and our mouths open.  We must be ready to give and receive the blessing of belonging, to be reminded that we belong to and with each other, that we were all made for each other.  In the end, it will all, we will all come together.   Being reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, we are right where we need to be (Second Corinthians 5.18).

God’s still pulling it all together, still pulling us all together one heart string at a time.  Give it time because it is all in God’s time anyway.  God’s will be done.  All called and hearing the same command to love and hope and trust, we can’t leave the ministry of reconciliation.

 

Not even close


“The work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross was not only to bring us back into fellowship with God, but also into fellowship with one another.  Indeed, it cannot do one without the other.  If we have not been brought into vital fellowship with our brother, it is proof to that extent we have not been brought into vital fellowship with God.”

| Roy Hession

Daily news is breaking, dashing my soul against stone cold faces.  Hardened heart, I am not moved by the words on the screen.  Another day, another insult.  It means nothing now; there’s nothing to it.  Everybody can do it.  Leaders and followers, there’s no need to bother with truth or integrity or kindness.

Just let it rip!  My heart falls out.  My heart cries out.  Love!  I need a pick me up.

He lies about the caravan, that the threat is approaching us.  Instead, the danger is on the inside of us, closer than we want to admit.  Because it is easier to point the finger than to point out our prejudices, fears and ploys for power.  Bait and switch the subject.  Now, what were we talking about?  What are we talking about Christians when we call people ‘invaders’ of God’s earth?

Because where does God draw the line?  How do we know who’s in and who’s out?  I guess the plan of salvation is mere lip service.  You said it.  You’re saved; now, go away.

Saved but you can’t stay.  Please don’t move next door to me.  No, go back to where you belong though we are all God’s children.  We are family, limb- siblings, fellow members of the body of Christ.

We’re saved not from each other but ourselves.  Praise God!  We are saved but not protected from those people on earth, who don’t talk like us, who speak in other tongues.  And if we can’t say this while professing to be in relationship with God, then we are not even close.

In search of Christian community: What happened to our life together?

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This is not what I had in mind.  When I became a Christian, I though that I joined a family, that we all loved each other.  Have you ever tried to get all the Christians in a room?  I thought we were a body.  But, not just any body– Christ’s.  Far from his truth, we talk as if reconciliation is the hardest part of the Christian life.  I beg to differ.

Death, dying to self, is the most difficult thing we will ever have to do.  Here are the instructions Jesus left for us: “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16.24).  Jesus says that if we are traveling with him, then the only thing we need is the means by which we will die.  “Pick up a cross and let’s get going.”

Because we have some dying to do.  There should be little grave markers along the way.  “Here lies pride.”  “Arrogance, 1970-2018.”  “Jealousy, never satisfied.”

Coming to terms with who we are is the real “come to Jesus meeting.”  Two enter, one leaves.  “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3.30).

Still, there doesn’t seem to be much room for Jesus or his cross.  Sunday services become pageants and the building is another money- making machine.  I can’t wave and smile while being crushed.  Tonight, I am questioning Christian community.  Surely, this is not what Jesus had in mind.  Christ did not die for our divisions.

While each ministry context is different, with its own interests and challenges, our goal as believers is to create authentic community, to emphasize our commonality in Christ. But, we do not create commonality around our cultural traditions, our socially constructed identities and affinity groups.  Instead, we create community around the body of Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Life Together, “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ.  No Christian community is more or less than this. … Christian community is only this.  We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.”

For Bonhoeffer, membership and belonging are found in Christ.  And there is no Christian community apart from him.  His body is what brings us together.  There are no cultural middle-persons, no priestly barterers that can provide or prevent passage into Christ’s presence.   While multicultural/ intercultural churches are not the norm, it should be expected that persons from all walks of life can and do walk through the doors of the church.  And if they don’t, why not?

I thought that we were a Christian community.  When did we stop going from house to house?  Why don’t we share all things in common?   What happened to our life together?

Who is my neighbor?

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The early Church shared all things in common; but, the Church in North America remains stingy and divided, only willing to see our differences (Acts 2.44).  One community: in Christ.  One confession: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4.5).  Still, the divisions seem to intensify as the Bible is politicized and the people we have been called to serve are increasingly demonized. 

Questions like “What would Jesus do?” and “Who is my neighbor?” are harder to answer without starting an argument.  While Jesus’ story and subsequent record are clear, our explanations often are not.  It’s complicated by a national narrative that continues to keep its citizens in conflict.  But, living as Christ did and calls his disciples to doesn’t just lead us to church on Sunday mornings.

Instead, he leads us into places and among people we are called to love but whom the current administration of American government and its leaders prejudice as dangerous and a threat, who argue that their presence attacks and eats away at the very fabric of American life.  But, things seem to be unraveling.  It feels that we are hanging on by a thread and on the verge of chaos.

Chaos or community, these were the two options offered by civil rights leader and preacher, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As the nations rage and the kingdoms totter, every tribe is for themselves.  Moving farther apart, we know the answer to the questions.  We know what Jesus would do because of what Jesus has done.  And in a nation that prides itself on individualism and independence, we know how to love ourselves if no one else.  The problem lies in seeing our neighbor as ourselves.

Because this would require the acceptance that we are all neighbors, all tenants and not the owners of the earth we pretend to be.

Called to Community

“13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”

| Ephesians 2.13-22, NRSV

American society would have us believe that we can do everything alone or that we need only “me and you three.” It tells us that if we have money, then we have the means. The gospel of capitalism says, “Money talks.” What more need be said then? Just show me the money.

But, what does this mindset mean for the gospel of Jesus Christ? He offers his body and invites us to be members—not of some well- oiled machine but a family. We are related to each other and it makes no difference how much we make or where we are from now. Because from the beginning, we came from God. This is the Genesis narrative: “In the beginning…”

But, so much has been said and done since then. Look at who we’ve become. We have gone too far it seems. It is hard to believe that we could ever get back to the beginning.  Still, Jesus says, “Follow me.” However, his footsteps strangely mimic our own. Not surprisingly then, we arrive in places for which we have an itinerary, an activity schedule and a travel bag, places of comfort and ease, places ironically for only me and you three. Instead, his steps should lead us back to each other.

Lord, give us ears to hear what the Spirit of the Lord is saying and eyes to see that Christianity is not a global organization based in America with international offices. Missionaries are not mere representatives, seeking to mold souls to meet quota. No, this is Christianity commercialized. It is another gospel that works with our coupons and holidays.

But, this is not what Jesus came to earth for and certainly not what we are called to live into. He did not come to earth and live among us so that we could continue to live apart. While each of us has a personal relationship with God, God did not make side deals with each culture. No, the promise is the same for us all: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4.5).

God creates us whole. We divide each other up into fractions. We take sides and become factions. Let us come together—not just on Sunday mornings but in body. Only a few of the letters of the New Testament were written to individuals and for good reason. Because we are called to community from the Communal God: Father, Son and Spirit.

So then,

Let us read God’s word together.
Let us sing God’s praises together.
Let us pray God’s promises together.
Let us care for God’s people together.
Let us share in the fellowship of God’s Spirit, one holy community together.
Amen.