Its been a fair while since I’ve posted on the blog. Things have come up! Unexpectedly, I’ve been preaching more. So much has come up inside of me because of this process but mostly its been an eye-opening to see the astonishing amount of energy and focus that such a thing requires. And I’ve loved it.
Here are links to two sermons on Ephesians if anyone is interested.
Dwelling within these Ephesians words, for me, has everything to do with what we do at church. As we’ve asked questions on the nature of church within my own community, these words held open a door into a transforming way to enter community for me. If they hold a door open for you as well, bonus!
This little church I’ve found a home in is changing. As things tend to do. Leadership changes, name changes, identity changes rock communities and it takes a lot of maturity and letting go and listening to others to weather them. And it takes a choice to start to see community for what it is and what it is not. It is a group of humans, trying to live together. It is not a product for consumers to pay for. It is imperfect, because humans are imperfect. It is a visible expression of the presence of Jesus. It is diverse because the WHOLE of WHO God is is diverse. It is not a group of friends and people who all think the same (although it can have elements of that within it, of course) but if that is what you are aiming for, you will never grow into something whole. Something nice maybe–for the people who fit–but not whole. It is hard work to build cohesion through difference. Especially in a culture that idolizes ideology and “the latest, best idea!!!” over a recognition of each other’s messy, changing humanity. It will require a whole lot of listening and a whole lot of putting your own voice aside for awhile to let another’s come through. That’s painful sometimes. It takes a lot of time.
Church is an ongoing discovery, ongoing treasure. Growth is not measurable by numbers in church but in the movement towards health and wholeness of its parts. Health and wholeness of individuals, of relationships, of persons and a mysteriously present God. And it requires each person to contribute. When we strip away the bells and whistles, church community, for it to represent the Person of Christ and for it to feed its own sheep, must require each of us contribute. Leadership does not sustain community – it stewards it, but if there is someone waiting for community to be given to them, they will not experience it. Community always is sustained from an inner movement from in to out, not something from outside shaping in. We have bought a lie that we go to church to be given to. We go to church because we ARE. We ARE, by God capturing our hearts, a person who lives out a piece of God’s body in this world. We go to church to bring who we are. BEING is the essential truth of church as BEING is the essential truth about a God who says things like “I AM.”
And there will be times for rest, receiving and times for action and contributing. Like in a family there are times when members of that family are to be cared for, provided for, fed – but they do not exist to be fed by others and others don’t exist to feed them. They all exist to BE and to contribute their BEING. There are times for self care, and boundaries are necessary to any body. But the goal is always the WHOLE BEING, not the triumph of one part at the expense of the others.
There will not be church where there are programs for consuming and customers for appeasing. It might bring numbers, and I’d even say that it WILL bring numbers, but it will not bring church. It will not bloom into the living presence of the living Christ.
Community has way more to do with HOW than with WHAT. HOW do we do life together as opposed to WHAT we stand for as a group is what will bring transformation to groups, transformation that might actually stand up for something in the end, something like a whole humanity.
And not every community is the end for every person. There are times to move on, times to stay. Usually depending on where one is in their own cycle of healing and maturing, which is good and necessary and unavoidable.
Community is at once way smaller than we thought, way more ordinary than we thought and also way huger than we can imagine with a truth to it that will blow our minds with its pervasiveness, its comprehensiveness, its wholeness and witness to the work of God in the reconciling of this earth. It is at once all that even while it is simply eating together and constantly adding more chairs to the table.
This little church. A gift in the laundry pile of real life. A bunch of normal people with normal issues that are at once life-altering and tedious. There is nothing magical about a church community. But in so much as there is an intersection of our deepest, transcendent, best hopes with real, dirty, actual life, there is a power. A power that comes as a gift into that intentional space. A power given to us to know love and keep after it even when it defies measuring. A treasure in jars of clay indeed. We’ve been sitting with words around community in this summer season and will continue to do so.
If you want to join in examining, contemplating, sitting with community, you are so welcome. I will post quotes on community for reflection over the summer, ideas and experiences that challenge me and make me move. And hopefully you have a real live place and real live people that you can put these words into action within. And if you are looking, you are always, ALWAYS welcome on The Road.