5th April, 2010
Welcome to ekklesia. Welcome to church. You are now a part of the ‘called out’. Having the same point of origin, dead in sin, you are now in the exceedingly better situation of the born again.
PART OF A COMMUNITY? Lloyd Harkness says the 'born again' moment ties a new Christian not only to Christ but the body of believers. PICTURE: © Nikada (www.istockphoto.com)
"Jesus did not conduct individual tutorials or solo discipleship courses. Likewise we are not an only child left to our own devices once we have been adopted into the family of God. The collective nouns, disciples and family, denote our new situation."
Welcome to the community of believers, to the band of Christians local, worldwide and in heaven. Welcome.
No-one hailed me in this way when I became a Christian but I have more than an inkling this was heaven’s resound.
That born again moment not only tied me to Christ with its resultant cross-carrying and following but it also connected me to others who had also bowed their knee to Jesus.
I was a part of The One: one family, one body, one flock, one temple, and one vine.
I was a part of The One With Many: many relatives, many biological entities, many sheep, many stones, and many branches.
We each have had our Matthew or John experience, a personal call to leave the tax booth, the fishing boat or whatever, but we also have found we were linked with all and sundry who were sitting at Jesus feet, following His example and doing His bidding. Jesus was building and still is building his church, and community is the mortar of the structure.
Jesus did not conduct individual tutorials or solo discipleship courses. Likewise we are not an only child left to our own devices once we have been adopted into the family of God. The collective nouns, disciples and family, denote our new situation.
And because we are part of a collective there are shared commitments, shared responsibilities, shared joys and an awareness of interdependence with a vital place for all.
This is what it means to be stones in the temple that is his church. If we disconnect, in varying degrees and ways, from the ekklesia, we move from being a fitted stone positioned by the carpenter’s hands to being raw materials, sitting on site but not yet part of the greater work the craftsman is building.
Jesus challenges us to love our neighbours as ourselves. We eat when we are hungry. We put a coat on when we are cold. We give attention to ourselves in a 100 different ways. Jesus challenges us to give an equal amount of thought to the ekklesia, firstly, and to those still in darkness. Intermittently rocking up to a service is not what Jesus had in mind when He connected us to Him and His followers. Even on the cross Jesus said "Mother, here is your son" and "John, here is your mother".
The business of being a community can be a mixed bag. To live it, to find joy in it, to exercise and grow in grace in it is often not as straight forward a matter as we would like. Discord, taking offense and petty jealousies are some of the interpersonal stuff the New Testament tells us we could be dealing with in being a community.
But oh, how wonderful it is when we do get along. What a godly outcome to disempower offense. When someone has failed you, when disappointment steps in, when you are let down and trust is eroded, but the love of Christ remains: oh, what a glorious outcome.
Christ’s love is consistent, eternal, penetrating, life infusing and effective, even in the midst of failure and sin. Jesus first loved us in our failure and sin and that love drew us into the ‘called out’ ekklesia. Only His love in us can hold it all together in the here and now of church community. The family, the body, the flock, the temple, the vine, have His DNA, His blood, His love.
As long as we are in this world, sin will continue to raise its head but if we remain linked to Jesus, worshipping together, then the family will be strong, the body healthy, the flock shepherded and expanding, the temple a holy habitat of God and the vine laden with the fruit of the Spirit.
This is not to suggest we can come into ‘the called out’ with a wide-eyed-hippie-commune-fantasy-notion that community will simply happen because we want it to. The church is a place where God deals with our brokenness and this realisation should dispel any notion the family of God will automatically get along with each other and always be Disneyland-nice.
In church there will be people we gravitate to and people we stand back from. In our eyes there will be the likeable and the annoying. Some people are our kind of people and some are not. This is the reality of the extended family. Not everyone around us is going to be exciting or inspirational so that we are continually abuzz. But if we maintain a witness to Christ and service under His Lordship: oh, what a Godly outcome.
Grace and love get a workout in church. Sweat of the brow work is required to build and maintain a living community. Jesus sweated drops of blood when exercising grace and love so we can expect a little hard yakka sweat too.
"Jesus chose 12 disciples from a cross section of society and had them walk live and breathe His life for three years. The first church started when 120 people were together in the one place and the Holy Spirit decided now was the time to move in their midst."
Jesus chose 12 disciples from a cross section of society and had them walk live and breathe His life for three years. The first church started when 120 people were together in the one place and the Holy Spirit decided now was the time to move in their midst.
Gatherings of ‘the called out’ will vary in size but the church is to remain a family where each person contributes to its welfare. Whether it is 50 or 500 in our local gathering Jesus asks us to be more then casual attendees. He instructs us to hang out together and encourage one another in the faith. In encouraging we need to heed the warning not to become all about the organisation or feel we have to be in everyone’s business solving their problems. We just have to walk together.
Like the 120 in the upper room we should expect to experience God in the ekklesia. We can also expect growth and refreshing in what can otherwise be an arid landscape. When we are focused on Christ and his will we can expect a generous Holy Spirit anointing. And it is that generous spirit and the scent of His presence which can then permeate our lives.
Blessing comes in the ekklesia and while brokenness is an aspect of community in the now there is coming an eternity of joy and stimulation and shared experience with God where we will be fully alive without the marring of sin.
Jesus wants to bind us together in One Faith and One baptism under His Lordship so that in serving Him we will also serve one another through proclaiming, encouraging and bearing with.
This is the ekklesia.
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