I wrote this as a devotion for Thursday, June 25, and I thought it bears repeating here for all to read.
Throughout this Covid pandemic and lockdown, when churches closed their doors, we were assured that it was necessary and I’m sure that for a while it was. Then, weeks later, when many of us began to question the wisdom of the lockdown, and the ever changing conclusions taken from the prevailing science of the day, we began to work toward re-opening the church for community worship. Many of us were chastised for even thinking such a thing and were inundated on social media with so many reminders that the “church is not a building,” and the “Body of Christ” is not only found in community worship, as we were urged to blindly stay the course.
While I agree that one can find Christ anywhere, in the woods, on a fishing boat, or at a family outing, these social media statements and memes miss the point of community. As long as we can be safe, we NEED to worship together.
Christian community is sharing a common life in Christ. True Christian community moves us beyond the self-interested isolation of our private lives and beyond the superficial social contacts that pass for “Christian fellowship.” The biblical ideal of community challenges us instead to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God.
We know all too well that maturity takes time. We know less well that Christian maturity also takes time. It’s a process that is revealed in the “each other” language of the New Testament; Love one another, forgive each other, regard each other more highly than yourselves. Teach and correct each other, encourage each other, pray for each other, and bear each other’s burdens.
Be friends with one another, kind, compassionate and generous in hospitality. Serve one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. This list just scratches the surface, but it is enough to remind us that we need the community of faith to grow up in Christ.
Christian community is the place of our continuing conversion. Its goal is that, individually and together, we should become mature, no longer knocked around by the ways of the world, or clever religious hucksters, but are able to stand tall and straight, embodying the very “fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-16)
COMMUNITY IS A WAY TO SEE CHRIST IN OTHERS.
One of the most important ways the community helps us is by embodying Christ’s continuing presence on earth. When my brothers and sisters love and accept me, I feel Christ’s love too. When I confess my sin and they forgive me, I know that God forgives me too. When they pray for my brokenness, I know that they are sharing in the healing work of Jesus. In our dog-eat-dog, enemies-with their teeth-bared world, when we feel the crush of hostility and the crush of our own failures, to have our Christian community surround us with compassion and encouragement lightens our loads, strengthens us, and gives us the courage to keep on trying.
So when we were working to come back to community worship, we were not being selfish or short-sighted. We worked to create a safe place to worship in community, because we need to be Christ for and see Christ in one another.
Thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make this happen. I hope more and more of you will return soon.