Life together in Christ means commitment to the One who has already given his All.
Christians are indistinguishable from other people by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. . . . They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. . . . In short, what the soul is to the body the Christian is to the world. . . . God has appointed them to this great calling, and it would be wrong for them to decline it.
From the Epistle to Diognetus, ca. 124 A.D., quoted by John Pritchard, Living Jesus (SPCK, 2010) p. 52. (see also http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20010522_diogneto_en.html)
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his name. (Psalm 100:3)
Let us go forth into the world, to love and serve the Lord. Amen.
Between gathering and going forth, jubilant and joyful, comes our liturgy (literally “the work of the people”).
We gather to hear the Word of God and respond in creed, prayer, confession, forgiveness and peace. We offer our gifts at the holy table of the Eucharist. We offer our selves, our lives, our souls: the best and worst of who we are. We offer and hand over to God where we were, what we have been; and we pray that what we are becoming will be the best of who we are made to be. Reconciled in Christ we approach the holy table in his name. When we go forth from worship may we carry forward the good news of God in Christ, the news of salvation, redemption, justice, true repentance and therefore real forgiveness. Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit we go forth serving the world in his name. To God be the glory.
In work and worship, gathered and scattered, now and always, God is with us.
Jonathan Myers (bE.kON) writes: “Epiphany is a season of searching in some ways. The Christ child is both the Incarnation of God and the Epiphany of imagination, but it is the journey that might mark Epiphany for us this season. Stargazers saw something unique and followed their intuition to a baby in exile, cradled amid dung and hay. As we begin to gaze into our common life together, where are we going?”
This is a challenge to us:
How are we to live out the good news, now, in this season of the year, and of the life of our congregation and the community around us?
What sets us apart? What would people remember us by if we were to leave this community?
How do we best prepare the way for others to enter God’s courts with praise? How best can we send forth God’s people, refreshed, renewed, and ready, to love and serve him in the world?
Love - yes - the warm welcome, the young people and elders, newly among us or old friends. Beyond that - beyond the threshold of our faith - what do we do to embody God’s good news in the world?
These are challenges we face, as all congregations must do.
We are asking ourselves, at this season, five questions:
How are we equipping the saints to do their work in the world? Who are sick or hungry in our community in either body or soul and how shall we tend and nourish them? How are we treating each other, together as the Body of Christ? How are we continuing in the Apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers? How do we seek reconciliation with each other and God when we fail to live up to our promises?
We celebrate what we do well: how the Word is preached and heard, our sacramental life together. We visit shut-ins with the Eucharist and prayers, we support ministries that reach out to others.
We note that we have work to do on how we resolve conflict, and seek to make good small group fellowship even better.
And we look forward to a future with hope, building on the strengths and gifts of the past, and learning to (in the words of Barry Beisner): Focus on the mission; stay together; keep moving forward in the name of Christ.
Father of all holiness, guide our hearts to you. Keep us in the light of your truth; help us share that light in the world. In the name of Christ, light to the nations; our Savior and Lord. Amen. JRL+
For the Gospel Grapevine (February 2011) parish newsletter of St. Alban's, Edmonds, WA.