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Communal Living

"And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." - Hebrews 10:25

We made our way through the 19th chapter of Genesis yesterday, exploring and trying to unearth a word of grace and promise amidst the rubble of Sodom and Gomorrah. Thankfully, grace and promise both were there, as we discovered in the adult Bible study. It came just as we were finishing up. I had just read verses 27 through 29 in the 19th chapter of Genesis, and was about to leave the class hanging - waiting as Sarah and Abraham once did - when I noticed Brian Martin had something to say.

He nailed it on the head. The hope comes in the fact that Abraham serves as a model of who Jesus becomes for us. Hidden in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah's waywardness and destruction is the promising note that "God remembered Abraham" and thereby rescued Lot. We have to let that word sit for a long time, but it will germinate and blossom into a glorious hope that we hang onto as Christians: God remembers not just Abraham's righteousness, but now remembers the even better righteousness and ministry of Jesus (Hebrews 8:6). So too are we saved.

I greatly appreciate and enjoy gathering with many of you to delve into God's Word. We've been about it now for just about three years - exploring everything from the to-the-point Gospel of Mark, to the eager and unruly young Christian community in Corinth, to a series of communal songs remembered and sung every year by the Israelites on their way "up to Jerusalem."

Such exploration of the Bible has always been central to the life of Christian communities, right up there with prayer and worship and caring for one another. But what also amazes me is just the simple fact that we are reading the Bible together ... as a community. As the pastor of Hebrews reminds us, gathering together as a body of believers is an essential and vital part of living the Christian life. I also believe gathering together as a community in this way makes something like radicals.

Yes, you read that correctly. I just called you a radical and dissident, equally as scandalous as all the thousands who have been gathering in church parks to protest big business and everything else under the sun. You may not be as visible or highly publicized, but every time you show up to church and participate in the life of this community, you are doing something that is becoming more and more scandalous and unheard of; you are giving yourself over to something larger than yourself, you are allowing your life to be shaped not just by your own personal interests, plans and distractions but also by the Holy Spirit as God works a holy thing out of the chaos of our group. You are allowing your faith to be formed by fellow brothers and sisters in Bible studies and conversations in the parking lot.

You are also resisting one of the great fallacies that has long been a part of American Christianity: that it is possible to "go it alone" when it comes to your faith.

It strikes me that almost everything that we do as a church is dependent upon us working together as a community. Paul was right. While Jesus Christ truly is the foundation and head of this church body, and while it is only by Christ's grace and direction that we can ever open our doors, Christ's body is also a communal body where every single one of you plays a role.

I do hope that you will continue to gather even over the next three weeks. I talked to Brian yesterday, and he is up for guiding you this coming Sunday. I don't know what to tell you beyond that, but I encourage you - if nothing else - to gather around the tables and to let your Bibles fall open to a chapter in Genesis.

I look forward to hearing about what you radicals will be up to when I get back :)



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