Category Archives: 2013-06

Pastor’s Pen for June, 2013

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. (John 17.11) It is clear from Jesus’ words above that he wants his disciples (including us) to be members of a unified community of faith.  The intimate relationship he enjoyed with God is to be the model for our own relationships with each other.  Discipleship is not to be something so internal and private that it can be practiced in isolation from others, but something that requires us to do it together.  Unlike golf, video games or solitaire, Christianity is a team sport that can’t be played alone.  Even with the ongoing help of the Holy Spirit at work in individual’s lives, he knew that his disciples would need each other for emotional support, for deepening and challenging each other’s faith, and for coordinating their efforts to express God’s love for others who were not part of their present group.  Ultimately, he knew that it would be the quality and vitality of their relationships with one another that would communicate the presence of God’s New Creation far more eloquently than all the words, rituals and good deeds that his disciples might use to express it.  Only a love that could survive conflicts, diversity, and hardships could satisfactorily convey the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated on the Cross. But being that kind of visibly unified community of faith is not an easy task.  Nowadays, many modern factors make it difficult to remain united – almost as difficult as the persecutions faced by the early church.  While many of us still get together each week to worship and strengthen the spiritual bonds between us, others are finding it to be a major challenge.  Illness, age and disabilities can isolate us from one another.  Many people now work on weekends.  Others find themselves torn between their loyalty to God and their responsibilities to aging parents or the needs of their children or grandchildren.  Travel also complicates our efforts to be a unified faith community.   Many of us are out of town for weeks or months at a time, and during the winter, weather conditions often make it hard to travel anywhere.  As a result, even though many still want to see local churches thrive and prosper, the obstacles to the kind of unity that Jesus desires for us seem overwhelming. Sometimes, I wonder if all of us who are trying to be Jesus’ faithful disciples should agree to prepare a short, one-page document in which we describe our current situation and how we are attempting to practice our faith in that setting.  It would describe what we see God doing in the world today and how we seek to join in that activity.  It would include the specific disciplines that he or she uses to keep their spiritual juices flowing.  Above all, it would describe the personal ministry to which she/he has been uniquely called and equipped by God.  For instance, a salesman might describe how he tries to enrich the lives of his clients, while an elderly home-bound woman might spend time praying for the church and writing notes of encouragement to those who those who may be struggling.  A father who coaches his son’s athletic team might tell of how he prays for his players, and seeks to treat them with Christ-like sensitivity.   Still another person might describe how visiting in nursing homes is an expression of Christ’s care for people who are marginalized.  The ministries would be as unique as each individual. These documents could then be collected and published, so that every member could know how every other Christian is trying to live out their faith, and gain new understanding of the particular challenges they face.  Perhaps this might help us to feel more connected to those whom we don’t often see.  It might encourage us to pray for the success of one another’s ministry.  It might help us to join forces and work together on projects of mutual concern.  But most of all, it would help us to feel less disconnected and alone in our efforts to be faithful disciples.  Although we still might be separated by time and space, we might feel more united in our love for Jesus. Would this work?  Would people participate?  I don’t know.  But if it moved us even one step closer toward being the kind of faith community Jesus wants us to be, then it just might be worth a try! Duane