Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christ plays in community

This has been by far the most difficult worship service I’ve ever planned. I’ve encountered obstacles of every kind, from every side, right down to the bare human fact that I decided I didn’t want to have anything to do with the subject of this chapel. I'd designed a worship time around the very symbol of community and Christ's provision for it, and would not be able to use the symbol.
It struck me early this week, that of the three chapels in the series, why wouldn’t this be the most difficult?
In September, we celebrated the truth that Christ plays in Creation. He didn’t just create and back away and watch it all work, but he placed us in creation as a part of it, and it is here that he has chosen to allow us to encounter him. He reveals himself here and he expects us to receive his gift and begin to live abundantly here in creation.
In October, we celebrated the truth that Christ plays in history. It was in the very mess of history that he chose to become flesh and live with us. It is in that history mess that he has written and continues to tell his salvation story in our lives and in the lives of those all around us.
Though we all have the tendency to scorn creation and history as so much less than what God has in store for us, they are both his ideas and the work of his hands. Creation is fallen, and we are terrified of loving it, of seeing his glory in it. We are terrified of slipping and worshipping creation rather than the creator, so we swing way to the safe, shallow end of the pool and fail to encounter him in all the glory he has desired for us to see in him here and now.
History is wrecked. God lives outside of time. Here we are born to die. Suffer. Eek out existence, until we are brought into eternity. As if eternity has a beginning, and that beginning is precisely when time ends. We are certainly finite minds. And so we reject the abundant life Jesus made possible and bide our time until what we think we understand comes about.
So though we still get confused about creation and history, at least they are in the hands of the creator, subject to his sovereign design. And if pressed, we can find it in ourselves to find him working there. His beauty reflected in the work of his hands, and his story being written in time.
Community is a different story altogether. Here is where he desires to play so intensely that he prays about it. He commands it among his followers. He models it in everything he said and did on the last night of his incarnate life, and he gets up from the basin, and up from the table where he’s been serving and begins to pray to the Father that we too, would be in community as He is in community with the Father and that we would be in community with them as well.
Of all Jesus’ wishes and commands and lifestyle modeling, this is the one that we most consistently get wrong. This is the context into which Jesus gathered his followers, into which he is building his church. It is the context in which he desires to care for the downcast, the imprisoned, the orphaned, widowed, marginalized, forgotten, hungry, lost.
He created. He invented history. He is sovereign in both. But SO much of the success of community has been left to us.
He told us that where two or more are gathered in his name, he will be in their midst. But there is the kicker, so often we can’t figure out what it means to gather in his name. A soft, whispering Spirit is sent to comfort us so that we can be a comfort, but we so often ignore the voice. We don a muffler against the breeze of conviction and comfort, and end up lonely in a crowd of lonely people. It would appear that community, where we should have strength in numbers, is one of the best bets that Satan has to thwart God’s love and desires in his people.
I will fight with everything I can muster.
Pax, in Nomine Domine.