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We argued last Sunday from John’s gospel how the integrity of any given church depends in no small degree upon the love its members have for one another. Jesus, himself, identifies mutual love as the clearest indicator of His ongoing presence and interest in the world. He therefore marks love as essential to a church’s ongoing relevance in a world desperate to know that love is in fact real, and that it transcends time and space.
Anything that crucial to the church’s existence though will never be rooted deeply without necessitating profound changes to how the community operates. Love, as anyone who’s practiced it knows, demands more than one could ever anticipate. Love’s very nature implies the reconfiguration of much we hold dear. If we want to love we have to expect to change–even in domains we may have assumed needed no tinkering. Let me share two domains of church life for which the love Jesus spoke of in John 13 demands nothing short of a potentially unsettling shift in our thinking and practice. Apple carts that may need to be upset, if you will.
Jason Helopoulos is a friend and former colleague who now serves as an associate pastor in Michigan. He recently wrote an article inviting families to some reflection on how they function. Modern life offers a superabundance of opportunities that families feel the tug, if not the obligation, to jam-pack their calendars. Helopoulos wonders aloud whether the surfeit of salutary activity has inadvertently lured families, like many institutions, to live only for themselves–to so value the nurture of those within that the well-furnished resource of strength, encouragement, and provision that is the family has become almost entirely unavailable to the wider circle in which it exists.
To be sure, the current configuration of the modern church community, with members less geographically-proximate than earlier generations, precludes, to some degree, the kind of engagement Jason encourages. But families everywhere can benefit from the inventory he puts before them. For wherever a family exists it can be an extension of the kingdom that, as the parable says, is like the tree in which the birds may take refuge (Mt 13:32ff).
That is surely true for the second shift in thinking the church is especially obliged to entertain of late. Julie Rodgers is a neighbor to the north, ministering to inner city youth for Mercy Street Ministries in W. Dallas. She’s also been attracted to those of the same gender for as long as she can remember, but holds to the conviction that both sexual intimacy and marriage are reserved for opposite-sex couples. (She writes often at a blog site I’ve mentioned in passing during Q&A entitled Spiritual Friendship.) Rodgers wrote recently about her experience of the natural human longing for connection. Just as infants fail to thrive without regular and significant interaction, so humans of every age and stage are bereft of something important, if intangible, if their lives go, as she puts it, “unwitnessed.” To be noticed and noted in the warp and woof of every day life does more for the person than one might assume.
Her desire for real community bears similarity to that of every heterosexual single; uncompanioned life of whatever sort presents real challenges which those with abiding friendships and spouses do not share (though the latter can attest to its own share of challenges, too.) But for the individual whose options for intimate friendship–and I deploy that word without its sexual denotations–are truncated not merely by circumstance but theological mandate, the search for that nurturing, “witnessed” life proves more challenging–an experience whose description is best left to those like Julie.
That’s why Rodgers asks, (just as Wesley Hill, whom we’ve referenced often, has) that the whole church recover its self-understanding as a deeply intertwined community in which “no one had a need” (Acts 2:42f), both material and relational.
Whether it’s an intentional community, best friends who make a covenant, families that open their homes to friends for a lifetime, or even a close-knit neighborhood where folks commit to one another and have open door policies: we need an avenue for intimacy in shared households. We need to be family. Christians continue to be surprised when gay people partner off with one another or pursue marriage, but we’ve yet to offer any sort of practical path for them to find family
What she’s advocating for may seem unprecedented, but I believe what she envisions is only the rediscovery of a more communal connection within the church which the modern trend toward insularity left behind. But given how often Jesus challenged His day’s cultural accretions, love in His name will often oblige a confrontation with trends that undermine the church’s communion.
Love will never leave us the same whether receiving or offering it.
- that Jesus’ call to love is necessarily a call to community
- that the call to community, for all the foreboding it might provoke, is essential to your pilgrimage
- and that the vitality and perseverance of a church (and the Church) rests squarely on the people living in true loving community
We’ll conclude the series this Sunday with a look at Hebrews 10:19-25. It’s the most pointed of the texts we’ve considered because it’s written into a setting where many were tempted to drift back into a former way of life, the challenges associated with faithfulness proving for many too threatening. The author warns those allured by an ostensibly easier path that what they’ll find will prove only arid wasteland compared to the abundant life offered in the One greater than the angels, than Moses, than the Priesthood. The sacrifice of Jesus is the basis for that new life, but it’s also a sign of a life yet to come–a life encapsulated in the phrase The Day (v. 25).
Those who claim Jesus as Lord are People of The Day. We’ll consider what that means and what that entails for life in community.
It’s been a long time coming, but we’re glad to finally publicize the Community Groups that plan to form soon. As you can see below, one group will form to coincide with the sermon series that begins August 17th. Two more women’s groups will form in October to study Elizabeth George’s book, Loving God with All your Mind.
So what now? Head to the new feature on our website, the Community Groups page, where we’ll keep the list below updated. There you can read what else we’ve said about the purpose and practice of these groups. Then consider joining a group. If you’d like more information about any of these groups or to see if there’s still room for more participants, click on the Group Facilitator’s name.
|Group Facilitators (CGFs)||Studying||Day/Time||Start/End||Location||Map|
|Larry & Cathy Wiseman||Galatians sermon series||Wednesdays, 7-9p||Aug 20–Nov 12||Bob & Sharon Hallissy|
303 Genoa Drive, Duncanville, TX 75116
|Women’s Group (Day) Contact Person: Karla Pollock||Elizabeth George’s Loving God with All Your Mind||TBD||October – May||TBD|
|Women’s Group (Evening) Contact Person: Karla Pollock||Elizabeth George’s Loving God with All Your Mind||TBD||October – May||TBD|
Fall Semester starts soon. Repeating last week’s announcement, we’d love for many of you to be present to our undergraduates and graduate students. Here’s an invitation from the coordinator of the effort, Anita Swayne:
If you are a member or associate member, and have a child or grandchild in college we need their info. We would like to offer support and encouragement to them with notes, emails and care packages from time to time. Please give their information to Anita Swayne (email is [email protected]).
If you would like to sign up to support our students with notes of encouragement contact Anita and she’ll give more information.
In a few weeks when our students have started their first semester of this year we will ask for donations of small items to send care packages. More details to follow.
We’re gathering for our monthly time of church-wide prayer this Sunday night, 6-8p, at the Vandermeer’s, 415 Timberline Dr. Ask anyone who’s attended and they’ll tell you it’s both rest and work. Refreshment comes with voicing your heart to God while prayer is a real exertion of focus and entreaty. We hope you’ll all come. We’ll pray for many things–near and far, personal and global. If you can’t attend email us your prayer requests or grab a request card at the info table when you enter Sunday and drop it in the offering plate.
Among the needs you might pray for, consider these, too:
- for our integrity as a community known mostly for its love for one another, and for all who draw near
- for Diann Videan, recovering from a hospital stay for a heart condition
- for Olanda Gray (fiancee of Eddie Coley) in the loss of her brother in Greenville, TX
- for Kevin & Marisol Gladding and Calvin & Katie Pitts as they both prepare to welcome their first child later this year
- for the strife in places like Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq–including the Christians being swept out of Mosul
- for FBC and our neighboring churches
Coming in August