Faith, life, Uncategorized
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Why Church? {A Glimpse Into Community}

Anyone who’s been around the Sunday School circuit a season or two has been taught about the amazing birth of the Church in Acts 2.

We read Peter’s compelling sermon — oh yes, that same Peter who was constantly inserting a dusty, sandaled foot into his big mouth, who denied Christ and was nowhere to be seen when his Teacher was condemned by the Jewish council and handed over to Rome to be crucified — this Peter preached! 

There were maybe a hundred or so followers of The Way of Jesus, Jews who had chosen, despite all odds to continue to believe in the enigmatic teacher who came out of Nazareth and claimed to be the Son of God. These, along with thousands of other pilgrims, flooded Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, an ancient Jewish tradition. Peter preached, the remnant disciples prayed and the Holy Spirit arrived. Big Time.

And the Bible tells us that 3000 were added to their number that day. 

That tiny community of rag-tag Jesus Freaks became the size of a small town in just hours. Not only did they receive the power of the Holy Spirit, they received the transformative power of faith.

Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, given to those who choose to take the baby step of responding in belief to the message of Jesus Christ.

Those of us in this Christian community are perfectly aware of the skeptical reasons one shouldn’t believe in Jesus. We face these questions every day. Whenever we make moral choices, we base it on our belief in Jesus and then the secondary questions pipe in: Really? You’re going to deny yourself that because some ancient Jewish carpenter-turned-rabbi taught love, selflessness, humility, forgiveness, integrity, grace….etc., really? What does he know about the here and now and you? He’s dead. Can you really believe he’s alive? Why does he matter at all in this situation?

Yes, the stream of consciousness becomes a deluge of doubt, just because we are tempted to fudge on our insurance claim or  talk badly about our kid’s teacher. Belief alone isn’t enough. But when we believe…

God adds the faith, and keeps adding it, through the Holy Spirit. He takes our little bit of belief and boom! changes everything. 

See Ephesians 2:4-10

               But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 

                And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 

               For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 

               For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

When someone’s little bit of belief is met by God’s gift of faith, everything changes. People will ask you: Why are you different (even a little weird)? What happened?

The answer: God moved in.

The Holy Spirit comes in like pure oxygen and nothing is ever the same again. That’s why we remain, abide, continue to believe. That’s why, when it’s real, people really are changed. Something really does happen. It’s just incredibly hard to explain.

But if you believe with your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord…. {see Romans 10:10-13} you will be saved, from death, separation from God, hopelessness, even your own doubt.

Our belief is sustained by the gift of faith. If it were up to any of us, we’d give up. God knows this — that’s why he gives us faith.

We couldn’t be in this Christian community without the gift of faith given to us by the Holy Spirit. We couldn’t love God, love ourselves, love hard-to-love people without the gift of faith that grows and stretches us out into agape-lovers.

So in back in Jerusalem, the number of faith-filled, spirit-filled Jesus freaks grew so tremendously, so miraculously, that they became this vibrant community that shared and sang and ate and prayed together.

Here people who travelled from all over the middle east to worship in Jerusalem, who spoke different languages and dialects, many of whom knew nothing about Jesus Christ of Nazareth until the day Peter preached, here they all came together in this community of disparity and divine grace.

And it was so cool that none of them wanted to leave. They wanted to hear the stories the disciples shared, they soaked up prayer and praise like the dry desert soaks up rain, they feasted on agape.

This agape-love, this faith-life, this community was completely new, unlike anything anyone had known before.

'Sea of Galilee' photo (c) 2007, Chris Yunker - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Weeks before, the resurrected Jesus had pressed Peter with the question:

   Jesus – Do you love me?

Peter – Yes, I like you.

          Jesus – Then feed my sheep.

Three times on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, with the mist swirling and fresh fish frying in the pan, the morning sounds of birds and the lapping of the water on the rocks he asked: Do you love me?

                                                                                                     Then feed my sheep.

The day came, this day of pentecost, when Peter would understand what his merciful friend and savior meant. This was it. Love large with faith flourishing in the Spirit and watch God work miracles in the hearts of mankind. 

The world was starving for love, for forgiveness, for grace, for purpose: for community.

                                                                                                          Feed my sheep.

Peter, like us, had no ability to do it in his own strength. His belief in Jesus had got him as far as Caiphus’ courtyard and no further. Peter needed saving faith, the gift of the spirit, before he could really participate in sheep-feeding.

And this same faith birthed the community that has become the Church. As flawed by humanity as it is, the Church is just right: filled up with humans, just the way God want it.

And there’s room for more.

Church (not religion)–a messy, swelling, riotous, loving, flawed, forgiving, faith-filled group of people–was God’s idea. Faith is how he created it. And God knew that at just the right time, it would explode on the face of this dying planet because within the soul of every person is a tiny, teeny grain of belief; a knowing that there is more, a yearning for completion and love and soul-wrapping community.

It began in Jerusalem, as reported in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke, a doctor, a non-Jew, a second-generation Christian.

It continues in us today.

It is the community that I belong to: the community of Christ.

And honestly, it rocks.

linking up here to talk about “community”:

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4 Comments

    • Thank you, Floyd! You’re the best! I did check that blog and put it in my reader … and finally subscribed to yours. Now I don’t have to search theregoi whenever I think of you! Your posts can come to me! Yay!

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