Thursday, April 16, 2009

So, Prove Me Wrong!

IN EVANGELICAL ECCLESIASTICAL PASTORAL CIRCLES, this coming Sunday (the Sunday after Easter) is lovingly referred to as "Slump Sunday." It's the day when churches suffer below normal church attendance, which often looks even more striking against the previous week's, above normal church attendance. The reason for this below normal gathering is often attached to the fact that so many in the church did more than usual the week before because of all the increase of religious activities during Holy Week, and now they believe they earned a Sunday off.

After over 30 years of pastoral work I have found the above phenomenon to be true. To be honest it's a little disheartening to us pastors. Sure, we can understand it, and it may even make some limited sense, but it still is troubling. It's not just having the CE attendees (Christmas/Easter) fail to return, but it's having the regular church family disappear as well.

When I was younger this whole event bothered me on a strictly statistical and numerical basis; numbers were down, giving was down, and this was not good. But now, it bothers me at a deeper level (though I miss the numbers as well). It troubles me that we can think that not gathering with the Community of Christ on a regular basis is somehow an option for us. Now, don't get your toga in a knot, for I know we all go other places and even pastor's take a week off from time to time. I know that, and I am OK with that, this issue is much more systemic than that.

Often, there is a sense that this "missing church" will some how not matter in the great scope of things. The danger is that this attitude can develop into a destructive practice. The truth is we were created for Community. As Christians are born anew into Christ's Body, the Church, and the church is not about doing, it is about being. Sadly, I know people who cannot miss a day without stopping at Starbucks. In fact, if they miss that opportunity they will make it the topic of conversation and complaint until they are able to return to their "temple" of choice, but these same people can miss a month of Sundays without the slightest affect upon their being.

Believe it or not, this brings us to our passage for this coming week, John 8:48-59.

In this encounter Jesus is once again defending who He is before the religious leaders. In John 8:58 He declares, "Before Abraham was, I AM." In that statement He made it definitively clear to His detractors that He was God, the "I AM." (Exodus 3:14) Yet, it should be noted that being the I AM did not mean He stood alone, but rather the greater reality was that He has dwelt for eternity in a Divine Community. What He did, what He said, was what He saw and heard from the Father. Jesus' very nature, that of being in community with God, had bearing upon all that He was and did. That community is imparted to us, His followers. It is what the Body of Christ is all about.

Jesus told His followers that apart from Him we could do nothing. (John 15:5) We, too often, personalize that statement. We make it all about Christ in me, but in reality it is much more. It is about community, and it is for the community, the Body of Christ. Apart from the Community of Christ, His Body, we can do nothing. Not just because the individual members of the local church hold some collective power that is transmitted to us, but because Christ lives in, and through, His Body. Remember the Word of God tells us we are not like a body, we are the Body. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

There is much to unpack in this passage this week, but let's not miss the truth about who Jesus is, how Jesus is, for we are called to be conformed to His image. (Romans 8:29) The community, gathering with it, is of vital importance to our journey in following Christ and in being made like Him by the Holy Spirit's work in us.

Will the Community of Christ gather this week with the numbers and enthusiasm, as it did the week previous? I doubt it! But to that I would love to say,

"Prove me wrong!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Pastor Randy,

I have a comment about Jesus’ words “Before Abraham was, I am.” See what you think.

Jesus said, “He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (John 14:24). I take this verse to imply that Jesus’ Father, God, sometimes was Himself speaking directly through the mouth of Jesus (“the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s”).

Jesus’ statement, therefore, “Before Abraham was, I am,” is certainly consistent with what God might have been speaking through Jesus (because God AM before anything AM!).

I believe Jesus had preexistence in God’s Mind as an idea of perfect Sonship before God spoke his Word (Spirit) into being human by saying, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” (Heb 1:5). At this point I believe the Word (which God spoke) “was made flesh,” or human, i.e. made Son, and “dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”

This is my perspective. It is logical for me to believe God knew what His speaking these words “You are my Son” would produce in his creation. I think Jesus was the exact image and likeness of God’s concept of a Son. So Jesus, as a perfect idea in God’s Mind also “was” before Abraham was.

I like your understanding of "Divine Community," and of our being in community with God. Your statement “We are not like a body, we are the Body” is a good inspiration to think on. Hope more than just-a-few people show up at FBC this "Sunday after Easter." Gary