Friday, 13 March 2009

companionship in Your church.... walking together with You

August 15, 2008

Thinking about the early church – so excited, growing so fast, so serving each other and loving and sharing with each other – just thrilled with Jesus – and no time yet to have developed all kinds of “distinctives” that separate and make people feel “holier-than-thou” (though unfortunately that didn’t take long to start…) … the apostles just coming out of 3 years of nomadic lifestyle with Jesus, living without a roof over their head or expectation of where that day’s food would come from – just focused on Jesus (and His teachings- God’s Word) – and knowing Father through Him and experiencing what is possible when one is truly filled with the Holy Spirit and living in total obedience, submission, honor, love of and to Father…

August 21, 2008

Good morning from the peacefulness of my gazebo! Hubby graciously encouraged me to sleep out here when I mentioned that I would like to. I was hoping there would be lots of thunder and lightning – sadly, there wasn’t (or I slept through it, but I doubt that!). At one point, though, the wind suddenly whipped up and of course the gazebo covering was flapping furiously, and then the rain came tumbling down for a minute or two (or maybe longer – it put me to sleep!) Anyway, I slept well! Thank You, Lord!

I got up about 7:15 and have been reading Your Word in this peaceful place – though even so I have of course needed to ask You to help me focus and to ask You to bless the reading of Your Word to my heart and help me to grow in it! Of course!

I realized how much I love recording Your Names, Lord, and Your attributes and gifts – and how we are to respond to You, to them! As I wrote out today’s (Psalm 119:57-64 The lovingkindness of the LORD fills the earth. He is my portion. He teaches me His statutes. I keep His words, seek His favor and graciousness, follow His testimonies, keep His commandments, remember His love, and thank Him because of His righteousness. I seek companionship with those who fear Him and keep His precepts”) it not only reminded me of the importance of knowing and following Your Word, and of Your love and grace, but also that my chief companionship should be with those who fear You and keep Your precepts….

We cannot avoid interaction with those “in the world” of course, nor should we since we are to present You to them, live out Your love before them, but “companionship” in this context, I think, refers to more than just general acquaintance, doing daily tasks together, etc… it is looking at deeper friendship, a sharing of values, of the heart, a walking together with You – which can not happen with those who do not know You and/or have rejected You! In the PC society in which we live, that is no doubt an intolerant statement, and of course results in charges of exclusiveness, hierarchy, eliteness, etc – all of which are found constantly in the world – in very obvious and most often very painful ways – but are blindly denied or euphemized or excused for one reason or another!

At any rate, we DO need each other, the body of Christ, Your church – if You are at the center (otherwise, it isn’t Your church, no matter what we claim). And we need each other beyond simply acquaintance at a weekly meeting (in which we mainly sit/ stand and look at the back of each others’ heads and/or at the pastor/ worship team… There was a time in some “churches” where the choir would be at the rear of the “church” – with the congregation in between – facing forward to the “altar and/ or cross” where the people imagined You seated. There IS something to that… though of course always the danger of worshiping the “icon” (or even empty space) where we “place” you. (With the choir at the back, it seems to me that while they are still “leading” the singing to some degree, they are at the same time more “together” with the rest of the congregation.. and everyone is more focused on You than on the “worship team/ choir/ leader”…)

It does seem that as “fleshly” beings we feel driven to (or at least feel more safe and/or comfortable with) a god that we can physically see and touch in some manner – or at least place in some distinct location. I think we tend to regard the Old Testament Israelites with some scorn for so easily succumbing to following idols (or at least worshiping the serpent on the pole or even Gideon’s ephod..) – and yet don’t we often do that ourselves with the “holy places – temples – churches!” we erect and faithfully trek to, to “meet God” and “worship” –

when You have made it clear that we ourselves are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” when we have believed in You. And within those “holy places” don’t we even have a tendency to bow toward ‘holy of holies” and even “holy people,” somehow feeling, expecting to draw nearer to You – and yet, often, doesn’t our “worship” begin to focus on other things – on the ability of the “pastor” to “preach a wonderful sermon,” or on the ability of the “worship team/ leader” to sing/ play beautifully and give us a wonderful “feeling of God’s presence,” or on the “beauty” of the building itself or the artwork it contains, or the programming we use it for…

And yet – what happens when we “reject” the “established/ traditional” church building and ecclesiastical/ denominational structures? It seems so often that we instantly (even instinctively) seek a new structure – or even simply move the old structure into a new building, whether that be a storefront location or a theatre or a gymnasium or even a home. How difficult it seems for us to escape our traditions and structures (and buildings).

I have friends who consider themselves to be freed from traditional/ structural church. Some seem able to move among their friends who are Christians, and just enjoy companionship with Christ among them, wherever they meet in whatever context… is that the “solution”?

Others seem to just “stay at home” and read books or whatever. Others seem eventually (or quickly) to move onto other “established churches.” Around here, “house churches” don’t seem to develop. (I can kind of understand that – it seems to me scary to “start a house church” as an “alternative” – or even a supposedly total change – from “traditional church.” I remember starting “home schooling” which – without intending to – I almost instantly made into “school at home.” Fortunately, my kids objected loudly, pointing out that if we’re just going to do school at home, they might as well go back to school where there was a gymnasium, library, etc etc (not to mention all their friends)!

So I ended up “loosening the apron strings.” I didn’t have the courage to totally “unschool” but we did talk to a lot of people, and try out a lot of different things, and gradually began learning in a way that worked for us, that gave us joy, that allowed us to become, more and more, “life-long learners.” After awhile, it even allowed us to “take advantage” of some “system” things, like Learning Centers and even public schools to the degree to which they met our needs (for example, getting permission to take part in school sports teams) – but did not allow thoses systems to take over our lives or become our only or even main way of learning. We did develop some pretty deep “companionships” with fellow-learners – some of whom were home schoolers with kids about the same age; but interestingly, the most significant ones, the ones we developed the deepest relationships with, were people of all different ages, professions, lifestyles – but who had, as it turned out, two key things in common with us:

- they loved learning, thinking, exploring – saw it as a life-long adventure that involved every aspect of life, AND
- they had a real relationship with God as the center of their lives.
We didn’t “meet” with them on any kind of regular, “planned” schedule. But if we were involved in, or exploring, something we knew they’d find interesting, or that they could “teach” us (like designing and building our house!), we’d give them a call and get together to take that path for as long as it took, and wherever it took us. We’d also feel free to just “drop in” or have them “drop in” – and we often ate together and played together – and sometimes “went to church” or “took a class/ course” together – or whatever.

Note that I keep saying “we”- that’s because this whole learning/ education/ school thing became an adventure we were involved in together – in our own family – and with those we shared the adventure/ journey with.

Sometimes people would move away, or move on. Sometimes our paths just diverged as our interests changed – but our sense of companionship didn’t end. And we didn’t worry about it or try to control it.

Admittedly, it was a lot easier to start and carry on living in a small community where we lived relatively close to each other physically, and indeed were likely to “bump into” each other frequently at the store, along the road, at community events, or whatever. And because there wern't nearly as many clubs and lessons and events and such, life wasn’t so busy… but one thing I’ve been coming to realize recently is that “joining up” to all those things that keep us “busy” is also a choice we make (and yes, the very “busiest” parts of our lives can very easily become “the church”… and it seems to me that when “church” and “busy” start coming together frequently, we are in trouble – as we are when “busy” becomes an adjective for any aspect of our lives, replacing “joyful” or “meaningful” or “adventuresome” – or “God-centered” especially!

Perhaps we do have to do some “de-churching” if we really want “church” as in “relationship with Jesus and with His family” – just as our family had to “de-school” in order to really “school” as in “learning as in integral part of life.” So maybe it really is okay to “free range” for a time – to see how others are part of “church” and the many different ways “church” can be an integral part of our life – a life centered on our relationship with our Creator, Savior, God. And let Him guide us, step by step, moment by moment into life as part of His church, His body, with Him at the center. And yes, it will probably look a little different for each of us, and yes, it will probably “change” – at least on the surface level, change over time and places, as long as it continues to deepen on the foundational level of our relationship with God – with Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit – and with the others in the family!

I suppose in a way it’s like the difference between a journey (travel, vacation) in which every moment of every day is meticulously planned out in advance and carried out with a hired guide (“10 European cities in 7 days!”) versus a journey in which you head out with a backpack, a willingness to ask questions and spend time with the locals, a map, and a general goal (“explore Europe!”). Some folks love the security of the former; others long for the adventure and spontaneity of the latter. Which one, I wonder, really lets one get to “know Europe?”

And what kind of journey really allows us to “know Christ” and “be His church?” Thoughts?

(Wow! Thank You! That came out of one verse from Your Word?!?! – from You and me, exploring together, me getting to know You, my foundation, my center, the raison d’etre of my life’s journey – learning from You, walking with You, walking TO You… for eternity… Wow!)

(I sure don’t know or understand all the answers at all, but thank You for this little start!)

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