Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
There is a tension in me I pray will not dissipate, and it has its roots in this verse. It has to do with my desire that others might see the goodness of God. My strain has to do with the fact that men seem to carry on nicely without giving God a second thought. You might ask, “What do you care about their attitude toward God?” My answer: the scriptures have equipped me with a vision that places these people in great peril. I am not at ease with this, and I pray that I never shall be. But what am I supposed to do with this tension?
This evening will give me some release. Today is Valentines Day, but the Cummins use it as an excuse to gather our family in Christ around us. Our community of friends (which we think of as the Church) includes siblings from a dozen different denominations. It probably won’t catch on, but I would like to reclaim this occasion as Bride of Christ Day—a day where we acknowledge that we, who have been joined one-to-another in Christ, are the same community that was birthed in Acts 2. As a steward of God’s grace I would like for our gathering to convey to all the right personalities that the Church is neither a physical location nor an event. The Church is a family of holy and blameless children who are making their way together through this life as a bold statement of who God is and what he is like. This remains the kingdom mission of the original church. Paul put in nicely:
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose, which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Ephesians 3:8-12
Daneille and I came to Christ in the awakening known as The Jesus Movement. Our earliest days as a married couple were lived in a community of believers who held many of their earthly goods in common. We did not own a building. We did not have a pastor, per se. (However, even though they were not crowned with that title or compensated for their gifting, there were many pastors among us.) These believers were the spiritual aunts and uncles to our children. We educated our kids together and chose to work along side each other in a handful of vocations. Our gatherings often included teaching, but they almost always incorporated food and music. For us, church was never an institution. It was always family.
That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. John 17:21
If the church is to ever live out the unity Jesus has called her to, she will have to reclaim and celebrate the irreducible minimums of New Testament life. Luke nailed four of them in one verse: “They all gave full attention to; 1) the teaching of the apostles and to; 2) the common life, to; 3) the breaking of bread and; 4) the prayers” (Acts 2:42 N.T. Wright’s “For Everyone” Translation).
This evening, much like the communion we read of in Corinthians, believers will gather in Jesus’ name. We will share a nice meal, wine, conversation, and a concert with Bob Bennett, whom I have dubbed the Troubadour Laureate of the Jesus Movement. As blameless children, we will innocently and boldly flaunt our liberty to all the spiritual principalities and powers that oppose Christ’s Kingdom—as well as to all the earthly institutions that want to promote His Kingdom.
Father, be gracious to us for we ache for your rule. Make our souls be glad! For you, Lord, are good; You are ready to forgive and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call on you. Give ear, O Lord, to our prayer, and give heed to the voice of our supplications. For you are great and do wondrous deeds. You alone are God! Teach us your way, O Lord. We will walk in your truth. Unite our hearts to love and fear your name. We will give thanks to you with all our hearts and will glorify your name. Amen.