Thursday, January 2, 2014

Scattered Thoughts On Togetherness

It was a cold day in Minnesota--a cold day in a long succession of cold days.  We had two days toward the end of last week where it was pretty warm out, but, other than that, I don't remember a colder first month of winter.  Many times I've said it has felt like January in December, and now January is here.

Cold weather keeps people indoors.  (Now there's a profound statement.)  To a certain extent it keeps people away from each other too.  If you have money you might go out and eat, if you have friends you might go to someone's home for fun, but there are many days when its below zero that people just like to stay home.  And that means people don't get together much, not even for "church."

(I talked with my aunt a bit ago on the phone and she said lots of people have the flu in the building where she and my uncle live.  That's something else that keeps people apart.)

Anyway, this all comes to mind because of what we've been studying together
  1. on Sundays at 9 (on the book of Acts) and
  2. every other Saturday morning in the "Church Study Group" - see near the end of my Dec. 27 post for an invite [click here]
and because of some things I've heard the Lord saying to me for a long time about God's design and desire that people spend time together in ways that honor Him.

I could write about this for a long time.
If I were to write, I wouldn't say much about "coming to church" in the sense that most Christians think about it, because, for most of us, being "at church" is less about being together and more about
  • learning (from the sermon) or 
  • worshiping (something that can be done anywhere) or, sadly,
  • "being seen" (even by one's own children!) doing one's "religious duty."  
I'd like to write about
  • what seems to be taught by Jesus and by other Biblical authors when they speak about the power (is that the right word?) of "two or three" agreeing together, 
  • the way Jesus gathered and then spent time with his disciples in a lonely place (together alone!),
  • what Jesus said about his family being those who do his will (Matthew 12: 48-50),
  • Jesus' intense desire to eat the passover with his disciples and his heartfelt yearning to have them nearby as he sweated and battled in the Garden before his crucifixion and his tender re-claiming of all his living followers after his resurrection,
  • what the Holy Spirit did when He came down on Pentecost, gathering the believers into a close spiritual (and practical!) fellowship (repeated several times in Acts and alluded to in the Epistles), and,
  • the many times that the physical laying on of hands and praying "over" someone and anointing with oil are called for forgiveness and healing.  There's something sweet and spiritually strong that happens when we call on spiritually mature brothers and sisters for that sort of hands on prayer!
  • what Paul says often in his letters, about his yearning and longing to be with those to whom he writes, taking the time to name dear ones even when writing materials were scarce and the writing process was tedious.  
I'd look for the theological and spiritual basis of this intense push toward togetherness, something that may be found in
  • the unity and community of the triune God, 
  • the fact of human beings' creation in "our" (plural) image and
  • God's statement that it is "not good for the man to be alone" even though he was alone with God in a perfect way (Genesis 2), 
  • the powerful image of sexual, marital love as a symbol of the divine-human relationship,
  • the physical incarnation of Jesus into physical reality and his physical relationship with those he came to save,
  • the Biblical image of church as a BODY--profound and little understood--with ONE head (Jesus!).
And there is so much more...

I conclude from this that our personal "one on one" relationship with Jesus always needs to include others  (See First John chapter 4 etc.) -- not necessarily every minute, but frequently!  I see no sign that the "day by day" pattern of togetherness set by first first Holy Spirit gatherings at the end of Acts 2 were intended to be incidental or secondary.  They should be part of our "normal Christian life."

Someday, I'd like to really do this writing and teaching work.  It's needed because the experience of "church" that most of us have had throughout our lives doesn't even come close to what God desires for us.  The institution and typical organization of the "church" tends to keep people at arms' length just as much as it keeps them together.

At Crossroads, we have a chance to build togetherness in a way that will be much more real than what we've experienced in the past.  I don't know just how that will look, but as we spend time TOGETHER in Jesus' name, praying and studying and "doing life" together, we will learn.

In any case, don't let the cold keep you away from your church family, wherever it may be.  And, if you're a part of Crossroads, come out and gather at those times when there can be more personal attention given - Tuesday prayer, Wednesday High School JAM time, every other Saturday church study group and Sunday morning Bible study.  If none of those times work for you, please let me know and we'll set something else up.

"Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Don't give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24–25

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