Alive on the Square 2022

Our worship fall series will discuss Christian Community in three parts. Our first series it’s called Beautiful Together. It’s about the blessings that community can bring. Or second part of the series will be called Communion of Sinners. I will talk about the hard parts of community. And our third part will be called Community Harvest which will be interactive and a goal setting round up to our whole fall series: Christian Community. 

 

Christian community is easily defined: a community gathered around the person and teachings of Jesus. Jesus set the bar really low for what constitutes this community when he said in Matt 18:20, “for where two or three are gathered, I am in their midst.”

 

Jesus describes this community of being a city on the hill. Salt of the earth. We are to bring out the God flavors of life and to let our light shine (Matt 5:13-16).  And we are to love one another as Jesus loved us (John 15:12-13). 

 

Yet the many forms this community has taken through the years is astonishing. We have house churches and secret communities hiding from Romans and facing certain death. Then the grandeur of the church of the empire. Massive gothic cathedrals and quaint country churches. We have steeples and churches that look like malls. There is a church on every continent. Yet each tradition seems to value something at the expense of something else. Some communities are very strict as to who is allowed in, who gets access to the sacraments, how many sacraments there are, and then there’s us. 

 

What type of community we are trying to be as one that welcomes love and serves. United Church of Christ reputation is that we’re the church that takes anyone. That’s supposed to be a slam, but I think it is gospel. Like the late Christian author Rachel held Evans wrote, “I think gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of shares, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors and shouting welcome! ‘There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.’ This is not a kingdom of the worthy, this is a kingdom for the hungry.”

 

I also like how Derwin Grey thinks about this community. There’s a peace to it. A vertical peace with God and a horizontal peace with each other. Derwin studies the letters of Paul and how Paul instructs this new community of love and welcome. In the Letter to the Romans, Paul talks about how we’re members of one body and grace has a claim on us all. (Romans 12) In Galatians, Paul says that all categories of people don’t matter, for there are no Jew or gentile, male or female, slave or free: for all are one in Christ. (Gal 3:28). In Ephesians, he writes how Jesus is the head of this household that joins and unifies the body and it builds itself up in love (Eph 4:2-6). 

 

Yet community is hard, especially one based in love. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is to settle a church fight that broke out. They lost the message. They’re arguing. This is right in the first and second generation of church, not even 20 years after Jesus death and resurrection. Paul writes to remind them of their bond and love for each other and the amazing verses of chapter 13, usually read at weddings of love being patient, kind, it does not envy or boast or insist on its own way. Those verses were not written to a couple on their wedding day but to a church that lost the narrative. 

 

It’s good for us to remember the story we’re caught up in and we’re a part of. It’s good to remember what we are about and who and whose we are. We are Christ. We are the body and we are bound in covenant to spread love in the world. 

 

We are called to create community that works together to welcome the outcast, heal those who need it, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner. 

 

We are Co-creators to help build the realm of God on earth as it is in heaven. So today as the true part of the sermon, we will create some beauty together. Just as the children did, we will now at our mark to the art we’re creating together.

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