Good Morning my friends of GM. I am back after two weeks in East Africa. It was a good trip sharing many adventures, but more importantly renewing friendships, and rejoicing in Christian fellowship with brothers and sisters I’ve met over the years. Strengthening the fellowship was a large part of the purpose for my going to Africa. Fellowship is not just having a cup of coffee with a neighbor, as pleasant as that can be. St. John expressed it this way. “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”(IJ.3) The bond that we share with our friends in Africa is one that has been established through the proclamation of the Gospel and includes God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son. The very next verse says that in this fellowship, “our joy is made complete.” This is something beyond anything mere human friendship can provide. It is a bond centered in Jesus Christ, and one open to all who have faith in Him.
We are very much in a cyber world. Even with all the communication it can be very impersonal without real face to face contact. I mentioned yesterday about my trip to the bank and conversations with people there. Those casual contacts are important in a world that tends to depersonalize and dehumanize people. How many electronic voices have you heard when calling some organization? Many people in the service industries, like post offices restaurants, grocery stores, and so on, wear name tags. I’ve made it a habit to greet or thank the person by using their name. In repeated contacts it has opened up other opportunities. I’ve prayed with Dean who tuned our piano. I discussed our faith with George, my barber, and told him I would pray for him. God made us for fellowship with one another and with Himself. 140 character Tweets, and text messages, even with those little emojis, are not fellowship. The cyber world can be useful, but it must not destroy what God has give for our good.
What does it mean to be a community of believers? Scripture speaks of being one body in Jesus Christ. As we all grow closer to Jesus we also grow closer to one another, and in so doing we support one another. We are praying for a number of individuals with specific needs. We, along with many others, have become one with these brothers and sisters asking the Lord for His touch in their lives. We are bound together with them regardless of distance or frequency of contact. Prayer as well as personal contacts and material help unites us. This is what it means to be one body in Christ. All are necessary. If one hurts all share the pain. If one is joyful, all rejoice together. We are not lone Christians, but one body with Jesus Christ as our head. Through joy and sorrow we stand together in Him.
Yesterday morning while waiting for a rehab appointment the TV was on in the waiting room. I have no idea why. It usually is more of an annoyance. However, in the midst of trying to read a paper I had brought with me I did catch a comment on one of the morning talk shows. Apparently they had been discussing the gains women had made in life. One woman made the remark, “I am living that life now. I really only do what I want to do, when I want to do it.” I thought, “how terrible, how totally self absorbed”. But I guess that is a commentary on our age. Life is so much more than that. Life is being a part of others, of giving, of caring. This doesn’t always feel good. It can be inconvenient at times. It can mean giving up, and sacrificing, but it is a life that has meaning and purpose. It is being needed and cared about by others. No one really needs that woman. It may sound good for a time, but the life that woman is describing is really a picture of hell. Jesus said to the crowd gathered around Him, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”(Luke 9:23-24)
What is the church? Is it a building in such and such a location? Is it a place where you go most Sundays to worship God? Is it a place you like to go to meet and work with some friends on worthy causes? The Apostle Paul would not identify with any of these. The church is a fellowship, a body of believers, to which God has called each one to come and be a part. It is a body of people who hold a common belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour. Some call the church a group of hypocrites, and it is. It is a body of people who recognize that they are broken and in need of forgiveness, and so are willing to be patient and forgiving of one another. It is a body of individual, you and me, who seek to put the need and feelings of others ahead of ourselves, who are more willing to listen than to speak, and who seek to handle conflicts in the grace God gives. It is a body that needs the least as well as the greatest. The Church is a body of people that can only exist as long as God, Himself, is at work among them and within each heart. With God’s presence it is a place of fellowship that gives a foretaste and hope for all that is yet to come in the Kingdom.
The opening line of Psalm 108 says, “My heart is satisfied, O God.” I think that is a wonderful expression. There are many things we would like to see happen in life. There are many things we plan and strive for. Motivational experts tell us it is necessary to set goals in life. All of that is fine, but above it all, our ultimate satisfaction is in our God. If nothing else ever comes to fruition, we can still be satisfied that our God has called us to be in fellowship with Himself. The priests of ancient Israel were not given an inheritance of land with the rest of the Israelites. God said to them, “I am your portion and your inheritance.”(Numbers18:20) God knows we need the basic things of life, and He provides them. It is fine to work toward the things we desire. But our God is our portion in this life, and in Him we can be satisfied.
Paul writing the the Galatian Church tells them to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”(6:2) This is what makes the fellowship of the Church such a blessing. Paul has said further to the Corinthians, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”(I C.12:26) I know there are times we are reluctant to share personal concerns, but we need to understand that we are not lone Christians. “You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”(vs.27) Those others in the congregation are your brothers and sisters. They are willing the support you with a listening ear, prayer, a word of counsel, even scrub a floor or paint a wall if that is needed. It is what you will do for others, and they will do it for you. It is what the word fellowship means. Far more than sharing a cup of coffee together, it is knowing that, in Christ, our lives interconnected, and what we desire the the strength and health of the whole body. Rejoice that you are one with all who name the name of Christ, and especially those in your local fellowship.
The opening line of Psalm 108 says, “My heart is satisfied, O God.” I think that is a wonderful expression. There are many things we would like to see happen in life. There are many things we plan for and strive for. Motivational experts tell us it is necessary to set goals in life. And all of that is fine, but above it all, our ultimate satisfaction is in our God. If nothing else ever comes to fruition, we can still be satisfied that our God has called us to be in fellowship with Himself, and given us a new life in Jesus Christ. The priests of ancient Israel were not given an inheritance of land with the rest of the Israelites. God said to them, “I am your portion and your inheritance.”(Numbers18:20) God knows we need the basic things of life, and He provides them. It is fine to work toward the things we desire. But our God is our portion in this life, and in Him we can be satisfied.