(Reader 1) Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom,
help us to employ it in maintaining justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
(Reader 2) Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy; for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
(Reader 3) Dear God, our Father in heaven, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
(Reader 4) Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom: Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn, that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they may worship
you and serve you from generation to generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
(Reader 5) Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service
of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
(Bret) O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you, bring the nations into your fold, pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Before the beginning there was a community. God has always existed as a community of one. Don’t try to figure out the math - I suspect it just might be beyond us! What we should focus on, what we can grasp is that we are to understand God as relationship of love and sacrifice. It is not just an important value of God’s, but is actually a part of Who God Is!
And so we’ve talked a lot about community for the last several months. If something is seen to be a basic expression of the nature of God, it should definitely find its place as a core value for His Church, right? Even last week, as Chris used the image of an elaborate song to illustrate what the Church is, we saw community. We saw that the different instruments, melodies and chords were all meant to exist in harmony. None were complete on their own - each was a part of much larger story being told. That is the Church - an expression of the community of God in this place.
I wanted to start by saying something about community because we’re going to focus on another one of our core values today. And this core value loses its value if it is understood as something separate and apart from the others...
Before the beginning there was a community. This Community of what we refer to as Father, Son and Holy Spirit had a perfect relationship of mutual love and respect. This community was not incomplete, it was the definition of completion. It needed nothing, it lacked nothing.
However, the relationship of the community, being rooted and established in a deep indescribable love, felt compelled to Create. Isn’t that what love does? It creates more opportunity for love.
And so we have the episode of the Story we refer to as Creation. And God, the initiator of community went into this place. He walked in the Garden. He continued creating and he continued relating to his Creation.
Even through the episode of Crisis, when the creation rejected the relationship of love and community and instead launched into selfishness and isolation...still this God continued going to his Creation. He called a man named Abraham and made a Covenant with this man. God, the Relational One, blessed Abraham and promised that through Abraham all peoples on earth would be blessed...in fact all of creation would be blessed.
As the children of God continued year after year to cycle through seasons of Confusion and Clarity, this God, who exists in Community, kept going back to them over and over. He patiently taught and corrected and reminded and invited and urged and groaned and pleaded.
The Community could not stand to see Creation languishing in isolation.
And so the relationship with great leaders and the inspiration of great prophets continued until the God of Community decided that ambassadors would no longer suffice.
Once again, God would walk in the Garden.
And so once again the relational God of community sent himself - that is the nature of true community. And Jesus the Christ walked among us.
He gathered a community around him and continually invited the broken, overlooked, forgotten and oppressed to rejoice because the Community of God was at hand - it was here and they were invited in.
And when the time came for Jesus to return to the Father, the Spirit was sent. And the Spirit wasn’t sent to wander aimlessly - it came to form and cultivate community in the Church...which was to become the Body of Christ. And that Spirit called for the community of believers to be sent to the ends of the earth,
continuing the ministry that Jesus had dedicated himself to,
continuing the ministry that God had called Abraham to,
continuing the ministry that God initiated in the first Garden,
continuing the act that began in the beginning,
continuing the character of the one who was a Community before the Beginning.
The Community cannot be understood as something that exists somewhere off by itself. The nature of True Community is expansive. It is dynamic. That means that it is always growing and bringing into itself everything around it. The Community is not located somewhere behind closed doors.
The Community is not community if it is only focused on itself. That is something less than Community. There is no Community apart from Mission.
And there it is.
One of our stated core values is Mission. We make an unbelievably huge mistake if we see mission as something that some of us are called to “do.” While mission is certainly active, it is more than doing...it is an essential part of our “being.”
A house church that is invested in the lives of its participants - but has no vision for its neighbors is not yet community. It may be a great thing for those who participate, but it is something less than Community.
As a follower of Christ and a member of the Church we are called to Community - with one another and with God. And its pretty simple - to be in community with God means to be caught up in his Mission, because God is a missionary God...
God’s Mission is to restore relationship and expand Community. All the prayers we prayed a few minutes ago are prayers for God’s Mission - prayers for those who serve the poor, who battle injustice, who love and raise children, who invest in the lives of others, who teach, people who have a job...all these are contexts for Mission when they are approached intentionally.
They are not an excuse to say, “oh my work is mission so I’m doing what I’m supposed to.”
Okay, that’s great...how are you participating in Mission through your work? Are you intentionally living as though the Community of God were a reality in that place? Do you treat people with dignity and respect...even the ones you don’t like?
Front yard bbq’s, trips to Chick-Fil-A (or intended trips), an intentional visit to the park with your kids, serving as a counselor at Royal Family Kids Camp, giving up a Saturday so that Harvest House can be open for those who can’t come by during the week, sharing a meal with the poor - showing them dignity and friendship...these are all examples of participating in Mission and are an important part of experiencing Community.
The question is, what’s next for our Community? What new opportunities are there for loving this place and these people? It might be something big - like traveling to another city to wait in line for meal coupons to give to the hungry. It might be something small - putting an extra package of hotdogs in the shopping cart that you can share with a neighbor the next time you fire up the grill, or taking your kids to the park with an eye for the Mom who hasn’t had an adult conversation in days...
This isn’t merely about “doing” - its about being who we were created to be and experiencing life as God is restoring it to be.