Community - what am I in for, and what's in it for me?

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SUNDAY 18 MARCH 2018

We are in the season of Lent - the six weeks that lead up to Easter - traditionally this is a time of fasting, prayer, repentance - even now the idea of what are you giving up for Lent (chocolate, coffee, tv etc) which reminds us of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days, fasting despite temptation. 

It’s designed as a space where as we focus on the sacrifice of Jesus, we bring our hearts and lives before Jesus to ensure we are following wholeheartedly  - it’s a space for a WOF - to check the core parts of our life and faith are aligned.  To recognise our human tendency to selfishness and rebellion and to have our hearts ready for the reality of Easter - connecting with both the death and sacrifice of Jesus that we might be ready for the receiving of resurrection power.

In this space leading up to Easter we will explore what that means for us as a community, as a group called to follow Jesus together. 

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Today we move into the practices and priorities of who and how we build community together.

In the New Testament there are 94 times the phrase “one another” is used and 47 of them are instructions to the followers of Jesus about how to do life together.  It is well worth taking these one by one and unpacking them in context but for our purpose today here are some of the interesting groupings/weighting’s. Of these 47 references:

  • 14 are about Unity
    That's 30% about maintaining and growing in unit. That unity in diversity is where the power is, what we have to work on and where we experience the blessing of God.

  • 15 are about Love
    30% are the call to love - that agape, sacrificial moving towards those who aren’t like us and don’t like us. Love is the glue of community.

  • 7 are about Humility
    15% are about the underlying attitude/posture of humility - that our ability to build community relies on us taking the same attitude as Christ in our relationships with one another - humbling ourselves...

  • and the other 13 apply to different situations
    An overriding them of encouraging, building up, stimulating to good deeds, eating with one another

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But the reality is we can’t do all of this with everyone - there are overriding principles that apply to how we operate (we have an attitude of humility, we forgive, we speak well of each other).

However, there is are layers within which this community is built.  And there are appropriate expectations to have.  Sociologists & Jesus recognise this!  It is a basic human need to be known.  And when we experience that need being met it frees us and empowers us to make our best contribution.  Paul talks about this when he speaks of us as ones who are adopted into the family of God, with the immeasurable lavishing of God’s love and grace and freed from the sin and guilt which damages us to live a life of love - where we partner with God to bring the Kingdom here on earth.  That we are loved, liked and called on an incredible adventure.  Part of this is being placed in and building community.

As we unpack this today I’m hoping for us to see and recognise together what healthy and right expectations of community are.  Unmet expectations are one of the most destructive things on the planet - you see this in marriages, businesses, families and churches.  When we expect something and it goes unmet we get disappointed, hurt, bitter and grumpy!

Image Credit: 3D Movements LLC

Image Credit: 3D Movements LLC

We get into trouble when we define church/community in only one part.  We also get into trouble when we expect the wrong thing from the wrong bit. We are called to grow. You can’t now and definitely in the future won’t be able to know and be known by everyone - and we shouldn’t expect too.  That would limit what God can do through us. The reality is that as we grow the caring/pastoring and being known happens by the people you do life with - the people you mutually choose to both love and be loved by. 

This is the overriding call of the “one anothers” - to build and grow the dearest place on earth requires us to pursue unity, to love sacrificially, to have an attitude of humility, to pray for, bless, encourage and spur one another on.

Jesus loves and likes you and calls you on an incredible journey, and you can’t do it by yourself.  What is speaking to you today?