top3 for September 18, 2020

Here are a few things I’ve read this week and have been thinking about.

#1

Some people are ready to get back in the flow of things and some simply are not. I am mindful and respectful of the differences in opinion. What I have come to realize is that when we moralize this particular decision it becomes divisive. When the word “should” shows up in our language we move from line in the sand to steel beam across the road. 

This has been a good lesson for me to apply to so many other areas. There are things that I believe deserve a steel beam across the road type of mentality. But others are better suited to remain lines in sand for clarity not conflict. To know which is which, that is our task as Christians being guided by the Holy Spirit who most often works through a community of people. 

Which brings me to the second of the top3.

#2

The most important task of the church is to be a community capable of hearing the story of God we find in the scripture and living in a manner that is faithful to that story.

Stanley Hauerwas from Jesus: The Story of the Kingdom

Faithfully hearing and acting is best done in a community. Hauerwas in other places argues that there is no faithful interpretation of Scripture except through a group of people formed by the story of the Kingdom of God.

It has been my experience that my most powerful times of study have not come in my closet alone but around a table with others. This is also exactly what Dietrich Bonhoeffer is getting at in Chapter 2 of Life Together as he describes the Day Together as a sharing of Scripture, hymns, prayer and the Table. It is these elements of our faith that draw us closer to God’s truth and make us more likely to not simply know them but live them.

It is true – we are better together.

Which brings me to the final of the top3.

#3

Christians in this Gospel (Matthew) are not so much called to be full and taste the whole range of human experience, as they are called to be real and to sacrifice those parts of their lives that diminish faith and love. 

Dale Bruner from his commentary on Matthew

Being part of a community takes sacrifice. Time. Energy. Control. And these are just the first three that come to mind. It is easier to do it on our own and to try and make it (faith) work by ourselves. But could our reluctance to engage in the mess and inefficiency of community be the very thing that diminished our faith and love? I believe Bruner is on to something.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Phil 2:12-13 (emphasis mine)

The Apostle Paul calls the people in Philippi to work out their salvation. What I have come to appreciate is that does not happen by ourselves but in a group of people. We are placed here by God for one another so iron can sharpen iron (Prov. 27:17).

If I have learned anything during Covid it is the vital importance of community. I hope that we aren’t waiting until things get back to ‘normal’ before engaging or re-engaging with a community of believers. We were put together for the trials as well as the triumphs. Neglecting community during trials is cutting ourselves off from the very help God provides. Okay…I’ll stop preaching.

Thanks for taking some time and reading today.

Have a great weekend!

Published by Todd Nelson

I'm one of the pastors at First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky where I've served for the past thirteen years. The sub-title of this blog is "Grace is no accident" which happens to be the defining reality of my life. God's grace (gift) is the reason we have breath in our lungs and hope in our hearts.

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