Our church community took our first retreat last month. Overall, I learned that community is messy. We are just a bunch of messed up people trying to remedy our lives, and in the midst of it, learning that Christ is our only healer. There were some moments of intense sadness, grace and joy over the weekend. I learned as well that my voice is important for this group to hear. We as individuals can bring something to the community that no one else can. I was made unique and therefore have so much to offer as well as receive from others. What I most want to share with you, is what we as a community have chosen to identify ourselves as and in what direction we are choosing to go. Craig identified four identities that our group is called to be through the Scriptures.
First, we are called to be a spiritual family. We are sons and daughters of the King and heirs with Christ. We are told in John 13 to “love one another as Christ loves us.” And in Romans 13 we are reminded that “love is the fulfillment of the Law.” If we are self seeking and unable to forgive others, we are not willing to bring anything into relationship with others. Love was created to be generous and lived out. That’s what God intended. We learned that our actions affirm other’s identity. What we do and say to others represents how we feel about them and ultimately how we see God’s creation. Setting aside our own desires for those around us, building each other up in love and truth, that is a true spiritual family.
Second, we are called to be students. Learners and disciples of Christ. We learned that the early church disciples were not known as Christians, but rather as learners of “the Way”. In that day, you were known by your rabbi, known as a representative of him. In John 15 we read that the disciples were called to three things: to bear much fruit, to glorify God and to remain in Him. We were asked to think about how our community can live out being students and followers of Christ with diligence. To be students of our Rabbi we need to think and act as would, right? To first submit ourselves to the lifelong journey of following Him. Then, seeking beauty through God’s perspective, not the worlds; accepting where others are at in their journey and be encouraging to them.
Third, we are called to be servants. Jesus showed the full extent of his love by serving and washing the disciple’s feet. We discussed what truth Jesus knew that allowed him to serve: he was aware of his identity. He knew he came from God and was going back to God. This time was just the “in between” yet it still very much mattered. That was incredibly important for me to hear. We talked about practical ways that our community could serve each other and the greater community of Prague by acting out of our identity in Christ.
Lastly, we are called to be sent ones. Remember when Jesus called the disciples to multiple and bear much fruit? God sends people- Abraham, Moses, John, and various other prophets to speak truth and prepare the way for the ultimate sent one, Jesus. Jesus left the trinity to take on limitations of humanity in order to give freedom and reconcile man. God now sends us, his modern day followers to speak truth and prepare others for Christ’s returning again. The reasons behind Christ being sent are:
to create, to save, to serve, to expand, to inhabit, to fulfill, to redeem, to make himself known, to stop oppression, to bring justice.
Second Corinthians talks about the ministry of reconciliation. God is in the business of reconciling. To reconcile something means to be made right; to restore. To bring unity between nations and individuals. God is restoring what he originally perfectly created. We messed up and God is redeeming. Something has to be broken in order for it to be restored. It is important that we understand our own reconciliation with God in order to share with others. The early prophets were sent away from security, communication with God, unequipped and not fully resourced. They were expected to sacrifice everything for a simple, clear call from God, and each time their expectations were met beyond their wildest dreams. Craig talked about God always multiplying what he creates and Jesus becoming flesh to engage in humanity before redeeming it. Jesus was never accused of being religious; he was accused of hanging out with prostitutes and thieves. We are called to enter into people’s lives- through the joy AND pain. We are called out to the nations to help bring back God’s children to Him. We are called to be in the business of reconciliation. That is the ministry I long to be in.
As you can see, the time away with this community gave me much truth to think about. I am praying for God to restore me in new ways and help me to learn how to follow Him so closely that I can’t help imitate Him. God has truly blessed me through this community.