Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Jake here. As we approach many new things this fall, it’s a sweet joy to see the number of groups and mentoring relationships growing in our community. And let me tell you, if you’re tired of hearing us talk about these things, you’re going to need to get some earplugs. There is nothing — I mean nothing — more important in our church today than building relationships that reflect the nature of God. We must celebrate in what God is doing and persist in this awesome call.
This is more than just standing in worship together or attending Sunday school class together. This is more than learning to be nice to each other. This is even more than having dinner together, studying the Bible together, or becoming close friends through mutual interests and hobbies. This is serving Christ by serving one another. This is opening ourselves to Christ by opening ourselves to one another. This is being a disciple of Christ by discipling one another. This is knowing Christ by knowing one another. This is loving Christ by loving one another. This is relying on Christ by relying on one another. This is experiencing Christ’s forgiveness by forgiving one another. This is hearing the voice of Christ by being his voice to each other.
If I haven’t made it clear yet, then allow me to say it more explicitly, and (I acknowledge) possibly more offensively. Through our relationships with other Christians, we are formed into the image of Christ. Only in each other can we abide in him, and only in him can we abide in each other. Apart from these relationships, I would argue, we will never be more than (to steal words from John Wesley) almost Christian. For “the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Cor 13:21, ESV) For how can Christ be our head if we are not a part of his body?
So to those of you who are building up the body of Christ, I salute you. I pray for you to have an ever-increasing amount of strength, joy, wisdom, and love, and that you receive in return even more than you give. I also pray that your relationships with each other are always bearing fruit, and that you desire nothing less than perfect and holy love, in yourself and those you care about. Consider asking the Spirit this week how God might want to stir things up in your relationships.
And to those of you who are, in some degree, “apart” from the body, I urge you to find true Christian community. This can be done formally in many ways throughout Schweitzer (see here: https://sumc.co/discipleship/), but one way that you can begin immediately and informally is this: Reach out to someone of great faith who you respect. Ask them to grab coffee or lunch, just once, and see what happens. And if past relationships have failed, don’t give up. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9, ESV)
May God bless our communities with all that we need to truly be the church. Amen.