06. March 2011
Life together. Κοινονια. Κοινονια is the word the New Testament uses to describe the Christian community. It is a fellowship, participating in what is in common, LIFE TOGETHER. It is our Lord’s mercy, testified to by his witnesses, that joins us together into a common body.
This is quite difficult to believe. Look around. We have people from many different ancestries, of different bloodlines. We share the same, common faith with Christians on every continent. We are part of the same family, participants in the same gifts. We have our LIFE TOGETHER.
Its unbelievable. Just like mercy and witness, our LIFE TOGETHER is contrary to our reason, our expectation, and our view of the world. We see black skin and we can’t imagine that we share in the same blood. We see other features and doubt we have a common ancestry. Clothing, hair, and even the way we carry each other differs. Yet, from the Scriptures, we are common. We are even brothers and sisters.
Our egocentrism often gets in the way. Your greed leads to a poor use of what God has so generously given you. Your wicked thoughts or commit the sinful deeds leech out into your daily life, infecting the rest of the day and the week. Your common flesh union in marriage is weakened through power grabs and pity parties. You carry shame and guilt through your daily walk like a terrible wooden cross.
Repent. Your life isn’t your own. It was given to you to be lived in community. It was given to serve the neighbor. It was given for your spouse and children. Your life was given to serve the Lord in all your callings in family, church, and world. You have been given a LIFE TOGETHER.
This LIFE TOGETHER is most obvious in the church. At its inception at Pentecost, Peter exhorted his hearers to repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). All told, some three thousand were baptized. These three thousand souls were joined together in Christ’s name and lived in fellowship. This was a new family, not by bloodline or circumcision, but with joined in the blood of Christ. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, [that is,] to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42).
Too often, we think of our fellowship in worldly terms. For some, church is a place to hang out with folks “like us.” We get together regularly because we’re friends or because we like each other’s company. The fellowship centers around the music we like to sing or the traditions we received from our parents. Maybe for you, church is best entertainment available on Sunday morning. Or maybe, you like the free donuts and coffee?
As our strategic planners helpfully pointed out, we have two kinds of fellowship. The real fellowship happens here, in the sanctuary, around Christ and his gifts. The forgiveness given in His holy Word, the blessed water, and the body given and blood poured out are what truly join us together. St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9) Our LIFE TOGETHER is in Christ, our brother and Lord.
The other fellowship, what we might call donut fellowship, around conversation, coffee, and cake, is secondary and a fruit or result of the fellowship of the Son. Because we have been joined to Christ in a LIFE TOGETHER, we share in each other’s joys and sufferings (Phil. 4:14; 1:7). Because we are brothers and sisters, we share with all in need, with prayer, and in service. Our goods, our wealth, our talents, and even our lives are given to each other for our mutual benefit.
LIFE TOGETHER means no one in church is alone. There is no distinction between white or black, German or Polish, rich or poor, generous or needy. Some have voices for singing, some have hands for work, some the gift of teaching, and others the time for prayer. We are many members of a common body. Therefore we each have a unique role but a common share in the inheritance of Christ. What joins us together is not treats, or service, or even history. Our fellowship is in Christ’s shed blood for our common and shared forgiveness.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus gives his third passion prediction. Already twice in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has told these disciples what he must do for their sake. Now, for a third and final time he tells them, “See we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”
The fellowship of the disciples is incomplete without the culmination of Christ’s death and resurrection. So the same, we grieve for a time as we travel through Lent towards the cross. But our shared travels do not end there. We share together in the blessings of Easter!
The Lord of life is the Lord of our fellowship. We understand these things. We know what was said and our eyes are open to understand. We know that the fellowship of the church is fellowship with Christ. We live with Christ and we suffer with him. We die with him and we will rise with him. We inherit heaven with Him and we will reign in glory with him. Our LIFE TOGETHER is in Christ and in our Lord’s common gifts of forgiveness.
We know what Christianity is all about. We know that the church is more than another club, community organization, or charitable foundation. The fellowship of the church is the fellowship of Jesus. It is the LIFE TOGETHER of the baptized in Christ, who hear Christ, and received Christ to eat and drink.
We rejoice in this LIFE TOGETHER. We give thanks for our LIFE TOGETHER. We seek others to join us in this LIFE TOGETHER. Our witness is to Christ’s mercy given in this fellowship. As St. John writes, “… that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
Rejoice dear Christians! You are Christ’s, purchased through his blood, joined to his death and resurrection, and coheirs of eternal life in heaven. Rejoice and share together in this gift! “It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps 100:3). Rejoice and share together in this fellowship now and into eternity.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church