Two weeks ago, Steve preached a challenging sermon about kingdom relationships which challenged us to form meaningful relationships with others and then to be willing to forgive when our relationships break down.
The following Wednesday was our TRINITY Church AGM where we heard from the various ministers responsible for specific areas of church life and celebrated together the successes of the last year.
The combination of the two has made me think about church community.
‘Community’ is one of those ideas that we all want to engage with, that we all love as an idea, as a principle, but are often not so keen on in practice. We all know what a good community looks like; warm welcome, genuine interest in one another, learning together, growing together, loving and caring for one another. And there is no doubt that church is able to provide this to all its members. At the AGM we heard about the work done t
o create communities for our children and their families, and for our young people. This is by no means all, as is obvious after just a cursory glance at our website. There are groups for older people, for those with learning disabilities, fortnightly home groups, men’s groups, women’s groups, outreach groups such as Lewes Sings Gospel and many more. And all of these are incredible opportunities for our church to show love and care to one another and to those who do not otherwise come into contact with the Christian message or Christian people.
But why is community so important to us? Why do we yearn for the fellowship with others and the encouragement and support that being part of a community brings? The first thing I was struck by is that we don’t have to look very deeply into the Bible to see that the three part God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is in Himself a community. The divine Trinity creates together, supports one another and delights in being together. And we are the children of that God. We l
ong to be part of a community because we were built for it and so we long to experience it amongst our fellow human beings as well as with God.
And our God is very inclusive. In John 3:16, it states clearly that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. The invitation
is unconditional. It’s not a black tie event, where we might be turned away for dressing incorrectly; it’s not a fairground ride where we have to be the right height; it’s not dependent on finance or looks or education or racial background or even another’s measure of
‘goodness’. “Whoever” means everyone. Even me.
We need to show this inclusivity to everyone, no matter how hard it is. We’re not the interview panel who get to decide whether someone is the right person to join the team. God wants us to share his Son with everyone. And in doing so, to see his redemption at work in their lives. We are made for community and I think, as a church, we’re doing a pretty good job. But we can still do more, both collectively and individually. We never want someone to say that they came to church and didn’t feel welcome. And that means both those who venture in for the first time and those who come most weeks but struggle to fit in. After all, where would we be if the disciples had decided their group was good enough, big enough, and friendly enough just as it was?
We are a community open to everyone. This is often difficult but, we are able to look to the example Jesus set us when he was on earth and able to call on the Holy Spirit to help us when loving others is hard.
God’s invitation is for “whoever”. We need to make that our aim each day.
For further reading on the inclusive nature of God’s community, read Luke 10 v 25 – 37, John 5 v 24, Galatians 3 v 28.