The following are some of my notes from The Gathering Church on 07/26/2009.
What We Want to Be About (lifted and abbreviated from churchinchapehill.com): extravagant grace of God which transforms, love people incredibly well, serving people at their point of need, and by creating a safe environment where hospitality, love, and belonging are available to all, encounter God, demonstrating and sharing the message of grace with those who feel far from God.
It is with these in aims in mind that we check against, sift, refine, and seek further understanding on our mission as a community of faith.
All summer we’ve discussed Medium & Message, Practice & Purpose, especially as we try to figure out the shapes and feels of this church body (when and where to meet, what’s the next step?) Tonight we’re not trying to innovate or tread new ground, but rather to be reminded of our message, that our medium may best suit it. That the purpose of our gathering be contained by our practice the way proper wineskins contain wine.
As we flip through the several “gathering passages” in the Gospel of Luke we ask ourselvesWhy do people come to Christ?
What happens when people gather/interact with Christ?
How do they leave/what is the result?
Lk 5:24-26 Jesus heals the paralytic
"I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home." And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, "We have seen extraordinary things today."
Lk 7:13-17 Jesus raises a widow’s son
And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!" And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
Lk 13:11-13 Jesus straightens a crippled woman (disabling spirit)
And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your disability." And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.
FREES up & Gives STRAIGHTNESS.
Lk 18:41-43 Jesus gives sight to the blind beggar
He said, "Lord, let me recover my sight." And Jesus said to him, "Recover your sight; your faith has made you well." And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Notice the movement. This motion, this narrative, answers our questions. Why do people come to Christ? What happens when people gather/interact with Christ? How do they leave/what is the result?
PUT SIMPLY: People gather to Jesus with brokenness, ailments, death, blindness, disabled. Their focus is inward, their needs are disabling, we are reminded that the woman in Luke 13 “could not straighten herself up.” Sounds familiar. People come or in some cases are carried or led to Jesus, because located in Jesus is an epicenter of healing, a hub of wholeness. Once they encounter and interact with Jesus. They leave changed. They leave whole.
From frozen and still to moving and able.
From dead to alive.
From bent to straight.
From blinded to illumined.
This is a crucial (as in cross/crossroads/no-turning-back) instance. Their whole predicament in this moment of encounter shifts from their brokenness, needs, ailments, lifelessness to Jesus and his glory. To God and the things God has done.
From inward to outward.
From dammed up tooverflowing.
From injury to doxology.
The epicenter of healing produces a fount of doxology. What a series of images for our PURPOSE! What a challenge for our PRACTICES!
As we allow our community to be shaped by this realization: each of our own stories of healing and glorification, what each of us has to offer to others in the way of healing and glorification let us now explore Jesus’ instructions for our prayer (found in Luke).
And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation."
So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins,
Greek (+ Lohfink Jesus & Community)
So he said, "When you pray, say,
Πάτερ, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου:
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου:
Sanctify your name,
let your kingdom come!
We wind up praying for God’s name to be sanctified, made holy, given its proper due, that God’s GLORY be revealed. Hallowed by your name. Sanctify your name. This enlists our image of font of doxology. That God’s name be sanctified. That the glory of God be evident in our community. What a prayer!
Secondly, we pray, let your kingdom come/set the world right. Here we seek the welfare of our neighbor, here we mend the fractures in ourselves, in each other, and in our world. Here there is healing and reconciliation. Here we may rightly love people, we may stand up for the widow and the orphan, we may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, seek justice, mercy, & humility. In short, by praying for God’s kingdom to come, for God to set the world right, we surrender ourselves and our communities to the tasks at hand.
NT WRIGHT: “Every Christian is called to work, at every level of life, for a world in which reconciliation and restoration are put into practice, and so to anticipate that day when God will indeed put everything to rights.”
Aren’t these requests suited to exactly what we saw when people gathered around Christ?: God’s revelation of glory, and God’s setting things right/bringing the kingdom.
Seeing that people come repeatedly to Christ as the connection to the Father and the epicenter of healing and making things right, we are shown what we are to be as a community. As we gather as the body of Christ we must be connections and epicenters of healing. We are able to call and to magnetize the broken world, to say as Sinner-Saints: “Come Ye Sinners, Come Ye Weary, Come Without Money and Buy.” As Jesus briskly put it, “I did not come for the well, but for the sick.” It is then that we must be a center of healing and making-right the way Jesus was throughout Luke’s gospel.
We gain inspiration from stories like the hunched woman, told to straighten up, from the man told to gather his mat and get up, from the dead that have been raised.
Lest we attempt to take on this impossible task by ourselves or forget how and why this just happened, we are shown a movement throughout Luke. In almost every instance, healing is followed by doxology. The healed cry out with a loud voice, jump up, run away, glorifying God, marveling at the revelation of God’s name. After we’ve both received and offered healing, after we’ve “tasted and seen” the goodness and mercy of God we are left with no choice but to exhibit praise, to aim our voices and point our lives to the Life-giver and Savior.
To borrow and riff on a phrase from Saint Irenaeus, “The glory of God is the church fully alive!” By that I mean, a church community, our community, celebrating and offering the new life & coming kingdom of God will exude the glory of God. It is then with the honest and beautiful rhythm of our songs tonight that we may start with a call and attraction for the broken in our midst and end by “praising God from whom all blessings flow!”