Life Together, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
In this life, I’ve found that people are a lot like bouncy balls. We spend all of our years bouncing through this life. We are born and bounce our way into our parent’s arms.
Then as toddlers we bounce around playrooms and playgrounds, we bounce into our parents arms when we get an “owie.” Then we bounce onto the school bus for the first day of school.
Before you know it, we bounce into the real world. We go off to college, the military, or a job. As we bounce along the streets of life, eventually we bounce our way right into some of the mud puddles of this life.
We bounce our way in and out of trouble and joy and many of us bounce our way through the doors of a church.
And then we bounce our way into God’s grace… coming to rest at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
When we come into the church we carry the burden of loneliness, the pain of disappointment, the wounds that others have inflicted on us, and weight of our own mistakes.
If we could see each other as we see ourselves, the church would look like the M.A.S.H. hospital unit, the 4077 from the old TV. show. We all wear the invisible scars of this life. The church is a holy hospital, not a social club for saints.
But just as none of us are without injury, none of us have to bounce through the battles of this life alone. The Christian life is life together; by faith, together with Christ, and in Christ we stand together, with one another.
This morning I want to consider what it means to bounce through this life. And more than that, let us examine what it means to bounce through this life together.
This life was never intended to be lived out flying solo, any more than it was intended to be lived out flying on auto pilot. The Christian life has always been, and is now, life together.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (ESV)
The story is told of a man who had bought his first television set back when they used an antenna, the big kind that had to be installed on the roof. The story goes that the man’s neighbors gathered one Saturday to help him and his wife put up the antenna.
Since they had only the simplest tools, they weren’t making much progress… until a man who was new on the block appeared with an elaborate tool box, with everything we needed to get the antenna up in record time.
As they stood around congratulating themselves on this piece of good luck, they asked their new neighbor what he made with such fancy tools. Looking at all of his new neighbors, he smiled and answered, “Friends, mostly.”
That’s what the life together is really all about isn’t it? It’s about bearing one another’s burdens and using our gifts together, for the betterment of one another.
Edward Young, the 18th century English poet once wrote, “A faithful friend is an image of God. A faithful friend is one of life’s greatest assets. A foe to God was ne’er true friend to man.”
The Christian life is a life together. But the greatest enemy to genuine Christian community is inauthentic, imaginary, or counterfeit Christian community.
Life together – genuine Christian community – is not merely an ideal, it can be a divine reality.
In his classic work, “Life Together” (page 26,27) Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it.
But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so whelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.”
Let us not be guilty of merely masquerading as Christians in community. Let us learn to live lives that are full of grace for one another.
Let us learn to love one another genuinely, the same way that Christ loves us… not based on the conditions of appearance, social status, even personality… but based solely on the intrinsic worth and value that we all have as children of God.
Since I’ve been in the ministry I have married lots of couples. I’ve been involved with them as they plan their weddings and I have heard from many of them that one of the most difficult parts of planning a wedding is preparing the guest list.
There are often difficult choices that have to be made when preparing the guest list. Who will you invite? There’s cousin sally which nobody likes any way.
Then there is Uncle Joe who can’t seem to stay away from the bar to save his life. We all still remember the seen that sister in law Lucille caused over the lack of nacho cheese at the buffet at the last family wedding!
You know, God also has a guest list. Revelation 19:9 says, “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.” (ESV)
God, in His sovereignty, has called us into a covenant relationship with Himself. He has chosen us before the foundations of the earth that we might be, in a sense, wed to God as members of the body of Christ.
Ephesians 5:25-27 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (ESV)
You see, we’ve been invited to a wedding of sorts. Only, we don’t get to make the guest list. God is the one who makes the guest list… not us.
Romans 8:28-30 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”(ESV)
The truth is that if we had our way, the people who made it onto our guest list would probably look an awful lot like us.
We would probably leave off people who irritate us, people who make us uncomfortable, people of a different social or financial status than us, and even people who we just don’t like.
But we don’t get to make the guest list… God does. And God likes diversity! Just look around you… obviously God likes roses and daisies as much as He likes to have a few nuts in His garden!
We don’t get to choose what we want the growth of our church to look like because God has already chosen what it is going to look like.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a “whosoever will” kind of Gospel. In Mark 8:34 Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (KJV)
When we open the doors of our church on Sunday morning, we open them up to whoever God chooses to send through them. Whether they look, act, or think like us is really not the point.
Here, we celebrate Christ, not conformity. Can you imagine how boring life would be if we all looked, acted, and thought the same?
Diversity makes us stronger. Our unity as a church comes as we live this life together with unity in Christ, not together in uniformity.
As we bounce through this life, there are times when we don’t have the strength to get by on our own. In these times we may cry out to God to carry us through.
Sometimes He sends us an Angel, sometimes a miracle, but most often He sends us a friend. We need the support of others.
Two are better than one, for if one falls the other can lift him up and a when there are three, there is almost nothing that they can not go through together.
The Scriptures tell us that where two or more are gathered in the name of Christ, He is there in our midst.
Today, let us celebrate the unity that we share in Christ. Let us also celebrate the diversity with which God created us.
We aren’t called to make out the guest list of our church, that God’s job and He’s pretty good at it.
We have merely been called to bounce through this life together, sharing our struggles with one another, carrying each others burdens.
As we let God’s love bounce into our hearts, it will spill over to those around us, whoever they may be.
Let us pray.