Summary: First sermon in this series encouraging us that we need each other.
I am so excited about what God is about to do. Today we begin something that I hope will be revolutionary. I hope after 40 days of focusing on community that we will be different. I will be different. You will be different. But above all we will be different together. This focus on community can be just what you have been looking for. It can be the cure to what is ailing you. It can be the freedom from whatever is holding you back. If you commit yourself to these 40 days of community you will have the answer to loneliness, fear, fatigue, failure, anything you face. That is a bold statement, but I believe it is true. Those are some mighty mountains, but I truly believe we can face anything when we face it from within Christian community.
It is time for us to get over this Lone Ranger idea. I know that is tough because we have always been taught to do it ourselves. Our country was founded on the Declaration of Independence and I remember many lessons in life about being independent. It is time to get out on my own, to take care of myself, and to stand on my own two feet. We have been taught most of our lives that being independent is the goal, it is the ultimate achievement. But as God has worked on my heart and as I prepared for this message series I have become more and more convinced that independence is a false hope. Independence should not be our ultimate goal.
If you read the Bible and understand what it is saying, I think it is hard to say a major theme would be independence. In the Old Testament the Ten Commandments are a key piece and all ten commandments are about relationships. The first four focus on our relationship with God and the last six are about our relationship with each other. In the New Testament we see how Jesus lives in community with those around him and many of the lessons are also about how we relate to God and others. God is also community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three in one.
When we strive for independence we are going to be disappointed. Because we were created for community. We were meant to live this life with other people. With other people work becomes easier. Try moving heavy objects by yourself instead of with the help of a few friends. With other people our fears can be overcome. It is very different walking down a dark alley by yourself compared to walking it with a bunch of friends.
How many of you were born independent? You were born and you could care for yourself. You could live on your own and make your own decisions. No, we were born dependent on others, dependent on community.
So we were created for community in the beginning, but it is also our goal, our destination. This became evident to me as I read this passage from the Gospel of John. Chapter 17 is a prayer prayed by Jesus. It is after Jesus and his disciples have finished the Last Supper and just before Jesus is arrested, tried and crucified. So this is a significant time for Jesus and he takes time to pray.
And do you know who he prayed for? Jesus prayed for you. In this chapter first Jesus prays for himself, then he prays for his disciples, and then he prays for all believers who will come to faith later. That is, he prayed for you and me. And if Jesus is praying for us then it must be important what he prays. He prays that you and I would be united. Twice he prays for us to be one. Jesus prays you would be part of a Christian community. And that is not just having your name on the rolls or a face in the crowd, but a united, inseparable piece of the Body of Christ. Part of a community that knows you and where you know the rest of the community.
The image that came to my mind was of a quilt. I have a quilt from our home. This one was made by Helen’s grandmother who she was named for. This quilt is made up of many different pieces, yet they are woven together to make one warm blanket. Helen said these pieces were scraps from other projects. She recognizes some of the patterns from clothes she worn growing up. And her grandmother took each of those individual pieces and put them together.
During these 40 Days of Community I hope you will keep in your mind this image of being woven together. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” When we are woven together we become strong. We can conquer fears. We can overcome anything, but only when we are together.