Summary: The purpose of fellowship is to enable us to live for God everywhere we go.
This past Monday and Tuesday I attended the annual all boards¡¦ retreat for our state ministry at Waycross Retreat Center down in Brown County. I was there as a new member our state Board of Christian Education.
It was a time for getting better acquainted with other colleagues around the state. But, it was also a time for very profound and deep moments of personal as well as corporate worship.
During one of our worship times we sang the hymn, Open My Eyes and, as we sang that hymn, I saw my sermon/communion meditation for this morning develop right before my eyes.
As we did last month, we are going to intersperse my comments with the singing of each verse of this hymn before we celebrate communion. Each verse of this hymn has something important to say to us about the third of the five purposes of the church ¡V fellowship.
I am also going to try something new to include our kids. I am very glad that our kids are in worship this morning. And kids, I am going to ask you to help me with my sermon by drawing a picture of fellowship.
Now fellowship is a big word, but I am going to do my best to help you understand this word, okay? Now, if you willing to help me draw a picture, then come up and get two crayons and a piece of paper and return to your seats.
A couple of more instructions: 1. Don¡¦t start drawing until I tell you to, okay? 2. You will be drawing several different scenes, or smaller pictures, so use your space carefully, okay? 3. Don¡¦t worry about messing up. 4. At the end of the service I am going to ask you to walk out with me and line up to show the pictures to the rest of us, okay?
Now, before we sing verse one of Open My Eyes, Lord there is a passage of scripture that I want us to reflect on. It has already been read this morning, but I want to read it again.
It is John 17:21: My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father¡Xthat just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.
This is Jesus¡¦ praying to God the Father on behalf of not just the disciples gathered in the Upper Room that night, but also on behalf of you and me. This was part of Jesus¡¦ prayer for us, here, now, in Kendallville, Indiana on Sunday, November 4, 2001.
This is God¡¦s desire for the church, for you, for me, for us. Fellowship is a critical, a very, very, very critical purpose of the church. One of my commentaries had this to say about this passage:
Jesus¡¦ great desire for his disciples was that they would become one. He wanted them unified as a powerful witness to the reality of God¡¦s love. Are you helping to unify the body of Christ, the church? You can pray for other Christians, avoid gossip, build others up, work together in humility, give your time and money, exalt Christ, and refuse to get sidetracked arguing over divisive matters.
Fellowship is the result of an intentional decision to commit to the welfare of someone else. Fellowship doesn¡¦t just happen. It takes place when a group of people make the decision to create the conditions for fellowship to occur.
Let¡¦s now sing verse 1 of hymn 486 in our brown hymnal.
We create the conditions for fellowship when we individually make the decision to open our eyes and see the truth of God as we study the word of God together. Fellowship, that special and profound bond, comes as we read, study, and apply the Bible to our lives together.
The unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:21 would be established as the disciples, and those who heard the disciples¡¦ words, paid attention to and sought to live out those words of truth that came from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That listening and living out created the fertile ground in which fellowship would take root and grow because fellowship grows out of the decision to be one in Christ with one another no matter what.
Okay kids. We need you to help us draw a picture of some people studying the Bible.
For fellowship to take root and grow deep we need to ask God to help us open our eyes and see, truly see, one another.
Let¡¦s now sing verse 2 of Hymn 486
Open my ears, and let me hear Voices of Truth so sharp and clear.
Fellowship takes place when we make the decision to listen to the voice of God and one another by working at understanding what we have heard. That understanding comes through dialogue not monologue.