A “church” is a funny thing. From a biblical perspective “church” (ekklesia) is simply a people gathered together on mission with God. And whenever you get people organized together in community, institutionalization is inevitable and necessary. This allows us to shape common practices and traditions that guide and nourish our life as we seek to follow God together, but it also can lead to being resistant to change. And this is nothing new.
My mind has been on Easter. That is, of course, related to my occupation, since I have been ruminating about the sermon series I will be preaching at Greenfield during the Easter season. I think it's safe to say that Christmas gets far more attention in our culture (and perhaps even in our churches). Even for myself, someone who didn’t grow up going to church, I was aware of Christmas. It was a big deal, albeit more for the presents than for anything related to the baby in the manger. But Easter, not so much. The extent our celebration of Easter was to colour some hard boiled eggs and eat too much chocolate bunny (and yes, you should always eat the ears first).
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christ followers who lived in Philippi, he told them that, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:3-6).
Paul had founded the church and worked alongside the Christians in Philippi for a while (Acts 16:11-15), after which and he continued to hear reports about how (and what) they were doing. And Paul was encouraged by what he heard God was doing among them — to the point he even bragged about them to other believers! (see 2Corinthians 8:1-5)
What is it to be sent? As a church? As an individual Christ-follower? Is the conviction of being sent something reserved for traditional missionaries who are sent overseas to do the work of God on behalf of others? What about the rest of us? Are we also “sent”? Or is the idea of “sentness” something fundamental to the Christian life no matter where you live or what you do?
“All of us are deeply shaped by two kinds of stories: the stories we live and the stories we live into” — Barry Jones
Stories are important. We each have our own stories — our own unique biographies, the collection of experiences, relationships, joys and sorrows that make us who we are. As humans, we also live into some larger story, a story that orients the way we see ourselves and the world we live in. For Christians, this larger story is God’s Story, it is “The Story” — the story told in the pages of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.