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    Nov 06, 2016

    Oneness In Christ

    Oneness In Christ

    Speaker: The Rev. Becky Crites

    Keywords: community, fellowship, love, saints

    Together we flourish when we practice the loving, life-giving relationships of our multi-personed, communal-being God. Love. Love God’s good creation, even when we encounter poison ivy there. Love. Love all God’s people, even when their strike is unbearably hard against our heart.

    Today is about the mystical fellowship unseen – that really big community to which we belong – those alive today, the generations of old and even the future faithful. Through the body of Christ we are united together and together we participate in the bringing in of the kingdom.

    Now, fellowship can be a good or a bad thing, especially when we keep it too small. Sometimes we are just nice together and call that being in fellowship. And sometimes we think being in fellowship gives us a responsibility to judge another. And sometimes fellowship is found only in a cause and not in the people. But that is not real fellowship, real communion. But the fellowship we commemorate today is something really big, a union of seen and unseen. We mean something deeper, a belonging together that grabs our very being and brings us into something else. Most of us long for that kind of deep belonging.

    Early Christians described themselves as People of the Way. The gospel news of Jesus’ resurrection spread not because it had the weight of the government behind it, or that it brought prosperity and wealth, and not even because this truth kept hell at bay. No – the faith was spread because of the community created – with the risen Christ and with each other. This is the vision of community Paul often speaks about – a fellowship that enlightens hearts with the hope in the riches known among the saints.

    I had the privilege of attending the investiture of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. My friends and I arrived about thirty minutes before the doors were to open. We waited outside the cathedral in a long line of people which was continually growing. Here were people from all walks of life continuing to join us, a long winding line of saints excitedly and eagerly waiting for those immense doors to open. I knew them and yet didn’t know them. We were people of the way together, caught up in something that was bigger than us, a moment in history, a moment full of a future hope.

    Church communities most closely follow Christ when they see themselves as a community of a great banquet – inviting others to come and see; offering a place to feast together, to share… and to give... our hopes and our worries, our disappointments and our joys, our successes and our failures… all the things of our human selves offered and accepted.

    My friends, we were created in the image of God. We were created to be in community, which is the very image of our triune God. Many have said there is no such thing as Christian alone. God herself recognized we should be humankind together. We do well to remember that God didn’t rest until fellowship was created. We should think of the body of Christ which makes us all belong as larger, more broadly… than any “we” we define.

    Christian fellowship needs to be cultivated and cared for. Over and over we are given images in scripture based on cultivation. For crops, vineyards, orchards to flourish they must grow together. Together we flourish when we practice the loving, life-giving relationships of our multi-personed, communal-being God.

    We are God’s people means God is the uniter, not us. There is no greater visual image of this as when we kneel together. Nothing else matters. Race, gender, affluence, talents, status, abilities all of these dissolve away as we become part of the body of Christ. And with God as uniter, time, life itself even, has no boundaries – we are always a part of the fellowship of the saints – as that old hymn says – part of the joy divine.

    Saints stories are a fascinating journey into a strange mix of oddities, of amazing feats, of miracles and a lot of traveling around after they died. Relics of the “saints of the church” are spread all over the world. But all the focus on canonization has blurred the image of the saints of God. The walk of canonization of saints has shaded the vision of saint. Peter Gomes once wrote that to be a saint is not, “a sign of perfection, but one of fidelity.” Not perfect, but a true walk. He goes on to say that the early saints were “those engaged in a holy struggle, those who were identified with the redeemed community, those who were not so much perfect as persevering.” Ours is a holy struggle of persevering; of continuing our walk with God through all the joys and sorrows of life. For God is the one who holds our belonging for all time.

    Saints like you and like me, imperfect now, made perfect in God, ordinary folks like you and me. Sometimes they are visionary, sometimes they are martyred. But mostly they are us – ones who extend a hand, offer a listening ear, are truly present with another. The following of those who love to do God’s will are the ones who walk the path of “do unto others …”.

    God’s will for all of us saints isn’t some divine plan that brings joy to some and sorrow to others. God didn’t have a plan in the death of the ones we miss so terribly much. For God sees death from the other side – from the place of resurrection. The answer to our struggle to be faithful to God’s will is simply this: Love. Love God’s good creation, even when we encounter poison ivy there. Love. Love all God’s people, even when their strike is unbearably hard against our heart. This is a hard road to walk alone. But the way is made easier by being a people together; a people of the way. We share a unique fellowship through Jesus.

    A holy power is at work among us, from among us in this day yet also from another time; a power that sees death from the other side; from the place where it does not count at all.