We did something different this year on Christmas Eve.
In years past, we have visited my parents and my sister and had our Christmas with them on Christmas Eve. This year we did that on the Sunday before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, we were just kind of lazy and enjoyed the day. My son had football workouts that morning because improvement doesn’t take a holiday. You can quote me on that one if you want to.
Then we capped it off with something we have never done.
We went to our church and did what is called “From the Cradle to the Cross.”
From about 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. anyone could go at their convenience and take communion. If you’re Baptist like me, you could have the Lord’s Supper.
It was a really neat time to sit and reflect with my family on the fact that Christmas is about a baby who grew up to sacrifice Himself so that our sins would be paid and we would have eternal life. And a lot more is wrapped up in all of that, but I don’t try to get too theological in these posts.
So, when I say what I’m about to say, I don’t want it to sound critical. I really enjoyed taking the bread and the juice. I really did.
But not as much as I could have.
Here’s the deal. I used a word earlier. It’s a word that I always thought was strange. I didn’t like using it. Why? Because I was a Baptist and Baptists weren’t supposed to like this word. At least they weren’t supposed to in my mind.
Sure, I was able to share this experience with my family, but I was not able to share it with the larger church family.
Communion ties into my One Word for last year. Communion is something that is meant to be done in community with your brothers and sisters. It is community coming together or a common union.
So, I did enjoy sharing that with my wife and kids. But I look forward to it even more with my church family.
I look forward to communion with them.
Do you think about community when you take communion?
Last year about this time I was in the midst of a church search. We spent a great deal of time traveling twenty to thirty miles sometimes to visit a church. Then we found it.
Or so we thought.
It was good for a time, but like I said in other posts, it just wasn’t a good fit. We met some great people. We renewed relationships that been long dormant. But , in retrospect, it should have just been a place we gathered to heal rather than what we thought was home.
You might recall that at some point around the end of the year and beginning of the year, the One Word I chose for this year was Community. Community was the theme for my blog and for my church life for the year.
Unlike Bono and the Edge, I finally found what I was looking for.
After all of that travel and months of grinding, we found it. And only minutes away from where we live.
That doesn’t mean it ‘s perfect. It’s no more perfect than any other church we have belonged to and visited.
But it’s ours. It’s our community.
Have we jumped in full force? No. But we are moving in that direction more every week to the point where we won’t really jump. We’ll just be in it.
Community. I like it.
As you may have been able to pick up on, my family and I have changed churches again. Things are going well, thanks for asking. The overall church experience is the best we have had in nearly a decade even though we miss several people at each of the two other churches we have been at over the years.
Yesterday, though, something happened.
I opened up the mailbox to get the mail. A card was inside. It was from the last church that we were at. It was one of those cards you get when you haven’t been to church in a while. There was a message telling us that we were missed and they hoped we were doing well.
The funny thing is that we haven’t been there in two months.
So I kind of chuckled to myself and shook my head.
Then I stopped.
Then I laughed again. This time I laughed at myself. Why?
Because I can’t count how many times I’ve done something similar.
Because I realized that I had made such an impression on those folks over nine months that they didn’t even realize we were gone until two months later.
Because this is happening in too many churches to count across these here United States of America.
Because it showed me just much we in the Church and our churches need to improve in how involved we are in each other’s lives.
Listen, I don’t hold it against them that they may have been a little bit late in noticing I wasn’t there any longer. I can’t be mad that they didn’t know until it was way too late that we were long gone from their church.
All I can do is kind of laugh at myself and use this as a learning experience. I need to work on building community with my new church. I need to make sure that no one slips out the back door.
I need to make sure that I don’t go two months without making contact with the folks I am in community with.
How involved are you with the people in your church community?
At the first of the year, I proclaimed my One Word for 2012 to be Community. Community is something I longed for and something I needed.
I certainly have expanded the Deuceology community through more people following this blog and joining the conversation. I truly appreciate the support of everyone who takes the time to read, comment and participate in this blog. I have seen tons of growth this year in this area.
However, if you look at my personal life, I’ve had a harder time.
I truly do believe that the local church is meant to be a community of believers who are joined together by their faith and pursue a like-minded mission. There is no place where followers of Christ should feel more at home. There is nowhere else a Christian should be as safe or feel at home.
Alas, that is not the case for me.
In a less mature time of my life I would have blamed everyone else. I would have said that those people have a problem. I would have wondered why they are all unfriendly.
I’ve come to realize that it’s really me.
I’m pretty busy with my job. I work my forty-five plus hours per week. That doesn’t count the time I drive to and from work every day, which is another five hours.
I’m pretty busy with my kids. I have a daughter who is a senior in high school. She has activities. My son is a freshman. He has activities. I’m involved in those things.
I’m pretty busy with maintaining my home. There is always something to do, some chore to complete.
Then there is anything else I need or want to do. I’m pretty busy with that stuff too.
However, when it’s all said and done, I’ve decided that I really don’t make community a priority. I just really don’t want to “do life” together with other people enough. I might have to be vulnerable and let my guard down if I tried to do that. It would be dangerous.
You might say that I’m scared.
I’m the same guy who was too scared to let people get really close to him in high school and college. I’m just older and set in my ways. I just can’t seem to just muster up the effort.
So, I want community. And I don’t want community. All at the same time.
Community is my one word this year. Just not the way I thought.
Does community come easy for you?
For the past seventeen Memorial Day weekends, I have been able to count on one certainty in my church services. At some point, all people who had served in the military would be recognized. The song of each branch of the military would be played and whoever served would stand up.
Now, I’m in a new church. Memorial Day was recognized differently. Some patriotic songs were sung. Some words were said.
Memorial Day is a great day to pause and remember those who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country.
The thing that I thought, though, was this.
Each Sunday is a type of Memorial Day for us. We come together. We worship our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We remember together what He did for us.
Sunday worship is a memorial day. It is an opportunity to gather in community and have a weekly “holiday” to honor Christ.
I need that.
I need that day to stop, pause and worship Him.
I need that day to meet with my brothers and sisters that I have committed to live with and love.
I need that weekly Memorial Day.
How has your Memorial Day weekend been?
Al Mohler is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which I happen to have about 36 hours toward a Master of Divinity degree at. He discussed recently that while the digital world is great at many things, it is not and cannot replace the church. As one who loves the digital communities I belong to, I wondered about that.
And I agree.
One of my early posts this year was about how the theme of this year for me is community.
I asked the question in another post if I must go to church.
You see, I love the Church. And I love the church.
As much as I love the folks I have met on Twitter and through this blog, it can’t take the place of being part of an actual physical faith community.
I’m not talking about the building I go to so that I can meet with my church.
I’m talking about real, honest to goodness, physical people who I can shake and howdy with. I’m talking about real people who I can hug or cry with. Real people that we laugh and eat with.
I don’t say that to disparage our on-line communities. I have met some great people who would do anything for me and I would do the same. But I really hope they have what I described above. In other words, I hope they have more that the words I write here or the comments I leave on their blogs.
And I hope to meet as many of them as possible in whatever ways possible.
We can be a lot of things to and for each other on the interwebs.
We cannot be the local church.
Do you have a local church? Is it important to you and your walk of faith?
I whiffed the other day.
Last week I wrote a post called I Need Your Help. In that post, I told everyone that I was nearing the end of my first year of this blog. I asked for everyone who read to answer three questions.
Here is what I heard from everyone. _____________
No one answered my questions. Hardly anyone read that post.
You know what? I learned something from it.
What did I learn from that?
I learned that I can write bad posts that no one will read.
I learned that the folks who read this blog will come back when I write another.
Yes, this community loves me and will forgive me writing a stinker.
It’s a picture of grace.
I love that about people.
Will I whiff again? Surely.
Will I receive grace again? I hope so.
***By the way, I ended up getting what I was looking for from the comments on another post. Another example of grace that this great community demonstrated.***
Have you ever “whiffed” at something? What did you learn from that?
I was a Roman soldier last week in our Easter musical. It was a long week. I was at the church house seven of eight nights.
Here are the benefits of participating in my first ever Easter musical.
- I got to hear some outstanding music.
- I got to see a picture of Heaven by worshipping with fellow believers constantly.
- I made a new friend.
- I got to hear stories of people I came in contact with.
- I got be a small part of a big production.
- I saw multiculturalism take place when I didn’t expect it.
- I became more a part of the faith community that I joined.
I’m sure there were more benefits that escape me right now. I’m excited more each week as I continue to assimilate into this group. It isn’t perfect, but it is a lot of fun.
What are some benefits you have noticed about being part of your faith community lately?
I am nearing a year of Deuceology. When I began this, I had much the same attitude that I had with my two previous blogs.
This is all about me letting the world know what I think about things.
That attitude got me in some trouble. It brought some unnecessary drama to my life. It caused changes in my life that I did not anticipate.
Slowly, but surely some other changes happened.
I realized this blog is not all about me.
It’s about us.
It’s about the Deuceology community.
It’s about glorifying the Lord.
It’s about me asking some questions about things I see. I explore them by writing about them. You guys read and comment.
This blog belongs to us.
It’s not all about me. It’s not all about you.
It’s about something much greater.
I thank you as we head into the home stretch of this first year together. You have helped me. I hope I have done the same. Let’s keep moving on the journey together.
If you’re a blogger, who does your blog belong to?
About eleven years ago, I walked in to my 8 a.m. Greek class during my one and only year in seminary. The professor was a Ph. D. student from Cameroon with a very thick accent. He introduced himself this way: “My name is Philemon Yong.” Say his name real fast a time or two and you will realize why we all, including the professor, had a good laugh to start off our class.
I lead off with that because we were studying Philemon in Sunday School recently. What I saw were two things that truly stood out to me. One I had seen before, but hadn’t thought of in a long time. The other is relatively new.
Both came near the end of the epistle and had absolutely nothing to do with the lesson.
The first is contained in one word. Mark. Paul just kind of slides it in there very nonchalantly. Mark. He includes him in a list of other guys that he describes as fellow workers. This might not sound terribly important if we didn’t know what happened a few years before.
Mark had gone on a trip with Paul and Barnabas, but ended up abandoning them. As Paul and Barnabas began making plans for another trip, Barnabas wanted to take Mark along again. Paul said no. They disagreed so much that they ended their partnership. They went their separate ways.
Yet, here is Mark with Paul years later. What happened? I don’t know all of the details, but one word had to have happened.
Somewhere along the way, Paul and Mark reconciled. We don’t know if Paul and Barnabas did, but I hope so. We do know that Mark became one of Paul’s fellow workers. In the end, what the Gospel is about was lived out in Paul’s and Mark’s life. They reconciled their differences. Forgiveness happened. Work ensued.
The other thing I noticed was the list in general. Epaphras. Mark. Aristarchus. Demas. Luke. These guys were part of what these days we call a tribe. They joined together with Paul. He invested in them. He poured himself into them. He nurtured them in the faith.
This is just a small list of people who were part of Paul’s tribe. Read his letters and you will find others. What we see is that Paul, the super apostle, was not in it by himself. He wasn’t off flying solo. He had a team. He had a group. He had helpers. Another way to put it is like this.
No matter what we are involved in, we can’t do it all by ourselves. We have to have help. That’s why it’s important to be connected to the Body of Christ. We each have our role and purpose. Without the others, we can’t function.
Are these all of the lessons that we can learn from Paul or his letter to Philemon? Hardly. But reconciliation and community will go a long way.
Reconciliation and Community. Two great lessons we learn from Paul.
Do you need to reconcile with anyone in the Body of Christ? Do you have a community of fellow believers to help you with your relationship with the Lord?