Thursday, February 17, 2011


I don’t know how frequently you have joined a community of faith, otherwise called a congregation. When you have, what have you been looking for? Has itbeen good music? Has it been to hear a good sermon? Do you want a beautiful sanctuary? How about a multitude of programs? Is that important? And then there is also the issue of programming and events for the young people. Is that the important factors of belonging to a community of faith?

I’ve been very struck by the recent texts that we have been reading, especially those from Paul in his first letter to the people in Corinth. He says such things, as “we preach Christ crucified;” “We boast in the Lord;” and, “of first importance is Jesus Christ and the cross.” How does that match up to our realities and our priorities? In the most recent texts, the Hebrew Testament reading says, “I am the Lord YOUR God.” I have provided the emphasis. It is a personal relationship. Are we looking for that? Another comment Paul made to the Corinthians said, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”

There are many reasons this is all important, beginning with the reality that the Lord is our God and that without the cross and Jesus Christ, there would be no free relationship with our God. However, in thinking about community, there is a major factor we must all think about. It has little to do with music, sermons, a sanctuary, or programs, no matter who they are for. It has to do with our personal relationship with one another. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it most succinctly:

One is a brother or sister to another only through Jesus Christ. I am brother or sister to another person through what Jesus Christ has done for me and to me; others have become brothers and sisters to me through what Jesus Christ has done for them and to them. The fact that we are brothers and sisters only through Jesus Christ is of immeasurable significance. Therefore, the other who comes face to face with me earnestly and devoutly seeking community is not the brother or sister with whom I am to relate in the community. My brother or sister is instead that other person who has been redeemed by Christ, absolved from sin, and called to faith and eternal life. What Christians are in themselves as Christians, in their inwardness and piety, cannot constitute the basis of our community, which is determined by what those persons are in terms of Christ. Our community consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. That is not only true at the beginning, as if in the course of time something else were to be added to our community, but also remains so for all the future and into eternity. . . . . The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more everything else between us will recede, and the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is alive between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we really do HAVE one another. We have another completely and for all eternity.

In looking for a community of faith, and not just a congregation, we are looking for the community that begins and ends with Jesus Christ.