Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reflections on the beauty of community at the end of a busy day of ministry

I usually blog in the morning... but today was different... after anticipating the alarm by 15 minutes, listening to God's voice through the texts of the Daily Office (Psalms 5, 6, 10, 11; Isaiah 40:25-31; Ephesians 1:15-23; and Mark 1:14-28), I hurry off to the Trevecca cafeteria for breakfast and conversation with a ministry student. The food is good and the conversation is substantive... I am given a great gift of encouragement and edification from one of God's servants who is preparing to join the company of those called to serve the church through a life of gospel proclamation. I believe in the communion of saints. 

I rush off to class, arriving just in time to experience the joys of learning in community... the students offer their creative interpretations of Scripture texts, and time and again, I am blown away with the depth of insight and the fresh revelation of truth that is poured out (by the Holy Spirit) through these unique, God-called servants. They bless me with their vision, their passion, their devotion to the ministry of the gospel. They honor me by calling me teacher, mentor, and friend. They bring me coffee and give me rides (I am still nursing this severely sprained ankle). They give much grace. They laugh with me in moments of divine hilarity... they weep with me in moments of confession that our world (and our church) is broken - and often inflicts more hurt than it heals... they challenge me to live into the demands and the promises of the gospel... they confront me with my own resistance to following God with reckless abandon and radical faithfulness... and they sit in silence with me as we are addressed by the voice of the living God. I believe in the communion of saints.

I sit down in the hub with a former student whose spirit bonded with mine the first day we met. We have only shared one class together, but there is a depth to our friendship that can only be explained as the gift of mystical communion - the shared life of people who are on a common journey. We share each others pains and testify to each other of the grace of God who turns brokenness into blessing, and enlarges our influence and capacity for ministry to others, even as we are going through the fire. I receive blessing, affirmation, and encouragement in the conversation. I thank God for friends and brothers in Christ. I believe in the communion of saints.

I go to dinner with one of my current students. We talk theology, ecclesiology, politics, and faith. We tell our stories. We seek discernment and guidance. We admit our own fears and frustrations. We express our hopes and ideals. The food is great. But what nourishes our spirit is not the food, but the conversation, the dialogue, the common journey that engages us. We are mutually encouraged by each other's faith (Romans 1:12). I believe in the communion of saints.

It takes a church to produce a saint... we are on this road together, and we really do need each other. Today, God has filled my life with a wonderful gift - the gift of community. I am weary from a full 14 hour day of interaction and dialogue with people... But I am richer and better for the time spent in the communion of saints. I believe... I really, really believe!

Soli Deo gloria

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