Thursday, May 30, 2019

Belonging. . .

Once you were no people, says the apostle, but now you are God'speople.  Or another way, our citizenship is in heaven.  In both cases, the profound image here is one of belonging.  You belong.  Not because you say you do but because God has made you belong.  God has done something to give you place and purpose.  You have a new identity.  You are His people, the sheep of His pastureYou are not your own, you belong to Him who purchased and won you.  These are shocking words to a world in which we are our own people, we define ourselves, we identify our gender, and we are who we want to be (without objective standards to this reality).

It may seem that belonging is not all that important to people today.  That is how we want things to be but in reality we are always struggling to find a place and purpose and an identity that connects.  We may not follow a uniform wave of style or identity but belonging to a group is not optional -- even though the group may be smaller rather than a majority, belonging is still important.  The ever present labels that we use to identify ourselves are borrowed from those labels used to identify groups.  So those who would insist that we are free to be a group of one are overlooking how it is that we function in practice. 

The Church has as part of its Gospel the gift of belonging.  It begins with the God who is not far off but near, so near, in fact, that He wears our flesh in the womb, is carried for nine months, is born of flesh and in flesh.  God has not made His dwelling somewhere out there but among us.  Like us in every way but sin, we proclaim a Gospel of incarnation.  And this God exercises His claim on us by incorporating us into Himself, in the life of His Son, through the miracle of water and the Word.  This is the shock of baptism -- not that infants are baptized but that God is actually acting through this baptism to kill and make alive, to make new what was old and dead, and to give a new identity to one marred by sin and its death.

So the Church is a place of belonging.  Not Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female (as God defines the genders) but all are made one in Christ.  We are one people, under one Lord, confessing one faith, and living out together the one life born of the font at the table and by the Word.  We belong not by our choice but by God's claim.  I have called you by name, you are Mine.  This is the gift and the new reality of the Gospel.  It is not opinion that binds us or common likes or dislikes but God's claim manifested in water and Word.  The Church is not accidental but deliberate and God is the actor who makes it all happen.  Many still come from east and west, north and south. . .Yes, it does happen.  From every identity and economic group and from every race and place.  The unity of the Church is then not something we negotiate or work out but God's work and gift.  This is not less of a unity than we would create with a common address, leadership structure, and rules but even greater than what we would create.  This is what it means to belong.  And this belonging is what we were hardwired to need and want.

This is no small thing to a world where we live alone before our screen, in the imagined reality of a virtual world, defined largely by preference and desire.  Those who speak to the culture around us on behalf of Christ know this and sometimes we within the Church have forgotten just what a gift and a profound message this is for our world so lonely and alone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters wrote:

"We belong not by our choice but by God's claim. I have called you by name, you are Mine."

And this is one of the greatest mysteries. It is impossible to comprehend given that we suffer in a hopelessly broken world.