Gather - Pt. 2, The Body of Christ

There are people who pass through this life too quickly but leave their mark so powerfully that they will never be forgotten. Their memory is so readily in our minds, even if we never knew them, that a mere mention of something they said or did opens the floodgates of memory. When you hear someone say, “I have a dream…” who do you think of? This iconic speech has left its mark on our society for generations to come. The reality is, Martin Luther King’s dream is far from realized and it is up to God’s people to carry the torch forward as a light to the nation to be the people who God has called us to be. We are a people who are free from the tyranny of ego that stems from our identity as any particular race, creed, party, or history. We are a people who have clothed ourselves with Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:26-29). Those who have received baptism, have died to any ego that divides us as people. Christ, who is our peace, has brought us all together as one people by destroying all barriers and making us one new humanity through the one Spirit (Ephesians 2:14-18). 

If you’ve never heard King’s full speech, you can listen to it HERE or read it HERE

King’s dream is rooted in God’s dream and intention for his creation. From the very beginning, God’s desire was that all people would be together as one people, empowered by presence, illuminated by his Spirit. Last week, Cody spoke about the need to gather because we are God’s Temple, the place where Israel came to receive forgiveness and to be transformed into the people God wanted them to be. From the Temple, they were to go out and be a light to the nations. God, giving us his Spirit, has made us his Temple that we might be a light to the nations offering grace and peace to all we encounter. This week, as we look at what it means to Gather, we will talk about being the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16).

At the basis of God’s dream, and the dream of Dr. King, is love. God in his essence is love. Love expressed between Three persons, the Trinity. Love flowing from the Father to the Son, Son to the Father, flowing through and in the Holy Spirit which holds this eternal dance in place forever. This love danced its way down from heaven and became man. Love as a baby. Love to conquer hate. Love that would not be understood by those who keep their foot in the ego of this world. Love that allowed hate to do its worst to it. This love, this eternal love divinely dancing, conquered death and broke down the barriers of hate that keep people from dancing in love. This love illuminated humanity to properly dance again. This love brings humanity together into the divine dance of the Trinity, in community with Father, Son, and Spirit. 

Love manifested itself in the man, Jesus, and when he ascended back into heaven, he breathed his love on us (the Spirit) that we might dance to a new tune (Revelation 5:9-10; 14:3). We, together, are the body of Christ that we might show the world how to dance. We continue the ministry of Jesus to reconcile the world back to God, in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). We do this by Gathering together. We do this by recognizing our place in the body of Christ, and each part does its work to grow and build up the body (Ephesians 4:14-16; 1 Cor. 12-13; Romans 12).

If you are not connected to the Body of Christ, the church, how can you build the body up in love? Being in relationship with other Christians is where we learn to dance with God, Father-Son-Spirit, in Love. The dream must first be realized in the Church and then spread to the world.


 (Post by Cody Poinsett)

I’ve always considered myself to be an independent person. In fact, I’ve even been guilty of being proud of myself for refusing to ask for help. As I’m sure you can imagine, this has caused plenty of problems throughout my life. This shortcoming has never been more obvious to me than it was during my college years. My freshman, sophomore, and junior years were full of frustration and loneliness. My social life was mediocre, my mental health suffered, and my spiritual life was devoid of growth. That’s not to say that my life was in shambles or anything like that, but I was really just struggling to grow. It wasn’t until my senior year that I began to understand why I was having such a difficult time growing. Finally, after three years, I became invested in a community of men and women who knew me and were willing to push me. It just so happened that the vast majority of these people either came from the church that I began attending that year or from a community of people established through our Bible classes at school. These people began introducing me to new ideas and practices. They were asking me questions about why I believed what I believed. Ultimately, this led to me finding growth that would have been completely impossible in isolation.

This is one of the fundamental reasons that Christian community is so important. We are able to learn in grow in ways that become much more difficult to pursue in isolation. This is a big part of what is taking place in Acts 2. Luke writes about a community of believers who are deeply engaged in one another’s lives. Through these relationships, there came a community that was growing spiritually, serving the needs of those around them, and making a difference in the world. Things like this simply cannot be accomplished in isolation. This is the role of the church.

It took me a long time to realize that I can be incomplete because of another person. In fact, I’m not sure that I really, truly believe that now. Logically, I know it, but I’m not sure that I’ve accepted that in my heart. But, that’s the truth of the body of Christ. When we are missing one member, we’re lacking something important. When we gather together, we legitimately need every person to be with us. When we are missing people, we are incomplete because every person in the body of Christ has something to offer. Every single person in the body of Christ has a gift that can be shared. And, when we’re missing one person’s gift, we as a body are incomplete. This is why it is important for us to gather together regularly as a complete body. The more complete our body is, the more we will be able to grow. The more growth we experience, the greater our capacity to love will be.

Day 28 of Advent - Luke 15:25-32

Luke 15:25-32

We’ve reached the end of the readings for Advent. I cannot imagine a more fitting way to end our time of looking back to a time of waiting to reexamine our current time of waiting for Christ. Jesus stepped in to show Israel who God called them to be. We look back to what Jesus said and did in his ministry to see how we are to carry on while we wait for his return. The image of the father in this parable is the mirror we need to continually gaze into. The father knows when a party is needed and also recognizes who isn’t at the party. He goes out to each son and pleads with them to celebrate. As people of the resurrection, we need to develop the eyes of the father who can spot new life coming down the dark road and also extend new life to those who refuse to celebrate.

 Wherever we see resurrection occurring, wherever we see new life bursting out, it is appropriate and necessary to celebrate (15:32). To not celebrate, is to pretend that God has not been at work bringing his love and generosity to the world. Failure to celebrate is a failure to meet God’s generosity with gratitude.

In the parable of the two sons, the story of the older son carries the punch of the parable. This is how Jesus responds to his critics who criticize him for having parties with the deplorables. As we begin this new year, who will you develop eyes to see worth celebrating? Where do you see the resurrection bursting forth around you? How would your life look different in a year if at the end of every day you looked back to see where you saw God working to bring renewal to this broken world and chose to end your day with celebrating what God is doing around you?

Day 27 of Advent - Luke 15:11-24

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is arguably the most well-known of any of Jesus’ parables. It’s a beautiful story. A son essentially abandons his father, runs away to live a life of debauchery, and is eventually welcomed home by the same father that he abandoned. Even if that was the full story, it would still be beautiful, but there’s so much more to it than just that. Due to the massive cultural differences that stand between us and the telling of this story, there are a few things that are easy for us to miss. First of all, a son asking for his inheritance while his father is still alive would essentially be like telling your father that you want him to die. Most parents in that day would have thrown the son out on his own with nothing. Second, by agreeing to give his son his share of the inheritance, this meant that the father’s estate would have been split in half. So, half of his land, cattle, and money would have been given to the son and likely sold. Third, there would have been an enormous amount of shame for a father in this position. The son choosing to leave without his inheritance would have brought heaping amounts of shame onto the family, but selling his inheritance and running would have destroyed any social standing that this family had in their community. All of that to say, the son’s actions in this parable would have impacted every single aspect of his father’s life and his father knew that, but agreed to meet the wishes of his son anyways.

From the very beginning of this story, we see a man who heaps grace upon grace onto his son. This isn’t simply a story of a father forgiving his son once he returns from his sinful life, this is a story of a man willing to lose everything because of the love he had for his son. Then, after the heartbreak of essentially losing a child, the embarrassment of losing half of his estate, and the social fallout that would have been inevitable, he still welcomes his child back with open arms.

Clearly, this parable is meant to embody God’s love for His children, but it does more than just that. It is reminiscent of God’s relationship with the nation of Israel, it demonstrates the power of divine forgiveness, and it gives us a clear and simple teaching on what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Today, we read about the father and the lost son. Tomorrow, we will read the second half of the parable, which includes the other son. Consider this story from all perspectives. Put yourself in the position of the father and consider the areas in your life in which you can demonstrate such love and forgiveness. Put yourself in the position of the prodigal son and consider where you need to go to seek forgiveness. Put yourself in the position of the other brother and recognize the areas in which you have failed to recognize the beauty of someone “coming home.” It seems to me that we often view ourselves as the prodigal son who is being accepted and forgiven by our Father, but I think that we can put ourselves in the position of every character in the story and learn from all of them.

(By Cody Poinsett) 

Day 26 of Advent - Luke 14:12-24

Luke 14:12-24

This passage brings Kingdom living into light. Vision that is shaped by the world teaches us to look for those who will add value to our lives. It comes “naturally” to us to try and spend time around people who will better your status in the social world. Money, looks, influence, power, are all things that attract us to people. What does Jesus say about how we should view people?

He then goes on to tell a parable, which he intends for everyone to take literally. When I’ve read this passage in the past, I’ve focused on those in the street who get invited and how they are the ones who get to taste the good dinner. This time in reading this passage, I was drawn to those who snub the invitation. Their excuses are typical, but the host has gone to great trouble to prepare a great banquet and he is determined to share it. He therefore goes and finds people in the least conventional places. The first message should be clear. Jesus is going around the countryside to gather the people for the great feast that Israel has been waiting for. The problem is that when he bids them come, they have excuses for why they won’t be able to make it. Others, the poor, marginalized, oppressed, and disabled, are delighted to come celebrate with Jesus.

The feast to which the people were invited is the celebration of God’s kingdom. The “kingdom-movement” that Jesus is bringing is calling all people to gather around the table to celebrate redemption and reconciliation, where God will bring all things back to fullness. I’m excited to be part of this great feast and I hope you are too. I heard it said well that, “it isn’t enough to say that we ourselves are the people dragged in from the country lanes, to our surprise, to enjoy God’s party. That may be true; but party guests are then expected to become party hosts in their turn.” 

As we look to a new year, how will you celebrate God’s Kingdom this next year? How do you find yourself being “too busy to come celebrate”? In what ways can we as a church become party hosts in the way described by Jesus? 

Day 25 of Advent - Luke 10:17-24

Luke 10:17-24

What must it have been like to be Jesus? No matter where He went, no matter who was in His presence, Jesus knew that He could not be defeated by them. What would it be like to know that you’re the most powerful person in the room, regardless of what room you’re in? I don’t know about you, but if that was me, it would go to my head pretty quickly. I think I would enjoy that power just a little bit too much. Lucky for us, it seems to have had the opposite impact on Jesus, as revealed through His interaction with the seventy in today’s reading. They, the seventy, have been given great power and authority and they’re pretty excited about it. They want to celebrate the fact that they have power over demons and authority over evil, but Jesus redirects their excitement in a way that reveals the true heart of God. Instead of joining in their pride of this new found power, Jesus says, “Yeah, sure, that authority is cool and all, but the real cause for celebration is the fact that your names are written in Heaven.” The Kingdom of God is not concerned with power and authority. Worldly empires obsess over power, a Divine Kingdom, on the other hand, is concerned with things much greater. Jesus reveals that His Kingdom is one that turns the world upside down. This Kingdom is one that makes sense to children, but is completely foreign to the rich and powerful. 

This is what is revealed to us in the coming of Christ. The birth of Jesus, an innocent baby, born of a peasant in a cave, reveals the diving love of the Father that can be understood no other way. The birth of Christ set in motion the plan that would bring restoration to all of creation. He came to reveal who God really is. Up to that point in history, the nature of God had been repeatedly misunderstood (as we see all throughout the Old Testament), but the birth of Christ was the beginning of the ultimate revelation of God. This is when things would finally start to make sense so that we could understand God for who He really is; a heavenly Father unconcerned with power, but obsessed with peace and love. 

As you read Jesus’ prayer in Luke 10:21-22, what do we learn about Jesus’ relationship with the Father? What do we learn about the Kingdom that Jesus was initiating?

(By Cody Poinsett)

Day 24 of Advent - Luke 2:1-20

Luke 2:1-20

When we think about the birth narrative in Luke, the manger often becomes one of the first things we point to. The manger becomes the focus of Jesus’ meager beginnings as a child. We point to the hardship, the drama, the simplicity. The manger often gets a lot of attention for what it says about Jesus’ birth. Rightfully so. In my preparation for my sermon this last Sunday, I read some comments from NT Wright on this passage and he likened the manger to a signpost, a marker, a pointing finger. 

Why is this significant? To place our focus on the manger and to forget why it was mentioned in the first place is like celebrating a road sign and not the direction it points you in. When the angel appeared to the shepherds, he told them that the Messiah, the savior, their lord, had just been born in David’s town. They were invited to go find him. How would they know which baby to celebrate? The sign for them was that the child would be in a manger. The manger is only important for pointing to the God who chose to become like us in every way (Hebrews 2:17), taking on the very nature of humanity (Phil 2:5-11), while still having the fulness of God dwelling in him (Colossians 1:19, 2:9). The manger points to the baby who is greater than Augustus and every leader who came before and after.

You are a manger who carries Christ for the world to celebrate. In what ways do you desire to celebrate you rather than the one you should hold up? How will you lift up Christ this week so that the shepherds of our day will come and find him?

Day 23 of Advent - Luke 1:57-80

Remember what it was like, as a child, to wait for Christmas to finally come? It was the day that you looked forward to all year long. Regardless of whether it was March, August, or December, it was always there in the back of your mind as something to look forward to, right? But, it wasn’t like waiting and hoping that Christmas was going to come back. There was never the question of if Christmas would happen again, but the question was “how much longer?” There was an expectation that on December 25th, it would again be Christmas Day and your waiting would be over.

This is the same kind of waiting that Advent is hoping to instill in us. As we wait for Christ to return, it’s something we do with an expectation. Instead of wondering if Jesus is coming back, we simple ask “when?” This is the kind of waiting that we see from Zechariah in today’s reading. He lives in a time where there has been no prophecy for decades and things were looking pretty hopeless in the eyes of many Jews. But, Zechariah finds out that his wife is going to give birth to John the Baptist and, once he regains the ability to speak, releases a beautiful, prophetic poem. In this poem, we find the heart of Zechariah. We see a man who has been waiting patiently, expecting the Messiah to come. He’s well aware of the agony of waiting. In fact, he’s spent his entire life waiting on a word from the Lord. But, during that time of waiting, he’s also been hoping, wondering what it would be like when that day would come and God would speak again. This poem reveals that Zechariah has not simply been waiting, but he’s been believing and expecting. He knew that prophecy would someday return and the Messiah would soon sit on His throne.

This is the message of Christmas. Even when all hope seems lost, when all we can see is utter despair, Jesus is still going to return. He’s come before and He’s going to do it again. It’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, but when it will happen. Like Zechariah, it is our responsibility to rest in the tension in between. We feel the pains of agony, but we cling to the hope of Christ’s return.

Consider Zechariah’s poem in Luke 1. How do these words relate to our current situation? In what ways does Zechariah’s setting mirror ours?

(By Cody Poinsett)