Monday, May 21, 2007

Crossing the Lines: Between Partial Community & Perfect Community

(A Communion Devotion for the Seventh Sunday of Easter based on Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5; John 14:23-29)

By now I’m sure that you’ve all joined the thundering herd that has stampeded into the theatres to view Spider-Man 3. If you have not seen it yet, I would encourage you to keep something in mind when you go. While you’re watching Spider-Man and the New Goblin tear up New York City while they’re trying to destroy each other and while you’re watching Spidey try to survive his bruising battle with both Sandman and Venom and while you’re sharing in Peter Parker’s angst over coming to terms with finding out who really did kill his Uncle Ben all those years ago, remember that the film is at heart a love story. This movie, as with the previous two, is largely about the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson and, to a lesser extent, the relationship between Peter and his best friend Harry Osborn. While Spider-Man is battling his enemies in the streets of and in the air above New York City, Peter Parker is also battling himself as he struggles to maintain and develop healthy relationships. He has his enemies to fight, but the barriers to healthy personal relationships are among the toughest things he has to overcome. While he battles to protect his community he also battles to build a personal community that will see him through.

All human beings need a sense of community; we need to know that we belong. That longing, whether we realize it or not, is a longing for God. For we who are Christians, community begins and ends with God. God is the source all that is; he is the source of all life. So in relationship with him we find real life and in that life with God we find real community. Having God in our life is the beginning of community and the essence of community.

We will be in the full and unimpeded presence of God only when we get to heaven. That’s when we will know perfect community with him. Still, we can already know community with God right here and right now—and that is not a small thing! Indeed, while we cannot know God fully here and now, we can know God in his fullness here and now. You will notice that in the Gospel text Jesus talks about how he and the Father will make their home with his followers (v. 22) and then he talks about the Holy Spirit coming to them (v. 26). Here we have Jesus promising us that those who love him and who obey him will experience the presence of God in all of his fullness as Holy Trinity. As we grow in our love and grow in our obedience we will know that presence more and more.

Being in community with God and being in community with each other go together. Indeed, being in community with God leads to our being in greater community with each other. After all, what does it mean to keep the word of Jesus and to be obedient to him? Later, Jesus will say, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13). Loving and obeying Jesus leads to loving our sisters and brothers in Christ more than we love ourselves which leads to our giving our lives up for each other. We will do whatever we can for each other in whatever ways we can do it. If such loving actions cost us, we can think of no more important way to give ourselves away. We are called to love each other as fully as the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit will enable us. Community with God leads to community with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

That community will not be perfect on this side of heaven, though. It can become much more complete than we usually believe because it is God who will make it happen. But the glorious day is coming when we will know full communion with God and utter fellowship with all of his people. “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb,” John said in Revelation (21:22). There we will live in full and perfect communion with God. There we will know the full benefits of the eternal life that began for us here. There we will know the fulfillment of the peace of which we had a marvelous though partial experience of here. And there all the people from all the nations from all over the world “who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27) will dwell in perfect peace and fellowship forever.

Our calling is to do all that we can to cross the line between the perfect community that we will know there and the partial community that we know here. Our calling is to become as fully brother and sister to one another as we can. Our calling is to show that we are Christians by our love.

We come this morning to the table of the Lord. As we come to it, let us do so remembering that Jesus Christ gave his life that we might be in fellowship with God. Let us remember that he gave his life that we might be in fellowship with one another. Let us remember that one day our communion with God and with each other will be complete. And let us remember that, as followers of the one who gave his life for us, we are to give of ourselves for one another. When we do, the line between the perfect community that we will know in heaven and the partial community that we know here is crossed.

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