Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Transient Body

In my work life I travel a lot. The hectic schedule and the many locations in which I find myself on any given Sunday mean that my connection to a single church is transient at best. I attend many different services but usually miss out that deeper connection that comes from socializing with others in a church outside of Sunday morning.
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
-- Romans 12:4,5

This passage is easy to over-simplify. It is so easy to just skip right past, "Yes, we are a team.", "We are all in this together.", and so forth. But what about another way of looking at it for deeper meaning?

The organic connection of the elements of the body that Paul describes is a great place to start. If I twist my ankle my hands immediately reach towards my legs. If I burn my hand, my eyes see red. When a foul ball comes shooting at my head, my neck and torso contract to duck out of the way. Each part of my body is connected to every other part. The pain one feels is shared by all. The peace of relaxation or sleep is felt across my whole body. The parts all belong to the whole, but they individually belong to each other too. If your feet are cold, put a hat on.

This interconnectedness is easy to see among people who live and socialize together regularly. When you see someone almost daily, it is hard not be affected by their pain or uplifted by their joys. This I feel is one of the primary reasons a church should be about more than just worship. The worship is important, but so is maintaining the connection outside of worship.

How are we to build and grow these connections without the regular contact that comes from sharing the same geography? How are we to exercise and hone our spiritual gifts without the constant exchanges with other believers? I don't know that you can.

If the growth and development of the church is a spiritual war, then some of us are the scouts. We travel from place to place, learning and observing. We pop back into camp from time to time to share and be comforted, to encourage and bring news. Then back on the road we go, into the fray. We can do that knowing that there is a safe camp for us to retreat to when we need it. That there is an army of believers who are training each other, growing each other, and maintaining the home base for when we need it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Love and Pain

Pain can be the road we take that leads us to the opportunity for extraordinary ministry.

When I was younger the phrase "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." was made popular in movies and popular culture. I still hear it from time to time. Most of the time it just seems like a catch-phrase we use to encourage ourselves or others to persevere in some hard endeavor. As is often the case, my reaction was to question and I wondered why stronger is a goal we might aspire to attain. Back to the Book.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
-- James 1:2-3

Okay, this is pretty close. Perseverance, we know from other Scriptures, is a good step on the road to servanthood. So I suppose a loose interpretation of stronger is that we are able to persevere. That isn't what struck me in about the way James put it though.

Why on earth should we be considering the trials ( a.k.a. the pain) to be any kind of joy, let alone pure joy? Because as we struggle, as we work and endure, our eyes are not on the trial, but on the end goal. The person we are being shaped into becoming.

Leave it to me, to lose all your confidence
And no i can't stop, this train wreck before it hits
I hope I don't sound, like the X's on your calendar
I stumble on new ground, to gather up the formula

Fate, faith
You and me
Love and pain
Fate, faith
You and me
Love and pain
Even I know, there's a line between emotion and
Fate, faith
You and me
Love and pain

How selfish of me, to think I'm the only one
To question mistakes, a fools game I'm losing now
Just taking my time, planning out my escape
I'm scared what I'll find but it's the choice I have to make

We can't control what we are
It's not our place, it's out of our hands

-- Love and Pain by New Found Glory

If your motivation is correct, then work (read: pain) will make you stronger. It will shape you and build you up. It will equip you so that your service will suffice. Conversely, if your motivation is only for your own betterment, you will see only surface gain. The suffering will truly be a trial. It will become something you must persevere through instead of something that brings you joy.

I'll take the pain because of my love. I'll face the fate because of my faith and the hurt to honor Him. Servanthood is never simple.