What are those practices which form and distinguish a Christian faith community?
Here’s the start of a list:
- Daily Prayer
- Regular Meals Together
- Bearing one another’s burdens
- Worship together
- Labor side by side
- Rest together
- Play together
- Study together
- Share generously
- Equip each other for ministry
- Accountability / confession / forgiveness
These, I think, are among the vital life habits of a faith community that both create and define it.
It’s becoming popular to talk about the church today becoming again what the church of The Book of Acts was under the name “Missional Church, or Misional Community”. These are related to, and often used synonymously (incorrectly, I think) with Emergent Church, or Emergent Christianity. For more on all that…
Missional Community Defined – from Jason Zahariades’ blog “The Off Ramp”
Emergent Village.com – Tony Jones hosts this web site, a central, though not The Center, voice in the emergent community, and a good starting place.
Allelon.org – Alan Roxburgh, et.al. are for me great conversation partners in the developing understanding of leadership in the emerging christianities in our post-modernizing world.
Theologians? More on them later….
My point for now, coming back from that side trip, is that we are being called back, again/still, to the core of christian faith, which is the faith and way of Jesus. This is, on the surface, the goal for all Christians. The age inwhich we find ourselves simply challenges us in new ways to understand ourselves, our world, and our God. I put forward this conversation about Holy Habits of a Faith Community as one expression of how we move into God’s emerging kingdom.
Seeking to be…
Exodus 15: 22 Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Sea of Reeds, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.
Matthew 10: 40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Matthew 25: 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Water is everywhere in the Bible. Here we see the people of God, who have just come through a deluge of water as they crossed the Sea of Reeds, suddenly lacking good water. In the desert, water is life, not just metaphorically, but truly and physically. God certainly knows what they need, and would not bring them out with such great signs and wonders only to let them die of thirst in Egypt’s shaddow. And yet the people grumble. In response, God brings sweetness to the bitter waters in front of them, an then leads them on from that place to a lush oasis. Water is first sustaining and later lavish.
The two stories from Matthew’s gospel suggest that in sharing the sustaining water with someone in need (as God’s people were in need at Marah) we receive blessings as if we were sharing with Jesus himself or one of the first Apostles.
If such is the blessing that comes by sharing H2O, imagine the blessings that come by sharing the Living Water (the life-giving Spirit within us). We are called to do both.
Its funny and sad how quickly I forget this is true of me. It hasn’t always been so, but I find that since college it has become increasingly important in my life. I wonder sometimes if all people have a creative spirit that crys out for expression. My theology says yes, but my experience suggest not – or perhaps I need to expand my own definition of ‘creative’. Surely engineers and scientists create. Hobbies of collecting and organizing have within them a sort of creativity. I don’t know. What I do know is that writing is one of the most important disciplines in my life – and I’ve been thirsting due to it’s lack.
Writing brings a rhythm to my thoughts, which is were I live most of the time anyway. And writing also incarnates that which is mental and spiritual – it is an act of making concrete, through pen or keyboard, that which previously only existed in the ether of my self-knowing.
Writing is a way of expelling harmful things, just as waste CO2 is spent when we exhale. Thoughts and feelings and impressions can build up over time – the failure to release them in this way may cause me to faint.
Writing is also, in a strange way, an opportunity for me to inhale new and fresh ideas – a way to receive them, touch them, experience them concretely rather than just have them float by.
This rhythm then, the exhale and inhale of ideas brings life to my spirit – inspires me. In Hebrew – ruach – and in Greek – pneuma – the same word can mean either breath, wind, or spirit – or more than one of these at the same time. So my own spirit, and God’s Spirit, and the wind of my own hot air and the cooling breeze or empowering wind of God, and the natural, necessary, ongoing breathing of my own life – along with God breathing into me continually the Breath of Life – in each and all of these ways is writing breathing for me. There may come a time when I am not able to write as easily. I pray if that day comes, that I will know I have not wasted these days, and that I will receive that new life with hope in God.
For now, though, I breath, if irregularly – sometimes quickly, other times slowly. Now shallow breaths, later deeper breaths. I take a breath in and hold it, allowing my lungs to process as much oxigen as possible, before I finally release in gratitude.