Tag Archives: community

Be Gentle

We all need some encouragement in life.  Someone cheer leading from the sidelines, giving us confidence, showing their belief in us; words and actions that give us the impetus to keep on going.

Paul wants to do that to his friends and fellow Christians.  To encourage them in their life and faith.  He is bursting with pride for them, but he wants to encourage them to keep on living God’s ways.

Philippians 4:1-9 (CEV)

Dear friends, I love you and long to see you. Please keep on being faithful to the Lord. You are my pride and joy.

Paul Encourages the Lord’s Followers

Euodia and Syntyche, you belong to the Lord, so I beg you to stop arguing with each other. And, my true partner, I ask you to help them. These women have worked together with me and with Clement and with the others in spreading the good news. Their names are now written in the book of life.

Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad. Always be gentle with others. The Lord will soon be here. Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.

Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.You know the teachings I gave you, and you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you.

Paul is not afraid to give some direct pointers to a couple of named people.  Euodia and Syntyche are arguing.  We all know how that can drag a community down, when two people just can’t get on.  They worked together with Paul, but cannot work together without him.  But this isn’t just seen as their problem, it is a community problem, and is to be solved  by the whole community together, with everyone’s support and encouragement.

Then Paul turns to the advice I love, that we so often forget,

Be gentle with one another.

So often we have such high expectations, unrealistic standards, that we forget to be gentle.  We forget other people have real lives and circumstances they are dealing with.  We forget we are not perfect, yet we expect it of others; or we have such ridiculously high expectations of ourselves, that we transfer that to others – forgetting that we never reach those height; or we are so cross that we don’t meet our own high standards that we end up taking it out on others.

So perhaps the “Be gentle” advice needs to be applied to ourselves first?

Yes there are expectation of the christian life, standards and goals, but we are not God.  They are aims to be encouraged towards, but with the reality that we are all human.  We should be encouraging not discouraging one another.  Cheering each other on, not jeering at every slip up.

Be gentle with everyone, you never know what is happening in their life, what burdens they are carrying, what news they have just been told, what happened before they walked out of their door, what will happen when they walk back in it, what they are fearing, hoping, dreaming or dreading…

That is how we know and spread God’s peace.

Forgive me Lord,
the things I get wrong,
the times I discourage others,
do things that drag my community down,
project my ridiculous expectations on to others
and fail to be gentle,
to myself
and to others.

May I tread
with your feet,
exercise care,
and understanding,
even when I do not know.
May I be gentle,
as you are so gentle
with me.

Family Life

I’m going to start by being controversial.  I do not like church being described as ‘family’.  For all the same reasons as I don’t agree with celebrating Mother’s Day, the entirely secular construct, in church, I don’t think family is always a particularly helpful metaphor to borrow.  Also, I have a family already, I do not need another one!  I think community is a much better idea of what we are together as a church.

However, just to be contrary, on this occasion, I can live with it!  Because here, it is quite clear that the church was living as like family to one another.

Acts 2:42-47  (CEV)

42 They spent their time learning from the apostles, and they were like family to each other. They also broke bread and prayed together.

Life among the Lord’s Followers

43 Everyone was amazed by the many miracles and wonders that the apostles worked. 44 All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. 45 They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. 46 Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, 47 while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.

Unlike us, they were clearly spending all their time together, sharing together, learning from one another, praying and worshipping together.

We have lost so much of this.  We live largely individualistic lives, coming together for an hour on Sunday and maybe a couple of events during the week.  We are not living as a Christian community as they were.  I wonder what we have lost?

Would our lives and faith be enhanced by living together more closely?  Day by day sharing everything we have?  Caring so closely for one another, that we didn’t just know each others every need but responded to it?  Praying and worshipping together so regularly, it was like breathing together?

I am as guilty as the next person of keeping myself to myself, not sharing, holding back – partly because experience has taught me it is not safe to do so, from being let down or ‘news’ being inappropriately shared; and partly… why?  Because I like my own space?  Find the needs of other oppressive?  Like things my way rather than others?  Like to keep what I have to myself?  Some of those more than others, but it is a question worth asking ourselves.

Do I long for the kind of life and church style the early church had?  Or is it my worst nightmare?  Would church be better if we did it this way?  Was it a particular model for a particular time?  How would, could and should it look today where I am?  To me this passage is a genuine challenge – what do you think?

Whatever my answers, I can’t help but look at verse 47!  If that is what we long for our churches today, what are we going to do, what am I going to do, to make them living communities of faith that people see the vitality and attraction of, find God in them and want to join – not to boost numbers but that we all may find a deeper relationship with God?

Thank you Lord
for tall those
who love you
and live for you.

Forgive me the times
I have preferred
to live my faith alone,
keep myself to myself
and hold back
from sharing with others.

Heal the hurts
that make me wary
of getting close
and letting others in,
I pray.

Help us,
your people,
to find a way
to live in sharing,
in risk,
in support of one another,
that makes people see you
and share themselves
with you
and us;
that together
we may find
a deeper relationship with you

Welcome to the Family

Book Review of Cranky, Beautiful Faith by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Cranky, Beautiful Faith is a book of reality and honesty – of leadership, of church life and of faith itself.  It is a narrative of Nadia’s life, her battles, her faith and the life of House of All Sinners and Saints, what the back cover blurb describes as a “mission church” in Denver.

It covers Nadia’s background, her call to ministry when she knew she was being called to be a ‘Pastor to her People’ – such an amazing and powerful call – and the journey that ensues.

Each chapter is as well as part of the story of the church, an illustration of a bible passage, something that seems to just follow naturally.  It is totally honest, gutsy and inspiring.   Nadia is not afraid to share the struggles of growing a church – and the reality of the failures.  Throughout there is an honesty of her own battles of emotions of what she’s feeling and what she knows she should think, and the work God is doing in her.  This offered me both encouragement and hope!

This book is inspiring and a real vision for how church can and should be – a place of real welcome for all.