At church last Sunday, the pastor was preaching about being on a team. It was “Jersey Sunday,” so many people in church, including the pastor himself, were wearing jerseys of their favorite sports team.
The pastor talked about how none of us is self-sufficient. We need
other people. In this part of the sermon, the pastor was not saying
that we need to be social, though he would eventually imply that. Here,
he was just saying that we all depend on other people, since we cannot
do everything ourselves. Even loners need other people to provide
electricity to their homes, whether or not they ever actually interact
with those people!
The pastor also said that we, by ourselves, do not know everything.
That is why we need other people to give their opinions. The pastor may
have an idea about a particular area, but someone with more experience
in that area can say whether or not the idea is good.
The pastor referred to the Gospel text in which Jesus sends the
disciples out two-by-two. See, for example, Mark 6:7 and Luke 10:1.
Why did Jesus send the disciples out two-by-two? According to the
pastor, it was so that the two disciples could encourage each other when
they were persecuted, as Jesus did say that persecution was a
The pastor talked about working as a team on church ministry
projects, and not caring about who gets the credit. We can serve, and
our names may not be mentioned from the pulpit! Still, God appreciates
The pastor made the point that God is in the business of uniting people, whereas Satan is in the business of dividing people.
Then the pastor talked about the family, saying that we are
responsible to the family in which God placed us. The pastor referred
to Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, which talks about how two are better than one:
if one falls down, the other can lift that person up! The pastor said
that this is a sensitive passage for many, since they are alienated from
or at odds with their family. The pastor remarked that it is a
blessing for his children actually to want to talk to him! He then said
that people may have a successful business and be liked by the
community, but if their family life is not in order, then God looks down
at them from heaven and shouts “Boooo!”
The pastor stated that God does not make us loners. Rather, God brings us into community, through the Gospel.
I was grumbling against this message on the way home from church, and
throughout the week. More than once this week, I said to God, “Well,
booo on you then!” And, as is often the case, I responded to God’s
alleged idea that we should all be one happy community with “Dream on!”
But hate or contempt towards God or anyone else does not make me feel
emotionally at peace or uplifted, so I try to avoid such feelings.
As is usually the case, I seek some area of common ground with the
sermon, even if it makes me mad. I personally abhor the idea that God
boos those who fail to navigate their way successfully through the world
of interpersonal relationships, even with their own families. Still, I
do believe that God likes to see peace, harmony, love, and
reconciliation. “But Jesus said that he came to bring a sword and
division—-see Matthew 10:34-36!” True, there are times when one may need
to choose God or some higher principle over approval from our
families. Still, God’s path does aim towards unity. I do not mean
uniformity, since people are different and may disagree with each other,
as even the pastor acknowledged, but I am referring to unity in love.
The Bible emphasizes love, mercy, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness
We recently started watching Downton Abbey. As viewers of
the show may know, Lady Mary and Lady Edith hate each other! Lady Mary
probably views Lady Edith with contempt, regarding her as whiny,
mealy-mouthed, unattractive, and boring (not to mention underhanded).
And Lady Edith sees Lady Mary as, well, a witch with a capital B! I can
empathize with both of them, on some level (more so with Lady Edith),
but just once I would like to see Lady Mary and Lady Edith appreciate
each others’ strengths, or at least treat each other with maturity and
respect, even if they never become the best of friends. That, I think,
is how God is with us. God knows why we are angry with each other, and
God understands what buttons were pushed to make us upset. God is aware
of our frustrated desires, our unmet needs, our baggage, and our
interpersonal weaknesses. I doubt that God responds to that with
derision. But God would like for us to treat each other with maturity,
respect, dignity, and maybe even some appreciation.
In responding to the sermon, I found myself talking back to God, as I
said. Yet, I also talked back to myself. “Why does your heart have to
be so hard?” Believe me, even after writing this post, there will be
people from whom I will be alienated. But why do I have to be so cold?
What the pastor was saying about God not making us loners (though
that is still what I am, so there!) reminded me of a passage in Kevin
Vanhoozer’s Biblical Authority After Babel. It is on page 136
of the Adobe Digital version, and Vanhoozer is contrasting human
attempts at community with the community that God creates through the
“The basis for the reconciling practices that constitute the
Christian community is the cross of Christ. One important difference
between the church and godless congregations is that the church is not
trying to accomplish reconciliation but rather is attempting to bear
witness to what God has already achieved. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says
in Life Together, ‘Christian community is not an ideal we have
to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we