Freedom to Be in Community
The sun was shining high over Jerusalem. The poor guy sitting on the roof just wanted some relief from the heat. So he moved his chair a few feet over into the shade. Immediately, he heard shouting. As he turned to look, he saw several angry men rushing toward him. They began hurling stones and iron bars at the young guy, whose friends jumped in to defend him. In the end, eleven people were sent to the hospital for injuries.
This could be a scene from a movie, but it’s not. This incident took place in 2002 at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest sites in Christian tradition. The church is believed to stand on the site where Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Rather than serve as a place to unify Christians, the church has become the center of deep division. For centuries, members of six denominations have fought over property rights to the church. Because they do not trust one another, a Muslim family keeps control of the key to the church.
The church in Corinth appears to be similarly divided. Paul has learned that people are arguing over whose minister is better. Paul reminds the Corinthians that it doesn’t matter who their minister is; it’s not their ministers who gave their lives upon the cross and in whose name people are baptized. They should be focused on Jesus. In Jesus there are no divisions, only unity.
I imagine that was good news for the Corinthians. I hope it is for us. Disagreements and divisions require a lot of energy; you have to be concerned about boundaries, careful about what you say and how you say it, worried about where you place your chair. Jesus breaks through such division, freeing us to live in community.
Lord Jesus, help me to focus on you so that I may be free to embrace my community. Amen.
Sometimes we struggle with the challenges we face. If God is good and God is for us, then why do we experience pain and loss? Isaiah feels the sting of darkness and despair, and the psalmist has experienced days of distress. Yet both encourage themselves with the promise that God has not forgotten them. The light will come, as will the shouts of joy. The New Testament readings warn against following human leaders to the extent that we take our eyes off Christ. The Corinthian church has divided into factions that identify primarily with Paul or Peter, not Christ! The Gospel reading shows that Peter, like all other human leaders, is merely a disciple himself. Jesus is the one we should seek to follow.
Read Isaiah 9:1-4. How has God’s love freed you to find your calling?
Read Psalm 27:1, 4-9. When have you called out to God? How has God helped you turn your cries to praise?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. How have you experienced division within the body of Christ? How might a focus on Christ rather than particular faith leaders or denominations help you to repair division and work through differences?
Read Matthew 4:12-23. How have significant changes in your life (like a loved one’s death or a career change) allowed your ministry to grow?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.