You know the value of good friends when you can sit down with them and share what’s going on in your life. My wife and I did that just last night, first over burgers and beer in a local hangout, then in a quiet living room across town. In these friends, I see God at work. I recognize signs of what God is trying to do in the world: Bringing people together in meaningful and life-giving relationships.
The irony of the church is that too often we lose sight of that which is at the heart of God’s work in the world. We forget that relationships are central. Though the community of the church is intended to be a sign of God’s redemptive work that brings people together in peace, the church is too often contentious. Sometimes people in the church are downright mean-spirited. This is not God’s intent. It is not faithful to the witness of our faith. The presence of those who hurt is a sign that though God’s life is at work among us the church continues to be torn. Though God raises up the church to be a sign of God’s healing work, the church itself needs God’s continued redemptive work.
God’s ultimate goal is to bring an abiding peace into the world. Even as Jesus was being crucified by the antithesis of God’s intent, God was at work to bring new life to the dark places of this world. The resurrection is the sign of God’s determination to bring an end to all the powers of hatred, enmity, strife and division. The open grave of Easter declares God’s intent to enter the world as one who brings life and peace for all. So, the Holy Spirit gathers the church to be God’s redeemed people, a people brought out of the old ways of destruction and death. The Holy Spirit establishes the church to be the ongoing presence of God’s healing way in the world.
Conversation with friends of faith over burgers and beer or in a quiet living room across town is a sign that God continues to be at work. So, I give thanks for them. And with this thanksgiving comes the challenge: to face the world and to lead in the church in such a way that God’s purposes in Christ might continue through the community of faith, imperfect as it is.
The above picture, “Burger(ville) and Beer” is by ahockley. It is used by permission given in its creative commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license.