Posts Tagged ‘koinonia’

Can you imagine a time when everyone in a gathering was so fired up for God that they had to be admonished to “slow down,” to take turns, to be polite? Everything from music to words of knowledge to prophetic utterances were common place. What happened?

I Corinthians 14:26b, 33
When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. . . . For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

I guess, in the “name of order,” habits developed. I’m trying to remember a saying about traditions. It’s something like, “the first time you do something, it’s a novelty, the second time you do it, it’s repetition, and the third time, it’s tradition, locked in stone.” How many families have traditions that got started accidentally? And once they’ve passed the “three times” mark, how do you stop them?

Church services are no different it seems. Repetition and tradition have ruled the roost for so long in church that it’s nearly impossible to envision a “new order.” Solomon knew, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]

When the Charismatics emerged in the 1970’s, they were determined to break the mold and get back to the old ways. They took the Corinthian verses about the manifestation of the gifts and church leaders encouraged their flocks to sing in the spirit, prophesy in the spirit, speak in tongues, interpret, etc. I know because I was there, singin’, dancin’, and prophesyin’. Those were exciting times. But then, things got a little out of hand. Bold people got carried away and it seemed like they had prophecies and tongues every week, every service, every opportunity. And more often than not, the utterances were relatively generic or downright anemic (not unlike newspaper astrology – fits for anyone). After awhile, even I started to cringe whenever I heard someone start in a loud voice, “My children, my children . . . ” Most of these prophetic statements were less than enlightening.

And so, after awhile, one by one, these wild services started putting on the brakes. Pastors had quiet conversations with the self-anointed prophets and tongue speakers and “in the name of order,” everyone settled down to a standard: praise songs, worship songs, a prophetic utterance or two (maybe a tongue and maybe an interpretation, but they all sounded the same), greeting one another, announcements, fund-raising (I mean, offering), more music, and then the sermon. I guess we were saving the best for last?

Eventually, the “wild” churches became equally traditional and tame as the very churches they tried to break away from.

I think this is one reason for the interest in the old forms like liturgy, praying the hours, celebrating the church calendar, weekly and daily communion, meditation, contemplation, labyrinth prayers, and so on. You want order? That’s well thought out order.

But, is it any better? There’s no better or worse to any of these traditions really.

Another trend is “house churches.” Of course, these have been popping up here and there for years, so it’s not really that new, but the popularity of home churches is gaining momentum. In some cases, it’s a push back from large churches, traditions, and the like. In other cases, they are an outgrowth of the “small group” movement where folks from bigger churches have discovered they can enter into more meaningful relationships in weekly meetings with fewer people. But I have a feeling, traditions and “order of worship” have developed in these settings as well.

So, what’s the answer? Don’t know.

I have some kind of an “ideal” in my mind. But it’s just that, a dream: church as koinonia, where people know each other, love each other, and care for each other. And flowing over koinonia, the vertical relationships with God who covers a multitude of sins and mistakes. And flowing out of koinonia is service together to help those who cannot help themselves. How big can koinonia get? I don’t know, but I doubt it’s much bigger than Jesus’s example of the twelve. Anything outside of that is just friendly fellowship.

One thing the Catholics did right was the parish concept: people worshiping together who live together. Koinonia is no different. We must be able to participate in one another’s lives.

I asked a friend the other day, “If disaster happened, where would you run?” He said, most people go home. But face it, the family unit is too small and isolated to face true disaster. And in many cases, family is dispersed as well. Can I run to my church? At this point, it’s 25 minutes away by car. My neighbors? I have lived on the same block for twelve years and although I can name six or seven families, that’s my limit. Would we turn to one another in the face of danger? Would a type of koinonia develop from need on our block? Would we approach disaster the same way without a shared faith?

Lots of questions today. Lots of dreaming.

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Some people move from one church to another. Other people stay in the same church all of their lives. Sometimes people leave in a huff because the piano is moved from one side of the sanctuary to another. Sometimes, it’s just time for change. But aren’t we still in the same Body?

I Corinthians 12:14-15
For the body does not consist of one limb or organ but of many. If the foot should say, Because I am not the hand, I do not belong to the body, would it be therefore not [a part] of the body?

I have experienced splits in churches where one half of the congregation follows one leader and the other half follows another leader. I have seen denominational leaders “invite” the parishioners to leave a church because of worship practices and disagreements. I have seen ministers brought down, music directors and youth leaders cast out for mistakes. I have seen gossiping, backbiting, and lies told in the name of “being right.”

And yet, aren’t we all needed in the Body of Christ? Isn’t a good portion of this type of in-fighting happen when the “eyes” of the Body are trying to get the feet to act like them?

Once a person enters the Body of Christ through an expression of faith and testimony, then that person is part of the Body . . . period. Our job is not to “mold” the body parts to become like us. Our job is to work together and to celebrate individual giftings, to find “place” for each person.

This all goes back to the recognition of the “sacred other.” If we look for the heart, then all are the same.

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Let us give meaning to the Bread and WineJesus loved to speak in stories, symbols and metaphors. The supernatural world is indescribable otherwise. Our language is unable to represent something we do not know or understand. The meaning is revealed over time.

I Corinthians 11:26
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt. [The Message Bible]

Bread and wine were used throughout Jewish history, from manna to unleavened bread to the Temple showbread. But, at the last supper, Jesus takes bread and intentionally breaks it and shares it with the disciples (and probably everyone else who was in the room, since I believe there were women and servers there as well, and it was not a “private” event as is so often depicted). He is setting up a symbol to be repeated and to have meaning throughout history.

So often, we think of the “bread” (what we now call communion bread) as something he is doing for us. We are consuming it, we are gaining. But today, I am thinking about the implications for him. He is symbolically cutting up his body for the sake of others. His death and sacrifice begins that night.

And all that He asks is that we remember and keep remembering. “Touch me, smell me, eat me, drink me, and be whole,” He says through the sacrifice. The Jewish rituals of old had prepared people for the New Covenant. It was still the same: sacrifice for sin, offerings for forgiveness, awareness for new beginnings.

Contemporary Christians have lost the deep significance in the consuming of Christ’s symbols of body and blood. Plastic drink cups and dry crackers are poor substitutes. In this regard, it’s very possible that “high church” folks have it right.

On Memorial Days, we consider the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives. It’s holy and solemn and thoughtful. Should Christ’s memorial be any less from week to week or month to month?

The body and blood, the bread and wine, has the power to transform us. I want to remember. I want to really remember today.

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I was going to review some of the current exegesis on hair & head coverings for women and/or men and how it’s applicable today. Forget that. It’s massive and contradictory. So what is my “take away” today? Where is the nugget that will have meaning and application for me?

I Corinthians 11:2, 7
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God . . . A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

With just a little reading about these passages, it’s clear to me that a great number of the verses are grounded in the culture of the day. There are modern day examples of coverings like the burqas of the Middle East, the “caps” worn by Mennonite and Amish women, or the veils worn by women in various high church services and masses. Some of these traditions have morphed into the custom of wearing hats in church, a practice still prevalent among many African American churches or seasonally in a variety of churches, like Easter Sunday.

But here’s the truth of it: I don’t wear head coverings. I don’t wear them to church (unless I am visiting a church where this is expected) and I don’t wear them to pray, sing, or worship. About the only time I wear a hat is to shield my face from the sun at the beach.

If I weigh the controversy over head coverings with the Jesus Creed, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul & strength and to love my neighbor as myself, could it possibly matter? Does God love me less? Do I cut myself off from the blessings of God?

Now, what about the sister verses that are slipped in between the head covering ones? That “man” is the image & glory of God while woman is the glory of man or that Christ is the head of man while man is the head of woman. Hiccup. Hiccup. I need to take a breath here.

All right, I can work through the headship scenario: since Christ is the head of man, well, then Christ is ultimately the head of woman too (If A=B and B=C, then A=C). That was easy.

But what about the glory piece? Am I the light of “man?” Do I, woman, reflect the character of “man” by who I am, what I do, and what I say? Do the men I know reflect the character of God in Christ?

If my previous post about the default of glory being both male and female believers reflecting the glory of God, then, wouldn’t we be the glory for one another, whether male or female. It’s about relationships, to God and to each other. If I am not in community with men and women, there is no reflecting going on anyway. I cannot be the glory for any person without being in relationship with him or her. I cannot sustain the light of Christ if I am not in relationship there either.

I’m sure there is plenty of room for debate about these verses and the “roles” of men and women, but I’m not going to spend more time trying to justify my stance. If I can be the light and glory of Christ in the world, then the rest will work out the way it is supposed to work out. If I love as Christ loved, then glory abounds. If I learn and practice authentic humility, then both man and woman are lifted up. This I believe.

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If you had to choose, which would you rather have, love or knowledge? Should be a no-brainer. But I’ve been choosing knowledge more often than not. I can control knowledge. I cannot control love.

I Corinthians 8:1b-2
We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.

Intellectually, I understand why love would be the best choice. This is what God has been teaching me over the last year. I know that. But, today, I see it with a clarity I’ve never seen before. Love tempers knowledge. Love takes knowledge into wisdom. Love takes me out of myself and into “other.”

In the realm of spiritual gifts, let’s say, there is the “word of knowledge,” but this word must be given in love or it becomes a weapon and a place of pride.

Love is universal. Knowledge is not.

Knowledge can grow in a field of love, but love is not a natural outgrowth of knowledge.

God is love [I John 4:8]. And it’s not that God isn’t knowledge, but that is not what drives the Holy Spirit.

I’m pretty smart. I have been given a a strong IQ and all that. I like to study. I love to read and learn. I enjoy building my knowledge base. I am intrigued by others who are smart. I can do knowledge all by myself.

But love cannot be practiced alone. Love is the essential ingredient to family, to koinonia, to community, to church, to peace.

May the mindfulness of the Holy Spirit keep me in a spirit of love this day.

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How many times have people casually said they can’t be with you, but “I’ll be with you in spirit.” Isn’t that just a nice way to say they’ll be thinking about you? But what if there is more? What if there is potential for power there?

I Corinthians 5:3a
As for my attitude, though I am absent [from you] in body, I am present in spirit, . . .

This section of I Corinthians is not easy for me. It’s a whole mess about sexual sin and “casting the sinner out” of the fellowship for sexual immorality and “handing him over to Satan.” Whoa! I just can’t begin to write about this in any reasonable way.

Instead, I want to consider the possibilities of power that come with being somewhere “in spirit.” Jesus is actually with us “in spirit.” This is not some off hand or incidental description. The presence of the Holy Spirit on earth is transformational. It is the strength of the Spirit that teaches, counsels, and guides us.

Paul implies that his relationship to the believers in Corinth bring his spirit in their midst as well. It is sharing the essence of a person and invoking him/her through ideas, words, and thought.

I imagine my own spirit a little like a pomegranate, with its many, many seeds. Can I give one seed of my spirit to another, to a group, to a place, where I would like to be present? Will my spirit seed make a difference?

I think of all the places I have lived and all the people I have known, paths that have intersected over the years. When it was time to say goodbye, could I consciously leave some small part of myself with them, in love?

In the same way that a parent can divide her heart to love all of her children, no matter how many, so can the spirit divide and divide again. When we give of ourselves in that way, there is actually a multiplication that happens (a paradox). Like a tree that is pruned and more branches grow, so is the deposit of our spirit seeds with others.

Today, I want to think about “being with you in spirit,” being with my kids, in spirit, my husband, my friends, my brother in Denver, my aunt in Germany, my half-sister in Tallinn.

I send them out my spirit like a milkweed seed, lightly and lovingly.

[Special thanks to Amy Lamb for use of her photograph, Milkweed Seed Pod.)]

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We each have what is needed to become what God intends. Our destiny is fueled by our giftings, environment, genealogy, and circumstances. Do I like that idea? Not much. I keep trying to run away from my past, my trials, and my circumstances.

I Corinthians 3:21-23
So let no one exult proudly concerning men [boasting of having this or that man as a leader], for all things are yours, Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas (Peter), or the universe or life or death, or the immediate and [a] threatening present or the [subsequent and uncertain] future–all are yours, And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

For years, I kept searching for the right church, the right leader/teacher, the right community, the right books. I’d hear about incredible anointings upon this church or that church, this leader or that leader and ask God why I didn’t have access to these experiences. I’d read about miracles and outpourings, but always from afar. And with the advent of lightspeed communications, I could hear and see all of these things happening elsewhere.

It’s like daydreaming about winning the lottery. Oh, if only I had a million bucks, then I could really do something good. Why, Lord, I’d even tithe 10% of that million. There’s generosity. And I’ll send another 10% overseas to the missions our church supports in Africa. And then I’ll pay off my debts. I know you want me to do that, it’s scriptural. And then I’ll sock some away for my kids’ education. But once I get past these obligations, I can rub my hands together and really have some spending fun.

When will I get it?

Look in the mirror. This is what I have: my health (for today), my age, my family, my knowledge, my work, my friends, my church, my neighborhood, my pets, my “stuff,” my faith. . . ah, my Redeemer, who really owns all of these things. Remember, I surrendered myself to God. That included the whole package, what it was then and what it became through the years and ultimately, what it will be.

This day, I have everything I need to serve God. It’s up to me to accept all the challenges and circumstances and to live, really live this day fully and to apply all I know to it. I am not a president or a preacher. I am not world renown. I am not a celebrity. I am me and I am called to live this day completely in the name of the One God. That’s all. That’s enough.

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