This Easter season, we take time to explore the core foundations of the Christian faith. This series on The Apostles’ Creed explores the basic theological understandings of one of Christianity’s earliest statements of belief. The full set of sermons will be added each week to this page.
When we celebrate Baptism or when participants join as full members of this congregation, one of the promises (or vows if you prefer) made at this time is the promise of presence. For the last several years, we’ve discussed presence during our annual stewardship campaign. While this is partly about showing up and being present in our weekly Worship gatherings, I would not go so far as to say that showing up in church once a week is all that it means to be part of the church.
So if showing up in Sunday worship isn’t being the church, what could it mean? Each week in our Worship gatherings, we pray for God’s “kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” Perhaps that’s an indicator that being the church requires work, requires effort, requires commitment. But I also think what is required is connection and community and accountability and care. As the church, we support and care for each other so that we can do the work, put in the effort, make the commitment.
Acts 4:32-37 (CEB)
32The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, 35and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.
36Joseph, whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (that is, “one who encourages”), was a Levite from Cyprus. 37He owned a field, sold it, brought the money, and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles.
Matthew 28:16-20 (CEB)
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Consider these questions:
- Did you grow up in a faith community? What was it like? How often did you participate in worship or other activities? What were some of the other activities? How did this shape you and form you into the person of faith you are today?
- Has there ever been a time that you have not been part of a community of faith? What was your life like in that time? What kinds of things did you do to connect with others? How did this affect your life as a person of faith?
- Perhaps you came to faith later in life. What brought you to do so? What does the community at PB UMC mean to you? Is connecting with this community of faith a priority for you? Why or why not? What might make this a higher priority for you?
Post-Worship Update on 5/28
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message explored the importance of gathering together in a faith community. I realize that doing so may have seemed somewhat self-serving. Often it seems that institutions are bent on sustaining themselves. Could it be possible that churches are tempted to do the same?
Yes. Certainly. But let’s consider Sunday’s message as it was stated.
Religious affiliation has been declining in the U.S. for decades. This article from Gallup shows church membership declining especially over the last 20 years. To get more specific to our region, this article from Pew Research Center shows a current snapshot of data specific to the San Diego metro area.
But maybe it matters how we understand church. Is it a place that we go on Sunday mornings? Is it exclusively about worship or Bible study or collective singing and praying?
Or could it be bigger?
If we understand church to be a community of believers—persons who are called and set apart by God (holy)—for community and connection and support and prayer and learning and accountability and transformation, then our current notion of church can fit this understanding. But our current notion of church also doesn’t need to restrict or box-in this understanding.
And if we understand that the opportunity for transformation in participating in this faith community calls us to respond, then we can include in an understanding of church that we must (therefore) go to be the body of Christ in the world.
Perhaps it is not that people are less interested in church, and instead that people are less interested in limited expressions of church. Perhaps there is hope.
Consider these questions:
- Thinking about any previous experience of a faith community you have known, how do you think your experience has been limited by most common expressions of church?
- Try to imagine an expression of church that breaks free of those limitations. What does that look like? How are transformation and response a part of that vision?
- What can you do to live into a new expression of church, both individually and in community?