September 6th 2015

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

Right now, as we gather here in this nice, cool building, there’s a group of—about 65 or 70 thousand—people who gather in Nevada’s Black Rock desert creating a temporary city called….”The Burning Man.”  Have you heard of this?  It’s a temporary city in the middle of the desert, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, where every year around Labor Day weekend this community of about 70,000 people forms.  The uniting factor of this community is that they’re all weird!  Or, as they would say, unique!  They have these uniting mantras about them.  One is that they are artistic, creative, self-expressing and self-reliant.  That’s the community of the Burning Man.  They gather, quite literally, around a 150 foot tall wooden structure that looks like a man.  They’ve been doing this since the mid-80’s.  It’s grown in magnitude and splendor.  At the end of the week—-I believe it’s tomorrow at some point—-the group will gather around and light said man on fire, burn him to the ground, give each other some high fives, go back to their homes and somebody will stay behind and start building next year’s burning man that they’ll do all over again.  Interesting, isn’t it?  To form a community around a wooden structure.  What we see in this community that forms….really just to be a community….is that God has wired something deep into our DNA where we long to be connected to other people.  Is it true?  Where even something as trivial and silly as gathering around and camping in the middle of the desert for a week….we will do that in order to be connected to our fellow human beings. We will build something so ridiculous as a 150 foot wooden structure to say, this is enough to unite us.  There’s something in us that cries out and longs to be connected to the people that we’re with.  Isn’t there?

This last week—you may have read—Facebook announced that there were over 1 billion active users on Facebook in the same day!  One billion active users!!  That’s a lot!  That’s about 1/7th of the world’s population.  2.2 billion people have a Facebook account.  You tell me we’re not crying out to be connected to the people around us.

As those who follow the way of Jesus, we want to affirm two things.  One it’s that this is not an accident.  It didn’t happen by happenstance and it’s not some evolutionary coping device to make it in the world.  That’s not how this came about.  We are a reflection of, as we’ve prayed and sang today, the Triune God.  That God, in and of Himself, is community.  He is relationship.  In His word he says I am love.  And He puts his stamp, his image, on us as His image bearers.  We are created in His image, so this isn’t an accident that we want to be connected to each other.  That we want to find places where we’re known, where we’re valued, where we’re loved.  There’s something in us that just screams out for it.  Isn’t there?

Jesus, in the calling of His first disciples….listen to what He does.  It’s really fascinating.  In this one verse we see this sorta mode for discipleship.  We see this picture of what being a disciple, which is God’s calling on your life and mine, looks like.  Jesus, walking along the shore of Galilee: He said to them..  Now this is a group of people who are in a boat.  It’s not just hey, PETER, come and follow me…it’s “he says to THEM.”  He calls THEM, not him, them.  He says “Follow me, and I will make you…{Now you can’t tell in the English, but what’s under this word in the Greek is that it’s PLURAL.  This is I’ll make Y’ALL or…..actually it’s not y’all.  In Texas, it’s not y’all but “ALL Y’ALL.”   Follow me, and I will make “all y’all” fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19)    I will transform you, make you “in” and “for” community.  It’s not only God’s calling on our lives, it’s God’s stamp of discipleship.  It’s impossible to be or become a disciple just in isolation.  It’s woven into the DNA of our being to need each other.  It’s not just an added benefit…’s a need.  God’s formation of His church and his relentless pursuit, which we’ve been talking about over the last six weeks, to bless his world—to holistically redeem, renew and restore all of creation…..we saw it in Genesis 12 and it weaves its way through every single page of His Scriptures….His desire to bless his world is intricately woven into his creation of what we call…the church.  Here’s what God knows:  He knows that He cannot bless you, in its fullest extent and its fullest measure, as an individual.  It can’t happen.  He cannot bless His people without uniting them with each other.   In the Greek, it’s this word “ekklesia.”  We translate it church.  Everywhere you read “church” in the New Testament, most of the time it’s from the word “ekklesia.”  It’s a compound word.  “Ek” is “out of.”  “Klesia” or “kaleo” is the root and it’s “to be called.”  So what Jesus is saying is this is a group of called out people.  The word is plural in nature, indicating that believers are automatically, when they put faith in Christ…they’re called TO Christ, out of the world and placed IN community with each other.

The Archbishop Desmond Tutu says: “A self-sufficient human being is sub-human.  God made us so that we will benefit from each other?  {No, that’s not what he said.  I think Tutu hits the nail on the head when he says that God created us and made us so that we would NEED each other.}  God made us so that we will need each other.”  THE CHURCH, what you’re a part of here today, this gathering of and uniting of people under the good news of the Gospel, God’s faith community is God’s answer to humanity’s desire to be part of something far greater than themselves.  What we do isn’t trivial….here on a Sunday morning….in Life Groups that happen mid-week…in chats that happen around coffee…in getting together for barbecues at peoples’ houses….this is not trivial.  And by the way, all those things listed are all CHURCH.  You cannot go to church.  You know that, right?  You can’t go to church.  That’s why when I welcome you, I don’t say “Welcome to South Fellowship Church.”  Listen, I say, “Welcome! South Fellowship Church.”   Those are two very different things.  You can’t go to church.  You ARE the church!  Where you go….the church IS.  Here’s what’s deep in my soul:  I imagine a place where people are KNOWN, where they’re VALUED, where they’re LOVED.  I imagine a church where no one walks through the door and is lonely.  Where no one feels like there’s nobody that cares.  Where no one feels like there’s no one that really knows them.  I imagine a place where you come through these doors, or down at Solid Grounds, or in your homes, or in coffee shops all around the community, wherever it may be, where you find places where you are known, valued and loved and lonely, disconnected and distant Christian is an oxymoron.  That’s the place I imagine.  Who’s with me?  That’s what I long for us to be and to become a part of.

1 Corinthians 12….let me paint for you the way that the Apostle Paul says it to the church at Corinth.  He’s writing to the church to give them instruction in how to use spiritual gifts in a way that would build up the people around them and build up the body, but even more than that, he’s talking about how do we really function in this thing that we call church.  The body life together.  What are the rules of engagement?  What are God’s goals in forming us and shaping us together?  How do we hold on to the things that are most important?  Verse 4:  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit {Immediately he’s going to start making some contrast.  We have these things different, but this is the same.  This is different, but this is the same.}  …and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit {So God’s Spirit placed inside of you at the time of faith has gifted you and wired you uniquely and supernaturally, as you’re gonna find, to play a part in this Body.}  ….for the common good.    That’s why you have that gift.  We’re in this together, friends.  This isn’t trivial.  The gift that you have been given is designed to—-and look around—-build up the people around you.  And in their building-up you are built up.  So let me say it like this today: The common good of the Body (or of the whole) is the greatest good for each individual.  The gifts that we’ve been given are not for our sake alone, they’re to build up this Body, but it’s a Body that you are a part of and as it’s built up and strengthened and matured and honoring to Jesus and looks like Jesus and displays Jesus to the world around us….as THAT happens and you’re a part of it using your gift, your part that you play, you’re built up.  Follower of Jesus, you’re never built up simply as the Lone Ranger.  Doesn’t happen.  It happens as we’re built up together.

Listen to the way the prophet Jeremiah says this to the nation of Israel as they’re in exile.  I’m going to summarize:  He tells them to sink some roots down.  Get married.  Plant gardens.  Work for the welfare of the city.  He says: Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile.  So even as you’re in a place you don’t want to be and never imagined you’d live….even there.  Pray to the Lord of its (the city’s) behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:4-7)  As the city is looking more like the kingdom of God, you’ll find your welfare, Israelites.  It doesn’t happen independently of the whole, it happens alongside of God doing and building something up that you get to be a part of.  We know this is true.  Let me tell you how I know.  Because whether or not you have money in the Stock Market, you were looking at the Dow Jones, I was looking at the Dow Jones and the S&P this week going I have very little in there, but I know that if this thing crashes it affects me.  If you think well, 50-50, just travel to Greece.  Go ask them how that’s working out.  You can’t go the ship is sinking, but I’m okay!  It doesn’t work that way!  It doesn’t work that way in relationships either.   We were wired for this.  We were designed for this.  The success or demise of the individual is deeply connected to the whole.  The common good of the Body is the greatest good for each individual.  Listen to the way Paul writes this to the church at Ephesus:  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by very joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)   This is the church.  God building, not just individuals, but as you’re a part of the whole, you are strengthened and you are built up.  I hope that’s good news for you this morning.

I want to point out four things that are convictions, common convictions, that followers of Jesus must have if this is going to be a reality.  Paul’s going to list these in here in the section that focuses on how we operate as one body with many parts.  (I Corinthians 12:12-13)  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body…  {Do you get the picture he is painting?  That we are all part of this whole.  The hand doesn’t go: Man, it’s great to be a hand.  Or an ear go: Man, I’m looking good today!  It’s part of the whole.}  …so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.   This is a beautiful picture of the common confession that you and I share as followers of Jesus.  That the life of the Body is grounded and founded in this common, uniting declaration that Jesus is Lord.  We’re baptized into His Body.  We’re associating with His death, with His burial, with His resurrection.  It says also that the Spirit is in us, uniting us and pushing us together.  HE is the thing that unites us.  {Pastor Ryan asks two people up to help.}  Often we think unity is holding hands with each other and thinking we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Body, we are one in….and we’re holding hands with each other and that’s where our unity is found.  But that’s not the picture that Paul paints here.  {He hands the individuals a corded rope—Jesus—to hold on to and it links them together.}  Paul says we are united, but it’s far tighter than a uniting of just holding hands with each other.  The uniting factor for followers of Jesus is this common confession of Jesus is Lord.  When I lose hold of this (the rope or Jesus), I lose hold of community.  I lose hold of the togetherness that the gospel purchases.  But when I’m holding on to Jesus and so are others than we are intricately, very intimately united with each other because we are united with Jesus.  Your unity as a Body is far greater than the things you share in common, as far as your preferences, the songs that you like, the things that you enjoy doing in your off time, the hobbies that you hold….or even around some wooden figure that’s 150 feet tall and you get to express yourself individually because of him.  Your uniting factor as a Body is around the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and the confession of faith where we say we’re in this together, because we affirm that Jesus is Lord!  When we lose hold of that, we lose hold of the thing that uniquely unites us as followers of Jesus.  You see that happen in marriages.  You see that happen in churches.  You see it happen all around us.  What I’m saying is…’s what the Apostle Paul writes:  You’re part of something far bigger than yourself, don’t lose hold of Him!  In holding Him, we get to walk with each other.  {Dismisses helpers}  I love the way that Paul says it to the church of Colossae (Colossians 1:18) when he says that Jesus is the head of the Body.  We read it in Ephesians 2 as we started the service in the call to worship: that we are all members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…  That’s who we’re all built around.  That’s who we’re all holding onto and our shared faith should be bigger than anything that could potentially separate us.

Paul continues in verse 14:  For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?  If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.    Here’s what Paul is saying:  You are part of the whole, not just an individual soul.  He starts off with feet because back in this culture feet were the least appreciated part of the body.  In fact, rabbis would teach that the moment a shoe left the shoemaker’s anvil and hit the ground, it was considered unclean.  When rabbis would teach, anytime they would say the word “foot” or “feet” they would apologize beforehand.  It was sorta like swearing.  It was a four-letter word!   Paul starts with what they would consider to be the least appreciated, the least needed and the least welcome part of the body and he goes if we don’t have that part we don’t have something that’s deeply necessary.  I love the way Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it in his great book Life Together: “Church is not a community of souls, but the real body of Christ on earth.”  Hey, you guys, if we are going to operate like this, we have to have this shared common ground of every single person is valued and every single person is needed.  If we are going to become all that God intends us to become as a body, as a church, we (it’s not optional) need you to play the part that God has uniquely wired and called you to play.  Because if you aren’t who you are called to be, we will never be who we are called to be.  My dream is that there is no such thing as a side-line Christian at South Fellowship Church.  That you know that you’re not just an individual soul, that you’re part of the whole and we need you to play the part that God has wired you to play.  My cards are on the table….there’s not some mold that I want to fit you in.  Do we need people to work in our Children’s and Student ministries?  Yes!  But I firmly believe that because we need it—and I think God’s calling us to do those ministries—He’s going to put it in your heart, He’s going to give you the gifts to build this body up in that way.  But I don’t have a mold I want to fit you into, I really don’t.  I want to create at South Fellowship Church a “yes culture.”  Where you come to us or go to your Life Group leader and say, “I have this desire in me to reach out to…fill in the blank.”  And the answer is, “Yes!  How do we help you?  How do we walk with you?”  Because if you’re not who God’s called you to be, we will never be who God’s called us to be.

The common good of each individual is the greater good of the whole Body.  That’s what Paul’s teaching here.  You have value.  You have worth.  We need you to play the part that God has called you to play.  If you have either grey hair or no hair, look up at me for just a second.  We need you!  You cannot check out!  If you’re not dead, you’re not done!!!  This Body needs mature followers of Jesus who have walked that road, who are willing to say maybe this is not all about me anymore, but I’m willing to come alongside of……  Titus 2….this church which is training and mentoring, which is older men walking with younger men, older women walking with younger women and teaching us and them how to live in a way that would honor Jesus and lead to their joy.  If you’re not dead you’re not done and if you have grey hair or bald head, please don’t check out on this place.  We need you!!  I’m going to get up on my soapbox a second.  I have no interest in being a part of a multi-generational church.  I don’t.  I want….I envision…I imagine us being an INTERgenerational church!  Where the wisdom of the old can brush up against the passion of the youth and we can say Jesus is better.  We’re united in Him.  There’s a hill to take and He is worth it….let’s do it together!  That’s the church I imagine in the New Testament.  You’re not just an individual soul, you’re part of the whole.  That’s hard to do on a Sunday morning, wouldn’t you agree?  It happens in Life Groups.  It happens in Men’s Ministry.  It happens in Women’s Ministry.  It happens as you gather in homes and coffee shops throughout the week.  It happens in Sunday School classes on Sunday morning.  It’s harder and harder to have it all happen as we grow—praise the Lord!  It’s harder to have it all happen right here.  It happens outside of Sunday oftentimes.  But I’m inviting you to something way bigger than two hours on your Sunday morning!

Verse 24 halfway through it.  Listen to what Paul writes to the church.  But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it.   So he goes:  The part that you thought didn’t play that big of a part…God says oh man, they’re indispensable!  When I read this I think of our tech and media team.  That is the worst ministry to serve on.  Shhh, don’t tell them!  Here’s why:  You only notice them when something goes wrong.  Nobody has gone back there and said high five, you guys are doing a great job!  Why?  Because the lights were on when you came in and slides are up there and they’re doing a great job!  They get your emails, right, when it’s too loud, it’s too soft, it’s too bright, it’s too dark, it’s too this…..  Man, but we need it all. We’re not just individuals.  We’re part of this body and we want to honor one another.  Paul goes the parts that lacked it God gave greater honor….that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.  Here’s what Paul’s saying:  We have a common fight: We (if I could go back and reprint your bulletin I would say something stronger than “preserve.”) long for, we strive for, we actively set our mind towards unity because division is disease.  That’s what Paul’s saying.  I love how he says it to the Ephesian church:  Therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you {He’s like come on church!} to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another {Don’t you love this?  Turn to the person next to you and say, “Some days I just have to bear with you!”  Some of you loved doing that!!  But this is real, isn’t it?  Paul’s writing to a real church in a real context where there’s real offenses that have been made to the people in the body interpersonally, and he says some days we need to fight to preserve the unity and we need to bear with one another.  I love that because it’s not just flowery, ethereal, perfect church life.  It’s the nitty gritty real that you and I know.  This is something that’s messy that doesn’t always look exactly the way we want it to look.}  …bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.    I love that because he says it’s not always pretty and it doesn’t always work out the way that we want it to, but there’s something greater that unites us than what could ever divide us and we’re fighting to hold onto that.  We’re fighting to hold onto Him and in holding onto Him, I can say to my fellow brother I forgive you.  Bear with me.  Forgive me.  I’m gonna need that, you guys.  You’re going to need that.  If we’re both holding onto Him, we can give it… His grace.  By His power.  By His goodness.

I love the way that Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes this, once again, in his book Life Together, which, by the way, would be great supplemental reading if you’re interested.  This is a lengthy quote so stick with me.  It’s important enough to focus on.  “By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.  He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream.  God is not a God of emotions but the God of truth.  Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.  The sooner this shock of disillusionment {Which means this isn’t going to be exactly what we dreamed it would be.  It’s not going to always serve us the exact way that we want it to serve us.  It’s going to be messy.  It’s going to be gritty.  We’re going to need to bear with one another.  Forgive one another.} comes to an individual and to a community, the better for both. {So, Bonhoeffer goes the moment the honeymoon wears off, we can actually get down to what it really looks like to be married. Don’t say amen too loud.  He ends with this.}  He who loves the dream of a community more than the community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”   Here’s what he’s saying:  true community only forms when the ideal community dies.  Where we go yeah, this isn’t exactly what we thought and it’s completely imperfect.  And just a side note anecdotally:  If you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it!!  You will mess it up! Just stay away and admire it!  But if you join…you’re a sinner and you’re saved by grace.  You’re gonna need somebody to bear with you, don’t join that place.   When the ideal community in your mind dies and the real starts to take place and we can sink our feet it and go we’re fighting and we’re striving for there to be no division, because naturally, there’s things that could divide us, but what unites us is greater than any of those things, amen?

He gives us two applications that I want to point out and then close.  He says this in verse 26:  If one member suffers, all suffer together.   This is a vulnerable picture of community, isn’t it?  Where we’re willing to say to each other I’m hurting and I’m not okay.  And the people of God dive in.  They go we’re with you in that.  We’re going to walk with you.  We’re going to empathize with you.  We can do a certain amount of that from the platform on a Sunday morning.  We can make announcements about births and deaths and things like that, but we can’t do the nitty gritty of:  I am not okay today.  Which is why to be the church we need to move beyond Sunday.  It can’t just be a Sunday morning, two hour thing.  Your life has to rub up against other believers where we can really mourn with each other.  Be vulnerable with each other.  Be intimate with one another. Aware of each other where we can enter in and sit with people because we know a God who entered in and sat with us.

Second thing he (Paul) says:  If one member is honored, {Literally in the Greek it would be “crowned with glory.”}  all rejoice together.   We celebrate with each other.  You know what cannot be present if celebration is?  Competition.   If I celebrate your accomplishments and we’re in competition with each other, I have just automatically slid down a rung on the ladder, haven’t I?  So if competition is present, celebration or rejoicing with each other can’t be.  This is not easy!  For the single person to rejoice with someone who gets married, when everything inside of you goes that’s what I’ve been praying for and longing for for years!  For the jobless person to celebrate a promotion….and you’re going God, could you just have maybe the leftovers come my way?  For the people who’ve struggled with infertility celebrating the birth of a child.  There’s something deeper inside of us that unites us…than that which could divide.  In the community of faith, in Life Groups, in Men’s ministry and Women’s ministry….in coffee shops, in homes, in adult Sunday classes, all around our community….this is the type of church we want to see:  where we’re willing to celebrate and say we’re not in competition.  Where we’re willing to mourn and say we’re vulnerable.  And we’re willing to enter in with one another.

Here’s what Paul says in verse 27: Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.    See what he did there?  He started out by saying you’re part of the body.  You play a small part of the whole, but he ends by saying:  Don’t let the fact that you are a part of the whole, cause you to lose the fact that God has created you and wired you uniquely, individually and we need—not just an option—we need your unique expression of walking in the body together for us to be all that God designed us to be.  You are individually members of it. Here’s the way I’ll say it for us this morning.  We have this common mentality:  We are convinced that unity doesn’t mean uniformity.  We don’t just want to create people that all look the exact same.  We love diversity and we love gathering together and saying we have different perspectives on how this whole thing should go and what we should be involved in and what we should do, but we have THIS in common.  We’re holding on to the one who’s holding on to us.  And that’s enough.  In the church, God has made a way for the manifold beauty of His glory and grace to be displayed and it’s not in all of us looking the same.  It’s in all of us confessing Jesus is Lord.  He’s big enough to create space for us to be who God’s called us to be and still be unified with each other.  God has made you to be someone unique and this body needs that uniqueness.

How does this play out at South?  I’ve mentioned a number of these things already.  Life Groups are intended to be places where you can live out the “one anothers.”  Some of those happen in Men’s ministry and Women’s ministry and homes throughout the week.  Sunday School classes that happen on Sunday mornings.  Service teams are designed… serving together and linking arms with one another.  You know what God does in those instances?  He unites your heart with other people.  You want to connect deeply with people?  Serve alongside of them.  A few other ideas.  How do you connect at South if you’re feeling disconnected?  Let me throw out a few things.  One: Come early and stay late.  Two: When you’re here….this is going to be earth shattering, I know…..I’m going to throw it out there…..when you’re here….TALK to people!  As a pastor, there’s nothing that makes me go “oh man, I need to bear with you” more than when people come to me and they’re like nobody talks to me.  I’m like well, are you talking to anyone?  Well, no.  Here’s the thing:  People may not know that you want to talk if you don’t open your mouth!  Can we be a community where people interact with each other and are known beyond tweets and Facebook comments, but maybe over cups of coffee, in our lobby.  Get here early.  Stay late.  Sit in the same area.  Talk to people.  Shake hands during the greeting time, etc., etc., etc.  I long for us to be a place where you’re built up as this body grows to become more and more what Jesus died to purchase.

{Pastor Ryan plays video of John Sarazen.  John talks about how the community of South has helped him. He felt acceptance in the groups he participated in.  Acceptance made him feel free and it was a gift.  Before getting involved he didn’t feel good enough for anything.  Today he feels and knows he’s worthy to be part of the community.}

I long for every single one of us:  known  valued  loved.  By both God and by the people He’s invited you to walk with.  Would you share your life here?  Would you share your gifts here?  If you’re not who you are, we can’t be who God’s called us to be.  Right now, in the desert of Nevada, there’s 70,000 people staring at a 150 foot tall wooden structure that they’re about to light on fire and burn to the ground.  In contrast, there’s hundreds of thousands and millions and maybe even billions of people across the globe who look on.  Not at the burning man, but of the crucified man who’s risen and saying back to you, “Am I enough for you to find life in?  Am I enough to bring you together and unite you?  Will you gather around me?  Will you gather around my table and my sacrifice and my goodness and my grace and will you find your life in that round?”  Around me, he says.  And in doing so, also find yourself united with the people around you.  So for 2000 years followers of Jesus have been gathering around this table.  And in gathering around this table they gather around that man, Jesus the Messiah, who paid, purchased and delivered eternal life for all who would come to Him in faith.  My hope and my prayer is that as we hold on to Him it would unite us together.  Life in common is life abundant!  It’s the way He designed it.  It’s the way He designed you!  As we come to the table this morning, come knowing you’re part of something far bigger than yourself!

Let’s pray.  Jesus, we long to be that kind of community. The kind of community that has a shared confession that you are Lord.  The kind of community that affirms we’re not just an individual soul, we’re a part of the whole and You’ve designed us and wired us and your Spirit links us together.  Thank you.  But we want to be the kind of people…not who affirm that we’re perfect, but who recognize that we’re not, but that your grace is sufficient.  We want to fight to preserve unity in this body.  If that’s not there, would you help us to have honest conversations to ask for forgiveness.  To forgive freely as we hold on to you.  Jesus, thank you that this is a room that’s a body together, but also that each individual is unique and special to you and you love them.  Help us not lose sight of that.  As we come to your table, may You remind us of your calling, your goodness, your grace, your mercy that showers down on us today.  We say thank you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.