Where is it that people of all ages, nationalities, income levels can really be together in harmony? That’s right – in Church! We gather around Word and Sacrament to celebrate God’s love for us in Jesus Christ! It’s great and quite unique these days. You may remember a book from 20 years ago – Robert Putnam’s, “Bowling Alone”. For many reasons (Social media, decline of community service groups, housing design – decks in the back rather that front porches, in house amenities, lack of interest in the neighbors, etc.)! We have seen and continue to see a “siloing” of people in America.
The church is by far the most common association membership among Americans. It is in the church that we gather to sing and pray and worship with a very diverse group. Our faith is our shared bond that is for now and for eternity! It is a joyful gathering of people with a common confession and purpose!
Yet even religious sentiment in America seem to be coming less tied to institutions and more self-defined. Koinonia is of great value to us but not to everyone! The signs of the time are concerning:
- Worship attendance is seen as optional by some.
- Our society does reserve Sunday as a day of worship (Sports, arts and community activities)
- Virtual relationships seem easier than gathering with real people in person.
- Even Circuit meetings, church socials, church meetings become a low priority.
- Conferences, conventions etc. take a back seat to our personal schedules.
- Congregational, district and synod support drift downward as people lack denominational commitment and an understanding or appreciation for what God would have us do together.
- Conflict and division among us is sometimes painfully declared in social media, idle conversation and gossip. It’s easy to forget the 8th commandment as we justify judging everyone and their brother.
We can bemoan this trend or we can invite and encourage our people to see and understand Una Sancta and the oneness we share in Christ. We can demonstrate it as Church Workers who speak well of others and the Church at large! We can ask ourselves, “Do I like to be together with others in my circuit, congregations and synod – even with people who do not see eye to with me?
As we confess we are “poor miserable sinners” we pray for forgiveness and the will to amend our sinful ways. We hear the prayer of Jesus for us, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:14-26
In this broken and divided world let us demonstrate that we are One in Spirit and Purpose and never let us forsake the value of gathering together in His name and working together in Name! We need not Bowl alone!