May 2024 Message From Pastor Stephanie “Belonging”

God created us to belong, both to him and to one another. But our pride drove us far away, both from him and from one another. Now Jesus is bringing us back, both to him and to one another.
Maybe you won’t know what the Heidelberg Catechism is, unless you grew up in a Presbyterian church or in a church that emphasizes Reformed theology. It’s a Protestant confessional document formed as a series of questions and answers, used in teaching Calvinist (as in John Calvin) Christian doctrine. The very first question is “What is my only comfort in life and death?” The answer has always stayed with me: “My only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The rest of the answer goes on to explain the gospel – that when Jesus died and paid the price for our sins with his blood. It’s a beautiful expression of a powerful truth: we belong to God. For a Christian, this means submission and surrender to the Lord’s will for our life. But it also means being in a relationship with him that is reciprocal. This is expressed in both the Old and New Testament by way of “covenant”– where God initiates with us and we respond.

In other words, God is not a far-from-us, pie-in-the-sky God that isn’t involved in our lives. He initiates with his love, with nudges from the Holy Spirit, with his Word, and in a variety of other ways. This part of our faith, belonging to God and being in a responsive relationship with him, seems to be a little easier for us to live out than that second part of belonging expressed in the Bible: that we belong to one another.
Romans 12:4-5 reminds us of this:

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Paul explains what it looks like a few verses later: Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (v. 10). Later it says to bless, to rejoice with, to live in harmony. In other places, like Romans 15, Paul exhorts us to accept one another, to admonish one another. In 1 Corinthians and Galatians, we are called to care for and serve one other – and also not to bite and devour each other, or pass judgment. In Colossians, we are told not to lie to one another, in James, not to grumble against each other – I could go on and on. It’s all over Scripture how to live as those who belong to one another.
But that does not make it easy. It just means we are compelled and called to do so by the One we belong to.

I want to be clear about what this is and isn’t. It means our American individualism is something we must set down. This is part of our culture in this country, and, while there are so many things to love and celebrate about being American, living as though we don’t belong to one another and that what we do doesn’t affect one another is a lie. We must set down that lie.

Belonging to each other shouldn’t be something to fear. The heart of our denomination lies in four words: “We are better together.” To truly live that out, it’s worth examining the Scripture (“Where is it written?”) to see all the ways it’s prescribed for us to live in community with each other. Though it’s hard and even scary, it’s also better, because we believe in a God who wants what is better for us.

In Christ, Pastor Stephanie

(More Scriptures on this: John 13:34, Romans 14:13 and 19, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11, Romans 15:5-7, Galatians 5:13, 6:2, Colossians 3:13 and 16, 1 Peter 4:9, 5:5, Philippians 2:3-4, Hebrews 3:13, James 4:11, 5:9 and 16. And all of Romans 12 and Ephesians 4.)

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