What does it mean to be a “Disciple of Christ”?

Jesus turned to those who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”

John 8:31-32 “The Message”

For the past several months a group has been gathering on Wednesday evenings (at the same time as our Catalyst Youth Group) to discuss the previous week’s sermon and discuss the text for the upcoming week. With the “Longest Night” service this week and Christmas and New Years the following two weeks, we will be taking a three-week break from those studies. Which seems a perfect time to adjust our focus and begin a different study for a while.

So, we are going to spend the first several weeks of 2014 discovering who we are, both as a denomination, and as a local community of faith. There will be three “types” of lessons, but each will allow us to allow us the opportunity to examine who we are as people of faith, as a community of faith and as a wider denomination within the Christian faith. The lessons will be different each week, so if you can’t make it one time, you don’t have to worry about “catching up.”

Some weeks we will watch videos of presentations from the 2013 General Assembly. These presentations help us stay in touch with the larger denomination and allow us to experience worship, and preaching, in a wider variety of ways than we normally do as we gather in worship. Following these videos we will have a brief time of discussion about the video and what that means for us in Marshfield.

Other weeks we will watch a short video developed by the denomination to help us further understand our identity as Disciples of Christ. These short videos will be followed by a time of questions and discussion. This discussion will enable us to take a closer look at the unique qualities that define us as individuals, as a community of faith and as part of a larger denomination.

And the third “style” will guide us through scripture and the history of the church to provide the much-needed perspective of how we arrived at this place. These meetings will help us to understand our local church, our mission and our history. All of these elements together provide us with a full and nuanced understanding of who we are as a local church, and as part of the larger denomination of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

It doesn’t matter if you have been attending MCC for many years, or if you are new to our community of faith, it is my honest belief that these Wednesday night meetings will help all of us! I hope you will join us for as many of these meetings as you can! And if you haven’t been able to come in the past, maybe a New Year’s Resolution is a way to get yourself started. I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday evenings, starting January 8th!

Gathered Around the Table

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” — Luke 5:1-2 NRSV

Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them. Cow and bear will graze the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together, and the lion eat straw like the ox. — Isaiah 11:6b-7 The Message

Not too long ago our church hosted a banquet for the Marshfield Cross Country Team. The banquet was a celebration of the achievements of the past year and the Fellowship hall was packed. It was a night of fun, food and laughter where Junior High runners and Senior High runners were celebrated and honored for their unique achievements and what they contributed to the team. More so than any other sport I know, in cross country, there is one team. It’s something that we, as coaches, stress. And it is true, for the most part…

You see, at the banquet there were very clear distinctions between the grade levels. 7th and 8th grade students were sitting together, high school students were crammed around tables and parents and families tended to sit together as well. One team, but around those tables… well, maybe we are not as integrated into one as the coaching staff may have hoped.

I don’t know about your experience in school, but I know that there were unwritten boundaries that were not to be crossed, especially in the lunch room. Athletes and cheerleaders, band members, honor students and misfits all had their own tables. And crossing those boundaries was taboo.

It wasn’t all that different in Jesus’ day. Luke 5 is just one example of many times where Jesus “upset the apple cart” by ignoring the unwritten rules of who could eat with whom. I will admit that the way we organize ourselves at the table; like the segregation of the grade levels at the banquet, or the high-school cafeteria, makes some sense. After all, conversation during the meal is much easier if you have common interests.

But the prophet Isaiah has a more powerful vision. In the kingdom of peace everyone is welcome to the same table. Divisions of age, gender, race or “sinfulness” pale in comparison to the images of cattle and bears grazing together or of calves and lions eating from the same trough. That, my friends, is remarkable. It is an image of peace and welcome that is rarely (if ever) seen. And that is what makes it so powerful.

The idea of predator and prey coexisting so peacefully that those distinctions are no longer of any consequence is nothing short of heavenly. It is an image of peace and wholeness that has the power to transform hearts and minds. It is an image that has the power to transform the world.

This Christmas season, and all throughout the year, may we live up to that image of peace and welcome. As a community of faith, and as individuals, may we welcome the enemy and the stranger to the table of reconciliation. As we welcome others we participate in the recreation and reconciliation of this world into God’s peaceful kingdom. Let it be so.