Are We Missing the Boat?

The title of the post comes from this idea in the historic church:
“The image of Christ and his disciples in a boat is traditionally used
for the symbol of Christ and His Church.
In Latin the word “navis” means ship from which derives the word for the Nave of the Church.”

DSC01342We flipped things around in worship last Sunday.

Communion came first, sermon came last.

For me, that change turned out to be a powerful,
thought-provoking exclamation point to a lot of things
that have been churning around inside me
for the past couple of weeks.

We passed the trays on Sunday.
Not my favorite way to participate in this sacrament,
but the instructions included something new,
something that made this time-honored,
possibly-more-convenient,
definitely-less-messy way of celebrating the Lord’s Supper
a little bit more palatable for me.

We were invited to say the words to one another.

This is not something we normally do,
so right out of the chute, we were experiencing
a little cognitive dissonance,
a gentle stirring of the usually placid waters
that mark our times of community gathering:

We went to the table first, instead of last.
And each one of us was asked to say,
“The body of Christ,”
“The Blood of Christ,”
to our neighbor.

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Coming out of the last two weeks on the Christian internet,
those two small changes spoke volumes into my soul.

Why?

Because way too many of us have lost sight of the big picture,
the glorious, beautiful, flawed but remarkable
Big Picture.
And this is it —
WE BELONG TO ONE ANOTHER.
Every one of us who calls upon the name of Jesus,
who chooses to follow in the footsteps of that
strange and wonderful rabbi,
is part of ONE family.
ONE.

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We may not agree on every point of doctrine,
we may enjoy differing worship styles,
we may live in wildly divergent cultures,
with very different standards of living,
lifestyle choices,
abilities and disabilities,
preferences and political parties and points of view.

But we are ONE.
The Body of Christ.
The church. 

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And when we begin sniping at each other,
undercutting, criticizing, taking sides, name-calling
for any reason —
any reason —
then we have missed the boat,
refused to see the Big Picture,
and engaged in thinking, talking and doing
the very things that Jesus himself prayed we would not.

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Our text, both Sunday morning and Sunday evening at our monthly Taize Service,
was taken from the 17th chapter of John’s gospel, verses 20-26:

 “My prayer is not for them alone.
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
that all of them may be one,
Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.
May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
I have given them the glory that you gave me,
that they may be one as we are one–
I in them and you in me–
so that they may be brought to complete unity.
Then the world will know that you sent me
and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,
and to see my glory, the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you,
I know you, and they know that you have sent me.
I have made you known to them,and will continue to make you known
in order that the love you have for me may be in them 
and that I myself may be in them.”

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Jesus was praying for us that night,
all of us.
Our pastor reminded us that the opening verses of this chapter

contain Jesus’ prayer for his circle of friends, 
those whom he had called to be with him,
walking those roads,
seeing those miracles,
hearing that voice.
But in this last segment of the prayer,
he prays for ALL of us — ‘those who will believe. . .’
And dear friends in Jesus,

that means
EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.

There are lots of people writing on the internet,
serving Jesus in a variety of capacities,
offering hope and healing through a long list
of charitable and church-based organizations.
Many of those friends would not see eye-to-eye
with me on a long list of topics.
But on this one thing,
this one central thing,
we are ONE:

Jesus is LORD and JESUS is the hope of the world.

And each one who hangs their life on that sentence
is a ‘relative’ of mine
and of yours.

It’s not easy, sometimes it’s not even pretty.
But it is TRUE.

And here’s what else is true — the way we are one,
now hear this, please —
THE WAY WE ARE ONE
IS HOW THE 

MESSAGE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
IS CONVEYED TO THE WORLD.

Did you catch that in the beautiful prayer-words of our Savior?
The way in which our unity reflects the unity of the Trinity
is exactly the way in which the love and grace of God Almighty,
Father, Son and Spirit,
is transmitted most effectively into the world
that does not yet know about it.

“Then,” Jesus says,
“Then the world will know
that you sent me.”

Can it be any clearer than that?

DSC01348 I can think of no more powerful symbol of this unity 
than sharing bread and cup at the Table of the Lord.

And that is why our Sunday experience spoke so strongly
right into my troubled and tired heart.

WE ACTED IT OUT, you see.

We acted it out even before we heard the word preached,
before we passed the plate,
before we read the scripture or prayed our community prayer.

And somehow, acting it out helps me to catch a glimpse of
The Big Picture a little bit more clearly.
It helps me to catch, rather than miss, the BOAT.

It reminds me of how vitally important it is for us to 
love one another as God has loved us.
When my muscles move,
and my mouth speaks,
when I receive table gifts from the hand of another,
when I speak words of life to yet another,

“I REMEMBER.
AND WE ARE RE-MEMBERED.*”

And I know once again, that

WE BELONG TO ONE ANOTHER.

*My thanks to a long-ago story from Madeleine L’Engle for these lines.

Joining this one with Michelle, Laura, Jennifer, Jen.

 


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Comments

  1. Thank you. I’ve retreated into my books instead of online of late. I thought I would be safe with your words, and they are a soothing balm. So grateful for your presence here.

  2. I love this. Thank you for sharing, for bringing me back to center. I always feel like your blog is a place of shelter. You speak the truth gently and respectfully and in a welcoming way. I appreciate that so much.

  3. I was saying “AMEN!” all through this post.

  4. Wow–“THE WAY WE ARE ONE IS HOW THE MESSAGE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
    IS CONVEYED TO THE WORLD.” That’s the boat…..I don’t want to miss it.

    (By the by, when we serve communion at our church we always say the words to each other–“this is the body of Christ, etc.” Yes, we worship differently but the same.)

    Smile.

    • Exactly – that is the boat, and man, it got missed in this latest internet kerfuffle. Just made me sad. And I see it in all of us, actually – it’s something we all need to face into, this unity problem. I’m thankful for the ways in which this internet community has helped so many of us to move in that direction. And I pray that it will continue! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Jody.

  5. Diana. Once again you bring a voice of reason into a situation. My response is to go underground. You bring a fresh perspective Like someone else just said, you speak truth gently, yet firmly. I love coming here.

    Haven’t been around as much. . Dad did well while we we were gone. Paying for it now though. Increased confusion, getting more mixed up. awake more and restless

    And I liked what you wrote about women always putting everyone else first. Oh I resonated w that one. And it’s about me not my generous supportive husband.

    Thanks once again for your ministry here. Hope your foot is doing better”?

    • You know, dealing with a demented parent is a lot like dealing with a young child, I think. Everytime we’d leave our kids with others, when we got home, there’d be h**l to pay! Sounds like what you’re experiencing with your day. I think it’s a sign that you’re trustworthy and his guard can come down with you. Probably doesn’t help all that much, though, does it?? Thanks for your kind words, Carol. Always happy to see you.

  6. Donna C says:

    I love your thoughts here. In thinking about my own family situation of believers against believers that I’m facing into, I keep thinking about the Ephesians verse about how we are all part of ONE body, ONE baptism, ONE Holy Spirit in us all… Paul keeps going on about how, whether we act like it or not, we are all part of the one body of Christ on earth. No matter who does or does not do, believe or say anything, there is only one body!

    • Be sure and remind me when you go to visit your family, Donna – I’d like to pray for you while you’re there. Thanks, as always for reading and encouraging. I am grateful.

  7. Ro elliott says:

    Yes one big AMEN!!!!!! This is right were He has me…. Had lunch with my 89 yr old dad… He looked at me straight in the eyes and said… You know in the end all that matters is love… These are not words the father of my youth would have said… God is love… Now let us go and live like it!!!! ThAnks Diana….always good to hear truth in different ways!!!’

  8. Thank for this! I find myself too easily dismissing Christians with whom I disagree, and this reminder is so helpful. The same grace which I rely on–I with my own stock of sins, foibles, and misunderstandings–I can extend to others through Christ. It’s a relief to realize that!

    Also, I remember hearing someone say once that while what we traditionally think of as Christian apologetics has a place–the most explicit apologetic listed in scripture is how we treat each other.

    • Amen to that idea of apologetics. I am struck over and over by the words of Jesus about how the way in which we love one another is the way the world sees God. Pretty scary in light of some recent ugliness, but really helpful to try and remember it. Nice to see you here, Elena. I’ve been trying to figure out how to subscribe to your blog(s), but can’t find an email link anywhere. I tend to read the blogposts that land in my inbox pretty faithfully, but if I have to go out and find them? Not so much. Maybe you could add that feature? I’d love to read what you write, that’s for sure.

  9. What a powerful way to share in Communion, Diana. I’m going to have to remember this. I love the way you say it shook things up, changed it all. Maybe a place of a little discomfort makes it more memorable, more meaningful? Sounds like a lovely, lovely experience.

    I’ve been keeping you in prayer, my friend. Praying for healing and patience. Love to you.

    • Thanks for your prayers, Laura. I go back to the surgeon on Monday and will likely schedule surgery for sometime in the next 6-8 weeks. Trying to fit in a grandkid’s graduation from college and a nephew’s wedding. When I know I have to be off my feet for two full months, that becomes challenging!

      I think you’re onto something about those little bits of discomfort opening us to newness. I wouldn’t want to do communion this way every time, but for the theme of the day? It was perfect.

  10. I love it that we messy folks belong together.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  11. Blessed are the peacemakers…that would be you Diana. I too slipped away because sometimes “it” gets too much and the boat seems to be heading into a storm and I just don’t have the stomach for it right now. But I love your voice here and bringing all back to center with the Remembrance of the sacrifice–the One who in death and life set our sails toward eternity, sending the wind of the Spirit to fill our sails.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Dea. How’s it going? I haven’t got any notice about blogposts from you in a while now – are you offline? Or is my email subscription fouled up?

  12. Sandy Hay says:

    Thank you Diana (and Madeleine 🙂

  13. Stopping by from #TellHisStory… Amen and Amen! The Church has most definitely missed the boat, and Satan rejoices. Your reminders of Jesus’ spoken Truth is exactly where our focus needs to be… because the world is most definitely watching, and I’m afraid what it sees is heart-breaking. May the Church change focus quickly – and the world know the source of our Hope. I’m blessed to be “one” with you, Diana.

  14. The photos of your altar display, in conjunction with your text, brought to mind: Each element–sticks, cloth, candles, etc.–by itself is beautiful. But bring them together and the effect is stunning.

    God made each of us beautiful. But bring us together into a harmonious whole, and the effect is also stunning.

    “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

    Thank you, Diana, for helping us celebrate who we are in Christ!

  15. Sometimes we need to flip things around to see them more clearly. We need to remember we’re all in the same boat and need the same Rescuer.

Trackbacks

  1. […] by the other story-tellers in our New Testament. But John? He gives us such a different picture! Jesus has prayed for all of us in the preceding chapter, a prayer for his friends and for us. So there is no praying in this garden scene. Instead of sweating-drops-of-blood, we meet a […]

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