Thursday, June 13, 2013

One Strange Herd

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. … Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Cor. 12:12-13, 27)

   One day, my grandchildren wanted me to watch the movie, “Ice Age.” “Ice Age” is an animated movie about a wooly mammoth named Manfred, a sloth named Sid, and a saber-tooth tiger named Diego. These three unlikely companions discover a little boy and unite on a common mission to return the baby to his father.

  While on their journey they realized that they are on top of an erupting volcano, which was melting the glacier bridge on the ice field. Diego jumps to reach the others and falls short, he loses his grip and falls. Manfred unwilling to let Diego perish leaps into the chasm and tosses the tiger to safety. Diego is moved by Manfred's compassion, courage and sacrifice in this dangerous rescue.

  “Why did you do that?” Diego asks. “You could have died trying to save me.”

  Humbly, the mammoth responds, “That's what you do when you're part of a herd. You look after each other.”

  Reflecting on the circumstances that brought these three together, Sid muses aloud, “I don't know about you guys, but we are one strange herd.”

  Whenever I think of the church, I often think of this odd collection of individuals God has called together for His purposes to become His church, “this one strange herd.” The church is called out into the world by Christ as a expression of all that is good, acceptable and perfect in God's sight. God is His wisdom calls together the strangest collection of people full of failures, faults, sins and shortcomings but still remains confident that we can become Christ's church.

  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, “Life Together” speaks about this one strange herd, “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty… then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Christ Jesus.”

  We are a strange herd of Jesus' disciples set apart by God for a special reason, a distinct purpose and a holy calling. As God's strange herd, we are called to vital ministries, despite any weaknesses, shortcomings or difficulties which surround us. Each congregation first needs to be worship-centered. The worship of God is central to community life together and we are to regularly worship together as the vital center of our life together.

  Each church member shares a deep and enduring relationship within this strange herd in which they are called. They are aware that they are committed together for the “long haul” through thick and thin. God calls us to exhibit an abundance of patience, compassion, and forgiveness in dealing with one another. Our differences strengthen us as the body of Christ giving us the ability to achieve unique solutions with love and concern for each other.

  Congregations are supportive of each other’s searching questions about life, God and the world. We need to be curious and searching people willing to ask difficult questions and willing to accept that for the time being, answers may remain mysteries, but as a united community we can faithfully seek the answers together with Christ's help.

  Each congregation needs to ask the question, “Where is God in all of this?” We must not hesitate to draw attention to what God is doing among us. We have to ask the question about where the Holy Spirit is leading us in our life together.

  The purpose of each congregation is to give praise and glory to God. Our purpose is to broaden and deepen that praise until all of creation sings to the glory of God. What are we called to do or to ask, which will help us experience the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit in our life together and live in grateful thanksgiving as the Body of Christ, even if we are “one strange herd.”

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