Gathered, Formed and Sent

Do you expect to be changed when you walk through the doors of your local church for that committee meeting on Tuesday evening? Is your life – your attitudes, your behavior – different after you gather with sisters and brothers for the discussion group or Bible study in someone’s home or at a coffee shop? Are you challenged, comforted, confronted, renewed, reformed, transformed by your presence at worship? Are you moved by your participation in congregational life to find ways in your daily life to share with others what you have so wondrously and freely received in the gathering of God’s people?
Reflecting on Jesus’ appointment of the first twelve apostles in Mark 3:13ff, Darrell Guder[1] suggests a deep evangelical rhythm of gathering and forming disciples (followers) and sending them into the world as apostles (sent ones) and witnesses.
First, Jesus calls his followers to “be with him.” Whenever and in whatever ways we gather as church we gather around Jesus, crucified and risen for us and for the world. This Jesus claims us in baptism, feeds us at table, speaks to us through God’s Word, and transforms and reshapes us – each of us – into his self-giving image. Being with Jesus, however, is not the end; it’s the beginning.
Transformed, empowered and equipped, those who have been with Jesus are “sent out to proclaim the message.” That is not just the pastor’s job! Every person who is with Christ, marked with his cross and sealed with his Spirit, is sent to make known Christ’s good news in the world. Everyone. That’s why we are called to be with Jesus in the first place.
But there is just a bit more. Jesus gives his sent ones (apostles) “authority to cast out demons.” Speaking the good news of Jesus is intimately woven together with the embodiment of it, visible and concrete witness to the forgiving, curing, raising, cleansing, freeing power of Jesus crucified and risen for the life of the world. One is not complete without the other.
Rooted in this biblical rhythm, here are a couple of questions to consider:

How can your community of faith more intentionally and powerfully create space in every gathering of every kind to “be with Jesus”? 

How might your life together be different if everything you did together in large and small groups and gatherings were crafted around the goal of being equipped, empowered and transformed by God’s Spirit for your witness in the world?

For in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity,
as persons sent from God and standing in God's presence.
[2 Corinthians 2:17]

[1] Darrell Guder, “The Continuing Conversion of the Church.” Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (March 20, 2000). pp. 50ff

Reminder, Repentance, and Renewal: A Journey from Ashes to Abundant Life

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

It's time, my sister, my brother. It is time to receive the ashen etching that traces again the oily mark imposed on our brows at baptism. It's time to embark on the transforming trek of Lent.

The journey begins with a smudge on the brow that reminds us who and whose we are: We are broken, battered mortals groping for the God to whom we already belong. We are fragile, failing, fearful creatures, crafted from dust and returning to dust. And...we belong to God. We frail beings belong, ever and always, to the God who does not stand far off, but rather walks alongside us, covered in the very dust and dirt of our days.

Reminded, we repent. After all, our fear, our frailties, our failings move us to act like the world exists for our benefit alone. We use it, and the people in it, in ill-fated attempts to get what we want, what we have convinced ourselves we are due. We turn every which way but the life-giving way of the cross of Christ. Along this journey we repent, we turn again toward the only one who can offer real and abundant life. We fast, we pray, we turn our faces, our hearts and our open hands toward the world that God so loves, the world in which Jesus crucified and risen is getting his hands dirty and his feet dusty.

Along the way, renewal rises as a gift from the dust and ashes of our lives. We broken, battered mortals are forgiven, healed, made new by the God who gropes through the dust to make and remake us into who and what we are created and called to be: children of God and brothers and sisters with all of God's dust-born children.

That's it.  That's the journey...not just this holy season but every season, every day...reminded, repenting, renewed, over and over again on this Lenten way.

Thankfully, as it turns out, we arrive where we begin - in the heart of God and one with God's dusted creation.

Create in us clean hearts, O God,
and put a new and steadfast spirit within us.
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Table Scraps by William O. Gafkjen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.