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Day 1: Community - From a Garden to a City
Read Genesis 1 and Revelation 21.
The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. God creates the man and woman and places them in a garden, where he is with them and where they will live and tend to God’s beautiful creation.
At the end of time, a city (the New Jerusalem) comes down from heaven. And the people of God will dwell in that place, and God himself will be with them for eternity.
Throughout the Bible the people of God are meant to be a community and to have a location. When either of these are violated, God responds to re-create the community and give it a place. When the Israelites went into slavery in Egypt, and later when they were sent into Exile, this was not God’s design for creation and for his people.
As we begin this week of reflections, consider that an important aspect of identity is the people with whom you form community and the place of that community. These people and this community influence and mark our identities, but they must not define who we are in our entirety. Only Jesus does that in our lives.
Who is my core community? Where are my primary relationships lived out?
How does (or does not) that community positively contribute to my core identity as a follower of Jesus Christ?
Day 2: A Royal Priesthood, the People of God
Read Genesis 12. In the book of beginnings (Genesis), God calls Abram and Sarai to leave their place and become a people in a new place. This was the beginning of “the people of God” in the Holy Land.
Why does God create a “people” whose primary identity and calling is to the Lord himself? In the Old Testament this was the nation of Israel; in the New Testament it is the Church. 1 Peter provides the answer.
This community is to “declare the praises of him who called” us. That is the primary identifier of Christian community.
This community is not perfect or ideal or good in and of itself. We are called “the people of God” because God has poured out his mercy on us as a people. This identifies us also.
Reflect: Choose one of these identifying phrases from 1 Peter 2:9-10 that resonates with you. What attracts you and how does this impact your place in the Church?
- A chosen people
- A royal priesthood
- A holy nation
- God’s special possession
Day 3: Life Together
In the 1930s in Nazi Germany, a local pastor by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer said this about Christian community:
A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner. (Life Together)
One of the great challenges in the 21st century is to be in community with people who are very different from us, whether that be on a socioeconomic level, educational background, or political basis.
Klyne Snodgrass puts it this way: “People retreat to relations they can control, to dealing as much as possible with people like themselves or with people who can be controlled.”
Jesus and the New Testament writers challenge us to live very differently than that. Consider:
Jesus, as a Jewish rabbi, related to a Samaritan woman (which was scandalous)!
Peter is called to go to the gentile Cornelius’ home and share the gospel with him (Acts 10). Another scandal!
Now read Revelation 7 and reflect on the diverse crowd worshipping at the King’s throne.
Reflect: What does this mean for us today?
Day 4: The Identity of "My People"
“I’m from Holland.”
“I’m from York County.”
We all identify ourselves in certain ways, often by location (where we grew up, where we live now) and ethnicity (e.g., Pennsylvania Dutch).
While these provide a sense of identity, they are not our truest identity. Not even close! At least these should not be our truest identity.
Reflect: What are identifying marks of the People of God (followers of Jesus)?
At the very core of God’s People is participation in the life of Jesus Christ. This is our truest identity and we must keep this first and foremost.
Our participation in Jesus’ life and way shapes the nature of community. Read and reflect on how this is described in Acts 2:42–47.
Reflect on these descriptive phrases of biblical community:
- Devoted to biblical teaching
- Fellowship = Community
- Meals together
- Signs and wonders
- Shared possessions to help those in need
How are you experiencing these as part of Living Word (or whatever church you are part of)?
Day 5: The “One Anothers” of Community
Take time today to reflect on some of the “one another” statements (which are actually commands) in the New Testament.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:44–47a)
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2–3)
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24–25)
What is God saying to you right now?
How will you live into these verses today … and in the next week … and in the next month?
- Songs We Sing
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