29 February 2008

Vive la difference!

We have become a society of individuals. We’d love to belong to a close-knit community, but we treasure our private lives and our personal freedoms and our personal choices too much. We want community but not at the cost of giving up these personal things for others.

But the place where we should be able to create real community is in the church. Sounds crazy but the church belongs to God, and the life of the church should reflect the life of God. And here’s the really amazing fact – God is not a solitary individual, but a divine community of three.

One of the wonderful truths God has made known to us about himself is this – God is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three live in perfect community. God is the perfect model for our community.

1. Diversity without division - The Father and Son and Spirit are distinct personalities. They are not one person putting on different masks, but three distinctly different persons. But their difference does not separate them. They live in perfect union. In fact, they find their identity in the way they relate to each other. Therefore, “the Father” is so called because of the way he relates to “the Son”.

2. Community without uniformity - Normally, we tend to gather in clubs. We are drawn to people like us, whether that is the same fashion, ethnic background, taste in music, sport or whatever. We wear the same “uniform”. But God enjoys perfect unity in himself whilst preserving the distinctive personality and role of Father, Son and Spirit. This is true community – diversity with unity.

In Romans chapter 12 of the New Testament, the church is described like this – “in Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”. And at the end of the New Testament, where Christ gives us a vision of the community he has gathered around him, it is described like this: “.. a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language...” (Revelation chapter 7).

To the members of the church that meets at St George’s, here’s a challenge: let’s put aside all those things that keep us apart and keep us from being devoted to each other in brotherly love and especially any idea that our lives are own. We now belong to God and to each other. Let’s show it!

To those who are our neighbours who are around St George’s, here’s an invitation: come and join us. Trust God that he knows what’s best for us. He knows how to create real community, and will enable us to find our real identity in relationship to others, and the deepest sense of belonging and well-being in communion with him and his people.

Simon Smallwood
Vicar of St George’s