What a beautiful way to dream about the way the world is, and can continue to be. With every size, shape, color, language and tradition represented, we can fully express the creativity by which God created the world.
MLK Jr’s dream wasn’t just his dream, it’s God’s dream and intention for all of us. But if you really listen closely to the words of the speech, you hear the real goal, the real dream. The goal wasn’t just freedom from oppression, or equality, no the real dream goes beyond that. The goal/dream was for a new generation to have the ability to be in community with one another. The chains of bondange to be loosed, for the dividing wall to be deconstructed, not simply for freedom, but for one human to be able to interact with another human fully.
I read a quote recently from Dr. Kien Lee that really speaks to us in Week 2 of our Take As Much As You Need series.
“The meaning of community is complex. And, unfortunately, insufficient understanding of what a community is and its role in the lives of people in diverse societies has led to the downfall of many well-intended ‘community’ efforts…community is not a place, a building, or an organization; nor is it an exchange of information over the Internet. Community is both a feeling and a set of relationships among people. People form and maintain communities to meet common needs.”– Dr. Kien Lee
According to this definition we all need a feeling of community and relationships within said community. I love to hear someone beam with joy when their group, or campus, does something that makes them feel pride about the group. Because the group does not exist merely to exist…it is only part of our human nature to have this feeling about our community in order to do something that makes a difference in our community. Last July we challenged you to do something on the 4th of July to impact your community/your neighbors, and we called it The Church Has Left The Building
To hear the stories of people rallying together and the subsequent stories of connection was amazing.
Why should we care about Community and what does it mean for us?
Intentionality brings formation
We’ve shared this passage of scripture on several occasions, but as I read this I want you to think of how intentional this group of people had to be.
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47
From this passage we read that intentionality in community means:
- Being in a constant state of learning
- Sharing life with others
- Breaking bread together
- Remembering the work of Jesus when you gather with others who believe the same way
- A life of prayer
The byproduct of living intentionally for this group of people was over the top.
- They saw miracles take place
- They shared everything
- They not only met the group’s needs, but they met the needs of the poor and marginalized in their vicinity
- Carried a heart of worship (lifting up and honoring the name of Jesus)
- Shared meals with great joy
- Each day God was moving on people’s hearts as they received the good news of Jesus in a deep and personal way.
I have experienced all of these things here in this community!
If one of our goals is a deeper and richer understanding of who God is, then we don’t get that just by reading about Jesus, or attending church, or crossing off the checklist of spirituality. We grow richer and are formed/shaped by the relationships we are honored to have in this life.
Can you think of someone who deeply impacted your life in a way that it was forever changed?
How are you living your life in a way that it deeply impacts someone else’s life forever?
Embracing the “other” brings growth
In 2019, a move called The Best of Enemies came out, Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell starred as Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis. These two were enemies as Ann was a grassroots civil rights activist, and C.P. was the leader of the Klu Klux Klan in their part of 1971 North Carolina. They have nothing in common, no reason to get along, they might even do harm to one another, but somehow these two begin to see eye to eye, and forge a deep friendship that pushed them both to grow. Two generations later, Nakia Green, Ann’s granddaughter reminds us that we all need to reach out to “the others” in our lives to see a different world thatn the divisive one in which we find ourselves.
Scripture points us to a very similar story, and one that affects us even today.
Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord!” he replied.
The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”
“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”
But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. – Acts 9:10-19
What is the other for you?
What lie(s) have you believed that would tell you a certain type of person or people have no room in your life?
Maybe you can’t believe you’re in church today with a bunch of Christians, maybe it’s bothering you to see a lesbian couple in church exploring faith and what God might have for them, maybe you are frustrated by a certain type of people group that has moved into your neighborhood and it closes you off to truly blessing your neighbor. We all carry bias, we all have to shed off these lies, because if we don’t not only does it create the obvious walls of hate, but it closes us all off from growth.
Doing the work builds strength
One of our leaders who is amazing with her group shared in a moment of transparency:
“I really didn’t want to go to my group and lead last week. I was tired, it was a crazy week and I had some really good excuses for not going…but I went. And I’m so glad I did, because our group time was amazing and it was life changing for a few of the ladies in the group.”
How many times have we given ourselves a reasonable excuse to NOT do something? If we’re not careful we will build the muscle of excuses stronger than the muscle of doing the work.
I know the last two years have hit everyone differently, but here we are two years later and as a church we are continuing to encourage you, push you, challenge you to take a step. Do the work! For some that means join a community group, take that restore class to work back to getting healthy or growing healthy for the FIRST time.
For others that means strengthening the parent muscle and helping your kids grow consistently by being here and participating in our kids department. And don’t forget that your teenagers need to grow as well, every teen needs the challenge of community.
Every Sunday and Every Wednesday we have these opportunities for you kids and students! We even have opportunities for them to grow in leadership like our 4th and 5th grade Born to Lead program, or middle school and high school students serving in various departments.
For some of us…we need to regrow the muscle of serving and helping do the small things that make a huge impact.
Here to help you grow the muscle of serving others, building friendships, serving alongside others.
I want to encourage you to serve in an area or areas that you know you will love. Not sure? Serve on Sundays – kids, our connect team, the arts (production or the band). Its not about the task, although the task makes a HUGE difference! It’s about the people you are inviting into your life.
Austin can be a lonely place. Even if you have lived here a long time.
You have to be intentional. Open minded. And patient.