1 Corinthians 12:12-27, 1 Peter 2:4-10, Acts 2:37-47
We all know that In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. That on the first day God created light, and on the sixth day God created humanity (along with some animals). Finally, on the seventh day, God rested. Walter Brueggemann points out that perhaps he alone was not anxious about the world. “On the seventh day, He doesn’t show up at the office. He lets it be. That shows some confidence on God’s part that the world has coherence and vitality. The creation of the Sabbath is an antidote to the enormous anxiety we have about the fragility of the world (Walter Brueggemann, in Bill Moyers Genesis, pg 15).”
But are we as aware that God’s creativity didn’t stop at that time? God continued and continues to create. You see it in every page of scripture, in the eyes of every new believer, the cry of every newborn baby. God is creativity. If we wanted to continue the liturgical formula of Genesis chapter 1, how might it look for us today? Here’s one rough draft attempt.
On the first day of the week of re-creation, God created a people. Through the call of Abram and Sarai, and the events of Exodus-Sinai a people was formed out of the multitudes, to be a blessing to the nations. 1 Peter 2:4-10 picks up this theme of people-hood and blessing as well for the early church, we are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” God is the potter, we are the clay. And we are being formed into a community of light by God. And God saw that it was good.
On the second day of re-creation God created, not just any community, but a gospel-formed community. Mark 3:14 says Jesus “creates” the Twelve. In calling the disciples to his School of the Gospel, Jesus formed a community around him that he would shape by the inbreaking and subversive power of the kingdom of God. Though I suppose he could have done everything all by himself, he choose to surround himself with twelve. And of those twelve, he called aside three to be his inner-circle. Jesus functioned in community. Just like God functions in community. And likewise when Jesus sent out the disciples, he didn’t send them out alone, but in two’s. Twelve. Three. Two by two. The work of the kingdom furthered by gospel-formed communities! And God saw that it was good.
On the third day of re-creation God created the Spirit-filled church. At Pentecost and every day since the church has been overflowing with the Spirit of God! So much so, that Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that we as a church have everything we need. That’s right, the Spirit has given us all the gifts, all the people, all the creativity and energy we need to be a healthy, sustainable, thriving congregation. “For we are the body of Christ, and individually members of it!” And God saw that it was very good.
On the fourth day of re-creation, God created the Mennonite Church. Through the re-baptism of radical believers in 16th century Europe God created Anabaptism and the Mennonite Church. In doing so God showed us that it is possible to be different, and still grow. We don’t have to be like all the churches around us! Anabaptism was anything but more of the same! But not different for the sake of different; different, because our world needs different. The difference of peace, grace, forgiveness, love, nonviolence, acceptance. And God saw that it was very good.
On the fifth day God created the Houston Mennonite Church. In 1968 people gathered together at 1231 Wirt Road, but were actually being shaped by the hands of God. Houston Mennonite Church gives us the gift of looking across the aisle into the eyes of people we like, and care about, and want to get to know better. It also gives us a specific location, and with it a specific calling and way to serve. And God saw that it was very good.
On the sixth day God continued to create, calling Houston Mennonite Church to a journey of faith, a Transformation Journey. When did it start? A good question but I suppose the answer doesn’t really matter much. Because regardless when it started it is our reality. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” And John says on Patmos “Behold, [God] makes all things new.” Read that carefully, because it doesn’t say all new things. If that were so it would suggest something was deficient, and needed to be wiped out to start over. No! That doesn’t need to happen! God is here, forming us, making us, shaping us into something more beautiful and whole. And God saw that this was very, very good.
And on the seventh day, once again, God will rest, because God is not at all anxious about Houston Mennonite Church. There is goodness in his creation. God looks at us with joy, and finds a people trying their best, with love in their hearts, and hope, and caring. God sees forty years of faithfulness. And so God will rest.
But in order for us to be a gospel-formed community, we need to first be gospel-formed people. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds (Romans 12:1-2).” So cultivate the gospel in your own life! Practice forgiveness. Be gracious. Invite someone over for dinner tonight. Ask for help when you need it. Be a person of grace, and patience. Encourage someone. Trust your salvation so deeply you are willing to risk something dear. And pray. Oh yes, you have to pray to be a gospel-formed person. And hope, and long for new life. And if your recreation (i.e. your hobbies and free time) isn’t re-creating you, find something that will. Because recreation needs to be re-creation or it’s just another American waste of time. Try prayer, meditation, yoga, silence, fasting. Whatever works for you.
In church we cultivate the gospel by celebrating communion. The bread and cup remind us to give thanks for all that Christ has done, and to pledge ourselves to do likewise (break and pour ourselves). We also cultivate the gospel by covenanting with each other, acknowledging that we can’t do it alone and don’t want to anyway. Through our worship, we give praise to God; to whom we belong and in whose hands we are being formed.
At Houston Mennonite Church, these are the things we value.
And this is who we are.
And it…is very good. AMEN.