Blessed be the tie that binds…our hearts in Christian love…. It’s a hymn that many of us can sing by heart (at least the first verse), and often – when a congregation sings it together – there are more than a few sympathizing tears to be brushed away. The bonds that we form with the people who sit with us in worship each week are profound. We pray for and with them in tough times. We laugh and celebrate with them in good times. We make casseroles, send cards, visit in the hospital, attend graduation parties and birthday celebrations. We weep at their memorial services. Week in and week out, we share the ups and downs of life together.
These people who worship alongside us are friends, surely. But – whether we know it or not – they are more than that as well. In the power of The Holy Spirit and the blessing of Christ’s love, we are disciples together. We are bound by the Spirit of love and we are given a mission that is bigger than our understanding. I believe that this is what makes a church more than a pretty building. This deep connection creates real communities of faith and makes us witnesses to our Risen Lord who makes all things new – even our tired old lives – even our tired, aging congregations.
Those ties that bind us together cast a net that is wider than just our Sunday morning pew. In the power of God’s covenant with us all, we are connected beyond the walls of our churches, beyond even the separation of denomination or particular belief, beyond this time or this place. We are a part of one another – whether we know it or not. And, mostly, we don’t know it!
Until something bad happens. When a church community in Cedar Falls is flooded…..other churches lend a helping hand. When a new church is beginning….others reach into their pocketbooks to help turn that possibility into a reality. When leadership in a church falters….the Conference is there with support and counsel. When a church flourishes, representatives of the broader church come to celebrate. When a tornado hits or an earthquake rumbles, compassion opens our eyes and our hearts, creating one body from many. But maybe just for just a few moments.
The reality is that the church is bigger than my pew, my church building, or even my denomination during this particular time in history. The church – whether we acknowledge it or not – is a deep connection of souls and bodies bound together by the gift of God’s love. We are joined together across time and space, across differences in belief, across age and race, gender or orientation, economic or educational class. And then we are given a common mission – to seek to follow Jesus….together.
There are lots of reasons why this vision of church may seem outdated. We live in a world that is increasingly individualistic, where connection is made through FaceBook postings and we are fast losing our ability to listen respectfully to different perspectives. We live by texts and tweets – in short, staccato sentences. We compartmentalize life, as though work or family have nothing to do with one another. Technology is re-wiring not only our brains, but we expect it to transform the structures of our lives.
I suggest that, as Christians, we know better. Generation upon generation, in good times and bad, all over the world, we have been bound together by God’s love, and we have been asked to share that love with one another and the world. We can use technology to help us do the work, but our strength is not technology. Our strength is God’s grace and love to gathers us into this particular way of living together. We have been promised that – taken all together – these simple acts of compassion and justice will make a difference in the world. It may not seem like much, but it is all we have. And it is enough.
It is a gift to belong to a community of healing and blessing. It is a gift to be part of a wave of justice and peace that is both ancient and brand new. Each one of us lives a bigger and better life because we are so deeply. connected. Only when we work together can we become the change that God is hoping to see!
Blessed be the tie that binds…
Iowa Conference UCC Adjunct Staff – 2030 Iowa