October 11, 2007

How Good and Pleasant It Is

Last Sunday, October 7, was World Communion Sunday. In the evening on that day, some five dozen Christians from various congregations across our little community gathered for what we pastors have dubbed the Altavista Area Church Leadership Summit. In its fifth year, it is a time of worship, fellowship, and learning for all those leaders in our local congregations other than pastors. After all, “ministry” is not what preachers do; ministry is what Christians do together. Even better: Ministry is what the living God does. (His people are simply lucky enough to be included.) So it is, then, that we pastors gather our church leaders once a year and hope to bless them with encouragement and empowerment for the awesome tasks they have been given as stewards of Christ’s body.

What occurs to me is just how pleasant it is when Christians get together and don’t fight. No, really. Between getting my hair cut and reading my e-mails, sometimes I think the only thing I hear about churches is that they are falling apart. Christ’s body: riddled with triangular aches and pains. It’s not really always that bad, of course. But sometimes it can feel that way. (I occassionaly wonder if the sharers of such bad news somehow need it to be that bad.)

So imagine what a delight it is when seven different Christian denomination sit down around the Lord’s table together, break open the Word and break apart some Bread, and spend an evening talking about what makes for better leadership, and therefore better ministry. Differences among us? To be sure. There are plenty. From tastes in music to trends in worship to understandings on every major facet of Christian conviction—many of them passionately held. I’m certain there is plenty to keep us squirming and squabbling for some time.

But how much more generous is God’s gift of communion when, precisely in light of those many differences, God’s covenant family gathers for worship and work? It is not so much about the sometimes tired slogan of “unity within diversity.” Honestly, I think this gift appears more readily when there is maturity within humility. Finally, however, sweet communion is not something we can force into being. It is a pleasant gift from a gracious God. No wonder the Psalmist can break out in celebration as he does:

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
Psalm 133:1