Epiphany Sermon Series: CHURCH I – Foundations

CHURCH I – Foundations
Presented – Jan 18, 2015
St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Edmonton, AB
Rev. Jonathan Crane
This is the first of three sermons on the church
We are at the beginning of the week of prayer for Christian Unity
And either way,
A congregation needs
From time to time
To step back and consider
Who we are
And what we are doing
How we think about these things, shapes what we do.

I would like to begin with the Trinity
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Separate yet sharing together in common life
We experience God in life and in scripture in these different ways –
+The Father who out of love created the world and is above all things
+The Son who walks with us and has proven the divine power of love over sin and death
+The Spirit who is the closeness of our breath, the conviction of our heart, the illumination of our life
But a theology of the Trinity does not describe only experience
But an understanding
An understanding that at the center of who God is
Is loving community
Separateness and togetherness in one Divine Self

There is a lovely word:
Perechoresis,
Which describes this holy life as
“The dance of the Trinity”

It is an image of the care and attention
The structure and pattern
Of God’s love
(God’s love which is likewise evident in us and in all of the universe)
This ‘dance’, this compassion runs so deep
That it bubbled over –
the love of God bubbled over
so that this love and life might be shared with another
With us,
that we too might take part in the dance
Learn its steps
And invite others into the pattern
It is the story of Creation and Salvation in a nutshell

I begin a conversation of church
With a conversation of the Holy Trinity
Because
At its core
We may say that Church
The Church universal
And the (small ‘c’) church local
Is about our individual and corporate
Participation in the Life of God
We are invited by God to share in the dance
And Church
Is just how that sharing and connecting has grown to look over the years

We may say that
In the person of Jesus – the Son of God – the second person of the Trinity
We are given an image and an invitation
of what a life looks like blessed by the Father and full of the Spirit
We study him and are drawn into deep thanksgiving
Because in Jesus we see the fullness and the goal of life:
Jesus breaths as God, speaks as God, and touches as God,
All with human lungs, and lips, and hands
In him, we see
In him, there is hope for us
Hope for us to move toward such a divine-shaped life as well,
For us to become like God with our own lungs, and lips, and hands

The image of church we are given in Acts 2
Gives us an image of how those folks
Fresh from the day of Pentecost
Less than a matter of weeks from the resurrection
Acts 2 gives us an image of how that early community
Gathered simply around the Table and the Word
Around their Community and their Work
It is an image of folks newly finding their way
In the life of the Spirit, in the Life of God
They have come through their own resurrection
And they are learning to dance with each other
As they are learning to dance with God

We focus today on the first two verses of the text
Where we find those early believers a devoted people
They are devoted to the Teaching of Peter and the other disciples
Those who had lived and learned alongside Jesus.
They are called now called apostles – because they are sent.
Their teaching must have been a lot of storytelling:
connecting the life of Jesus to Jewish history.
Translating how the news of Jesus risen from the dead changed their whole life and livelihoods. If Jesus preached the kingdom of God, they preached Jesus.

And the people were devoted as well to the Fellowship
To the family-community that had been formed as the new believers joined together and shared life alongside one another.
You get the sense that this was a community from which they drew great strength,
and great hope and joy.
They saw great signs of God in their midst
And were deeply encouraged by them
And yet, they gathered in astonishing simplicity
There was no great rite or pilgrimage
They simply broke bread together at table
They heard the teaching together
They worked together
And they devoted themselves to prayer, likely at their local synagogue
(Remember, they remain here in a Jewish context as believers that Jesus was the Messiah.)
This was the shape of their participation in the Divine life of the Trinity

Living in a world and culture where church – its buildings, and liturgy, and traditions
is so established,
We can loose track of what it’s key elements are
Acts 2 is not an exact image that we can replicate,
We are in a different time and place,
But it does offer to us an encouragement to do the basics well
Whatever else we do
We must always ask what we are devoted to
Is it these things?
Or something else?
What busyness or detail or music or practice or critique are we devoted to instead of these simple things?

This talk on the church is a call to honor this simplicity in church, because it seems to be these things, time and again, that draw us more deeply into the life and joy of our Creator.
Over and over it is the simple things which connect us to God
It is not riches, it is not technological advance, it is not government structures…
It is eating, and sitting at table together, learning, caring for one another, and putting the learning to practice.
And we are thinking of those who joined this early fellowship through the simple rite of baptism.
No fancy rite….but a dunk, a few words, and it is a new person who has received the promise of adoption by God.
It is our practise still to this day, in the same way, with the same baptism.
The simple things are the core things

We may do well to use the KISS acronym at Church: Keep It Simple Sister
Be drawn in by these foundational shapes of church
Come to church not grumpy over details
But yearning for a meal with family
Do not be distracted by the history of church, or the theology that you find hard (the disciples took a long time to get it)
But be drawn in by the promise of God in Christ
Be caught by that man and his teachings and the scriptures written about him
Give thanks for the one teaching or the one word that you are able to digest
Don’t be overwhelmed, but let it transform you
Be transformed
to become a love-sharer –
a love-sharer, like God is in God’s own being
Become like one who reflects the dance of God in the world

And do not be ashamed St. Augustine’s if you do not have the rock band
Or the line-up of programs
Or the throngs of folks pouring in
Jesus began his work with 12 people only
12 people!
And they only because they were able to say, “yes”
“I will follow,”
That was the power of the whole thing, they stuck with Jesus
And this first Christian community in Acts 2
Is not fancy
But focussed,
delighting in the flavor-filled worship of God
In the Life of God they have come to know in Jesus
And in the sharing of love

Be part of a church, big or small, fancy or rough
That has these Acts 2 things
Live in them yourself
And you will do well.

And as we each grow in this simplicity
As we each take on the life of Christ
My goodness,
Somehow in that mix
God meets us
And rushes to greet us
Blessing us
And welcoming us further into the dance

Let us pray now for ourselves and for the church.