Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.”
Psalm 36: 9
All Is Light
“What though storm-clouds gather round me,
Hovering darkly over my way?
While I see the cross of Calvary
Beaming with celestial ray,
All is light, all is light!
What though mortal powers may falter?
Earthly plans and prospects fail?
With a heaven-born hope which entereth
Even to that within the veil,
All is light, all is light!
What though all my future pathway
Be from mortal sight concealed?
With the love of Jesus glowing,
As it lies to faith revealed,
All is light, all is light!
Even though death’s deep vale before me
Seem overspread with thickest gloom,
While I see a heavenly radiance
Bursting from beyond the tomb
All is light, all is light!”
Anson Davies Fitz Randolph
Today’s Study Text:
“I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another, just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.”
John 13: 34
“He is Risen” Part 10
“Christ’s Compassion – Christ’s Community”
“The basis of the Christian community is…the divine call. The Christian community is not the result of human efforts.”
Henri J. M. Nouwen
How would I describe the word “community”?
What does it mean in my own life to be part of a “Christian community”?
“Christians are those who remember the story of Jesus within the community of the church, in and for their own time and in their own lives.”
“A community is only truly a body when the majority of its members is making the transition from ‘the community for myself’ to ‘myself for the community,’ when each person’s heart is opening to all the others, without any exception. This is the movement from egoism to love, from death to resurrection…a community isn’t just a place where people live under the same roof; that is a lodging house or a hotel. Nor is a community a work-team. Even less is it a nest of vipers! It is a place where everyone – or, let’s be realistic, the majority! – is emerging from the shadows of egocentricity (self-focused) to the light of a real love…It takes time for a heart to make this passage from egoism to love…It takes time and much purification, and constant deaths which bring resurrections. To love, we must die continually to our own ideas, our own susceptibilities and our own comfort. The path of love is woven of sacrifice.”
It was near the small town of Port Hueneme, California, primarily known for its naval base, where I spent all my elementary school years. Each year, the Rotary Club in town held a “community” picnic and parade to celebrate the July 4th holiday. One year, my dad, an active Rotary Club member used our little car, a Printz, which just happened to be quite a novelty, to pull a float that was a well-made and extremely huge likeness of a whale. The tiny size of our car in comparison with the enormous whale float turned out to be the parade highlight at the festivities. The day was an overwhelming success as a “community” of friends, families, and neighbors joined in the celebration. As you might imagine, experiences such as this one, helped to develop in my mind what the word “community” meant.
The dictionary defines this frequently used word as: “A group of people residing in the same locality and under the same government.” Obviously, this definition seems distantly removed from society today where we find a church can have satellite “sites” located around the globe which link up with services at a main meeting area – and yet all the attendees, no matter how spread out they are, feel as though they belong to the same “community” of believers.
My own personal definition of a “community” has taken on a number of variations through the years, especially after Jim and I were in our car accident. The multi-medical teams that worked with us became part of a “community” of medical services, linked I might add, by their focused desire and immense expertise to help us survive and second to get us back on our feet. When we finally got home from the hospital, our neighbors surrounded us within a caring “community” that brought us food and tried in the most incredible ways possible to assist us. The Bible Study group we had attended before the accident did the same thing. No task was too great or too small for their helping hands to undertake.
I began our devotionals with the quote above from the book, Community and Growth, by Jean Vanier who states: “A community is only a community when the majority of its members is making the transition from ‘the community for myself’ to ‘myself for the community,’ when each personal heart is opening to all the others, without any exception.” If we take time to study the vision our heavenly Father had when Jesus came to earth, reflecting the heart of His Father’s love for his children on this planet, we find that heaven’s plan for “community” was one with unlimited love abounding for all. John 17 is a tremendous written example of heaven’s love poured out on all God’s children. We will be taking a look at this amazing chapter in Scripture for the next two weeks. However, for today, I want to look particularly at John 17: 22, “I have given to them the glory and honor which You have given Me that they may be one even as We are one.” What a beautiful picture this portrays of “community.” This I might add – is how Jesus wanted all His followers down through time to feel about each other and then to pass on to a world that’s aching, alone and fragmented. In writing about the text found in John 17: 22, author Jeremy Begbie in the book, “Behold the Glory” shares this thought-provoking passage: “It is typical…to see people as self-determining, isolated agents, sovereign over their carefully bounded ‘space.’ The same is true of much thinking about the goal of the incarnation, which all too often is seen as the rescue of solitary individuals for heaven. But the true human goal of the incarnation is the creation of a new people, a community sustained by the Spirit bound with that love which binds the incarnate Son to the Father.” This thought really struck me for often when we talk about Jesus saving love for ourselves, we can be missing the fact that this isn’t just a love which pertains to me, but it is also a love that in its broadest form captures the entire world as well.
A number of years ago, my best friend in elementary school named Mary French, lost her precious father to heart disease. This was an event which not only brought pain to Dr. French’s three children but to a host of other “kids” who he had treated as his own. When I arrived at the funeral, Mary’s brother Chip asked me if I would be willing to speak a few words and I remember well one thing I had written down in my notes and it was this: “How thankful I am that Dr. French’s heart wasn’t just big enough to hold his love for his own three children, it was so large it could hold all the rest of us too.”
This is the love God has expressed to His children through Jesus our Lord and in turn, Jesus has asked us to have the same love for each other. I believe it is providential this week for us to be focusing on “community” and what it means in our lives for there has rarely been a week when I have seen the loving community we call Transformation Garden come together in such love for each other. I’m blessed to see and read every email and while I can’t humanly share everything that goes on every day, I am blessed, even overwhelmed, by the love you all express in your prayers for Jim and me and our on-going health issues. But this golden thread of love is woven into the fabric of care here in the Garden for every person on our prayer lists. Over the last few weeks, several of you have sent comments in response to some of the prayer requests. These comments dealt with Garden family members offering health and healing ideas to some on the prayer list which I was then able to share with those in need of help. That’s not all! One precious daughter of God in Nigeria, takes every prayer request, every one, and writes her own special prayer for each individual. Then there is Dee. She’s prayed for nearly ten years, since the very first year of the Garden, for every name. There’s Myrt G. in Finland who has, as she has prayed, been impressed to send “prayer mails” as I call them to specific individuals who God impresses her to pray for. Don’t even get me started on our Prayer for Children list because my own mother has taken on praying for the names of children whose parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends ask for extremely urgent prayers on their behalf. And now our Prayer for Jobs list has all of God’s Garden prayer warriors “flooding” the gates of glory on behalf of those who are searching for work. I never in my wildest dreams could have dreamed up what a tremendous “community” of support this little Garden has become. We aren’t a church, we don’t take the place of your local Christian community. Instead, God knew that there are times in all our lives when being able to reach out and grasp, what to some may seem like a “remote” hand of love, is just what we all need. And here’s the best news of all, for everyone of you who through loving prayer, care and concern is involved in Transformation Garden, we have this eternal promise from Jesus Himself, “By this shall all know that you are My disciples, if you love one another and if you keep on showing love among yourself.”(John 13: 35, Amplified Bible).
As I was preparing this devotional, I came upon this beautiful poem/hymn which I want to share with you:
“Lord, Your love has called
to being all that fills the earth below,
myriad stars beyond our seeing,
tiniest creatures that we know;
earth and air and fire and water
woven in the grand design,
witness to the final meaning
of Your love for human kind.
Human lives are made for sharing;
joined in trust and truth we grow,
speech or silence opening pathways
to the hearts we seek to know.
Welcome love, by Your renewal
worn out ways turned upside down;
weak is strong, success is failure,
and the wise become (undone).
Love releases us from taking one
more risk than we might dare;
glory breaks through dark and danger,
shows the Lord transfigured there.
God who planted our affections,
help Your gifts to grow more free,
fan in us the fires of loving,
daring, (holy) Trinity.”
Michael Hare Duke
“May God sparkle in all of us
as sunlight upon water,
May we radiate for each other
compassion and hope,
May our work be fruitful,
our joys profound,
our pain redemptive,
May our discipleship be rooted
in the very life of God.
May we be for each other,
for family, for friends,
for those in need,
for those especially
whose faith has come to staleness
and whose hope had died
a burgeoning ALLELUIA
light and peace and simplicity
full gratitude, full openness.
May we take nothing less for granted
than the life we seek
to build up in common.
May we suffer the pain of a
fully generous love.
May we remain steadfast
in the shadow of the cross…
on the untiring good Spirit of our God.”
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and He who loves (their) fellowmen is begotten of God and is coming progressively to know and understand God, to recognize and get a clear knowledge of Him…and this command we have from Him: that he (she) who loves God shall love their brother and sister also.”
1 John 4: 7, 21
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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