Merry Communitas!

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London is an ever changing tapestry of over 11 million threads. Each thread is a journey. Daily, weekly, yearly. Then there are the 31 million tourists who make their one off journeys each year. All these threads, our journeys, weave together and produce this global city. I have heard the stories of some of these threads. My neighbour who heard the shout of her family as a teenager in Somalia ‘run!’ and the fleeing footsteps she started there led her all the way to our street here. Another neighbour who regularly weaves his journey back and forth from the Ukraine to London, London to the Ukraine and back. The German family from the park, just here for a year with work. The American family just setting up their Christmas tree in the window of the house who are here for a year or two. The diverse and eclectic friends from a community garden who tell me ‘it doesn’t matter what colour you are here, black, white, yellow, green! Everyone is welcome!’. And so the threads of our stories and journeys, our similarities and differences weave together in beauty, difficulty, tension and grace. 

Looking beneath the surface of the groups and communities that make up London we begin to discover the spirit of community that is a jewel in all these stories. Here are not passive and orderly groups of relationships that neatly serve our individual needs. No. Here is a richer fabric of relationships that is formed by communitas. 

I want communitas, not community. 

Communitas is different to community. Community is good but communitas is more alive. Community brings people together because of some common place or characteristic whereas, when a community embarks on a mission its’ chemistry begins to change. Communitas is what emerges, the group who are gathered around the mission. Communitas is the community on a quest, being formed by a journey, who are experiencing relationship that is refined by shared hardships, dangers, risks, joys. Have you ever been part of a group that has had a shared goal or mission and found that you have a deeper set of relationships as a result? This is communitas. 

The Christmas story is beautifully woven with communitas which is then crowned and coloured by Jesus. It is a series of adventure-threads all pulled to the destination where God becomes a man. Mary and Joseph, Shepherds, Magi all end up on God-quests which lead them to the Saviour of the World. What they find is a child who is the new place where the heavens meet the earth. They find that the God-communitas of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has embarked on his own adventure to save the universe. And so these quests across the face of the earth by humans converge in Jesus Christ with the cosmic quest of the 3-in-1 God.

So, the true calling on all communities who are becoming communitas is this - come, find and follow the Son of God. Then as we discover him we also discover that through him the brokenness on earth might be as the wholeness of heaven. 

So what mission are you on? And who are you going with? Are you willing to take risks and put your own life on the line of this adventure? Are you willing to risk not just possessions and worldly securities but also your relationships? You will have to learn to deal with conflict, to be transformed by truth, to be made fit by hope and humbled by faith. You will have to learn how to deal with plenty and poverty. But you may just experience life that is more alive. You might even find what you are secretly looking for with your whole being. 

And the crazy twist is this, the man who is your destination is also your guide and wants to be a member of your communitas (if you will let him be). 

Merry Communitas!

[selah]

 

Mark Bishop @revmarkbishop

The advent of community

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Early on in this kind of new but kind of old adventure of church that we call missional communities in London someone suggested that we look for groups. Groups of people into whom the good news of Jesus might be planted. I don’t think we’ve been brilliant at this but I keep looking for groups.

There are a lot of groups.

Groups of mums, groups of kids, groups of school children, groups of football supporters, groups of workmen. Groups from the offices going for their lunch, groups in coffee shops talking and laughing. Awkward groups forced into being by the queue/lift/mode of transport they’re in. Groups of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus. Groups chatting in their common language…lots of groups and each, as they come together, become a mixing bowl being filled with all the ingredients of community. In amongst all those relationships a phenomenon greater than the sum of its’ parts begins to rise.

At we read the Christmas accounts there are so many groups and levels of community to observe. Shepherds, Wise men, Angels, the families of Mary and Joseph, all those on the road for the census, all those crammed into Bethlehem. Then, as we pan out there is the whole of Judaea including it's Roman armies and all the other traders and migrants who made up groups in that province. Pan out again and we see the whole of the Roman Empire from Spain in the west to Judaea in the east and Northern Africa to the south to mid-Germany in the north. Pan out once more and we realise that much of the world was still tribal (from a Western worldview ‘undiscovered’ would be the world). Native Indian tribes in North America, various tribal civilisations rising and falling in South America. The Han Dynasty in China which was largely unknown to the Roman Empire at that time. Tribes across Africa, Germanic tribes in Northern Europe, Aboriginal peoples of Australia….the community of humanity at the birth of Jesus was made up of a lot of groups, some large and many small.   

Into the midst of all of these groups, the Saviour is born. 

The Son of God is miraculously sent to grow, walk and save at the grassroots of the world. He came to us, chose us first, moves into our groups. But in the midst of this massive movement of God’s energy and life which hurtles to be birthed on earth in Jesus the Christ, there is also movement in the opposite direction. Jesus opens up a gateway back to where he came from. He opens a way into the first group of all, the community of origin, the Holy Trinity, the Triune God. It is in Jesus that we encounter the primal hospitality of God who cries out “Come into me!” and yet, at the very same time, "I am with you!”

The word advent comes from two Latin words, ‘ad’ which means ’to’ and ‘venir’ which means ‘come’. At the very heart of this season is God’s invite to come into his communal life, the community of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Can you hear it? Jesus says ‘come, follow me’, be in my presence, my family, my unique group.

And so it is that Jesus is the saving yeast that is poured into the mixing bowls of our groups that we might become part of the original community of all. In Him we find the advent of community for all the tribes of the world. In Him we hear the call 'come and see', 'come and follow', 'come and rest'. In Him we are transformed into something far more than we thought we were and into everything we were brilliantly created for. 

 

selah

 

Commands of Jesus: Introduction.

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In our work supporting a growing network of Missional Communities, we often quote these words of Jesus, also known as 'The Great Commission', to explain the origin of the mission drive in the church - in today's language, you could call it the church's purpose statement.

This is what we should be about.

As a brief exercise, we'd ask people to look at the elements of the Great Commission and discuss whether they think the church currently does these, or where they think the church is falling short.

It is around the last sentence that people tend to focus their discussion - Do we teach people to obey all that Jesus commanded?

Obedience as an ideal is a little out of fashion in today's world of self determination and liberation, but that is what Jesus asks for.

In this series, we're going to look at a number of the instructions and commands of Jesus and briefly think about what it would look like to follow them today.

We hope you'll follow along.