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When I visited my grandfather’s farm in Oklahoma we listened to that alternative music Country and Western. We got WBAP on the tractor and KWFT in the kitchen. Perhaps that is why I no longer listen to that particular type of music.
One song that I seem to remember was Willie Nelson's, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys." Now, if you know the lyrics to that song, you also know that impressionable youth shouldn't be listening to it. However that song filled in me the idea that masculinity and heroics required that a person rely only on himself. After all, most of our heroes are solo operators. Clint Eastwood didn't need any sidekicks, either as a cowboy or as Dirty Harry. Rambo wasn't much of a conversationalist and didn't have much use for a band of brothers. And while the Lone Ranger had Tonto, the only thing his partner ever said was, "Mmm, Kemosabe." There aren't many inspirational community-driven heroes.
I've since come to realize that there is a problem with this over-emphasis on self-reliance: it just doesn't reflect reality. Human beings are not meant to be solo operators; we weren't designed that way. In fact, we were created with a relational design. You don't have to dig too deep into the Bible before you bump into the idea that we are relational beings.
In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible we read, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in OUR image.'" Did you catch that? The pronoun "us" is key. As a child I thought God was talking to the angels and suggesting to them that humans would be created in the image of God and of angels. But no, the "us" is the first glimpse into a doctrine we call the Trinity.
God, who exists in a perpetual state of community we know of as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, said to himself, "Let 'us' make man in our image." God is talking to himself. Let me make this plain: the God who exists in community made us in to be like him. He made us with a community gene. It is hardwired in our genetic code. And for those of you who know me well understand that I don’t like to use this term; it goes against my Wesleyan-Arminian training.
But look closely at the scriptures. God placed Adam in the garden and gave him work. But in this perfect environment there was something that was not perfect. Adam had God, he had work, but he lacked community. No suitable "companion" was found. God said, "It's not good for man to be alone."
God wired Adam to need other people. Many of us think of this passage as primarily teaching about marriage. But I’d ask you to look at it in a new light: it's primarily a lesson on community. It's not required for a person to be married to have a healthy, happy life. I know singles that live healthy, happy, full lives. They would be offended if we told them they should be married if they want God's best for them. In fact, the apostle Paul commends single Christians to stay single! No, this passage teaches us primarily that God has wired us for relationships.
It's not just in Genesis 1 we see this. Moses needed a community, which he found in Aaron and later Joshua. David needed a community we know as the Mighty Men. Elijah needed a community that he eventually found in Elisha. Nehemiah needed a community to help rebuild the wall and reestablish a nation. And dare I say it; Jesus needed a community, which he found in the disciples.
So if we're wired for community why is it so hard? Shouldn't it be natural? Shouldn't it be organic?
We live in a time when people are crazy about organic. If you go to the grocery store you can buy organic milk. You can stop by the meat department and purchase organic beef to go with the organic fruit and vegetables you picked up in the produce department.
It's not just in the grocery store. Stop by the Christian bookstore and you can design an Organic Church, participate in Organic Community, and experience Organic Leadership. We love organic!
But here's the rub, we often equate Organic with Natural. In other words, organic is simply the way things just naturally happen. Relationships should just work out. We shouldn't have to work at it. I have a good friend that thinks churches shouldn't encourage members to join groups or classes but just let people go where they want. His assumption is that people will organically choose the best place for them. It will just come naturally to them.
I came across an article by a Pastor who was walking in a nature preserve. As he walked along tree-lined paths he noticed a man bent over digging in the bushes. As he got closer he realized that the man was pulling out plants. He thought he had spied an eco-terrorist, as he was witnessing the destruction of the defenseless plant life. The Pastor remains quite confused and concerned until he got up the courage to interrupt the person and ask what they were doing.
The man replied, “I'm weeding." He explained that the plants he was removing were not natural species to that part of Michigan. They had been brought in by man and were considered an invasive species. The Pastor went on to explain that if they didn't weed the nature preserve these particular plants would eventually choke out the natural species. The man was trying to restore the preserve to how it should be. The point of the story is that there is a significant difference between how God created nature and how the results of sin has distorted it.
Let's face it; there are a lot of invasive species that plague our relationships today. They are not native to God's ecology. If left unchecked they threaten to choke out the health our relationships.
During this Lenten season what is God showing you that are choking your relationships?
Some things to be mindful of this week:
· Ministry Team Leaders will be meeting this Saturday at 10 am. These times help us focus on upcoming events and keep informed of how we are reaching into the community or making disciples for Christ. Remember – We are better together!
· FPU Weekend starts with a Garage Sale Saturday March 13th starting at 8 am. We are helping our Graduate families achieve baby step #1. Rain or shine we will be inside!
Then continues Sunday night with our third class FREE Preview at 6pm. Babysitting and homework help provided.
· Our Deputation Service will be held Monday night March 15th 7pm. I look forward to hearing how this man and his family are being used by God – I hope you will too. Food sign-up is in the foyer.
Rather than pray, let me leave you with this Benediction scripture from Romans 15 verses 5 & 6:
“May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”