So what does it mean to be a community following the way of Jesus?
Our goal at St. Columba is to live out an answer.
Since the time of earliest Christians, one question has been continually asked: What does it mean to be a community following the way of Jesus? And Christians since that time have continued to ask that question. Our goal at St. Columba’s is to attempt to live out an answer.
A few hundred years later, after the first Christians, monasticism arose as a critique of the church in their own time. The desire of monasticism was to answer the above question. A variety of activities were devised to live a life centered on Jesus. All of these ‘ways’ of following can be distilled into the Four Practices: Worship, Community, Formation and Mission.
Worship.Where we begin.
Worship is the starting point for anyone wanting to follow Jesus. If we look at the first thing that early Christians did it is worship. They devoted themselves to four things – the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers. If we look closely, all of these things are worship, either as individuals towards God or together as a community. The other thing to notice is that they devoted themselves to these things. For us at St. Columba’s that is our desire; that our entire lives would be devoted to living out the way of Jesus. No small task for sure, but don’t you think it’s worth it?
So for us, worship is where it all begins. But what does it look like… It could consist of things that are more ‘traditional’ such as reading the Bible or prayer. Or it could be a hike in the mountains or spending time playing with your kids. To paraphrase theologian Alexander Schmemann: Worship is when the Church is being the Church. This is what Jesus meant when he’s quoted in the gospels of saying: “The kingdom of God is like…” So for us, worship can take many different forms, both individual and corporate, traditional or contemporary. The purpose of our worship is that we focus on Jesus and that our worship will draw us into a lifestyle that reflects Jesus and his teaching.
Community.Incarnation in practice.
Community has become a ‘buzz’ word recently. Everywhere you seem to look people are talking about community – what it is, what it does or how it functions. But for a Christian community it starts with the incarnation of Jesus. What does incarnation mean? To put on flesh, to make physically visible; to paraphrase The Message: To move into the neighborhood. Jesus was the first proponent of community, both through his relationship in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and in his desire to restore the original expression of community on earth – a communal relationship between God and humanity that was broken in the Garden of Eden.
For the Community of Saint Columba this idea can take a variety of forms. For some that may mean an exchange of time in order to give rest to those that need it, such as doing gardening for a member of the community or babysitting for a stay at home mom. For others it could mean simply and intentionally spending time having a meal or sharing that meal with others in your neighborhood. (We’ll talk more about intentional community here – another of our three core values.) No matter how you foster community for our community “community” goes beyond simply spending time or being active, it should draw you into deep relationship with each other through Jesus. One of Jesus most important statements was: “…that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11) Our desire is to live this out, so that we may being to understand the intimacy Jesus had with God the Father in our relationships with each other.
Formation.How we change.
As Bob Dylan said in his song Gotta Serve Somebody: “…you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Our lives are a reflection of this in more ways than we sometimes know. What we spend our money on, how we spend our time, who we spend it with, all of these shape us into the people we are and are becoming. When we desire to follow the way of Jesus, God molds and shapes us just as a potter does on a potter’s wheel (Isa. 64:8; Jer. 18:1-6). So on one hand it is not really up to us, but God does the shaping and molds us into his image. However, in another sense we are to train ourselves so that we may compete in the race that we are called to run (1 Cor. 9:24-27). The monastics called these things disciplines, not as in punishment but rather as tools to shape and form ourselves in our love for Jesus. Richard Foster wrote a book titled Celebration of Discipline. In it he speaks of the disciplines as being inward, outward and corporate. All of these are ways of helping us on the road of faith. These are not only for the ‘super spiritual’, nor are they only for the beginner. They are to be used as tools to help form us in the way of faith.
But formation is much more than simply repeating an action or activity by rote. Formation is something we will be challenged by our entire lives. Formation should draw us into a deeper relationship with Jesus and his body, the Church. We are formed when we share community; we are formed when we worship together; we are formed in our individual relationship with Jesus; and we are formed when we go and act in our local communities. Formation then is not only for those starting the journey. We are all called to continually be formed in the way of Jesus. Each of us in the community takes on a life plan or “rule of life” which aids us in our own faith journey.
Mission.Living out what we believe.
When the word “mission” is mentioned, what comes to mind? Knights, King Arthur, a quest, the holy grail? Or perhaps, missionaries who moved to far reaches of the earth to share the message of Jesus, in a sometimes very culturally insensitive way? How ever you view the word “mission” if we follow Jesus we are called to do it. Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28). This is our mission if we are to follow him.
But what does this look like? Jesus speaks of some very specific ways of participating in the mission of God for the world and our local communities (Matthew 25:31-46). This also means that we are called to live out what we profess to believe. This is most definitely not easy! We fail many times, but the point is that we get up and try again. Our own effort will never accomplish the task. But God is gracious to use our simple offerings as a way to restore relationships, to feed someone who is hungry, to serve our neighbors and most importantly to live a life which is in line with the way of Jesus. Our mission is to proclaim this good news we have received, in word and deed.