The first week of the Advent Bible Study is complete. We heard Mike preach about Zechariah and I got to lead and listen to 30 of you reflect together on this passage. The story about Zechariah in Luke 1:5-25 is full of references to
occurrences in the history of Israel:
- Casting of lots – See Esther 3:7
- Vision in the temple – Samuel is called by God in the temple
- Heavenly messenger – Jacob wrestles with an angel, heavenly visitors come to Abraham and Sarah
- A promise from God – to Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would outnumber the stars, to Noah that God would not destroy the earth again
- A sign – the rainbow
- A childless old couple – Abraham and Sarah
These are parts of the Zechariah story too, but now it’s about something new that is happening. That something new stands on the foundations of what already is, namely the nation of Israel and Judaism. God is at work from within the institution of the Temple, from within the rituals and practices of Judaism, transforming the world.
God is at work within the institution of our church, our congregation, transforming the world. We are also part of God’s salvation history on the corner of Park and Artesia.
We asked ourselves these three questions:
- What do we really need to tend and care for inside our institutions?Over and over the answers resonated with the word “relationship”. One response I found particularly provocative. It employs a verb we don’t usually associate with church community: pursue. “We need to pursue our relationship with Christ and our relationship with each other. If we are not pursuing relationships with each other we are not building the body of Christ.” To pursue requires each of us to be in an active role, not a passive role. Another person recognized how hard it is for people to give themselves to another person.
- What rituals and practices of our faith will help usher in the new? Over and over the answers began with the Table. It is the centralizing point of community. Appreciation was expressed for the open table, that there is no litmus test of faith or age requirement to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Bible study and prayer were named and so was mission. “Who we are, our identity is something we need to keep at the fore. Our mission is what brings us together and galvanizes us to act together.” I wonder, though, how each of us might define that mission.
- What is new? You said, the teachings of Jesus. You said, new people. Whatever is new is likely still unknown.
Matthew’s gospel wants to eliminate the old for the sake of the new: old wineskins can’t hold new wine. Luke has a different perspective. He proclaims the new can’t come into being without the support of what has come before. In some ways they are both right. Sometimes we have to let go of ways of doing things that no longer support the work of the church. And sometimes we have to tend and care for the ways that have served the work of the church. Our work is carefully discerning the difference.
I hope you are provoked as I am by the word pursue and will pursue your
relationship with Christ this Advent season and pursue one another to build the body of Christ that gathers at the corner of Park and Artesia.