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  • Writer's pictureSteven Marsh

Being a Gathered and Not Gathered church: a Reflection on 2 Kings 5:1-14, Psalm 30, Galatians 6:6-10

Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way.”[1] Last Sunday following the 10:30am service there was a family on our courtyard with a “Please Help!” sign. Their presence on our church campus certainly reinforced the message that the church is to gather for worship, learning, and fellowship and then be sent in service to not gather in order to engage the disenfranchised.

In his letter to the Christians in Galatia, Paul was concerned about the Gnostics who taught a self-righteous brand of Christianity. Paul writes, “Do not be deceived.”  The Gnostics promoted knowledge and self-edification. The Gospel calls us to a simple faith and self-sacrifice.

In the 12th century there were many reasons for discouragement in Europe. There was the plague, an economy embedded in the feudal system, and Muslims pressing in from the East. In a small village north of Paris, St-Denis, there was an Abbot named Suger who had a vision for life that transcended the circumstances of his time. He wanted to rebuild the sanctuary of the Benedictine church of St-Denis. Abbot Suger envisioned flying buttresses, large windows, and vaulted ceilings rather than the more closed Romanesque style that existed. So, on July 14, 1140, what we now know as gothic architecture began. Abbot Suger’s vision of God, one of welcome and openness, radically transformed that village in St-Denis. With the psalmist we declare, “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.”[2]

Tomorrow, our country celebrates its 240th anniversary of independence from the British. Our forefathers and mothers had an identity and mission. Being a gathered and not gathered church arises out of identity and mission. Samuel P. Huntington, in his recent book Who Are We? makes the assertion that in post-September 11 America, our flag does not convey any meaning of America. “The explicit visual message of the Stars and Stripes is simply that America is a country that originally had thirteen and currently has fifty states. Beyond that, Americans, and others, can read into the flag any meaning they want.”[3] As a nation are we a “we?” May I suggest that the United States of America has an identity and mission according to the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. We are a nation based on values common to all humanity and in principle embracing many people.

Christians have an identity and mission according to the Bible. We are loved by God in order to love God and others. Halter and Smay write, “If our gatherings can take on a fresh, soft, pliable partnership with the larger story that’s being told through the scattered, incarnational life of our people…, our wineskins [structures] can easily be adjusted and people will be drawn to both [our gatherings and the larger story].” [4] Let us learn from the story of Elisha and Naaman in 2 Kings: “…knowledge of God and the truth of our circumstances may come from unexpected sources.”[5]

Proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Our actions have implications.[6] I invite you to gather with a local congregation and not gather; to love God and love others, in order to be laborers in God’s harvest. Exercise simple faith and self-sacrifice.

[1]Luke 10:2-3a

[2]Psalm 30:4

[3]Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), 8-9.

[4]Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010), 188.

[5]Haywood Barringer Spangler in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 197.

[6]Gleaned from Mark Douglas in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 210.

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