Building a Community
In January, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel and visit the holy sites on a Christian pilgrimage. On the first day of our trip, we visited Cana of Galilee, the site of Jesus’ first miracle in which he turned water into wine for a wedding celebration at the behest of his mother.
While we were in the basement of a church built over the spot where this miracle took place, I noticed a minister performing a ceremony for several couples who had come to Cana of Galilee to renew their wedding vows. What better place to renew your vows than the wedding site where Jesus performed his first miracle!
In that moment, I was reminded of a lesson we receive from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Whether a couple is renewing their marriage vows, or an engaged couple is standing at the altar reciting wedding vows for the very first time, we all need to remember that marriage involves three important individuals: you, your spouse, and God.
Ecclesiastes talks about the value of a friend. Chapter 4, verse 9 reads, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” (NRSV). This same sentiment can be heard in the words of Lyn Collins’ 1972 funk hit “Think (About It):” “It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it out of sight!”
The Scripture goes on to say that friends help each other up, keep each other warm, and watch each other’s backs in a fight. Then verse 12 ends with the words, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Up to this point, we’ve only read about two friends. So, why does a THREEfold cord suddenly appear? This is where God is reminding us that His presence is a necessary part of any relationship, including the marriage relationship.
As we consider God’s presence in the midst of our relationships, we must first acknowledge that we are made in God’s image. We see this in Genesis 1:27 where it says, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV).
Those who practice the Christian faith believe in the Triune God. In the midst of the Trinity’s mystery exists a community: God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just like our Creator, we are meant for community, and at the center of our community is God. It is God who blesses and sustains our communities. In our hearts, we know there is no life apart from the Divine Presence. Jesus demonstrates this with his own life by surrounding himself with friends and family as he begins his three year ministry in Israel.
He healed individuals, families, and entire groups of people. Before He was arrested and ultimately sentenced to death on a cross, He taught his disciples a new commandment: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
When a couple marries, they start a new family. If they decide to have children or to adopt, then their community grows larger. God desires to live at the center of this community, to bless these relationships, to serve as a necessary strand in the threefold cord.
Whether you’re planning a wedding and preparing for a lifelong marriage this year, or you’re celebrating another anniversary with your spouse, I encourage you to always put God first.
Abide in God and remember that you are made in God’s image. God the Father exists as community, so be mindful of the community surrounding you and your significant other. God the Son cared deeply about relationships, so remember to invest time and energy into the relationship and friendship you share with your spouse. God the Holy Spirit holds everything together, strengthening your marriage so that it will not be broken. Love each other the way Christ loves you.
Treat your spouse the way Christ would treat them. And together, ask yourselves how the two of you may make a difference in your world, in your community. God is part of yours and your spouse’s threefold cord, ready to bless you both as you tie the knot. Thanks be to God!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
(This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of Tour Collierville Magazine)
Being a Pastor in a 5-4 World
The following is a blog post from a fellow church planter, Rev. Travis Garner. With permission, we share Travis's thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage:
Unless you’ve not been paying attention to anything going on in the world, you know that this week was a landmark week in the United States, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could no longer ban marriage between same-sex couples. In many ways, the way the decision was reached and the response on social media are more indicative of the current state of our culture than the decision itself. It was a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court, and the justices were very divided in their writings on the decision. If you’ve been reading social media (and who hasn’t?), you’ve seen incredibly divided responses as well. I have good friends, people of faith, who fall across the spectrum on their response to this ruling.
The question I’m pondering this morning as I prepare to head to church is this: How do you pastor a congregation in a 5-4 world?
The fact of the matter is that we are a divided nation, a divided people. In today’s culture, every possible division between people is emphasized and expanded and exaggerated and exploited. Everything is turned into an “either/or” scenario. Either you agree with me, or you’re a bigot. Either you agree with me, or you’re completely immoral.
This week, there are people who, in the midst of their story and their struggle are celebrating equality. But this week, there are also people who disagree, people who have a different story and a different experience. The reality is that there are not “two sides” on this issue. There’s not a singular gay experience or a singular straight experience. Each of us has a different story, unique experiences, particular struggles, and when we make anything a simple “either/or,” we greatly miss the mark. When we proclaim from our soapboxes that you’re either in favor of this decision or you’re a hateful bigot, we’re being shortsighted. When we say you’re either against this decision or you’re championing immorality, we’re failing to understand the complex reality in which we find ourselves.
What I’m feeling this morning as I prepare to head to worship in such a divided time and cultural landscape, is a deep sense of gratefulness that I believe in a God who loves all people. I’m thankful to be part of a church that has an open table: all people are invited to sit at God’s table. Which means, by the way, that people with whom I strongly disagree are loved by God and invited to sit at God’s table. People who are and have been hurtful to me are loved by God and invited to sit at God’s table. After all, Jesus died for bigots. Jesus died for the immoral. Jesus died for all of us.
Every single one of us in the family of God are a mix of saint and sinner, of struggle and victory, of lost and found. None of us, singularly, have it all figured out. We need each other, the people who think and act like us, but maybe even more particularly the people who are different from us. For it is in our difference and diversity that the body of Christ finds its true strength.
As a pastor, I’m a pastor to both the 5 and to the 4. I’m a pastor to people who sharply disagree with one another. And the bottom line is this: all are welcomed in my church and loved unconditionally by God. And all are asked and enabled to become more than what they are when they walked in the door – a person who is continually growing and transforming into the likeness of Christ. I am grateful that this morning, at my church, there will be space for everyone; all are invited.
From Ephesians 4: May we all be rooted and established in love, completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Remembering that there is one body and one Spirit, and one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
To read more of Travis's thoughts, visit his blog at www.travisgarner.net. To learn more about his new church plant in the Nashville-area, visit www.thevillagenashville.com.
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