God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, but us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved … not your own doing, a gift, not a result of works so no one may boast. Ephesians 2:4-8
The Bible had spoken to me. Finally. God had spoken as clear as day. So off I went to church in a small village town and it felt like coming home. As I walked into a decrepit demountable, I was greeted by other travellers on the journey. Some barefoot, others in thongs or Uggs, all belting out the lyrics to the opening hymn. There were no pews or stained glass windows, ‘Sunday bests’ or even a cross, just family learning, praising and journeying together.
Over the next 5 years, these people became my family. They were so different to any other friendships I’ve ever experienced, filled with intentionality that can only come from relying heavily on the Lord in weakness. We rebuked each other openly, on and off the soccer field. We encouraged each other frequently and prayed for each other even more regularly. The younger (early 20’s) said “come learn how to follow, alongside us” to the younger (teens). EVERYONE was on the supper roster because we’re all capable of at least ordering pizza, and we all chipped in $5 a week to cover costs anyway. We went through our neighbourhood collecting toys together for toys and tucker. We were supported and mentored by older men and women who invested in us as fellow disciples.
When I moved to Wollongong, many marvelled that my housemate and I were close and thought we’d known each other for a lifetime, not 3 years. I didn’t get it. Is this unusual? Was it bad? Were we weird? But friendships like ours, and those of my old church and even my beach mission team, they’re family, not friendships like the world and that’s the point. We sacrifice for each other, build each other, hold each other accountable and spur each other on towards love and good deeds. We see each other outside of church gatherings, check-in with each other when we’re apart, are vulnerable with each other and do conflict well because we’re family.
St Michael’s is abundant in wisdom, knowledge and resources. Do we remember to invest those riches in walking alongside other disciples on our journey? Do we become so busy that we run out of mental space and energy to remember our journey together? Do we look at the person in the pew next to us and say ‘hey brother/sister, good to see you here! I need some prayer to carry on in the faith this week, how can I pray for you? By the way, what’re you doing on Tuesday night? Come ‘round for tea”… or do we simply nod hello? If you are a person to whom these conversations come quite naturally, would you consider inviting others who find it harder, to “come learn how to follow, alongside me”?
I have so much love for you all as brothers and sisters in the faith and know that we have the capacity to really care for each other and our city. Let’s intentionally walk together and grow deeper in our love together for each other and our Lord.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Cor 12:12