This weekend, my husband (Kristian) and I attended our church’s annual retreat (Grace Fellowship). As we have only been attending Grace Fellowship for a couple months now, this was our first time attending this retreat. Nestled in the quiet of the woods, the retreat was held at a Christian camp tucked away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It was simply wonderful. If I had to sum up our time there in one word, it would be “community”. I experienced community with my husband, with some old friends, and with lots of new friends--all of whom belong to the Body of Christ. In doing so, I experienced community with our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, recognizing that our Triune God is a community Himself and our human relationships mirror this community.
*The night we arrived, Kristian and I walked down to the lake and sat on a dock together under the night sky. The water was so calm, and the reflection of the tall evergreens was simply majestic. We were the only ones at the lake, and we sat hand-in-hand taking in the beauty, visiting with one another, and praying to our Great Creator. (I miss you already, Kristian!)
*Getting a chance to talk with people--and seeing Christ in the Body of Christ. I saw Christ in the eyes of the loving mother who cheerfully towed four kids on a ferry. I saw Christ in the heart of a compassionate nurse with a burden to care for sick patients and children. I saw Christ in the hearts of an older couple whose wisdom and gracious living inspire me each time I talk with them. I saw Christ in the chorus of praises sung together by the body. I heard Christ in the prayers of men and women who thirst for Him. I saw Christ in the joy of the children all around who were running, laughing, and playing together. I saw Christ in the hearts of a couple who are eagerly anticipating the blessing of their first child. I saw Christ in men encouraging each other as brothers. I saw Christ in the servant heart of a woman who planned the details of the event for all to enjoy. I saw Christ in the hearts of mothers who rushed together with seemingly lightening speed to respond to the needs of a hurt child. I saw Christ in the humble and bold, trusting and Spirit-empowered vision of our godly elders. I saw Christ in the hearts of women talking theology and Bible. I saw Christ in the hands of the youth and staff that served us meals. I saw Christ in the tender words of a father teaching his little ones about God’s creation and protecting them as they walked together by the lake. I saw Christ in the encouraging words of women as they played a game together. I saw Christ in the heart of a woman who told me about God’s amazing provision on the short term mission trip she went on recently. I saw Christ in the love between a young woman and a young man who were just embarking on the journey of Christian marriage. I saw Christ in the passion of those who yearn for authentic, meaningful, biblical community. I saw Christ in the heart of those with a vision to win, grow, equip and deploy so that many would truly know the deep love, joy, and peace of a life with Jesus. I saw Christ in so many who welcomed us into their church family with sincere love. I could go on and on….
*Hearing the vision for our church for being so much more than a gathering on Sunday morning. The heart is to know and live the gospel, which happens in real and deep community. The heart is to reach out to those who need the gospel, with an emphasis on building God’s Kingdom in a biblical way rather than building a local church or institution in worldly ways. The heart is to make disciples not just converts…lovers of Jesus, not mere fans of Jesus.
*The food was yum!
We have loved being a part of Grace Fellowship for the past couple months. We have been edified by the teaching, worship, love, and hospitality of the folks there. (Just last weekend, the ladies at Grace held an amazingly sweet baby shower for a woman who is also new to Grace.) The retreat helped us partake more deeply of the fellowship at Grace and to get a further glimpse of the vision for Grace to grow in Christlikeness. We so look forward to getting plugged in even more and to doing life with our brothers and sisters at Grace.
Below is a passage that was read at the retreat. Acknowledging that our culture is one that is highly individualistic, our pastor challenged us to read it in the context of community:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Gifts of Grace
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Marks of the True Christian
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.