As I sit here today and think about our church I get excited. I think about worship and all of the new and wonderful faces we have entertained recently. I think about how excited you all get to see one another and the great time you all have at the weekly fellowship lunch. I think about the many, so many, outreach ministries that we support and the heart-warming stories you share about the experiences you have during your service. I think about the deep and meaningful conversations we have at our Bible Study classes. There are two classes, covering the same material, and the conversations are so different for each group, but always so engaging, helping all of us to go deeper into the material. Then I go and look at our calendar. Just in the span of eight weeks we will have hosted a Spaghetti Dinner, opened the Sanctuary at noon for a time of quiet prayer on Ash Wednesday, and gathered that evening for a formal Ash Wednesday Service. Currently, we are working together to put on the 46th annual Easter Tableau and culminating all of that with our Easter Sunday celebration. That does not even include the gatherings of our Sunday School class, Bible Study, various outreach ministries, and the list goes on and on. How can you not get excited about that? We are alive, we are reaching out, and we are trying to be all that God has called us to be for this world.
But there is one thing that can unravel all of this. There is one thing that if not practiced can harm our efforts and derail our intentions. That one thing is a lack of fellowship. Fellowship is not just a good idea or a necessary aspect of living life together; it is Biblical. It was a trait found in the very beginnings of the early church. In Acts 2:42 and 46, we find that the early church was “devoted to fellowship and the breaking of bread” and that they “met together and broke bread in their homes and ate together.”
We usually associate the word “fellowship” with casual conversation, socializing, food and fun. But biblical fellowship is deeper. It’s really about experiencing life together. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sacrificial giving, sympathetic comforting and all the other “one another” commands from the New Testament.
There’s a Greek word that sums up the essence of Biblical fellowship – that word is “koinonia.” The root idea of koinonia is sharing something in common. And that something in common is a commitment to Jesus Christ. After that, we should be as committed to one another as we are to Christ. When we have genuine koinonia, the church provides a safe place for persons to be real and open with their lives, admit their struggles and sins and speak the truth in love to one another without fear of rejection, judgment or condemnation.
Have you ever seen one of those yellow “Safe Place” signs on businesses like McDonald’s? Those signs on a building mean that that business is a safe place for kids and teenagers who are experiencing problems and abuse or who have run away from home. When you think about it, the church was intended to be a safe place for all people. God wants us to have the same kind of attitude that those signs represent to kids, “You’re in good hands here! Come on in! This is a place of grace and caring!”
God has called the church to be a place of hope, a place of renewal, and a place of grace. And it is in our fellowship; how we love and care for each other, and all others, that we can experience that grace in our own lives. This Lenten season may the grace found in fellowship, true koinonia fellowship, be your guide. May it lead you to a deeper walk, a richer faith, and more abundant love of all people, now and forevermore.
Blessings on you and I will see you Sunday!