Communio Sanctorum: No Knowledge of God Without Christian Fellowship

24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. ~Hebrews 10:24-25

I am increasingly impressed by the reality that to know God, to know God in Jesus Christ means that we do this in community, in church. If God’s Self-knowledge, if his Self-existence is shaped not in singularity but multiplicity, in Trinity, then it would follow that as those recreated in the image of God in and through the vicarious humanity of Christ that our knowledge of God, as we participate in his multiplied life, will in kind be the shape through which we come to know him among the community of saints, in multiplicity among the people of God.

What becomes difficult, for someone like me (and maybe like you) is that this community is hard to come by, at the moment. The reality of my work schedule often keeps me from even attending church on Sundays, let alone being involved in the body life of the local church; and this is troubling to me. Yes, I read the bible habitually; I read theology habitually; I attempt to share Christ with co-workers and others as opportunity presents itself; but I am missing the kind of community and koinonia (fellowship) that I believe is so vital to a vigorous life in and for Christ. Yes, I share life with my family, and we share Christian community right here (I don’t want to underestimate the value of this built in community that God has provided for in the so called nuclear family). But there is something unique and special about communing together in the body of Christ (the church) proper.

The reality is, is that the kingdom of Christ is not cultivated in isolation, but together, together with other people who have the Spirit in them (Romans 8); with Christians. God’s grace remains sufficient, and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, and so in these wilderness times we press on looking forward to the upward call in Christ Jesus and are always abounding in the work of Lord, not losing heart, but finding sufficiency in the life of Christ shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Maybe the Lord places us in isolated moments sometimes in order to teach us how important the body of Christ actually is; maybe he creates a thirst for his righteousness among his people in the wilderness, so to speak. But I am sure that lack of Christian fellowship should never be a normative thing; not at least if you want to know God in Christ in a full and rich way.

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4 comments

  1. Very thoughtful post, Bobby. And, I think, a specific word to me. I try to “Lone Ranger” it a little too much, which, being an introvert, comes very easy for me. There’s something really special when we come together with other believers; we see the Body function and manifest itself in a way we maybe wouldn’t see otherwise.

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  2. Yes and yes. And may I rise to protest the perfunctory welcome that our missing brethren too often get when they return to the Body of Christ?

    “Long time, no see. Howzit been?”

    “Interesting. Quite a spiritual journey…”

    “Well, good to see you. Try to come more often.”

    The Orthodox require even avowed hermits who live in inaccessible caves to return to the monastery at least once each year to attend the Divine Liturgy. I have seen this. Hermits are normally the ‘alumni’ of some monastery– that much solitude takes years of preparation– so, when some solitary presents himself outside the familiar gate, the fellowship that begins is equal parts class reunion, theology seminar, and banquet. Monks do not slaughter fatted calves, of course, but the bread will have more honey in it, the wine will be better, some creatures will be pulled from the sea, and the cooks will fetch something they’ve been saving from the garden. But mainly, the oldtimers will talk. The old Quaker question comes to mind– “How has the Lord been with thee, since last we met?” Remembering the agape meal that once accompanied the eucharist, the ‘unconsecrated’ bread from the eucharist will be carried in procession* from the painted church to the painted refectory.** “See how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity…”

    We really must do better than to smile ‘welcome back’ for a few seconds over a styrofoam cup of coffee. No congregation worth a steeple would regret lingering with Bobby or Eric over glasses of retsina, some good bread, and a sauteed squid, while a spring lamb turned over a wood fire. I’m sure about that. You can quote me.

    * In Orthodox practice, a round loaf is sealed and blessed for the eucharist, and a portion of this is cut out and consecrated in the communion. The rest of the loaf, called the panagia, remains as a sign of the Sign of the Lord. It recalls the Theotokos (aka Panagia), of course, but also the koinonia of the congregation around the Cup that Bobby and Eric are talking about. So the point of the panagia procession is that the Spirit that brought the brothers together in the church should likewise keep them together in the refectory.

    ** They differ, though, in that churches do not have frescos of saints bearing scrolls that warn against backbiting and gossip, nor do they show the ladder to heaven with winged demons trying to pull the monks off of it to fall into the jaws of hell. Christians having traded whispers since the Last Supper, refectories often do.

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  3. This is something I completely understand, because I’ve been moving constantly in the past 2 years since I got married. My wife and I have had no true home church for some time now. This has been especially difficult because of the wonderful church I had been such a part of for 10 years prior. That, plus I have no other social interaction, makes for a serious roadblock in my spiritual growth.

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