I am smack in the middle of one of those moments in time when it seems the air is crystal clear and you get to see further down the road than you get to most days. Here in Ireland with brothers and sisters from all over the world, it is very easy to see how Jesus is knitting together his church throughout the whole world. And it isn’t through the organizations and institutions, which almost always do more to divide us than they do to bring us together, but with the simple power of growing friendships. Those of us who are here are getting to taste of the fruit of years and years of relationships that others have let Jesus develop among them.
Some have been at it with this bunch for 30 years or more, some 10 or 15 and some just showed up in the middle of a bunch of friends celebrating their life in Christ and jumped right in to participate in those relationships as well. So did it just happen? In one sense, it did! In another sense, however, this is the fruit of something he has been doing for some time as people following him have given themselves to the relationships Jesus provided for them. Connecting his body this way is not a quick process, but it’s fruit is awesome!
I can think of hundreds of people I wish were here and their probably hundreds of others who wish they were here. I can understand how powerful this would be for those who feel isolated and hunger for more Godly connections. But this is just one connecting point that is bringing together a lot of different pools of relationship. It is not the end of anything, but just part of an ongoing process of Jesus knitting his family together. Rarely does that process take on the expression it has here, but when it does it is the fruit of a work he has been doing for some time. Let me point out some bits of that process to you, that I see reflected in this occasion and which might put you at peace with where he has you in this process.
First, Connect with Jesus
It all begins here. Remember body life does not produce the life of Jesus, only Jesus does that. The church can never be our source of life, it is the fruit of that life being borne in us. Let your relationship with him grow. If you don’t know any others, just lean in close to him and keep your eyes open. He may just want you to himself for a time so that he is the only one you’ll be dependent on. In time he will begin to connect you in the simple joy of—
Twos and Threes
The heart of body life is not found in large gatherings, believe it or not. Just as Jesus said it is perhaps best expressed wherever two or three gathering in his name. That can happen by scheduling time to share a meal or an outing together, or it can happen just because you cross paths in a store and decide to hang back for a moment and enjoy each other’s company. Relationships grow best in small conversations where people just get to know each other. Trying to form groups is a poor substitute for this, and often they subvert the process of true relationships growing.
Those who’ve had a role to play in facilitating what is happening in Ireland are people who have given themselves to these kinds of relationships for years. They are not about building groups or fulfilling ministries, but simply letting God connect them with others and investing time in those relationships, whether it be over the Internet or face to face. In time those pools of twos and threes find themselves with—
Someone once said you know you’re truly someone’s friend when they share their other friendships with you. There are some intersecting people here, who have helped bring their relationships alongside other relationships. What a glorious thing it is as God begins to let us see a network of friendships locally, regionally or globally that have interrelationships with each other! I love seeing some of my dear friends becoming friends with some other of my dear friends. They can sit down to a meal together, focus on some growth together or help others meet that will be of mutual benefit.
When I was in Bournemouth last week, I met a lovely young couple that had just immigrated to the UK from South Africa. They knew a couple I’d spent some time with in South Africa who in turn knew an elderly couple living near them outside London. They made that connection. That couple connected them with another young couple in Bournemouth who let them know I was coming a few weeks later. They came down to meet me as well as the couple in Bournemouth. This week I am in Ireland with the couple from South Africa who started it all and the elderly couple from London, whom I will introduce to you all in a future podcast. And the only reason I knew the family from South Africa, is because the people here in Ireland commended them to me when I was headed to South Africa. And that happened because in a trip long ago to the U.K. some Irish folks invited me to visit here. Do you hear the knitting needles bringing together—
The Wider Family
Now a hundred of us or more are spending some days together in Ireland representing about a dozen countries. Those from out of the area or staying in the homes of people here who have maintained contact with each other over 30 years without trying to manage an institution to tie them together, which is most probably why they are still together. We are spending a week together in and out of each other’s homes, one day meeting for a picnic and fellowship under a marquee in a field, and on another day jumping in a tour bus together and tasting a bit of the history and culture of this part of Ireland.
All along relationships are still connecting and growing. Even in these expressions of the wider family that encompasses the whole world, those moments of twos and threes or eights and tens are still where people really get to know each other as the family continues to grow. And threaded throughout those conversations is what Jesus is doing in our lives and what he has shown us of himself.
One can’t help but wonder how many other of these networked relationships scatter our globe, and how easy it will be for Jesus to connect them when he is ready. Only two people have to cross paths for separate bits of the family to connect. What a joy it is to be with people who have no desire to manage God’s working or to manipulate others with their pet theologies or need to control others for their desired outcome. Living loved and sharing that love is really more than enough to give expression to this incredibly family.
And it all begins when people simply connect with Jesus and learn to live in the reality of his love. As they give time and attention to those relationships he puts before them and the connections that follow will dazzle us all!