Mission: Belong 1 John 1:1-7
2/2/2019 2:17:59 AM
January 20, 2019
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: 1 John 1:1-7
My sister is a lawyer. We would pray for her soul, but being a lawyer, she doesn’t have one. It makes it very inconvenient when she tries to walk through an automatic door. They don’t open because she has no soul. She has a Lexus though!
Many years ago, my sister worked for a series of law firms as an associate. After working hard, she became a partner in that law firm. Becoming a partner fundamentally changed her relationship with the firm. Now she shared in the profits and in the liabilities of the law firm. Her salary and bonus were no longer just based on the hours she billed. Now she had a share in the overall profit of the firm. If the firm did well, she did well. She was involved in a partnership now, not just an employee.
A week ago, I performed a wedding for a couple from our church. At that ceremony, they became partners of a different sort. But now their lives are joined. No longer autonomous individuals, they are now in a partnership. What is good for one partner is good for both of them. If one struggles they both struggle. Their fortunes rise and fall together. They share life together. Their lives are intimately intertwined with one another’s in a unique way. They don’t share their lives with anybody else in that way.
Soldiers speak of a bond, a brotherhood that forms when they fight alongside one another during wartime. I’ve read a number of books on military history over the years. Frequently they speak of a bond that forms between the soldiers that lasts even after the war is over. They have a shared experience that binds them together in a profound way.
Here at Priory, our vision is, “We see broken people becoming whole through the love of Christ.” How can we possibly accomplish this? That’s where our mission comes in. Our mission is how we go about achieving the vision, bringing the vision to reality. Our Mission at Priory is (in part) “to build a community in which to belong, grow and serve.” What does it mean to belong?
To belong is to form a partnership, part of being a community, belong means sharing life together. Partnership is a form of belonging in which people share a part of their life. In Greek, there is a particular word for partnership and belonging that I want to examine today, “Koinonia.” (Sounds like “coin – o – nee - ya)
In Acts 2:42 we read about the early Christians. They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship and prayer.” The word for fellowship is koinonia. Acts 2:43ff go on to describe what that fellowship looked like: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
They shared physical resources, met one another’s needs, met together for worship, met together for food and friendship, praised God together, and no surprise, the Lord added to their number every day!
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need “Koinonia” is the Greek word for fellowship or partnership. It can mean a business partnership, a marriage partnership and a self-giving attitude in community.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. This was their partnership. This is what we SEE in Acts 2. This is what we mean at Priory by “belong” especially in community in which to belong, grow and serve.
Koinonia is used a number of times in the NT and in a variety of ways. Another important passage is 1 John 1- 3 times! Look for the word “fellowship” in this passage.
What It Says
John’s letter opens like his Gospel- with a focus on the Word who is God that has come in the flesh. There is a strong emphasis on what John and his fellows have personally seen, touched and heard. They are testifying to their own personal experience with Jesus.
This is a rich passage theologically. There is a lot here about the incarnation of Christ, his deity and humanity both as well as the eye witness character of John’s testimony. They are testifying to the Word of Life and proclaiming Him who is eternal life.
A couple of things: The foundation of what John says is the concrete, historical events of Jesus’ life.
This is not based on a philosophy, an ideology, or a whim! Rather this is based on the historically anchored life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Everything John says here is based on the life altering experience of an encounter with Jesus. Jesus is described as “The Word of Life” and “the eternal life.” “The Word is the creative self-expression of God by which the cosmos was made.” [Gary Burge, The Letters of John] The Word in Greek is the “Logos” which in Greek though means the rational cause behind the universe. It is closely related to the Jewish idea of “Wisdom” as found in the Old Testament. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 1 opens talking about the Word who was with God and was God. Nothing that has been made was made without the Word.
Here-Word of life, who is the eternal life who was with the Father. Remember, in the Jewish mindset, and thus in the NT, “life” is more than existence, it means an intimate relationship with God our creator. “Life” means an intimate relationship with God. There is existence without God, but not life. So Jesus being the Word of life means he is the “Logos” who brings intimate relationship with God.
Next, John tells us why this matters. Why does John testify and proclaim his experience of this Word? Here we find our key word “koinonia” or “fellowship/partnership.” John proclaims Jesus so that we can enter “koinonia” with John and, by extension, “koinonia” with God the Father and with Jesus the Son.
This is why “koinonia” is so important. Koinonia with other Christians and koinonia with God is the goal of and result of proclaiming the Christian message. Remember the Christian message is about eternal life. Eternal life means intimate relationship with God forever. In order for this to happen, we must first find reconciliation with God. The short word for reconciliation with God is called salvation. This is the result of forgiveness of sin!
Koinonia, like righteousness, is a relationship word. Koinonia with God comes when God declares us righteous. So we see the significance of this “partnership” with God and with other believers. It comes when we are reconciled to God and results in us being reconciled to one another. When we find fellowship or partnership “koinonia” with God, the result is finding fellowship and partnership with one another.
John continues that claiming partnership/koinonia with God, but walking a sinful life, makes us liars and do not “do” the truth. Conversely, walking in the light leads to partnership with God and one another and our sin is purified by Jesus’ blood. Koinonia, partnership with God and other believers, is not just a consequence of Christianity, it’s not just an option within Christianity. It is clearly something central to Christianity!
What It Means
So what does this mean? Hopefully you can see the serious theological significance of koinonia- of fellowship, of Christian partnership, of the community relationship that ideally occurs among Christians.
-Different than partnership in a business- sharing the goal of making money.
-Different even than marriage partnership- joining your lives together out of romantic love
I hope this also begins to spark your thinking about what church is all about. Why do we gather together? Should church just be something that happens for 90 minutes on a Sunday morning? Or should “church” mean so much more?
-It all comes back to John’s foundation- the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Word of life.
=> This is so profound that it becomes the centre of life for people who experience it.
Church is about the unity people find with one another when they find new life in Christ. Here in 1 John, also in Acts 2, the word “koinonia” is used to describe this unity. In Paul’s writings he talks about unity, partnership, sharing or koinonia with the Spirit, in the blood of Christ, in the body of Christ and in the gospel itself! [1 Cor 10:16; 2 Cor 13:14; Phil 1:5]
That unity finds expression in praising God, sharing time and resources with one another. Why? As a
result of what God has done for us. That is crucial to remember! The foundation is the coming of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection. Koinonia with one another is based on our koinonia with God. God shared time with us, his resources with us. Jesus came to dwell with us, spend time with us, and gave us his very life!
“Koinonia” fellowship is not about having a common cause, or even theological consensus, but a partnership in the experience of God’s redemption in Christ. This is what binds us together which is greater than all the things that divide. It is this experience of God’s generosity to us that sparks our generosity with one another. That generosity is often seen in financial sharing to meet one another’s needs, but also in spending time together, sharing food together, opening up homes to one another, of relationship based not on affection or common interests, but on common experience of Jesus.
It is when we find “koinonia” relationships that God can really bring healing to our hearts.
-Koinonia is the result of God’s forgiveness for sin. Koinonia is the result of being reconciled to God. Once God forgives our sin, the work of repairing our heart, our character begins.
-In God’s wondrous plan, his primary tool for work in the world is his people. We are Jesus’ hands and feet in the world. This means that we are also God’s primary tool for bringing healing to one another’s hearts!
Our primary problem as people is sin- alienation from God which results in alienation from one another. Koinonia fellowship is about working out our reconciliation with God and one another once our sin is forgiven. It is when we are in close relationship with other people who’ve experienced Jesus, when we partner with them on the road of life, that God uses them to encourage us, to show us grace in action, to heal our wounds, to sand off the rough edges in our character, to hold accountable to becoming more like Jesus.
If that is what it means, how to we put it into action? What does it mean for you and me and PPBC?
Our vision as a church is to “see broken people becoming whole through the love of Christ.” The means by which we hope to achieve this is our mission- which in part is to form a community in which to belong, grow and serve. This is the “belong” part of that mission. We want to create a community of koinonia fellowship, of koinonia relationship, of koinonia partnership.
To have “koinonia” relationships, church cannot become an anonymous experience. I’m friends with a couple pastors at the biggest church in town. They admit that many people come to their church in order to remain anonymous. They come to be served on Sunday with a service that has a high production value, but they’re not interested in actually having shared relationships with other people there. This is a huge problem for large churches when they want to see people grow to be like Jesus. Not just a problem in big churches! Any size church can become anonymous, or superficial in relationships!
Worshipping together must become a first step in building relationships together, not the last step. If Sunday morning is the limit, or the extent of the relationships you are building with other people here, there is a problem. You’re not pursuing kiononia. You’re not seeking to be a partner with other people in gospel, in your experience of Jesus.
Why? Let me ask the difficult question: Is Jesus the divine reason that gives your whole life coherence and purpose?
This is where John begins! Is Jesus the centre of who you are? Is he the reason you get up in the morning? Is he the reason you live life the way you do? I would gentle propose that the reason the church in the West is struggling is that we have made Jesus something we add to our lives rather than the centre around which we build the rest of our lives!
So what do we do? Ask God to open your eyes to what he has done in your life, in the life of those around you and in the broader world. (Paul’s prayer in Eph) As an introvert, I tend to imagine God opening my eyes through a personal enlightenment experience, probably reading a book. But! That really limits God! Instead, I need to look for God’s attempts to open my eyes through other Christians, through his people, in relationship.
What does that look like? To see God’s attempts to open my eyes through others? To begin with, each of us can make a practice of welcoming someone on Sunday. Look for someone you don’t know well, maybe someone new, welcome them! Say hello! Ask their name, etc. Introverts may find this scary, but you can do it quietly, behind the scenes, over food, etc.
Invite someone. Invite someone to sit with you. Invite someone to eat with you, here or elsewhere. Invite
someone to tell you their story of God’s work in their life!
Listen to someone. Listening is a powerful tool to making a person feel welcome, feel known, feel valued. Listen to someone. Maybe they’ll talk about what God has done in their life. Maybe not. Maybe they will share a need. Maybe they will share a joy. But listen to someone and listen for God at work behind what they share!
Tell someone. Tell someone what God has done in you or is currently doing in you. Share a joy. Share a challenge. Share a praise. Share a request.
These are baby steps that, when they become a habit, will build koinonia partnership, koinonia relationships in our church. We want to see broken people becoming whole through the love of Christ. We, ourselves, want to experience this wholeness through the love of Christ! God is a relational God. Salvation is about relationships. Healing in Christ comes through relationships with God and with his redeemed people. Relationships take work, but they are worth it. This is the first facet of our mission, how we will achieve our vision. This is what we mean when we speak of belonging at Priory.
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