The Beloved Community: Extraordinary!

by Rev. Dr. Erwin Goedicke, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Cincinnati

There’s something we need to claim about ourselves.  We, the Church – in all of our forms and expressions and segments and locations – we are extraordinary.

Think of the language used in the New Testament for the Church:

  • Body of Christ
  • Bride of Christ
  • Household of God
  • Dwelling Place for God
  • Temple of God where the Holy Spirit Dwells

Can any other organization or institution or collection of people in the world legitimately claim those titles?  No!  If the Church is the physical manifestation of the presence of Christ in this world, if the church is Christ’s life-partner and willing lover, if the Church is a new kind of family that breaks down walls of separation and includes those “who were far away,” if the Church is the place where God chooses to take up residence on this earth and in this age, then the Church is not like any other organization or human creation in all of history. 

It is out of the ordinary.  Extra-ordinary.  Supernatural, even. 

As Eugene Peterson put it:

“Every church community, no matter how small, how deficient in piety, how lacking in works…

is a miraculous and precious gift,

an instance, no matter how obscure or flawed, of the kingdom of God… “

(Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work)

I know it often doesn’t feel that way.  Too often we don’t look any different or act any different than any other organization. We have our structures and systems and operating manuals and Books of Order. As far as the IRS is concerned, we’re just another 501(c)(3). 

But we are more than what we seem, if we are to believe the Bible. 

Perhaps the best evidence for this assertion is the fact that in spite of all of its flaws and failings, the Church – “by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed” – has somehow managed for 2000 years to preserve and point to and even incarnate the Good News of God’s Kingdom, and has somehow grown from a small group of 120 to billions of people of “every tribe and tongue” who seek to know and follow Christ. 

That in itself is nothing short of a miracle. And it happened because God is supernaturally present in, and at work through, this strange conglomeration of individuals known as the Church – including your congregation and our presbytery.  And from the very beginning, the defining characteristic of the Church was to be a community of believers who love one another as Christ loved them, and who love their neighbors as themselves.

The Beloved Community –   through whom the whole world is invited to sit down at God’s table of fellowship.