Dear South Church Member & Friends,
As we move into the month of May (and the weather finally warms up!), I want to share some thoughts on this season after Easter, which is called Eastertide. These Sundays before Pentecost Sunday (which this year is on May 20) give us time and space to envision and absorb the implications of the resurrection of Jesus.
We’re reminded again that Jesus did not come to establish a cult of personality or a following that depended on his presence. Instead, he came to inaugurate a community of people who witness to and proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God. It’s within the context of this community (what we now call ‘the Church’) that this ‘upside-down” kingdom can begin to be comprehended. It is through this community that people are formed and transformed into the likeness of Christ.
The formal, theological word for this is ecclesiology (from the Greek ekklesia, which means “the called-out ones” and “the visible assembly”). The church is the visible, intentional community whose main function is to ‘practice resurrection’ by calling people to a larger identity and purpose. “Once you were not a people,” we read in 1 Peter 2:10, “but now you are God’s people.”
So, what does this post-Easter ecclesiology mean for us? It offers creative ways to think about our life together. Three metaphors for the church rooted in Scripture are: 1) People of God, 2) Body of Christ, and 3) Temple of the Spirit. Each correlates to one of three persons of the Trinity, emphasizing the communal nature of God.
The church as the people of God connects us to our Jewish heritage and to the exodus, where the Hebrew people are called and set apart as God’s chosen. Just as Israel was “blessed to be a blessing to all people,” so too is the Church called to be a blessing to others. Practicing resurrection means service to God and to the world God loves.
The image of the body of Christ is powerfully articulated by Paul. The Church as a body is a living organism, connected both to the living Christ and to one another. Just as the parts of the body need one another, so individuals who make up the Church are also interdependent. Practicing resurrection means that our identity is greater than any one person or group. Together we are the body of Christ.
The early church we find in Acts is a strong example of the temple of the Spirit. After Pentecost, the disciples come out of hiding and boldly proclaim the gospel, performing “signs and wonders” for all to see. The church holds all things in common and no one is needy or neglected—a compelling witness to the Spirit of Christ. Practicing resurrection means being a community of disciples.
As we move forward together at South Church, my hope and prayer are that we too are a lively witness to the good news to God’s world.
Grace and peace, Mark