A few weeks ago, I preached about how Christianity is a faith that must be practiced in community. I firmly believe this. There were several images that I considered to illustrate that we are stronger together such as a rope or a chain, but decided not to use.
There was one idea that I have used previously that might have fit. At the church I interned at in seminary, as well as the church in Farmington, I preached about the unity of the church at various times. At each place, I bought a jigsaw puzzle and put individual pieces in ziplock bags and stapled them to each bulletin. During the sermon, I would say something to the effect of “you are like these puzzle pieces. You will not fit with everyone and you may not fit with the person sitting next to you, but you do fit perfectly with more than one person here. Above all, it takes all of you together to make a complete picture.” I easily could have tied it into the sermon.
There was only one problem. I know every metaphor is imperfect, but the more I thought about the more the imperfections outweighed the message. Yes, it takes all of us to make the picture of God’s Kingdom here on earth a reality. Yes, we may not be a great fit with everyone at church, but there will be people we fit with. The biggest problem with this is that it denies the dynamic nature of church. Whether we are talking about the local church or the global church, it changes. People are born and people die. People come to the church and people leave the church.
A puzzle has edges, the picture is set. There is no room for growth. How can you add new pieces, if there is no room. Additionally, what if someone moves, dies, or leaves the church for any other reason? Is the picture forever incomplete? Absolutely not! We need to think of the church as expansive, always room to grow. We also need to think of the church as dynamic, always changing. The reformed tradition’s motto is “Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda” – always reformed, always reforming. The more accurate theological translation is always reformed, always being reformed by the Holy Spirit. The point is the church is a body in constant motion, constant change.
This leaves us with three questions. Where is UPB growing? How is UPB changing? Where is the Holy Spirit at work in UPB? A more important question we should ask ourselves is what am I doing to help?
Isaiah 43:19 “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”