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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ummmm....do I belong?

The idea of "belonging" to something or someone is an age-old concept.  When we say we "belong" we are saying we are in some type of relationship - one in which the members have something in common.  When we "belong", we  possess the "proper" qualifications to be part of the group, don't we?  Back in the day, it was popular to "belong" to the country club, hanging out on Friday nights or Saturdays as the big bands played dance music and enjoying the fine foods prepared by the chefs for their members.  You associated "belonging" with a sense of some "status", did you not?  By "belonging" to the country club, you were somehow set apart from those who could neither afford to belong, or who simply had no idea how to play golf or tennis!  We might "belong" to the Chamber of Commerce, the local women's society, or an elite biker's club who travel the highways on their shiny, well-equipped motorcycles on the weekends.  We "belong" to all kinds of things - but only one relationship really brings us into a place of "true status"!  

This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.  (Ephesians 2:19-22 MSG)

Belonging brings us into a position of having some "right" we did not possess prior to belonging.  As Paul puts it, it is our "privilege" to enjoy some new "rights" as a member of the Kingdom of God.  We are no longer outsiders - strangers to the truths of God, his ways, or his provision.  Instead, we enjoy the privileges of "belonging" - being adherent to - a new way of living.  Paul uses that tiny three-letter word "now" again!  This kingdom of faith is NOW our home country - we are no longer sojourners in a foreign land, but NOW enjoy the full rights and privileges of being in the family of God.  We "belong".

When we "belong" to some organization on this earth, such as the Chamber of  Commerce or the Red Cross, we have some mission to fulfill, don't we?  In belonging to the Chamber of Commerce, we might be seeking to promote the businesses of our community, or renovate run-down sections of our town.  As a member of the Red Cross, we respond to disasters, providing food, shelter, and assistance to those displaced from their homes by some form of tragedy. We have a mission!  As a "member" of God's kingdom, we also have a mission.  As my pastor so aptly puts it - we are ON mission WITH Christ.  It is not just a "thing" we belong to - it is a LIFE we embrace!

Look at what Paul says - God is building a home.  This excites me because I equate all kinds of things with a home.  It is a place of shelter - granting its inhabitants some sense of security from adverse conditions on the streets.  It is a place of refuge - offering its inhabitants the deserved respite from the cares of the day they leave behind when they enter its security.  Some people never associate "home" with a place of shelter or refuge - because their image of home has been "colored" by the negativity and abuse of someone who made "home" a place of terror and oppression.  For these individuals, understanding what God is asking of us, and providing for us, is a little more difficult task.  Yet, if you will follow along with me, maybe God will open you up to the possibilities of what he designs for "home" to be.

A home is built - it doesn't just sprout up one day from the earth!  It is in the building process - the days of it taking form before your eyes - that excitement is built.  Anticipation of what all the pieces may become when they are completely put together - assembled and useful for the purpose they were created - is building excitement within us as each piece comes together.  

The concrete was created to give a strong base upon which to build.  The pipe was created to be a conduit by which refreshment and cleansing could occur.  The 2x4 studs were created to give definition to the various "parts" of the home, such as the room we will see become the place where we take nourishment, and the ones which will provide us rest.  The insulation was created to provide a "temperate" environment for us to enjoy.  The flooring was not created to "conceal" the concrete foundation, but to enhance its usefulness.  The windows provide light and allow us to look beyond the walls. The various drawers and cabinets provide every nook and cranny we need for the optimum organization of every "tool" we use in our home.  You getting the idea yet?

The "pieces" make up the whole.  No piece is without purpose.  No piece is less useful than another.  Some will eventually be "less visible" than others - such as the 2x4 stud which is securely behind the plaster-board.  It serves its purpose by providing the form upon which the plaster-board is allowed to become a "wall".  The pipes aren't seen - and seldom even thought of as they provide their "service" to the home.  Yet, without the pipe, all the plumbing fixtures in the world would have no purpose!  No matter how "beautiful" the plumbing fixture is - without the pipe, its purpose is never realized!

Paul's purpose in writing is in getting us to understand we all have a "fit" in God's kingdom.  When we leave the kingdom of our self-directed life and enter into the kingdom of God's protection and provision, we take on the purpose for which we were originally created!  Some of us are pipes!  Others of us are faucets!  We need each other.  Some of us will be seemingly "hidden" from view, but without you, the "walls" are hollow!

There are times in life when we encounter individuals or groups which seem a little "exclusionary" in their focus.  In other words, we just don't "belong" in the group because we don't "fulfill" some purpose THEY see as valuable to the group.  In modern day vernacular, we call this a "clique".  The most unfortunate thing about this focus of "excluding" or "including" someone is in the purpose the group thinks the other may fulfill for the group.  In looking at our scripture, Paul puts it plainly - we may not always see the value of the one God brings into our midst, but he does!  He knows exactly why he is "fitting" this individual with the other!  His purpose is being fulfilled in the relationship of bringing this building piece together with the other - each serving their created purpose.

The focus is not on whether we "belong" to a particular "group" or "church".  It is in our fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.  We are being made a "home" into which many will seek shelter and refuge.  We are being made - we may not be there yet - but when we begin to fulfill the purpose we are created to fulfill, we are being used in the hands of the one doing the making!

Just sayin!