Near the end of the Nicene Creed is a lovely phrase, reminding us that we all belong to “one holy, catholic (ie universal) church”. Fabulous! The difficult part is in how so many churches from so many places actually belong together. The bible helps us out with a metaphor. In the bible, the church is compared to a body with each individual person being one specific part of that body. Let’s instead imagine that the universal church is the body, and each local church is a specific part of that body (perhaps the left elbow, or the pinky toe).
The truth is that the universal church, like our bodies, does not always function as it should. Recently a friend of mine went on a long anticipated trip to Iceland. While there, she slipped and badly injured her leg. Her body was not functioning perfectly. The injured leg was unable to do anything it was designed to do, plus it needed time and help to heal. Her arms had to learn to manage crutches, her other leg had to carry more than its’ fair share of weight. Her whole body needed to adjust to stay balanced. During all this, my friend could not ignore nor cast out her injured leg; it was still part of her body and needed to be dealt with. Similarly in the universal church, one local church can be damaged and needed help from other churches. Here at the Commons we were in need of some care and attention when we first began looking for a new home to meet in. The Rock generously opened their building and expertise to us. We received love and support from other local church folk as we healed.
Sometimes one part of the body can facilitate joy for all the other parts. As I sit typing, my eyes keep turning towards the window to admire the shape,colour, and movement of the trees outside. Even though my skin can’t feel the fresh air, and my hands can’t hold the leaves, my eyes are giving the rest of my body a peaceful “fall day” experience. Similarly in the universal church one local church can give joy to another just by who they are. At the Commons, we have some fabulous little friends in Bolivia (at Ninos Con Valor) who bring us much joy. We follow their projects, cheer their successes, send gifts, and even go to visit giving and receiving greetings.
“Christ holds it together and makes all of its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love.” Ephesians 4:16