The skeleton provides shape, support, safety and strength. The skeletal system also provides the metaphor for the next half dozen or so blog posts which will expand some thoughts already on our site.
As God leads us to start a church in Worcester we continue to ask, and more clearly answer the question, “Who does God want us to be?” This question can be answered in many ways ranging from theological commitments to programing choices or location of the church to make up of the congregation. The metaphor of a skeletal system helps in that it points to a solid reality which lasts through life, and drives everything else. So much of my outward appearance and even my musculature will change with age, but by and large my skeleton will retain its shape through life. Thus, through the seasons of the church’s life the skeleton remains as a source of shape, support, safety and strength.
Here’s one last bit of introduction, I can’t simply say, “The bible is our skeleton.” Neither does it work to identify the skeleton as the theology of the reformation, or being Presbyterian. All three of these are too large, actually forming the basis from which the skeleton is drawn. All sorts of churches will have the bible or the theology of the reformation, as their starting point but look rather different.
The Gospel, while literally means, “good news” is the place to begin. A book I was recently reading said that the gospel answers two fundamental questions. First, is there hope for world? Second, how can I be right with God?
The answer to both of these questions centers on God’s activity in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The good news of Christianity is that you can be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus and his actions on your behalf. The good news of Christianity is the living, vital hope for that God will right all the wrongs and heal the wounds of this world because Jesus both suffered evil and conquered it. This good news for the individual and the world is the beginning of the Christian journey and lays the contours for the path of faith.* Here are some practical implications for the gospel functioning as a skeleton.
-Worship is vibrant & reverent: We respond to God’s salvation in Jesus with joy, sadness, and an awareness of the transcendent. God’s full and everlasting love for his people is certain but it has come at such a cost that our celebration is interwoven with solemnity. We rejoice in the hope of what God is doing in this world but also weep that it has not fully come.
-Relationships that cross: Because God is the one who makes Christians we should see more than a gathering of likeminded individuals. The normal barriers that separate people according to race, ethnicity, class, income, education, and status will be broken down as we experience together and point each other towards the grace of God. Our common hope for the world will inspire people to work together that normally have radically divergent goals.
-Learning but not moving on: There is always more that the bible has to teach us. A Christian is a life-long learner, but there is no point at which you get beyond the gospel. All teaching in the church will trace back to the foundational story of redemption in Christ. Rather than being repetitive or trite, God’s actions on behalf of his people and the implications of these truths are boundless.
-Prayer and weakness: If God is the author and motivator of faith then we will pray. Prayer will not be perfunctory or supplemental to the work of the church but essential as we remember our weakness and God’s sufficiency.
*Two of the scriptures from which I draw this initial piece of the skeleton are Colossians 2:6-7 and Luke 24:25-32