God’s invitation

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As a leader of congregational worship, I typically speak the familiar words of greeting to the gathered community saying:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

As we again approach Pentecost on 4 June, the third part of Paul’s words from the end of his second letter to the Corinthians has been on my mind: ‘… the fellowship of the Holy Spirit…’.

Some use the word fellowship and some the word communion. Either way, it speaks of sharing life together, eating around the table – divine community and human community sharing as one.

The other day, I heard someone say that the church is a gathered community at whose table the Spirit always has a seat. I think the comment arose as a reaction to the feeling that we often live our Christian life and our church life as if God is not an active participant. But there’s something fundamentally wrong in the orientation of that thought.

This invitation to ‘fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ is a divine invitation. It is God’s invitation extended to us and all people, not the other way around. This is an invitation that flows from God’s loving heart. It is written with words of grace in Jesus Christ and delivered by the Spirit sent to nurture us as a fellowship. It is we who are gifted with a seat at God’s table. We are invited to the feast of life that God has prepared. The Church is a gathered community that God is forming as a ‘fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ (Basis of Union #3).

The fellowship of the Holy Spirit is crucial for us today because it speaks to our understanding and experience of mission. The fellowship of the Spirit is God’s gift to the church ‘in order that we may not lose the way’ (Basis of Union #3).

In his book The Church in the Power of the Spirit German theologian Jurgen Moltmann aptly declares: ‘It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfil to the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church, creating the church as it goes on its way’.

The mission of God is a community-creating movement whereby the barriers that divide the human family are overcome: in Christ’s love, by God’s grace, and with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I believe that the challenge to live out this fellowship of the Holy Spirit is vitally important for the church in our day. The Synod’s adopted Vision and Mission Principles and the range of initiatives we are presently pursuing as Church are meaningful only insofar as we fellowship with the Holy Spirit. This is pivotally true for the gathered communities of our Church that are called to worship, witness and serve ‘as a fellowship of the Spirit in Christ’ (Basis of Union #15a).

What does this mean in practice? In one sense, this is a lifelong question. It involves us in both personal and communal practices that open and orientate our lives towards God. By such practices, we open ourselves to what God is saying through the Holy Spirit and we are helped to follow in the way of Jesus Christ. The Assembly Doc-byte on Living the Christian Life (downloadable from assembly.uca.org.au/doctrine/item/856-docbytes) lists the disciplines counted as basic and essential for the healthy Christian life. The communal, personal and social disciplines are worth exploring.

Back in late March, I helped facilitate a day where various representatives from across the Church gathered to talk about living as a church that discerns the Spirit’s call. In part, the day asked: How might we be a diversity of gathered communities that seek to be a fellowship of the Holy Spirit? It was another attempt to explore this very important focus.

One outcome of the day was a video of various people expressing their hopes for the Church in the coming years. They describe a fellowship of the Spirit that is continuing to honour that divine invitation. The video is well worth a look and could be used as a great discussion starter in your own community or group. You can find the video on the Synod website at http://ucavictas.org.au/visionandmission/videos/.

In fellowship with the Holy Spirit, may you be blessed in …

following Christ
walking together as First and Second Peoples
seeking community, compassion and justice for all creation.

 

David Withers
Strategic Framework Minister

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