Reasons to Be Part of a Faith Community
“After this, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place, so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” (John 6:1-15)
“Oh, right - Jesus feeding the 5,000. I know that story - one of the few stories that are recorded in all four gospels.”
When we have heard a Bible story many times, it can be easy to tune out, to say - “I know this one!” - and not learn anything new. Then the Word of God is not transformative, but just a bunch of words.
I am hearing the story this time and focusing on the crowd that was following Jesus. They were following, according to John, “… because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.” (John 6:2) They were becoming a community of faith as they followed Jesus and tried to figure out who he was. Was he the Messiah? The “prophet who is to come into the world”? (John 6:14) Was he the next king of Israel, meant to free them from Roman rule? Jesus knew that this was not his calling. “When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” (Verse 15) (I don’t know how you force someone to be your king, but Jesus prevented that from happening when he got the first whiff of their intentions.) And… we know that the crowd kept finding Jesus and following him. There was something about this man… He was not like other rabbis, not like other healers, not like other preachers. He hung out with the “wrong” people; he saw folks that just about everyone else overlooked; he confronted the religious leaders; he had authority and real power - like no one they had ever met. The people - especially the marginalized folks… the identified “sinners” - were drawn to him. And as they followed him, some of them became his disciples. But there was a much larger circle around him. This was the crowd. And they formed a community of faith.
I started thinking again a few weeks ago - I have done this many times over the years - about why people join a church or a synagogue or a mosque… any type of faith community. Perhaps you became a member of a faith community when you were a child because your parents brought you with them. But I think there has to be more to it than that if you are going to continue to be a part of a faith community. Here are some of the reasons to be a part of a faith community as I see it. It is not an exhaustive list, and I would love to hear from you and have you add your own reasons as to why YOU are part of St. Luke’s or some other faith community.
- God - People become part of a faith community so that they can come to know the presence, grace, love, power, wisdom, healing, and guidance of God - to experience union with God.
- Community and Friendship - People join faith communities to give and receive support in the journey called life, to experience union with others.
- The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston says that a faith community is a “construction site” where we learn how to serve. (I would add: “and learn how to love.”)
- A vehicle of transformation and growth - In a faith community, you can learn about patterns and sins that will keep you stuck, as well as learning spiritual practices - such as prayer and contemplation, serving and loving others, worship, and reading the Bible - that will transform you.
- Like the followers of Jesus in the passage above, we join a faith community to experience the power and the signs and the miracles of the Spirit together and to become disciples of Jesus.
- Where else are you going to hear about dying to the false self - dying so that you might live - and of experiencing a life of true abundance?
- People become a part of a faith community to develop values that sustain others, sustain you, and sustain the planet.
- For their health! Well, maybe people don’t join a faith community to be healthier, per se, but many studies have shown that people in faith communities are happier and live longer than those who are not.
- Let’s face it - One of the reasons to be part of a faith community is to experience music, singing, and joy!
- Faith communities present opportunities to intentionally give thanks, give away money, and give of ourselves, and to praise God - with others - every single week.
- Faith communities help us discover meaning and purpose for our lives.
- Faith communities - the best ones - offer a richness in diversity, and give us the opportunity to be with, appreciate, and learn from those who are different than us (and who we have much more in common with than we first realize).
- We are part of a faith community for the tradition; we are drawn to be part of something that is bigger than us, across time and space.
- We are part of a faith community because the Creator/Christ/Spirit has sought us and drawn us in and then transformed us in some way - for the better, and for the good of the world.
These are some reasons to be part of a faith community.
What are your reasons for being a follower of Jesus AND for being part of St. Luke’s?