Greetings siblings in Christ,
One of my favorite memories of church was cheese and crackers. There was nothing better than endless snacks as the digestif to the morning spiritual nourishment. I am aware there are many out there who attend worship for the fellowship. What is important is to name the power of genuine Christian interaction.
The cheese, crackers, coffee, and cookies after worship are simply a digestif. The time is as well. In fact this moment is not unique to church. There are countless organizations who offer social hour and refreshments. Any starving college or graduate student can tell you all of them. What makes genuine, intentional Christian relationship unique is discovering unity with God.
James today speaks of two wisdoms. One is from the Divine and is rooted in the virtues of kindness, compassion, peace, and openness. The other is purely based on earthly, self fulfilling desire. The latter is only for the sake of obtaining a good such as money, status or power. Cheese, crackers and coffee only occur out of a thought of, “What am I able to get?”
The Divine wisdom makes every moment essential within itself. Snacks and drinks are yummy because they offer physical nourishment. The conversations we have with others help us to understand other. This is the ultimate foundation of our call. Our calling as Christians is to seek unity and relationship with God, the One who is totally other, for the sake of relationship beyond self. There is no other reason or good to be had. All other motives are secondary. The only way to obtain such unity with the Divine requires genuine openness to practicing and being in relationship with other here in humanity.
This requires presence beyond friendly, often awkward drinks and snacks for 15 minutes. It calls for hospital visits, phone calls, and complete meals together. Christian fellowship only truly happens when there is time to share tears, pain, and suffering in addition to smiles and fleeting pleasures. Probably most challenging is the practice of openness to new ideas and disagreements. The most obvious display of Christian unity is the fellowship of people who do not look alike, who have conflicting world views, and seemingly nothing in common. James’ Divine wisdom of kindness, compassion, peace, and openness is the bond that overcomes such fractures.
Christian fellowship has shone itself throughout history in breaking down the church’s own barriers to African-Americans, women, and recently the LGBTQ community. The Christians who discovered the unity of God were the ones who insisted intimate relationship with those who were different was essential to what James called “good living.” Breaking these barriers is never easy or quick. Like any spiritual practice, they take time, intentionality, and authentic prayer.
Let us take a deep breath. Who is it we have kept at arms length? Who is it we have let our own desires block us from coming close to? Let us draw near to them today for the sake of being closer to other. Let us draw nearer to God.