J.H. (Hans) Kouwenberg is the minister of Calvin Presbyterian Church, Abbotsford, British Columbia, and the editor of Channels.
and these disconnections threaten to undo
our sense of community
as human beings and as Christians.
There are increasing disconnections between the people
among whom we live or work or worship or play.
These are often different people, different circles of acquaintance.
We are disconnected by many things we do not hold in common.
There are disconnections between regions of the country,
between younger and older people,
between traditional and contemporary visions and values and styles.
There are disconnections between varying experiences and understandings,
differing opinions, ideologies and theologies.
There are disconnections of faith expression between denominations,
and among and within congregations.
And then there are the "wildernesses" of our own personal disconnections:
personal dislocations, personal discomforts and personal distress.
In the midst of all this disconnection
I find the apostle Paul encouraging Christians
with a sense of the connectedness of faith and life.
Amidst the frenzy of disconnections faced by the Corinthian Christians,
Paul reaches back across the centuries of the history of his own people
to find a series of connections.
"I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
that our ancestors were all under the cloud,
and all passed through the sea,
and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea,
and all ate the same spiritual food,
and all drank the same spiritual drink.
For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.
Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them,
and they were struck down in the wilderness."
"These things happened to them to serve as an example,
and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.
So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall."
"No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone."
"God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength,
but with the testing he will also provide the way out
so that you may be able to endure it."
"Therefore my dear friends, flee from idols.
I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say,
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?
because there is one bread, we who are many are one body,
for we all partake of the one bread."
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 14-17 (NRSV)
Paul sees how disconnected sections of the church are connected in Christ.
"Our ancestors were all under the cloud" —
we have all experienced the mystery of what we believe to be God's guidance;
"and all [have] passed through the sea" —
we have all experienced some liberating act of salvation
in the midst of particular and, perhaps, uniquely threatening circumstances;
"and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea" —
we have all been somehow baptized into the family of God
and into his "law" of freedom and love;
"and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink" —
we have all tasted of the best communion meal:
intimacy with God and with other people which bridges the disconnections.
Even going through "wilderness" experiences,
like Hebrew ancestors of old,
we have all drunk from the same "spiritual rock that followed them" —
that rock was God,
for Christians, revealed in Christ.
I'm glad that I belong to a connectional church,
a church that is always trying to work on the connections…
between the former covenant and the new,
between differing theologies and understandings,
between differing regions and constituencies.
I'm glad that our church is small enough to get to know each other
and large enough for varieties of gifts and views.
Those of us who have been together
on the Task Force for the Revision of the Book of Praise
can testify that we have been part of a connectional process.
And we've been able to do it, perhaps, on a deeper level than many other committees
or gatherings of the church,
because we have lived together — at least temporarily,
and worked and worshipped together,
and played together — a little, at least, as well.
We've been aware of some of the disconnections that we face;
yet, we have respected one another's points of view, opinions and theologies.
We could have discussed and debated what divides us:
the different parts of the country from which we have come,
the different constituencies we represent,
and the varieties of experiences of faith which have formed us.
But instead of focusing on the disconnections
which divide us,
we have searched for and tried to use a language of connection.
And we have found that we are connected in many, many ways.
We have been privileged to focus,
on the worship of God in Christ;
in the varied language of the music of fellow Christians,
from many different backgrounds,
all over the world,
we have been connected in many ways.
We have rediscovered that "though many … [we] are one body in the Lord."