When I came to faith thirty-five years ago, one of the most wonderful bonuses I encountered was being accepted into "the family of faith". I had been raised as an only child and was, therefore, often lonely. So it was to my great pleasure that I found myself surrounded by "spiritual" brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. How glorious was that!?
Every time the doors of the congregation opened, I was there. I became an "aunt" to the children of my friends, and assisted my new family in whatever way I could.
However, spiritual immaturity and an emphasis on "gifts" rather than character soon caused me to leave that place, and look for another "spiritual home". This I have done several times, all the while hoping that there would not be another demise of what I had joined, and that, this time, I would be able to be fully rooted and planted, without being uprooted again.
I have come to understand that fallen man will always look for permanence, and we will always have to contend with the faults, foibles, selfishness, and sin of others and ourselves. In a sense, I "gave up" looking for a place, and contented myself with the relationships I had developed. And this is the point!
In every situation, even though it ultimately ceased to exist or I left, I took with me some precious relationships that are in my life to this day.
It has been my fortune to recently come into relationship with a group of people I hadn't previously known. During the course of time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had, in every sense of the word, a kehilah (faith community), though they do not meet in a building, nor do they have a pastor.
Here is the lovely couple with four children, only one of whom is serving the Lord. Here is the single woman, recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Here is the couple whose son had been through a serious illness and whose husband now has a degenerative nerve disease. Here are the elderly, those "in ministry," and those involved in secular employment. Here is the lovely divorcee with children, and here is the never married. Here are young children, sitting on the laps of those with whom they are not related by blood, but by heart. And here are we! We eat together, pray together, counsel each other, laugh together, cry together, and walk out this life of faith like the fallen, silly, over-emotional, half-blind people we are. We are all angels, someone said, with broken wings. We need each other to fly.
The early believers met in each other's homes, breaking bread together. They encouraged each other and loved each other. They were with each other through persecution, encouraging, admonishing, and praising.
Mostly, they lived their lives together. They were a family.
There have been times in the past when, as part of a congregation, I used to watch people ask for permission or wait to be told what to do. The beauty of the kehilah to which I have been privileged to be included, is that no one waits! Everyone is busy, loving, giving, receiving, and actively engaged.
And I can't help but wonder...is this what it was like with the early believers? Is this how it was truly meant to be?
Through a recent illness of someone close to me, I have seen this kehilah in action. People came so often and so regularly to the hospital, with so much food, encouragement, words of comfort and wisdom, that they had to be asked not to come so much! Thankfully, the young woman who had been ill is now well. People gathered together to fast and pray for her healing. Another had a word of encouragement. Another brought meals. Another folded laundry and another watched a young child so the parents could be with the person in the hospital.
Love in action. Prayers with feet. A living, breathing community.
May we all be blessed to be part of such a living, blessed work of God.