1. Jesus expressed the true nature of following him saying “where ever two or three are gathered, I will be with them.”
Growing up, I always wanted to know what it meant to be a Christian. We were, of course. My Dad is an Episcopal priest and have more or less been in the church for my whole life. I’ve never not felt like one.
What I wanted to know was what it meant to be a Christian. If we were to dig down all the way to the root, what would we find? Would all of this make sense in light of our discovery?
In other words, what is at the heart of Christianity?
Over the years, I felt like I came to understand the contours of Christianity, the clothes it wears and where it worked. I felt like I could learn things about it from its hobbies and credit card receipts. Like reconstructing the person from the things they leave behind.
But even then, the heart of the person can’t be discovered but through stories. The stories people tell about them.
Like the reception after the funeral, when people tell you the funniest pranks they played or the way they drove all the way to North Carolina to bail you out. I love coaxing out those stories.
That’s where we hear about a person, really. Those stories tell us more than any collection of facts. The stories speak to us at a fundamental level.
So we know Jesus because of a story. A story shared with us from generation-to-generation of a man who came like the Son of Humanity to show us the way to God.
And in that story, Jesus told his followers something at the dinner table. And as the readers and hearers of the story, we listen like they listened, to hear what we’re supposed to do. This last night before his death, giving the disciples his final teaching, offering hope to them in the midst of blackness, he tells them to do this. In remembrance.
What’s this but literally eat? Sit together? Have dinner or the Passover specifically?
I kind of think all of it. This.
And this isn’t in isolation. It isn’t a thing Jesus did alone or got his best bud over for some Football. It was friends, gathered, sharing, together.
Many of us know this teaching, not only in the Passion Narratives, but also a particular wording drawn from Matthew 18:20:
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
A wording popularized by the Prayer of St. Chrysostom:
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one
accord to make our common supplication to you; and you
have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two
or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the
midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions
as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of
your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.
This passage from Matthew is part of a long teaching on stumbling blocks. For Jesus, being the source of another’s sin is serious. Instead, Jesus is telling his followers how we might be like peacemakers, who are the very children of God. So he shares with them a means of reconciling and bringing each other back into community with each other.
Because community is at the heart of faith.
This is what I kept coming back to. As I searched for the nature of Christianity, this idea kept becoming bolder and bolder print on a page full of tinier and tinier type.
The heart of Christianity isn’t finding Jesus, but being found where he looks. When we’re together.
[This is Thesis #1 of my 31 Theses. To read them all, visit the 31 Theses introduction page.]