A Circle Is Broken
Will the circle be unbroken bye and bye? Though I now live and work in a church in Kansas City, my mother’s family were miners in the southwest Virginia mountains. Mountain life was harsh and there was not much to hope for – little chance for a better life. The role of religion was to point to a better place to come. Families were torn apart as younger generations left to find work, to find a future. They were torn apart by the early death of parents and of children. The hope that remained was that the family circle of love would remain intact in that better place-heaven where the circle would be unbroken bye and bye.
The circles of our lives are relationships. They are places of intimacy and acceptance where we discover who we are, where we grow, and where we feel saf e. Communities are circles umzugsfirma wien. Families certainly are circles. Faith communities are circles of loving relationship where we can find nurturing support, meaning for life, and personal identity. From time to time, these circles are broken apart and broken open and we have to deal with the changes.
The Bible is our family story. The book of Acts describes the change that took place early in the life of the disciples Jesus left behind. That change is exemplified by the story of the Apostle Peter (Acts 10). This particular story began with Peter, while praying, had a vision that God was offering him some non-kosher food. Thinking this was a test, Peter refused, whereupon he heard, “what God has made clean (kosher), don’t you call unclean.” So Peter traveled to the home of a Gentile family and shared with them the story of Jesus. They become so filled with the Holy Spirit that Peter was prompted to offer a rhetorical question: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” The obvious answer was that no one can.
Certainly Jesus would not limit the full inclusion of Gentiles in the circle of Christianity. The circle of Judaism, the source of identity and nurture, was broken open to let in Gentiles. This breaking enabled Christianity, at least eventually, to become a universal faith.
The Bible is the family story for the Jews. With Jesus, it has become the family story for Christians as well. Followers of the way of Jesus quickly discovered that one important implication of Jesus’ life and teaching is that everyone is “in.” We’re all the in-group. That realization challenged people like Peter and provided an opportunity for the early church to define itself differently — as a universal faith. We have the opportunity, and the challenge, today to continue doing this in spite of the history of the Christian church. We are still called to be builders and also breakers of circles.
Some breaking of circles happens to us from outside ourselves. There are changes in the culture around us: demographics, scientific advances, multi-cultural societies, a greater knowledge of other religious and philosophies, and a new attitude that we can just pick and choose what we believe. These and other changes have resulted in a breaking open of the circle of the Christian church. There is new wine that can’t be contained by old and familiar wineskins.
Some breaking of the circle just happens to us, yet many are choosing to break open circles in the church today. They are doing this by embracing and supporting issues such as women in pastoral leadership, homosexual pastors and leaders fully embraced, separation of church and state, and of course new insights in biblical studies based on archeology and the best new scholarship. When we embrace these new realities of freedom and faith, we discover that we have just gotten back to following Jesus.
Building and breaking circles happens in our personal and family lives as well as in the church. When I was eleven years old, my family moved to the little town of Vienna, Virginia and we joined Vienna Baptist Church. I stayed connected with the people of that church despite moving away, then going to college, graduate school, and seminary. At the age of twenty-eight, I fulfilled something of a life dream when I joined the staff of Vienna Baptist Church as the Pastoral Associate for Music, Arts, and Drama & Missions. This happened just after my mother’s death I felt her spirit was happy with my becoming a pastor on the staff of our home church.