Jesus and the “Dones”
Some of these people who are done with church, or “Dones” as they are called,
have nonetheless found meaningful spiritual connections.
One former pastor now builds community in his neighborhood, helping people trim trees,
Organizing block parties to get to know each other,
listening to neighbors’ joys and frustrations over a cup of coffee.
Many, however, are still searching-
Searching for that place where they can find connection to God and the world,
the place where they can be nourished and sent out.
The day described in our gospel lesson was a point of decision for Jesus’ disciples;
Some decided no longer to affiliate with him, and left.
Jesus then turned the question on the 12, those whom he chose to be his companions;
“Do you also wish to go away?”
Peter speaks for the group:
“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
I think it is significant that Peter uses the word “we” when speaking of the process of believing and knowing.
The thing that keeps coming up in the studies of modern churches that are flourishing
is the health of spiritual community.
When it is in good shape, newcomers are noticed and welcomed;
There is a generous attitude toward people’s involvement, accepting them where they are;
there is room for innovation and an appreciation of difference.
When someone is a part of one of these churches, they experience Jesus in the community of faith
They experience Jesus’ welcome and generosity and appreciation through the faces of other people.
Like Peter expressed, coming to believe and know Jesus is a “we” thing, not an individual thing--
we come to believe and know Jesus as the Holy One of God together, in a community.
That day in the practice room was a point of decision for me;
In my heart, I knew I needed the community of faith.
I didn’t go back to the Lutheran church,
but instead attended a dinner and discussion group for questioning Christian students
and a 10pm Wednesday night eucharist with a handful of students and the protestant chaplain.
Eventually I found my way into the American Baptist church in town on Sunday mornings,
Not because they had the best young adult fellowship or a praise band
But because the ministers went out of their way to build relationships with students
And invite them to use their gifts in the life of the congregation.
All of us here know people who are “done” with church
They are in our families, among our friends, and members of this church.
There is no social norm enforcing church attendance;
those of us who are here do so because we have chosen it.
Chosen it over the practice room, the gym, another spiritual discipline, or one leisurely breakfast.
But we don’t have each other striving to be the face of Jesus at the gym or a restaurant.
And without the community of faith repeatedly showing us the face of Jesus,
we wouldn’t recognize him in the hospital or airplane or mall or any of the places we find ourselves.
I can honestly say that Jesus is everywhere for me because the community of faith first embodied him for me.
And you who gather here and are community at St Matthew continue to show Jesus’ face to me
In your honest struggle to embrace change, to love and let go
In your enthusiasm at sharing your considerable gifts in leadership, organization, and generosity.
In your joy in the bonds of community here at the church picnic or ice cream in the Garth,
With the broader community at the blood drive and the 5K,
building relationships in the kitchen over casseroles or on Friday nights at Grace
This is the gift we give to each other by showing up every week,
and by sharing our joys and struggles as we live out this messy thing called Christian love.
Where else would we go to experience all of this?
If anything, today’s Gospel reminds us that God has given us the power of choice
And that gathering in Jesus’ name is something that we freely choose.
And when rightly considered, it is something to treasure, to invest our time and energy in,
And to invite other people to experience with us.
Today is a point of decision.
Jesus asks us, Do also you wish to depart?
You have the freedom; there is nothing holding you here, no judgment if you go.
But is there something of Jesus’ face that you see here, that you see nowhere else?
Is there nourishment and strength and resilience here that you can witness, tap into, share?
If so, then I invite you to recommit yourself to the spiritual discipline of worship
and meeting Jesus in this community of faith.
I invite you to reinvest yourself in this community, seeking not only what feeds and challenges you,
But also what might meet the needs of those who are still seeking an authentic Christian community.
Together may we, the community of faith at St Matthew, join Peter in saying,
“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
May we continue come to believe and know Jesus in this place, that we may see him
And share him in the world around us.