Have you ever felt like you just did not belong? Somehow, you just do not fit in with the place or the people. Over the years, we have had many “misfit” experiences. When we decided to move to Mexico, I prayed for God to help me learn Spanish quickly. It was so hard to be in a circle of women and not understand a word of what they were saying!
The obvious things: language, culture, and prejudices, can keep us from feeling like we belong, but there are subtle things we often don’t even think about. Over the years we have visited many churches. In fact, in the last year, my husband has preached in more than 30 different churches, and I have been with him most of those weekends. As visitors, we do not know that the class still offered in the bulletin is no longer meeting! Or that the time a service begins, as listed on the website, was actually changed a couple of years ago! We understand these things now, and we laugh about them. But the common love for Jesus, and the knowledge that we belong to Him, binds us together in ways that transcend these minor discomforts.
However, there are big things that can actually keep us from belonging and our enemy, Satan, would like to keep it that way. Imagine the guilt Peter must have felt for denying Jesus on the night he was arrested. After the resurrection, could it be that the compassion Jesus felt for Peter sent him to the seaside one morning to fix a breakfast of fish? Was it just an accident that it was almost a reenactment of the original calling that Peter and the other fishermen had experienced three years before? We read about that second breakfast in John’s gospel account. When they recognized Jesus, Peter jumped into the water and headed for shore. Then Jesus made it a point to re-connect with Peter, and to confirm that he belonged (John 21).
A few days later Peter was in Jerusalem, preaching to the Jews from every nation who had gathered there for Pentecost. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter preached a message of salvation that every person within hearing could understand in his own language. On that day the church was born, a church also empowered by the Holy Spirit, and a church still driven by the commission, and the compassion, of our Lord. Everyone there received the opportunity to accept God’s love-gift of salvation, and to become a part of his church.
That same compassion and commission is still the message of the church. Our message of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior is still the saving message. The Holy Spirit still empowers us to reach those we meet by helping them to ‘hear’ that they are loved. However, it may not be only the things we say; it may be the smile, the hug, the help, or the welcome that speaks their language—the language of their need to belong.
Meditate on the following passages this week as you consider the rest of the Easter story: Acts 2:1-41; Matthew 16:18, 18:20; Ephesians 5:25-27.
For the next few weeks we will consider the world-changing events that transpired after Jesus’ resurrection—the things that are still changing the world—for the better! Check out “Go Deeper” for further comments about the birthday of the church.