It is that time of year again when I present the people of Grace with a theme to live by for the year. The first year we talked about and lived out the idea of Tapestry of Grace. The focus was on the idea that we are all connected together through faith and that those connections draw us together and create stories that tell the story of this particular body of Christ and how it goes before and beyond when we are a part of the story directly.
Last year we celebrated the idea of the Blessing Jar. We sent you home with small jars to write your blessings from God and others in it. We did it to focus on God’s blessings both great and small instead of focusing on all the negative stories that we hear too often in our world and our news. Even though the theme year is over I pray you continue to use the jar and focus on our blessings more than those things which bring us down and separate us.
This year I felt that it was important to focus on something that is less internal and more external. The idea, the theme I want us all to focus on is the Greek word Koinonia. Koinonia, or fellowship is a rather all-encompassing word and means so much more than the single word fellowship that we translate as in our English Bibles. And as much as I love having coffee and chatting with people after worship (as time allows), koinonia is so much more than that.
Koinonia is this idea that we, as people of God, work together in all things that we do for the mutual benefit of everyone. Koinonia is this idea that everyone is welcome. It is this idea that we are in fellowship with one another and with God. That fellowship includes, but isn’t limited to: Table fellowship (or communion), worship, communal prayer, sharing of food and possessions, and welcoming one another in the name of God. Which is what it was like for the early church as you can see from . People welcomed all those who came into their midst and did whatever they could to make sure they were taken care of and loved. They were prayed for and accepted into the family of God with glad and generous hearts.
That is the focus I want us to take this year. I want us to spend a year thinking about and living out what it means to be in koinonia with one another and with everyone who walks through those doors so that from the moment they first experience our people and our space they are immediately see a self-giving love to others.
Today is also the day that we celebrate Transfiguration Sunday. The day that Jesus goes up to Mount Sinai with Peter, James and John and becomes dazzling white and has a conversation with Moses of the Law and Elijah of the prophets. There are so many things that could be said and have been said about this text. But today, I want to focus on the parts of the text both in the transfiguration and the other parts that have to do with our annual theme for 2020: Koinonia. Jesus could have and probably had good reason to go to the top of the mountain privately like he had other places, but in this instance he chose to bring three of his disciples with him. He chose to have them come and be a part of this experience. Jesus chose koinonia. He chose to bring others with him and include them in this most holy experience up on the mountain.
Peter, James, and John all were able to be a part of one of the most incredible experiences, one of the most tangible experiences of the divine. They were on the mountain and they saw two of the holiest men in their faith talking with Jesus and they heard God’s own voice telling them that this man, whom Peter had just declared as the messiah is God’s own sone, whom he loves. Just as we experience God’s grace and forgiveness through the table fellowship of communion, these three disciples were invited and welcomed into the fellowship of the mountain.
Speaking of Peter’s declaration, I think we often applaud his declaration that he is the messiah, but then focus all too quickly on his mistake and rebuke by Jesus. Peter’s setback is a setback of love. He loves Jesus and wants to remain in koinonia, in fellowship with him. He is motivated out of love for his savior to want to keep him and not lose him. So Jesus addresses the crowds to let them all know that faith is about looking to others and caring for others, not just about ourselves and what we want and what we might get out of something. Faith is about being in fellowship with one another. What is the point of having everything in life, but not doing what you can for the sake of others? What is the point of having all the good things you need if there is no fellowship or koinonia with whom to share it with? But if you take all that God has given you, if you take the gifts, the talents, the blessings, and all of it, and you share it, you share your faith and you welcome others into that same space then you have lived the blessing that God has called you to live.
When we fully live into the idea and practices that Jesus lived out koinonia by inviting 12 people to experience life with him and God, then we can truly live into the full meaning of koinonia, fellowship with God and one another. When we do that then we too will have those transfiguration moments. Those transformative moments where our lives and the lives of those we are in fellowship with are changed and everyone is blessed because of it. I want this year to be a year where we live out the idea of being transformed through the practice that all are welcome, all are loved , and that we live that out through our worship, our fellowship and every experience that we have and with everyone we meet. So that no matter if you have been here for 30 minutes or 30 years you fully experience the welcome space, the koinonia of God, here in this place. And that koinonia, that welcome, that fellowship transforms everything we say and everything we do, just as we have been forever changed and transformed by the life-giving love of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Amen.