Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come  with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.

-Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace

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The historic Christian gospel is an offer of hope to the cynic, of peace to the ignored and marginalized, of life to those exhausted from trying to live it by and for themselves and on their own strength. The gospel brings the homeless home; it gives the weary traveler rest. To the fatherless, it says: “you are adopted” (Romans 8:15-17). To the childless it says: “Rejoice, you have a heritage” (Isaiah 54). To the stranger in a foreign land, it says: “you have a family” (Leviticus 19:34). To the oppressed and hated it says, “You are not alone” (Psalm 103:6). In sum, the Christian gospel is an announcement that in the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is reconciling all things to himself.

The implications of all this are massive. And this is why the church gathers expectantly each week to worship together–we come to suss out, celebrate and renew ourselves in the mystery of God’s deeply personal love for people such as we are. As we ponder the Scriptures, pray, sing together, and receive bread and wine, the gospel once again reminds us of God’s pursuing love for us (our love for Him is weak and conflicted at best), so we are set free to struggle, fail, and try again, but also to rest.  As we recite the ancient creeds of the church, we begin to get the story of the Bible into our bones–from the tragedy of the Garden in Genesis to the triumph of the City in Revelation–we long for what once was, and we hope for what will be. And once again we’re pleasantly surprised:  far from being a road map for making all the right choices, or a rule book to show us how we made all the wrong ones, the Bible in fact tells of a rescue mission initiated and completed by the strength of God’s promises to unfaithful people (and not their promises to him), so we become motivated more and more by gratitude and love (and shock!) and less and less by fear and pride.

This is why we sing together–to remind each other that we are truly “sung over” (Zephaniah 3:17). This is why we unite over a meal–God has invited us to a banquet of rich food (Isaiah 55:2ff)! And this is why the gospel, if we have the eyes to see and ears to hear, overflows the banks of our hearts and compels us to fill anything and everything that is empty. Where there is brokenness, we work to bring beauty. Where there is hunger, we bring food. Where there is a need, we bring our money. Where there is no hope, we bring a carnival of joy. All limited, of course, by our own emptiness and need, but this is what following Christ means–we cry out for Him to fill that which we cannot fill ourselves.