Called to Community

RENEE MATHIS|CONTRIBUTOR

In my mother’s bedroom is an antique armoire. Its open doors reveal folded quilts, carefully stacked, and hinting at their kaleidoscope of pattern and color. As beautiful as they are sitting on the shelf, nothing compares to the glory that appears when each one is taken down and spread out on the bed, displaying the stitches and handiwork that went into creating them. I love hearing their stories: the feed sack cloth, the shirt scraps, this one that came from an Easter dress and that one made from a soft velvet. The women, over years and generations, gathered together to piece and sew and form these bits of fabric into something more wonderful in their combining than was possible in their separate existence.

When I think of my life in the community that is the body of Christ, I think of these quilts. God, the master creator and craftsman, has fashioned us— his covenant people— into a whole that is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Each of us brings our own beauty, our own personality, our own gifts, and yes— our own quirks, sins, and faults. Just as the quilt maker trims and shapes each piece for its intended use, so does God fit us for use in his kingdom.  As a member of this kingdom community called “the church,” I am called with a purpose, I am called to be present, and I am called to pray.

Called with a Purpose

Calling can be a scary concept to ponder and an even harder one to figure out. We like to make things complicated, as if God has some secret plan for our lives that we just need to decipher. Thankfully, God has made it abundantly clear in his word. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Love God. Love my neighbor. But where? And how? And what does this look like?

Singer, songwriter, and author Michael Card said, “Your community defines your calling.”[1] Loving God and serving my neighbor is my purpose and it starts right here at home, with the people I am regularly in contact with. The question is not “where should I go to fulfill this great purpose?” but “what can I do right here and now with the people God has put right in front of me?”  I wonder if my pioneer ancestors would laugh at my quilts used for artwork. “We made them to keep people warm, not to sit on a shelf.”  God has given us, his church, a clear purpose in the world. There’s no higher calling than to be part of accomplishing that purpose.

Called to be Present

As committed as I may be in my desire to serve the Lord, it won’t happen unless I’m also committed to being present with his people. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds me “… to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” It’s hard to love my neighbor if I never see my neighbor. I love technology as much as the next person. Getting a text with a sweet picture, being able to get information at the touch of a button, being part of a common interest group— I like living in the twenty-first century! But these are no substitute for face-to-face interaction. My desire is to pour myself into the human beings I see regularly/ am in a relationship with/am related to and to let the electronic connections be an overflow of that, not a substitute for it.

The Lord knew that some would prefer not to assemble together, and he cautions us not to go there. It’s not a habit to cultivate. My church needs me and I need to show up.  When I first attempted to make my own quilt, I learned how important the unseen parts are. No one sees the batting between the top and the bottom, but it helps keep you warm; without it the quilt could not accomplish its purpose. The showy parts might be noticed first, but it’s the tiny stitches and the carefully trimmed and pressed seams that also contribute to the quality of the finished work. Nothing is unimportant. Nobody is unimportant. Presence matters.

Called to Pray

When I hear the stories of these quilts that have been passed down through my family, I realize I’m part of something larger than myself. It is a delight to know there is a connection through the generations, bound together by needle and thread. In the same way, I am connected to my church community through the act of prayer. When we pray together on Sunday mornings, we confess corporately, and we pray for the church around the world. We uphold brothers and sisters, many of whom are in dangerous circumstances, and ask for their protection as the gospel goes forth.

No less important than praying for the church across the globe is my privilege to pray for my sister in Christ across the aisle. Sometimes I know her story and her struggle and I can pray specifically. Other times I pray simply for her growth in knowledge and love for her Savior. Is there someone in your community you don’t know very well? Can I encourage you to take one simple step? Move toward her and ask “How may I pray for you this week?”  In Praying Together, Megan Hill reminds us that prayer “unites us in mutual affection. In prayer together, we are all loyal subjects of the same king…Our unity with and love for other Christians is so rooted in Christ’s love for us and our love for him (Eph. 3:14-19) that any friend of Jesus is a friend of ours.” [2]

One of my favorite books is The Way of the Wilderking, part of a trilogy by Jonathan Rogers. The main character, Aidan, finds himself at a crossroads where the life he expected is not matching up with his present circumstances. The wise prophet, Bayard-the-Truth-Speaker, reminds him to “live the life that unfolds before you.”

A folded quilt on a shelf is a promise of something wonderful. Unfolding it reveals its beauty, and yes, possibly its imperfections, but only as it is unfolded can we see its glory. Because of that glory, we praise its maker. May it be our aim to glorify the Lord in our communities as we serve him and love each other well.

[1] http://www.anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/1115

[2] Praying Together, p. 61

About the Author:

Renee Mathis

Renee is passionate about teaching. She loves nothing more than to gather around God’s word with the women of Christ Church in Katy, Texas. She has taught high-school writing and literature and now mentors Classical Christian teachers through the CiRCE Institute. Serving on the advisory board of Covenant College is another joy. Since she has 5 children and 7 grandchildren around the country, Renee’s suitcase is always ready for the next trip. Closer to home you can find her baking, weightlifting, or trying one of Houston’s new restaurants.

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