Making Christ Visible
For the last several years, I've had the pleasure of meeting weekly with a small group of Christian friends who are determined to support each other in their life with Christ. This is a place where I can talk about my fears and struggles without fear of rejection. When I am weak, I am bolstered by their strength. To paraphrase the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there are times when the Christ in my heart is weaker than the word in my sisters' hearts.1 My heart is uncertain while theirs are sure. Conversely, there are times when my strength helps them.
One of our shared commitments involves prayer. Often the lists are long--a neighbor who is dying, a friend who's desperate for work, a person who is deeply troubled. After we make our lists, we take them home and pray through them during the course of the week. Once, we decided to do someone different. Each woman shared her requests and then everyone in the group prayed for her. As each person prayed, you could sense God speaking. If one of us had been missing, something important would have been missing from our prayer. It seemed as though the Holy Spirit was using our different voices to express God's heart more fully to that person.
One of the many things community teaches us, Parker Palmer observes, is that "our grip on truth is fragile and incomplete, that we need many ears to hear the fullness of God's word for our lives."2
A story is told about a village church built by a wealthy man. Touring the completed building, the townspeople expressed their pleasure in their new church. The stained glass, the stonework, the wood--all of it was beautifully crafted. Yet something vital was missing. When someone asked why the church had no lighting, the man who built it instructed each family, handing them a lamp: "Bring this lamp whenever you come to church and hang it on the end of the pew. When you are there, the church will be filled with light. When you are absent, the light will grow dimmer." Like this village church, our own churches are meant to be places where the light of Christ can shine, where community can thrive, and where people of every race, tribe, and tongue can know the peace that comes from belonging to God and to his people.
The New Testament tells us that united to Christ we are members of his body. Together we are his eyes, his ears, his hands, his voice. People see Christ in us or they do not. Together we make him visible and audible, a tangible presence in a world that is dying to know him.
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, translated by John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 23.
2. Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak (New York: Harper & Row, 1990), quoted in Catherine Whitmire, Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity (Notre Dame, IN: Sorin, 2001), 143.