The Communion of the Saints – a very popular phrase in the church. But what does it really mean? Let me throw two thoughts out there on what it means and then how that meaning should and does impact the church here and now.
The Communion of the Saints – what this means to the institution of the church is that we are all a group. Whether you are part of the church in the United States, the church in Haiti, the church in Uganda, the church in…… well you get the idea – we’re all part of the same church. That means that on Sunday when we are gathered for worship, in many ways, it is not thousands of churches, but it’s one church gathered in thousands of places.
For the individual church – i.e. the group of believers that meets on the corner of Main St. and Pine St., the communion of the saints means that not only is that particular group of believers part of a larger group, but every person who worships as part of this group is indeed part of a family. A family that supports each other, cares about each other, encourages each other and believes in each other – that’s what the communion of the saints is for the local church.
How does that impact the church here and now? Two ways:
- It shrinks the world. If we are all part of the same church, then what happens to the church in Iraq matters. What happens to the Christians in Syria matters. What happens to the Christians in China matters. It matters to the Christians in England, the Christians in Canada, the Christians in the United States. And we, as a church, need to realize that our brothers and sisters, our fellow church members are suffering and dying. And they are suffering and dying while we’re putting on our Sunday best and acting like everything is fine. It’s not fine and in this small world, the church should care a lot more about those who are part of our family and are hurting – even if it’s the other side of the world.
- It exposes the need for increased reality and openness inside the individual church. If we are a family, albeit a dysfunctional one, we need to care more about each other and be more willing to be vulnerable with each other and do so with the comfort of knowing that when we open up about our weaknesses, we will be surrounded by people, by fellow church members, by family who care, who will pray and will do what they can to help.
The Communion of the Saints – a long standing “belief” inside the church – it impacts how we view what’s happening in Iraq with ISIS and what’s happening in my neighbor’s life. And it impacts what we do about it.