The introduction to the Season of All Saints to Advent begins with the following reminder … no Christian is solitary. Through Baptism we become members one of another in Christ, members of a company of Saints whose mutual belonging transcends death. Charles Wesley wrote .. ‘One family we dwell in Him; One Church above, beneath; Though now divided by the stream, the narrow stream of death.’ At All Saints and All Souls we celebrate the eternal company of the Church which draws us back into this eternal belonging we have in God.
And we need a deeper sense of belonging in the modern world do we not? Issues of mental health and depression and anxiety are deeply seated in a sense of isolation and a sense that somehow we don’t quite fit. We need to believe we belong. And as baptised Christians we do belong .. we are part of the greatest possible company to belong to. It is an eternal belonging based not on what we do or say or dress like but on who we are. We belong because of what the writer of Hebrews tells us has been done for us not by us!
If you think about what you have chosen to belong to in this world you will be reminded that you had to do something to join .. perhaps you are a member of a club or guild which required that you join this group. Perhaps you pay a membership fee or have had some kind of test to take or have promised to behave in a particular way. Most clubs or societies or guilds require such a commitment from its members. But the Church is not a club. The Church is not a society. Baptism is not the means of joining but the sign that you already belong when you acknowledge what Jesus has done.
In the context of belonging the Church does not require anything more than acknowledging what Jesus has done to unite us with God the Father and one with another. Anything you can think of which makes you feel you are separated from God has been overcome by Jesus. Jesus is called our Great High Priest in this passage of Hebrews. Ths was a role which mediated between God and man. Jesus we are told has brought peace between God and man through His own sacrificial life and death. Jesus has restored the sense of belonging we can have to our Creator. We belong to our Creator and to one another and this cannot be lost even in death. Nothing can separate us from God or our loved ones as we are baptised into an eternal family and eternal family whose belonging transcends death.
I wonder then do you feel you belong? Do you have the deep peace that comes from knowing you belong to the one who Created you? Do you feel the deep peace that comes from knowing you belong to one another and can rely on one another and depend on one another?
Perhaps the greatest challenge is that which is addressed in the Gospel passage. The one which encourages us to love one another. We know that the other example we have of belonging without our own act of joining is family! And in this example we can know that belonging need not always bring the sense of peace and trust that is hoped for. The benefits of belonging to family and indeed to church depend upon us choosing to embrace this sense of solidarity in love.
Jesus says to us I have chosen you by name and you are mine. You belong to me and belong in me. Therefore love one another as I have loved you .. as in doing this you fulfill all that I hoped for in redeeming you. We all know that the sense of belonging can be eroded so simply by the words and attitudes of others towards us. Making us feel we do not belong or fit in or are not wanted. This is why Jesus says love one another as I have loved you. In this all that Jesus achieved for us is completed in His Church.
You were all baptised into one Church .. the eternal company of heaven .. one faith one church one Lord. Let us drown this baptism by loving one another and creating that belonging Christ achieved for us in Love.