Each June for the past decade plus I have participated in annual conference for the United Methodist Church in Missouri. An opening ritual is to sing “And Are We Yet Alive” by Charles Wesley. I am sure there is a theological rationale behind why we sing this song. And I am confident that we do this for more than reasons of tradition. We do it to ask ourselves a question and to set a framework for our conversation. It is a questions we should be asking ourselves as local churches. And are we yet alive?
“And” is a word that indicates that others are alive. Somewhere around us there is life and fire; growth and discipline; waging of spiritual warfare and victories. The first word begs the question – are we a part of the “and” or those who are alive. If not, then we must be outside the group of “and” meaning that we are not included in new spiritual life and the creation of it.
“Are” is a verb that points to this activity of being a part of or standing outside of. I like the idea of being apart of God’s work that is alive, well, breathing, and making a difference. The implication can certainly be personal as well as corporate. “Am I?” and “are we?” exemplifies the breadth of application.
“We” provides a link to Paul’s image of the body of Christ. If we each see ourselves as a part of the body of Christ then we know that we have a function or role to play within the body. Every part is critical to the full function of the church or body of Christ. We are the local body and we each play a key part in how the body functions in mission and for a purpose.
“Yet” is the word that I struggle with because it tells me that there is a gap between where we are and where God intends us to be. Gaps are an uncomfortable place for both the congregation, the leadership and the community. Gaps are where things fall and even get lost. Gaps in expectations; gaps in systems; gaps in ministry – these are just some of the places where important issues and people can get lost. The hope is that “yet” indicates a journey toward God’s desired vision for the community of faith and that all of the disciple’s are on a path toward that vision.
“Alive” – simply speaks for itself. Vibrant, beautiful, peaceful, and the presence of God. When I think of alive two images come to mind – a wheat field where the wind is blowing through moving the “amber waves of grain” while the sun is overhead shining through wisps of white cloud. The other image is a busy ant colony. A flurry of activity going on with a common vision and goal – it keeps everything moving and flowing.
And are we yet alive? How easy it is for so many of us to fall into a low-grade depression and apathy about life and church. We can quickly lose hope, joy, passion and love for the community of faith. We can readily replace God and God’s people with other activities and new associations. But will we really be alive?
I would suggest to each of us that the only way to be truly alive is to be a vital and contributing part of a local body of Christ. Jesus came to earth, lived, died was buried and rose again so that each of us might have “life and life more abundant.” That does not necessarily indicate greater monetary wealth – actually it is a wealth of spirit, joy, and love for others that gives you a fulfilling mission and purpose. It provides a reason to get up each day; a reason for giving up on cultural norms and give in to God’s definition of living.
So how do we demonstrate that we are yet alive? Leading and following. A few great leaders are needed for our program teams – learning, serving, witness, and community care. And several followers are needed to implement systems and strategies to meet our goals for next year. Are we yet alive? I am not sure yet – BUT I do see signs of new life and the potential for us to be fully alive in Christ!
When was the last time you felt alive in Christ? If it is now, would you tell us why or how?
Blessings for the journey~