Brothers and Sisters:
As I write this, our 2020 AZ Branch Men’s retreat is almost a week behind us. What a wonderful time we had together! 39 men gathered at El Nathan retreat center in Flagstaff for three days of fellowship, worship and impartation of revelation that will lead us into the next season God is unfolding before us. A big thanks to all the brothers that shared, prepared talks, helped with meals and logistics. I think everyone that attended had some role of service that was indispensable.
One of the blessings of this Men’s retreat was the variety of ages that attended. From an 18 year old Pivonka to the 91 year old head of the Lebeau clan! One third of our attendees were young adults, and we had many guests, sons and brothers that attend our young adult bible study and participate in our life in other ways. I was reminded of the scripture:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free -- and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 26, RSV-CE)
There was a strength and a connection because of the variety of men attending representing such a diversity, yet united in the Spirit, just as the scripture above describes.
Sadly in our society, as men and women increasingly suffer from isolation and disconnection, the need for brotherhood, sisterhood and family is more apparent than ever. The numbers of people that have never experienced true connection and belonging is increasing at an alarming rate because of dysfunctional families and a secular culture that breeds contempt for traditional structures. Instead of the family, individuals in our culture are forming attachments to a sort of “tribalism” based on common interests or a political world view of their own construct. This “camaraderie” is not true brotherhood as we know it. Groupings of people based on common interest is not true “community.” True community has it’s model in the Trinity- Father, Son and Holy Spirit, connected in Love which gives meaning to the understanding of family. A Covenant Community, like any Covenant relationship, involves sacrifice. The partisan hate groups that fill the internet with violence and disunity are certainly “sacrificial” though. Many appear to be “all in” ready to go to jail and surrender their lives for the disordered cause they represent. In a limited sense I admire their zeal, although misguided. The enemy loves to pervert what is true and good and replace it with an imitation and counterfeit of what is sown into our hearts- the need for purpose, connection and meaning.
We haven’t used this phrase to describe our life together in City of the Lord as much as we used to, but I think we should. City of the Lord is “A family of families”. Certainly, we are also a “Community of disciples on mission” but at a more fundamental level we are a “family of families” (singles – you are part of the family too!). This description needs to be brought front and center as the battle to take back our culture for the Kingdom becomes more acute.
In our Lords Day ceremony we paraphrase the words from Malachi 4: “At this hour, God’s messenger of peace comes and turns the hearts of brother to his brother, sister to her sister, the hearts of parents to the children and the hearts of children to their parents” The part that is left out of that quote is the last 10 words of the book of Malachai- “lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” It seems the Lord is serious about unity of families! Division between generations (parents and children) is indeed a curse in itself, but is all too apparent and growing in secular culture. The body of Christ is not immune from this tendency to isolate and forget the intergenerational connections needed for spiritual health. The younger members need the wisdom and experience of the older, and the older need to initiate and raise up the next generation in our way of life and in time step back and allow God to use them to move us forward into the future.
A helpful model of intergenerational connection can be found in 1 Chronicles 22 where David called upon his son Solomon to build the temple of the Lord. The Lord did not want David to build it, which I am sure was disappointing. David, however provided the gold, cedar and all of the fine materials for it’s construction. But most importantly he promoted and spoke well of Solomon the people of Israel so that he had the credibility and authority to undertake the new work. Solomon in turn honored David by being faithful to the task he had been given and honoring the legacy of King David. It is a beautiful picture of connection between generations that puts the focus on uniting behind God’s purposes, and not competing for individual glory or esteem.
I pray that City of the Lord can have the “Spirit of Elijah” mentioned in Malachai and also in Luke 1:17 as was said of John the Baptist as he prepared the way for Jesus: “and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared." (Luke 1:17, RSV-CE)