Part 3b: Challenges in Sisterhood, Chapter 13 (pp. 187-191)
It has been my great honor to serve you these past five weeks through the blog. It is my hope that you have felt connected to the study, even if you were unable to attend in person, and that it has increased your fervor for biblical community.
In this last session, we looked back at all 3 sections of the book: A Community of Faith (Chapters 1-3), Living with Sisters in Community (Chapters 4-9), and Challenges to Sisterhood (Chapters 10-13), concluding with Fox’s call to see and savor Jesus as our Perfect Friend (Chapter 13).
As Jana addressed the Summer study group for the last time on Wednesday, I was so struck by her beautiful exhortation that I could think of no better way to close out this study than by enclosing her words below:
By JANA HENRY | CONTRIBUTOR
Here we are at the end of the study.
Before you go, I want you to know my prayer for you– that the eyes of your heart be enlightened ever more so to this hope to which we have been called (c.f. Ephesians 1:8). And that you have been encouraged to live out this hope together, bearing with one another, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace because we are united to Christ and to one another through His blood (c.f. Ephesians 4:2-3).
May we love one another as Christ has loved us in giving His life for us, thereby meeting our greatest need– for cleansing, for forgiveness, for being made new again– so that we can come to Jesus and recognize that all our longings are met and fulfilled in Him.
Do we still long for friendship? That’s a good thing.
But remember! Jesus is our perfect friend.
John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for His friends.”
Jesus did that for you and me, and because He is our perfect friend, we can love others as He commanded us to, living in community with one another, forgiving one another and seeking to grow up together as one body in Him, reflecting His image to a dark hurting world.
Remember! Love is the calling card, the mark by which we will be known, so that those whom Jesus is calling may be delivered from darkness, transferred to the kingdom of His beloved light, and live together in perfect community for all eternity.
As I thought about this grand vision of Sister-Friendship that Fox lays out in her book, my mind was drawn to one of my favorite hymns.
Bryan Jeffrey Leach wrote this hymn in 1978. He was born in England, but spent more than half of his life in the United States. He was an ordained minister, serving many congregations, and didn’t start writing hymns until his mid-30’s. At the time he wrote this hymn, he was lamenting the fact that there were so few popular hymns that related to the church. He decided to write one of his own. The result was We Are God’s People, which he later said was his favorite of his hymn texts. He said, “I loved singing it, and I like especially the mixture of metaphors in it [ . . .] which illustrate the true nature of the church.”
It has arguably been one of my favorites, too, since the first time I sang it many years ago in this very church.
Listen for the images Leech refers to, taken right out of the pages of scripture.
It starts off:
We are God’s people, the chosen of the Lord
The psalmist says in Psalm 100 – We are God’s people the sheep of his pasture.
And Peter says in his 1st epistle – You are a chosen race, a royal, priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession to proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Born of His Spirit, established by His word
Again Peter says – You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23).
Our cornerstone is Christ alone and strong in Him we stand
From the prophet Isaiah – Behold I am laying in Zion a cornerstone, chosen and precious and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame (Isaiah 28:16).
Leech concludes Stanza 1 with a “Therefore”:
O let us live transparently, and walk heart to heart and hand in hand
He goes on in the next stanza to liken the church as the Bride of Christ.
In this we hear echoes of Ephesians 5, and look forward as the apostle John did to that great day when the wedding feast takes place.
The third stanza –
We are the body of which the Lord is head
Here we recognize the echoes of Ephesians 4– Grow up in every way, into Him who is the head, into Christ.
And finally, the fourth stanza–
We are a temple, the Spirit’s dwelling place
Ephesians 2:22 says, “In Him you also are being built together as a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
Leech concludes the hymn using a metaphor of his own –
We die alone, for on its own,
Each ember loses fire:
Yet joined in one the flame burns on
To give warmth and light and to inspire
Leech likens the individual members of the church to embers (or logs) in a fireplace, whose purpose is to give warmth, light, and – he says, “to inspire.”
Yes, put together in a pile, the logs give great WARMTH to the chill of this often-dreary world,
and LIGHT, so that we may see the way in the darkness,
and they INSPIRE.
How do logs INSPIRE? It’s when I look at what happens to these logs when they are pulled apart from the fire and placed by themselves on their own that I find the answer: they quickly cool off and their light grows dim.
You see, it is when the logs are put together that the flame grows hotter and the light beams brighter, because the logs INSPIRE each other to do their job with greater intensity.
This is what I think is meant by this last verse.
And so together as one body, the Bride of Christ, the temple, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone, we reflect God’s glory to the world. The heat of fire brightens up the night, and people are drawn to the warmth of God’s love as they see us loving one another because of the great love with which God has loved us.
And so, let us go forth worshipping our marvelous Savior who has knitted us together in HIS perfect love, purposing to love one another as He has loved us.