Jesus said: "Stand up and go your way, your faith has been your salvation."
In an earlier homily I invited us to reflect on the question, "Who Are We?" Here in our Jesus Our Shepherd Community we often find that our experiences and worship services are new and challenging in our sharing the love of Jesus. I suggested that one answer to the question is, "We are a Community based, Eucharist centered gathering of disciples of Jesus."
Today I invite us to consider the question, "What Are We?" Every experience we have and share in faith is based in Jesus and his message of love. The fact is as individuals we may come and go into and out of worship services in various churches. We can be as anonymous or as well-known as we choose depending on which Church and which Service we attend. But when we gather as Jesus Our Shepherd Community we form and celebrate our very own "What." As an example, if we wanted to presented our community to a larger grouping of communities we could probably expect that some prerequisites from some churches and even some prohibitions from others would attend this presentation.
So, what are we? Roger Haight is a Jesuit theologian who has written a book that studies what underlies the formation of Christian churches. His title, "The Christian Community in History," indicates experiences that are both personal and institutional when Christians form this "what" in time. He speaks of two forms of church, one being "church from below" and the other "church from above." This study is an investigation into ecclesiology : in other words the study of church formation, or a response to the question "What are we?"
We members of Jesus Our Shepherd community, I think, relate best to the view of "church from below." In short, when we gather and when we regard our experience of community we believe that we discover the Christ directly through, with, and in each other. And from this discovery we proceed to celebrate the gifts of Jesus among us : Eucharist, Healing, Baptism, Word, and Peace.
As we form this "what," this "church from below" we acknowledge our responsibility to treasure and to respect each other as the presence of Jesus among us. As we look to our collective future we express opinions and ideas at varying strength levels. These give us golden opportunities to respect, to listen attentively, and to genuinely respond to one another. This takes patience and humility. We pray that this forming of "what we are" will always be grounded in who we are.
The healed leper who returned to Jesus in today's Gospel serves as a tremendous reminder and challenge to those of us who choose to form church anew with and among one another. Perhaps, the healed leper is our Patron Saint as we form this church from below. Clearly there is importance to what we form and experience as we gather in community and commit to our congregational future. But in the end we, like the leper who returns to Jesus, find our salvation not in what we experience but in Who.