In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the demarcation between Autumn and Winter is crisp. One day the leaves are at their peak and suddenly a heavy, wet snow brings them down . . . all of them. In some years, the first snow is the prelude to the last, meaning the ground is never clear in between. In better years, the early snows act as a teaser with a brief Indian summer wedged in before the real snows engulf them.
It was such an early, wet snow that occurred on the following Wednesday. It was the kind of snow that forms to the soles of your shoes that you can clearly read “Vibram” in the bottom of each step. Oddly, Debra, who had the furthest to drive on icy roads, arrived first. She had to choose a new table as a snowbound family were sitting at their usual window table. Actually they weren’t as much snowbound as what Debra called flake-phobic. These are usually people from below the Mason-Dixie Line, who have come up to see the leaves not believing it could possibly snow on them in late September. She could tell from the accents as they ordered their breakfast that was the case.
But soon Father Randy, Mike and David arrived. Greg was helping an elderly neighbor shovel her sidewalk and had texted Father Randy that he would be late.
The tall stranger seemed to always arrive last and so he did.
Mike pulled up a second, small, round table to accommodate the five . . . soon to be six . . . of them. Tom started with his big, bright smile, “Okay gentlemen . . . and lady . . . I hope you’ve had a fair week” (he still didn’t have command of the American colloquial enough to understand that “fair” had not been used in that context for at least a hundred years).
After a moment of chatter about their weeks, orders taken and Greg in his place, Tom moved into his more somber mode. “Friends, I will be candid and tell you that I am growing homesick and tired of this whole matter. I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of my intentions and I really want to see this through. So, I was thinking, that is time that we get down to business.”
Mike broke his month-long quiet mood, “I totally agree. Why don’t we see if we can’t answer your questions today and resolve this once and for all (Mike was growing tired of the stranger and his uncanny ability to read them all. Mike’s personal life was becoming more unraveled and he really didn’t want it brought up again).
Tom reached into his briefcase and pulled out papers. He laid them on the table. Then he put on, what looked like cheap, reader glasses, and started to pass the papers around the table counter-clockwise, starting with David.
When each breakfasteer had their papers in hand, Tom spoke, “I came here to learn from you, a proper understanding of two deeply related issues. What is the Gospel and what is the Church. I think I see the Church as a balloon and the Gospel as the air which suspends its sides against the lower pressure of the atmosphere. So, while I grasp the point that the Gospel is God’s blanket of snow covering the brokenness of the world, with not only smoothness, but real and extreme purity, the only remaining question is who are the ones covered? I think I could arrive at four, if not six possible answers from the sources around this table. So, I will put that question on . . . what I’ve heard you say . . . the back burner.“
Father Randy shook his head, “I think that’s a good idea. It’s hard for me to imagine how we could define it any better without creating conflict where there was none before.”
Tom took off his glasses and shook his head, “That’s what seems so strange to us, it is beyond our comprehension that searching for truth and conflict should reside together on the same thought, but that is the only way you people think. One really has nothing to do with the other. If you folks could dislodge your belief systems from your sense of self-value, you would have total freedom to discuss things. But it is what it is and I can’t change your culture in one simple blow.”
He sat back and put his glasses back on. He looked at the papers in his hand. Then he pushed the glasses down on his nose and looked above them at the group, “So, what I have here is the bulk of the New Testament verses about the Church. I’m sure I’ve missed a couple here or there. I want to use this as our basis and then explore what you’ve learned about the Church beyond what is obvious.”
Tom looked back down at his papers and then up again, “What I’ve taken the liberty to do here is to replace your English word ‘Church’ with a more simple word so we can try and shed your cultural connotations. Since the original, Greek word was ‘Ekklesia’ I wanted to find an equivalent. The word means of course 'called out.' The best picture in Greek times would be someone walking down the street and stopping at each home and calling out a couple of names. Those individuals would come out of their house, to the outside, and follow the crowd down the street. These ‘called-out’ ones, would be a mixture of all kinds of people. I first thought of the word ‘volunteer’ but that didn’t fit, because it was more deliberate by the caller. I could say the ‘elect’ but even that word has too many connotations. So the word I chose to replace ‘Church’ is ‘selected.’ I’ve also taken further liberties of replacing the word “Elder” for the more simple and appropriate word, ‘senior’ or ‘older person.’ Lastly, I’ve replaced the word Deacon, which is proper and seems to be an office here, with a word more closely to the original, ‘assistant.’ So now that I’ve changed those words, trying to find the pure meaning and description of the Church, please read these verses, let’s start at that point, then you teach me how we should construct our Church.”
The pastors looked down and skimmed the paper. David looked up and commented, "This is a huge amount of reading. We can't cover all of this in one morning."
Tom responded, "Let's do this. Take this home and study it. Then next week we will start our discussion. So this morning, we will enjoy our breakfast and talk about our private lives." The group looked in horror.
Here is what was written on the strangers' papers.
Matthew 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my selected group, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Matthew 18:17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the selected; and if they refuse to listen even to the selected, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Acts 5:11 Great fear seized the all the selected and all who heard about these events.
Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the selected in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
Acts 8:3 But Saul began to destroy the selected group. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Acts 9:31 Then the selected throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, the group increased in numbers.
Acts 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.
Acts 11:22 News of this reached the selected in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
Acts 11:26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the selected and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Acts 12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the selected, intending to persecute them. So Peter was kept in prison, but the selected was earnestly praying to God for him.
Acts 13:1 Now in the selected at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed seniors for them in each selected and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
Acts 14:27 On arriving there, they gathered the selected together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
Acts 15:3 The selected sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad.
Acts 15:4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the selected and the apostles and seniors, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
Acts 15:22 Then the apostles and seniors, with the whole selected, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers.
Acts 15:30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the selected together and delivered the letter. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the selected.
Acts 16:5 So the selected were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
Acts 18:22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the selected and then went down to Antioch. From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the seniors of the selected.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the selected of God, which he bought with his own blood.
Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, an assistant of the selected in Cenchreae.
Romans 16:5 Greet also the selected that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the selected of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 3:1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.
1 Corinthians 4:17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every selected. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the selected? Are you not to judge those inside?
1 Corinthians 6:4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the selected?
1 Corinthians 7:17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the selected.
1 Corinthians 10:32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the selected of God—
1 Corinthians 11:16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the selected of God.
1 Corinthians 11:18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a selected, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.
1 Corinthians 11:22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the selected of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!
1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has placed in the selected first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.
1 Corinthians 14:4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the selected.
1 Corinthians 14:5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the selected may be edified.
1 Corinthians 14:12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the selected.
1 Corinthians 14:19 But in the selected I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
1 Corinthians 14:23 So if the whole selected group comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
1 Corinthians 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a song, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the selected may be built up.
1 Corinthians 14:28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the selected and speak to himself and to God.
1 Corinthians 14:34 Women should remain silent in the selected. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.
1 Corinthians 14:35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the selected.
1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the selected of God.
1 Corinthians 16:1 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian selected to do. The selected in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the selected that meets at their house.
2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the selected of God in Corinth, together with all his holy people throughout Achaia:
2 Corinthians 7:2Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.
2 Corinthians 8:1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian selected.
2 Corinthians 8:18 And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the selected for his service to the gospel.
2 Corinthians 8:19 What is more, he was chosen by the selected to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help.
2 Corinthians 8:23 As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the selected and an honor to Christ.
2 Corinthians 8:24 Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the selected can see it.
2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other selected by receiving support from them so as to serve you.
2 Corinthians 11:28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the selected.
2 Corinthians 12:13 How were you inferior to the other selected, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!
Galatians 1:2 and all the brothers and sisters with me, To the selected in Galatia:
Galatians 1:13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the selected of God and tried to destroy it.
Galatians 1:22 I was personally unknown to the selected of Judea that are in Christ.
Ephesians 1:22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the selected.
Ephesians 3:10 His intent was that now, through the selected, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 3:21 to him be glory in the selected and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the selected, his body, of which he is the Savior.
Ephesians 5:24 Now as the selected submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the selected and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:27. . and to present her to himself as a radiant selected, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Ephesians 5:29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the selected.
Ephesians 5:32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the selected.
Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the selected.
Colossians 4:15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the selected in her house.
Colossians 4:16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the selected of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the selected of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.
1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s selected in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those selected suffered from the Jews.
2 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the selected of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Thessalonians 1:4 Therefore, among God’s selected we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
1 Timothy 3:5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s selected?)
1 Timothy 3:15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the selected of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
1 Timothy 5:16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the selected be burdened with them, so that the selected can help those widows who are really in need.
1 Timothy 5:17 The seniors who direct the affairs of the selected well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
Philemon 1:2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the selected that meets in your home.
Hebrews 12:23 to the selected of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.
James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the seniors of the selected to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
3 John 1:6 They have told the selected about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.
3 John 1:9 I wrote to the selected, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us.
3 John 1:10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the selected.
Revelation 1:4 John, To the seven selected in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,
Revelation 1:11which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven selected: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
Revelation 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven selected, and the seven lampstands are the seven selected.
Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the selected in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
Revelation 2:7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the selected. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Revelation 2:8 “To the angel of the selected in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
Revelation 2:11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the selected. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Revelation 2:12 “To the angel of the selected in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
Revelation 2:17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the selected. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Revelation 2:18 “To the angel of the selected in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
Revelation 2:23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the selected will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
Revelation 2:29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the selected.
Revelation 3:1 “To the angel of the selected in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Revelation 3:6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the selected.
Revelation 3:7 “To the angel of the selected in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
Revelation 3:13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the selected.
Revelation 3:14 “To the angel of the selected in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
Revelation 3:22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the selected.”
Revelation 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the selected. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”