A really weird thing happened in Oregon in 1981. Many of you will remember a man called Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. He was an Indian mystic who started a religion that helped his followers become, “enlightened” and “liberated”. The Bhagwan envisioned a new, improved humanity that would one day spread throughout the whole world.
As a result of the growth of this movement, the cult moved stateside and bought and developed a ranch in eastern Oregon near Antelope. It created with money and manpower a city called Rajneeshpuram. They had an airstrip, mall, restaurants and boutiques that only sold orange clothes, their signature color. This movement was supposed to help its participants experience love. Rajneeshpuram prided themselves in being a place where there were no crimes or conflict of any kind. They invited homeless people from all over the United States to come live there. They made space for them and welcomed them with open arms.
Things Get Bad
At least that’s what they wanted people to think. They weren’t there very long before they were making themselves obnoxious to their neighbors. Soon they were embroiled in legal battles with various levels of government. They weaponized themselves, and the tensions grew where it seemed like there would be armed conflict at any moment. In clumsy attempts to influence voting and legal processes, they attempted to murder officials and poisoned 751 people by spreading salmonella in salad bars in the Dalles.
The caustic feelings were inside as well where the leadership was divided and there was spying, attempted murder and poisonings as well. They turned against each other, some bailing out and some holding press conferences to defame the others. It was a hot mess and the whole experiment of a community disintegrated as quickly as it had started.
Nobody has Fixed Unconnectedness
Here was an attempt to create a people of love that would be a new humanity. They tried to live in harmony and show the world what it was like to be above divisions. This movement, however, not only didn’t achieve peace, it promoted outright hostility. It didn’t benefit the world but turned it against them.
Why can’t anyone seem to get it right? Because flesh and bone can’t accomplish the unification of the human race. Many have tried and all have failed. Some religions or rulers have tried by sword and flame to unify the world, but it always falls apart. Some people try to legislate, coerce or shame people into being more unified. But they just end up hating the haters and creating yet another division. So God took it upon himself to bring us near.
“Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands, remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Ephesians 2:11-12
We Were Unconnected to the Connected People
I don’t know about yours, but my Scottish ancestors at the time that Jesus came along were busy worshipping spirits and wells and weird druidic blood sacrifices. There was a lot of head butting and eating a cuisine that was mostly based on dares. Point is, we were lost! So were you and your people, because we weren’t a part of God’s people! Paul wants we who are not of a Jewish origin to remember that if it weren’t for Jesus, we would be unsaved, unconnected, unhopeful. The reason why is because God has always been good to all people, but the people that he gave his mercy and his grace to were his people. And his people, were Israel. That means that being separated from Israel meant being separated from God.
And this is ridiculously important! By being a part of God’s people, Israel, it says here that they had Christ (that is, the promise of a Messiah that would come from their own people). They also had citizenship with all of its privileges, promises of security and perpetuity. Included was the hope of God, not just in the next life, but in the world. So God didn’t save individuals, God saved for himself a people and individuals were saved because they were a part of it.
Connected to the Connected Person
Guess what? It’s the same with you, but now the mediator isn’t Israel, but Jesus. That’s why Paul says things like, “Grace to you from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Because in the Old Testament, they used to call God the God of Abraham or the God of Israel. He does that because now God is no longer a national God, but one whose mediator is Jesus. God’s people are the new humanity that are in Jesus, he is the new nationality.
We’re Called to Be Connected
Cool, but so what? God doesn’t save individuals, he saves his people. When we’re saved, we’re saved because we’ve been included in his people. We’re included in that which is being saved. That’s why Paul prayed previously in Ephesians that their eyes would be opened to the riches of their inheritance in the saints. We’re doing a little eye-opening right now. Because a lot of people say, “I can be a Christian, but not a part of the church.” That’s talking nonsense!
It’s like God owns a Baskin Robbins and each one of us is one of the 31 flavors chilling side by side to entice the world to come and see the boss. Sure some of us are fruitier than others, some are nuttier, but we’re here because God created us and called us and is committed to us. But we get this weird idea that instead of one shop with 31 flavors, he owns 31 different Baskin Robbins with 1 flavor each. Like he’s working with me and he’s working with you, but that’s simply not the case. He’s working with us. We’re not special because we’re unique in ourselves, we’re special because we’re a part of a unique people that serve a unique God.
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So if you’re connected to God, it’s time to get serious about your connection to his people. There is no one without the other. Could the reason that you’ve felt unconnected be because you’ve not taken God up on the connection that he’s made possible at his great expense?