So I was reading Weird Church this week and came across the Greek word oikos and immediately thought to myself “Yogurt? What does Greek yogurt have to do with church? That’s bizarre.” But as I continued to read I learned the Oikos is a very important and ancient Greek word that became synonymous with the early Christian movement and is projected to become important again as we move into the future of Christianity. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Oikos means family, home, household, and temple. It is about being unified together in small family like communities joined together by a common desire, a common cause. Oikos goes back much further than Christianity though. It was a common word to speak to what makes up a family of believers.
In your experiences, what makes up family? Is it just that blood tie? Or does it go further than that? Can church feel like family? When I was growing up, my church was small. Church was family for me. Yes some of the people literally were family but others were not. For me growing up in church, the lines were blurred as to who was actually family and who was just some nice people that took an interest in me and my life. There was the little old lady who always had a purse full of candy for the children. There was another lady who used to give me costume jewelry to play with. There were the ladies and men of the choir who encouraged me to join them and to learn new skills in a place where it was safe to mess up and try again without judgment. There was the Sunday School teacher who had us write our names on the wall inside the deacon’s closet and then took us into the church steeple. These people were so much a part of my life that they became a family for me to grow with and to depend upon. They saw me at my worst and at my best and yet I always found support and care. To me this is the essence of Oikos. This is what the early church was supposed to be about. And this is the type of welcome, love, compassion, and care that Christ intended for his followers to exhibit in the world around them.
Matthew was writing to those early Oikos Christian communities to encourage them in their times of suffering, to build them up in the good lives that they tried to live, and to remind them that Christ called them to more than just giving lip service to the faith but to alter their ways of life learning to live the life that Christ lived. Matthew cleverly took many of Christ’s teachings that were originally designed just for his disciples and he brought them together into one long discourse in the Sermon on the Mount and opened this from just the 4 special disciples to all of the readers and listeners in the early Christian communities in Matthew’s time and through the years to us giving guidance as Disciples of Christ in the world.
These teachings remind us that Jesus expects us to not only to have faith, but to put his teachings into practice and to be single minded in our love for God and our love for humanity showing mercy and compassion towards others and in effect working to become the bringers of peace to a world in need. To be a part an Oikos community, is to do exactly that. Not as individuals but as a family of believer. Mother Theresa is known to have said, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things”. When we work together we have the chance to affect the lives of others in this world, together, when we live with love, we can help bring peace into a world that is in need. We each have unique talents and gifts that when brought together can give someone in need comfort, guidance, and allow for others to know that there is love in a world that seems increasingly more violent and desperate.
We do this by caring for the hungry, by reaching out to the curious, by approaching the suffering in the world with sympathy and not judgment. We do this by becoming passionate about living the life that Christ called us to live joining together to build each other up and to build up a community that is in need. We do this by resolving to be each other’s support system, by resolving to offer a welcoming hand and a caring ear to those who find themselves on hard times. We do this through prayer and action, through invitation and actively seeking out ways to touch more lives.
If you say “But my community has no needs”, then I would urge you to go talk to people in your communities and to open your minds to the vast and ever changing needs that are out there. It might be the support of a community of friends that is needed. It might be help finding a baby sitter. It might be to help with finding access to resources like clothing, food, shelter, or heating assistance. It could be welcoming new comers to the community or helping someone who is experiencing huge changes in their lives. The possibilities are endless. Together we can make a difference and it is up to us to work together to discover the pathway that God has set before us. We should be working towards living as Jesus lived his life and by so doing discovering the new life that has been promised to you and I. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid”. So how do you plan to live Christ peace today and tomorrow?
Mother Theresa, 20th century.
 Matthew 5: 14, RSV.
(based on Psalm 133 and Matthew 5: 1-14)