Community as a Privilege, Mission as a Call
From Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together (p 17-18):
It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the priviledge of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.Maybe we should all bitch a little less about the church, and thank God a little more for those delightful sinners whom God graciously places alongside us, naming them saints and calling them his children. This whole church thing - with all it's warts and prickers - is actually a privilege.
So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work.
"The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?" (Luther)
So between the death of Christ and the Last Day, it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God's Word and sacrament...
Likewise, we must also consider more seriously our calling as Christians to live in the midst of the world. I sometimes wish the Reformers would have gone on to identify a 4th mark of the church - true churches should be characterized by believers going out of the church into the world, and by unbelievers coming out of the world and into the church. This whole church thing - for all its holy piety - is fundamentally a call to be missional, to engage the world, just like Christ.