Tag Archives: community- building

How Christ builds community

“Life in community is no less than a necessity for us— it is an inescapable ‘must’ that determines everything we do and think. Yet it is not our good intentions or efforts that have been decisive in our choosing this way of life. Rather, we have been overwhelmed by a certainty— a certainty that has its origin and power in the Source of everything that exists. We acknowledge God as this Source.

We must live in community because all life created by God exists in a communal order and works toward community.”

| Why We Live in Community, Eberhard Arnold

During the season of Lent, we followed in the footsteps of Jesus, were led to the cross and his tomb.   “He is risen,” we proclaim. So, we can go now, back to business as usual now, right?

But, the Jesus way is not a task to be checked off, a trip to be taken and completed or a set of tourist attractions for those entertained by his holy life. This is not a ticketed event; it does not come with glow sticks or wristbands— though his followers are few and there are actually more fans. The pews are not to be compared to open– aired seats in a bus that moves from his cradle to the grave. We do not gather on Sunday morning to point out the places where Jesus lived, served and died: “To your left is the cross.” And we are not merely repeating our favorite stories of what once was. Instead, we are being reminded of who we will be as members not just of a church— but his body.

This will take a community.

It will take more seasons, more holy days, more worship services, more prayers, songs and sermons before we are fully formed. It must be said that we will never “arrive.” I cannot think of any perfect or successful disciples of Jesus Christ. Eugene Peterson describes discipleship as “a long obedience in the same direction.” His way takes time.

Still, there is the temptation to return to the broad way, the crammed highway of commerce, to become busy with the building of our kingdom until God’s kingdom comes.  But, wait. Don’t take another step.

Jesus is going somewhere. While I don’t have a map with an X that marks the spot, it is a journey that we must treasure. Less we lose track of him, we need not stop to measure or to count our steps. There is no recipe for getting it right. Just keep walking and keep talking with those who have joined you on the road.

Hand in hand and one foot in front of the other, we go together or make no progress at all. For his body is made of many members. We must continue in our fellowship, joined together— not at the hip but by his cross. This is how Christ builds community.

Receive

See the source image“And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”

| John 20.22, NIV

In our capitalist system, we are prone to think that receiving is about getting.  “Gimme” is the empire’s prayer response.  We say, “more” as confirmation of receipt.  The entitlement drips from our lips.  We expect to have.  We lay claim without permission.  It is our privilege, our right.  It must be mine.  It should belong to me.

And we compete for the most stuff: “Whoever dies with the most toys win.”  Ashes to ashes?  Excess is the name of the game and we take no thought for the meaningful experiences, learning and relationship that we have lost out on.  No, we are more concerned with materials, designer fabrics, the biggest stones, the best wood.

And we frown upon those who want a hand out.  Because this is not the work of our hands.  No, we work with our hands.  But, beggars don’t often choose this way of life.  Still, we put our hands in our pockets and walk away.  We give a hand up to those we like and who “look” like us.

But, receiving can suggest a posture of openness.  We receive guests into our home.  Our open hands are a sign of welcome.  Empty hands that suggest that all that I have is yours.  My home is your home.

And consider how God gives, not the scraps but mouth to mouth.  God’s breath is our breath.  We must be open to receive this gracious act of hospitality less we die.  It is the supreme daily welcome to life and living.  And we receive it freely.

We open our mouths without concern for who is looking and we inhale deeply.  If only we could receive each other in this way, to open our lives and receive persons deeply, fully and truly– as if these relationships were life- sustaining.

 

 

 

Resolve to Form New Community

See the source imageHappy New Year!  Now, before all of confetti is accounted for and removed, before the balloons begin to deflate, returning to their natural state, before you and I lose the momentum of the moment and the newness of this year rubs off, I want to ask you to do something.  I know that it will not make the top ten for most resolution lists.  Diets and dating are likely competitors.  They will fight to the death.  Still, while we are aiming to make ourselves new, I thought we could try something new, try to talk to someone new, someone different from ourselves in ways that don’t matter and for which God “pays no mind.”  These differences were God’s idea, you know.

I want you to resolve to form new community in places and with people you would not otherwise.  This will require not a series of steps but a calculated intention and authentic conviction to break race’s form and segregation’s tradition, to introduce yourself to others, invite persons to share space and time with you  and invent new ways of being with persons of different cultures, experiences and languages.  You may not lose weight or find the person of your dreams but you will have gained something much fuller and deeper.

“If we wait for some people to become agreeable or attractive before we begin to love them, we will never begin.  If we are content to give them a cold, impersonal ‘charity’ that is merely a matter of obligation, we will not trouble to try to understand them or to sympathize with them at all.  And in that case, we will not really love them, because love implies an efficacious will not only to do good to others exteriorly but also to find some good in them to which we can respond.”

|Thomas Merton