What does community mean to you? What communities are you part of? What makes a community good, strong, healthy, loving, authentic? What is your role in contributing to the authenticity and health of your communities? When you hear the phrase 'Beloved Community,' describe what you imagine.
These are the questions we are invited to consider for Sunday's conversation focusing on community (we'll be reading Matthew 14:13-21). An online dictionary defines community as: "a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals."
At first, this definition surprised me -- I don't think of communities as being bound by shared attitudes and interests. But then I thought more and realized that even with our differences of opinions, experience, and attitudes, we as a congregation share an interest in following Jesus and seeking God's still speaking voice. We share the values of compassion, seeking wisdom from scripture, and spending time together in worship, prayer, conversation and service. And we share the goals of loving God, neighbor and self and of seeking to co-create God's beloved community.
Being community is often messy -- especially when we do not share all our interests or ideas, when some of our values differ, and when we disagree about how to love God, neighbor and self. We screw up and hurt one another by the things we say, by our silence, by the things we do, and by our inaction. We disappoint one another and sometimes ourselves, too.
AND we also help make each other better. We lift one another up when the going gets tough. We weep and laugh together. We show up with meals when there is an illness or death or when a new baby is born. We make phone calls and write letters. We give away money and assistance to those within our congregation and wider community who need it. And when we screw up, we try to make it right again.
I have watched as this community, our congregation, has moved towards a deeper level of authenticity -- deeper and more vulnerable sharing about who we are, about our fears, our losses, our hopes and dreams, about our passions and longings and our mundane and miraculous encounters with the divine. This deeper level of authenticity also means a greater level of accountability. Of asking whether we are truly living into who we say we are. Asking whether who we say we are matches who God is calling us to be.
Being community is challenging and messy. Especially as we change and grow. Being community is also one of the greatest joys of life. Laughing and delighting together. Breaking bread whether in person or virtually. Loving one another for the whole of who we are.
Thank you for being my community. Thank you for being the group of people into which my daughter is growing up. The place she will learn about what welcome and love, brokenness and healing can mean. Thank you for being the voices and the faces that I hear and see on Sunday morning and indeed throughout the week. Thank you for being Christ's body, especially when it's hard.
In gratitude and love,