Creating “community” in garden, monthly dinner, food pantry and elsewhere these days, is no easy task. Particularly with the rich texture of cultures, ethnicities, and economics of our surroundings. Neighbors who have distanced themselves from church, never were introduced to the “good” side of Good News, or have a spiritual path led by Muhammad, Buddha, or other religious pathfinders, add to the challenges of finding common ground necessary for the formation and sustainability of community.
“Pastor Bill, you must be crazy!” I’ve heard some say. (Of course, they may be right.) And if they’re not saying it, I can see in their squinty eyes, the question of “why?”
It’s all about the “essentials” of the Christian faith. So here they are (in no particular order):
- The power of love over all obstacles.
- Compassionate healing and sacrificial service.
- Forgiveness and tolerance.
No doubt there are arguments for other “essentials” to be added to this list when considering the basics of Christian faith. The Apostle Paul (if indeed it was him), writing to his young companion Timothy (2 Timothy 2:8-15) listed these three as among the leaders. A brief look at each:
The Power of Love over All Obstacles: Paul: “If we die with him (Christ), we will live with him.” This is, of course, death and resurrection. It’s the story of Easter. God’s love is more powerful than hate, violence, despair, unemployment, hunger… and even death. When it looks like your at the end, you may just be on the threshold of a new day. “Therefore, if any are in Christ, he/she is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Compassionate Healing and Sacrificial Service: “If we stick it out with him (Christ), we will rule with him.” This is not the “believe in me” that requires some intellectual ascent to doctrine, but rather requires a “put down what you’re doing, and follow me” decision. Being a companion with Jesus requires the embodiment of actions like loving your neighbor (especially the one you can’t stand), showing mercy to those who are different than you, and offering yourself as a servant toward the well-being of others. Wherever Jesus went, whoever he happened to bump into, intentionally or otherwise, seemed to be a little more whole after the encounter. Love, compassion, and justice can do that. Pretty straight forward.
Forgiveness and Tolerance: “If we give up on him (Christ), he does not give up, for there’s no way he can give up on himself.” All three of these essentials is based on an understanding that we have been created by God in God’s image, that we take on the characteristics of God. Paul figured we all have an intimate cosmic connection with Christ (Check out 2 Cor. 5:17 above). We all give up on love, compassion and service from time to time. But God’s grace is pervasive. And see essential #1.
I’ve stripped the “churchy” language from these essentials in an effort to make them more accessible. Who wouldn’t want to hang around (and make commitments to and with) others whose basic principles of life include the power of love, compassion and service, forgiveness and tolerance? Pretty basic. Maybe creating new community is more straight forward (not necessarily easier) than I thought.
Peace – Bill