May 24, 2020
Matthew 12:25: A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Three of the last four Fridays, a few of us have met with people from Cortez UMC, Native Grace Intertribal Fellowship, and the Bridge Shelter to load food and cleaning supply boxes for members of the Navajo Nation in Southeastern Utah. The work is physically demanding and hot but also extremely rewarding as we enjoy working with and getting to know people from different Methodist churches, cultures, and places.
The first Friday we worked, at the end of the day, we all started to move supplies and boxes back into a garage which serves as a storage unit. We looked like worker ants going in a hundred different directions. We were bumping into each other, dropping boxes, and stacking supplies in multiple places. It was chaotic, messy, and exhausting. Finally, Javier stopped and shouted, “Hey everybody, why don’t we work together?”
What a novel idea. What if we coordinated our efforts and our energy to move and stack the boxes in an orderly, efficient way? What if we worked together for the common good, a common goal?
If we want to live life fully and overcome pandemics, poverty, disease, and inequality we need to find a way to work together and build community. We cannot effectively address the issues facing our communities, our states, and our nation alone. Imagine what it would look like if we tackled this pandemic together as one nation.
What if we worked together to coordinate efforts for medical supplies and testing? What if we worked together to practice social distancing and took protective measures such as wearing masks? This past week, I entered one business with a sign that said, “This is a mask free zone,” and I went in another business with a sign that said, “Do not enter without a mask.” Sadly, we are fighting against one another instead of working for each other.
In Matthew, Jesus says a house divided cannot stand. All the great saints believed in the power of community: the St. Ignatius community, the Catholic Worker communities, and the Methodist Covenant groups to name a few. Together we can do what we cannot do alone. Imagine what it would look like if we tackled this pandemic together as one nation.
God is relationship and the kingdom is a welcoming, growing, inclusive community. Jesus forgave, healed, and restored lives and He built community. After his baptism and time alone in the desert, Jesus starts calling the disciples. He calls Simon and Andrew, then James and John (Mark 1:16-20). Jesus quickly forms a community of friends around him and he continues to widen the circle with Mary, Martha, and the woman at the well. “With this circle of friends,” John Dear says, “he shared his contemplative life, his vision of God, his love, his prayer, and his very being.” Jesus spent time alone, but his life was rooted in community.
In community, Dear says in his book “Living Peace,” our lives bear more fruit than when we work alone. Nothing is more important and more difficult than living in community especially in a culture that values the rugged individual as the ideal. “In community, as we share and live our lives and serve one another, we experience moments of grace,” filled with the love, patience, kindness, and faithfulness of our Creator. Community unites, heals, and inspires us.
Imagine a circle of friends where no one is left standing outside the circle. This is Christ’s vision of the Kin-dom of God. We need each other; no one is expendable or as Jesus says, “A branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine,” (John 15:4). What if, as a community and a nation, we worked together as one to move through this pandemic? Our economic crisis? Our immigration debates? Our mass-shooting indifference? Climate change?
Community is always a blessing and a challenge. But, as Dear says, “each of us needs a safe community of friends” where can receive a warm welcome, acknowledge our faults and brokenness, be accepted, lifted up and not judged. We need a community where we can turn to God and find hope and strength to go on. Within a healthy community we can withstand whatever challenges arise.
The individual volunteers at Cortez UMC struggled to load the relief supplies into the storage garage. Javier waved his hands and shouted, “Let’s work together. Let’s just form a chain and pass the boxes between us.” We did and it was magical. We repacked the garage without much effort, we were able to talk to each other while passing the boxes from one person to the next, relationships formed, and the burden was light. We can do so much more as a community than we can alone.
May we as a church continue to nurture and cultivate community. May we share our lives and serve one another. May we rejoice together and mourn together. May we risk new relationships as our circle widens. May we build community. May we be one.
Blessings and peace,
Where have you found a supportive community?
How can we continue to develop community?