As it is, there are many members, yet one body. If one member suffers, all suffer together with them; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with them. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:20,26
I cherish moments when “it is well with my soul.” Moments where glory blooms like a bright flower in the desert. Moments where heaven and earth become one.
Last Sunday we honored and prayed for two of our high school graduates. I cannot speak for everyone, but for me it was a sacred moment. Desi and Adan have been part of our youth group since the sixth grade. I remember them running around the church, playing tag and sardines when they were gangly middle school students. I recall their sadness when Jennifer and I took them and a few members of our youth group to a classmate’s memorial service. We got ice cream at Dairy Queen and sat around the lake at Parque de Vida in Cortez and talked about the beauty and the pain of life.
During the pandemic, we met in the sanctuary, shared a meal, checked in with one another, and played Apples to Apples. We laughed and laughed. How could such a silly game bring so much joy? It was a reprieve from the stress of the pandemic and life. Over the years we have shared laughter and tears, hopes and dreams.
Last week as a church, we gathered around Adan and Desi to offer our love and our blessings to them. Desi and Adan held each other’s hands as all of us held one another and them. “May God’s love be with you wherever you may be, and we will be with you in spirit.” Tears of resurrection and sadness flowed forth.
For me at least, something happened. Something good: Beloved community, Unity, and Oneness. Frederick Buechner writes that every once in awhile “we are touched here and there by a power beyond power to heal and make whole.” Sacred community unites us and smooths the rigid scales of division which separate us from one another. In community, grace connects us and grounds us as we share the peaks and valleys of life together. We celebrate, and we mourn together (1 Corinthians 12:26). We dance when the sun is shining, and we hold each other up in the storms.
What is our understanding of community and its role in our spiritual life? Do we embrace community and all its complications?
Jennifer and I absolutely love the intimacy of small communities. When I walk into Fahrenheit Coffee Roasters, Desi says, “Twelve -ounce mocha, Craig?” Before I can respond, Matt, the owner, is already making my coffee. We know each other.
I wave at Linda and Philip working on the new store front at the Opera House. I walk down Grand Avenue and neighbors say hello to Angel, pet her, and then they say “Hello” to me. Community has priorities!
Once a few years ago, I walked into Cox Conoco to pay for my gas. As I was writing my check, Lyle Cox said, “Craig are you going to pay for your gas?” “I’m writing a check right now Lyle.” “I know, but a couple of weeks ago you filled up and drove away without paying,” Lyle said while laughing. “I did?”
“Yes, you did. I was going to call the cops because I thought it would be a good headline in the paper. ‘Pastor arrested for skipping out on a tank of gas.’”
“Well thanks Lyle. How much do I owe you?”
In communities, we build up trust, we laugh with one another and forgive one another.
Henri Nouwen writes, “In my earlier life, community meant a safe and familiar place of belonging, where those not like me simply were not present.” Healthy communities are sacred and holy, and they always run the risk of becoming closed. Some people are in, and some people are out. Some are welcome and some are not. “Those people” do not feel welcome or at home.
Who is part of our community? Our church? And who is not?
“To be a person of faith means we see things—people, animals, plants, the earth—as inherently connected to God, connected to us, and therefore, most worthy of love and dignity,” writes Father Richard Rohr. We are all one, says Jesus (John 17:22). In the community of God, no one is left standing outside the circle.
Christ calls us to make our circles wide and to stand in solidarity with all human beings. We have sacred moments where we stand as one in love and forgiveness. Moments where “walls and boundaries come tumbling down, including distinctions between minister and layperson, male or female, young or old, white or person of color, rich or poor. We need not make judgments. We realize our common humanity. We belong to the same spiritual family,” writes Nouwen.
War, mass shootings, and political strife threaten to divide us. Now, more than ever, may we stand as one. May we rejoice together and mourn together. May we hold each other’s hands and hold each other up in beloved community. Amen.
Blessings and peace,