There seems to be a change in the meaning of community for most people in the mosaic (also know as millennial) generation. Less satisfied with surface level conversations and desiring a deep connection of doing life together. There are signs of this seen in intentional communities in a movement named the new monasticism. Communities like The Simple Way in Philadelphia, Communality in Lexington, or Rutba House in North Carolina. Places people have been engaged with an ideal that is so old, it’s new again. Living together offering hospitality and community for the glory of God in everything. Inviting people from the streets, other walks of life, or anyone that wants to learn what it means to follow Jesus in the context they’re in. Places like these make me incredibly excited about the position the church is in to speak to a world divided. One of the great things I feel the internet has allowed us to do is expand our global consciousness. We can see people from all over the world and do more than just feel empathy. Empathy can allow us to see with the eyes of Christ the situation of people hurting and compassion is accompanied by a desire to do something about that suffering.
My hope for this blog post is not so much to bring things to a conclusion and have a final word. I hope with these feeble words of mine that we can start more words in hope of finding out what a community looks like. Churches I have noticed sometimes try to shy away from the word “church”. Even in the logo for Providence UMC (the church I work at) it doesn’t say that we are a United Methodist Church but that we are a United Methodist Community. Seeing this everyday since I have arrived got me thinking about what the connotation of community might mean and if we are accurately representing what God wanted out of His Church and the church community. So the first place I thought to start looking was in the book of Acts (the Bible is normally a good place to start in situations like this). This is what I found in Acts 2:46-47 “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
There is something unique about being received in a home. It’s not a neutral place like a coffee shop or a church building. There is a certain amount of vulnerability that comes with inviting people into your home. Our pastor says that he can tell more about a family after spending time in their living room looking at pictures and telling stories than in any other setting. I completely agree. This is why I think the new monastic movement can seem so appealing. People with a desire to live intentionally and transparently with fellow Christians as a way to build up the body of Christ, can’t hide or put up a front with people in which they live. So one of the first things I see is there is a longing for connection with fellow believers and a willingness to invite and be invited in the lives and homes of the people around them. There is grace in the hospitality of listening and meeting in homes and not keeping people at a distance in a neutral location.
Reading a little further I noticed this passage from Acts 4:32: “now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” Most people I know enjoy their privacy too much to hold everything in common and that is okay. But what my mind can’t escape from was how they were so united that they had one heart and soul. With the amount of division in the church what would it look like to be of one heart and one soul? Reading though Paul’s letters I see him over and over pleading for the unity of believers. We need to rediscover what unity in professing Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and is Lord means for the world and not just for an individual congregation.
This also means that there has to be an abundance of forgiveness. Not only is forgiveness hard, but it can be a form of suffering. This suffering in the Christ model of forgiveness leads to a death, a death of the thing that offended you, the thing that made you made, the thing that you couldn’t stand, and leads to a resurrection. Jesus prayed on the cross for those who crucified him to be forgiven and I’m sure that didn’t feel good. However, three days later it led to an empty tomb and life everlasting. Sometimes we need to let go by forgiving others, however painful, because we know that pain and death leads to resurrection and new life.
I say all these things as I desperately try to figure it all out myself. Wondering how my actions affect unity, forgiveness, grace, hospitality and community. I believe community is built into the fabric of the cosmos, we desperately seek for it. And at the center of our searching the universe is the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a constant state of self-giving love, grace, hospitality, forgiveness, and community. The three in one God knows why we seek for community and connection. He invites us to his table (literally at the Eucharist) and asks us to join Him: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as he writes a love letter to the world using our lives as His pencil.