Sunday, March 22, 2015

Community

A friend of mine has recently moved into a new house.  It’s closer to the children’s school so the family doesn’t have to wake up so early in the morning and there are no school runs to do with the  car.  There’s more space with an extra couple of rooms so people can spread out and not feel like they are tripping over one another.  Some of the plants from the garden also made the move with them.

I’m thinking about what I will buy as a house warming present.  It has been a while since any of my friends have moved anywhere.  We are a settled bunch. 

When my husband and I moved into our first house we were given a Visitor’s Book for people to sign.  It seemed to be the essential thing a house needed in the early days when the church was first planted in the late 1980s.  Everyone’s home had one.

I am not sure that there wasn’t some kind of unspoken competition going on.  Not just how many visitors, or how often they signed the book but also the “who”.  There were people who rated higher than others.  There might have been bonus points for unknown names – the true strangers who could have been angels in disguise, as against the usual names who couldn’t possibly angels at all! I don’t know where our visitor’s book is.

I am vaguely thinking about buying my friend a visitor’s book.  Will they see it as a hint that we want to be invited round?  Will they see something implied in it that I don’t think they are sociable enough? I just might go with a potted plant instead.

Day 22 with Bonhoeffer is all about community.  (It’s actually Day 26 if we’re counting from the day I signed up to the studies but, as ever, I’m in catch-up mode.) He reminds me that God never designed me to be a solitary figure but always in community.  Bonhoeffer doesn’t know that I have a hermit mentality but, it he did, he would still be telling me that I need to be in community.  God’s heart has always been for a people, not merely a single person.  Christ’s body is BODY not body part.  In the beginning in Genesis God said that it wasn’t good for man to be alone and created companionship and helpers.  He expects us to be our brother’s keeper. We support and are supported by our Cristian community.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think that people just get in the way.  God and I get along really well together.  When it is just the two of us out fellowship is sweet.  It’s people that throw the spanner into the works.  I was birthed as a Christian into self-sufficiency.  I am the spiritual equivalent to a South American big city street kid who knows how to survive. Making connections, interdependency, relying on or trusting others, or have them relying on or trusting me doesn’t sit easily with me.  Community is good for me because it forces my gaze away from myself and puts it on God and on other people. It gives me the opportunity to be responsible for others and to speak truth into their lives.  It’s important to know that other people have my back and take responsibility for looking after me.

Community is more than just a group of people in the same place.  We can be like marbles in the same jar, making a lot of noise as we connect – but we remain unchanged. We are still the same ball of glass we were when we began.  Better, said someone, to be grapes – bruised by the contact, bleeding juice and staining one another with our encounters. Our willingness to surrender and to give ourselves to others is what makes the Christian community unique.  We need to give what we can’t really afford to give but give it anyway, give because we can’t really afford to hang on to what can meet another’s need and not waiting to some personal disaster in a person’s life to begin to give. 

Next week our church is planning a day retreat at the Abriachan Forest classroom.  We were there around about this time last year. We will be spending the day together being community.  We strive not to make it a highly organised affair and want to balance assigning hours and minutes to one activity or another with just a walk in the forest and time spent chilling out and talking.  

I intend to be a grape and not a marble.

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