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John Donne’s haunting poem intones, like the bell tolling near its end, that there are no self-contained individuals; all people are both needful of and irreducibly tied to the larger company of humanity. Therefore the loss of one is a loss to all, even if none else are sensible to it.
No matter how introverted we are, how averse we may be to public settings, or even how incredulous we might be that anyone would bat an eye at our disappearance, we exist to live in community. We came from community, were reared in community, and had our identity shaped by community. Our individual story is as much that of the community that formed us as the decisions we made or the experiences we’ve had. And while it’s our communities–those we chose or had chosen for us–that may have done us the most damage, the healing we need will come not from insularity but community.
Those are just some of the reasons CtK has sought to inaugurate a new dimension of our community’s life by helping to form new Community Groups (CG): contexts where we rediscover both that we are not an island, and also that we ourselves are diminished when another of us risks being “washed away.”
Donne didn’t know it at the time but his poem was making a case for Faithful Presence.
What greater argument can be made for our dignity and dependence than God’s gracious condescension to us through the will of the Father, the work of the Son, and the power of the Spirit? Our faithful presence to God’s presence continually nourishes the veracity of that argument.
And who of would deny that some of the most profound confirmations of God’s reality came through the presence of another human who knew Him? As Teresa of Avila said, “If you want to know God, know God’s friends.”
So we’re hammering out the specifics of these groups and plan to publicize the details shortly. Meanwhile you can find out more about the purpose and practice of these groups in the FAQ page found here.
But in anticipation of their formation over the next weeks and months, we thought it best to make a more extended “case” for why community matters and how it functions through the lens of the Gospel. Why belabor that? Because humanity continually faces two struggles: inertia and perseverance. First steps are hard–continued steps equally so. The community that aspires to something more than superficial engagement will require vulnerability and sacrifice we may be initially averse to or eventually frustrated by.
So for the next four weeks we’ll have a short series of sermons entitled Marks of Christian Community. The sermons seek first to rescue the term “community” from its sadly threadbare status as a word with scarcely any meaning (a point noted as recently as last week’s Q&A). But then they’ll try to cure us of the fears associated with community.
Why the photo of young sailors waiting to catch a train to port as a metaphor for the community to which we aspire? (No, there’s no militaristic or misogynistic overtone intended.) For one thing, any image Vivian Maier captured is worthy of display in its own right. And while I’d have preferred to find an engaging image with both men and women in frame, I think the moment captures what we’re out to outline in these sermons–and moreover to realize both in CG’s and all of CtK:
Here in a moment of shining candor individuals from various backgrounds are thrown together into an initially awkward moment, the only thing common to each of them, so far as they know, is the uniform they wear. But in time and through travail they will come to discover a camaraderie they could not have expected, nor could’ve orchestrated. They are constituted with a common purpose codified on paper, but their purpose will broaden into something not specified in the Military Code of Conduct: they will come to exist for one another as they fight for something worth defending and a truth worth spreading.
And they will need every bit of divine light to illuminate their way exposing what’s dark within and without them.
This Sunday then we’ll begin with the Apostle John’s case for community in 1 John 4:7-12. He makes a case for the centrality of love in the life of the believer. I surmise that the case for love is a case for community–the pursuit of community to which we vitally contribute and from which we deeply benefit.
We conveyed our need for additional help in our nursery last week. We heard from some of you; we could always to hear from more of you. Please contact Karla Pollock if you’d like to know more or to volunteer, even just twice a year.
It’s in community that we learn to pray; it’s because of community sometimes that we’re led to pray. So would you pray
- for the facilitators who will give direction to the groups forming soon
- for the visitors who join us each week
- for those suffering loss and mourning of different types
- for our call to be faithful in our respective vocations
- for Emma Griffiths as she heads to college in the coming weeks
- for both wisdom and compassion for those empowered to give direction to the immigrant crisis–and for those who will render aid
- for peace in Gaza, in Ukraine, in Syria, in Iraq–and for the courage of believers in those war-torn places
- for the most recent tragedy this morning of another downed Malaysian Airline
Finally, a bonus: the Donne poem took me to this song. Here’s one of its earliest live performances. What an interesting characterization Art gives of Paul’s song.