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There’s no setting disclosed at the beginning of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, but you soon find yourself in a 19th century colonial settlement nestled in the New England hinterlands. The hamlet’s inhabitants reflect the hearty industriousness and deep solidarity you’d expect to find in the time before grocery stores, police forces, and security cameras.
But the tension of the plot lies not in the “ordinary” challenges of pre-industrial life. Typical of Shyamalan’s preference for placing the sci-fi genre in new settings–this small commune we soon learn is surrounded by mysterious creatures who had at one time clashed with an earlier generation of the villagers. Only after a truce emerged did the two societies enter into a kind of covenant: so long as the villagers would not venture beyond an agreed-upon boundary, there would be no incursions by the outsiders.
The covenant had inaugurated a season of peace. But when some began contracting diseases for which medicines from the outlying towns might help, the younger among them volunteered to wander beyond the boundary–only to be curiously rebuffed by the elders. When the patriarchs are met with their juniors’ bewilderment, they explain the narrative that drives their preference to soldier on without outside interference: a founder of the village had been murdered by someone from the towns, thereby solidifying the desire of the populace to end all contact from without.
Curiosity, fear, and love all conspire to heighten the desire of some to venture beyond. But it’s only when one of the younger men is on the verge of death from injuries curiously inflicted that we reach the plot’s apex. In desperation, one elder argues for the village council to permit someone to journey outside in order to obtain life-saving treatment. The council consents to the plea and the young woman whose love is for the one near death sets out on her own terrifying sojourn.
What she discovers, only moments after breaching the barrier that had cloistered her and the village all these years, will shock you.
For the last two weeks in our short series on Marks of Christian Community we’ve made a case for community and an explication of what’s unique to a community in Christ. But one could feasibly (if prematurely) conclude that the call of Christian community is awfully reminiscent of the insular, stunted, and fear-mongering constituency of Shyamalan’s jaw-dropping twist of a film.
But as we turn this Sunday to the John’s gospel account (13:31-35), you’ll hear what you already know but can too easily forget: while the call to God is a call to community, the call to a community is an inherently outward-facing enterprise. This community looks to the maturing of those within, but that maturity is bound up with interest in and engagement with what’s beyond the community’s boundary. You know–sort of like faithful presence to the world.
Trusting one another is the first challenge of community. Believing that the community has been entrusted with a mandate beyond themselves is the next. You’ll hear Sunday how the challenge of the latter is met precisely by meeting that of the former.
The vitality of the church–even the forestalling of its alleged decline–rests on meeting both those interrelated challenges. What we are within is what we’ll be without.
The love of our private friends is the only preparatory exercise of love for all men.
Though they may be at a distance from us our love for one another includes the students among us; they’re still ours to “look after.” Anita Swayne and others are organizing a church-wide effort to help us be present to our matriculates. In a time of all sorts of upheaval and uprooting, a short word (or some shortbread!) from the larger family reminded you of your place, your people, your haven. Have a look and see if you might contribute:
If you are a member or associate member, and have a child or grandchild in college we need their info. We would like to offer support and encouragement to them with notes, emails and care packages from time to time. Please give their information to Anita Swayne (email is [email protected]).
If you would like to sign up to support our students with notes of encouragement contact Anita and she’ll give more information.
In a few weeks when our students have started their first semester of this year we will ask for donations of small items to send care packages. More details to follow.
The invitation we put forth last week involved no marginal matter in the life of CtK. We’re asking you to share those parts of your stories that give testimony to some element of the Larger Story into which we’ve been invited by God. Our personal narratives are no replacement for what we find in the Storyline of the Text. But one another’s anecdotes help to crystallize our own sense of those notions He’s already told us but which we’ve been tempted to think only related to a bygone era. If you’re looking for examples of the kinds of rich tidbits you might share, have a look at these (but don’t feel compelled to pattern yours after them!)
If we’re in community with Christ as our Head then your story is our story. So consider a moment in your pilgrimage when a truth of the gospel became bracingly–even embarrassingly–clear, and pass that along to us. We may need a part of your sojourn to understand a part of ours.
Among the needs you might pray for, consider these, too:
- for Dr. Kent Brantley’s recovery from Ebola and for all those who’ve been afflicted with the life-threatening disease
- for the strife in places like Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq–including the Christians being swept out of Mosul
- for our students, near and far, to find communities of welcome and mission
- for the North Texas Presbytery as it gathers for its quarterly meeting in Lubbock this weekend (especially if you share songwriter extraordinaire Nanci Griffith’s sentiments
- for FBC and our neighboring churches
Coming in August, a series on the Paul’s letter to the Church at Galatia. This man’s story (right), perhaps furthest it could be from a 1st century letter to a Greek-speaking culture of Celts, will frame our thinking about what Paul sought to convey. Heard of him? Know his story?