Another Form of Community
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 10/04/2015
Based on Matthew 7:7-12
Hear once again the opening lines to our Call to Worship, “We were created in relationship and for relationship. We are created for community!” Today is World Communion Sunday. It is an intentional time of recognizing our relationship to the larger body of Christ, helping remind us that as a faith community we are not alone, that even with differing theological perspectives, all who call themselves Disciples of Christ are in relationship. Many congregations celebrate their unity in this diversity with providing other types of breads representing inclusion with other cultures as we meet at Christ’s table. In years past we have served a multiple choice of breads, this year we will be serving just two types, our regular American style loaf and Jeera (common to India), representing another Hemisphere.
The words in our Call To Worship started me asking the question “what does it mean to be in community?” There are many forms of community: there is family as community. Organizations, whether social or professional are communities. The boundaries of a city designate a community and within those boundaries are subdivisions of community. With the capability of “internet” we have expanded our understanding of community through sources like “facebook” and “Linkin”. I have read where NASA is developing a program to send a group of people to Mars and create a settlement, this then will expand our community in new ways with our sister planet.
It is pretty obvious that community then is based on relationship. When we attend a play that Judy Rowe is producing, we are in community not with just Judy but with all those attending that production. When we help send youth such as Zoee to camp, we share in community, not just with Zoee but with all those youth that she interacts with. When Wayne attends various action groups that focus on social justice concerns, and does it as a representative of Mountain View our circle of relationship broadens. We are in relationship with the larger gardening community through our community garden. All these require a willingness to be involved relationally.
There has always been and continues to be a tension in relationships. One aspect of this tension comes with questions that deal with degrees of responsibility in relationships. Questions like “why should I be concerned about the “others” – those who do not quite meet to my standards?” “Why should I be concerned about how people treat the earth?” answers to these questions of who gets in and who stays out, the have’s verses the have not’s, when boiled down to a core question shows what our basic core values are that govern our response and our ability to look beyond current limitations of our boundaries. One basic core value is: Do we view life through the eyes of “tribal” relationship which is restrictive and exclusive by nature, or is our understanding of community based on “egalitarian” value which recognizes equality between others and is inclusive by nature?
The creation stories found in the first three chapters of Genesis, present a lot of challenge for many of us. It is unfortunate that we so often look at scripture and start to proof text as a way of supporting either our “tribal” or “egalitarian” nature. Yet when we read the progression of the two creation stories, what we find is a story about relationship and community. God creates the heavens and the earth, from the earth God creates life: life in the sea’s, life in the air, life on the land. Ultimately God creates humanity also from the earth. The basic meaning of all three chapters tells about relationship’s, about community. God has relationship with creation; creation has relationship within its self because of its relationship with God. Humanity has relationship with that which has been created. In other words, relationship exists between human to human, human to our planet, human to Creator, and Creator to all.
Jesus restates this relationship in the story about a traveler who is robbed and beat to near death. Two people come upon him; one person representing the religious community and the other person representing the political community, both not wishing to be bothered ignore the beaten man and leave him on the side of the road. A third person comes along of a differing culture, sees the beaten man, tends to his wounds and takes him to a hotel where he can re-cooperate and financially helps during the recovery time. Through this story Jesus asks questions about responsibilities of relationship and community.
I find in both the Genesis story and the story that Jesus told a challenge to think about how we view and respond in community. Upon coming back from vacation this week, I learned that Meredith Ryan is a probable kidney donor. This willingness on Meredith’s part to give, once again broadened my understanding of relationship and community. As Meredith embarks on this journey toward being a donor, she is bringing a very personal commitment of relationship to the one who needs a kidney. As a member of our faith community, we too are a part of this broadening of relationship. We are all supportive of Meredith and patting her on the shoulder about this opportunity to donate one of her kidneys. But what is our responsibility in her actions? Our response will come in our understanding of “relationship.” This is an instance where the story of the Good Samaritan is being presented to our community of faith in a very real way. Like the Samaritan who gave not just of his time, care, and concern, he also gave financially for the well being of this man who had been beaten and left for dead. It is my hope that as a faith community we participate at a financial level in living out our relationship as active support in Meredith’s willingness to donate one of her kidneys.
We are all interconnected. In our prayer of confession we recognized our connectedness through the words Adam spoke: bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, bodies, you God have created. As we come to Christ’s table this morning recognizing and celebrating our relationship of our world community, I hope we come recognizing that relationship goes beyond just words. It involves our time, our talents, and at times our finances. Jesus’ relationship to us came by his giving his life. Meredith is acting upon her faith in humanity through the willingness to gift a kidney. The closing verse in this morning’s text is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Let us join in community beyond words, beyond gifting money, let us join in community in our willingness to expand our boundaries of inclusiveness and recognize the vastness of sharing that comes through relationship. Amen