Friday, February 22, 2008

Where Is My Community?

Good morning my friends,

Could you imagine the Church Treasurer standing before the congregation saying, “You people are giving too much. Please, we have enough. Stop already!” Could you imagine a people so possessed by the love of the Lord that they could not stop themselves from giving time, talents and money? It is hard to imagine because we are such a self-centered, self-absorbed society in the Westerner World. What philosophy did we grab hold of that turned us from communities of character to such a cold and individual society? Israel was still in its infancy as a community and was exuberant in its expression of adoration and thanksgiving:

Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled craftsmen who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left their work and said to Moses, "The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the LORD commanded to be done."

Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: "No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary." And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work. (Exodus 36:2-7)

It is really hard to imagine a people that would have to be restrained from giving. Most Christian communities feel like they are pulling teeth to get anyone to do anything. Our Christian community is no longer the center of life. We no longer look to it for friendship, support, encouragement. We no longer try to express our adoration of God through this community. Gone are the many community building activities. It is even hard to get people to come out to a simple thing like breakfast. The idea of community has been replaced by individual activities like mp3’s, mp4’s, television, movies, computers, online communities.

In an attempt to recapture some of what we have lost and to allow for busyness we have attempted to create virtual communities. But these communities are stop-gap measure, filling in for a short time what for the immediate we cannot have. This is great for remote people, the sick, the elderly, even shift workers. These communities were never intended to replace the face-to-face personal encounters in community. I think most people know that I enjoy technology and like trying to apply it to every day life, but it has its limits.

The Church is only following in the footsteps of our society. People no longer live where they work and we do not bat an eye at that. Children are bussed out to other communities to attend school. People tend to sleep in one community, work in another, play in another and worship in yet another. There is no possibility to build community like that. Our society is trying to recapture the idea of community but it may be too late. Why talk with your neighbour face-to-face when you can be anyone you want to be on the Internet and talk with someone from the other side of the world. Perhaps that is the secret of the Internet. In community we are accountable, people know us, they know our faults and weaknesses along with our strengths. Yet, on the Internet we can be the perfect person with no accountability for what we say and do.

Regardless of what our many faults are as the community of The Servant’s House Church / School, we are no different in this struggle than any other community. What it will take are a few good people to be brave enough to push past their selfish tendencies and be willing to build bridges into other people’s lives. A few people can change a lot of things if they are willing to move forward in their exuberance. Think of the early Israelite community in its generosity of all things. Think of the early Church in its generosity of all things. What got in the way? Selfishness. People stopped loving the Lord with all their being and their neighbour as themselves.

The Internet is great but it should be no more a distraction than the telephone. In fact, it is like an elaborate telephone. It can be more than that but do we want it to be? It is great to use it to share special moments, testimonies, pass on information, communicate with family and friends at great distances but it cannot replace the fellowship of community. Every time someone stops entering into that fellowship they end up dying to that fellowship and community. Such community building does not rely, cannot rely on one person. We are all responsible for this.

If Jesus Christ remains at the center of that community; if it is his cords of love that bind us together; if we do all things with exuberance for him, we will find the joy of community again.

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