Community – We Need It!
If you have ever been to California and seen the huge redwood trees you were probably amazed. They tell us that they are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees in the world. Some are 300 feet high and more than 2500 years old. You would think that trees so large would have a tremendous root system to keep them securely in the ground, but they actually have a shallow root system. To compensate for this, the roots are intertwined, tied in with each other to weather the storms and winds blowing around them, needing each other. Interestingly, so do we! We call this community!
In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that the first community of believers gathered for worship, prayer and fellowship. They needed each other as times were challenging and persecution was rampant for them. Similarly, it is not easy for us to meet the challenges, though different, of our lives today. But God has designed it so that we should have community as did the early followers, giving, receiving and supporting one another.
Author Randy Frazee writes: “God intends the church (the community) not to be one more bolt on the wheel of activity in our lives. We have been created for church as a community and are called to live in faith both in and with a community. At every celebration of Eucharist we celebrate as this community. When we gather for the Eucharist it is to be an act of love, reflecting the love in the community. For if we gather for the Eucharist but do not love each other, our Eucharist is a sham.” Paul reminded the community in Corinth, “We though many, form one single body.”
In the gospel account Jesus cured the leper who actually experienced two forms of suffering because of his disease: his illness and the fact that he was cut off from the community. Jesus not only cured the man but, more importantly, his healing restored the leper to the community from which he was separated. Jesus knew the importance of community!
Of course, famous writers and celebrities have offered numerous quotes on community to point out its importance. Coretta Scott King said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” The great spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen wrote: “You cannot minister if you are not in communion with God and live in community.” Pope Francis proclaimed, “The church must be a community of God’s people…concerned with the care of souls and in service of the people of God.” We can conclude, then, that we are all called to be community, to minister to anyone who needs to know they count and that they’re welcome and important.
A little boy greeted his dad as he returned from work asking, “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father was reluctant to answer, but when the son insisted he answered, “Twenty dollars an hour.” “Okay, Daddy, can you lend me ten dollars?” the boy asked. The father walked away, perturbed with the son. But then the father began to feel guilty and returned to the son’s room. “Are you asleep?” he asked. “No” replied the son. He then gave the son the money. Overjoyed, the son thanked the father and reaching under his pillow removed some money. “Now I have enough! I have twenty dollars! Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?”
A 10 year old girl entered a coffee shop and asked the waitress, “How much is an ice cream sundae?” “Ninety cents,” she replied. From her pocket, the girl pulled out all her coins and studied them. “How much is the plain ice cream?” she then asked. “Fifty cents.” The little girl counted her coins again. “I’ll just have the plain ice cream,” she said. She ate the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress returned and began to clean the table she noticed that placed neatly beside the empty dish were two nickels and five pennies. The waitress realized the child couldn’t have the sundae because she wanted to have enough money to leave her a tip.
We all crave not necessarily things, but other’s care and concern. So we are called to act in community where we are about making someone else happy even at a cost to us. Community asks us to sacrifice time, our ego and comfort and causes us often to be vulnerable. But, as members of the Body of Christ, using our talents for others, we choose to look outward rather than in on ourselves. In contrast to living in what one author calls a “lukewarm limbo” of selfishness, she tells us that when we live fully as community members we will receive many blessings in return — and there are many! She believes that in this process of making ourselves available to others we can develop the needed courage to ask for help for ourselves. Also when we are surrounded by a community of believers we will be empowered in our own faith and, while we must live in the messiness of relationships, we will know that whatever we do for others we will reap the blessings of God in return.
It is said, “Those who are the happiest are those who do the most for others.” May you be blessed with great happiness!
Sister Lauretta Leipzig