Finding and keeping community
A word keeps coming into my mind. You know what I mean - those times when you least expect it, the word just pops into your mind. You might not be sure why, but it's there. I am learning to pay attention to those words, since it usually means I need to think about the word or that it is something I need to work on in my own life.
The most recent word that keeps coming up in my head is 'community'. As I look back over my life, I can see that community has played a huge role in making me who I am. I grew up as an Air Force brat, so we moved around about every 3-4 years. We had to make friends fast, because if we didn't we would be lonely all the time! In the early years of Dennis's and my life together, we moved around a bit too - from Urbana, Illinois to Munich, Germany to Los Angeles and finally to Cincinnati. I remember especially how crucial community was to us in Munich and how God provided it so quickly and abundantly.
God arranged for us to meet another Christian couple in the Guesthouse we stayed in at the Max Planck Institute, where Dennis was working. They led us to Munich International Community Church, where we found friends that would become our community for the next three and a half years. This is probably the place where I realized how much I needed friends who I could easily communicate with. When you live in a country where you are communicating in a foreign language most of the time, friends who speak your own language are a lifeline!
And really, that is what Christian community is about. My community - you all, the Body of Christ at ECC - are my community. We speak the same language. We share common goals of serving the Lord and loving one another and reaching out to the world around us. I don't have to explain myself to you. You understand what it is like to be a Christian living in a 'foreign' culture, a culture that is more and more opposed to everything we stand for and believe.
In addition, as I have been struggling with day to day life with diabetes, and the physical and emotional challenges that has brought me, I value the community I share with you all even more. The last few weeks have been rough ones for me, with some challenging blood sugar days that take me by surprise and knock me flat. The care and concern that you have expressed to me has been overwhelming, and humbling. I have felt the strength of your prayers.
This sense of community struck me deeply on Maundy Thursday. Sharing the Lord's Supper in the setting of Fellowship Hall for me was really special. I felt a closeness and intimacy with you all as we shared dinner and then the Supper. As I looked around the room, I realized that I have lived here in Cincinnati, and worshipped with you all longer than I have ever lived anywhere! I share history with you, and that makes you so important to me. You helped raise my children, invested in them and in me, and have shaped me into who I am today. That sense of community is powerful and ties me to you in ways that I am only just beginning to understand.
Community. Sharing joys and sorrows. Sharing triumphs and struggles. I am learning to be open, honest and to share when I am weak. It's not easy, and I resist. And yet, I have this sense that if I am going to minister to you, I cannot hide myself from you. I need those older than me, and those younger than me, to feed my faith and urge me on. I look forward to the times we spend together, as we develop even more history together.
It takes effort to be a part of a community. It does not come naturally to all of us. But we all need it, especially as the world around us becomes ever more hostile to the living out of our faith. Take the time. Make the effort. Invest yourself in this community and see how it changes and enriches you.